Have you ever picked up one of those small, multi-layered sandwiches at a buffet and been surprised at how tasty it was? A Bible story can be like that—perhaps a bit confusing at first with its multiple layers, yet surprisingly tasty and nourishing once you get into it. There’s a story like that in Mark chapter 11. The first layer goes like this:
References to: Mark
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Herod Antipas was a man with blood on his hands. Of all his accomplishments, great and small, during his 33-year reign as tetrarch (he was not actually a king), he is best remembered for his murder of John the Baptist.
Has anyone ever looked at you, with a smirk on his face perhaps, and asked, "Do you take the Bible literally?" Before answering, you would be well advised to pause and consider your reply.
Christianity has never been doctrinally perfect. Even the apostolic churches were not perfect. In fact, much of the New Testament was written to correct various wrong ideas. In Corinth, for example, Christians were tolerating incest, suing one another in court, eating in pagan temples and misbehaving at the Lord's Supper. Some thought they should be celibate, and some thought they should divorce their non-Christian spouses. Paul had to correct all these ideas, and history tells us that he had only limited success.
Jesus’ cursing of the unfruitful fig tree presents Christians with a dilemma unique in the Gospels. A cursory reading of the text portrays Jesus as acting quite out of character, using his divine power in selfish anger to curse a mere tree because it did not act contrary to nature by providing him fruit out of season to satisfy his hunger. Many ideas have been brought forward in an effort to explain the apparent anomaly of Jesus’ behavior in the fig tree incident.
Key text: “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mark 10:17).
Main point: The offer of the gift of eternal life does not always yield positive results, no matter how lovingly it is presented. Even Jesus was rejected by a wealthy man whom he loved and wanted to save.
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Jesus once healed a man of leprosy and then strongly warned him not to tell
anyone about it. But instead of keeping it secret, the man went right out and
began speaking freely, telling everyone who would listen.