April 30 - It is Not Over

Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 30 - It is Not Over - Mark 16:1-20

There was no expectation that Jesus would rise from the dead as was proven by the fact that the women purchased anointing spices to Jesus' tomb. Anointing spices helped to counteract the odor of decay and were an expression of loving devotion.

John 20:1 tells us the left while it was still dark and arrived and sunrise. They were worried about rolling the stone away, but were obviously not aware of the guard that had been posted or the official sealing of the tomb. (Matthew 27:62-66)

But the stone was rolled away. They were probably relieved, yet confused and that grew as they entered the tomb and saw an angel seated there. He offered comfort and explained what had happened, then gave them a command to tell the others. Peter's name was mentioned here to teach the lesson of forgiveness that Jesus brought for everyone, even the one who denied Him when the worst was happening.

The women fled, saying nothing because of their fear. It is more than likely they weren't believed since they were women. Jesus ended up staying in Jerusalem and ensuring that people believed He was risen from the dead before gathering them all in Galilee.

The last verses of Mark are the continuing subject of great debate. Two early manuscripts did not include them, but there was actually space left open at the end of Mark indicating that the copyists knew there was a longer ending but didn't have it available in the piece that they were copying. Many of the early Jewish scholars acknowledged that these verses belonged to the book. The debate still rages on. It seems unimportant to me.

This is a quick wrapup of the last days that the disciples and others saw Jesus on the earth. He met with Mary and two who walked in the country, but no one believed any of them until Jesus appeared to them at a meal.

Go into the world. Preach the good news. Have faith that if you are walking in God's will, you will carry His power with you! Go into the world.

April 29 - It Is Finished

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 29 - It is Finished - Mark 15:33-47

Jesus was on the cross for three hours in the daylight (9 am - Noon) and then at noon (the sixth hour), darkness came over the whole land for three hours! The prophets spoke of this darkness. Amos 8:9-10 told us that it would come at noon, Micah 3:5-7 and Zephaniah 1:14-15 also wrote of it. This was God's judgment on human sin, placed solely on one man, Jesus.

At 3 pm, Jesus cried out to God! Think of the times of desperation that you have cried out for God to rescue you. Increase that pain exponentially along with the knowledge that you were doing exactly what God created you to do. "My God, why have you forsaken me."

Many bystanders thought he was calling out to Elijah, who was said to deliver the righteous. The sponge was filled with an inexpensive beverage and if it brought him relief, they thought they might see the return of Elijah.

Normally a person hanging on a cross would suffer two to three days, giving into exhaustion and finally lapsing into a coma before dying. That Jesus gave a loud cry would have been shocking for the people and He died within 6 hours of being placed on the cross.

The Roman centurion acknowledged His power and Mark tells us that the women who had supported Jesus' ministry were in attendance. These women were there, when the eleven disciples had deserted Him. (Mark 15:33-41)

Since there wasn't much time before the Sabbath began, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus' body to be released so that He wouldn't hang there for an extended period of time over the weekend. Pilate was surprised at the speed of Jesus' death, but released the body.

Joseph was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, whose home was in Arimathea, but probably also lived in Jerusalem so as to participate in temple proceedings. His request to Pilate was dangerous for him personally. 1. He wasn't related to Jesus personally, 2. since Jesus had been executed for treason, there was every likelihood his request would be denied - generally corpses were left on the cross while predatory birds and animals destroyed them, 3. he risked ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body, and 4. he exposed himself as a follower of Christ which would expose himself to hostility from his fellow Pharisees. He was a secret disciple no longer.

John 19:39-40 tells us that Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin also assisted Joseph in this task. They laid Jesus' body in a tomb, which was cut out of rock. There would have been a stone shelf to hold the body and a rock to seal the tomb closed.

Two women followed close to see where Jesus was taken. Their devotion to their Lord was unmatched ... where would you have been on this day?

May Blog posts

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I am so excited to introduce you to a friend of mine, Rebecca Bauman. I met her several years ago on Myspace when I ran across her blog. We have been corresponding since then and in her I discovered a kindred spirit with a very different way to look at her walk with Jesus and her interaction with Scripture. You can read her personal blog at punkerdoos.blogspot.com.

She tells a great story and loves to tell parables to describe her relationship with God. Her writing is over-the-top creative and her insight is not only witty but compelling.

We will be writing together throughout the month of May. I will introduce the passage and then let her take off and pour her heart out to you.

While many of you read this blog through the email I send, I encourage you to click to the online blog every once in a while and send a note of encouragement or feel free to ask questions. A lot of heart and soul gets poured into these things and its sometimes really nice to know someone is reading.

We will go through First & Second Timothy and see what Paul has to say to us as he instructs Timothy on how to deal with the church and as he approaches the end of his own life on earth.

Please invite friends to join us by following this blog or subscribing via an RSS blog reader or they can receive daily emails from me by requesting it at nammynools (@) cox (.) net.

April 28 - Crucified

April 28 - Crucified - Mark 15:21-32

It was custom to have the condemned man carry the crossbeam for the cross, generally weighing about 100 pounds. The flogging that Jesus had endured sapped His strength, making it nearly impossible to drag that piece of timber up a hill. Simon, from Cyrene was forced to assist. Notice that in Mark, we also discover the names of his two sons, Rufus & Alexander. What a wonderful, personal note. Since Mark was writing to Roman gentiles, it is very probable that the community knew these two young men and that they had become disciples of Jesus.

Cyrene was a coastal city of North Africa that had a large Jewish community. Simon was either an immigrant or was in Jerusalem as a pilgrim to celebrate the feasts. The procession left the city and just outside the wall was a hill called Golgotha.

Jewish women traditionally prepared a drink to help sedate the man soon to be executed. Myrrh was the sap of a plant that had anesthetic properties. Matthew 27:34 tells us that he tasted it, then refused to drink it. Jesus wanted to have His full faculties available as He faced this death.

The simplicity of Mark's words: "And they crucified him." (Mark 15:24) told his readers all they needed to know. Everyone from that time was familiar with the cruelty of the execution and he did not need to elaborate. The victim's personal property became the property of the death squad. When they cast lots to divide it among themselves, they did not realize that they were bringing Psalm 22:18 to fulfillment.

Mark used the Jewish method of counting the hours in the day - from sunrise to sunset. The crucifixion happened at 9 am. John 19:19 tells us that the sign over Jesus' head was written in three languages, but the official charge against Him was simply "The King of the Jews."

The fact that he was crucified between two robbers fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah 53:12, while the words from Psalm 22:7 were fulfilled in the words of those who mocked him.

Hung on a cross ... to die a felon's death. For you. For me.

April 27 - The Trials

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 27 - The Trials - Mark 14:53-15:20

It was the middle of the night - probably around 3 am. A hastily convened court of the Sanhedrin was in session. There were 71 members of the Sanhedrin, 23 would be a quorum, but we find here that there was a majority of the members in attendance. This would be an informal trial, with the formal judgment occurring immediately after dawn. They were moving quickly because Jewish law required a trial to be held immediately upon arrest and because Roman trials happened at sunrise. They needed a binding verdict by daybreak so that they could get to Pilate early.

Peter had gathered enough courage to follow the procession which included Jesus, but he stayed at a safe distance.

The Sanhedrin needed evidence, but there was none. There were plenty of witnesses available to give false testimony, but even then the witnesses did not agree, this was unusable. However, it opened things up for questions regarding Jesus' identity. In Greek debate, the first question always expects a positive answer, while the second question requires an explanation.

The high priest asked the two questions in Mark 14:60. Jesus remained silent, so the high priest pressed forward. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one?"

The response was simple, "I am." The time to hide was over, the time to claim His heritage was at hand.

The blindfolded him and struck him, demanding that he prophesy. This was a rabbinic test of the true Messiah based loosely on Isaiah 11:2-4. The true Messiah should be able to prophesy without seeing. Jesus remained silent. (Mark 14:53-65)

Peter's failure to stand again for Jesus is told in Mark 14:66-72. This man had been through the ups and downs of a life following His master. He recognized what he was saying even as he was saying it and when the rooster crowed, he remembered Jesus' words and completely fell apart.

Early the next morning, the Sanhedrin reached their decision and took Jesus to Pilate. Pilate was a Roman prefect who was in Judea from 26 - 36 AD. He probably resided in Herod's palace when he came to Jerusalem and the civil trial was held there. He didn't simply agree with the Sanhedrin's decision and the only thing that he, as the Roman government's liaison, could allow to be brought against Jesus was His claim to be king.

