Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mark 16:4-8

Perhaps they faked His resurrection. Jesus had told them that He was going to resurrect on the third day, but did He really do it? How could we know with any level of certainty that this actually happened? There are a few indications from the gospel account that would tell us that the disciples did not take the body of Jesus and fake the resurrection of Jesus.
1) The disciples were amazed at the resurrection of Jesus.
John 20:14-16, 19-25 tell us the account of Jesus appearing to His disciples following His resurrection. The reaction of the disciples is similar on all accounts: amazement and wonder. A conspiracy to take the body would not result in any level of amazement. However, the accounts include this little detail to layer the veracity of the resurrection account.
2) The gospel accounts point out the disciples’ lack of faith.
This idea is given the term “criterion of embarrassment.” According to this theological argument, historical first person accounts, like the gospels, tend to overplay the awesomeness of the author or main characters. Surprisingly, when you read the gospel accounts, the followers of Jesus were doubtful that His resurrection had occurred. This little detail may perhaps be one of the key evidences that there was not a conspiracy amongst them. They didn’t even expect Him to resurrect, so why fake a resurrection?
3) His tomb was guarded by soldiers.
According to Matthew 27:62-66, the Jewish leaders that had arrested Jesus and crucified Him, feared that His disciples would show up and steal His body and claim that He had resurrected. Knowing this, they had set their own guard at the tomb. This group would have matched the might of the group that arrested Jesus in the garden. In the garden during His arrest, all of the disciples had fled away in fear, what would make anyone think that these same fearful disciples would overwhelm the soldiers and steal the body of Jesus?
4) Multiple eye witness accounts confirm that He did indeed resurrect.
In law, one eyewitness account holds a fair amount of sway on the veracity of any claim. Furthermore, multiple eye witness accounts secure the claim. To say that there was some random guy who thought he might have seen Jesus after His supposed resurrection would be a bit sketchy, but when Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:6 he tells us that over 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Jesus. There is very little room left for argument.
He had died. Now He was resurrected. Mark finishes his gospel account with this glorious truth. Jesus had resurrected. The sorrowful were rejoicing. The broken-hearted were healed. The doubtful had their faith restored. Jesus had brought hope back into the world. His resurrection mattered immensely, and it still matters today. The living Jesus is a vital part of our faith.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 28:11-15. Where did the story that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body of Jesus come from?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mark 16:1-3

“The Son of Man will be taken, and killed; and after he is killed, he will resurrect on the third day.” Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, and Mark 10:33-34, the message was always the same. Jesus had constantly referred to Himself as the “Son of Man,” and as such, He had consistently told His disciples that His death was coming. But He never left them without the opportunity for hope. Rather, with every telling of His death, He would couch it with this specific promise of His resurrection. It was not, “I will resurrect some day.” Instead, Jesus consistently said, “On the third day, I will resurrect.”
Any disciple who could count should have had this hope in them on that first day of the week. Jesus was brutalized on Friday and buried that afternoon right before the Sabbath Saturday. Now, Sunday morning, the third day, had arrived. Mobs of faithful, hope-filled, believing, committed disciples should have been gathered around the tomb expectantly watching for the resurrection of their Messiah.
But that’s not the story that Mark tells. Mark finishes out His gospel account with the coming of three ladies to anoint the dead body of Jesus. They are at the tomb, but they are not there looking for a resurrection, they are there looking for a dead body. In fact, none of His disciples are there at the tomb. No one was watching in anticipation for Jesus to be resurrected. Had he not made Himself clear that He was coming back? Were His words hard to understand when He had said, “On the third day, I will resurrect.”? Why just these three women, and even these with the wrong motive? Did His people not believe the promise of His return?
A few days after this resurrection, we find ourselves in Acts 1. Jesus instructed His disciples to go and testify of Him in the entire world. Following His instruction to His disciples, Jesus was taken up into heaven. The disciples were certainly amazed to have heard the resurrected Jesus speaking to them and teaching them one last time, but now He was gone again. This time, they had the confidence that He was alive and not dead. But none the less, He was no longer with them.
The sadness of separation was quickly met with yet another promise from two angels. “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” God was telling His people that this wasn’t the last time they were going to see Jesus. Just as He had gone away with the promise of His resurrection, now, He has gone away again, and we hold close to our hearts the promise of His return. He has already shown true to the promise of return once, and now with anticipation we look forward to His second return longingly. The day will come where Jesus returns. Wickedness will be undone, evil will be banished, brokenness will be gone, and we will rejoice with the righteous One. We know that He will fulfill the promise of His return.

Food For Thought: Read 1 John 3:2-3. What does John say a follower of Jesus will do in light of the return of Jesus?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mark 15:42-47

It was late afternoon, Friday, and Jesus had just died. According to Jewish custom, the Sabbath was not to be desecrated by the dead bodies of executed criminals. Jesus could not remain on the cross over night, especially with the Sabbath day beginning in a few short hours.
“I want His body!” With wet cheeks, and red eyes that had been weeping for hours, Joseph of Arimathaea, a ruler of the Sanhedrin boldly entered the hall of Pilate. His motives were clear. Any criminal whose body was not claimed was cast into the smoldering rubbish pile of Gehenna, a valley to the south of the city. This was Jesus, the Messiah. If Joseph had anything to do with it, Jesus would not be discarded like some unclaimed criminal. Joseph, himself a wealthy man, would use his own hand-carved sepulcher if he needed to.
“Is he dead yet?” Pilate asked. Hurriedly, the executioner was brought into Pilate’s court. This man had killed hundreds, if not thousands of men. “Yes, sir. I made certain of it. He’s dead.” No one knew how to kill a man like a Roman soldier. From the earliest days of their training, they had been trained by the ruling empire of the world. They had perfected torture and death. Now this professional killer was testifying to Pilate and to all of history that he had most certainly verified that Jesus was dead. There was no need for a medical examiner to certify death, this soldier had used his own spear to pierce the broken heart of Jesus.
With the Roman governor’s approval, Joseph rushed down to the cross where he met with Nicodemus, another religious leader and disciple of Jesus. Together they wrapped the limp, bloodied body of Jesus. The innocent had been slain. The mistrial of all the ages had ended with the execution of the guiltless. Now, tenderly, these two old saints wound the burial linens around the body of Jesus. Of their own wealth, they had funded the burial of Jesus. Now, setting aside their esteemed social status, they did the labor of the close family members. Without regard to desecrating themselves by handling a dead body on the eve of the Sabbath, they entered this ultra-holy Passover Sabbath as ceremonially “defiled.” But this did not stop them.
After putting his body in the cold dark tomb, they set a stone at the door to keep people from entering and disturbing the body of Jesus that had been laid to rest. Broken-hearted, the two headed home. The coming days would bring shame amongst their peers for what they had done today. Their fellow leaders in the Sanhedrin would be enraged at them for the care they had shown this “enemy,” Jesus. But they had done what was right. Their relationship with the Sanhedrin had ended when the Sanhedrin had desired to execute an innocent man. They were done. They were going to follow the teachings of Jesus. They would give the rest of their lives to serving Jesus and building the Kingdom of God.

