Over the next eight weeks we will be journeying through the first eight chapters of the Gospel of Mark, looking at the ‘words, works and ways’ of Jesus. The words of Jesus are rendered in red letters in some editions of the Gospels; the works of Jesus are the many miracles, teachings and interactions with people that Jesus had in his time on earth; the ways of Jesus are the principles and patterns that Jesus lived out and which He calls His disciples to imitate and follow.
Read [bible]Mark 1:1-11[/bible]
- Jesus’ identity was secure. We are called to have our identity in Jesus. What does this mean to you? What might this look like?
- Where else may we seek to find our identity if not in Jesus?
- Jesus was led and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:10-12). What do we need to do to follow this example?
- Jesus intentionally and actively engaged with the brokenness around him. How can we also do this? What might this look like for you personally?
- What are some of the patterns and practices of Jesus that we can imitate?
- How might we know whether we are following the ways of Jesus or living our lives our own way? What might need to change for you?
- Jesus’ core strategy centred around making disciples. What does this mean for the way you live?
Over the next eight weeks we encourage you to read through the first eight chapters of the Gospel of Mark individually and as a group.
Begin by reading and re-reading chapter 1 of Mark this week. Go through it slowly numerous times and ask these two questions: What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about that?
As a Life Group, commit to do this and to keep each other accountable for this during the week.
Week 1 – Read Mark 1 (several times)
Jesus was not afraid to associate himself with and eat with those on the edges of society. Among the marginalised – tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes and others – Jesus found people with hearts that were open and willing to hear the good news of the Gospel.
Read [bible]Mark 2:13-17[/bible]
- Jesus broke down many cultural barriers in his time. What were some of the ways that he did this?
- Why might Jesus have taken this approach to his ministry? Why might the Pharisees have rejected his approach?
- What are some examples where Jesus defied community expectations to show his love to others?
- Read Mark 2:15. Many whom were attracted to Jesus were seen as sinners by the community of the day. What was it about Jesus that attracted sinners? Might such people be attracted or repelled by his followers today? Why might this be the case?
- Jesus was willing to invest time with those rejected by others. What can we learn from this?
- There is something powerful about sitting down to eat a meal with others. Why is this? How can we use this insight to help us share with others?
- Read 2:17. How might we need to hear these words of Jesus today?
- What might we need to change in order for others to see Jesus in us?
There is a risk that once we have been a follower of Jesus for a period of time, many of our friends and associates tend to be from within the church. We have to be intentional about utilising our connections (at work, at the gym, in social clubs, in our wider families, through parenting connections, etc.) to stay connected with those who do not yet know Jesus. Who is one person who is already in your life that you can be more intentional about sharing with and perhaps inviting for a meal? Make a commitment to follow through this week.
Week 2 – Read and reread Mark 2
Jesus was intentional and strategic in carrying out his mission. He did not go out by himself. He called twelve people as disciples – his team – and trained them so they could continue his work. The disciples, then, also followed the ways of Jesus. They intentionally and strategically created extended family from house to house, developing a sense of belonging and connection as family in Christ.
Read [bible]Mark 3:31-34[/bible]
- What do you see in the way Jesus talked about his family? Now read verses 20-21. How did Jesus handle the situation? Would you handle it differently?
- Read verse 35. What is your understanding of the word ‘family’? What might a family that expands beyond blood relatives and spouses look like to you?
- As a disciple of Jesus, what are the advantages of having a ‘family’ around you? What could be the challenges?
- Read Mark 4:34. Why did Jesus intentionally teach in parables for the crowd but not for His disciples? Why was it important for Jesus to untie the knots for his disciples?
- Read Ephesians 4:29. Having difficult conversations is important when we have people around us to untie our knots. Have you ever experienced a difficult conversation? What was the outcome?
- What stops you from having a difficult conversation? Why?
The ways of Jesus demonstrate that we can’t do this faith journey alone. We need vulnerability, intentionality, and accountability with other people to help us become obedient. These people know your sins and temptations, and they help you to navigate through them. Who is one person in your life today that can help you hear Jesus and who leads you to obedience? Who is one person that you can journey with in this way too? Make a commitment to contact them this week.
Week 3 – Read and reread Mark 3
The words, works and ways of Jesus have a multiplying effect. What we learn and hear from God is never meant to stop with us. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches His disciples that good soil produces a huge harvest – thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was sown. As His disciples, we need to understand the importance of not only hearing and accepting the word of God, but also producing a harvest through the word of God.
