Category Archives: Mark

Mark 8:1-26 – Do you still not understand?

Discussion question:

Have you ever experienced Dejavu?


How good is your eye-sight?

Read Mark 8:1-26


Jesus fed a crowd of 5000+ people with just 2 fish and 5 loaves in Chapter 6. He then ignored the question of the Pharisees in Chapter 7 and, instead, called out their hypocrisy. Then, in the same chapter, he opened the ears and mouth of a man. For 7 chapters, Jesus has been preaching with signs and authority. He has had his 12 disciples watching him and learning from him all this time. They have asked themselves, “Who is this man?” And Jesus has asked them, “Are you so dull?”



  • 1-10 Jesus feeds a large crowd (again)
  • 11-13 Jesus brushes off the Pharisees (again)
  • 14-21 The disciples do not understand (again)
  • 22-26 Jesus heals a blind man in two stages

1-10 Jesus feeds a large crowd (again)

“…large crowd…nothing to eat…” John’s gospel is recorded as saying that if all the things that Jesus did were recorded then he supposes the whole world would not be big enough to fit all the books! So, for Mark to record a miracle so similar to the one recorded only a chapter ago is a little overkill. Unless, there is a point to him doing this.

“I have compassion for these people…” The last time this happened, it was the disciples approaching Jesus to suggest the people needed feeding. Jesus shows his compassion and invites his disciples in for consultation on how to resolve the issue. We would hope that the disciples get excited and ask Jesus if he would feed the crowd again. But they are dull and have not understood who they are with and how this is supposed to work!

“They had a few small fish as well…” Reading these verses is like playing “Spot the Difference” to see what is the same and what is new. The account is so strikingly similar to the last feeding that it’s hard to understand where the disciple’s heads are at. The differences convince us that this is a new event and not a mistake in the writing. 

11-13 Jesus brushes off the Pharisees (again)

“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.” Reading this straight after the feeding miracle is ironic. But they are in a different location so we need to give the Pharisees a small break. Except that Jesus has been doing miracles for ages now. It feels like they have come quite late to the party. Jesus has had a public ministry for quite a while, enough to gather crowds of thousands to him, and the Pharisees are only now taking interest. And they want Jesus to perform magic tricks for them.

“He sighed deeply…” See also Mark 7:34. Looking at the ESV you’ll see “he sighed deeply in his spirit and said…” This is a better translation. It is difficult to conclude how these two ‘sighs’ are connected or not. There are enough differences in the sentences (in the Greek) to interpret them based on context. That is, the meaning behind the sigh can be different for each instance. The question that comes out with the sigh is the context to read:

“Why does this generation seek a sign?” Jesus is not going to humour the Pharisees. He is not willing to cast pearls before swine. In God’s foreknowledge, he knows their hearts and they have more than enough to go on by now. It is a lesson for us to not always answer people’s questions. That’s not a rule.

“…no sign will be given to this generation.” This does sound peculiar doesn’t it? That generation has been given plenty of signs! I take it that Jesus announces that if they have not seen them then they will not be given them! Matthew 12:38ff gives a similar account where Jesus proceeds to tell them that only the sign of Jonah will be given them. I’m reminded of the answer to the rich man who found himself in hell and asked if God would send someone back from the dead to warn people and the reply is given: even if someone were to be raised from the dead, they would still not believe.

14-21 The disciples do not understand (again)

“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread…” The story of the feeding of 4000 and the Pharisees asking for a sign comes to a crunch here when we see the disciples thinking about bread while Jesus warns them of hard heartedness.

“…the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”  1Cor5:6-8 gives the same analogy of yeast that spreads throughout if it is not removed. Luke 12:1 expands on Jesus’ words here to say that the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. Lastly, Mark 12:13 accounts the Pharisees along with the Herodians coming to Jesus to trap him. Jesus warns the disciples to be on their guard against such a mindset that can spread. They are not for Jesus but against him. And their views will eventually get Jesus to the cross.

“Why are you talking about having no bread?” We know why they were, because they are dense and not paying attention. 

“Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus accuses them of being blind, stupid, hard hearted and deaf. He then quizzes them to help them to see and understand. He is leading them to water but he needs them to take the drink. He ends with the question for the disciples and for us readers: do you still not understand?