Pilate decided to grant the customer Passover release of a prisoner, assuming that they would call for Jesus to be released, but they had been incited by the Sanhedrin to call for Barabbas' release and the crucifixion of Jesus. He couldn't even get them to give him a reason, they simply called out "Crucify Him!" There was nothing more he could do. (Mark 15:1-15)

Pilate sentenced Jesus to a Roman flogging before being handed over for crucifixion. This brutal beating nearly always preceded the execution of male prisoners. The prisoner was stripped, often tied to a post, and beaten on the back by several guards using short leather whips studded with sharp pieces of bone or metal. No limit was set on the number of blows. Often this punishment was fatal.

When Jesus lived through this, the company of soldiers mocked and ridiculed him, less a sign of their contempt for him as it was a sign of their contempt for this upstart Hebrew nation that long believed in its own right to a king.

They dressed him in his own clothes and led him to be crucified.

April 26 - Great Loss

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 26 - Great Loss - Mark 14:27-52

"You will all fall away." The interpretation of that verse is that all of the remaining 11 disciples would avoid the treatment He was going to get and turn away from Him. And as soon as He said that, He promised that He would come back to gather them together again. Peter couldn't believe it. He would NEVER do that. But, Jesus told him that his would be the worst. Not once, but three times would Peter deny Jesus. (Mark 14:27-31)

Peter, James, and John ... the same three who witnessed the Transfiguration. As he walked with them deeper into the garden, Jesus became more and more distressed. He finally told them how upset He was. Can you imagine hearing those words from your friend? Your teacher? He left them and went a little further - not so far that they couldn't hear Him, but enough so that He could have a semblance of privacy. This was a time of deep pleading for Him.

Three times Peter failed to watch and pray, three times Peter denied His Lord. Stay alert when the Lord calls you. (Mark 14:32-42)

Just as Jesus aroused them the third time and told them to get up, Judas showed up with a crowd that had been incited. I can't imagine why Judas needed to identify Jesus, the Sanhedrin had been looking for ways to kill Him since He had arrived on the scene, but the tenderness of that greeting stands in stark contrast to Judas' motives.

Jesus presented no defense against the arrest. When His disciples saw that, they all deserted Him. They all turned away. Not one stayed to walk with Him to the end of His life. For 3 years, He had been trying to teach them the truth of who He was and now they were gone.

There was a young man, who followed Jesus. But, the guards tried to sieze him, probably thinking he would make a good witness. He pulled out of his clothes and fled. The only reason for this aside to be placed here is that Mark wanted his readers to know that he had been there watching the end of Jesus' ministry.

April 25 - Sacraments

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25 - Sacraments - Mark 14:1-26

It's Wednesday of Passion Week. Passover and The Feast of Unleavened Bread are coming up, Jerusalem is filling with people as they come in to town to sacrifice and celebrate. The Sanhedrin has been looking for a way to kill Jesus, but know that with this many people in Jerusalem, the crowds could get out of control if they aren't handled correctly.

Simon the Leper. What an amazing name. We know that he wouldn't still be leprous and be able to host a dinner in his home. Jesus had healed this man at some point and was now spending time with him. What had once been a cursed name for this man was now a name of remembrance.

John 12:3 tells us that the woman who poured this expensive perfume over Jesus' head was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This is the same woman that we read of in Luke 10:38-42, who sat at the feet of Jesus drinking in His words. Look at the amazing promise that Jesus gave her. Mark 14:9 says "...wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Hers was a love in its purest form and would be forever remembered.

The section closes out by returning to the thoughts of Mark 14:1-2. Judas Iscariot was going to offer the Sanhedrin a chance to arrest Jesus. They were thrilled. He was watching for the perfect opportunity.

Thursday dawns. Preparations need to be made for the Passover meal. The disciples followed Jesus' instructions and got everything ready for that evening. When evening came, Jesus arrived at the location with the large upper room, large enough for the disciples to be there with Him for a meal. This meal couldn't begin until after sunset and had to be finished by midnight.

Passover was a celebration meal, yet while they were eating, Jesus changed the course of the meal by telling them that someone at that table would betray Him. Celebration quickly turned to sadness. No one could imagine that was possible?

Jesus went on to affirm His prediction and gave us "The Lord's Supper." During the Passover meal, the host would explain the meaning of the celebration as they remembered the flight from Egypt. Tonight, however, Jesus prepared His disciples for a new understanding of the bread and the wine. He spoke about literal things - his body and his blood - but taught of them in a figurative sense.

The word "eucharist─ôsas" means 'giving thanks.' He explained the meaning of the bread and wine, prophesied that He was going to be gone soon and then finished the meal with the traditional hymns - generally Psalms that were sung at the close of the Passover meal.

April 24 - How Will We Know?

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 24 - How Will We Know? - Mark 13:1-37

One of the disciples asked Jesus about the temple. Herod's temple was completed in 64 AD (only to be destroyed 6 years later) and was considered an architectural wonder of the ancient world. It was built with large polished, white stones with gold decorations. In 70 AD, Titus ordered that the temple area be burned and every building be demolished to the ground in Jerusalem.

Four disciples: Andrew, Peter, James and John gathered around Jesus to ask deeper questions about his predictions. Zechariah 14 was the last of the Old Testament prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah. The destruction of the temple would obviously lead to the coming of the Messiah - ushering in His Kingdom. They wanted to know what they needed to watch for.

Jesus began by answering Peter's second question, "What do we need to watch for." The first thing was false messiahs. Then, he warned them to not misinterpret contemporary events as the end of the world. Why? They needed to remain on task. Just as we do. Mark 13:10 says "The gospel must first be preached to all nations." Spending too much time worrying about the end of the world, wastes time that could be spent introducing people to Jesus.

In Mark 13:14, Jesus continues to answer Peter's question. Signs include the abomination that causes desolation, which is from Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. The interpretations that surround this are widely varied. With the identification of this sign, believers are to flee to the mountains immediately. They can't wait. Those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God was creating the world. Destruction of the heavens will occur and you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, bringing angels to gather everyone from earth.

Peter's first question regarding when this would occur was answered in Mark 13:32-37. No one knows, not even the angels, not even Jesus. Be on guard. Be prepared. Keep watch.

April 23 - Priorities

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23 - Priorities - Mark 12:1-44

The group that had been trying to force Jesus' hand was about to be exposed for who they really were. This parable (Mark 12:1-12) had obvious references. It also referred back to an Isaiah passage (Isaiah 5:1-2) when Isaiah pronounced God's judgment on Israel and then Jesus quoted from Psalm 118:22-23 to declare that He was the Messiah commonly spoken of in those verses. The Sanhedrin (Pharisees and Sadducees) knew the the crowd understood this parable as well as they did.

Have you ever watched someone fight a losing battle? They will continue to lob grenades just to see if they can wound the enemy. For the last 3 years the Sanhedrin had tried to catch Jesus and trick him into saying something stupid. They tried several different attempts beginning with the Pharisees and Herodians query in Mark 12:13-17 regarding whether or not to pay taxes. This was a loaded question. The Jews were under great financial pressure because of this tax. For Jesus to say yes, would mean that the Jews would hate him and if he said no ... he was inviting trouble from Rome. He amazed them.

Then the Sadducees posed a ridiculous question regarding marriage in heaven. They didn't believe in resurrection, so posed this trying to trip Him. Will they never learn? They wanted to talk about how dead people can interact ... Jesus reminded them that God is a God of the living. They simply didn't get it. (Mark 12:18-27)

A law teacher overheard the conversation and was impressed. He actually interacted with Jesus with the intent of learning from Him. Jesus recognized his wisdom.

How do we interact with Jesus? Do we really want to learn or do we want to set Jesus up to answer impossible questions or better yet, just meet our needs. (Mark 12:28-34)

I just read a verse that thrilled my heart. Mark 12:17b. "The large crowd listened to him with delight." Oh my goodness! Can you imagine? This absolutely brilliant man who is speaking with the authority of the Father Himself! What an amazing experience it would have been to watch Him come away unscathed from the debating Sanhedrin and teach with such wisdom in the temple courts. (Mark 12:35-40)

The final story from this chapter is amazingly poignant. Jesus sat down and watched as the crowd put their offerings into the temple treasury. As he watched people from every level of wealth and poverty walk by, he was struck by one woman who offered two very small copper coins. This obviously touched His heart because He called His disciples over to teach them a simple lesson in sacrifice.

He taught them the difference between giving from wealth and actually sacrificing. How many of us know what sacrifice means?

