John 5 begins with the healing at the pool called Bethesda, in which Jesus heals a paralyzed man who had been waiting for someone to help him for 38 years. Jesus tells him to get up, take his mat, and go home. The Jewish religious leaders saw this man carrying his mat and told him that it violated Sabbath law to carry his mat (never mind the fact that he could walk in the first place!). At a later point Jesus returns to the temple and found this man and encouraged him, then began to teach to those present about the authority of the Son of Man; “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him,” (21-23).
Chapter 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand during which many people found Him while He was by the sea of Tiberias, and followed Him as He did many miracles. Having only five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus gave thanks and began distributing this food to the five thousand, ending up with twelve baskets of leftover bread! Jesus then crosses over to the other side of the sea by walking on the water until He found the boat the disciples were in. Upon joining them in their boat, they immediately found themselves at their destination.
The crowd followed Jesus around the lake and began asking him questions, though Jesus knew they were mostly after Him because He fed them, not because they believed He was the Son of God. To prove His point, He began teaching them lessons that were difficult to hear, specifically indicating that He is the Bread of Life and better than the manna that came out of heaven when Moses led them. After hearing all He said, most people turned away, save the 12 disciples. Jesus asked if those 12 would walk away too, and peter replied “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Many kinds of personalities are presented in these two chapters. First, we see a group of religious leaders utterly overlooking that a man who had been miraculously healed after 38 years of suffering and focusing instead on the legalistic issue of carrying his mat on the Sabbath. We see more of the same blindness when the Jews were seeking to kill Him for calling Himself equal with God. They so clung to their scriptures and ideas that they failed to see God-made-man right before their eyes!
We see a lack of trust in the disciples when it comes to feeding the five thousand, as if Jesus had not worked countless miracles in their sight. On top of that, we see still more following Jesus merely to have themselves or a friend healed of their diseases, or even just their belly filled, with never a thought as to who Jesus really is. Jesus points out their double-minded ways, for the crowd asks Him what it is do be doing the works of God and He spells it out for them as plainly as a point could be made, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” It couldn’t be any clearer, yet most of them just weren’t interested.
Jesus goes on to tell them exactly who He is in more specific terms, using familiar Jewish imagery and revelation to make His point; “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe … For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me … Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” At this point, it is more work to have rejected Jesus as the Holy One of God than accept Him, a common state of mind that remains prevalent even today. He goes on to show those of the crowd who claimed to follow Him their true motives. By teaching on things especially difficult to understand, the crowd got offended and melted away instead of wanting to figure out what Jesus was saying. At that point, the hard truth that Jesus revealed turned out to be too much against their desire for food or healing.
Jesus constantly points out exactly who He is, why He came, and how we ought to respond. We cannot pretend any longer that we do not know or cannot figure it out. The truth is that the path that leads to eternal life is narrow and difficult, and many prefer their comfort, pride, and autonomy to the truth.
Application and question:
God does not make partners with other means of salvation. There is nothing besides faith in Christ that can save. No works can earn it, no suffering achieve it, no actions merit it. It is totally and utterly Christ, full stop. If you believe in Christ, does your life reflect it? Is it something you put into action as a response to His love and kindness? Have you made Christ the Lord of your life, or do you follow Him for what He might do for you?
So often we see “Christians” who profess belief in Jesus yet refuse to make Him their master. Submission is such a dirty word these days, and the exalting of self is seen as the highest of virtues. This isn’t new, but it definitely isn’t right! Christ constantly reminds us that in order to follow Him we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. The time has come for us to stop insisting on our own ways and bend our stiff necks. Live the way Christ wants you to live.
Confront and reject pride, lust, drunkenness, envy, slander, pre-marital sex, pornography, foul language, and everything else counted as sins. This won’t happen overnight and that is OK – sanctification takes time, but also constant submission and repentance when we get it wrong as well as a keen, critical eye on our own behaviour. It also yields profound joy when we reject our own sinful nature and find in us the rampant growth of new life! A well of joy and peace begins burbling in our hearts as we make more and more room for God. For a time it may feel like you are ridding yourself of pleasure, and in a way, you are, for it is sinful pleasure. The plan is not only to rip these things out of our lives but to replace them with a far superior pleasure: that of walking each day with Jesus Christ and all the vast benefits and blessings that come with it!
At the end of all things our lives will reveal who we’ve chosen: ourselves, or Jesus. He makes it absolutely clear that to choose one means we must reject the other, for He will not settle for second in our lives. Furthermore, He is faithful to give us what we want. For those who want Christ, He has promised eternity together. For those who reject God, He has promised eternity apart. Let us live each day with an awareness that today we have a chance to choose our forever, and that when it comes to choosing to follow Jesus Christ, it is all or nothing.
