Saturday, May 9, 2020

LUKE+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind  and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Luke 1:28 "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."  This is how the angel Gabriel, sent from God, addressed Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. He was sent to inform her of the tremendous part she would be playing in the divine activity of human redemption. Gabriel uses terms of great respect for this special person who would experience unparalleled sacred joys and sorrows. The literal translation of "highly favored" is one endowed with great grace or favor from God, whom Mary already knew and trusted. Two extreme attitudes toward Mary must be rejected to be biblically faithful. The first is that of the Roman Catholic Church, which has placed her between humanity and the Son of God. That is idolatry and its effect has been disastrous. The second is that of many Protestant churches, which have neglected to hold the mother of our Lord in the esteem due her. Mary was a member of sinful humanity who needed and shared in the redemption provided by her Son, but the honor conferred on her was of the highest. Our thoughts about Mary and our language concerning her should not lack the dignity and respect of the angel's words. Mary was a wonderful example of motherhood, so we should always think and speak of her honorably.

Luke 2:49 "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  These are the first recorded words of our Lord. He was now twelve, and went up with His parents and a caravan of relatives to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. In those caravans the men usually went first, the women held the rear position, and the children were sandwiched in the middle for safety. On the first leg of the journey home, Mary and Joseph realized they made wrong assumptions about where Jesus was, and hurried back to Jerusalem to find Him. Three days later, they found Him in a very sensible place: "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers" (verses 46-47). Mary, however, said to Him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." Jesus's reply, highlighted above, reveals genuine amazement that they did not know where to look for Him. Even at this young age, Jesus had a clear sense of His identity and mission. The "must" behind all His doing and teaching was always the same: doing the will of God. Despite Mary's temporary frustration here, this points to what a great thing it is when partly as the result of our training and example, the children we influence relate all their lives to God by complete trust and surrender.

Luke 3:23, 38 "Jesus ... the son of Adam, the Son of God."   The genealogy of Jesus the Christ in Matthew 1 and here in Luke 3 reveal that Mary and Joseph came of the same stock, both of the house of David and seed of Abraham. The Gospel of Matthew records Joseph’s genealogy, establishing Jesus’s right to rule through the kingly line of Solomon. The Gospel of Luke records Mary’s genealogy, which is identical to Joseph’s except that she came from King David’s son Nathan, not Solomon, so the descendants after David are different. Before David, Luke's genealogy stretches all the way back to Adam, who like Jesus is called the son of God. Our Lord was The Son of God in a unique sense, but as the son of Marya child of the human raceHe was also a Son of God. By sin humankind is cut off from God and lost. Jesus was sinless in His human nature, "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That enabled Him to act with God for men, "for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus."

Luke 4:21 "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears."  What a wonderful day that was! The Lord was back in Nazareth, in His boyhood home, among the people who knew Him best as far as the incidental things of His earthly life were concerned. Dr. Luke tells us Jesus went into the synagogue there, "as was His custom." Often He had been there mingling with the worshipers, yet separated from them by the mystery of His being and the consciousness of His mission. And now He chose that place to reveal He Himself was fulfilling what the prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years earlier: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort those whose hearts have been broken, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Isaiah 61:1-2). Only a comma separates what comes next: "and the day of vengeance of our God" (the rest of verse 2). The Lord Jesus did not read that part because it remains to be fulfilled in our future at His return. At the perfect time appointed He will carry that out also. How long the interval represented by that comma God only knows. Times and seasons are within His authority. So far the interval has lasted nearly 2,000 years. This is still the day of His Gospel, for He is still delivering captives from sin. Thank God it is still the year of His favor!

Luke 5:21 "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"   This was a question asked by the enemies of our Lord because He said to a man, "Your sins are forgiven." The theology of His accusers was right on this point, but  wrong in their application of it. Only God can forgive sins, but in a limited sense people can and usually should forgive sins against their own person. When one brother forgives another for the wrong he has done him, the one who was forgiven will feel thankful, but that forgiveness will not completely lift the burden from his conscience or cleanse the stain from his soul. When God forgives, He does both. King David understood that, which is why he said after confessing sins that affected many people, "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight" (Psalm 51:4). Jesus is God. He could and did forgive sins in this ultimate sense—and still does.