NB: The number 12 and the number 7 can simply mean that they had more left over than they did at the beginning. It was a miracle. However, some will feel compelled to highlight that 12 is the number of tribes of Israel and the number of disciples and the number 7 is the complete number. Therefore, Jesus is able to feed completely all the people of God with nobody missing out and everybody satisfied. It does sound very nice and it may be important too. I’m just blown away by the abundance of God’s generosity. He had compassion on the crowd and he provided liberally.

22-26 Jesus heals a blind man (again?)

“Do you see anything?” Jesus is given opportunity for another healing but Mark puts this healing here in the narrative for good reason. The disciples had just been asked, ‘Do you still not see?’ It is not a coincidence that this man is asked if he can see and then we find that he is not quite healed.

“I see people, they look like trees walking around.” The miracle is that he can now see! He sees people where he couldn’t before. But they are fuzzy, like the leaves of a tree. Is Jesus losing his touch?

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his…sign was restored.” This healing came in two stages. Jesus had interacted with this blind man and he could somewhat see, but then Jesus worked again and he could finally see and see completely. We need to stay tuned and see if the disciples’ eyes will be fully opened.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. What things in this passage have we seen before? (feeding, Pharisees and blind healing)

Q2. What things are new? (hint, look at some minor details in each story)

Q3. What does Jesus discuss with the disciples in the boat? What does Jesus want his disciples to do?

Q4. What does the healing of the blind man in Verses 22-26 teach us? 


The disciples are with Jesus but they are not seeing who he is. They didn’t seem too impressed by the first crowd feeding and the second time was no different! They seem too focused on taking bread inventory to notice what it all means. While Jesus has written off the Pharisees and Herodians as hopelessly lost in their hypocrisy, he has hopes that the disciples will eventually see. The two stage healing of the blind man is a little metaphor for the disciples who have not yet fully seen Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.


Challenge#1 Jesus’ compassion is matched by his generosity

Look at these verses which remind us of how generous God has been on us whom he had compassion on:

  • Titus 3:4-7
  • 1 Timothy 1:12-15
  • Romans 5:5-6
  • Ephesians 1:3-10

Challenge#2 Do you still not see?

This is the obvious question. It is completely possible, and common, for church members to have their eyes only partially open. The knowledge of sins forgiven, of Jesus the Saviour and Lord and of eternal life are understood. But the teaching of the New Testament – the teaching which our dull and slow learning disciples wrote – teaches us to go further. To know Christ, to be filled with the knowledge and wisdom that comes by the Spirit of God through the word of God. Some Christians will still be wondering if they’ve packed enough bread instead of noticing that the creator of all things is with them in the boat!

Challenge#3 Beware the yeast of the Pharisee

Hard hearted hypocrisy is seen when it’s not Jesus Christ that we are preaching and worshiping but our own lives established on self-righteousness and greed. It doesn’t spread by evangelism or conspiracy, but through blindedness to Christ. Taking our eyes off the kingdom of God and drifting with the masses who only see benefits in this world – in a worldly way – that spreads like a catchy tune.

Mark 7:24-37 A dog and a deaf man

Discussion question:

Look up a map of places Jesus went in the gospels. How big is the region that he visited?

Read Mark 7:24-37


Jesus and the twelve disciples have been travelling from village to village, teaching and healing. Great crowds have gathered around Jesus and he and the disciples seem to be finding little rest.

In Mark 5 Jesus was in the Decapolis (meaning ten cities) where he cast out demons from a man and the people asked Jesus to leave them.

The theme of defiling appeared in the last section. Pharisees and teachers of the law were instructing people on how to stay clear of sin but Jesus says that sin starts from within us. All kinds of evils come from inside and defile a person. For example, contact with a non-Jew was regarded as a source of defilement but Jesus taught the truth about sin: it comes from within.



  • 24-30 Jesus goes to the Gentiles
    • 24-26 The Syro Phoenician
    • 27-30 Begging for crumbs
  • 31-37 Jesus opens ears
    • 31-32 Begging for a hand
    • 33-37 Be opened!