Lord, I’m sorry for making other things and people the master of my life. Thank you so much for sending Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, and I pray that you would make of me less so that you become more. Please teach me to kill my sin by the power of your Holy Spirit so that I may be truly surrendered to you, not just in word or thought but in heart and deed. Put people in my way that can point out my blind spots and keep me from becoming conceited in my humility. Though parts of me don’t want more of you and want to remain in the shadows, I pray that you make yourself the only desire in my heart, so that love would overflow into the lives of others. Amen!
Song: New Wine - Hillsong Worship
Text: John 3 and 4
Convinced that Jesus is a great teacher, but unsure of the implications of his teachings, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, secretly visits Jesus and they discuss the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the need for a new spiritual birth and beginning in order to enter the kingdom since people’s deeds are darkness. Humanity stands condemned for their unbelief but those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God will gain salvation and eternal life, just as those who looked at the snake on the pole in Moses’ day were healed.
John the Baptist’s disciples express their concern to him that Jesus is baptizing and the people are more drawn to him than John. Using a metaphor, John replies that he is only the attending friend, but Jesus is the bridegroom. John says Jesus must increase but he must decrease. He affirms that whoever believes Jesus is the Son of God will have eternal life but those who reject him will suffer God’s wrath.
Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well and discusses with her the availability of “living water” which becomes a spring inside a person, welling up to eternal life. When she expresses her desire for this water, Jesus reveals that he knows her story, that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. The woman recognizes Jesus is a prophet and Jesus tells her plainly that he is the Messiah and that the time has come for true worshipers to worship in spirit and truth.
The disciples are concerned about Jesus’ physical nourishment but Jesus assures them his food is to do the will of “him who sent me”. He invites the disciples to open their eyes and see the harvest for eternal life. They stay in the town of the Samaritan woman 2 days and many people testify their belief that Jesus is the “Saviour of the world”.
In the same place where he turned water into wine, a royal official comes to Jesus to beg him to heal his son. Jesus says the son will live and sent the official on his way home instead of going with him. His servants meet him on the way and confirm that indeed his son was healed at the same hour Jesus said he would live. John records this is the second sign Jesus performed.
These accounts recorded in John’s gospel show how people personally wrestled with the identity of who Jesus was. Once they encountered him, they had to decide for themselves whether they believed he was the Messiah or not. They could not remain neutral on the subject and this decision would have a significant implication for their lives.
For Nicodemus the struggle was that he, as a Pharisee, would have to lay down his own sense of self-righteousness and recognize his personal darkness and need for a Saviour, his need for a new beginning that relied on the Messiah’s righteousness and not his own.
John the Baptist recognized Jesus was the Messiah and that this truth meant he would need to step aside humbly so that Jesus’ fame and influence could increase. John’s disciples had a hard time with this.
For the Samaritan woman, once Jesus revealed his identity to her, her belief that he was the Messiah made it impossible for her to keep quiet. She had to tell others about her experience of encountering Jesus and this excitement sparked the belief of many other Samaritans in her town.
The royal official whose son was deathly ill had to go back home alone, taking Jesus at his word that his son would live. When his faith was confirmed and he learned his son was healed, he and all his household believed.
We can recognize through these chapters that it is our personal experience and encounter of Jesus that leads to a decisive and saving understanding of who he is. Think about when you first believed In Jesus. How did you experience and encounter him and what did he reveal to you personally about his identity? If you haven’t encountered Jesus personally recently, you can always invite him to reveal himself to you in a fresh way. It is a prayer he loves to answer!
Prayer: Lord, thank you that you want me to know you in a personal way. Reveal yourself to me afresh and give me the power to respond to your salvation call with the same enthusiasm as the Samaritan woman. Help me to bring my wrestling questions to you like Nicodemus. As you did for the royal official, confirm the faith I put in you with testimonies of healing, and like John the Baptist, let me humbly submit to you so that your presence will increase in my life.
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1: 12
John 1-2 (Psalm 103)
Jesus is acknowledged as one person of the Triune God. He is the Word of God through whom all things were made and whose identity was confirmed by the Holy Spirit. He was present and active at creation, now He enters the world as one of us: He brought the Kingdom of God. For those who believe in Him He gives the right to become children of God, new creations themselves. He is the means of God’s grace and enables us to ‘see’ God, to know Him. His presence and identity demands a response. Some asked who He is, John denies being the Christ and His first disciples follow Him. The Gospel gives seven titles to Jesus confirming truly who He is (can you see them, if not watch the video!). In turn Jesus asks a truly vital question for all of us, “What do you want?” (1: 38, we will consider this question and our answers on Sunday!).