Food For Thought: Read Isaiah 53:8-10. What word in verse 9 do you think Isaiah prophetically used that would describe these two wealthy Jewish leaders’ burial of Jesus?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mark 15:37-41

“It is finished!!” The exhausted cry burst forth from blood crusted lips, as Jesus bowed His head and dismissed His Spirit. The earth shook violently, and those around the cross looked on in wonder at the limp, lifeless body of Jesus as it hung nailed to the blood covered wooden beams. What was finished? Why did the earth quake with such ferocity at the departing words of Jesus? Why did the impressive tapestry in the temple split in two?
The mews of little lambs in the temple were slowly fading, and the Priests were settling the temple for the Sabbatical ceremonies. In an instant, the temple began to shake. The bowls and utensils began to rattle and the golden lamp stand began to waver. Suddenly, with a roar, the massive veil separating the holiest section of the temple from the rest of the complex tore in half. According to early Jewish tradition this veil was so massive that it required three hundred priests to carry, and was the thickness of a man’s palm. The sound that roared out of the temple compound that day would be heard throughout the streets of Jerusalem.
So the earth quaked, and temple veil split, but why?
The massive veil hung in the temple from ceiling to floor, signifying the great barrier that existed between God and the people. Once a year, the high priest would venture into the Holy of Holies to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people. With the devastation of this separating veil, came the overwhelming truth that no longer would man be separated from God. Because of Jesus, mankind could now have unhindered, uninhibited access to God.
Earthquakes in the Old Testament were a way of God indicating His presence to His people (Psalm 68:8). This was the case when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law of God. Exodus 19:18 describes how that when God showed up with Moses, “the whole mount quaked greatly.” As Jesus died, God was present. Because Jesus bore sin in His body, and thus received the wrath of God, God had not offered His comfort during this hour of need. But God nonetheless was present, and His testimony could be seen and felt as the earth quaked, and the rocks were smashed violently.
In His death, Jesus had finished the work that He had come to accomplish. He had born the wrath of God for all those who would believe in Him. He had destroyed the spiritual veil of separation that for thousands of years had kept sinful mankind from having unhindered access to God. And this was not a one-sided access that was granted. This was fully designed, and approved by the Providential God who showed Himself on that dark afternoon. In the quaking of the earth, He made certain that all the world could know that He was satisfied. Jesus had paid for the sins of the whole world. It was finished.

Food For Thought: Read Hebrews 10:19-22. What does the Spirit of God want us to understand in Hebrews about the spiritual work that Jesus accomplished in His death?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mark 15:24-41

Tears filled the sun-baked creases on old Abraham’s face as he walked toward Mount Moriah. For several decades now, as God would prompt him, he would obey. He was the epitome of a faithful servant. He trusted that God was right in every circumstance, and knew that God never commanded anything of him that was not for his own good. And as he and Isaac moved along the road to Moriah, the turmoil between his faith and his understanding must have been overwhelming. “God is always good,” he thought. “Then why did He make such a horrific demand?” Moments earlier, God had told Abraham to take Isaac and offer him for a sacrifice. God knew how much Abraham loved his son, yet he had asked him to do this horrifying deed.
The gray beard caught the tears that flowed down his leather cheeks, as he continued to march to appointed place. Along the way, Abraham must have been devastated by the piercing words of his astute boy, “Dad, I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb that we are going to sacrifice?” With staff in hand, and faith in his heart, Abraham, the Father of Faith, responded with words that showed his faith in God’s goodness was still holding strong through all the frustrations and confusion, “Son, God will provide himself a lamb.” And God did provide a lamb that day.
Nearly 2,000 years later, the land of Moriah had drastically changed. Starting with Solomon (900 years after Abraham), the Mount Moriah had been converted to the temple grounds, and the land of Moriah had become the bustling metropolis of Jerusalem. And while the land changed, the truth that “God would provide Himself a lamb” had not changed. Here in the same land, a Father was taking His Son to be sacrificed. Like the obedient Isaac, this Son did not need to be coerced. Rather, obedient and trusting in the goodness of the Father, He had climbed the rugged hill where He would lay down His life. On this afternoon, He would bear the shame, the curse, the blasphemy, the penalty and ultimately the punishment of all mankind.
In the darkness of the day, Jesus took on Himself the sins of all mankind. He suffered the weight of God’s wrath. But taking sin on Himself had left Him vulnerable. Whereas in times past, He could turn for comfort to the Father in His suffering, now He was separated from the Father by our sin, comfortless, compassionless, feeling the full weight of punishment from God. In agony He mustered all the breath He could and screamed, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?!” He became sin for us. He had been obedient. He had been loving. Now, He was alone in His suffering. Don’t miss this: This is what Hell is like. He bore it so we would not have to. The punishment of God and separation from God is unbearable. Furthermore, it is without comfort. This feeling of agony that Jesus felt that day is the very feeling that all those who do not fully trust in Him will feel for all eternity – separation without any hope of comfort. Jesus died, the sinless for the sinful, the guiltless for the guilty. Jesus died for you, and Jesus died for me. He bore the punishment for our sin. This is the heart of the gospel. John 3 made it quite explicit when Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Food For Thought: Read Job 13:14-15, and Proverbs 14:32. How do these verses describe Jesus in this last hour before His death?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mark 15:16-23