April 22 - Authority

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22 - Authority - Mark 11:1-33

Bethany is the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and is where Jesus would spend the night in Mark 11:19 (also Mathew 21:17, Luke says that he spent the nights at the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37).

Laying cloaks and palm branches in front of a conquering ruler was a common practice. The chant beginning was "Hosanna" was an antiphonal chant that would be happening up and down the highway as the procession moved towards Jerusalem. It's an A, B, B, A chant ... the one we know well is "God is Good. All the Time. All the Time. God is Good." Back and forth this was being called out along the route.

Jesus was coming to them from God, He was entering Jerusalem with expectations of the Messiah returning to restore the Davidic kingdom. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he went to the temple, but not actually the sanctuary ... just the grounds. Mark is setting the story up for the next day. (Mark 11:1-11)

Monday morning - Holy Week. Jesus was hungry and went to the fig tree. While Mark makes it clear that this is not the season for figs, these trees produced small buds before the figs actually came to fruit about a month later. The buds were also common food items. This tree was not even producing the buds.

What we may not see is that Jesus is also denouncing Israel ... it produced the leaves of legalism, but no fruit of righteousness.

When He got to Jerusalem, He went immediately to the temple area where He had been the night before. There were three types of money in Jerusalem. Imperial money (Roman), provincial money (Greek) and local money (Jewish). The money changers gave Jewish currency to those with the other currencies which were considered idolatrous and couldn't be used to purchase sacrificial items. Jesus got the attention of everyone with His actions. (Mark 11:12-19)

Tuesday morning - Holy Week. Fig tree - dead. Jesus' response to Peter's astonishment at His power was a command to "Have faith." There is nothing that is impossible when a person has faith in God. Prayer supported by faith taps into God's power that is above anything humanly possible. Forgiveness is so important ... we can never forget that.

Upon arriving in Jerusalem, they were accosted by the chief priests, the teachers of the law AND the elders. "Where do you get your authority?"

After these last three years, when Jesus has spent an inordinate amount of time asking people to refrain from making a big deal about the activities that occur in His presence, it is time for Him to announce His intent. But ... He doesn't. He deflects their question with another. Goodness, I wish I could learn to do this!

This counter-question technique was a common rabbinic debating technique. They were used to it, but Jesus managed to always pose questions for which they couldn't find a good answer. While Jesus wasn't required to give them an answer, His question implied the answer. His authority came from the same place as John's ... from God.

April 21 - Pay Attention!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 21 - Pay Attention! - Mark 10:32-52

Jesus had not been shy about telling people what His ultimate fate would be. The disciples were astonished that He would head toward Jerusalem with determination and other followers were simply afraid. Jesus needed the twelve to understand what was to come. The verb tense that He uses in Mark 10:32-34 implies a certainty of action. We ARE going, the Son of Man WILL be betrayed ... they WILL condemn him and WILL hand him over to the Gentiles, who WILL mock him and WILL spit on him, WILL flog him and WILL kill him. Eight different verbs are used to ensure that they are understanding what Jesus is telling them. (Mark 10:32-34)

Three days later he will rise.

Finally, it's someone other than Peter. But, James and John seem a little presumptious. Not only do they think that they can ask Him to do whatever they want, they presume to believe that He will offer them positions of power when He comes in glory.

The cup of His suffering ... the baptism of God's judgment on sin. Can you face that? They simply didn't understand what it was that was required. But, Jesus did.

Jesus goes on to tell them that the places at his left and right hand belong to those for whom they have been prepared (Mark 10:40). Who is this? Turn to Revelation 3:21. In the last letter that preceded the vision, Jesus told John, the man who asked for the right, who would be sitting there on the throne with Him. It is the overcomer. It is you and me. This becomes easier to comprehend when we read Revelation 21:22, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Revelation 22:1 shows that the throne of God and of the Lamb are in this icty. We will all be there as overcomers as servants. John will be there as well, but will find that it is no longer necessary to achieve status or power. (Mark 10:35-45)

This chapter ends with the story of Bartimaus. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem for the last time. He has been healing people throughout the last three years, giving them immediate relief from all sorts of maladies. This man was not going to let Jesus pass him by. He was insistent that he be heard. The more that people tried to shut him up, the louder he became.

Jesus stopped. And with that, the crowd encouraged him.

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Do you have the courage to ask for it when the crowd tells you to leave Him alone? When He finally asks you what it is that you want Him to do ... what do you say?

Jesus didn't make a spectacle of healing Bartimaus ... there was no spitting or mud, simply an acknowledgement of the man's faith.

Call out for Jesus today!

April 20 - Teach Us, Rabbi

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 20 - Teach Us, Rabbi - Mark 10:1-31

This teaching on divorce has come up over and over in the last couple of weeks, surprisingly enough. It's hard for us to understand what Jesus is teaching us when we think of the people we care so much about who have escaped awful marriages. How could Jesus not allow them to free of that marriage to find happiness?

Easy divorce is not an acceptable 'out' for us. But, though Jesus despised the idea of divorce, He never once told people they couldn't approach Him if they had been divorced. The issues that He was dealing with in that era were men that were getting certificates of divorce over and over again. Within the Jewish culture, a woman was termed an adulteress if her husband divorced her for no good reason and she remarried. Jesus was telling these men to 'man up!' If you marry a woman, you are responsible for her for her lifetime and if you divorce her, you are destroying who she is within the community. Women could be stoned for adultery. He went on to speak to them about ensuring that the choices they made would be for a lifetime and not on a whim. Remember, though, that Jesus was working within the Jewish community, which was extremely patriarchal. The women in His time were still practically considered property. This teaching was all about treating them with more respect than they had ever received.

And please don't forget that Jesus is speaking to Levitical law. The moral of this is that divorce is not to be used as an easy way to extricate yourself from an inconvenient marriage, but it is not an unforgivable sin. (Mark 10:1-12)

Jesus would have trouble with me ... children tend to annoy me. I would be the one who would rather see Him teaching profound truths to the adults in the room. But, the greatest truth that He teaches is the simplicity of love and faith. That is found in a child's faith. I would miss that, were it not for friends that remind me to pay attention. (Mark 10:13-16)

The final story in today's passage is that of a very earnest, wealthy, young man. He had a lot of respect for Jesus, but was a little concerned about his own future in eternity. The rest of this story just goes to show that desiring eternal life with God isn't enough until you are ready to commit to it.

This young man though he had, though. When Jesus asked about his commitment to the commandments, he was certain that would be enough to get him into heaven. Then, Jesus went straight to the heart of this young man - his wallet. Jesus knew that every fiber of this prince was wrapped up in his wealth. Could he give it up to ensure eternity in heaven?

No. It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Wealth and power are nearly impossible to set aside. Even for us that sometimes only have enough to scrape by, we become so enamored with money that we forget ourselves. But, the wealthy and powerful have a hard time becoming a servant. Jesus would be more than glad to accept the rich man into heaven, but very few will ever approach the throneroom if it means sacrificing all that they have worked so hard to attain.

The disciples followed this through to its logical conclusion and realized that no one could be saved. They were right ... man can not save himself. Only God can offer salvation.

Good old Peter ... he wades right into it. "Well, WE have given up everything to follow you." In other words, what are we going to get out of this?

In this age, you might face persecution ... but in the age to come, eternal life. And Jesus finishes the teaching with the reminder - those who are first will be last and the last first. (Mark 10:17-31)

April 19 - O Unbelieving Generation

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19 - O Unbelieving Generation - Mark 9:14-50

Jesus and the three disciples showed up just in time to hear the rest of the disciples in the middle of an argument with the Pharisees. The onlookers couldn't believe that He had shown up. They were thrilled. This was the one man that could set those Pharisees back and force them to see what the Spirit of the Law was rather than the letter of the Law.

