Sunday October 22nd
Mark 16 (Baptism)
I guess you’ve noticed that the Rolling Stones aren't as young as they used to be.
Rumor has it that they're working on a new album.
The tracks include:
Hey! You! Get Offa My Lawn!
Let’s Take a Nap Together
I Can’t Get No Circulation
I know it’s Only Dulcolax but I Like It
Limpin' Jack Flash, he has gas, gas, gas
You Can't Always Chew What You Want
But of course we know that the most important rolling stone was the stone that was rolled away when Jesus rose from the grave! Let’s look at that story today as we wrap up the Gospel of Mark with chapter 16:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
The Sabbath was technically over at sunset on Saturday evening, which meant that buying and selling things was allowed again. That’s when the women went to buy the spices to anoint Jesus’ body, but actually they didn’t go to visit the tomb until early on Sunday morning.
They were wondering how they were going to roll away the stone to get to his body, because they had been there when he was buried and they had seen the large stone put in place to seal the tomb.
But they didn’t have to worry about that for long!
4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” 8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
When they approached the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved, they entered the burial chamber, and they saw the slab or bench where Jesus’ body had been laid.
Mark says that they saw a young man dressed in white sitting there. Matthew 28:2 identifies the young man as an angel. And this angel informs them that he knows why they are there, but that they shouldn’t be alarmed or even surprised. Because although they saw Jesus crucified and buried…
He has risen.
He says, “You can see for yourself that this is where his body was placed, but he is no longer here!”
Then he gives them some instructions:
Go tell the disciples, and in particular tell Peter that Jesus is alive again (because Peter is still probably upset about denying knowing Jesus). And tell them to go to Galilee because Jesus is going to meet them there.
So that’s their orders – directly from an angel!
But do they follow their orders?
Verse 8 says “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
What was their job? Tell Peter and the other disciples the good news, and that they need to head to Galilee to see him alive again.
What was their reaction? They said nothing to anyone!
Now obviously at some point somebody told someone something or we wouldn’t be reading this today.
In fact, verses 9 through 20 are considered by many bible scholars to be verses that were added later, possibly as a way of completing the story. Because if somebody doesn’t tell someone else that Jesus is alive, how will anyone ever get saved?
That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Romans 10:13-14
13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
So let’s look at these last verses to see how the gospel began to spread:
9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
So of all of the ladies who went to the tomb, it seems as though Mary Magdalene was the one who felt compelled to share the good news, even though nobody believed her!
12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
This is a reference to the two men who were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus started walking along with them. The story is told in Luke 24:13–35.
Finally Jesus appears to the disciples directly:
14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
The instruction to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” is essentially the same Great Commission that is found in Matthew 28:19. And here in Mark 16:20 it says that “they went out and preached everywhere”.
So here’s what it all comes down to – the angel tells the women to go spread the good news, but they are afraid so they don’t tell anyone, at least not at first. Then Jesus tells the disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel, and they do it.
Those are the same two possible choices that each one of us can make – tell people about Jesus or keep it to ourselves.
The people who are getting baptized today are making the choice to let the world know what Jesus has done for them.
They understand what Paul meant in Romans 6:3-5
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”
Let’s celebrate with these brothers and sisters today!
In The End, We Win (Mark 15:1-15)
In this world, doing wrong will at times be rewarded and doing right will at times be punished. Those who break the law will on occasion get away with it, while those who obey the law will be occasionally wrongfully accused. Injustice will seem to prevail.
Jesus had done nothing wrong, Barabbas was a murderer, yet Jesus is the one going to be crucified while Barabbas goes free. Not fair, not right, but that is the way it is for many in this unjust fallen world.
The good news is, just as Jesus crucified became Jesus resurrected, "God works all things for good to those who love Him." Eternal judgment will take place, Justice will ultimately be served. In the end, God wins. Satan and his followers will forever be punished, while the followers of Christ will be forever rewarded.
So be encouraged what is wrong will be made right. What is evil will be removed. The blood of the martyrs will be avenged on the enemies of God.
Mock Worship (Mark 15:16-20)
The Roman soldiers added insult to injury towards the Son of God, dressing Him up as a King, placing a crown of thorns on His head, and saluting Him “Hail! King of the Jews!” They then kneeled before Him mocking Him in worship until they got tired of it. How cruel and wicked and yet how powerful Jesus was to withstand this treatment and not command His angels to stop it.
The entire history of this fallen world proves how evil mankind is separate from God. It is the only amount of days before another senseless attack is on the news, the latest being the killing of at least 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. It makes me sick we think how can anyone do such a thing but we have seen it throughout history since the fall of Adam and Eve.
Mock Worship takes place when people gather and claim to know God, even worshipping Him, but their hearts are far from Him, doing all kind of evil acts with no thought of repentance. That is why we are to examine our hearts before taking communion. It is a mockery to claim to be in communion with God when one’s life is not at all committed to Christ.
Let us ask God as we worship Him to purify our hearts so that we are truly worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth.
The Crucified Life (Mark 15:21-32)
Remember when you lived without any thought of God. You passed by churches and met Christians but you did not even consider your need for God.
A man named Simon is just passing by coming from the countryside and he is grabbed and forced by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross.
We each were chosen by God to carry the cross. To leave the self-indulgent path we once were on and go down the path of self-sacrifice. We can sit around and complain but it really makes no sense because it is the only path though it is small, narrow, and difficult, that leads to the resurrection and eternal life.
Galatians 2:20 says “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but He who lives within me.” We must choose to live the crucified life before we can walk in resurrection power. Just like Jesus, we will be rejected, mocked, and ridiculed but isn’t it a price well worth it considering being saved from sin and having the power to partner with God to help save others.
