Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Mk 1 — DIVINE AUTHORITY
"Here begins the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark 1:1
Mark's gospel is outlined in the first verse. The first half of the gospel culminates in the recognition of Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah) (8:29). The second half concludes with the centurion declaring: "Clearly this Man was the Son of God!" (15:39)
Mark begins to reveal Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God by focusing on Jesus' authority. He is more powerful than John the Baptizer. With an awesome exercise of authority and power, He called His first disciples, delivered the demoniac, healed Peter's mother-in-law, and cured a leper. "The people were spellbound by His teaching because He taught with authority, and not like the scribes" (1:22). "They began to ask one another: 'What does this mean? A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority!' " (1:27)
Prayer: Jesus, I will be completely submissive to Your authority.
Promise: "Those whom He cured, who were variously afflicted, were many, and so were the demons He expelled." 1:34
Mk 2 — GOD OR SOMETHING?
"Why does the Man talk in that way? He commits blasphemy! Who can forgive sins except God alone?" Mark 2:7
Jesus acted like God. He said He had authority on earth to forgive sins. He claimed He was a Doctor to the sin-sick. He has a new way of fasting and is Lord of the sabbath. These statements would be blasphemous coming from anyone other than God.
Prayer: Jesus, my Lord and my God! (Jn 20:28)
Promise: "People who are healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do." 2:17
Mk 3 — MAKING ENEMIES
" 'Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin without end.' He spoke thus because they had said, 'He is possessed by an unclean spirit.' " Mark 3:29-30
Jesus proved He was Lord of the sabbath by publicly healing on the sabbath. He directly challenged the Pharisees. "When the Pharisees went outside, they immediately began to plot with the Herodians how they might destroy Him" (3:6). Jesus' own family turned against Him. "They came to take charge of Him, saying, 'He is out of His mind'; while the scribes who arrived from Jerusalem asserted, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul' " (3:21-22). Pharisees, Herodians, relatives, and scribes had all turned against Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, may I never let myself be manipulated into opposing You in any way.
Promise: "Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me." 3:35
Mk 4 — SEED-Y
"This is how it is with the reign of God. A man scatters seed on the ground." Mark 4:26
Jesus tells three parables each one about seed. Whether or not seed grows depends on the ground. If seed grows, it takes time and starts small. The moral is: "Don't be discouraged."
Prayer: Father, break up the footpath, remove the rocks and weeds, and prepare my heart to receive Your word and bear fruit.
Promise: "But those sown on good soil are the ones who listen to the word, take it to heart, and yield at thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold." 4:20
Mk 5 — STORMY WEATHER
"As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion sitting fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were seized with fear." Mark 5:15
After calming the storm on the sea (4:39), Jesus calmed a much more violent storm in the Gerasene demoniac, who was possessed by a legion of demons. When Jesus sent these demons into a herd of swine, 2000 pigs rushed into the lake and began to drown. There was a similar stampede when Jesus healed the woman with the hemorrhage in the midst of a pushing and shoving crowd. When Jesus arrived at Jairus' house, He had to calm another storm. "Jesus was struck by the noise of people wailing and crying loudly on all sides. He entered and said to them: 'Why do you make this din with your wailing? The child is not dead. She is asleep.' At this they began to ridicule Him. Then He put them all out" (5:38-40). With this final storm calmed, Jesus raised Jairus' daughter.
Prayer: Jesus, calm the storm inside me, as only You can.
Promise: Jesus said: "Daughter, it is your faith that has cured you. Go in peace and be free of this illness." 5:34
Mk 6 — MISSION COLLECTION
"Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits." Mark 6:7
Mark indicates that sometimes our missionary work will have little effect because of people's lack of faith. We will even be persecuted and martyred. But in other missions we will walk on the water of troubles and persecutions and our little efforts will be multiplied to feed the masses and lead the world to Christ.
Prayer: Jesus, "Here I am, send me" (Is 6:8).