What was the problem? The disciples had been unable to drive an evil spirit from a young child. Now remember, Jesus had given them authority over demons and evil spirits and they couldn't follow through. Jesus expressed tremendous sorrow over the fact that these men were still unable to do things without Him being right there among them. (Mark 9:14-18)

This poor boy had been seized with these fits by the spirit since he was just a child. Jesus' compassion was great. The father's faith was a little bit unsettled by the disciples and their lack of power. He wasn't fully certain that Jesus could do it. "If you can?" replied Jesus. This was not about Jesus' power, but about the father's faith. It wasn't about what the disciples had been able to do in the past, but that they had not prayerfully gone before the Father to allow Him to work through them. (Mark 9:19-32)

Jesus' teaching on greatness is difficult to accept. It is actually quite simple to understand. In His kingdom, the servant is greater than the master. This attitude runs completely opposite to our attitudes on getting ahead and the great American dream. Which is most important to you - God's kingdom or your own? (Mark 9:33-37)

We actually get a little offended when others teach the Good News without our input sometimes - especially when we don't know where they've come from! That kind of makes me think about the power that comes from being in charge and not being able to delegate because no one can do it as well as we might. Jesus knew all about power - real and manmade. The servant ... those who work miracles in His name without being a part of the inner circle ... and power that we have in leading people to Jesus. (Mark 9:38-41)

With great power comes great responsibility. We have at our hands the greatest power in the Universe. Our responsibility to those around us is immense.

April 18 - Transfigured

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18 - Transfigured - Mark 9:1-13

Oh, what they were about to see. The kingdom of God! Just a foretaste, a glimpse. But, Peter, James and John would not have to wait for death to experience it. Can you imagine?!

The Greek word for transfigure is metamorphoo ... yup, metamorphosis. What the disciples were able to see was Jesus revealed in His eternal glory. In Revelation 1:14, John says, "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow."

While Peter, James and John were watching, Elijah and Moses appeared before them speaking with Jesus. Moses represented the Law, while Elijah represented the prophets. Both the law and prophecy were fulfilled in Jesus. Luke 9:31 relates that they were discussing Jesus' departure.

It is so powerful for me to know that Moses and Elijah were part of the entire plan. God had given Moses the Law by which to redeem His people, He had given Elijah prophecy and while neither of those had brought completion, these two were actively involved in preparation for Jesus' culminating moment. God's entire Word comes together at the Cross and in the Resurrection.

Of all of the disciples, I love Peter most. He has the deepest thoughts regarding Jesus and He manages to get everything wrong. He was so freaked out by what was in front of him, he just started babbling! Tents might contain the event that was occurring.

The cloud of glory enveloped the scene and Peter was gently rebuked. He couldn't stop the procession of events, even for a moment. "Listen to my Son!" Do you need to hear that in your heart? I know I do. I can't control the will of the Father ... I can't stop the procession of events. I can only listen and obey.

Jesus asked them to keep quiet about their experience. At least they could talk to each other about it. And then He told them that He would rise from the dead, but again, they didn't understand.

It was well known that Elijah would come to precede the Messiah. Not only did John the Baptist come to preach repentance and restoration at Jesus' first coming, but he will also precede the second coming of Christ.

April 17 - The Big Questions

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 17 - The Big Questions - Mark 8:22-38

The healing of the blind man in Bethsaida is the only two-part miracle and the only miracle that is only told of in Mark. Jesus doesn't always do things as we expect Him to. "Do you see anything?" Maybe this healing was symbolic of the opening of His disciple's hearts. He touched their lives over and over and yet they still weren't able to see the truth ... it was as if they were seeing His ministry through a haze. One more touch and clarity will come.

We are right in the middle of Mark's gospel and Jesus asks the pivotal question. "Who do people say that I am?" After receiving various answers, He presses a little deeper. Do they see yet? Are they understanding? "But what about you? Who do you say that I am?"

Peter responded. He understood. This is the center of the Gospel. The truth that Jesus was bringing to the Jews. "You are the Christ - the Messiah." Walking with them was the hope of the nations, the Savior of the world. This is Jesus, Son of God ... the Messiah. They are beginning to see.

Mark 8:31 says, "He then began to teach them ..." He finally quit trying to hide away from the crowds. It was necessary to begin teaching these twelve men, no matter what was going on around them.

Jesus wanted to make them understand that His time with them was short, that there would be suffering. But, He also wanted them to understand that He would rise again. He said it as plainly as possible.

Peter couldn't hear it. He had just shown that He was beginning to comprehend his Master's ministry on earth and now, he couldn't handle what this same Master was teaching them. Jesus recognized immediately that Peter was dealing with his own fears of loss and sorrow. He couldn't have that - He needed these men to have the mind of God, not be corrupted by human values which were twisted by Satan.

This is what will be necessary for you to do to follow me, Jesus said: Sacrifice everything! All that you have in this world is worth nothing if your soul is forfeit. The word 'deny' in Mark 8:34 is not about self-denial and deprivation, dying as a martyr or denying your personality, it is setting aside selfish interests and earthly securities. But, that is only the negative side. The positive side is to take up your cross - in other words - taking God's will into yourself.

Jesus will be the final judge. He is going to be returning. Our response to Him will determine His final response to us.

April 15 - Bread for Everyone

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April 15 - Bread for Everyone - Mark 8:1-21

How well do you remember the blessings that God has given to you? Sometimes within a microsecond, I've forgotten because I'm on to the next crisis. When I'm in the middle of a problem, sometimes I even forget why I am a Christian. It makes no sense oto me because I'm so wrapped up in my problems that I can't see beyond myself to the ultimate power of God in my life.

Jesus had 12 men with Him that were just like you and me. Even though they had participated in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when they saw the large crowd, they were perplexed as to how they might feed them. You know ... I've managed people before and gotten frustrated when they couldn't learn simple tasks, but I can't imagine the frustration the Jesus held at bay as He trained these men who were to carry the most important message the world had ever known forth.

After multiplying the bread and fish again until the people were satisfied, Jesus sent them on their way and left the area. He didn't get far, though. The Pharisees showed up pretty quickly thinking they could continue to test Him. They asked for a sign from heaven.

He had been performing miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising people from the dead and they wanted a sign from heaven. He didn't put up with it, returned to the boat and left them on the beach.

You can tell how annoyed Jesus was by his sarcastic comment in Mark 8:15. I think it's funny that after collecting all of that bread and fish, the disciples hadn't thought to feed themselves. They had been in such a rush to get out of there that it didn't even occur to them. But, there was no need to worry. Jesus had just multiplied bread for the second time in their presence.

The yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast was a common metaphor for an invisible, pervasive influence. The Pharisees were corrupt and they were leading Israel. Jesus was asking His disciples to believe Him without a sign, even though they were seeing so many different signs.

But, these twelve men had a long ways to go in understanding their Rabbi. Even when He reminded them of the miracles they had seen, they didn't understand.

April 15 - By Faith

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15 - By Faith - Mark 7:24-37

Jesus left Capernaum and went to Tyre, which is about 40 miles northwest in what we now know as Lebanon. He needed time alone and a chance to be with His disciples. But, his reputation preceded Him and that just wasn't going to happen. A Gentile woman found Him and begged Him to heal her daughter, who was possessed by an evil spirit.

When Jesus came, His ministry was to begin with Israel. The time for the Gentiles had not yet begun. It wasn't appropriate to interrupt a meal to serve the dogs. But, she knew what she needed and replied that sometimes the dogs eat even while the children are being served.

Jesus saw her humility and depth of faith in Him. This is the only miracle in Mark's gospel that Jesus performed from such a distance and without a vocal command.

He then left Tyre and Sidon and went down to the Decapolis. Remember Legion? That's where he went to spread the good news about what had happened for him. This is deep into Gentile territory. He has begun this ministry. Nothing that God does is ever without a plan.

Friends bring a deaf man to him. Jesus took him aside so that he could communicate with the man. He knows our hearts? He also knows how to reach to the very depths of us. By touching his ears and spitting, he indicated what would happen for the man. Then Jesus sighed. There's no explanation of why ... it could be that He recognized the deep struggle within the man or it was an expression of sympathy, but it was loud enough that someone heard it. He spoke in Aramaic which Mark translated for His readers.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone, hoping to avoid unneeded publicity, but the more He commanded, the more they kept talking. These people are excited about the man that has come into their midst. They want to tell everyone what they see and hear.

Are you excited about Jesus? Who will you tell?

April 14 - Clean

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 14 - Clean - Mark 7:1-23

I remember long mealtimes when I was a child as mom tried to impress upon us the use of proper table manners. Being the rebellious daughter that I am, I still take just a small bit of glee in sucking the last few drops of a milkshake through a straw. If she were alive, I'm certain that Mom would scold me yet today for that.

I do believe that these poor Pharisees had to really work at catching Jesus and his disciples eating without the ceremonial washing that was traditional. Jesus was the consummate politician. He made absolutely no reference to His disciples and whether or not what they did was wrong. Instead He addressed the underlying issues surrounding the accusation.

He began by quoting Isaiah 29:13 and applying to the people gathered around who were now listening to the altercation. Ceremonial washing was a tradition of men, not a command of God. He continued to press them and I'm certain that He knew exactly who He was speaking to.