24-30 Jesus goes to the Gentiles

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.” Leaving the conversation with the Jews, Jesus goes to a place at the outskirts of Israel. Jewish leaders had come from Jerusalem and talked to him about defilement (Mark 7:1). Jesus called them hypocrites because they were discarding the word of God and listening to the rules of men. These were the teachers of Israel. Jesus left them and went to Tyre. Tyre is at the northern most border of Israel, with Sidon just above it. Jesus has walked out to the boundary of the promised land (Joshua 19:29).

Being so close to Israel, Tyre has a particular history with the Jews. In the days of Joshua, they marked the boundary of Israel. In the days of Solomon, they provided wood for the building of the temple. But across the pages of the Old Testament there are warnings against Tyre. They represent the final remnant of the Philistines who were the enemies of Israel (remember Goliath!). 

“…entered a house and did not want anyone to know it…” Jesus was not all about raising attention but we may ask why did he venture far north? Was it for rest? We might conclude this but it’s not clear. Who did he stay with? We don’t know. I’m reminded of the story of Elijah the prophet who stayed in the house of a widow in the same region – the region of Sidon (1 Kings 17). The faithfulness in Israel was lacking and Elijah stayed with a foreign widow and healed her son.

“…could not keep his presence secret. In fact…” The woman did not hesitate to come to Jesus when she heard about him in the region. It is like Isaiah 34:1 says, “come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!” Sounds good doesn’t it? But Isaiah 34 goes on to talk about how God is angry at the nations. What will Jesus do in response to this woman?

“The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.” She is not a Jew. We might like to contrast her with the men who gathered around Jesus in Mark 7:1. Jesus had called them hypocrites.

“She begged Jesus…” She did not treat Jesus as an equal or that she deserves anything from him. She humbled herself. She is desperate.

“…it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This is a very hard thing to hear from Jesus. Is he calling her a dog!!?! Yep. Is this the Jesus you know? Well, he is speaking with her using a parable to engage with her. If the children of Israel are natural heirs, she is not an heir and so how is she represented? Jesus chooses to use a dog in his analogy.

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Now, before we unpack this, it would be well to remember that you and I are not biological Jews (most likely you are not). In the Anglican Prayer Book we say, “we do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs under your table; but you are the same Lord whose nature it is to always have mercy.” We create this prayer from the humble position of the woman in this story. The woman was shown her place in the mercies of God but she uses the parable of Jesus to be bold and reply to him.

“For such a reply…” The woman has testified to the mercy of God and that even the scraps are better than nothing.

31-37 Jesus opens ears

“Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon…” The regions at the outskirts of Israel. His stay in Tyre was brief with only one event worth recording by Mark.

“…the region of the Decapolis…” Last time Jesus was there, he drove out demons from a man and the people of that area begged Jesus to leave them (Mark 5:17) But the healed man began to tell everyone in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him (Mark 5:20).

“…they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.” The people who had driven Jesus away were now begging Jesus to heal again. They brought a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak. While this is a fact, it also resembles the spiritual state of our world. The world needs their ears opened to hear the word of God and then be able to speak it. The people of the Decapolis have benefited from the open mouth of the demon possessed man and now they are coming to Jesus in faith.

“…away from the crowd…” What follows is a very private and intimate healing. The point of which is the man being restored rather than a public spectacle.

“…fingers into the man’s ears…spit and touched the man’s tongue…deep sigh…” The healing is very earthy and tactile. When the Syro-Phoenician woman had her plea answered, Jesus did it remotely – no spectacle. But here, we have Jesus right in the man’s face. Why? Couldn’t Jesus have just healed him with the touch of his clothes or a simple word? Why take him aside and be so intimate with him? Many will answer that this shows Jesus’ tenderness toward the man who cannot hear or speak. Jesus used a method that the man could understand. Even the ‘sigh’ is a deep exhale that the deaf man would see is Jesus praying. This seems ok to me but I wonder if there is more? 

Isaiah 35:4–6 “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

This is why the miracle is pronounced with the words of Jesus: “Be opened!”

Our God has come. He has not remained distant and healed with him mighty hand from heaven but he has drawn near. He is opening the ears of the deaf and he is unmuting the tongue so they may shout for joy! Jesus is God come in the flesh to save us. And look what happens next:

“Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking…” Ok, they were not being obedient but how about that the mute were shouting for joy! They couldn’t stay quiet.