The spectacle was startling. A battered man, unrecognizable, staggered out of the house of abuse. Pilate’s thugs had done their work. With flesh-tearing, bone-scraping, muscle-destroying blows they had used their infamous torture implement. Their indifferent imprecision left wounds that could never be repaired. If He were to survive this beating, it wouldn’t be for long. As He shuffled out, every barefoot step left a shadow of smeared blood. Draped over His battered shoulders and flayed back was a blood soaked purple robe.
“King of the Jews” was the sneer of the day. The Romans never knew that He had never claimed this title for Himself, and their abuse showed that they believed the very opposite. This day would carry with it far more than physical abuse. The physical abuse would be more horrifying than the darkest thing that any special effects studio could create. But literally adding insult to injury, the Praetorian guards attached vitriolic mockery to each blow. Skin-piercing thorns were fashioned into a royal laurel, and beaten into His scalp with a rod. Laughing with mockery, these brutish execution machines of Caesar bowed a knee and breathed a derisive “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Stripping Him of the blood stained robe, they put His clothes back on Him. They were done with the beating and the mocking for now. It was time for Him to bleed His way to where He would die. The angry mob cursed and spat on Him, and Jesus slowly staggered down the narrow streets to Golgotha. Along the way, the dust that stirred from the crowd mingled with the blood from His head, His face, and His back. A muddy, blood covered Jesus travelled the city streets one last time. Because He was too weak to carry His own execution implement, the Romans grabbed a Cyrenian (present day Africa) and made Him carry the blood-moistened beam.
This Friday morning was gruesome, and not just because of what was happening to Jesus. It was Passover. The brutal slaughter of nearly a quarter million lambs would take place on this day in the temple. The sacrifice of lambs had been commanded by God to remind the Jews of their sinfulness, and their need of a sacrifice to atone for that sin. The special day known as Passover was supposed to serve as a reminder of when God delivered His people from their bondage in Egypt. On this Providential slaughter-filled Passover day, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, Rev. 13:8) was taken to the top of a hill to be slain for the sins of the whole world, and to set them free from their eternal bondage.
The brutality of the beating and the mockery were just a glimpse of the agony He was about to endure. No whip or shame-filled word could compare to the spiritual reality that was coming. Jesus was about to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all those who would trust in Him, and in that death, the very wrath of God would be poured out on Him.

Food For Thought: What was the significance of Jesus being crucified on the same day as the Passover?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mark 15:1-15

It was early morning Friday, and the Jewish leaders had finished their feigned trial of Jesus. This was not an American court of “innocent until proven guilty.” This was a perverse group of corrupt justices who believed in “guilty even if proven innocent.” The court case had included so many false witnesses that it should have been completely undone and thrown out. The liars that showed up for the illegal late-night trial could not even collaborate their stories. According to Mark 14:59, “Neither so did their witness agree together.” This trial was wrong in every way. The guiltless was being charged. He was going to be punished, and eventually He would be murdered.
These “defenders of truth” were so blinded by hatred that they failed to see that they were violating the very law they sought to uphold. No one stood in defense of “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” or “Thou shalt not murder.” No, their own desires replaced the very desires of the God they said they represented. Their hatred of Jesus far outweighed their love for God’s truth.
And so they turned Him over to Pilate, the Roman governor. Their accusation to him was that Jesus claimed to be the “King of the Jews.” This was not Jesus’ claim. It had never been His purpose. It had been the constant misconception of His existence here on earth. It was the crowd’s. It was His disciples’. It was everyone except for Jesus who thought He had come to re-establish the Kingdom of David. He had tried to make it clear, but their deaf ears and hardened hearts had not received the truth that He had come to be the Savior of the World, not the King of the Jews.
Pilate, the Roman, was helpless. He was a coward. Mark 15:10 tells us that Pilate was fully aware of the Jewish leaders’ jealousy of Jesus. But he was a man-pleaser who was willing to violate his conscience and execute an innocent man. So in order to satisfy the crowd, or as verse 15 says it, “willing to content the people,” Pilate issued the order for execution.
Greed, cowardice, murder – these are the products of sinful hearts. This was the very sin for which Jesus had come to die. While those around Jesus sought to undo Him, He was not deterred from His ultimate purpose. For this reason, when He was lied about and shamefully mistreated, He did not retaliate. He pressed on, with His eyes fixed on the salvation of all those who would put their faith in Him. He loved His own more than He loved His own life.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 27:3-10. After realizing the innocence of Jesus, what was the difference in the reactions of Pilate and Judas?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mark 14:53-72

“I won’t forsake you, Jesus!” just hours earlier, with boldness, Peter set the expectation that he held for himself. Often we overestimate ourselves. In Peter’s case, it was understandable. He was following Jesus, the very Son of God. There was no other person like Him. How could Peter ever forsake Him?
The events of this strange evening had taken a dark, unexpected twist, and Peter had been shaken but not yet overtaken. As the band of soldiers took Jesus into custody, Peter had been the first to draw his sword in defense of Jesus. His loyalty was unquestionable. But there were just too many soldiers, and all of the disciples fled. In the next moment, Peter found himself running through the groves and gardens descending the Mount of Olives. The soldiers had taken Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples had narrowly escaped. Later in the night, Peter caught back up with the band of soldiers as they marched Jesus into the Palace of the High Priest.
The night was dark, but the burning lamps and torches left no shadow safe enough for a follower of Jesus, especially one as recognizable as Peter. Until now, it had been a joy to be at the front of the crowd right next to Jesus. As the events of the night unfolded, one accuser after another recognized Peter as a follower of Jesus. Instinctively, Peter deflected their challenges, lest he be arrested with Jesus. It was not until Peter’s third denial that he realized what he had done. In a moment of bitter regret, Peter’s earlier claim of loyalty had been completely destroyed. He had forsaken Jesus. He had left Him on His own. He was no braver than the others, he was shameful and despicable. In Jesus’ hour of need, His closest friend, Peter, had forsaken Him.
In John 15, hours before this took place, Jesus had told His disciples, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He was a true friend. The night had gotten dark, but Jesus, the friend of sinners, was not going to forsake His friends. He would press on through the lie-filled trial, through the mockery, and beatings. He would endure the wrath of God for His friends (Peter included), and no weight of shame or danger to Himself could deter Him. He was a better friend. No matter what it cost Him, He would save the world.