The Sacrifice (Mark 15:33-47)
Jesus Christ the Son of God freely gave His life that others could be saved. This is the ultimate act of love.
Brave soldiers, 👮, firemen, risk their lives daily for the better good of others. Courageous individuals such as a husband in Las Vegas died sacrificing his life by laying on top of his wife to shield her from the bullet's being shot in the crowd at a concert. When the most horrific evil is displayed often the most beautiful acts of love are countered in contrast.
When it seems like God has abandoned you, just know one cry and He will come near. He has a way of turning the worst experiences into something good to those that love Him.
Jesus was tortured to death, the worst form of suffering. Yet through it, the veil was torn in two, sin no longer has to separate mankind from God. Those who accept what Jesus has done experience the forgiveness of sins, their guilt is removed, shame is gone, and a new identity is given, as sons and daughters of God, their heavenly Father.
True power, true love, has no greater act than the laying down of one's life for others.
Have you ever had people out against you, looking for an opportunity to take you down?
This is how it was for Jesus, but He never let it distract Him from His divine purpose. He did not always ignore them, confronting them when necessary but He continued to be about His Father's will.
We need to stop being put on the ring just trying to defend ourselves all the time. God wants His children aggressive not passive, throwing punches against the enemy not retreating. We must remember we are not fighting against flesh and blood....
Jesus while eating at Simon's home is anointed by expensive perfume over the head by a woman. Some of those at the table are indignant and yell at the woman that this oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor.
We must be cautious not to stand between God and His will because of our views. We are to acknowledge God in everything to assure what we are thinking is correct.
God's ways are above our ways. There is a bigger picture we miss if we look at a situation in our own limited perspective. This woman was Prophetically attuned to what was about to come while those at the table were not. She was preparing Jesus for His death.
Jesus told them that what this woman did will never be forgotten. God may lead us in a way that others will not accept and even highly oppose, but we must be obedient for we live to please God not man.
Betrayal (Mark 14:10-26)
Those who have power often experience betrayal. People will come alongside someone for a time but due to jealousy and greed will desire the power they have, and turn against them. Power can corrupt the most faithful followers. We must all stand guard and walk in discernment because it can be the people closest to us that betray us.
The religious leaders were plotting against Jesus trying to find a way to trap Him, and then Judas shows up willing to betray His Master. These leaders are thrilled, they have a spy now, someone within Jesus circle that can take Him down.
Jesus always knew Judas would betray Him but also He knew His heavenly Father would use it all for His divine purpose. When we discern evil intentions in another we need to ask God how to deal with it. Exposing it right away seems right but it might not fit God's plan.
Jesus was human, He felt what we feel, it could not have been easy to be at supper with Judas knowing what he just had done. Jesus though does bring it to light, He says in Mark 14:18 that "someone at this table will betray me." He then explains how "terrible it will be for the one who betrays the Son of God. That it would be better if he had never been born." This act cursed the name of Judas, nobody could have that name again and not be thought of as a betrayer.
Jesus has communion with His disciples which is our highest purpose to be in continual fellowship with God, partaking in the life of Christ through the shedding of His blood.
If we try to be a Christian without being in communion with Christ we will betray Him. For apart from Him we can do nothing. What we try to do will misrepresent Christ and be used as an excuse for people to turn against Him.
Deserted (Mark 14:27-31)
We have all heard the cliche "It's lonely at the top." People strive to get to the top and often those who help them get there are now the ones that try to get them down. Power often corrupts the individuals who have it and those around them that want it.
When people's expectations are not met and decisions made are not what others desire the people begin to desert the leaders they once followed.
Jesus says the prophecy "God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered," is about to be fulfilled. Peter says "if everyone deserts you, I never will." Later, Peter does deny Jesus three times as Jesus had proclaimed. These disciples were only willing to follow Jesus as far as it was good for them when it was possible that they may die for following Jesus they were like forget you.
How far are you willing to follow Jesus? The Bible says if you are not willing to deny yourself and pick up the cross, you are not worthy of Him.
As leaders, we must choose to obey God even if it means losing family and friends. Our decisions may not be popular and cause persecution, but nevertheless, "not my will but yours oh Lord, my God, my Redeemer."
WAKE UP (Mark 14:32-52)
Spirit led prayer is what infuses our being with God’s heart. As we see here at the garden of Gethsemane this will at times lead us to experience great grief as we feel His pain for the lost and dying world.
God often calls us to be the answer to what we pray which may mean experiencing great suffering. Jesus Himself asked if the suffering of the cross could be taken away. Since we are human like Christ we should never expect to want to suffer, yet through the power of Jesus we can say, “nevertheless not my will, but your will be done, Father.”
The disciple's way of handling all that was going on was by sleeping. Many believers are asleep and not in prayer, they don’t carry the heart of God and therefore are unwilling to carry the cross. They desire an easy, comfortable, self-gratifying way to Heaven. But the Word of God says “wide is the path to destruction and many are those that follow, but narrow is the way to everlasting life and few are those that find it.”
Most Christians are not interested in prayer and evangelism but they sure love the prophetic, healing, and the supernatural. God’s heart is centered on the first two, and the miracles rarely come unless one is prayed up and evangelizing others. So what happens is people are out chasing the supernatural going from conference to conference rather than following the great commission where signs and wonders become a regular occurence.
Why do believers give into temptation so easy? The answer is Mark 14:38. Lack of prayer; “the spirit is willing but the body is weak.”
Because of the disciple's spiritual weakness, they were not ready to handle the betrayal and arrest of Jesus but rather reacted in anger not seeing the bigger picture and then in fear deserting Jesus.