Then, at a wedding, Jesus turns a huge quantity of water into copious amounts of fine wine. A demonstration not only of His power and identity but of the overflowing generosity and blessing of God’s Kingdom. Conversely, Jesus acts in righteous anger in the temple, driving out money changers and cattle salesmen. It was the Passover and pilgrims were being fleeced by the money changers, the temple tax and exorbitant prices for animals to be used in sacrifice; God’s Temple was being desecrated. The animal sacrificial system was soon to be completely replaced by Jesus’ self-sacrifice (2:19-23). Perhaps what angered Jesus most was the use of the Gentile Court for this activity. It meant that the only place a non-Jew could enter to pray and worship was being used and abused for financial gain; Gentiles seeking God’s presence were being shut out.
Jesus makes it possible for us to become new creations (John 1: 12; 2 Corinthians 5: 17). Our belief in Him and God’s grace for the forgiveness of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus are all vital, as is our repentance (John 1:12, 16-17 & 29). Once a new creation we have access to the overwhelming and bountiful blessings of God’s Kingdom (1: 16 & 2: 1-11). As a new creation our bodies become the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20); we are able to commune with God, worship and pray. Our spiritual act of worship is to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices and not to conform to the way of the world (Romans 12: 1-2). As God’s temple we can have our worship of Him blocked, as with the Temple in Jerusalem, by desire for wealth, greed and sacrificing ourselves to idols other than God.
The Question of Application
Are you experiencing the fullness of God’s grace, what blessings of His Kingdom do you seek? Ask. As God’s temple, what in your life is blocking your Worship of and relationship with Him and therefore His fullness of blessing? How are you short changing yourself? What idols take your heart away from Him?
Lord Jesus, we thank you for all the benefits that you have won for us, for all the pains and insults that you have borne for us. Most merciful redeemer, friend, brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen
After Richard of Chichester 1253
New Creations by Josh Baldwin
Observe: The Gospel of Mark draws to a close. The Jewish leaders had previously condemned Jesus to death, but they didn’t have the authority to carry out the sentence. So they decided to hand Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, for further trial and punishment. During questioning by Pilate, Jesus answers his questions, but when additional accusations are hurled at Him by the Jewish leaders, He does not respond to them. Having been stirred up by their leaders, the crowd demands that Pilate release a criminal to them as was the custom during the festival of the Passover, and the one they want released is not Jesus, but Barabbas, a rebel and murderer. When Pilate asks what they want him to do with Jesus, the leaders and the crowd all yell for him to be crucified. Having found no fault with Jesus during his examination, Pilate asks why, what wrong had he done? But the frenzied crowd just yelled all the louder for Him to be crucified. And so, Jesus was handed over to the guards to be flogged and crucified.
Mark then records how Jesus was led away by the soldiers to be horribly mocked, abused, flogged, and crucified. They made Him carry His own cross, but in His weakened condition, Jesus was barely able to stand so they conscripted a passerby name Simon to carry it for Him all the way to Golgotha. Here, Jesus was crucified. He refused to drink the offered wine mixed with myrrh, a kind of narcotic to dull the pain, in order that His senses were not numbed and that He not die from poisoning.
As Jesus hung on the cross, He continued to be mocked by the crowd. His discarded clothes were divided up by the people by casting lots for it. The Jewish leaders taunted Him about coming down from the cross. Even two ordinary criminals who were crucified alongside of Jesus mocked Him in their final hours. Jesus died at about 3:00 in the afternoon, after crying out “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?”. At that moment the curtain in the temple is torn in half from top to bottom, and a Roman centurion exclaims, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Many women who followed Jesus, were there to witness the end of His earthly life, and were grief-stricken. After His death, Joseph of Arimathea asks for and receives permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body and places it in a fresh tomb to be properly prepared for burial after the Sabbath.
Chapter 16 recounts what happened after the Sabbath. When Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus, and Salome went to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, they were amazed to find the heavy entrance stone already rolled away. When they looked inside, they saw a young man dressed all in white sitting on the side and they became alarmed. He tried to comfort them by saying that Jesus, whom they were looking for, was no longer there, but had risen from the dead. He told them to tell the other disciples that Jesus was risen and that He was going to Galilee where they would see Him. However, the women so afraid of they had witnessed that they simply went away and didn’t tell anyone. And there ends the accepted official Gospel of Mark.
Verses 9-20 found in most bibles are thought to have been added by later writers to finish the narrative line begun by Mark, and wrap up the salvation message of Jesus. These verses recount the various people that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. He appeared to Mary Magdalene who then told the disciples what she had seen, but at first they didn’t believe her. He then appeared to two men walking along a road (probably the same two men on the road to Emmaus mentioned in Luke 24) who also told the disciples what they had, but again they were not believed. Finally, Jesus appears to the remaining eleven disciples and gives them detailed instructions to go a spread the gospel throughout creation. After that, Jesus was taken up to heaven and the disciples did as Jesus commended them to do and preached the gospel wherever they went.