The men who were accusing the disciples of wrongdoing had refused to care for their parents by declaring their own wealth a gift to God. Their parents had no legal right to the money, whether or not they were in need. Jesus told them that they had nullified God's word! How in the world do you set man's tradition over God's word?

Jesus went on to explain true cleanliness to the crowd that had gathered. He begins by saying, "Listen everyone, and understand this." Jesus clearly wanted them to understand what He was about to say.

Yet, even His disciples didn't get it and pressed Him for more information. I guess He was getting weary of their deaf ears and blind eyes. "Are you so dull?" he asked.

He explained the difference between food entering the stomach and things that enter a man's heart. Food that is eaten and then expelled from the body can not make a man clean or unclean. With those words, Jesus declared all foods clean, Mark explains. Remember, this Gospel was written for Gentiles.

What makes a man clean or unclean is that which comes from his heart. Evil comes from inside a man, not from the food that he eats.

Jesus was taking on tradition and manmade authority. He was establishing Himself as the authority of God sent to earth. Can you see the tension building as we approach the cross? Mark is writing the play, putting the scenes in place. We haven't arrived there, but we are building toward the finale.

April 13 - Miracle Man!

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 13 - Miracle Man! - Mark 6:30-56

We're going to look at two of Jesus' more flashy miracles. The first is the feeding of the five thousand. The story of John the Baptist's death was a memory that served to explain a little about Herod's concern with the rising popularity of Jesus. His twelve disciples were traveling through the area spreading the Good News and that was getting back to the palace.

They finally returned to Jesus and began reporting on their travels. It was one thing having Jesus out there drawing crowds, but multiply that by a specific evangelical process given to twelve men, those crowds would increase exponentially. The disciples didn't have a chance to eat because there were so many people around. Jesus offered a chance to rest, but as often happens, the paparazzi recognized them and before they could get to a place alone, they were surrounded. (Mark 6:30-33)

Jesus had compassion on the people and began to teach. His disciples, ever practical, encouraged him to send the people away so they could get some dinner. Notice that these people weren't able to go home ... they had come from far and wide to hear Jesus. But, Jesus told the disciples to feed them. (Mark 6:34-37)

The rest of this story is the story of too many of us. We are so practical that we forgot to look to Jesus as our provider. We can only see what is in front of us and if it doesn't look like it will be enough to deal with the situation, we give up. Jesus wants us to look to Him. He will provide.

He directed the disciples to get the people seated into groups ... the words used in Mark 6:40 bring up imagery of garden plots. When the story was told from this gospel, listeners would imagine colorful groups of people arranged like a beautiful garden. As Jesus took the loaves and fish into His hands, He gave thanks, emphasizing the Giver of the gifts rather than the gift. Then He gave them to His disciples ... breaking the loaves and the fish among them. The tense that used for the verb 'to give' in Mark 6:41 means that He kept giving ... in other words, the loaves multiplied in His hands.

Each of the disciples gathered a basketful of bread and fish. They didn't know how to solve the problem. They forgot Who was with them. (Mark 6:38-43)

Immediately (there's that word again) Jesus knew that it was time to get away. He put His disciples into a boat and went into the hills to pray. When evening came, the winds were high on the lake and He was still on land. It was about dawn (fourth watch - 3-6 am) when He went out to them. He was not planning to pass by them and go on, but to pass beside them to comfort them and encourage them. But, they saw Him coming and were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost.

But, immediately (I will keep pointing out that word) He spoke to them, saying, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down.

Three times in the book of Mark, the disciples are in the midst of trouble because Jesus isn't with them (Mark 4:35-41, Mark 9:14-32 and here). When He shows up, everything calms down. That certainly sounds like a good reason to keep Him close to our hearts, doesn't it!

The disciples still did not fully understand Who was with them. I wonder if we even begin to comprehend the power of the One who gave His life for us? We learn from Him, we worship Him, we try to spend time with Him and yet we live our lives daily as if we were alone ... making decisions based on our knowledge of a situation, not on His power over the situation. Are we any smarter than those twelve men that were dumbfounded when they were each carrying a basket filled with fish and bread?

April 12 - Family

Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 12 - Family - Mark 6:1-29

Jesus left Jairus' family and went to His own hometown. When Sabbath came, he taught in the synagogue, amazing those that heard Him.

But, Mark lets us in on a terrible secret. They weren't amazed at His teaching, they were amazed that the Mary and Joseph's son, whose brothers and sisters were well known to them was able to speak with wisdom and perform miracles. They weren't just amazed, they were offended! Jesus did what little He could in that community and it says that He was amazed at their lack of faith. It had to hurt ... just a little bit. (Mark 6:1-6)

Jesus' ministry was beginning to expand. It was time to entrust the Twelve with the keys to the kingdom. He sent them out. There was a sense of urgency in His instructions. They were to travel lightly and their travels would entrust them to the hospitality of the people and towns they visited.

So, off they went, preaching a message of repentance. They drove out demons and anointed the sick and healed them. (Mark 6:7-13)

While the Twelve were spreading the message, it managed to get back to King Herod. His advisers were giving him all sorts of ideas about who Jesus was. He might be John the Baptist raised from the dead, or He might be Elijah, or He might be a prophet like those long again. Herod was fairly confident it was John the Baptist. Why? Because He was harboring intense guilt over the death of that man.

Mark tells us the story of what had happened to the prophet. Herod had shrew for a wife. Herodias had been his brother, Philip's wife and those two should never have been together. John called them on it. Never tick off a woman with power!

Herod was afraid of John's power and respected his lifestyle. He had no desire to destroy the man and had probably been putting up with his wife's request for John's death for quite awhile. But, the woman was conniving and she wanted what she wanted. Her daughter danced for Herod and in front of his officials and military commanders, he offered her anything she wanted. The deed was done. Herodias got her desire: John's head on a platter.

I'm not sure if she literally wanted the head, but that's what she got and her poor daughter had to make the delivery. John's disciples took his body away and buried it.

Herod's fears were only going to increase from this point forward. He projected his lack of honor in this situation into everything that had to do with John and now with Jesus. Mark is ensuring that we are aware of every movement that is being made toward the cross.

April 11 - The Touch of the Healer

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April 11 - The Touch of The Healer - Mark 5:21-43

Jairus was an elder in charge of the services at the synagogue. He would be quite aware of who Jesus was and probably heard all of the gossip surrounding this man's power. When it came to the needs of his daughter, he knew exactly who to turn to. He pleaded with the Lord to come to his home because his little daughter (a term of endearment) was dying.

This story is about to be interrupted, but I want to ask a question. If you approach Jesus with a request and He were to begin the journey with you to respond to your request, do you have faith that He will actually follow through with it? Let's see what happens to Jairus.

First, though, we are introduced to a woman who has been sick for twelve years! She has been subjected to the abuse of many doctors and spent every single cent trying to deal with her illness. She continued to grow worse, no matter what she did. Then, she heard about Jesus. He was in her hometown! Walking through the streets!

With everything she had left, she approached Him and her faith was so strong in His power to heal her, that she knew all she had to do was touch His clothing. She grabbed the hem of His cloak. Mark uses that word again ... immediately! Immediately she knew that she had been healed. Jesus looked for her in the pressing crowd and then called out for her.

People had been pressing against Jesus the entire time He had been walking. His disciples were astounded that He would ask about one single person touching Him. But, she had reached out to Him in faith. It was more than just a passing gesture or a simple bump on the road. She had deliberately reached for Him.

He knew that it was her faith that had drawn from power from Him. What can your faith do?

After that short interruption, men came from Jairus' home to tell him that his daughter had died. Can you imagine? He had waited too long to ask for Jesus' help. There was no longer any purpose in bringing Jesus to his home.

But, Jesus doesn't quite work the way we expect Him to, does He? he turned to Jairus and said, "Don't be afraid, just believe."

When He got to their home, He rebuked the local crowd of wailers and took Jairus and his wife, along with Peter, James and John into the room with the child. He spoke a few words to her and she immediately (there's that word again) stood up and walked around. He asked them to not reveal the miracle and in a practical way, got the poor child something to eat.

What is the moral of today's set of stories? I think it is in the words Jesus spoke to Jairus, "Don't be afraid, just believe."

April 10 - Legion

Friday, April 10, 2009

April 10 - Legion - Mark 5:1-20

6000 soldiers in a Roman Legion. Six thousand! A single demon possessing a man is one too many. Whether or not this is a literal number, it is too many.