“He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark is making sure that we have understood this point. Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who had gathered around Jesus in Mark 7:1 and what was Jesus’ conclusion about them (Mark 7:6-8)?

Q2. Where is Tyre and Sidon? How is the woman described in Mark 7:26? How is she different to the people of Mark 7:1?

Q3. Who are the ‘children’ that Jesus refers to in Verse 27?

Q4. Given that Jesus shows mercy on the woman and her daughter, what is the point of Verses 24-30?

Q5. How did the people of the Decapolis treat Jesus last time he was there? (See Mark 5:17-20)

Q6. How did they respond to Jesus now?

Q7. If Jesus was able to heal from a distance or by having people touch his clothes, why the detail of Verses 33-35?

Q8. Read Isaiah 35:4-6. How is Jesus fulfilling scripture? Does this help answer Question 7?


The leaders of Israel were not teaching the word of God to the people and had no understanding of sin. The Word of God who had come to them was a mystery to them. But when Jesus goes abroad to the outskirts of Israel, he shows that the kingdom of God is being readied for the whole world to receive him. He is God come to us so that the nations will sing for joy. The world that was deaf to God’s word will be opened and the mute who are unable to speak God’s word can now rejoice that the gospel is unleashed.


Challenge#1 Must love dogs

Jesus showed mercy to the outsider. After the resurrection, the Gentiles became the focus of God’s mission in the world. Jesus had come to bring eternal life to the children of Israel but he knew that the gospel would go to the nations (Acts 1:8). God’s mission has always been global, but the Jews had failed to see that. When we stop and consider that we are the nations – not Jews – then we have received the mercy of God that we do not deserve. We are the dogs that God loves.

Challenge#2 Be opened!

The gospel message is opened for all to hear. It’s not for one race. It’s not for one gender. It’s not for the elite or the special. It is for all who will listen and be amazed at Jesus. Once the world lived in darkness and once you and I were in darkness. But the light of God has come to shine light into our hearts. The man from the Decapolis had a private encounter with Jesus and his life was forever changed. May we pray for more to come and hear the message of Jesus and have their ears opened and their tongues loosed!

Challenge#3 No longer beggars

The woman begged Jesus and the people of Decapolis begged Jesus. He has come to bring healing to the nations with generosity and joy. All are welcome to come to him and enjoy our relationship with God.

Mark 7:1-23 – Where sin comes from

Discussion question:

How are you going with washing hands, social distancing and being careful when venturing to the shops?

Read Mark 7:1-23


The disciples have been drawn into Jesus’ teaching circle. He sent them out on mission in Chapter 6 and began to show them how to be shepherds, but they still have hard hearts (Mark 6:52). Jesus has been teaching the crowds in parables so that only those who have ears to hear will listen and understand and be saved. Jesus has upset people in Chapter 3 with healing done on the Sabbath. Jesus’ message when spoken plainly has been to repent and believe.



  • 1-5 – Defiled hands
  • 6-13 – The word of God defiled
  • 14-23 – Defiled hearts

1-5 – Defiled hands

“The Pharisees and some teachers of the law…” The greatest resource of information we have about the Pharisees comes straight out of the gospels. They were super serious about keeping the law of God. Mark takes us from the disciples learning to do mission and shepherding with Jesus to the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

“…hands that were defiled…” When Mark inserts some commentary in Verses 3-4, it is because he writes his story to the world who may not be familiar with the traditions of the Pharisees and Jews. The issue is more than dirty hands – the issue is ceremonial – it is a religious problem that they see – it is a question of how to deal with sin! These Jews feared being out of favour with God. It stems back to the Levitical laws: being unclean means you cannot participate in holy activities and if you cannot do that then you cannot receive forgiveness! These laws were given by God to teach us about the great separation between us and God. As Mark points out in Verse 4, the Jews were now riddled with many traditions – more than what the law of God gave. They are living under rules that have exceeded the restrictions given in the days of Moses.

“…from the marketplace…” Note that some of the traditions are to do with interaction with Gentiles (people of other nationalities!)