Sunday September 24th
I heard a story about these two olives, one black olive, and one green olive, who were best friends, One day they were walking together down the street. They started to cross the street when a speeding car came around the corner and ran over the green olive. The black olive called 911 and helped care for his injured friend as best he could until the ambulance arrived. The injured green olive was taken to the emergency room at the hospital and rushed into surgery. After a long and agonizing wait, a doctor finally appeared. He told the black olive, "I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through." "The bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life".
This chapter includes Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives, where he speaks prophetically about three things: the coming destruction of the Jerusalem temple; future persecutions that his disciples will face; and the events that will precede his second coming. Look at verses 1-2:
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
This temple was really quite magnificent. Herod the Great had rebuilt the temple using marble and gold. The outer court measured five hundred by three hundred yards, and it was bordered by walls of massive white stones, some of which were sixteen feet long.
But Jesus predicts that a day is coming when not one stone will be left stacked on top of another stone. And this is exactly what happened when Jerusalem was attacked and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman general Titus, less than 50 years after Jesus prophesied it.
But to the disciples, this kind of talk was way too incredible to be true, so they ask Jesus to explain how and when this is going to happen:
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
So the disciples ask Jesus “when will these things be”. Their question is mainly related to Jesus’ prediction regarding the destruction of the temple, but Jesus’ reply seems to include both that event and also the end time events leading to up to his second coming.
In verse 6, Jesus warns that “Many will come saying, ‘I am He!’. And in fact, many men like Bar Kochba, the leader of a Jewish rebellion against the Romans, claimed to be the messiah. Even in our generation we have had men like Rev. Sun Young Moon and other cult leaders who have claimed to be the messiah.
Jesus also warned that we can expect wars and rumors of wars, along with earthquakes and famines, but He says that we shouldn’t be afraid.
He refers to these signs as simply “birth pains”.
The Apostle Paul used similar words in Romans 8:22
“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
What does this childbirth analogy tell us? We know that birth pains increase in frequency and intensity as the time of birth approaches (so I’ve been told).
Therefore we can expect wars, earthquakes and famines to get more intense and more frequent before the return of Jesus.
Then there is more bad news as well:
9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
So as believers we can certainly expect various levels of persecution before Jesus returns, and so we shouldn’t be surprised if and when it happens. Jesus also tells us that the gospel must be preached to all the nations before he returns, which should cause us to get serious about supporting missionaries!
One commentary compares those two things this way:
“The time between the resurrection of Christ and His Second Coming is not simply a time of suffering and persecution, but a time of grace and of evangelism throughout the earth.”
By the way, Jesus’ statement that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” doesn’t mean that salvation is something that is earned by our faithfulness, (I endured, so now I’m saved) but rather that our faithfulness is proof that we are truly saved!
Then Jesus describes an event that was definitely connected to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, but might also be connected to His second coming:
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.
Okay, so for starters, who or what is the “abomination of desolation”?
Daniel 11:31 says:
“Forces from him (a king from the North) will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”
This verse raises an interesting concept which is sometimes referred to as multiple fulfillments.
Daniel’s prophecy was clearly fulfilled in 168 b.c. when a man named Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan altar and sacrificed a pig in the Jewish temple. But Jesus couldn’t have been referring to that episode, because it had already happened when he was speaking this to his disciples. Then in a.d. 70 that same prophecy was definitely fulfilled again when Titus, the Roman general who later became the emperor, sacked and desecrated the temple.
If Jesus was only prophesying about the destruction of the temple, then we don’t need to worry about a third fulfillment, but some people believe that this was also an end-times prophesy, which means that if the temple ever gets rebuilt again, we may see one more “abomination of desolation”, perhaps even the antichrist!
So just in case it happens in our lifetimes, let’s look at the instructions that Jesus gave his followers:
The first thing he tells them is to “flee to the mountains”. When the Romans were on their way to attack Jerusalem, the members of a certain Jewish community hid their precious documents in caves high up in the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea. We now refer to those papers as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many Christians also left Jerusalem prior to that time, probably because Jesus had warned them to, and they founded a church fifty miles north of Jerusalem in a safer area.
Should we also be prepared to flee to the mountains? Well if you ask Barbara Mooney, she will tell you that she, and others as well, are making plans on heading to the high country if things get bad!
How bad could it get? How bad did things get back in Jerusalem? In verse 19 Jesus says “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.”
The Jewish historian Josephus described the destruction of the temple as a catastrophe of supernatural dimensions. According to Josephus the suffering in Jerusalem was unparalleled in human history.
In verse 22 Jesus predicts that there will be signs and wonders, but not the good kind.
Even the enemy can create counterfeit signs, so we must be on guard because these false signs are designed: “to lead astray, if possible, the elect”. And the elect means us as believers. Not all signs and wonders are from God. Make sure you are listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and using the gift of discernment to reveal the source!
Those verses are all part of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question about the coming destruction of the temple. In these next verses Jesus seems to again be referring to his second coming:
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”
The fact that Jesus will be sending angels to gather his people from the four corners of the earth sounds like a description of the rapture. What else might happen around that same time? Several things, including:
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.”
28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’
In referring to the “fig tree” Jesus is simply saying that just as there are signs of what is about to come in the natural realm (such as fig trees blossoming near the start of summer) so too there are signs that we should be able to discern in the spiritual realm. If you can tell when summer is drawing near, then you also should be able to sense when the return of Christ is getting closer.
But knowing that we are getting closer isn’t the same as knowing exactly when Jesus will return. In fact, he tells us very clearly that the “day or hour no one knows”. This means we must always be ready, always be living our lives in such a way that when he returns he won’t find us asleep on the job! So what does Jesus say to close out his teaching?
What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’
The only person we are to fear is God, we should let nobody hold us back by intimidation from obeying His commands and speaking the truth.