Luke 6:46 "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' but do not do what I say?"   The immediate sense of this question is apparent: it is wrong, it is futile to call Jesus Lord if we are not acting in harmony with what we profess. To call Him Lord is to declare we are His subjects. To neglect to do what He commands belies our declaration. That much is obvious, but notice the Lord Jesus Christ chose to phrase this as a question, not a statement. If we are disobedient, why continue to profess obedience? Finding the answer requires an inner search both diligent and ruthless, one that refuses to be put off with any hypocrisy or superficial excuse. Therefore it is a question to which it would be almost dangerous to suggest possible answers because each guilty soul must face that question alone. Faithfulness to do so will lead to genuine repentance and sincere step-by-step obedience to God's Word. As Jesus said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." The blessing comes not in the mere knowing, but in the doing. Jesus's Why question here is like a sharp scalpel that cuts into the core of a cancer. It's the necessary first step to spiritual healing and wholeness.

Luke 7:44 "Do you see this woman?"  Jesus was invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. As they  and others ate together, suddenly a local woman with a bad reputation burst into the dining room, weeping at Jesus's feet. As Simon observed what was happening, he concluded that since the Lord allowed this awkward situation to continue, He lacked perception about the kind of woman she was. Jesus now intervened with a question to help Simon understand that Simon instead was the one lacking perception. The Lord helped Simon—and us—to see the woman as He saw her. Jesus actually looked at her; Simon did not. Simon judged her by her past,  Jesus  by her present. For us, like Simon, it is not easy to blot out a past and free ourselves from prejudice. Yet that's exactly what the Lord does, not unrighteously but righteously: He knows the power of His own grace. It cancels the past and gives its own beauty to the soul. When we allow memories of the past to blind us to a genuine transformation produced by God's grace, we are thinking too little of grace.

Luke 8:25 "Where is your faith?"   Jesus and the apostles were on a small fishing boat when a sudden and severe storm came upon them. The Lord, who initiated this trip, was asleep by now. He was soon awakened by His terrified disciples, whose distress was more than just for themselves. They cried out, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Perhaps they were thinking that if that boat went down, all went with it: His mission and all their hopes. To that cry He immediately responded with tenderness and strength by changing the circumstances from storm to calm. He demonstrated the truth later written in the hymn "Peace Be Still": "No water can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies." Then the Lord Jesus asked, "Where is your faith?" as a rebuke for their distress, demonstrating to them and us His desire that we have so much confidence in Him, we  remain undisturbed amid all disturbances. How often we are anxious over our own deep concerns or even over His! In the hour of storm we imagine everything is about to perish. Then He still says to us, "Where is your faith?"

Luke 9:18 "As He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him."  This paradox is a revelation. Jesus was not actually alone since His disciples were with Him, but He was praying apart from them. Often we are told He left them when He would pray. A careful study of the Gospels leads to the justifiable conclusion that our Lord did not pray with His disciples. He commanded them to pray, He taught them to pray, and He promised them great blessings when they prayed in His name, which is in accord with all He is. But His praying was on a different plane. His approach to the Father was different from that of sinning humanity. He had claims that we ordinary men and women do not: those of divine Being and equality of Sovereignty. Therefore He prayed on earth alone and He intercedes for His people in heaven alone. That is why the unbiblical idea of the intercession of saints is utterly false. It is right that we should pray for each other, for we are commanded to. Of unparalleled power and comfort, however, is the fact our Intercessor has a right of access that can never be shared by any of His creation.

Luke 10:21 "He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit."  Dr. Luke includes a time note here that is significant: "in that same hour." The Lord Jesus had sent out 70 of His disciples in groups of pairs to, like Him, proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed. Now they returned and gave Him news of their success. In their joy was a subtle element of peril. "Lord," they said, "even the demons are subject to us in Your name!" Jesus responded, "Rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Within the hour of saying that, joy from the Spirit prompted Him to say out loud to the Father, "I thank You, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes." He thanked the Father for His sovereign election of the humble and His rejection of the proud. Then He said to His disciples, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." Jesus's joy points back to this text: "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). We may test our strength by discovering the reason for our joy. If an element of self-glorying creeps in, we are weakened. If our joy comes from the sovereign wisdom and grace of our God, we are strengthened in our service to Him.