Interpret: These verses in Mark tell of Jesus’ trial, suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, but they don’t go into the same detail as Matthew. Mark keeps his narrative relative short and to the point. But this brevity helps us focus on the details that he does mention. The hypocrisy and deceit of the Sanhedrin is more clearly exposed. Jesus didn’t fit their concept of the Messiah, and He wouldn’t allow Himself be controlled by them, and so they hated Him because He represented a threat to their authority. They would do whatever it took to get rid of Him, including arresting Him on trumped up charges. When Jesus remained silent during Pilates questioning, what more could He have said when there was absolutely no proof to support the false allegations against Him? Pilate easily saw through the Sanhedrin’s fabrications and was disposed to let Jesus go because He was innocent. But the Jewish leaders seeing this as their best chance to get rid of Jesus, continued to whip up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Wanting to settle the crowd down again, Pilate gives in and orders Jesus punished and crucified, and washed his hands of the whole affair.
Once Jesus is handed over to the soldiers, the real brutality begins. Rome ruled its empire on the strength of her army. They dominated every nation they conquered through fear and extreme violence. Pilate’s soldiers would show no mercy to the condemned Jesus. The dehumanizing brutality of Jesus’ suffering at their hands neither needs nor deserves detailing. It simply encapsulates everything that is dark and shameful in the human heart. Even in His public and debased crucifixion, the mockery continued. There was not a shred of compassion or empathy shown by any of the onlookers, who saw this a sporting entertainment. Where were His followers, His family and His friends? Jesus died as alone as anyone ever did. All God’s prophecies must be fulfilled. At the very moment of His death, the temple curtain, the curtain that separated the sanctuary from the Most Holy Place, was torn from top to bottom. God could not have given us a clearer sign that Jesus had opened the way into the Holiest Place of the temple where God lived. The final sin offering had been made. It was made by God for His creation.
In this telling of Jesus’ resurrection, the women who came to the empty tomb did not go immediately to tell the others of what they had seen, but kept it to themselves because they were afraid, confused and hadn’t yet fully understood the true meaning of Jesus’ teachings. Even the disciples themselves didn’t believe it when they were told repeatedly that Jesus had risen, just as He told them He would. They just couldn’t grasp the truth of His sacrifice and the reality of His gift of salvation until they saw Him for themselves standing in their midst and giving them their final instructions. But once they did, the world was forever changed for those who believed.
Application: So many people in the world today read the Gospels and think they are so irrelevant because they happened so long ago. The world has moved on. We know better than the people who lived two thousand years ago. We would never condone what happened to Jesus, regardless of who He was, because we are so much more compassionate and enlightened. But the truth is that we are exactly like the people who came before us. We have our pride. We have our own of doing things. We are impatient. We don’t always take direction very well. We are susceptible to our own passions. We all have dark spots in our hearts. We are just like those who stood in the crowd and cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” But, we have the benefit of knowing the outcome of His sacrifice. We have the benefit of His love, mercy, and grace poured out on us. When we sin and then repent, we know that He welcomes us back into the arms that were opened wide on the cross.
Questions: Have you ever thought back on your life and recognized times when your own actions or decisions or thoughts would have placed you among the crowd yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we humbly ask your forgiveness as we, by own sinful nature, stand among the mocking crowd. At the cross, you showed your great love and mercy to those who showed you scorn and no mercy. We thank you that you would willingly pay the price for our disobedience and rebellion against you. We bless and praise the holy name of Jesus, our saviour and redeemer. Amen.
Song: My Redeemer Lives: Hillsong
Text: Mark Chapters 13-14
OBSERVE: Throughout these two chapters we observe the following:
INTERPRET: Jesus’ teaching recorded in chapter 13 is often referred to as the “Olivet Discourse” because Jesus and the disciples are on the Mount of Olives, east of the temple. It is here that Jesus prophesies about the fate of the temple in Jerusalem and of the end times. The parable of the fig tree reminds us that we have all the info that we need to be ready for His return. Even though we do not know the exact moment of Jesus’ return, the disciples can be content that He will certainly return and that we should live our lives in ways that reflect this certainty.
Chapter 14 is the final chapter before the crucifixion of Jesus. While the Jewish leaders and Judas prepare for betrayal, Jesus concentrates on teaching the disciples the truth about himself and who/what the Jewish Messiah really is. Jesus spends the final days before his crucifixion just as He spent the previous three years; trying to get the disciples to understand the bigger picture of the Jewish Messiah’s role in God’s plan for the world.
The gospel of Mark touches on a few themes in chapter 14 that will prepare the disciples to establish the church. These include: recognizing and honoring God’s work; recognizing the enemy without fearing him; valuing community while together remembering Jesus’s work and leaning on God’s power to be faithful to Him and also, to understand that God is a Father, deserving our honesty, our trust, and our obedience.