Jesus gave the story of a vineyard where wicked farmers killed every servant that the owner sent to collect the harvest, even his only son. The religious leaders knew this story was about them, and now they wanted to arrest Jesus, but they were afraid of the crowds.
Jesus was not afraid to confront and bring to light the evil of others. The world is full of evil leaders, sadly some of them claim to be Christians. As the Father leads we are to boldly stand against and expose the wrong evil leaders are doing. The worse wrong is when those who know better remain silent.
What do we have to fear? Death is gain! So be bold, be brave, God is looking for people that will not back down to no one but Him.
Some people can be so nice but you know it is not genuine, they have an agenda. The Pharisees say "Jesus, we know how honest you are and you play no favorites, so tell us should we pay taxes to Caesar?"
The crowd was the disenfranchised who was tired of the oppression of the Romans, they would want Jesus to speak for them against the unjust tax system. Then the Pharisees could use His statement against the Roman rulers to shut this man up.
Jesus caught it and said, "you hypocrites, why do you try to trap me?" Then He asked "whose description is on it? They said Caesar's. Well, He said to render to Caesar's what is Caesar's and what is God's to God." They were all amazed at His answer.
We often let confrontation bring the worst out of us, we name call, blame others, get offended, etc. God wants us to learn to stay cool, acknowledge God and speak forth the wisdom that He shares. God has insight that will silence our enemies every time if we just give Him our ear.
We must pay our taxes, for we are to abide by the law, despite if we agree what the government is doing or not. We are to honor the position of all our leaders despite our disagreements, trusting that God will deal with them in due time.
We are to give to God what is His which is our entire lives, including all we own and all our talents and gifts for His purposes.
Let us not play the hypocrite and act religious like the Pharisees but rather be genuine in our faith towards God, living surrendered lives that He may be greatly glorified.
You Don't Know Squat!
Do you ever feel constantly attacked? Where so many people are against you questioning your every move. Well nobody had it as bad as Jesus, He was constantly questioned, his enemies trying to make a public spectacle of Him. Yet, every time Jesus responded with such wisdom that they left silenced.
This time the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection questioned Jesus that if a man died with seven brothers and one after the other married the widow because each of them died one at a time as well, who would the lady be married to in heaven?
These guys are supposed to be masters of the scriptures but Jesus tells them the problem you have is you don't know the scriptures or the power of God. That is everyone's problem who misinterpret scripture or just are ignorant of what it really says. Natural understanding cannot perceive spiritual truth.
We see this example with Nicodemus the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night to check him out. Jesus told him you must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was like huh! How can one reenter their mother's womb? He knew the scriptures but really didn't understand them because he was not born again.
One must know God personally in all His power to understand who He is. To be born again you must acknowledge your need for God and accept Him as Lord. Then the Holy Spirit comes into your being and you now can perceive and truly know God.
Jesus now tells them don't you see in the scriptures that you will neither be married or given to marriage they will be like the angels in heaven. Which means perfect beings in lack of nothing. Then he points out where in the writing of Moses that it states the reality of the resurrection.
What's Really Important?
Do you know someone who makes a big deal out of nothing or who is so proud of something that really doesn't matter?
The religious leaders in Jesus time were full of themselves. They thought they were all that. I have been around religious leaders in these times that act the same way.
A teacher of the religious law asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment? Jesus responded by sharing two commandments which are the essence of all the ten. First, it is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is just as important which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
So what we see here as evident in 1 Corinthians 13; Love is all that matters. If whatever we do, ministry oriented or not, does not come out of the love of God it amounts to nothing.
The teacher of the religious law says to Jesus so love is more important than the legal requirements of offerings and sacrifice? Jesus responds to Him and says you are not far from the Kingdom of God. He unlike many of the religious leaders, "got it." Question is, do we?
I still find Christians so caught up in that which does not matter. Fighting over trivial things. Divided by fleshly matters.
The world needs love, if we could just offer God's unconditional, mercy filled love, our fellowships would always be growing.
Before this can occur we must fully accept God's love where we allow Him to heal every wound. For we can not offer that which we have not yet fully received.
The world's love has limits what should define Christianity is that it is made of a people who love without limits.
Fakes & Phonies
Have you ever been an environment where people didn't give you much value or worth? This is understandable in the world but I have experienced in some Christian leadership circles that if you haven't graduated from a prestigious college with theological degrees and have a huge world impacting ministry that they give you very little regard. I understand that they are busy and only have time for so called "important people." But, C'mon is this the Way of Jesus?
Jesus explains to the people that though the religious leaders say that the Messiah must be the Son of David, clearly they have it all wrong. They have misinterpreted the scriptures. These leaders were trying continually to discredit Jesus but they were nothing but fakes and phonies. People will discredit us like they did Jesus, but we are to remember that our worth and value come from God. The Bible says we are a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen people." "If God is for us then who can be against us." When people are not rightly aligned with God they wrongfully interpret the scriptures for they don't know God's heart.
Jesus reveals the hypocrisy of these leaders; they parade around adorned with fancy clothes, sitting in high places above others, praying in a way to impress. Yet these people cheat widows. Some people start off well but over time due to the business of ministry they stop abiding in Christ and therefore what comes out of them is not good fruit. As John 15 says if the branches wither and produce no fruit they will be cut off and burned. When leaders become proud they must be humbled.
At the judgment seat of God, we will have to account for what we did with our faith? The excuse that the actions of Christian leaders caused you to go on the sideline will not line up with God's righteous standard.
We are not to be moved by anyone but God. We need to stop pointing fingers at others and just let God be God. There are too many people leaving the church because of the actions of others. Who gives us the right to leave a fellowship because we are offended? The question you need to ask yourself, Is Jesus Lord, or are you?