Food For Thought: Read John 15:8-14. In this last supper discourse, what does Jesus continually tell His disciples to do? How did He do this very thing just hours after speaking those words?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mark 14:32-52, part 2, the Savior

On that dark night in the dew-covered garden, Jesus was doing anything but sleeping. He knew that the greatest test of His obedience was about to happen. He was going to be arrested, abused, and ultimately murdered. By this time tomorrow, He would be dead.
This was overwhelming enough, but that is not what startled Jesus. That is not what made Him weep with anguish. As He laid down His life, according 2 Corinthians 5, He was going to take all the sin of the whole world on Himself. He had never sinned, now He would bear the sin of the world in His body. The wickedness of the adulterous woman, the greed of Zacchaeus, the vices of the Gadarene, every evil thought, every idle word, every despicable deed would be placed on this One Who had never done a single thing wrong.
As the self-sacrificial friend of sinners, He then would become not just the bearer of our sin, but ultimately the bearer of our punishment for that sin. The wrath of God that is reserved for the unrighteous would be poured out on Him. He was going to be crushed and battered under the devastating weight of God’s wrath. At this proposition, it is no wonder that Jesus cried in anguish at what He knew was the obedience God had sent Him to accomplish.
“If it is possible, find a different way, Father!” was His cry. As the obedient Servant of God, He had no greater desire than to accomplish what God wanted. But the obedience that was called for on this night, would bring Him into separation from the holy God, His Father, that He loved so much. For the first time, obedience would take Him away from God. This proposition was painful, spiritually and physically.
After praying, and re-praying, God granted the strength for the task. Jesus rose confidently. His face was fixed to the task. He would not look back. The wrestle was over, the day was coming, and He would not stop it. He was ready now, by God’s grace, to become the sacrificial Lamb that He was sent to be. Calling to His disciples, “Rise up, let us go; my betrayer is here.” Jesus walked straight to those that had come to arrest Him. The last words before He was dragged off to be abused were words loaded with the Sovereignty of the God He was trusting in, “the scriptures must be fulfilled.”
This was a walk that would be lonely. Separation from God was imminent. Verse 50 says that “they all forsook Him, and fled,” just like He said they would. It was now His to endure alone until the end. This would be the darkest act ever executed in the history of the world. He was not going to fight it, like a lamb to the slaughterhouse, He would press on, quiet, with no argument or excuse, fully obedient, to save the world.

Food For Thought: Reread Mark 14:36, what expression did Jesus use to express His desire to only, always obey God?

Mark 14:32-52, part 1, the disciples

The strangest series of events had just unfolded. Jesus was obviously bothered by something. At first, He said that all of His disciples would fall away. This was unbelievable! After all that they had been through over the past couple years, there was no way they could stop following Him. He was God, come in the flesh. How could they abandon that truth?
Things got even stranger during dinner when Judas asked Jesus if he was the one who would betray Jesus, and Jesus responded, “Go do it quickly.” Judas had left with obvious frustration, but he was probably just going to take care of the money. He was a really good treasurer.
Following these strange events, the night did not get any better, but only seemed to compound into one unusual thing after another. Jesus took His remaining disciples with Him to His favorite garden spot on the Mount of Olives, adjacent to the city of Jerusalem. On the journey to the garden, Jesus was noticeably disturbed, verse 33 describes Him as “sore amazed” and “very heavy.” Speaking to His closest friends, He said “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.” But they pressed on to the spot where He could pray to God for strength.
Jesus was nearly overwhelmed with all that the next eighteen hours held. So He commanded Peter, James, and John, “Watch, and pray!” He had taught them to pray early in His ministry, “lead us not into temptation,” and now more than ever they should be praying that. But it was late, and they were exhausted from the busy week. Their minds were undoubtedly drifting to the potential events of the next day and what type of amazing thing Jesus would do. The darkness, and the stillness, with their tiredness took a toll on them, and soon they had drifted into sleep.
They had no idea what would happen in about an hour. If they had known what Jesus knew, they would have been begging God for strength. If they had known the onslaught against their faith that was about to occur, they would have been weeping in anguish with their Lord. But it was not given to them to know the future. Only God knew this. Jesus had lovingly encouraged them to “Pray!” but they did not feel the weight of the urgency, and ignorantly allowed themselves to drift into indifference.
Years later, Peter would relive this reality as he penned the truth of the immanency of danger to Christians in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant!” There is no season of the Christian life in which we can rest. We should be constantly praying the prayer of dependence. This night would prove to be overwhelming for all of the disciples, and they couldn’t even see it coming. How important is it that we be praying for God’s help against the unseen!