Luke 11:35 "Beware that the light within you is not darkness."  Is it possible for light to be darkness? That question may be answered by asking another, growing out of the earlier words of our Lord on this occasion: Is it possible for a lighted lamp to be darkness? It is. That lighted lamp is no better than darkness when it is put out of sight in a cellar or under a bowl. It serves as a useful source of light only when it is placed on a stand so people entering may see by it to guide their steps. Light hidden is darkness. Truth disobeyed is valueless. If the will of the Lord, clearly revealed to us and apprehended intellectually, is not carried out in practice, the light within us is darkness. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). He also said conclusively, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who live by the truth come into the light so it will be easy to see that what they have done is with God's help" (John 3:19-21).

Luke 12:14 "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?"   When our Lord refused to interfere between that man and his brother over their inheritance, He was not suggesting He has no interest in such matters or that they are outside the realm of His authority. What He said next is His crucial point: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. One's life does not consist in the abundance of things one possesses." Then He told a parable about a rich fool, which ends on this note: God says to him, "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you. Now who will own all those things you have stockpiled for yourself?" Jesus concluded, "That is what will happen to those who lay up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God."  The man demanding that the inheritance be divided was as greedy as the man refusing to divide. What Christ said speaks to both types of people. If they would be "rich toward God"another way of saying "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness"the question of possessions would settle itself. The one would be eager to share and the other not anxious about receiving. That is Christ's method with all social problems. He never begins with conditions but with causes. If one's life inside is what it ought to be, one's conduct will be what it should be. To divide property between greedy men invites future strife. To make such people free from covetousness brings peace. The word that marks the Christian attitude toward life is not divide but share because Christ creates true love, which is eager to give and share.

Luke 13:33 "I must go on My way today, tomorrow, and the day following."   Just before the Lord Jesus said that, some Pharisees came up to Him, warning Him to flee since Herod Antipas wanted to kill Him. Jesus replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will be perfected.'" Then He reiterated that point, revealing His own undisturbed outlook upon His work and quiet intrepidity. Today and tomorrow constituted the good words and deeds He still had to do. That third day was the way of the Cross and all that issued from it by the counsel of God. To Him the whole pathway of power and perfecting through suffering was marked out by God, and no hostility of rulers or malice of kings could deflect Him from that path. In this consciousness lay the secret of our Lord's strength. In proportion as we His disciples are in fellowship with Him, we too may move forward in life and service without disturbance or hesitancy. No hostile power is strong enough to prevent us doing whatever work God appoints. If that pathway leads through apparent defeat and much suffering, it too will lead to perfecting. We can say with King David, "He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure." To realize we are in the will of God is to be delivered from anxiety about the secondary things of circumstances. If sometimes we seem in their grip, we know all the time that they are in the grip of God.

Luke 14:3 "Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees."  The arresting word here is answering because those men said nothing. They were intently watching, however, wondering if the Lord Jesus would dare break their rules about healing on the Sabbath. This is a revelation of His perfect understanding of all those who were around Him and His desire to correct and help them. Jesus the Christ answered their thoughts and intentions. Notice His two appeals to their intelligence and capacity for tenderness and mercy: 1. Is it lawful—from God's perspective—to heal on the Sabbath? 2. Which one of you would not hesitate for a moment to rescue an animal of yours that happened to fall into a pit on the Sabbath day? While our Lord rebuked the wrong attitude and temper of those men, He did so by appealing to the best within them and calling them to be true to it. His purpose was not to shame those men but to save them. The shame God produces in any human soul when He answers its inward thoughts is intended to produce results that will be for its recovery. This method of correcting evil by appealing to the good is full of possibility and power.

Luke 15:32 "Dead, and is alive; lost, and is found."  That is inside information from Jesus on God's perspective of people once lost to Him and then restored. He had just finished three parables about three lost things: lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. One contrast in what is famously called the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a double one, dealing with the experience of man and the experience of God. The man away from God is dead. There is a sense in which he still lives, but everything is less than real, withered at the heart, and unfinished: he lacks spiritual and eternal powers and joys. To God that man is lost. In that loss God is defrauded of what is rightfully His, which brings Him great sorrow out of love as well as justice. The man restored to God is alive. There remain things from which  that man is yet excluded, but everything for him now is touched with life and strong at the center. He experiences the profound peace and power of abiding in Christ. To God that man is found. In his restoration, God is blessed. We miss the deepest note of the parable if we do not catch the delight and joy of our Father God when the lost is found. The man or woman lost to God is dead. He or she found by God is truly alive.

