Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth

Lesson III

Friends and Foes

St. Mark III.

"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.

"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."

A S there is not time to teach the whole chapter, it seems best to omit vv.  21-31, as being rather difficult for young children. In senior classes it may be briefly touched. Show their obstinate determination to find evil in Christ, such as already appears in Section I, and the bearing of this on His warning about the unpardonable sin. Show that in Revised Version the correct reading is given, "guilty of an eternal sin,"v.  29, i.e.,  that the sin is rather indomitable  than impardonable,  that the man yielding to such sin, deliberately and persistently rebelling against promptings of Holy Ghost within him, is in danger of getting it so confirmed in him that it will never cease, and therefore, can never be forgiven. Ask, "Could any penitent be rejected for it?" No, because no penitent  could be guilty of it. His penitence would show that he was not sinning against the Holy Ghost.

It may be advisable not to read whole chapter at once but section by section as indicated. Be very careful to bring out the bright, happy view of God's purpose in giving Sunday.

What was last Lesson about? Kingdom of God. Remind children of Christ's ideal for His Church. Picture to them a band of white-robed Knights of God passing through the midst of this "naughty world" and making all life beautiful and holy as they pass. That is meaning of the Kingdom of God. Chapter to-day divides naturally into sections.—(1) The Sabbath, vv.  1-7. (2) Teaching and healing, vv.  7-13. (3) The Twelve Apostles, vv.  13-20. (4) The Sin against the Holy Ghost, vv.  20-31. (5) Christ's Spiritual Brethren, vv.  30-36.

Read Section 1. This tells of the Pharisees' anger at our Lord's notions about the Sabbath. Notice that last section of previous chapter is on same subject, and show (Matthew xii. 8, 49) that both occurred same day; that Lord was walking to church at the time through the cornfields. So they followed Him into church. What for? To pray to be made loving, and kind, and good? See v.  2. What wicked, spiteful men! Did not like Christ, He was so real and true; hated sham, and cant, and hypocrisy, and sternly rebuked them; they always watched to find fault with Him. Was it right to be careful about keeping Sabbath? Yes; but they were so silly about it, and so spiteful. They forgot God's loving purpose for it. What did they blame disciples for in field? Rubbing corn in hand. How silly! They would make Sabbath a torment. Did God give Sabbath to be a torment to people? What does Lord answer? ii. 27. Made for man, i.e.,  for man's blessing and happiness. Does God like to see happy faces on Sunday? Like to see us out in fresh air enjoying this beautiful world? Yes, we are His children, and He made Sunday for our happiness, and recreation, and rest. No Latin, or sums, or hard school-lessons to-day for boys and girls. No work for tired men and women. What an awful world if no Sundays! God says to us every Saturday night, "Come ye apart and rest awhile. I want you to rest and be happy."  "This is the day that the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it." Is it not good of our Father in Heaven? What a shame to make it gloomy.

But we have another part of us besides bodies? Souls. And God, who wants us to be happy, knows that a good, noble, beautiful life will best make us so. He says, "If my children only think of rest and amusement, they may forget about goodness and about my love for them, and so lose their highest happiness. The busy men and women may forget Me in the hurry of their work, so I want to remind them about Me every Sunday, and keep them near to Me." Emphasize the two sides. (1) The rest and recreation for the body. (2) Helps and reminders for the soul. And all for the purpose of our good,  to make us happy, and holy, and loving to God and man.