Food For Thought: While our temptation to fall away from our faith in Jesus may not be as direct as what the disciples were about endure, name some areas that Satan may use in our lives to “devour us.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mark 14:17-31

The will of man cannot trump the foreknowledge of an Omniscient God.
At the Thursday evening Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus began to become more specific about the events that would unfold over the next twenty-four hours. The truths that He told were startling, and all of the disciples, according to verse 19, were “sorrowful.”
Jesus foretold of His looming betrayal. He told of how His body would be broken, and how His blood would be shed to save all those who would put their faith in Him. He told how that following His death, all of His disciples would scatter and be as a flock of sheep whose Shepherd had abandoned them.
This truth did not seem like a good truth. It did not look joyous on the surface. By all accounts, Jesus dying seemed like the worst possible thing to any of His disciples. If He was not here, who would continue to teach His message? If He was not here, who would continue to care for the poor and lame? If He was not here, who would lovingly extend hope to all those in darkness? His dying did not fit into the plan His disciples appeared to have in mind. All these questions would find their answer soon enough, but for now, it seemed so unclear.
First, He had dashed their hopes of His immediate takeover of the Jewish Kingdom. Now, He was speaking ever so clearly about His imminent death and their subsequent falling away. All the disciples that night were heartbroken. All of them, it seems, except for Peter. With the boldness of a devoted servant, Peter confidently proclaimed, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I!” He had heard Jesus speak about him, and he refused to acknowledge the truth that Jesus spoke. Now, defending his honor and his love for Jesus, Peter boldly declared an undying allegiance.
Jesus in essence, responded lovingly to Peter, “I know what you want to do, but I also know what will actually happen. By the end of tonight you will have denied knowing me at least three times.” Peter did not acknowledge this truth and according to verse 31, spoke more “vehemently” (with force and passion).
Jesus knew what would happen, and He knew that it must happen. He certainly did not long for the disciples to fall away, but He lovingly demonstrated that His foreknowledge was greater than any power that they could muster of their own will. He was not going to make them fall away; He just knew that they would. This was one last chance to set the truth deeply in their minds and hearts that He was indeed God. They could trust Him, no matter what tomorrow would bring. They could have faith in all that He said. He was Omniscient God.

Food For Thought: Read John 13:31-38. This is the parallel account of the Last Supper. What great truth does Jesus teach here at the Last Supper, that John records in verse 34-35?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mark 14:1-16

For a few years now, the indignant Pharisees had plotted the destruction of Jesus. Finally, on this day, their darkest hopes would come true. In John 7, over a year earlier, the temple guards had gone to capture Him, but they had been turned back in wonder at the truths that Jesus taught. But on this Thursday morning, it seemed as if their luck changed. One of His own followers, perhaps disenchanted by His Master’s unwillingness to be the type of Messiah he had expected, had come and offered up a plot to capture Jesus. The preparations for the capture, secret trial, and execution of Jesus had begun.
During the last couple of days, Jesus made it a point to address several things with His disciples before His imminent murder. He had intentionally engaged the Sadducees just two days earlier regarding the hope-filled resurrection. He had further explained to His disciples that as Messiah, He was far more than a descendent of David; He was the very Son of God. These truths, that He was the Christ, and that resurrection was a reality, were crowned with one last truth. As Jesus sat with Simon the leper, a woman came and broke open a jug of alabaster and poured it on Jesus’ head. Christ used this moment to teach the next truth that His disciples needed to understand on this day: He was going to die and be buried. He masterfully used this woman’s worship to prepare His disciples for His death.
As the day progressed, Jesus sent His disciples to find a place for the Thursday evening Passover meal. The day of unleavened bread preceded the day of Passover, and Jesus had one last evening of teaching for His disciples before He would be taken away and killed. This was a day of preparations. The murderous and treacherous preparations had begun. The preparation for His death, burial, and resurrection had been done. Now, the preparation of His last supper with His disciples was under way.
The lights were being set. The stage was being cleared. The curtain was being straightened. The reason for which Jesus had come to earth, namely, the salvation of all mankind, was about to occur. There was just a little more preparation, and the tragically beautiful drama would unfoldingly etch itself in the history of the world.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 26:6-13. What is the difference between Jesus’ reaction to the woman’s act of worship and the reaction of His disciples?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mark 13:24-37

The afternoon sun shone brightly on the dusty white stones of the wall surrounding his manor, as the master headed out of the gate. Turning for one last word of instruction to His servant, the master said, “I’ll only be gone for a little bit, and I will be coming back. Take care of my house until I return.” With that, he turned and headed up the road, disappearing a few minutes later as the road wound around a distant hill.
“When will he return?” the servant standing at the gate wondered as he looked at the hazy dust cloud that was settling where his master had just been. Heading back into the house, he grabbed the broom from the corner of the porch and went to begin the day’s chores. There was plenty of washing, dusting, sweeping, watering, and general maintaining that would need to take place today, and this servant would not miss the opportunity to please his master upon his return.
Two years later, the servants still hustled and bustled with their daily chores, by this point a few had quit and moved away, but the servants who had truly heard the master’s voice continued on, trusting the words that they had heard, “I will be coming back.” They were not dissuaded from the truth that their master would return, and this truth motivated them to rise daily and labor in his manor, knowing that at any moment, a dust cloud marking his return could appear on the horizon. So, daily, they labored, knowing that any moment their master would return. These were the servants that loved their master enough to obey Him. These were the same servants that feared the negative consequences of disobeying their master. They were the servants who believed the words of their master. These were his choice servants.
Hours before Jesus would be taken away, Jesus told this parable to His disciples. The implications would become obvious upon His departure. The faithful servants who both loved their Master and feared the consequences of disobedience, the choice servants, would remain faithful until the day they were reunited with their Master. This endurance would be normative for a true servant of Jesus, not exceptional. Whether or not a servant would fall away would have massive ramifications for that servant when the Master returned.
The call of Jesus is a call to endurance and longevity. He desires that His followers remain faithful through the years. He desires that they be ever watchful for His return so that when He does return they will not be ashamed for their lack of service, but instead, that they will be there to celebrate with their Master. The immediate days ahead are not filled with the promise of comfort or ease. But the day of reunion is coming. Rest will be had, but for now, during this season we must be obeying and watching.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 25:23. What phrase does the master in this parable say to his servant regarding his faithfulness and endurance?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mark 13:1-23