APPLICATION: As we hear what Jesus proclaims through the Olivet Discourse, Christians should take heart that God is in control. Christ will indeed return to establish His rule and order here on earth. Just as Jesus taught the disciples that He was much greater than the magnificent looking temple, we too need to understand how important it is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus rather than on “magnificent” things of this world.
The parable of the fig tree teaches us that we have all the information that we need to know about the return of our King; so we need to make sure we are living in ways that reflect this certainty of His return. We are to be busy serving the Kingdom through our words and our actions until the day of His return.
Jesus made it clear that the Scriptures must be fulfilled and that He was prepared to go to the cross. While Peter attempted to use the sword to prevent this fulfillment, Jesus humbly took up the cross to fulfill the final act of His mission. Often we can attempt to serve God recklessly with a sword, rather than humbly following our King in service of Him and others.
Even when many were plotting His death, Jesus continued to teach the disciples about the Kingdom. This is a great example for us all to continue the race until the very end. No matter what is happening around us, we need to continue to share the Good news of the Kingdom with others and to reflect the Kingdom in every aspect of our daily living. God will continue to work through us until the very end.
REFLECTION: Are your your eyes fixed on Jesus? Or are you easily distracted by other powers?
Are you living a life that clearly reflects your confidence in His return?
Is it easier for you to carry a sword or a cross in your daily walk? How does this imitate Jesus?
Do you live with an urgency to build the Kingdom of God like Jesus did in the face of death?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus; you are the King of kings. Thank you for providing a way for me to live in your presence forever and for giving me absolute confidence of your return. Help me to live in ways that glorify you and that help prepare others to be ready for your return. Give me strength and courage to pick up my cross daily to serve in ways that imitate you; until the very end of my life. AMEN.
Mark 7 begins with the Pharisees noticing that Jesus and His disciples ate their food with unclean hands and sought to call Him out on these charges. Jesus points to Isaiah, saying “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” He then goes on to point out their incredible hypocrisy. Summoning a crowd, he turns this into a teaching moment, saying that there is nothing that can go into a person’s body that would defile them; rather, it is what comes from a person’s heart that defiles them.
Jesus then goes on to heal a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter who had a demon, followed by the healing of a deaf man. Chapter 8 begins with the feeding of four thousand, which again Jesus uses as a teachable moment for his disciples, showing compassion and acting with power on behalf of those who were hungry and far from home. He and His disciples depart to Dalmanutha where Jesus found a group of Pharisees sought to test Him by asking for a sign. With a heavy sigh Jesus tells them that “… no sign will be given to this generation.” They hop back in a boat and go to the other side of the sea.
On the way, Jesus tells His disciples to “watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” The disciples start talking amongst themselves, having clearly missed the point of what their master said, and instead worrying about not having brought any bread, as if Jesus didn’t just feed four thousand people with only a few loaves! Another teachable moment follows when Jesus pointed that out to them.
In Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man, and in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Peter responds to Jesus’ question of who the disciples think Jesus is. Peter says that Jesus is the Christ (an amazing realization) yet immediately messes it up by objecting Jesus’ plain words that He must suffer and die and rise again to life.
Jesus rebukes him and, once again calling the crowd to Him, makes it a teachable moment, saying “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me …”
Jesus was clearly a man of extreme patience, and in these chapters, you see what He was dealing with! The Pharisees trying to catch Him in some trap or another then demanding signs to prove Himself, crowds that would constantly be following Him around, disciples that just don’t seem to get it, and when they do they get something right it lasts for only a moment! Combine this with the heat of the area in which this all took place, anyone would be forgiven for getting a little cranky now and again. But this isn’t what Jesus does. Yes, He sighs and grows exasperated, but only with those who really ought to know better. With everyone else He gathers them in to hear His words, feeds and heals them, and has the utmost patience.
I think the Gospel of Mark slips a little humor in here at the disciple’s expense, especially in 8:14-21. Imagine being around Jesus, having just seen Him feed four thousand people, sailing across to some unknown destination. The thrill of so massive a miracle still surging in your heart as you peer deeper into the hidden truths of the Kingdom of Heaven. He turns to His disciples and tells them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and instead of looking for a deeper meaning (He was always speaking in parables), the disciples start side-eyeing each other as they try to quietly work out whose job it was to bring some bread! Just picture the sigh that Jesus would have given as He listens to their hushed discussion as Peter and Andrew bicker about who screwed up. Or picture the joy Jesus would have felt in the confession of Peter as he acknowledges Him as the Christ, followed by the tsk of disappointment as Peter confidently refused to let Jesus go to the cross, earning him a harsh rebuke.
Yes, in everything Jesus was patient with those around Him and always turned His circumstances into an opportunity to tell others about the way God and His kingdom operate.