The Poor and the Powerless
In the Kingdom of God, the poor are powerful. How is that possible? The poor are those who realize their need for God, it is those who give whatever they have to God.
Jesus said it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, why? Because it is easy for them to think they don't need God. How can we think money can take care of all our needs? We see with the hurricanes in Houston and Florida how fragile life can be, how quick life can change for both the financially rich and poor.
Jesus observed the rich giving large amounts of money in the offering collection, then he saw a poor widow give two small coins. Yet, He says that the widow gave the most because she gave all she had. It is not about the amount of money it is all about the state of the heart.
The Kingdom of God is for the poor and powerless those who acknowledge that apart from God they are nothing, they are those who surrender all that they have to God. It is the poor and powerless that is truly rich and powerful for the Kingdom God.
Sunday September 10th
Here’s a little knock-knock joke to start off your Sunday morning:
Figs the doorbell, it’s broken!
Chapter 11 of the Gospel of Mark has several references to figs, including in the very first verse. See if you can catch it as I read verses 1-3:
As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.”
Did you catch the reference to figs? Probably not, but that’s okay.
You see the name of the town of Bethphage in Hebrew means “house of unripe figs.”
The prefix “Beth” in Hebrew means “house”. Bethlehem was actually the “House of Bread” and Bethany meant “house of sadness”, but Bethphage was known as the “house of unripe figs” which will have a significant meaning as this chapter unfolds.
Jesus tells two of his disciples to go ahead into town and there “you will find” a donkey colt. This simple statement is an example of the supernatural prophetic knowledge of Jesus. He is already aware that a donkey will be waiting.
The Old Testament had prophesied about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry in Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
These verses clearly identify this donkey-riding king as the Messiah, coming to bring salvation to Israel.
But a prophet is only recognized if his words come true. Here we see that both Zechariah’s words and Jesus’ words were being fulfilled:
4 They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;
Hosanna in the highest!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
The idea of throwing palm branches and coats on the road ahead of the donkey was a recognition of Jesus’ royalty.
The word Hosanna is a Greek translation of the Hebrew words for “Save us . . . O Lord” The crowd is basically shouting phrases from Psalm 118:25-26
“O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.”
Okay, so now let’s get back to the figs!
12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
It’s interesting that one writer described two events as a couple of Jesus’s most misunderstood actions:
(1) cursing the fig tree
(2) driving out the money changers from the temple (which comes next)
But Mark apparently tells us these two stories back to back because these two events help explain each other. It has been said that Mark used a sandwich technique to tell these stories, where he starts with the one story, goes to a different story, and then comes back to the original story. Mark starts out telling the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, then interrupt that story to describe Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple and then he returns to the story of the fig tree. This is Mark’s way of telling us that these two events are connected to each other, and that if we understand the fig tree thing, we’ll understand the meaning of the cleansing of the temple as well.
Many people have wondered why Jesus even cursed this particular fig tree. This is Jesus’ last recorded miracle in Mark’s gospel, and it seems a bit odd that it’s kind of a miracle of destruction. Since Mark tells us that it wasn’t even the season for figs, the fact that Jesus is expecting to find figs on this tree seems unreasonable to us at first.
But fig trees are unique from most other trees because they sometimes produce fruit before they produce leaves. So the fact that this tree had leaves on it does suggest that some kind of fruit might still be left over on it. So it wasn’t all that unreasonable after all for Jesus to expect to find some figs on this tree.
Jesus’ actions here with the fig tree, just like the action of cleansing the Temple which is coming next, are pointing to a greater, deeper meaning, concerning what will soon happen to Jerusalem, Israel and the Temple itself.
The Old Testament prophets spoke about fig trees as referring to Israel’s status before God:
The destruction of the fig tree is associated with God’s judgment in Hosea 2:12 “I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them.”
Jesus curses this fig tree for making a display of being alive but having no fruit, just as He will now judge the temple and predict its destruction for the same reason.
Remember that Jesus is on his way to the temple, and what happens here with the fig tree is symbolic of what Jesus is about to do in the temple. There’s a passage from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah that’s especially relevant to what’s happening here. This passage is found in Jeremiah chapter 8, verses 11-13.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD. I will take away their harvest…There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.
The people of Jeremiah’s day were minimizing the seriousness of their sins. So God says he’ll judge Israel, and that like a fig tree with no figs, Israel will wither.
Now Jesus is going to use that same image from Jeremiah and he is applying it to the temple in his own generation over five hundred years later. By having lots and lots of leaves on it the fig tree showed promise to be fruitful, but in the end it didn’t produce anything. This was also true of the temple. There was a lot of image, but no substance.
The Jewish temple at that time looked quite impressive. The temple courts were five football fields long. During the Passover celebration well over 200,000 sacrificial lambs were sacrificed on the altar of this incredible temple. But the temple wasn’t producing the fruit of godly people. The temple had become all leaves and no fruit (all show and no go).
Okay so let’s see what happens next:
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” 18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
So, as I said, sandwiched in the middle of the story of the cursing of the fig tree is this cleansing of the temple.
Jesus was judging the temple because of the dishonesty of the people who were selling sacrificial animals and exchanging coins there. Jesus is upset because they’ve commercialized the act of worship at the temple for profit. So in his anger, Jesus calls the temple "a den of thieves," because of these salesmen and money changers peddling their wares for a profit.
But if the fig tree symbolizes the temple, then it’s important to recognize that Jesus isn’t just cleansing the temple, he’s actually condemning it. In fact, two chapters later Jesus is going to tell his followers plainly that this temple is going to be destroyed soon. Remember, Jesus didn’t cleanse the fig tree, he cursed it. He’s doing the same thing here to the temple by pronouncing judgment on what it has become.