Read [bible]Mark 4:1-20[/bible]
- What is your understanding of this parable? Who is the farmer, what is the seed, and what represents the different types of soil?
- Read Mark 4:15 and Matthew 13:19. What kind of distractions are in your life this week that could hinder you from understanding the word of God? Why?
- Read Mark 4:16-17. “Trouble or persecution… because of the word” is an issue of vulnerability. How can you overcome this? What are some things that help you to not only receive the word of God, but also to grow and have deep roots?
- Read Mark 4:18. When the word of God fell among thorns, the word is crowded out. Have you experienced a time when things in your life overcrowded your spiritual walk? How did that impact your relationship with Jesus?
- Read Mark 4:20. What is your understanding of a ‘huge harvest’? How can we as disciples be a part of seeing this produced? What could personally challenge you in producing a huge harvest? Discuss.
- Knowing the importance of producing a harvest as well as the challenges involved in striving for it, do you actually want to be good soil? Share with your Life Group so that you can hold each other accountable.
The word of God brings out the best version of us, but we are called to more than that. The Parable of the Sower teaches us as believers that we can only be the “good soil” if we produce a harvest – if the word of God is moving through us to reach others. Who is one person in your mind right now that you can ask, “I am looking for someone to read the Bible with. I don’t know whether you’d be interested?” Share with your Life Group and pray for those names this week.
Part 4 – Read and reread Mark 4
Jesus never fails to exhibit Kingdom love, Kingdom power and Kingdom purpose, especially to the marginalised and broken. The breaker of chains, Jesus through the Holy Spirit is in our lives right now and He wants to set us free. This starts with each of us being aware of our ‘chains’ and admitting them to Him.
Read [bible]Mark 5:1-20[/bible]
We know that Jesus is the only one that can set us free from our chains. What hinders us from knowing this reality on our day to day lives? Why?
Read Mark 5:3-4. While others tried to chain the man down, Jesus dealt with this broken man in a counter-cultural way. What are some practical examples of how your actions have been counter-cultural in today’s society? What was the outcome?
Read Mark 5:18-20. What did Jesus ask the man to do? Why? What challenges would the man have faced in doing so?
How do those challenges relate to you in sharing your own testimony? If you have shared your testimony before, what helped you in overcoming the hurdles?
Read John 8:34-36. How have you experienced the freedom He gave you?
Sometimes we forget that He has set us free and we allow guilt, shame, bitterness, etc. to chain us again. Where do you need the power of God that can set you free to move in your life today? Share with your Life Group and pray for each other.
The words, works, and ways of Jesus remind us of His love and power in our lives. However, we live in the reality of a spiritual battle, day in and day out. This week, be intentional in holding each other in prayer and encouraging each other to overcome the spiritual battle. At your next Life Group gathering, start by sharing your stories of how this challenged and/or helped you in your battle.
Part 5 – Read and reread Mark 5
When Jesus sent out His disciples to go and teach from village to village, Jesus created accountability for them by sending them two by two. He gave them His authority to preach, cast out demons, and heal people; and they carried his assurance that His authority is the only thing that they needed. Knowing this, His disciples responded with faith and obedience and thus were enabled to do His mission in places that initially rejected Jesus and His power.
Read [bible]Mark 6:1-13[/bible]
How did the people of Nazareth react after watching Jesus teach in the synagogue? Why did they react that way?
Read verse 7. Jesus sent them out two by two so they could hold each other accountable. What are some of the advantages of accountability when it comes to doing God’s mission? How have you been doing God’s mission? Do you have someone to hold you accountable? Share your stories.
Jesus gave his disciples His authority. What is your understanding of this (Read Matthew 28:18)? What challenges may come after understanding that we, as His disciples, also have the same authority as Jesus?
As the Son of God, this authority is where our identity lies. What could happen if we grab hold of this truth on our day-to-day lives? How can we remember this everyday?
The disciples were told not to bring anything but a staff, because God will provide them with everything they need in doing God’s mission. What could hinder us from having faith in God and His provision? Why?
His disciples knew that in doing God’s mission, they would face rejection, chaos, and hardship. Yet their testimonies are still around today simply because they said yes to do God’s mission, and kept going despite the challenges. How does this reality challenge or inspire you?
The words, works, and ways of Jesus is active today – even when his people are not! If we believe that our identity is in Jesus , then we know we can go through difficult challenges and conversations to share our faith.
This week, ask Jesus who is one person you can partner with in making disciples.
If you already have an accountability partner in ministry, find one person and share your faith and testimonies with them.