The last day of Jesus’ public ministry was coming to a close, and He and His disciples were leaving the temple mount. The temple that Zerubbabel had built during the time of Ezra had been refurnished by King Herod. Herod had a propensity for building temples (mostly to pagan deities), and the temple at Jerusalem was considered his crowning achievement. Its giant portico, and beautifully engraved walls and towers were by all accounts, quite a sight to behold.
This beauty of the temple is what began the dialogue that we find in Mark 13. The crowds in Jerusalem had been getting excited about the possibility of Jesus’ being the Messiah. His triumphal entry two days earlier was a massive indication of the excitement that was being felt in Jerusalem. His seemingly rash purging of the temple extortionists had left many confused and others vengefully angry; but on this Wednesday, His disciples were still eagerly anticipating their Messiah to take His place as the heir to David’s throne.
In their minds, He would set up a palace with each of them in prominent places in His new kingdom. Soon they would be able to have unhindered worship in this beautiful temple, just like the Jewish leaders under the reign of Solomon. This seemed like a good plan, but Jesus was about to deliver some disappointing news.
After hearing their compliments on the beautiful temple, Jesus responded by telling them, “These buildings? These buildings are going to be destroyed.” He was trying to get them to see that now was not the time for Him to assume the power of an earthly throne. Further, He wanted them to understand that this temple was not the temple that would usher in the new worship system. He had a different type of kingdom that He was about to establish, and the temple would be one of flesh, not of stone. Their entire perspective was still skewed by the things in front of them, and He was going to have to make the picture very clear as to what was going to happen.
I can almost see their brow wrinkle with confusion, and their eyes squint as they tried to understand what He was saying. Finally, they left the temple and found a spot on the Mount of Olives that faced the city. As they sat there, the disciples asked Him the nagging question. “If not now, then when?” They must have felt their hopes and dreams of great acclaim and liberation from Rome melt with His answer. Jesus told them graphic detail after detail of the destruction and desolation that would come before He would establish His physical kingdom. This week was not the week of His coronation. There were some pretty bad days ahead. There were some pretty horrible things that were going to go on. He would come and rescue them all, but this was not going to happen this week, at least not in the way they thought it should. Rather, this week He was going to establish a different Kingdom, and He was going to do it in a way that they would have never imagined. Their terror and shock was just beginning.

Food For Thought: Why do you think the disciples failed to realize at first what Jesus was talking about?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mark 12: 35-44

Who is the Messiah? How do we know who this Savior is? As the Jewish leaders understood it, Psalm 89 would indicate that the coming Messiah would be a descendent of David (a “son of David”). This was the totality of clues that they would receive from the Old Testament. Because of this, they kept meticulous records of all of the family members of the Davidic line. All of David’s children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all the way down to Joseph and Mary, were recorded and verified.
When Jesus came as the acclaimed “Son of David,” this was very important. His arrival into the city of the kings, Jerusalem, on a donkey (like his royal ancestor’s had done) signaled a coming change in the kingdom. The overwhelming shouts of, “Hosanna! Son of David!”, had created a sort of fevered excitement in the city as people were obviously beginning to see Jesus as the great descendent of David that would liberate them from their oppressors.
This was a monarchial society. He was heir to the long lost throne. In their minds, His miracles had proven that God had anointed Him to be their king, and now was the time that they would coronate this “Son of David.” The kingdom would be re-established and this zealot would lead His people to freedom from all foreign powers. They longed for Him to lay His claim to the throne and lead them to victory and international prominence.
They couldn’t have been more clueless. The Messiah was not only going be the “Son of David.” Yes, He would be descended from David, but this was not His full identity. Rather, His identity would be found in another Old Testament text. As Jesus finished out the His teaching during Passion Week, this point needed to be made. He was in fact, the very Son of God. His Davidic ancestry was just a proof, it was not the totality of His identity.
In order to show this truth, Jesus quoted His ancestor David in Psalm 110. In this text, David tells how that God (Jehovah, translated “LORD”) spoke to the Messiah, and in the Psalm, David calls the Messiah, “My Lord.” This was of vital importance. No ancestor would call a mere descendent His “Lord,” this was a massive indication that David respected the coming Messiah as one Who was on par with God, as Paul would say in Philippians 2, “equal with God.” Here, just two days before His sacrificial death, Jesus was shoring up the theology of His disciples. He had explained that resurrection would happen, now He was establishing for them that His purpose was greater than coming to fulfill the throne-claiming role of David’s heir. He had come as the very Son of God who would save the world. David had a lot of sons, but this One was going to be different.

Food For Thought: Read Psalm 110. This was the Psalm that Jesus quoted. What are some other truths that we can see in this Psalm that Jesus Himself would have known?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mark 12:18-34

Jesus was never confronted with a question that He could not answer. He was God, and as such, He knew the entirety of the Scriptures as it were His very own words. This is why when He was confronted with a hypothetical question, He didn’t struggle or stumble over His words.
The Sadducees were a religious sect that did not believe in a resurrection in spite of the many indications of such in the scriptures. One of their prime arguments against a resurrection from the dead was a scenario that they had formulated. In this scenario, a certain married man had six brothers. After he died, his second brother married his widow, but eventually died. This repeated through all of the brothers, all of them eventually marrying this woman and dying (I would start to wonder about this girl with all these dead husbands). Their question to Jesus at the end of this hypothetical was “In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?” This was a ridiculous proposition, and they figured that they could stump Jesus with this “impossible” hypothetical.
Why did they care about resurrection? Why would they talk to Jesus about resurrection on this week? Why just two days before His death would they be confronting Jesus and challenging the veracity of resurrection? This was of massive importance. They thought that they were asking a question that would stump Jesus and His disciples, but they were actually just setting the stage for Jesus to teach His followers the greater truth that physical death is not the end. Customarily, when Jesus was challenged with a preposterous question, He would refuse to directly answer the question; but in this case, He engaged the questioners and gave clarity to the argument.
After hearing their question, Jesus answered by first confirming that there would indeed be a resurrection. Secondly, He reprioritized existence after the resurrection for the Sadducees. They thought that death was the end, and if there was resurrection, the afterlife was consumed with the same priorities that this life was, namely in this case, marriage. Jesus explained that marriage was not of primary importance in the presence of the Holy, Triune God of all the ages.
Jesus did not say much here about His own personal resurrection, but the truth that resurrection was indeed a fact would be of great concern and comfort to His disciples later that week. As Christians, we look back at the events of that Passion Week, and see that Jesus eventually died and resurrected. In Romans 6, Paul goes on to say that because of His resurrection, we can find victory over sin. Jesus is not a dead Savior, but a living one, and as a living Savior, we can rely on Him to help us in our gravest hour of need.