The key to understanding Jesus’ action here are the two passages from the Old Testament that he quotes in verse 17. The first Old Testament passage he quotes is Isaiah 56:6-7, which promises a future time when people formerly excluded from temple worship will be welcomed.
“And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD and serve him, to live the name of the LORD and to worship him…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations"
God wanted the temple to be a house of prayer for all nations, but the Jewish temple excluded all foreigners.
The other text Jesus quotes here comes from Jeremiah chapter 7:
Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!"…Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods…and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? (Jeremiah 7:4, 9-11 NIV).
In Jeremiah’s day, the people were living like heathens throughout the week, and then believing that they were safe from God’s judgment because they went to the temple on the Sabbath. They were trusting in the temple for their safety, rather than trusting in God.
Jesus is saying that the temple of his generation has degenerated into the same sorry state of affairs that it had in Jeremiah’s generation. Instead of being a place of prayer for all peoples, it was turned into a place where disobedient people thought they could hide safely from the wrath of God.
They no longer worshiped God in the temple, they worshiped the temple itself. The temple had the same problem that the fig tree had: it looked all leafy and alive from a distance but there was no fruit inside its walls. Jesus didn’t go there just to reform or cleanse the temple. He went there to pronounce a final judgment on it.
Jesus is there to declare that this temple is doomed and there’s now a new temple for God’s people. Jesus himself is that new temple; he’s the place where people can find forgiveness and cleansing from their sins. And ultimately we ourselves have become the temple of God’s presence by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
Okay, are you ready to see the other half of the sandwich? Here comes the fig tree again!
19 When evening came, they would go out of the city.
20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.
24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”
So let’s review this “story sandwich”:
First, we have the start of the fig tree story. Jesus sees a fig tree that has no figs so he curses it. He wants to make it absolutely clear to his disciples what he is about to do in the temple. Jesus was basically giving them an object lesson about fruitfulness. If something wasn’t going to produce the fruit it was supposed to, it was going to be destroyed.
Next, Jesus declares God’s judgment that the temple has become a den of thieves. Essentially, because the people of Israel did not repent, God was going to destroy the temple for its unfruitfulness.
Then when they leave the temple, they see that the fig tree has already withered and died, which is a prophetic statement about what is going to happen to the temple in the near future.
Jesus tells his disciples that if they tell this mountain to throw itself into the sea then it will be done. Notice that he says “this mountain”.
Jesus was obviously pointing at a particular mountain. There is only one mountain he could possibly be referring to; the mountain that the temple was built on. This was soon going to end up destroyed, or “cast into the sea”.
So given all of this what we might say is that Jesus was acting out a prophetic parable in these two events. By turning over the tables, Jesus was stopping the temple from functioning temporarily. For a brief period of time no one could buy or sell anything, and therefore the sacrifices would have to stop. Without the sacrifices the temple had no purpose to exist. Jesus was acting out what would happen after the destruction of the temple because it no longer had any purpose in the New Covenant. Jesus’ sacrifice would put an end to the need for temple sacrifices and even the temple itself.
And ironically it was probably this very act that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Why? Because the temple was also the power base of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was essentially condemning their whole system, not just the temple. And this obviously did not go over too well with them!
Jesus was not just talking about the destruction of the temple but God’s plan to replace the temple with him.
We can see the confrontation building in the last few verses of this chapter:
27 They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
By asking whether John the Baptist received his authority from heaven or from man, Jesus perfectly silences the claims of the chief priests that He needed to get His “official” authority from them.
Look at what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ answer to the chief priests is actually a way of asking them this ultimate question:
“Why don’t you recognize and submit to My authority?”
That’s what we all need to ask ourselves once in a while, isn’t it? Are we walking in obedience to the authority of Jesus as the true Lord of our lives? Am I living according to the truth that he has revealed to me about who he is and who I am in him?
When I am living in complete submission to his will and plan for my life, then I will be fruitful for his purposes.
In John 15:4-5 Jesus tells us:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
We abide in Jesus when we yield our lives totally to his authority. That’s when we learn to produce more than just leaves – not just the appearance of Christianity, but the real thing – we have figs!
Sunday August 27th
Revised Hymns for Older People
Precious Lord, Take My Hand, And Help Me Get Up
Just a Slower Walk with Thee
Blessed Insurance, Blue Cross is Mine
It Is Well With My Soul, But My Knees Hurt
Go Tell It on the Mountain, But Please Speak Up
In Mark Chapter 9 we see Jesus, Peter, James, and John going up to hear God “Tell it on the mountain” (verse 1):
And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
The coming of the kingdom of God “with power” would seem to be a specific prophecy regarding Jesus’ resurrection since that would be witnessed by “some standing here”. The resurrection was also described as Jesus coming “with power” by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:3-4
“Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord”
But the Transfiguration, which is about to unfold within the same week that Jesus says this, is also a kind of fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words, since it displayed a temporary representation of His resurrection power and glory.
2 Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
The word “transfigured” literally means “changed in form.” This same verb is used to describe the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in Romans 12:2, where we are told to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and in 2 Corinthians 3:18 which tells us that we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”
The fact that the two men who appeared with Jesus were Elijah and Moses ties the old covenant into the new covenant because Moses and Elijah were the messengers of the law and the prophets, and now they were together with Jesus and His apostles, who were the messengers of the new covenant of salvation and redemption. And the New Covenant was about to fulfill and replace the old one.
When Peter blurts out “Let us make three tents, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” he is probably so overwhelmed by the glory of God shining through Jesus that he just wants to capture and prolong that moment as long as possible. But God knows that there is still work that needs to be done before Jesus fulfills His earthly mission, so He speaks from heaven several things that can be loosely translated as “Shut up, Peter. You have no idea what you are talking about!”