Now the Pharisees forgot the happy meaning of Sabbath. Thought of as of a taskmaster's order to his slaves.—"Don't do this, don't do that on Sabbath, or else I will punish you." Our Lord was vexed at the way they were spoiling God's beautiful gift, and so He often, in order to teach them, intentionally broke through their silly rules—intentionally worked miracles on Sabbath—broke the Sabbath, they would say. This angered them greatly. Now return to story of this disturbance in synagogue. How began? What ailed man? One of the old, lost Gospels says he was a stone-mason, and had told the Lord that he could not earn bread for his family. Picture—village church—man on seat—arm hanging dead—his eager eyes fixed on Jesus. Jesus' pitying eyes on him. Suddenly He speaks out—what? Now see the Pharisees whispering and watching. Oh, this wicked Sabbath-breaker! going to heal a man on Sabbath! Hear them call out to stop Him. "Is it lawful to heal," etc. (Matthew xii. 10). His reply (Mark lii. 4). Is it best on Sabbath to do good,  as I am doing, or harm,  as you wicked, spiteful people are doing? What did they say? (v.  4). How did He feel about it? (v.  5). Angry. Is not anger wrong? No it is right to be very angry with sin, with spite, and bigotry, and hypocrisy. It was right to be angry with teachers who were turning people against the loving Father, and spoiling His blessed Sabbath gift. Our Lord often angry with such. But was it vicious anger against the men, that would make Him like to hurt them? See next word "Grieved at," etc. That is the right anger, to love God so greatly as to be angry with all sin, yet grieved and sorrowful for the sake of the sinner. All this time the poor man waiting with his dead arm by his side. What next? Could he stretch it forth? Was it not dead? Yes; but when Christ told him, the poor fellow tried to do it, and with the effort to obey came the power.  So with us—weak, powerless—can't love God; can't conquer sin, can't be truly faithful. But let us say, "Lord, I can't love you much; I can't serve you as I should; I can't be good as I ought; but, Lord, I'll try!" and with the effort to obey will come the power.

Do you think the poor stone-mason was glad? And the people? And the Lord? Were the Pharisees? What do? Went out to make plans against Him, and so went on and on in this wicked spitefulness till they brought the Lord at last to the Cross on Calvary.

If not time, next section (vv.  7-13) may be dismissed with a few questions, so as to give more time for following section (vv.  13-20). Read section. What about? Calling the twelve Apostles together. Had He not called them already in forming first ranks of His Kingdom of God? Lesson II.—Yes; but He was then only calling recruits—rank and file. Now wanted chief officers of His Kingdom to guide and rule it after He was gone. Very solemn task. See how He prepared for it (Luke vi. 12, 13). Think of Him going out alone in the late evening, and walking up that lonely mountain. He could not be happy without prayer, and enjoying the presence of His Father. There all the long, dark night He was in His deep prayer—in His great happiness. And then in the early morning the disciples come crowding after Him, and many of the people of the place. So He looked on the little band who had so willingly come to Him, the beginning of His Kingdom of God on earth. He loved them all. But all not fit to guide and rule. So He who knew all hearts picked out the right men. They were the first rulers of His earthly Kingdom—the first bishops of the Church. They afterwards ordained other men to preach and teach as the Church grew bigger, and placed some as leaders and bishops, to take their own places when they were gone; and so down through all the ages comes the line of the bishops and clergy of the Church, the first of the line being appointed by the Lord.

How many? Name them? What did he purpose for them? (v.  4). That they might be with Him  in his own immediate company. What a blessed position! Beautiful thought. He wants His teachers to be in close company with Himself—the clergy and Sunday School teachers to be much in communion with Him, and then go out to tell others about Him. What their chief work? To preach. In some things they were very different? Some fishers—others not. One collected taxes. One, Simon the Zealot, opposed the taxes. Peter—bold, fiery, impetuous. Thomas—desponding and doubting. Nathanael so simple and guileless. John so deeply affectionate, etc., etc.

But in one thing all were alike. What? All loved the Lord, and wanted to please Him.

LESSON I.—Boys and girls very different in manner and disposition—illustrate from class. Do these differences make you unfit to be Christ's disciples? What is the one thing in which all His disciples are alike? All love the Lord, and want to please Him. What does He call them at the close of this chapter? (v.  35).

LESSON II.—He first calls members into the rank and file of His Kingdom—to be His disciples—to love Him, and want to please Him. From them He picks out those for special work. Perhaps He will want some of you by-and-by as missionaries, or to do some other great work for Him at home or abroad. If so, He will call you again. Should you like to be called by Him to do great work in His Kingdom?

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