“So [they] asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition…” Good job for them to ask a question. There are no stupid questions so long as we are ready to learn from the answer. The question boils down to a small accusation: why are you not instructing your disciples to live like godly Jews? Why don’t you walk like we walk? Why aren’t you following the rules? But the question implies that the traditions are right. The question highlights their concern for keeping their hands clean and undefiled as if this is what God is most concerned with. This opens Jesus up to ask: where does sin come from?

6-13 – The word of God defiled

“…you hypocrites…” No subtlety here. Jesus is about to apply OT scripture directly to the Pharisees.

“…their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13 is quoted by Jesus. The verses preceding this in Isaiah give an amusing account of everyone being offered to read the word of God and finding reasons why they cannot but they go on obeying human traditions that have been taught to them. The chapter also talks about the blind seeing. The many who live by following the teachings of others are like the blind being led by the blind.

“They worship me in vain…” It is a waste of their time. There is no benefit to them in doing these things.

“…their teachings are merely human rules.” This is why the worship is in vain. As Isaiah 29 goes on to say, the clay can’t tell the potter what to do! As if the clay knows better than the potter. The irony of this is that Jesus is teaching the teachers of the law from the very text that they should know. He is not introducing some new insight – but repeating what they should already know.

“…let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” That sounds awfully obvious and ridiculous for them to be doing this and yet we are prone to do these very things. To equate being Christian with what Christians do rather than reading the word of God and being transformed by it – that is honouring God with our lips but not with our hearts.

“And he continued…” Jesus has started. Get the popcorn out.

“… a fine way of setting aside the commands of God…” See the problem is that they are not listening to God but to human tradition: ie, religion. They put tradition before God, making it the authority. It’s like being taught to drive and you flick the lever on the right to make the indication of you turning – but then when you sit in a European car with the indicator switch on the left, you insist on using the right lever when you turn. So people watch you clean your windscreen every time you want to turn a corner!

“And you do many things like that.” Verses 10-13 provide an example of what they do wrong. Instead of doing the right thing by parents, the Pharisees imagine they are serving God better by giving the money to Him. They are defiling the word of God by placing their laws above the laws of God.

Note that Jesus did not answer the question asked of him. Rather, he accused the questioners of being wrong to the heart. This is not a simple issue, it goes to the heart of how they worship God. They worship him in vain. Next, Jesus turns to the crowd who are more likely to hear him and teaches them – he directs his answer to those who have ears to hear.

14-23 – Defiled hearts

“…Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.” He doesn’t talk to the Pharisees. They have not listened to him or his Father. Jesus expects us to listen and to understand. Our faith is not about do this, do that, but about listening and understanding. We are about changed hearts which change our lives, not about new practices that instruct us to worship in vain.

“…it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Simple one liner to set the record straight. You cannot upset God by simply eating something. Paul spends a great deal of time in his letters assuring his readers that it is no longer about special days or food or deeds done to the body. See Colossians 2:16-23 as one example.

Now look at verse 16! Side note on the accuracy of the bible. Verse 16 is not included but at one point in the past, some copies of the bible included a line here which read “if anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Similar to Mark 4:23. Adding that line would fit perfectly well with how Jesus began in Verse 14. It is removed from our bibles because there is more evidence to suggest that this was not there in the original. Our modern translations will include the verse number and a footnote to tell you what has happened here. This is an example of ‘textual criticism’ (not like insulting the bible but being critical in working out the original text). Anyone interested in pursuing a study in textual criticism will discover how much work has gone into ensuring that the bible we read today is the most accurate bible that we have had! Dare I say that our NIV and ESV and HSBC are more accurate than the KJV because of ongoing research. More than enough said here.

“…his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked.” I take it back: there are stupid questions. The disciples were labelled as having a hard heart back in Mark 6:52. The pharisees had no heart for God because they would not listen to God’s word. Now we have the disciples scarily close to being in the Pharisee camp – because they are not listening in order to understand (I know, they are asking the question and so that is good, but Jesus’ response tells me that they can work this out if they just listen).