The first thing God says is “This is my beloved Son.” This first declaration is a divine revelation confirming the true identity of Jesus. There should be no doubt after this point that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
The second thing that God says is “listen to him”. This is both a reminder to Peter to listen rather than talk, as well as a declaration concerning the authority of Jesus as the true prophet of the new covenant. These words are also the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses said that “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”
One powerful thing that came about as a result of this transfiguration experience was that Peter, James and John could now speak as the Voice of actual Eyewitnesses.
Look at 2 Peter 1:16
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
Now compare that to 1 John 1:1-3
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
But of course the old saying tells us that “What goes up must come down” and so this mountaintop experience ends and the trip back down to real life continues:
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. 10 They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant. 11 They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”
Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian said, “God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God’s desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don’t live there. We don’t tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below. The streams start in the mountaintops, but they come down to gladden the valleys below.”
As they are traveling back down, Jesus tells the three apostles not to tell anyone what just happened “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead”.
This causes some confusion among them because, from a Jewish perspective, there would only be one final resurrection at the last days, not an individual resurrection in the midst of their earthly lives. This was similar to what Martha said to Jesus when he told her that Lazarus would rise again.
In John 11:24 Martha says to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
But what does Jesus say back to her in verse 25?
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies”
Then the disciples wonder “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus basically answers “Elijah did come first” which is a reference to John the Baptist. Although John the Baptist wasn’t actually Elijah risen from the dead, Jesus is explaining that Elijah was an Old Testament character who foreshadowed John the Baptist’s ministry. That’s why Luke 1:17 describes John the Baptist this way:
“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Just as Elijah suffered at the hands of Ahab and Jezebel, so John suffered at the hands of Herod and Herodias.
Now that they are all back on level ground, they immediately are faced with a spiritual crisis, one that was too big for the other disciples to handle:
14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
So let’s break down this incident. First of all, it is clear that this poor young boy was afflicted by a demonic spirit. The symptoms of his affliction were seizures, an inability to speak, and a self-destructive, almost suicidal tendency to toss himself into fire or water. According to his father, he has been this way for many years, and the best attempts at healing by the other disciples have had no effect on the boy.
In verse 19 Jesus seems a bit disappointed by the disciples failure, calling them an unbelieving or faithless generation. The interesting thing about Jesus’ encounter with the disciples’ lack of faith is that this happens just after He returns from the mount of Transfiguration, which is reminiscent of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments and finding the unbelieving and faithless Israelites worshipping a golden calf!
Notice also that Jesus kind of rebukes the boy’s father for saying “If you can do anything”. Jesus isn’t too hard on the Dad though. Jesus tells him, “this can happen if you believe it can.” But when the dad replies “Help my unbelief”, Jesus still heals the son by commanding the demon to come out.
When the disciples wonder why they couldn’t cast it out, Jesus answers “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
Now think about this. Jesus didn’t pray for the boy to be delivered, he simply commanded the demon to leave. So the idea that more prayer was needed didn’t mean praying right then and there. I believe that Jesus was saying that we need to be “prayed up” if we expect God to move through us. He was able to do what the disciples couldn’t because he was continually in communion with the Father through prayer.
But that kind of prayerful attitude comes from putting our own agenda aside and completely surrendering to God’s agenda, which the disciples still hadn’t quite grasped. We’ll see that in these next few episodes:
30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
This idea that the Son of God was going to offer up his life as a sacrifice just did not make sense to Jesus’ followers. It was the opposite of their mindset.
And this becomes apparent from the next thing Jesus asks them:
33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
I actually find it amusing and somewhat comforting how clueless the disciples were. He is talking about being killed and they are arguing about which one of them is the greatest. So Jesus gives them a lesson in humility and how they all need become like little children and look at what they say next:
38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is for us. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
Think about this. The other disciples were trying to discourage this man from doing the work of the gospel because… “He was not following us.” It wasn’t that the man was not a follower of Jesus; after all, he was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. What they really meant is that the man didn’t recognize their authority as “the greatest” of Jesus’ disciples. It’s the very attitude that Jesus was just trying to correct!
So Jesus again reminds them how important it is to respect all fellow believers as God’s children:
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
In verse 42 Jesus has a harsh warning for “Whoever causes harm to little ones”. This can refer either to actual children, or to any believer, especially new believers.
It’s a serious warning, but the part about cutting off body parts should be understood as the kind of exaggeration that is used to make a point. Jesus is simply talking about the need to completely renounce sinful habits at all costs.
The image of having “salt” in our lives describes the impact that true discipleship is supposed to have on the world around us. Salt is a preservative, and before the invention of refrigeration it was the only way to keep things from turning rotten. Jesus is telling His disciples to use humility and service to preserve the peace and unity of the church, rather than dividing it through a desire to be greater than everyone else.
Let’s summarize this chapter by looking at life on the mountaintop verses life down at ground level. We all love uplifting spiritual mountain-top experiences – whether they come in the form of a powerful worship time, an intense time of prayer, a fresh new understanding of the Bible, or receiving a prophetic word. There is nothing wrong with desiring those moments and allowing them to totally saturate our being. Have as many mountaintop experiences as you possibly can!
The tricky thing is avoiding the “Peter Syndrome” of wanting to build a tent on the mountaintop so that you never have to come down and deal with the “real” world.
You might want to stay there, but God needs your “salt” down here where lost and hurting people live.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that part of what is supposed to happen during our times at the top of the mountain is that we get a heavenly perspective that teaches us “this isn’t really about me and what I want – it’s about God and what HE wants!”
Remember this – if Jesus had stayed on the mount of transfiguration, he would have never gone to the cross. Then where would we all be?
Here is my honest suggestion for all of us: Go to the mountain. Connect with God there. Bring what he gives you there back down the mountain with you to share with others. Then go back up and start the process all over.