Luke 16:31 "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead."  That's the conclusion to Christ's account of what happened to Lazarus and the rich man after they died. The rich man went to hell and begged that Lazarus in paradise be sent back to earth to warn his brothers about the realities of heaven and hell. The Lord Jesus obviously wanted His hearers—and us—never to think faith can be compelled by something spectacular and out of the ordinary. He proclaims that the Holy Scriptures are in themselves as powerful as the delivery of their message by one risen from the dead. As His powerful minister Paul declared, "The Gospel ... is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). The only thing that can inspire faith is truth, and truth is not made more powerful when it is proclaimed in some way beyond human explanation. That is why Jesus refused to give signs to many who requested them. As we see from those who did witness miracles in Scripture, with the passing of the first surprise, what seemed like faith often faded away and leaves no permanent results. As Jesus said, "The truth shall make you free." Truth alone is able to inspire living faith.

Luke 17:17 "Where are the nine?"  The way Jesus asked that question, you can almost hear the sorrow in His voice. On the border between Samaria and Galilee, 10 lepers had appealed to Him for help. He put their faith to the test by commanding them to fulfill the laws of Moses by showing themselves to the priestsAs all 10 lepers walked away, they were healed! That was sure to cause excitement since perhaps no priests from Moses's day on had ever seen leprosy completely healed. Perhaps those laws were made to later highlight the Messiah's healing ministry. It was when only one of those lepers—a Samaritan, an outcast according to most Jews back then—came back to thank the Lord Jesus that He posed His question. He was pleased by the glad outpouring of a grateful heart, and obviously missed that of the 9 who had at least some faith and were healed, but didn't return to say thanks. One can't help wondering if Jesus still asks this question. Do we undervalue how much our rightful expressions of praise, adoration, and gratitude mean to Him? All such worship gladdens His heart, however amazing that fact may seem to us.

Luke 18:27 "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."   These words of our Lord are capable of two interpretations: 1. That God is able to do what people cannot. 2. That people are able to do with God what otherwise they cannot do. The second is the correct interpretation. The first is so evidently true, it didn't need to be said in this situation. The second exactly answered the difficulty in the minds of those who were perplexed: If a wealthy person, whose power and influence is great, cannot secure entrance into God's Kingdom, then what chance is there for a person of lesser power and influence? Our Lord's answer immediately reveals the profound mistake that created the problem: no person enters into the Kingdom by his or her own power and influence. He or she must go to God directly and humbly. If the Rich Young Ruler had acted alone with God, he would have followed Christ at all costs. All seemingly insurmountable difficulties of desire, inclination, and fear are overcome by God when a person yields him or herself completely to God in submission and faith. That which a person cannot do alone or with others, he or she can do  with God alone.

Luke 19:42 "If only you had known!"   Those words were spoken by our Lord with weeping. He looked at Jerusalem, knowing with pain in His heart that its doom was sealed because its people failed to recognize the visitation of their own Messiah. The spiritual blindness of Jerusalem's religious leaders was such that they did not discern the meaning of that visitation. The result was inevitable: there could be no escape from the coming devastation of A.D. 70. Here we see the heart of God, vastly greater than the heart of man. It is mastered by holiness and justice, but nonetheless moved by compassion. There can be no sacrifice of the principles of righteousness, but there is no selfish joy in the calamities that overtake a sinful city. "If only you had known" suggests all the blessing for the city that Jesus wished upon it, and shows His sorrow over its refusal of such blessing through its blindness. Happily, that is not the end for Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Isaiah 53 predicted what will happen in our future: when multitudes of new Jewish believers recognize their past blindness for the folly that it was and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah in saving faith upon His triumphant return.

Luke 20:44 "David therefore called Him Lord. How then is He his son?"  In that question, the Lord Jesus fixed the attention of His enemies upon a mystery about the Hebrew Messiah from Psalm 110, written by King David, who sung of the Messiah as his sovereign Lord. Where the mystery comes in is that all the Jewish people knew their Messiah or Savior was prophesied from 2 Samuel 7 to descend from David himself. How could the Messiah be David's Lord and son at the same time? Psalm 110:1 reads, "The Lord [Hebrew, Yhwh: the self-Existent and Eternal] said to my Lord [Hebrew, Adon: lord, master, owner—either divine or human], 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." The idea that a son should rule over his father was unthinkable in that time and place. What then did David mean? The Lord Jesus Christ [the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term Messiah] was obviously trying to make the religious leaders He was speaking with face this conundrum in their sacred writings so they could understand His sacred identity as the Messiah. Once any person does that, the mystery is solved. The two genealogies of Jesus given in Scripture reveal clearly that He descended from the line of David. Paul the apostle explains the two Lordships this way at the beginning of his majestic letter to the Romans: "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 1:1-4).