Promise: "In villages, in towns, or at crossroads, they laid the sick in the market places and begged Him to let them touch just the tassel of His cloak. All who touched Him got well." Mk 6:56
Mk 7 — THE EAR, LIP, AND HEART DOCTOR
"This people pays Me lip service but their heart is far from Me. Empty is the reverence they do Me." Mark 7:6-7
Physical ailments can be dealt with more easily than spiritual impediments. Jesus healed the deaf man with the speech impediment, but it was much more difficult to free the spiritually deaf Pharisees of "lip service". In fact, at the request of her mother, Jesus could deliver a Syro-Phoenician girl from the devil more easily than cleanse the hearts of the religious leaders.
Prayer: Jesus, purify my heart and may I speak from the abundance of that pure heart (Lk 6:45).
Promise: "Their amazement went beyond all bounds: 'He has done everything well! He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!' " 7:37
Mk 8 — BLIND TO BEING BLIND
Jesus "asked: 'Can you see anything?' The man opened his eyes and said, 'I can see people but they look like walking trees!' Then a second time Jesus laid hands on his eyes, and he saw perfectly; his sight was restored and he could see everything clearly." Mark 8:23-25
The Pharisees and Jesus' disciples were not only spiritually deaf and dumb but also spiritually blind. After Jesus multiplied seven loaves to feed four thousand people, the Pharisees were so blind as to ask for a sign, and His apostles were worried about not having bread. Jesus questioned: " 'Do you still not see or comprehend? Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight? Ears but no hearing? Do you remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets of fragments you gathered up?' They answered: 'Twelve.' 'When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full hampers of fragments did you collect?' They answered, 'Seven.' He said to them again, 'Do you still not understand?' " (8:17-21)
Jesus then healed a blind man. Peter was also partially healed of blindness, enough to recognize Jesus as the Messiah but not yet enough to accept the message of the cross.
Prayer: Jesus, heal me of any blindness. I want to see.
Promise: "What profit does a man show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?" 8:36
Mk 9 — TRANSFIGURATION, DELIVERANCE, AND SELFISHNESS
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men who will put Him to death; three days after His death He will rise." Mark 9:31
"Jesus took Peter, James, and John off by themselves with Him and led them up a high mountain. He was transfigured before their eyes" (9:2). "A cloud came, overshadowing them, and out of the cloud a voice: 'This is My Son, My Beloved. Listen to Him' " (9:7). After they had come down the mountain, Jesus delivered a boy from an unclean spirit. But even after the Transfiguration and the deliverance, His disciples would not listen to Jesus when He taught about His passion, death, and resurrection. Instead, they spent their time arguing about who was the most important and trying to stop a man from expelling demons.
Prayer: "I do believe! Help my lack of trust!" (9:24)
Promise: "Everything is possible to a man who trusts." 9:23
Mk 10 — BLIND, BLINDER, AND BLINDEST
"The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve to give His life in ransom for the many." Mark 10:45
Jesus tried one more time to communicate the message of the cross. He began by shocking His disciples with new revelations on marriage, celibacy, children, and money. Then He spoke of His passion, death, and resurrection. The disciples, blinded by ambition and jealousy, missed it again. In conclusion, Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus as a sign that one day His disciples would be healed of spiritual blindness.
Prayer: Lord, "I want to see" (10:51).
Promise: "Jesus fixed His gaze on them and said, 'For man it is impossible but not for God. With God all things are possible.' " 10:27
Mk 11 — FRUIT STAND
" 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples'but you have turned it into a den of thieves." Mark 11:17
Jesus "entered the temple precincts and began to drive out those who were engaged in buying and selling. He overturned the money-changers' tables and the stalls of the men selling doves; moreover, He would not permit anyone to carry things through the temple area" (11:15-16). Jesus cleansed the temple for the same reason He cursed the fig tree. Both the Temple and fig tree appeared to be flourishing but in fact had no fruit.
Prayer: Jesus, trim me so I may bear fruit more abundantly (Jn 15:2).
