Month: November 2017

What next? (Mark 16:14-20)

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Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.

But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?

Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.

There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.

And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.

These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).

Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.

Are you on-board?

[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]

Resurrection (Mark 16:1-13)

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Mourning is overtaken suddenly by alarm, by trembling and astonishment, silence & feeling afraid.

Death & pain & sadness are suddenly swallowed up by victory!  Jesus is alive, the grave is empty.  It was borrowed for three days but it is empty now, our God has robbed the grave!

Our whole faith rests on this truth – Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!

Bow down in worship and wonder, in awe and amazement.

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.

Perspectives (Mark 14)

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In Mark 14 the central figure is Jesus. The Mark’s Gospel slows down in these final hours of Jesus’ life, earlier chapters sometimes covered multiple days but now it’s slowed right down, these final moments matter, these events show us who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for you and I.

The writer like a modern day director of a video, keeps switching perspectives, revealing how a whole variety of people saw Jesus, what they understood about who He was and what He had come to these final moments to do.

The Murderers (vs1-2)
Ever since Mark 3:6 thoughts about how to capture and kill Jesus were real. When the chief priests and scribes saw Jesus all they wanted to do was kill him, Jesus filled them with rage and fury – that was their perspective. It is possible to feel right about the wrong thing! They were convinced they were doing a right thing in planning to kill Jesus, felt justified in their actions, felt they were even doing a good thing. Is there anything you’ve convinced yourself of that you feel right about, but maybe is in fact wrong to do?

The Worshiper (vs3-9)
In sharp contrast we have the woman who boldly approaches Jesus lavishly pours out her love and thanks and devotion to Jesus in an act of worship fit for a king. He is worth it, her love for Him is worth expressing in this way, it is not wasteful as some felt, it is an entirely justified act of lavish beautiful worship according to Jesus (14:6). Does ‘lavish’ describe your devotion to Jesus Christ?

The Betrayer (vs10-11 & 44-46)
Was Judas one of those who protested at this woman’s wasteful worship? A whole years wages wasted on Jesus. Maybe he was happy for Jesus to be a good teacher, a miracle worker, but for people to worship Him in this way – inappropriate, too much, wasteful and wrong…? He is not with Jesus, his heart has shifted, and so he decides to betray Jesus for a some of money. How could someone be so close, in the tight circle with Jesus and yet be unmoved by Jesus at a heart level? Proximity to Jesus does not guarantee faith in Jesus and love for Jesus.

The Friends (vs12-21)
It’s festival time, it’s that time for meals with close family. The close friends and followers of Jesus want to prepare a meal for the Passover. Jesus knows it is His last meal with these ones He has shared His life with, these ones He has invested the most in, and these ones He is about to leave to continue the Father’s will on the planet. They share a meal but there is an awkward moment in the meal as Jesus reveals to them that one of them has it in his heart to betray Him.

The Inner Circle (vs32-42)
The three closest to Jesus are called by Jesus to follow Him into the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus calls them to watch and pray. Jesus is not Himself, they see Jesus distressed, troubled, saying disconcerting things… ‘What’s going on?’ they must have wondered but exhausted they fall asleep more than once leaving Jesus alone in His hour of need as He cries out to the Father if there is any other way. How alone Jesus must have felt, even His closest disciples aren’t there when He needed them. Graciously still, Jesus knows, their hearts are with Him but their bodies are weak (vs38).

The Father (vs36/39)
Was the Father crying with Jesus? What was it like for the Father to hear His Son crying out, Father “remove this cup from me” and to remain silent because there wasn’t another way. Oh how deeply our salvation cost the Father and the Son! Did the Father look away because He could no longer look on His Son, writhing in prayer? Oh what pride and love must have swelled in the heart of the Father to see and hear the Son say; “Yet, not what I will, but what You will.” (vs36)

The Deserters (vs43-52)
Everyone left Jesus, abandoned Him. Not one remained. Alone.

The Accusers (vs53-65)
Jesus – arrested for nothing, falsely accused with trumped up charges that weren’t even consistent. He remained silent before them, didn’t try to defend Himself like He could have and only answered when the High Priest said; ‘Are you the Christ?’ “I AM” Jesus said. I am God, I am the Messiah and you will see it in time to come Jesus went on to say. For which they began to beat Jesus and spit on Him and mock Him.

The Denier (vs66-72)
Although he had deserted along with the rest of them, Peter loved Jesus and so followed at a distance, looked on at His trial. But when challenged regarding his relationship with Jesus he too deserted Jesus denying Him with his words, over and over again. He believed he wouldn’t, believed he would risk all to follow Jesus, but he didn’t and it impacted him deeply.

Who is Jesus to you? What’s your perspective?
Do you truly see what He has DONE for you?
Will you live your whole life as a lavish worship response?

Choose your focus (Mark 13)

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When it comes to questions regarding the end of the ages, the last days, the tribulation, judgement day & Jesus’ second coming – there are lots of questions and abounding interpretations.

Chapter 13 starts with one of the disciples remarking to Jesus how amazing the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem was. Maybe surprisingly to them Jesus replies prophesying about the imminent destruction of the temple (which happened in AD70) and launches into a discourse that teaches them regarding this imminent tribulation in Jerusalem & also instructs the disciples and us on the end times.

When we read sections like this in Scripture, may I suggest an approach. Focus on the imperatives – the crucial action items, the things we are urged to do.