Luke 21:28 "When these things begin to be fulfilled, look up and lift up your heads."  What things will produce in Christ's disciples a hopeful look and erect, confident bearing? The same things that make everyone else around the world tremble with fear: upheaval politically, socially, economically, morally, emotionally, militarily, and even astronomically. Why? Because, as Jesus goes on to explain, all those things mean that "redemption is drawing near." When wild confusion is all around us, God is surely at work and moving forward by necessary turmoil towards His steadfast purposes of love. This certainty comes only by faith, but the foundations of that faith rest securely in the Lord Himself. Therefore we who love Christ are commanded, "Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees; make straight paths for your feet.... Let us be grateful for receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12). Indeed, "God will invade.... When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over.... It will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you chose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it."

Luke 22:27 "I am in the midst of you as One who serves."   This is our Master's supreme and perpetual rebuke of the prideful desire within us all for power to compel others to serve our needs. He reveals that true greatness comes from the power within to submit ourselves to the service of God and others. There is no more powerful evidence of how much we need His grace than by our slowness to learn this lesson! How many times do we read in the Gospels about the 12 apostles arguing among themselves about which of them was the greatest? We are no better than they, for we are made of the same material inside and out. Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly great, and His greatness is rooted in His self-emptying whereby He forever serves others. The Book of Revelation reveals Him in the midst of the Throne Room of heaven as a Lamb who had once been slain. He reigns and rules in undisputed and unhindered authority because He temporarily set aside His glory to serve. Shall we not seek with all our minds and hearts the greatness that comes through Christ-like service to Him and others?

Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  This reveals  the humanity of our Lord and is also a perfect revelation of the heart of God. His plea was not that willful sin should be excused. The men who nailed Him to His cross were ignorant: they had no understanding of the monstrous deed they were doing, for they had been commissioned by others who were likewise ignorant. The Lord Jesus, therefore, prayed for them, and the salvation of some of them is described in the Book of Acts. Divine justice is eternally reasonable, for the judgments of God are based on His perfect knowledge not of actions alone, but of the motives that prompt them. Yet those motives, while the result of ignorance, may be utterly unworthy and needing the forgiveness of God. For this the crucified Lord had the right to ask because of the deepest fact about His cross: He was there "by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God," as Peter declared iActs 2 to thousands, including those who crucified Christ. Jesus, whose name means Savior, was set upon the redemption of His people at uttermost cost. In His prayer at the cross we see the justice and mercy of God in perfect harmony.

Luke 24:51 "While He blessed them, He parted from them."  The last words and activity Christ's apostles observed of their Lord were His blessing and uplifted hands. So much had taken place before of the 40 days they spent with their risen Lord—how those days must have flown by! Dr. Luke records that the disciples so marveled over His glorified body, Jesus said to them, "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.... While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, 'Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He ate it before them. Then He said to them, 'This is what I said before: that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things'" (verses 39-48). That blessing Jesus gave as He ascended into heaven is more than an expression of His desire for His own to be happy; it is a declaration of His ability to give them the only true happiness. When we remember His uplifted hands, there can be no doubt or fear when menacing hands stretch out to harm or trouble us. When we hear His voice pronouncing blessing, it does not matter what voices slander or curse us, for we know our peace and joy are assured.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

MARK+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind  and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Mark 1:1 "The ... Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."  Gospel means Good News, which tells us Mark's conception of the value of the story he was about to write.  It is all good, a true story to cause gladness, news that brings hope. That truth should never be forgotten because sometimes the dark and dreadful facts of human life are in danger of giving an almost gloomy note to the preaching of the Gospel. Sin is a terrible fact and the more we understand our message the more its terror will be felt, but the Gospel is first and foremost good news of complete deliverance from all evil to those who trust in "Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The Good News is simply and wholly the story of that Person, who is fully God and fully man.