Application and Question:
How long have you been following Christ? How often do you read God’s word? The reason I ask is so that we can all check ourselves and see, when held up to Scripture, if there are any major discrepancies in our understanding and walking out of our relationship with Christ. Christ is patient, oh so patient, and though we are sinners until we are taken home, we can always strive to be and understand better so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
Many people followed Jesus around, He was never short of a crowd. Yet only a small handful were actually there for Him and who He was and is. Most followed for healing, for relief, for food, a sign, an argument, a debate, or even good moral teaching. Yet so few stuck by His side for who He was and the joy of knowing the truth about God. Even one those who did stick around denied Him in His greatest hour of need. Let us not grow arrogant or prideful in our walk with Christ, thinking we know it all after so many years of being a Christian. No matter what our experience or title or social status, Jesus has infinitely more to teach us, so let us make good on His patience and always be eager to humble ourselves and listen when we find ourselves in a teachable moment.
Thank you Lord for being long-suffering for our sake, and for desiring that none should perish. Thank you for loving us and running to us when we were still a long way off, and for making peace between us and God when we were still sinners. Thank you for your immeasurable patience as we stray this way and that on the narrow path that leads to life. Please keep our hearts soft and our eyes open when you teach us your ways that we may make the best of our time here on earth and be a bright and shining city on a hill for as long as you will. Amen!
P.s., crank the music!
Song: Spirit Lead Me - Influence Music & Michael Keterer
Text Mark 5 and 6
Observe Jesus stilled a storm in the previous chapter. Now in the gentile Gerasene region, he immediately [that Mark word!] encounters another kind of storm raging in a soul possessed by a demonic “Legion”. They know Jesus; as He delivers the poor man, the demons, shrieking in protest, madden a herd of pigs into mass suicide. The townspeople come running, seeing their nemesis clothed and in his right mind (5:15). Their response? Go away, Jesus! But at Jesus’ word, the grateful, liberated man immediately becomes an evangelist.
Jesus, immediately responding to need, walks with Jairus to heal his daughter. Enroute, a timid woman, shunned for years as unclean, touches Jesus’ hem. Immediately healing her, He commends her mustard seed faith, forgives her and restores her life. But Jairus’ daughter has died. Undeterred, Jesus keeps walking. Dismissing scorn, He enters Jairus’ house. Quiet words and gentle touch immediately restore her. Death to life -- an immense journey for a little girl. Jesus adds a loving detail: she needs food.
Back in Nazareth, neighbours fill the synagogue to hear one of their own. Excitement immediately dies. Who does He think He is? His dad’s a local carpenter, His mum and siblings just like them – and He’s preaching to us? His family isn’t impressed either (3:21, 31-35). A prophet, Jesus finds no hometown welcome. He marvelled because of their unbelief (6:6).
He sends out His fledgling crew to have authority over unclean spirits. (7b). No luggage or lunch, stay with good people, bless them; if they aren’t so good, the blessing is yours. Heal, anoint, drive out demons, preach repentance – a beginners’ assignment? Ah, but He is with them.
A vengeful, twisted woman and her evil consort engineer a grisly execution. John Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah, His witness and baptizer, the first to behold the Lamb of God (John 1:29)…
A huge miraculous feast, and after, Jesus must pray. He sends the disciples ahead, into yet another storm. As it rages, a ‘ghost’ walks resolutely over the waves, shouting encouragement, doubling their terror. Jesus gets into the boat -- immediate calm. And they were utterly astounded … but their hearts were hardened. (52) A miraculous feast, and they still don’t get it. But faith-filled responses to Jesus in Gennesaret end Chapter 6.
Interpret Touch – Jesus touches the newly-freed man, holds him, helps him to dress (in His cloak?) and sit quietly. The good citizens are not touched by this event, only seeing drowned profits. Fear and anger push Him away.
A woman shyly touches Jesus; Jesus gently touches a little girl. Immediately He gives life to both. His touch brings deep, wonderful, effective change.
Power – Jesus feels it draining as He heals the woman. He gives His followers power to cast out demons, to discern true hearts, to heal. Jesus’ revealed power over creation follows a night of prayer to His Father. In his family, in his hometown, hard hearts quash His power. God’s power works at infinitely multiple levels; the power of evil is limited to darkness and death. Yet in Jesus, even darkness is as light to [Him]. (Ps. 139:17).
Apply Jesus, You make it so hard for us sometimes! No, no, sorry -- we make it hard for us, and You. We want miracles, revival! Immediately! Really? Giving up our selfish selves, yielding completely to Your purposes, seeking Your will above ours – that means change! When in pride or fear we run from Your life-giving demands, we need Your Holy Spirit to soften our hard hearts, for Your Kingdom’s sake.
Ask How often have I pushed you away, in fear and selfishness? Is my heart so hard that I can’t, won’t, acknowledge my sinfulness, seek You, and willingly change? Are You in the storm?
Pray Lord, give me eyes to see You, faith to follow You, courage to weather hard times, trust to immediately obey You. Bless my believing brothers and sisters, touch with gentleness those who hurt. You are always near.