As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, this poor man came to meet him. He was living in the tombs, which were hollows carved out of the rocky hillside. He was a bloody mess from cutting himself with sharp stones and he wore no clothing. That he could no longer be bound meant that at one time, people were able to approach him to shackle him - maybe even for his own protection, but his strength grew to be so great that those no longer held him. (Mark 5:1-5)

He saw Jesus coming and he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. While scripture says that every knee shall bow, this was not in an attitude of worship, but was an homage to the acknowledged power of Jesus. Then, screaming at Jesus, the demon used his full name and title, "Jesus, Son of the Most High God." He then used appealed to God in asking Jesus to not torture him.

Notice how the next sentence begins ... "For Jesus was saying ..." As this demon was screaming at Jesus, the Lord was already speaking a command. Obedience would be imperative. The demon (s) knew that any command by Jesus would have to be obeyed, but hoped to trick Jesus into alalowing them to continue to exist. There was a herd of 2000 pigs on the hillside and the demon named Legion begged to be sent into the swine. An existence in swine would be preferable to being sent to the lake of fire. (Mark 5:6-13)

Gerasenes was a Gentile community. Pigs were not allowed within the Jewish community, so the pig herders would definitely have been Gentiles. When their herds plunged into the sea, they ran into town to tell everyone what had occurred. People came from all over to see this man, now dressed and in his right mind. They were terrified of Jesus' power! And then, they simply wanted Jesus to be gone. He had disrupted their way of life, had cost them financially and they did not want Him around.

The man begged to go with Jesus. The words used there imply that He was asking Jesus if he could become a part of the disciples. Jesus didn't let him do that, but asked him to return to his family to share the good news. Since the man was a Gentile, Jesus didn't press him to stay silent. His sharing of the good news would not disrupt Jesus' plans.

The Decapolis was a series of ten Greek cities. One man ... touched by the Savior, was able to share the Good News with thousands who were amazed. Amaze the world with your story!

April 9 - Why Are You Afraid?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April 9 - Why Are You Afraid? - Mark 4:35-41

This passage is filled with detail. Can you imagine Peter relating this story to Mark and remembering the fear that gripped the disciples on the Sea of Galilee? At the point that he was telling Mark this story, he knew who Jesus was, so not only would he remember his fear, but he would realize that if he had only known at the time that he was in a boat with the Son of God, there would have been no reason for that fear.

The Sea of Galilee was surrounded by hills. Warm air rising into the cooler air from the hillside created very rough seas as the winds whipped the waters into a tempest. In Mark 4:37, the verb tense implies that the waves continued to break over the boat as it kept filling with water. No wonder the men panicked. What were they to do with their Master sound asleep on a cushion? Was he unable to sense the motion of the boat, could he not hear the roar of the wind and the sound of the waves breaking against the hull? They could stand it no longer and they woke him. It sounds as if they were a little annoyed with him, "Don't you care?"

There are several things to notice in this next interaction. Before Jesus dealt with His disciples, He dealt with that which influenced their emotions. The verb He uses means 'to muzzle' and the tense means, 'put the muzzle on and keep it on.' Jesus wasn't messing with this storm.

Then He turned to his disciples. I have an image of them cowering in the boat. They were probably a little bit green with sea-sickness and scared of dying in the water. To top it off, they just saw their friend and Master tell a storm to stop and it had immediately calmed. (I am discovering why verb tenses are so important in the Greek ... wow, we miss a lot of the implications in these sentences.)

These men had seen him do so much. He had been healing people and casting out demons and yet they still did not understand who was standing before them! They were terrified of the sea because they didn't realize that the one they followed had power over the sea. Does that sound like you and like me? We are terrified of the craziest things because we don't realize that the One we trust for our eternal salvation has power over those things. Jesus was telling them that if they had really trusted in God, they didn't need to wake Him up. They should have known that they would be safe. We should know that we are safe because we trust in the Lord of the Universe.

In Mark 4:41, the word for 'terrified' is different than the word Jesus used in Mark 4:40 for 'afraid.' This word means 'reverential fear, awe.' They still do not understand the power that Jesus wields. The do not yet know who He is.

Do you?

April 8 - God's Got It

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April 8 - God's Got It - Mark 4:21-34

These three parables, plus the one from yesterday's lesson are about it for Mark's recall of the teachings. But, these are three powerful stories!

The hearer (Mark 4:23) is to not only hear, but act upon what is being spoken. If you have a lamp, don't hide the light ... share it. (Mark 4:21-23). Whatever you choose to share with the world - that, plus much more will be shared with you! It's not enough to just uncover and allow the light to burn. If we see Jesus as the light, consider that the more you share Him with others, the brighter He will burn and the more of Him you will see.

The next parable is only found in Mark, not in either Matthew or Luke. The parable illustrates the Kingdom of God. We are the man in this story ... we spread the Word of God. But, that seed will germinate, no matter what we do. There is a mystery to how the Word spreads and grows, God is the only one in control of it ... we were called simply to plant the seed. God is responsible for how the seed matures and grows, not us. This teaching probably doesn't need a lot of explanation, but I will say that it is awfully difficult for us as Christians to avoid managing God's Kingdom. Jesus tells us here that we don't need to ... God's got it. (Mark 4:26-29)

The final parable today is the story of the mustard seed. The mustard seed is the tiniest of the seeds that are sown in the garden. There are approximately 750 seeds to a gram (28 grams in an ounce). Think about that! The thing is tiny. Yet, the mustard shrub grew to be the largest plant in the garden with its branches so large that birds could perch in its shade.

This is another illustration of the Kingdom of God. We don't need to do much, but sow a seed. And that seed can be the tiniest of all seeds in the garden. God causes it to grow and because He created it to be what it is, it becomes a huge shrub. We are called to sow the seed. God will bring growth.

Jesus spoke in parables so that some could understand and come to a fuller knowledge of the truth of the Lord. Others would be confused and wouldn't search any further tto understand the things of God. Then there were those that understood, but didn't pay attention to what they heard. And finally, there were those that Jesus spent time with and explained everything. (Mark 4:30-34)

I don't care what it takes ... I want to be beside Jesus as He teaches and as He explains His teachings. Even if I fully understand, I want it to come from Him.

April 7 - The Sower

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 7 - The Sower - Mark 4:1-20

You know that boat that Jesus needed his disciples to have ready for Him? He's using it now. The crowds lined the beach of the lake and so, in order to teach them, He sat in the boat and taught from there.

Jesus taught in parables. Why? Read this explanation from the Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe. It says it perfectly!

"Why did Jesus teach in parables? His disciples asked Him that very question (Mark 4:10–12; and see Matt. 13:10–17). A careful study of His reply reveals that Jesus used parables both to hide the truth and to reveal it. The crowd did not judge the parables; the parables judged the crowd. The careless listener, who thought he knew everything, would hear only a story that he did not really understand; and the result in his life would be judgment (see Matt. 11:25–30). The sincere listener, with a desire to know God’s truth, would ponder the parable, confess his ignorance, submit to the Lord, and then begin to understand the spiritual lesson Jesus wanted to teach."

He opened the parable with the word, "Listen!" and then closed it by reminding the crowd that, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

This parable was of great importance to Jesus. He wanted people to understand what was happening with His message. He was explaining why there were so many people showing up for the quick healings and demon exorcisms.

Yet, even His disciples needed more of an explanation.

Jesus knew that many of the people who received His touch weren't open to anything more than that. They wanted what they could get from Him and then were gone. He recognized all of the different types of people that were surrounding Him and wanted so much more for them.

His words in Mark 4:13-20 explain to His disciples what He hoped for all of them and for anyone who heard the Word of God.

April 6 - Overworked

Monday, April 6, 2009

April 6 - Overworked - Mark 3:20-34

No one fully understood who Jesus was yet. He was still the young man that Mary had taken care of and His brothers played with. No one understood that He was being filled up by the Creator.

For anyone to put up with all of that craziness, surrounded by crowds all of the time, rumors and tales of miracles happening around Him ... He had to be out of His mind.

The family in Mark 3:21 is more than likely extended family - the word here translates 'kinsmen.' They intended to take Him into their custody because He was a raving religious fanatic (that's a more accurate translation of this verse). (Mark 3:20-21)

Now the teachers of the law had a different interpretation of what was going on. They knew that there was no way one man could accomplish all that Jesus was doing. Obviously He was possessed by Beelzebub.