Sunday August 13th
For those who are watching their weight, I found this helpful list of 5 Dieting Rules:
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
In the Old Testament there were at least 613 laws or rules that applied to the Jewish people’s lives. The Pharisees believed that God had given them exclusive knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be interpreted and applied by everyone else. This made them very judgmental!
In verse 2 we are told “they saw some of his disciples eat bread with impure, that is to say, with unwashed, hands”
The Pharisees had been looking for reasons to find fault with Jesus, and now they noticed something that wasn’t right in their eyes. Jesus’ disciples were not washing their hands before eating.
But the Law of Moses really had no rule that every person had to wash their hands before every meal. As was typical for them, the Pharisees had extended the biblical instructions for priestly hand washing in preparation for the temple sacrifices (Ex. 30:19; 40:12) to include the eating of any food by any Jews at any time.
That’s what legalism tends to do…it keeps spreading further and further in the reach of its rules. If A originally used to be off limits, pretty soon B and C will be off limits too! (These are sometimes called fence laws)
One strange reason the Pharisees were so adamant about the washing of hands is because they believed that the washing of hands got rid of Shibta, which was an evil spirit which supposedly got upon the hands at night. Sounds like some strange superstition doesn’t it? There was no biblical grounds for this belief, only their own traditions.
But their religious rituals were so important to them that their rules, “the tradition of elders” were practically on the same level as God’s laws in their eyes.
Let’s look at how Jesus answered their concerns over the breaking of the tradition of the Elders:
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
That word “neglecting” the commandment of God can also mean “canceling,” or “abandoning”.
Jesus says, “You are so concerned about your own doctrines and commandments because you think your way is better than God’s way. Your tradition means more to you than what God says.”
Jesus points out to them that they completely fulfil the prophesy from Isaiah about people who give lip-service to God, but whose hearts are turned away from God.
Then Jesus gives a specific example:
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
Corban was a Hebrew and Aramaic word, indicating something as dedicated for a religious purpose.
So if I saw that you had $20 and asked if I could borrow it, you might say, “Sorry, I can’t lend it to you, it’s Corban. I’m planning on putting it into the offering box this Sunday.” And I would have to accept that. So just by simply saying a vow to reserve their possessions as a gift to God, these Pharisees could avoid their responsibility for supporting their elderly parents.
“Sorry you have to live in that dilapidated old trailer, Mom and Dad, but I kind of promised to make a big donation to the temple this week, so any help I could’ve given you is already corban!”
By allowing people to declare things as corban, the Pharisees were actually encouraging them to break God’s commandment about honoring fathers and mothers.
I think what Jesus does next is really powerful. He calls the crowd over and publically makes it clear that the Pharisees rules are totally backwards:
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now that seems pretty plain, doesn’t it? Forget what these Pharisees are telling you. Hand-washing isn’t that important, but speaking foolish talk about God’s law is.
As usual the disciples are a little dense, so Jesus has to break it down for them even more clearly:
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
So Jesus gives them a basic biology lesson. Food goes into the digestive system, not into the heart. The heart is more affected by bad attitudes than by bad food. The Pharisees were all wrapped up in preventing a little dirt from entering into a person’s mouth, while Jesus is much more focused on the filth that comes out of a person’s mouth, because our words reflect what’s going on in our hearts and in our minds.
Uncleanness of the heart, not the food we eat, is the real source of our sin problem.
The next little encounter that Jesus has also revolves around bread, but this is a different kind of bread:
24 Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.
It certainly seems shocking to most of us when Jesus refers to this woman and her poor sick daughter as dogs. We saw in Philippians chapter 3 that this term was a derogatory way that Jews commonly referred to gentiles. But Jesus is simply using this term to explain the complete plan, namely, that “salvation is for the Jews first”, and then it would be offered to the gentiles.
The children of Israel had to receive their bread first before it would be made available to the gentiles, or dogs. We can actually see that the woman understands exactly what Jesus means. Her reply indicates that she totally gets it. She knows that as a non-Jew she has no right to take away the bread that was intended for the people of Israel. She only wants a few crumbs of this salvation bread, not enough to rob the children of their blessing.
Jesus honors her humble acceptance of God’s plan and gives her the “crumbs” of healing bread that her daughter needs.
Keep in mind that all of us, whether Jews or gentiles, are true children of God by our faith in Jesus. We don’t ever have to settle for crumbs from the table. Jesus wants us to partake fully of the bread of life, which includes both our salvation and our healing.
To show that healing is included in the power of Christ, Mark includes one more miracle to finish this chapter:
31 Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”
The prophet Isaiah had spoken words of encouragement from God to the people of Israel. In chapter 35 he says:
The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
2 It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
4 Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
The people had been waiting for signs that God was fulfilling his promise to save and to restore them. One of those signs was deaf ears being opened. So when the people see Jesus demonstrating this power it really gets their attention.
In fact, when John the Baptist was in prison, he started to wonder whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, even though he had called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
In Luke 7:19-22 we see this:
Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” 20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
The miracles that he performed were one of the greatest proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
Here’s an interesting passage, because it compares John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus with the testimony of his miracles – It’s found in John Chapter 5, verses 33-36, where Jesus is answering those who were questioning whether he was the true Messiah:
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
Yes, John had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Lamb of God, but that was just the testimony of a man. The true testimony of Jesus was found in the miracles that he was working by the power of God – those were the ultimate proof that he had been sent by the Father!
Think about it this way – what is the true proof in each of our lives that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Isn’t it the miraculous power that has changed our lives? Isn’t that the ultimate reality of who Jesus is? If it were not for his power to save us and change us, where would our lives be today? Thank God for the miracle-working power of Jesus!