Mark 2:17 "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."  In a general, superficial way people tend to agree with the positive aspect of this statement, that Jesus came to call sinners, but they bristle at its negative aspect: that Jesus has nothing to say to the righteous. If any man or woman refuses to be considered a sinner, that person stands outside Christ's appeal. Christ is speaking here to self-righteous religious leaders. They were criticizing Him for spending time with sinners, but Jesus explained those sinners were like sick patients needing care from the Great Physician. His then saying to them that He came not to call the righteous but sinners reveals a gentle satire and great compassion. Those self-satisfied men were taken at their own valuation: they are healthy so they do not need a doctor, they are righteous so they do not need a Savior! Yet Jesus knew their sickness of soul and was willing to heal them: He knew they really were sinners, and so was calling them also. Some later believed in Him. When we accept the divine judgment that "no one is righteous, not even one", then we find Jesus' call is indeed to us. 

Divine Nicknames
Mark 3:16-17 "... to whom He gave the name."  Jesus gave nicknames to 3 of His 12 apostles. Perhaps He did the same for them all—we do not know; perhaps He gives nicknames to His people now. We do know from the books of Isaiah and Revelation that God will give new names to His people (Isaiah 56:5; 62:2; 65:15; Revelation 2:17). Peter means rock, Christ's new name for Simon, who was outspoken, impulsive, and unstable. That new name indicates Peter's unrealized capabilities, and the Lord's ability to realize them. The brothers James and John, born the sons of Zebedee, Jesus renamed the Sons of Thunder (Boanerges in Greek). They had lived quiet lives, content to remain at home in the service of their father in his extensive fishing trade, but when Jesus called them "they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him" (Mark 1:20). James and John became men of authority and power. James was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith in Christ. John was the only apostle not to die a martyr's death, living to a great age as a father to the growing churches, which he strengthened by writing under divine inspiration the final Gospel, letters to the churches, and the Book of Revelation. Peter, James, and John learned that Christ's power became operative in their lives when they were most yielded to Him and His revealed will. The same is true for God's people today.

Mark 4:28 "The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."  In the matter of harvesting, man has things he can and cannot do. He can sow and reap. Those things are necessary, for apart from sowing there is no harvest. Apart from reaping the harvest is wasted. Beyond that he must wait. He goes on quietly with his life, sleeping and rising. His confidence rests on 2 things: having done his appointed task and knowing for certain that work is going on outside his realm of power since "the earth produces by itself." That statement does not exclude God since "the whole earth is full of His glory" and the processes of death into life that go forward within the soil are operations of God's power. While they are active, man must wait. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like that. We who serve Him must sow and reap, but the mightiest work is divine. It is for us to know that He is working even through the long wintry days when the results of our labors are not yet visible. We are happiest when we learn to work within our appointed places and then wait in the double assurance of our limitations and God's unlimited power.

Mark 5:39 "The child is not dead but sleeping."  In those words we discover our Lord's outlook on death. There was no doubt that the 12-year-old girl in this situation was dead regarding her body and earthly consciousness, but Jesus could take in the entire situation. The girl's mother and father had surely looked on her when she was asleep in the days of her health. While she was asleep, she was unconscious that they were near her, and they could not communicate with her unless they awoke her out of sleep. Jesus told them that the real situation was similar now in His presence. From ordinary sleep they could have awakened her, but from this deeper slumber they could not. He could, however, and that is what He soon did. This outlook upon death is full of comfort for those who love the Lord. He stands by our dead and says to us, "Not dead, but sleeping." For the believer, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Indeed, "our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await the return of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform lowly bodies that they may be conformed to His glorious resurrection body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).

Mark 6:30 "The apostles ... told [Jesus] everything they had done and taught."  This is an account of how the first apostolic mission ended. After a period of preparation by being with the Lord Jesus, they were sent out two by two to do His work and thus enlarge the area of His activity. They had been successful in all the work He gave them to do. Then they returned to Him and gave Him their report. This suggests a beautiful picture: the Lord who had sent them and, in a sense, had never been separated from them during their absence, listening to them as they told Him what He already knew perfectly. Jesus also understood that such work is costly, for His disciples were tired, which is why He then said, "Come aside by yourselves to a secluded spot and rest a while" (Mark 6:31). A point of application here is we are often more likely to report what we have done for Christ to each other and to the world than to Him. Such reporting is not necessarily wrong, but for our own good and enrichment for further service, it is better to report to the Lord Himself. That is not the same as prayer and praise; it is telling Him what we have done and taught because He likes hearing from His children. Making a joyful habit of this will bless Him and us, improving all we think, say, and do.