Sing Ps. 111 The Lord Reigns Sons of Korah
Ps. 111 The Lord Reigns Ian White
“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3: 35
Mark 3-4 (Psalm 96)
· Jesus heals a man’s shriveled hand; the Pharisees and Herodians plot to kill Him (3: 1-6)
· Crowds flock to Jesus as He teaches, heals and casts out demons. He then appoints the twelve Apostles (3: 7-19)
· His family express concern for Him, as crowds again gather, and the teachers accuse Him of being possessed by Beelzebub. Jesus teaches against this and states that those who obey God are actually His family (3: 20-35)
· By the lake, Jesus teaches the parables of the Sower, Growing Seed and Mustard Seed. He explains that the Good News needs to be proclaimed and not hidden (4: 1-34)
· As His teaching finishes they cross the lake but are caught in a storm; Jesus quietens the tempest by a verbal command (4: 35-41)
As Jesus brings the Kingdom of God to the world (1: 15), reactions to its Mission of Reconciliation mount and vary. Jesus demonstrates the reality of the Kingdom with His authority over the physical (in healing 3: 1-6, 10) and spiritual realms (by driving out demons 3: 11-12, 20-30). Some praise Him, many flock to Him and others plot to kill Him. His family fear He is losing His mind and the teachers accuse Him of being possessed. He patiently teaches, corrects with authority and calls His followers to Himself. With regards the latter, He appoints the twelve and welcomes those who obey God as His true family. Jesus summarises the reaction to the Kingdom in the parable of the sower. If the seed of the Kingdom is planted it WILL grow (4: 26-29) into the largest of all Kingdoms (4: 30-32, Daniel 2: 44). The truth of the Kingdom must not be hidden but made known; those who engage in its Mission will be fully equipped (4: 21-25). The secret to a successful Mission is faith not fear; faith in the God who is over creation (4: 35-41).
As Jesus called and designated the twelve as Apostles (3:14-15) so He calls and sends us to be His disciples; to preach, teach and exercise the power of His Kingdom (Matt. 28: 18-20). Obedience to this call ensures membership of God’s family but will bring the full spectrum of response, from rejection and persecution to acceptance and fellowship. We are to carefully listen and understand Jesus’ teaching. We are then meant to apply it, not hide it or keep it to ourselves. If we exercise the power of the Kingdom we gain more of its benefits, if we hide it, what we have will be lost (4: 21-25). Jesus affirms that we are the agents of the Kingdom’s Mission, witnessing in faith, word and deed. The growth of the Kingdom, however, is the work of the Holy Spirit (4: 26-29).
The Question of Application
Considering the parable of the sower, discern which soil, your heart best represents: the soil on the path where Satan has stolen the truth from you; the rocky soil where you once believed with joy but now in times of trouble you have fallen away; the soil full of weeds where the pressures, concerns and deceit of the world makes you unfruitful in the Kingdom; or is your heart like the good soil whereby you are producing much fruit for the Lord? What will you do now?
Lord of the harvest, your Word finds a home in our hearts, calls us into community, and invites us to generous service within your Kingdom. Bless with courage and spirit your family of disciples, called to full participation in the Kingdom’s Mission. May you so equip us that we overcome fear with faith to proclaim and live out your truth; may the work of your Holy Spirit bring rich harvests. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Here I am Lord sung by Eric Tom
Text: Mark 1-2
Observe: Chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel starts by saying it is the good news about Jesus the Messiah, who is the Son of God as prophesied in Isaiah. We see John the Baptist fulfill his role as the forerunner to Jesus, calling the people to repent of their sins and be baptised with water. He proclaims that one will come after him, who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is then baptised in the Jordan River, and a voice from heaven declares’ “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”. Immediately, Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by Satan.
We then fast forward a bit, and find that John has been imprisoned, and Jesus has begun His ministry, telling the people about the good news of God, and that the kingdom of God has come near. He calls His first disciples with a simple, yet compelling, “Follow me”. Jesus is seen as a man of quiet action, revealing scripture to the people with authority, and healing many people of their diseases and afflictions, such a man with an unclean spirit and a woman bedridden with a fever. Wherever He goes, Jesus teaches, preaches, and heals in every village He travels through. His reputation grows and people gather in greater numbers to hear Him and be healed by Him. People wonder at His remarkable abilities and power.
In Chapter 2, Jesus begins to run afoul of the religious leaders of the day. After telling a paralytic man whose friends had let him in through the roof, that his sins were forgiven, the Pharisees declare Jesus a blasphemer for saying that He could forgive sins. No one but God can do that. So He challenges them by asking which was easier to do, to say a man’s sins were forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk. Then to demonstrate His authority on earth, Jesus tells the paralyzed man to get up and walk, which he promptly did, to the utter amazement of the gathered crowd.
