The Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13) for this week is two separate stories in one. Mark 6:1-6 has to do with belief and unbelief, and the recognition of Jesus' authority. Mark 6:7-13 has to do with the call of the disciples and the proclamation of the Gospel. Both stories have to do with the acceptance or rejection of Christ. Because there is such a great need to share the Gospel in our daily lives, the second story (Mark 6:7-13) usually takes precedence. To be a follower of Christ Jesus means we are commissioned to invite family and friends to develop a mature relationship with Christ in their daily lives. God is actively at work inviting people to join his eternal family and wants us to help him in extending that invitation. There are people in our lives who will readily and strongly reject any relationship with Christ, says this Gospel (v. 11). However, there are also others, people God has placed in our lives, who will accept Christ and the Kingdom, says this Gospel (v. 13). It is not that we can "make" anyone believe in Christ; that's the sole work of the Holy Spirit. And yet, Christ does expect us to invite our family and friends to experience a new life with Christ in their daily lives. This Gospel calls us to regularly invite our family and friends to a more meaningful relationship with Christ. Can we do that? Will we do that? What is it that keeps us from sharing the Gospel with family and friends?
The most popular way of trying to evade death in our culture is to ignore it. We don't want to think about it; we try to camouflage it when it comes. But death will not go away, and it will not stay camouflaged for long. Sooner or later it hits us in a way we cannot ignore. What can Jesus do when he confronts death? Our Gospel for this Sunday answers this question. Jesus' whole ministry was an attack on the power of death manifested in sin and disease as well as the grave. He did not answer death's challenge by avoiding it. He met it head on and defeated it. The real answer to death comes in the resurrection of Jesus himself. Death as a biological event remains for us. But death as the power to defeat hope, as a force to induce guilt, despair, and hatred, is banished from our lives when Christ rules over us. Death is an event on the way to the kingdom, not an end to the human story. God uses death to lead us to humility and faith, and to usher us into the fullness of His kingdom. Jesus Christ is the Lord of life because he has power over death. His teachings and his moral examples are precious to us. But by themselves they would only make him one of a long line of moral heroes. The death and resurrection of Jesus are what is central to our faith, for in dying and rising Jesus directly faced and overcame the last enemy. The objective of this Lesson is to help deepen our faith in the power of Jesus Christ to overcome the power of death in our lives.
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and everyone who keeps searching finds, and for everyone who keeps knocking, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Jesus taught his disciples that they could pray to God for help with all of their daily needs, in much the same way they would share those needs with their parents. As Hallesby explains, To pray is nothing more than letting God into our lives. To pray is to give God our request to employ his powers to help us with our needs. The result of our praying is, therefore, not dependent upon the power or length of our prayers. Fervent emotions or a clear expression of the situation are not the reasons that our prayers are answered. The results of our prayers are only dependent upon giving our heavenly Father emphasis to our needs, and imploring him to exercise his power to help us. We have all learned how to share our needs and wants with others. As children, we learned to ask our parents for all that we needed, and even all that we wanted. Prayer is simply doing what we already know how to do—asking our parents and others for help—but with God as the one to whom we are asking for help. For many, the real obstacle to praying is fear of not knowing how to share our needs with God. The prayerful conversation we have with God is to be as natural as having a conversation with our loved ones. For this reason, Jesus taught his followers a way in which to pray using the same conversational process we use with our trusted loved ones. Jesus teaches his followers to pray a conversational style of prayer by using the nine parts of the Lord’s Prayer.
The goal of praying is to develop an ongoing conversation in Christ’s name with our heavenly Father, through which we share the needs of our daily lives. To assist us with our daily conversational prayer, Jesus has given his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, which encourages spontaneous prayers to God for each of our needs. Our conversations and spontaneous prayer are referred to in the Bible as unceasing prayer.
The primary goal of this chapter on listening is to make reading the Bible a meaningful habit, through which we are able to listen to God’s Word, his voice, as he speaks directly to each of us. Through our daily Bible reading, God’s voice speaks to the depth of our souls a message about our sin (law), and our great need for the Savior (gospel). As Luther said, “From all eternity God has had an active voice, a thought, a conversation, a will, an address within him that he wants to share with us through Scripture.”
The daily goal of remembering our baptism can be summed up by Martin Luther, “So truly, a Christian life is nothing other than a daily remembering of our baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be done without ceasing, that we always keep purging away whatever belongs to our old nature, through the power of Christ’s death. Then what belongs to our new nature, through the power of Christ’s resurrection, may come forth.”