Mark 7:24 "He could not be hidden."  Jesus "entered a house and wanted no one to know it." But then a mother in anguish because of her daughter's affliction begged Jesus for help. From such appeals He could not be hidden. This woman, a Syro-Phonecian, was from a people notoriously hostile to Israel. Not only did Jesus heal her daughter by His mere spoken word, but also He tested her faith in a way that set her up for everlasting praise. Matthew tells us "she came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'" By the time this divine appointment concluded (His only reason for being in the region as far as we know), Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire" (Matthew 15:25-28). The only other time He praised someone like that was when speaking to a Roman, another traditional enemy of Israel: "Truly I say to you," Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith even in Israel.... Many will come from east and west [places like Rome, Tyre, and Sidon] and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 8:10-11). God cannot be hidden from human suffering because of His gracious nature. He does not deal with symptoms merely, but with the dire root of the disease. As He comes forth from His hidden place, compelled by human agony, He makes no terms with that which caused the pain, but comes to end the pain by ultimately removing the cause.

Mark 8:21 Jesus said to His disciples, "How is it you do not understand?"  
That is the final question in a rush of questions meant to convict and sharpen slow minds: Why are you thinking about mere bread? Do you not comprehend? Is your heart hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? Having ears, do you not hear? Do you not remember how many basketfuls of leftovers you had when I broke the 5 loaves for the 5,000 and the 7 for the 4,000? Happily, Matthew's Gospel makes it clear the disciples finally understood that when Jesus told them "to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,"  He was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The apostles were missing the point of Christ's spiritual teaching because they were preoccupied by material things, such as having enough bread on hand. That was happening even though they had witnessed Christ's superlative ability to deal with material needs. The disciples needed to apply their past experiences to present needs, and so do we. Is it not a peculiar and persistent failing of the human soul that in the presence of immediate distress, we often forget past deliverances? The correction is remaining conscious of all that God has done for us: "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, "'If You can'! All things are possible for one who believes."  That is our Lord's response to a father in desperate trouble. The man's boy from early childhood had suffered from demonic oppression. When the man hears of the fame of Jesus as a healer, he brings the boy to Him, only to find He is not with the disciples. In this dilemma he appeals to the disciples, but they were unable to deal with the case. When Jesus returns at this point, the man focuses on the disciples' lack of power, but the Lord redirects this father to  focus on his own lack of faith. "If You can!" is His emphatic rebuke of the man's request, "If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us"—said to the most demonstrably compassionate and able Healer of all time! Jesus is also the champion of faith in the one true God, which is why He says, "All things are possible for one who believes." This grief-stricken father immediately understands this principle and applies it to himself as he cries out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" He admits his problem, places His faith in the right Person, and the Lord's response is immediate. When our faith is inspired by His, we make contact with His ability to do the things we cannot do ourselves.

Mark 10:14 "Jesus ... was greatly displeased."  
Mark alone of the 4 Gospel writers gives us this revealing detail in connection with Christ's receiving and blessing the children. Our Lord was moved with indignation that any of His disciples should so misunderstand Him that they would even think of preventing children from approaching Him. Surely the disciples meant well since they were on their way to Jerusalem, and Jesus had been preparing them for His sufferings there. They were unable to grasp what He meant by all that, but at least they realized His mind was occupied with tremendous things to come. Perhaps that is why they felt He ought not to be disturbed by children. This incident reminds us it is possible to mean well yet do ill, but especially it reveals the special place children occupy in the heart of Jesus. Hindering them in any way from getting to Him still greatly displeases Him, but bringing children to Jesus gives Him joy. The children all about us everywhere are opportunities for giving Him this joy.

Mark 11:25 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive."  That is a law of prayer. How much unanswered prayer is the result of forgetting this? Forgetting is the right word since if we remember, we either stop praying or we forgive. It is impossible to pray easily when the heart is hot and angry with someone who has done us wrong. In the underlying depths of consciousness, however, feelings of resentment may lurk, even though at the moment we are not occupied with them. If we discover that is true within us, then according to this word of Jesus, we have no right to expect that God will forgive our trespasses. Our first inquiry, whenever we desire to pray, should be: Is there any person whom we have not yet forgiven? Of course, the condition is that the person has really wronged us in some way. Apart from that, there would be nothing to forgive. If there is such a person, before we can rightfully pray, we must forgive that person. After praying, we then need to carry out our act of forgiveness by seeking the forgiven person if still possible, and doing what we can to establish the relationship that results from forgiveness. What gracious results would follow if this word of Jesus were more often remembered and obeyed! Love would win wonderful triumphs, and prayer would become powerful and prevailing.