Food For Thought: Read 1 Corinthians 15:19-20. What does Paul say is our situation if Christ did not raise from the dead?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mark 12:1-17

The week began with the people of Jerusalem lining the streets crying “Hosanna!” to Jesus, pleading with Him to save them from their oppressors. That was Monday. On Tuesday, He had returned to the temple, and had demolished the tables of the extortionists. The Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious ruling body) was now seeking for ways to destroy Jesus.
After they questioned His authority, He masterfully handled their treacherous inquiry. Without stopping, He continued on to tell them a parable. The parable was a solid indictment against them, and Mark tells us that they certainly understood it. While He was telling them a parable about a group of wicked men plotting to murder another man, they secretly were plotting how they could kill Him. There must have been a fair amount of shame and embarrassment in having their wicked desires played out so clearly in front of them.
Their frustration and hatred were mounting on this Wednesday, but they couldn’t do anything because killing Him today would just prove Him right, and would probably enrage the crowd that was so enamored by Him. So they devised another strategy. Jesus was incredibly popular with the people. Many were still convinced that He had come to set them free from the bondage to the Romans. To them He was a political Messiah who had come to liberate them and allow them to rule themselves. The Pharisees were going to capitalize on this misconception, and begin to sway the public opinion of Jesus.
“Master,” sneeringly they offered this term of respect to the one they hated, “we know that you are true and don’t care what people think about you, but only care about what God thinks: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” This was the trickiest question they could come up with. You see, if He said to pay taxes, the Jewish rebels looking to Him as the political Messiah would feel double-crossed, perhaps even undermined. They didn’t want to pay the wicked Caesar anything. But if Jesus sided with them, and said to not pay the taxes, the people who favored Caesar would go immediately to the Romans and accuse Jesus of insurrection. This tension is what makes Jesus’ succinct response so masterful.
“Bring me a coin.” They brought it. “Whose picture is on this coin?” They responded “Caesar’s.”
“Then, give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give God the things that are made in His image.” Verse 17 finishes this story with, “and they marveled at Him.” How could He answer in such a clear, understandable way? How was such a young teacher such a masterful thinker? More importantly for them, how could they ever defeat Him? He was just too good at this. They would never be able to defeat Him. The only victory that could be had was one where He would lay down His own life.

Food For Thought: Read Luke 23:1-2. What lie did the Pharisees tell the Romans to convince them that Jesus was deserving of Roman punishment?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mark 11:15-33

God is Sovereign, and as such, the plan of redemption always included the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). There was no other way. The penalty of sin is death, and a Just God required a sacrifice of sinlessness to be offered for those who were under His condemnation. In God’s omniscient and omnipotent Providence, the death of Jesus was all part of a pre-existent plan to satisfy His wrath and to extend His redemptive love to the fallen descendants of Adam.
The death of Jesus was also reactionary, but only in the minds and hearts of the religious leaders and the Roman executioners. When you read the gospels, it doesn't take long to find reasons why the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. They despised Him. They hated His new teaching, His bold claims, and His seemingly brash actions. His miracles stood as a frustrating testament to the veracity of His claims. Because of this, the religious crowd constantly sought to undo the things that He had done. Their antipathy reached such an unhealthy level that eventually the gospel of John says they even sought to kill Lazarus after he had been raised Him from the dead by Jesus. It is no wonder they would eventually turn to killing Jesus.
And at the height of their frustration and hatred for Jesus, He came to Jerusalem and stoked their fury. Entering the temple complex, He devastated the tables of the corrupt money-exchangers who offered “acceptable money” to purchase temple offerings, for a fee of course. He turned to the dove and lamb handlers who were extorting their countrymen out of their money in the “name of God,” and with a braided cord He whipped them until they fled from the temple porch.
“Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But you have made it a den of thieves.” He was challenging the religious leaders on their own turf now. The line had been drawn, and He was not backing down from what He knew was right. God’s Temple was a place where all people should come to worship, not a place where a few enterprising businessmen could run a lucrative racket. God does not want His house tainted with sin, namely in this case, greed.
The religious leaders were certainly enraged by this outburst from Jesus. When they challenged His authority their attempts were only frustrated by His overwhelming logic. So, they continued on throughout the week plotting and planning His destruction. How would they be able to undo Him? How could they destroy Him? They would have to find someone close to Him. In their minds if they could kill Him they would completely undo all of His purposes. Little did they know that by fulfilling their reactionary sinful desires they would not be thwarting His plans, but rather would be accomplishing the very thing for which the Sovereign God had sent Jesus – redemption through His death.

Food For Thought: Reread v.27-33. In context, what “authority” are the priests and scribes questioning in Jesus? How did He masterfully handle their question?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mark 11:1-14

The crowds roared as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Both David and Solomon had ridden a mule when they had come to take the crown. Now, during this last week of His life, He came into Jerusalem, carried by a donkey’s colt. Thousands of people pressed against each other along the way. Hurriedly, men scattered their coats on the ground in front of the colt as Jesus pressed on through the crowd. The implications of this entrance were obvious. The masses had been helped by His serving, healing hands, and now he had arrived back in Jerusalem, as it seemed, to be king.
He was the Son of David. He was the Messiah. He would be the new king. In their minds, He would overthrow the Roman oppressors. He was about to set up a new kingdom, with Him at its head. They would be His people, and He would be their Savior. The day had come, and as He passed by them they screamed “Hosanna! Hosanna!! Hosanna!!” a Hebrew word meaning, “Save Us!! Rescue Us!!” They wanted Him to liberate them, and He would, just not the way they wanted Him to.
You see, this great, fake-coronation day ended. He eventually got off the colt, and walked back to the town of Bethany a couple miles outside of Jerusalem. He never took a throne. He never set up a kingdom. This was not the day that He would save the world. It was the day that He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” He had come, and they wanted the salvation that the Messiah was supposed to bring. But they did not find it that day, so they returned home, heads hung low with disappointment. Some Messiah He turned out to be.
Jesus had not become what they had wanted Him to be. They had a very specific expectation for Jesus to fulfill, but He had fallen far short of that. In less than a week, they would be ready to shout “Crucify!!” at this same one who had dashed their hopes on this day. Little would they know that through His crucifixion He would become the Savior that they had been looking for on this disappointing day.
Jesus did not come to simply save mankind from the oppression of physical enemies. He came to liberate us from the darker, greater, spiritual foes. He came to liberate us from the power of Satan and sin. He came to offer freedom to the slaves of sin. He came to “offer His life a ransom” for all those who would believe in Him. He came to bring hope to the hopeless, and life to the lifeless. Their request of “Hosanna!” would be fulfilled by the end of the week, just not the way they suspected. More importantly, He was going to accomplish the “Hosanna!” work for any who would come in faith to Him.