Jesus, in utter patience, speaks to them in parables. In other words, He speaks to them in sentences that they can understand. He points out to them the absurdity of what they are saying. Satan isn't going to work against himself, now is he?

In fact, Jesus says, no one can deal with the strong man (satan) unless he first binds that strong man. Which is exactly what Jesus was doing when He rejected satan's temptations in the desert and when he was exorcising satan's minions.

The next verse (Mark 3:28-29) seems a little odd here, but what Jesus is saying is that derogatory speech is one thing, but defiant hostility toward God, thereby rejecting His saving grace will only lead to an eternity with that strong man. Jesus was warning the teachers of the law that they were coming perilously close to calling the Holy Spirit - 'satan.'

And just when it should have gotten easier, Jesus' mother and brothers showed up to deal with Him. Imagine what would have happened to His ministry if He had actually gone home with them. It would have been over. It would have looked as if He agreed with His family and everyone else, that everything He had been doing was His alone and that He wasn't working within the strength of His Father. Instead of giving in ... He taught a lesson ... that everyone who does the will of God is His family.

April 5 - Following Jesus

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 5 - Following Jesus - Mark 3:7-19

Have you ever wanted to be a groupie? I really haven't. That's not a role I would play well. But, think about these huge crowds that were following Jesus everywhere He walked! He was a rock star! People came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. They were coming from all over to see this man that was creating such a stir.

I don't do crushing crowds of people very well either. Consequently, I don't generally get myself into situations where I'm going to be pushed and pressed by people all around me. I was in Times Square for New Years Eve 1991 and have never experienced anything like that crush of people. We ended up having to just move with the flow of the crowd. There wasn't a single part of my body that didn't get pushed and shoved that evening. I was breathing in scents from thousands of people around me and my ears were overwhelmed by the sounds of laughing and shrieking. It was too much!

Rather than backing Himself into a corner, He asked his disciples to have a small boat ready so that He could escape the crowds onto the Sea of Galilee. Jesus healed many people, He cast out demons, He cared for the people that came to see Him and to touch Him ... But, He wasn't ready to fully reveal the purpose of His coming yet. (Mark 3:7-12)

We saw Jesus call Simon, Andrew, John and James and then a bit later, Levi (Matthew). As I said before, this was a direct contrast to the standard behavior of the day. Teachers would wait for students to search them out, not go out and proactively look for disciples. Jesus took the initiative and called those that He wanted and they came to Him.

He called them 'apostles.' The word means 'one who is sent with a commission.' These men would be responsible for taking Jesus' message into the world. The would live with Him, eat with Him, serve with Him, learn from Him and then go out into the world with His authority.

Interestingly enough, in the strictest sense of the term, there can be no more apostles. Acts 1:21-22 says that "...it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."

The men are also named in Matt. 10:2–4, Luke 6:14–16, and Acts 1:13. Don't you love that Jesus gave some of His disciples names? These may have been nicknames, but He obviously knew their personalities well and knew what would be required of them as they grew into their roles. Simon was named Peter ... a rock and on that rock, Jesus would build His church. John & James were the sons of thunder. These were the two that wanted to call down fire on a town that rejected them. Simon the Zealot was part of another sect of Jews that plotted to overthrow Rome. His description here served to distinguish between him and Simon Peter.

To these twelve men, Jesus entrusted His ministry. His church. His teachings. His authority.

April 4 - Right & Wrong

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April 4 - Right & Wrong - Mark 2:13 - 3:6

Jesus didn't follow the rules. We all know that. What was His purpose, though? Was He there to call out the Pharisees? He certainly did a lot of that.

Today we see that Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to follow Him. Levi was a tax collector working for Herod Antipas. Since Capernaum was on a postal route, this would have been an excellent location for his work. He was despised by all of the Jews because of the work that he did. But, Jesus called him anyway. When Matthew invited Him to have dinner in his home, Jesus agreed immediately. The Pharisees were furious. This great healer that they had heard so much about was eating with sinners and tax collectors. But, Jesus did it anyway. (Mark 2:13-16)

The Pharisees believed that they were above reproach. They followed the letter of the law. They were terribly 'righteous.' Huh, you know ... I hear a lot of Christians speak about their lives and actually believe that they are pretty righteous. They can't imagine that they have too many sins to take before the Lord when asking for forgiveness. I'm certain you see the immediate flaw in their logic. Jesus knew that there was no one without sin. He came for everyone, but only those who are willing to admit their need will be healed. (Mark 2:17)

Those poor Pharisees were fasting while watching Jesus feasting with sinners. I've been on fasts myself, and I turn ugly when presented with food I can't eat. Though the Law only required fasting on the Day of Atonement, the Pharisees had encouraged voluntary fasts on Monday and Tuesday of every week (Luke 18:12). Jesus' disciples weren't participating in this 'holy' fast made popular by the Pharisees and others wondered why. (Mark 2:18)

Jesus responded with two parables (Mark 2:19-22). In the first He described His relationship with His followers as a bridegroom who will soon leave His friends. In the second He is a new wineskin. The old ideas and traditions could no longer be patched up. Something new has arrived.

Then came the Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples picked heads of grain. The Pharisees were shocked! Jesus was deliberate in His answer, likening Himself to David who requested consecrated bread from the tabernacle (1 Sam. 21:1-6). With this, He declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath, reminding the Pharisees that the Sabbath, just as the Law, was made for man. (Mark 2:23-27)

Mark 3:1-6 shows us that the Pharisees were following Jesus around trying to catch Him healing on the Sabbath. You have to know that He's going to do just that. They couldn't stand up to His challenge and we see that He was disappointed. Ok, He was angry and distressed at their stubborn hearts. (Mark 3:5) He healed the man, and in doing so, infuriated the Pharisees to begin plotting with those they despised (the Herodians) to kill Him.

Did He do all of this simply to challenge the Pharisees? What is your answer to that?

April 3 - Who Will You Tell?

Friday, April 3, 2009

April 3 - Who Will You Tell? - Mark 1:40-2:12

Leprosy could mean any of a number of diseases, but the poor man was not allowed to be a part of the Jewish community, he was unclean (Leviticus 13-14). The astounding thing about this passage is that he approached Jesus with a hope of being healed. Leprosy was uncurable, there were only 2 recorded episodes of it ever being cured in the Old Testament (Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:1-14). He didn't doubt for a minute that Jesus had the power to heal him.

Jesus didn't disappoint him. What a touching scene, though. Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out and offered the man a new life. He asked him to go immediately to the priest and offer sacrifices so that he could re-enter the community. But instead, he began telling everyone that he could find!

That is not a scene I have difficulty imagining. It would have seemed a little strange to be told not to tell anyone. How could he not? People would have noticed the difference just by looking at his skin! But, this changed how Jesus approached His ministry. He was no longer able to walk openly among the people, because they never left him alone. (Mark 1:40-45)

This problem becomes even more apparent in the next story. Jesus had come home (hmm ... I'd never read that before! What an intimate message flows through that) and according to the Jewish custom of hospitality, people showed up. The house was so full of people that there was no room ... not even outside the door!

This is such a great story of friendship. Four friends are carrying their paralyzed friend to see the healer. When they can't get into the house, they carried him to the top of the home and created an opening to lower their friend into the house. They were determined to get their friend close to the healer! It worked.

The next part of this story begins to identify Jesus' ministry. He didn't come just to heal broken bodies, but to heal broken spirits as well. His purpose was to restore the relationship that God had with His children, even if it happened one person at a time. Sin is the agent that broke that relationship in the first place and with Jesus' proclamation of forgiven sin, a proclamation that comes directly from the Father, restoration happens immediately.

This didn't go over well with local rabbis, who were more interested in watching the events unfold than they were interested in caring for the people around them.

The man was healed, got up and walked. Jesus had just proclaimed the purpose of His ministry on earth.

April 2 - First things First

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April 2 - First Things First - Mark 1:14-39

A lot of business starts happening. John is imprisoned, Jesus calls the first four disciples, establishes his dominion over evil spirits and after healing Simon's mother ends up dealing with many more people who needed healing or were demon-possessed. The way Mark tells the story, you'd think this happened in a day or two. You can't blink while reading this Gospel or you're going to miss something!

One of my favorite things about learning Greek is finding the intent behind the English words. It's incredible how the tenses of the words tell you so much about what the author is actually saying. For instance, Mark 1:14 simply says "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee" in the NIV version.