Mark 12:10 "Have you not even read this Scripture?" Jesus posed that question to religious, moral, and civil rulers who were familiar with the sacred Scriptures. The Scripture He quoted from Psalm 118 was read every year at Passover, but the way He asked the question makes it clear they had not read it in an effective way. In reading, interpreting, and teaching the Bible, it's not enough to know the mere words; we must know what they mean. The rulers Jesus confronted were face to face with the fulfillment of words they read each Passover, yet they were blind because they had never truly read the inspired words with unprejudiced minds under the illumination of God's Spirit. We are constantly in peril of the same superficial and harmful reading of the Scriptures. Therefore, let us approach our study of them with humility, diligence, and complete dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Mark 13:31 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."  Perhaps that is our Lord's superlative word concerning His own teaching. While it obviously speaks of all His teaching, He said this in connection with His apocalyptic prophecies, which He gave to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. However difficult it is to come to perfect agreement in interpreting the "Olivet Discourse", the bad-to-worse scenario it presents depicts the world as we know it. In previous eras, it was assumed the world was steadily progressing upward toward universal peace and goodwill. Ever since the world wars, however, it has become increasingly clear that Jesus understood the human heart better than optimistic teachers who thought Him mistaken. The march of history will continue to vindicate Him at every point, and in that assurance we shall find safety and joy in believing and obeying Him.

Mark 14:50 "They all left Him and fled."  This was the last stage in a process that had been going on from the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He had irresistibly attracted people by the authority and radiance of His teaching, the loving wonder of His miracles, and the charm of His personality. They would come near Him, stop, and then go back: first, the rulers of Israel and then some of His earlier followers, "who turned back and no longer accompanied Him" (John 6:66). Next, the crowds themselves backed away as they yielded to the influence of the corrupt rulers. Now at last the Lord's inner circle of disciples fled, perplexed and terrified by the force of circumstances closing in on Him. Mark is the only Gospel writer who records this incident: "A certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his [nearly] naked body. The soldiers seized him so he left the linen cloth, fleeing from them naked" (Mark 14:51). Mark himself was probably that young man, vividly recalling his frenzy to escape. But the cross, the resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit changes everything, drawing Christ's followers close to Him no matter the cost. Mere admiration of the Person and teaching of Christ will not outlive the difficulties His true followers face in this fallen world. Under the pressure of opposing forces, people will remain faithful to Christ only if they have been united to Him through faith in His death and resurrection.

Mark 15:31 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save."  This is one of several instances when the Lord's enemies, in hatred or mockery, said things about Him that were profoundly true. To save others, the Messiah could not save Himself. His inability was not, as His enemies suggested, because of weakness. It was because of eternal strength. It was not that He was unable to save Himself, but rather that He was able not to save Himself. Therefore He "is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25). As Jesus was being arrested He said to Peter, "Put away your sword, for all who take the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will at once provide Me with more than 12 legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled?" (Matthew 26:52-53)? Isaiah prophesied, "Surely He [the Messiah] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions.... The chastisement for our peace upon Him.... All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.... He was cut off from the land of the living.... Yet it pleased the Lord to ... make His soul an offering for sin." As we soon find out, that's not the end of the story: "They assigned His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich at His death.... [God] shall prolong His days.... He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied."

Mark 16:20 "The Lord worked with them and confirmed the Message."  This is how Mark's Gospel ends: with the risen Lord co-operating with His messengers in the delivery of their divine Message, confirming His Word by signs of His authority. The previous statement reveals Him seated at God's right hand after ascending to heaven. Those 2 pictures should always be in mind as we go about His business: He is triumphant and He is active. From His supreme place of authority and power He directs and accompanies all the travels and activities of those who serve Him. When we are true to Him and His message, we may rest assured that He Himself is working with us, making His own direct appeal to those who are listening to us. We must also recognize that it is He who gives the signs; it is not for us to choose what they shall be. Sometimes they are spiritual; sometimes they are wrought in the mental and physical realms. We have nothing to do with them. Our only responsibility is being faithful to His Great Commission: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you. I am with you always, even to the end of the age."