“Don’t you see…?” Jesus describes the digestive system. With one line, Jesus took the laws of God and unbound them to mankind. This tells me that when Jesus says elsewhere that he has not come to abolish the laws, he must mean something other than, I’m not going to shut them down – or maintain them. He has come to fulfill them. It’s like taking the laws to the final conclusion. Obedience to God, respecting him as the creator and LORD Almighty is where we have always been directed. Our hearts for him. Our allegiance to him. Although the law of Moses forbid certain foods, God was teaching a young nation to walk with him. Galatians 3:23-25 compares the law with a guardian or a school teacher that kept Israel until the fulfillment of the law came. Again, this is a big topic which every Christian must grapple with: how does obedience to God and faith work together? Jesus is teaching us to look beyond the rules and deeds and see the devoted heart that God wants. He wants listeners who understand.

“…out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…all these evils come from inside and defile a person.” You don’t need to eat pork to become a sinner! Being a sinner is way easier than that! If we limit sin to a list of dos and don’ts then we miss the point of sin. We are defiled, made unclean before God, by our own thoughts.

“Sexual immorality, “ a Pharisee might focus on what is and what isn’t sexual immorality but a heart that is for God will understand that any time we twist the beautiful gift from God to be used, even in the mind, for selfish pleasure, ignoring the love and care for the other person, we have sexual immorality. It’s not just what we do but how we think.

“…theft, murder, adultery…” not just what we do but when we meditate on these things. 

“…greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance…” All very selfish terms. When we put ourselves above others and seek first our wealth and wellbeing over others. That is our hearts demanding to be king!

“…and folly.” Foolishness is a life that doesn’t listen to God.

“All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” There is no need for a ‘devil to be sitting on your shoulder’. We are all very capable of cultivating evil from inside. Where is evil in this world? Check out your heart.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who are the characters and what is the problem described in Verses 1-5?

Q2. How does Jesus answer the question? Does he even answer it when he speaks to the Pharisees and teachers of the law? (Verses 6-13)

Q3. What does Isaiah 29:13 teach us about the Pharisee’s problem? 

Q4. What are some examples of human tradition in our day?

Q5. Who does Jesus direct his answer to in Verse 14? Why did he not give this answer to the Pharisees?

Q6. How does Jesus treat the disciples in Verse 17? Why do you think he is being so hard on them?

Q7. What is common to all the things Jesus lists in Verses 21-22?


Our own hearts defile us as we continue to live for ourselves and not for God. When we listen to God’s word with understanding, we will honour him because we will let him soften our hearts rather than constructing a new path for ourselves which may be called religion. The Jewish leaders were not honouring God because they were not even listening to him. They put their rules above God’s word. Religion cannot help us. Giving our ears and hearts to God will move us from dull folly to responsive wisdom.


Challenge#1 Read the bible with understanding

Many will read the bible as if it is a directive manual. They will read it looking for what they need to do. Many will read the bible as an inspirational book. They will search the pages for verses that inspire them so that they may feel pleased with where they’re at. Many people will simply not read the bible and will turn to human teaching to work out how to live self-righteously. We must read the bible to listen and understand. Folly is one of the evils listed by Jesus. Dull was what the disciples were being. Hearts far from God is where the Pharisees were. When we read the bible, be listeners and read for understanding.

Challenge#2 Tradition is religion

What things do you do as part of your honoring to God that are more a result of human tradition than an authentic worship? Start by listing all the things that you do regularly for God. Church. Growth Group. Singing. Giving. Keep the list flowing. Why do you do them? Is it important when and how it is done? Are there any things that you feel hurt by when they are not done ‘properly’? Why is that? How do we decide what is worshiping God in vain and what is worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)?

Challenge#3 Changing our hearts

How do you fix a defiled heart? How do you stop being driven by what the heart wants? Similar to challenge 1, it is about hearing from God’s word and training the heart to be changed. If we think with our hearts, then we will let evil win. If we are determined to think and act with our brains, we are likely to fail because our hearts are so powerful (not the muscle but the passion and desires within). The solution is to have our minds transformed by the word of God and train the heart to love what God loves. Now, this can only take place by the power of God through the Spirit of God. We don’t get that lesson from this passage but Romans 8:5-11 is one good place to see how the Spirit will train our minds to reject the heart impulse (the flesh) and choose wisdom over folly. The Spirit trains us through the word of God. We need to reign in our hearts to submit to the Spirit by His word.