What it doesn't tell you is that Mark used the same verb for "put in prison" that he uses when describing Judas as the one who turns Jesus over to the authorities in Mark 3:19. He is building a parallel to the two experiences that we miss in the English translation. The voicing of the verb implies that God's purpose was being fulfilled and that it was time for Jesus' ministry to begin. So much more than just three words!

Jesus makes two declarations in Mark 1:15. "The time has come" and "The kingdom of God is near." He is announcing that He has come to fulfill the Old Testament proclamations and expectations and that the time for God's sovereign rule of earth will be coming soon. It was time for the people to put their houses in order and prepare for the coming of the kingdom!

Rabbis in Jesus' time usually had students seeking them out. Jesus went among the people to find the men that He would train. Watch the words that Mark uses here. Mark 1:18 begins with "At once" and Mark 1:20 begins with "Without delay." Remember, Mark wants his readers to recognize the rapidity with which people responded to Jesus! (Mark 1:16-20)

Capernaum was on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the home of Peter, Andrew, James & John. Just as Jesus was settling into teaching in the synagogue, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out. Yes, this was going to be an amazing day for the people of Capernaum!

It wasn't just a question that the demon posed to Jesus. It was a declaration. Rather than "Have you come to destroy us?" it is a declaration "You have come to destroy us!" The demons would recognize their destruction and recognized the Holy One of God and His authority! Jesus didn't perform any incantations ... he simply told the demon to be silenced (muzzled) and to leave. His authority reigns ... demons can not refuse His power.

It didn't take long for the entire to region to hear about this man that not only had authority of the evil spirits, but taught in a new way and taught with authority. (Mark 1:21-28)

Our English translations lose a little bit more here. "As soon as they left" is actually just "Immediately" they went to Simon's house and Jesus "immediately" went to her and healed her. Do you see that the people waited until after sunset to bring their sick to Jesus? Remember, it was the Sabbath and they would have worked against the law to bear a burden on the Sabbath. They kept bringing more and more people to the front door of Simon's house. (Mark 1:29-34)

After a long day and more than likely a very short night, Jesus escaped to pray. This is very important to me ... He drew upon the strength of His relationship with God to continue. (Mark 1:35)

I'm sure that the crowds started showing up at daybreak at Simon's house. When Simon went to find Jesus, He was nowhere to be found in the house. What a perfect chance for Jesus to further His ministry and He was missing it! But, He didn't come down to earth to just be a miracle worker, He came to proclaim the Good News! It was time to move on. (Mark 1:36-39)
April 2 - First Things First - Mark 1:14-39

A lot of business starts happening. John is imprisoned, Jesus calls the first four disciples, establishes his dominion over evil spirits and after healing Simon's mother ends up dealing with many more people who needed healing or were demon-possessed. The way Mark tells the story, you'd think this happened in a day or two. You can't blink while reading this Gospel or you're going to miss something!

One of my favorite things about learning Greek is finding the intent behind the English words. It's incredible how the tenses of the words tell you so much about what the author is actually saying. For instance, Mark 1:14 simply says "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee" in the NIV version.

What it doesn't tell you is that Mark used the same verb for "put in prison" that he uses when describing Judas as the one who turns Jesus over to the authorities in Mark 3:19. He is building a parallel to the two experiences that we miss in the English translation. The voicing of the verb implies that God's purpose was being fulfilled and that it was time for Jesus' ministry to begin. So much more than just three words!

Jesus makes two declarations in Mark 1:15. "The time has come" and "The kingdom of God is near." He is announcing that He has come to fulfill the Old Testament proclamations and expectations and that the time for God's sovereign rule of earth will be coming soon. It was time for the people to put their houses in order and prepare for the coming of the kingdom!

Rabbis in Jesus' time usually had students seeking them out. Jesus went among the people to find the men that He would train. Watch the words that Mark uses here. Mark 1:18 begins with "At once" and Mark 1:20 begins with "Without delay." Remember, Mark wants his readers to recognize the rapidity with which people responded to Jesus! (Mark 1:16-20)

Capernaum was on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was the home of Peter, Andrew, James & John. Just as Jesus was settling into teaching in the synagogue, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out. Yes, this was going to be an amazing day for the people of Capernaum!

It wasn't just a question that the demon posed to Jesus. It was a declaration. Rather than "Have you come to destroy us?" it is a declaration "You have come to destroy us!" The demons would recognize their destruction and recognized the Holy One of God and His authority! Jesus didn't perform any incantations ... he simply told the demon to be silenced (muzzled) and to leave. His authority reigns ... demons can not refuse His power.

It didn't take long for the entire to region to hear about this man that not only had authority of the evil spirits, but taught in a new way and taught with authority. (Mark 1:21-28)

Our English translations lose a little bit more here. "As soon as they left" is actually just "Immediately" they went to Simon's house and Jesus "immediately" went to her and healed her. Do you see that the people waited until after sunset to bring their sick to Jesus? Remember, it was the Sabbath and they would have worked against the law to bear a burden on the Sabbath. They kept bringing more and more people to the front door of Simon's house. (Mark 1:29-34)

After a long day and more than likely a very short night, Jesus escaped to pray. This is very important to me ... He drew upon the strength of His relationship with God to continue. (Mark 1:35)

I'm sure that the crowds started showing up at daybreak at Simon's house. When Simon went to find Jesus, He was nowhere to be found in the house. What a perfect chance for Jesus to further His ministry and He was missing it! But, He didn't come down to earth to just be a miracle worker, He came to proclaim the Good News! It was time to move on. (Mark 1:36-39)

April 1 - Another Opening ... Another Show

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1 - Another Opening ... Another Show - Mark 1:1-13

The Gospel of Mark could very well be called the Gospel of Peter. The author Papias in 110 AD stated that Peter was the source of information for Mark. He wrote that the information came straight from the apostle John. It is generally accepted to be true. Mark was not an eyewitness follower of Jesus, yet while he accompanied Peter in his journeys, he wrote down his memories and transcribed Peter's Aramaic speech to Greek for the common man.

Mark's gospel is the Action Gospel. He uses the word 'immediately' over and over through the gospel and strings sentences together using 'and' quite often. There is always a sense of pushing forward to the next event. Mark was more than likely the first gospel to be written and Matthew and Luke used it as a resource for their writing. Matthew incorporates about 90 percent of Mark and Luke incorporates about 40 percent. Of Mark's 661 verses, over 600 are found in Matthew and Luke. It was probably written about 57-59 AD from Rome and was written for Gentile Christians. His purpose was basically 'pastoral.'

Mark didn't begin his gospel with the the story of Jesus' birth. The reason he was writing was to encourage Gentiles who had already come to know who Jesus was and were already Christians. He wanted to give them a fresh look at the life of Jesus as many of them were beginning to deal with the reality of persecution. Jesus was obedient and to be a true disciple of His, obedience was called for.

The first thing that Mark did was to identify Jesus as the Son of God, then he moved to proving that this was who He was. He quoted prophecies from Malachi and Isaiah and gave the testimony of John the Baptist. (Mark 1:1-8)

Whenever notable people came into a community, roads were repaired so that their caravans would find the travel easier as they approached. Malachi and Isaiah's prophecies were meant to remind people that they needed to prepare their hearts for the coming King. (Mark 1:2-3)

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he presented the Messiah to the world. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He was doing all that he could to prepare the hearts of the people of Judah for the coming Messiah. His clothing and lifestyle indicated that he was a Nazirite (Numbers 6:21), but it was also very similar to the clothing worn by the OT prophets (Zechariah 13:4) and what they knew of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). Locusts and honey were common foods in the desert area. (Mark 1:4-6)

The word 'baptism' in this passage literally means immersion. John acknowledged that his baptism was an outer sign of cleansing, but imagine for a moment being immersed in the Holy Spirit. That was the promise that John offered with the coming of the Messiah. (Mark 1:7-8)

When he baptized Jesus, there was no confession of sins. He was being obedient to the over plan of redemption, John's role in that plan. He identified with the nation of Israel and this was a time of dedication to his mission. The people saw and heard the vision of heaven open. What does Mark say? "Heaven being torn open." They saw the Spirit of God descend and they heard the voice of God speak. (Mark 1:9-11)

Jesus faced Satan for 40 days in the desert. Mark didn't call him the devil (the slanderer). He wants us to see Satan for who he is - the opposition, the tempter, the one who will do anything possible to stop the movement of God in this world. This is the beginning of his attempts to get Jesus to turn aside from God's will. But, Mark also wanted his readers to see that Jesus didn't face this alone. God's angels were there to assure Him continually of the presence of the Almighty. (Mark 1:12-13)