Promise: "I give you My word, if you are ready to believe that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer, it shall be done for you. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your faults." 11:24-25
Mk 12 — "TURNING THE TABLES"
"Are you not familiar with this passage of Scripture: 'The Stone rejected by the builders has become the Keystone of the structure. It was the Lord Who did it and we find it marvelous to behold?' " Mark 12:10-11
Jesus asserted that, in rejecting Him, the religious leaders had rejected the Keystone of God's structure. The Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and scribes all tried unsuccessfully to trap Jesus. He literally turned the tables on them (see 11:15), "and no one had the courage to ask Him any more questions." 12:34
Prayer: Father, may I die to my intellectual pride.
Promise: "He called His disciples over and told them: 'I want you to observe that this poor widow contributed more than all the others who donated to the treasury. They gave from their surplus wealth, but she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.' " 12:43-44
Mk 13 — GUARD DUTY
"Do not let Him come suddenly and catch you asleep. What I say to you, I say to all: Be on guard!" Mark 13:36-37
Jesus said that Jerusalem would fall, and it did in 70 A.D. He said the world will end in great distress, and it will. "Those times will be more distressful than any between God's work of creation and now, and for all time to come. Indeed, had the Lord not shortened the period, not a person would be saved. But for the sake of those He has chosen, He has shortened the days" (13:19-20). "So be constantly on guard!" (13:23) "As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father. Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!" (13:32-33)
Prayer: Jesus, come as soon as possible. Come today. May I hasten the day of Your coming (2 Pt 3:12).
Promise: "When men take you off into custody, do not worry beforehand about what to say. In that hour, say what you are inspired to say. It will not be yourselves speaking but the Holy Spirit." 13:11
Mk 14 — FOR SALE
"Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them. Hearing what he had to say, they were jubilant and promised to give him money." Mark 14:10-11
In the midst of Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial, Jesus gave Himself to us in Holy Communion. Even if we fall asleep rather than pray with Him in the garden of Gethsemani, He loves us. After "all deserted Him and fled" (14:50), He died for us. "If we are unfaithful He will still remain faithful, for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tm 2:13). Will we be Judas or Mary of Bethany? Will we sell Jesus or sell everything for love of Him? (Mt 13:44-46)
Prayer: Jesus, I repent of selling out to the world. I give my entire life to You.
Promise: "He broke down and began to cry." 14:72
Mk 15 — THE EYES OF MARK
"When they had finished mocking Him, they stripped Him of the purple, dressed Him in His own clothes, and led Him out to crucify Him." Mark 15:20
Throughout Mark's gospel, Jesus tried to open the eyes of the blind. He healed physical blindness but was not so successful in healing spiritual blindness. Finally, in the shadow of Jesus' death, "the centurion who stood guard over Him, on seeing the manner of His death, declared, 'Clearly this Man was the Son of God!' " (15:39) The centurion was able to see Jesus for Who He is.
Has your reading of Mark's gospel been a pastime, a head-trip, or an eye-opening experience? Let Jesus make Himself real to you.
Prayer: "Open my eyes, Lord. I want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him. I want to see Jesus."
Promise: "Then Jesus, uttering a loud cry, breathed His last. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom." 15:37-38
Mk 16 — WALKIE-TALKIE
"You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the One Who was crucified. He has been raised up; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. Go now and tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see Him just as He told you.' " Mark 16:6-7
Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! Alleluia! The risen Christ commands us: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation. The man who believes in it and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have professed their faith: they will use My name to expel demons, they will speak entirely new languages, they will be able to handle serpents, they will be able to drink deadly poison without harm, and the sick upon whom they lay their hands will recover" (16:15-18).
The Lord will back up our resurrection-witness with His resurrection-power. If we truly believe He's risen from the dead, let's walk and talk like it.
Prayer: Alleluia! Lord, this is the day You have made. We rejoice and are glad in it (Ps 118:24).
Promise: "The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere. The Lord continued to work with them throughout and confirm the message through the signs which accompanied them." 16:20
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 21, 1998
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 23, 1998
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