Week 6 – Read and reread Mark 6.
Jesus and the disciples were criticised by the Pharisees for disregarding religious practices and traditions. The Pharisees had fallen into the trap of religiosity and had become “hypokrites” (Greek word for actor). On a daily basis, we face different traps that could make us hypocrites and pull us further from understanding the words, works, and ways of Jesus.
Read [bible]Mark 7:1-15[/bible]
Read Mark 7:5 The religious leaders wanted Jesus and His disciples to comply with tradition because it advanced their own agendas. How can we distinguish the difference between God’s agenda and our own? Discuss.
Read Mark 7:9. The Pharisees ‘sidestep’ (NLT) God’s law in order to hold to their tradition. How might holding onto tradition hinder our relationship with God? How might it help?
Mark 7:10-13 is an example of sidestepping. What are some other examples of sidestepping God’s law that you have witnessed?
Read Mark 7:6-8 and then take some quiet time for reflection. What is your understanding of Isaiah’s prophecy? What is God saying to you right now?
Read Mark 7:14-15, 20-23. What are the things that have been coming out of your heart?
Read Proverbs 4:23. Guarding your heart is very important. How can we do this? What is one thing that often hinders you from looking after your heart?
Guarding our hearts and staying close to the words, works, and ways of Jesus reduces our likelihood of becoming hypocrites. Is there a mask that has been difficult for you to take off? Take a time of quiet reflection and confession. Share and pray with the person sitting next to you.
Week 7 – Read and reread Mark 7.
We can learn a lot by looking at how Jesus related to His disciples. Jesus trusted them not only to be his friends but to take the message of the Cross beyond His ministry time, making disciples of all nations. When we spend time looking at and applying the words, works and ways of Jesus, and are willing to invest in others with sincerely and with vulnerability, then we too can grow and develop our trust relationships.
Read [bible]Mark 8:27-33[/bible]
Read Mark 8:29. Why was it important for Jesus to know what His disciples were saying about Him? Whose recognition is most important to you? Why?
Read Mark 8:1-32a. Jesus confides in His disciples, unpacking His future for the first time. Why did Jesus speak plainly of such an important and confronting truth? If you were one of the disciples, how might you react after hearing this news?
Peter, with all his good intentions, rebuked Jesus. How did Jesus handle this temptation to forego the crucifixion? How might you approach such a conflict or confrontation with people you love?
Jesus knew that Peter could handle being rebuked. What are the key factors for us to develop this level of trust with others? How can we grow to become trustworthy?
Who are the people in your life that would place full trust in you? “Trust is always the byproduct of vulnerability with people who are trustworthy.” What does this quote mean to you? Discuss.
The disciples chose to listen to Jesus. Who have you chosen to listen to? Is this person someone whom you can trust and who has your best interests at heart?
Jesus demonstrated that trust is a key principle in relationships with others. Where there is no trust, there is a limit to how deep the relationship can be. Who are you investing in that can trust you? Who in your life has your full trust? Is there an area you need to work on this week to further build trust in an existing close relationship?
Week 8 – Read and reread Mark 8.
Jesus is always relevant to our current situation. Whether life is going smoothly or we are experiencing rough times, we need to take a long term perspective and trust in Jesus. At times we can find ourselves focusing on what is lacking in the present moment and looking through a short term window. We need to consider the bigger picture and see all that God has provided for us as a balance to the immediate challenges that we face.
Read [bible]Mark 8:11-21[/bible]
Read Mark 8:11. Why did the Pharisees test Jesus? Have you ever tested God and asked for a sign? Was it any different to what the Pharisees did? What was the outcome?
Read Mark 8:4-16. Why did the disciples say they had none when they actually had one loaf? If you were in the boat, how would you react to Jesus’ answer (Mark 8:15)?
What the disciples saw as a point of insufficiency was actually an opportunity for Jesus to teach. Is there something in your life that you feel a lack of at present? How might Jesus be trying to teach you though this?
How have you been doing in trusting Jesus with your circumstances lately?
Read Ephesians 3:20. What is it that God is able to do? What hinders you from putting your full trust in God?
Jesus has our best interests at heart. Having faith and putting trust in His identity, authority and capacity is more than enough for us to be able to thrive and be the best version of ourselves. With the two people sitting next to you, tell each other the name of your current challenge. Take a quiet time of reflection to shift your mindset. Read Ephesians 3:20 one more time and then pray for one another.
This is the final edition of Going Deeper for 2019. Going Deeper will recommence on Monday 27 January 2020. God bless.