Throughout this chapter, Jesus continues to astound people with His teaching and unexpected behaviour. He calls Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him, which he does immediately. Jesus then proceeds to have dinner at Levi’s house, along with other tax collectors and “sinners”. This outraged the Pharisees again, and they demanded to know why He would eat with these outcasts. Jesus responds with one of most telling sentences of His earthly ministry. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” During a time of traditional fasting, the Pharisees asked Jesus why He and His disciples were not fasting like everyone else. Jesus responded with an allegory about why a bridegroom’s guests should fast as long as he was with them. There would plenty of time to fast after he was gone.
As we close out the chapter, we find Jesus and His disciples walking through a grain field, gleaning some grain heads, which the Pharisees interpreted as working on the Sabbath. Jesus responds by referring to a time when King David took food from the tabernacle for himself and his hungry men, indicating that David broke the rules because of their need. He finishes by asserting that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
Interpret: Mark unequivocally announces that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and shows His authority through His thorough and clear knowledge of the scriptures. He further demonstrates his authority over creation by His ability to heal people and drive out unclean spirits. These are things never seen before and the people flock to Him, recognizing His unique nature and stature. When He called His disciples, all he had to say was “Follow me”, and they did without a moment’s hesitation. The people thronged around Him wherever He went because they knew they could get from Him what this world could not offer. He offered them healing in both their spirit and their bodies, and the people recognized the barrenness of their lives without His presence.
It was exactly for that reason that the Pharisees hated Jesus. The people looked to Jesus for understanding and wholeness, not to them. He was a threat to their power and position. He undermined their authority and exposed their hypocrisy. The Pharisees, with their legalism and hide-bound traditions, were leading the people astray. But Jesus showed them the truth, and came to lead them hoe again.
Application: Whenever we read the bible, it’s like looking in a dusty mirror. Whether we’re reading about the kings and prophets of old, or reading about Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees, we can see something of ourselves in these characters. We are all rebellious in our own ways, and often refuse to accept the authority of the God in our lives. When we go our own way for our own benefit, we are really questioning whether God has our best interests at heart. When we stick so strictly to the rules that we cannot see anything but the rules as they apply to other people’s lives, we miss the mercy that has been extended to us instead of the justice that we deserve. When we feel the tug of the Holy Spirit calling us in a new direction, its Jesus shining a flashlight into our dirty mirror so we can more clearly see ourselves as we really are, and we have to decide if we will accept His invitation to “Follow me”.
Questions: If you were fishing along the shores of Galilee and Jesus walked by, do you think you could have dropped everything and followed Him? Do you remember a moment in your life when you felt Him calling you? And did you follow Him?
Prayer: Father God, keep us and guide us as we read your Holy Word, and study the example of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Keep us from becoming so blinded by the world that we fail to recognize Jesus’ call to us when we go astray. Keep us from becoming legalistic in keeping the rules without applying the same mercy that you have shown us. Help us understand your Words of Life so we may grow in the love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Song: Nobody: Casting Crowns
Text: Matthew (Chapters 27 and 28)
OBSERVE: The following are the main points located within these two very important chapters:
INTERPRET: The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes the earth-shattering implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ more than any other gospel. This gospel also brings us back to the central motif of the kingdoms of heaven and earth. The darkening of the heavens, the shaking of the earth, and the resurrection of the dead would have been clear signs to the Jewish people that the present age was ending and the age to come had begun.
Jesus’ earthly ministry was coming to an end. This gospel ends with Jesus commissioning his followers in Matthew 28: 16-20 which is often referred to as the Great Commission. Christians today tend to focus on its evangelistic aspect – which is certainly a big part of this sending task. But the commissioning is actually to make disciples, not merely to win converts. This discipleship includes playing a role in bringing others to Christ, helping others to grow in obedience in their faith and to continue this until the day that Christ returns.
APPLICATION: How are we to respond to understanding these two very important chapters? We need to respond in faith understanding what earth-shattering difference this makes for us both now and forever. We need to come to the same conviction as the Roman Centurion that “Surely, Jesus is the Son of God”. But we are also need to live obedient lives that are worthy of being followers of Jesus. We also have our marching orders: we are to take the good news to all nations, baptizing those who believe in the good news, and teaching them “to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The church is called to be a disciple-making machine, and every one of us in the church has been empowered with the Holy Spirit to be a part of this discipleship in some way. We are to do this together.
REFLECTION: Are you certain that Jesus is the Son of God? Are you living a life that reflects that Jesus is the Lord of your life? Are you fulfilling your role in the church to help fulfill the Great Commission?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus; thank you so much for everything you have done for me. Surely, you are the Son of God! Now that your earthly ministry has been completed, I pray that your Spirit will empower your church to continue your ministry here on earth. Help me to find my role and place in your church to be a part of your Great Commission. AMEN.
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