Food For Thought: Read Genesis 22:1-14. What type of animal did Abraham and Isaac ride to the place where Isaac was to be sacrificed? How do you think this relates to what God was doing with Jesus?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mark 10:32-52

Exalted, Praiseworthy, Important, Glorious, Renowned, Adored, Magnificent: what comes to mind when you hear these words?
Do you picture somebody who fits one of those titles? Do you think of a place or an event, perhaps a concert or a great speech? Do those words breed aspiration in you? Do you get a great desire to be recognized as a combination of those words? Do you feel a weight in yourself that tells you this is what you want your epitaph to be? The life of moderation, unexcited, un-thrilled, unnoticed seems like less than what you would desire. So, of course, being adored and exalted as magnificent, important, praiseworthy, or even glorious seems like a better alternative. Who wouldn’t want to be recognized?
With this mentality men become fools. Seeking the applause of other men, the promise of fame, and the deceitfulness of wealth, generations of human beings have become the laughing spectacle of centuries past and of entertainment present. I think of the people who don’t know how to sing attempting to do so on nationally broadcasted talent shows. The fear and shame of a rating-obtaining humiliation does not hinder tone-deaf dreamers from entering for the chance at “greatness.”
This pursuit of fame is by no means a new phenomenon. Perhaps the advent of “Reality TV” shows has exaggerated this scenario over the past decade, but the tendency of self-serving men to seek laud and applause of others is a human heart issue that predates the days of Jesus. Jesus’ own disciples succumbed to this self-exalting heart posture. As we read today in verse 35-45, we see the open, self-seeking attitude of James and John and the jealous response of the other ten disciples. This was not a problem reserved to just one or two of the disciples, this self-worship pervaded the entirety of the disciples. They all wanted to be exalted.
Christ lovingly rebuked His disciples and helped them again with their faux definition. They had bought into the world’s view of greatness, and sought to find a place of prominence that superseded that of their peers. Jesus longed for them to understand the message of greatness that He was preaching with His life. So to teach them the deep truth of true greatness again, He stated His mission very clearly. The definition of greatness was bound in this testimony of Jesus: “the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minster, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Greatness was found in serving and in sacrificing, not in seeking your own. Jesus would eventually die to offer the disciples a greater hope of glory far beyond the praise and acceptance that they could ever find here on earth.

Food For Thought: Read Philippians 2:5-11. What does Paul tell us we should do in light of what Jesus has done?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mark 10:13-31

My little girl, Cecelia, just had her first birthday. She has been growing steadily and has even mastered the “when Johnny comes marching home again” leg-dragging crawl. She still can’t talk, although she loves to yell and get attention. Imagine with me, however, for the sake of illustration, that she could talk. Imagine with me that one day I came home from work to find Cecelia talking and in her room by herself. Engagingly, I invite her to come enjoy dinner with her family, but quickly she declines with “Dad, thanks, but I got this one. I’m alright on my own.” In that moment, of course I am going to be surprised, perhaps even overwhelmingly so. “Cecelia, you are one year old. There is no way that you will be able to take care of yourself,” I reply. Without missing a beat, she motions toward her plastic pots and pans that she got for her birthday, “Naw, Dad, I can just make myself my own food.” With that, she picks up a couple cheerios off the floor and drops them in the plastic frying pan. As she crawl-drags herself and her little plastic frying pan back across the room, she eats one of the cheerios and mutters an unconvincing, “Mmmm. That’s good!”
This would be absolutely ludicrous. That kid can’t live off of dehydrated cheerios. That kid can’t even take care of herself. It would be ridiculous for an infant to try to act self-sufficient. The very fact that she is an infant indicates that she is in need of help. This truth was made clear as a group of mothers brought their babies to Jesus. They came in search of a blessing from Jesus, but He turned it into one of the greatest object lessons of the Christian life. There Jesus sat in the midst of infants, helpless infants. “Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter there in.” In essence, “you are a child, and I offer you the parental help that you are desperately in need of.”
The only hope that anyone has, is to place their faith in Jesus and what He has done. This is why what happened next set the truth even deeper. Immediately, a rich young ruler asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom?” Jesus never changed His message. He was not intimidated by an inflated pocket book. Rich clothes did not impress Him. He was not overwhelmed by the latest in fashion. Without missing a beat, Jesus responded, “Sell all your stuff and give your money to the poor.” Mark went on to tell us that this was a very hard thing for this man to hear because he had many possessions.
Instead of being like a helpless child, this man had found his sufficiency in the pile of stuff he owned. The deceitfulness of his wealth had given him a sense of security that he did not want to replace with the real security of faith in Jesus. Like a toddler with a cheerio in a plastic frying pan, he turned away from the One Who could truly meet his needs and left forever unsatisfied, but self-convincing all the while.
We need faith. We must have faith, but we must have faith in that which is worth trusting in. Moth, rust, and decay destroy all things here, and whatever doesn’t rot or decay can be stolen or taken in a moment’s notice. For this reason, Jesus implores us to turn, like a helpless infant, in faith to Him away from the false security offered by our plastic cookware.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 6:19-34. What does Jesus tell us about the value we should place on things?