Its a bit like driving in thick mist. Most years around this time of year when I and my family travel down to another part of the country at night, there is a section of the trip that almost invariably poses the challenge of really thick mist at night. The national speed limit is 120km/h but on those night long sections of driving safely require a speed as low as 20-30km/h. There is just too much that can’t be seen, questions as it were; is there an oncoming bend in the road (with dangerous cliffs), is there a truck or car just around the corner? In moments like this, apart from slowing down, I choose to focus not on what I can’t see, but to focus on what I can see! I can see the yellow line on the left margin of the road & I can see the middle line of the road. So I focus on those and know that what’s imperative is for me to stay between those two lines in order to stay on the road and to stay on my side of the road.

Passages like this are similar. Sometimes they uncover more questions than answers, provide more mystery than revelation. They are difficult to reconcile with other passages at times… However they also contain yellow & white lines – the imperatives.

Read again through this chapter and look for every imperative, everything you can do, are instructed to do.

What’s the overall impression you have now of what Jesus is telling you regarding the end times?

  • “Be on your guard” 3x
  • “Don’t be anxious” 1x
  • “Persevere” (implied from ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ vs13) 1x
  • “Stay awake” 3x

We are to be watchful & alert, not fearful, we are to persevere knowing Jesus will come for His ‘elect’ (vs20&27)! Come Lord Jesus come.  Choose your focus!

Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)

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To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments.  We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues.  However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!

Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst.  Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.

And Jesus connects this with how we treat others.  If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us.  This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  That’s true godliness, true holiness.  That’s what we should be majoring in!

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God.  And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

 

The Rich Young Ruler & Jesus (Mark 10:17-31)

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Consider for a moment the interaction between the young ruler and Jesus and what God is saying to you from it.

Who is Jesus?

The young man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” as he asked his question.  Jesus, however, resisted.  Wouldn’t let the man limit to his own ‘little box’ he’d made for Jesus.    Jesus is the majestic Lord of all, almighty God, ruler & creator of the universe, Lion of the Tribe of Judah…  You can’t just choose yourself who He is in your life.

You see, Either Jesus really is God or He is not.  If He is God then it follows that we MUST SURELY obey Him explicitly in ALL of life.  However, if He isn’t God then really don’t bother with anything about him ever again.

Good news not good advice

The young man’s question exposed that he didn’t understand the gospel, he was  legalistic and religious.  He wanted to know what more he could DO to inherit eternal life.  He was focussed on his moral performance thinking that was what God required from Him.  He was looking for GOOD ADVICE from Jesus, ‘what more can I DO to please God enough to earn eternal life?’.

Jesus’ response was designed to expose the futility in that thinking.  Go and keep all the commandments, and then give away everything you have to the poor!  With man this is impossible, Jesus said later on.  It is impossible to obey all the commandments fully and to have the right heart that God requires – no one can do it (Romans 3:10-12), no one.  That’s why Jesus came to earth, to do what we can’t do!

That’s why the gospel is GOOD NEWS not GOOD ADVICE.  It is not information about something we should DO, or something more we should DO (which is what the young man was asking).  The gospel is the GOOD NEWS of what Jesus has already DONE for us in our place because with us this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Thank you Jesus for the good news of the gospel!

Letting go to lay hold

Lastly from this passage we see that the young man sadly could not loosen his grasp on his possessions and money, couldn’t let go of what his security and pleasure was founded on and so went away – ‘disheartened’ (Mark 10:22).

You, can’t hold onto Jesus truly unless you let go of what you’re holding onto first!  We can’t simply add Jesus to the rest of our lives, following Jesus means laying down of everything in our lives at a heart level – giving it all up to lay hold of Jesus, trusting that Jesus is worthy of that level of devotion and trusting that Jesus is good and will reward those who do lay it all down for Him.

Consumer contract? (Mark 10:1-16)

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“Marriage is a long-term binding commitment epitomised in a covenant.” – T.Keller

In Jesus’ day, the institution of marriage had been eroded by the sinfulness of men and women to the point that marriages were discarded for ‘any and every reason’ by some.

As a result, there was a debate amongst various schools of rabbinical teaching as to what God’s will was regarding marriage and divorce with some being very permissive and others taking a stronger view of lasting covenant.

The Pharisees approach Jesus looking to draw Him into their debate, with some seeking to trap or test Him; “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (vs2)

Jesus answers with a question; “What did Moses command you?” (vs3). Here Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses gave some regulations for divorce. The Pharisees summarise saying that Moses permitted divorce.

Jesus then teaches them that divorce was never part of God’s original plan for us, but that broken covenants are now part of our sin-wrecked world and human experience because of our hardness of heart (vs5). Jesus explains that Moses wasn’t encouraging divorce, rather regulations regarding divorce became necessary because of sin.

Jesus then teaches those present about God’s original design for marriage:

  1. Marriage is heterosexual (‘God made them male and female’ vs6)
  2. Marriage is supernatural (‘two shall become one flesh’ vs8) (‘what therefore God has joined together’ vs9)
  3. Marriage is a covenant promise (the word is not in this passage but the concept is) that is not to be broken

Jesus’ day seems so similar to our day when it comes to the brokeness of marriage and how far our experiences are often from God’s original purpose. Today, for many, marriage is not considered as the only God-ordained context for all sexual relationships. In addition, marriage itself often resembles a consumer-contract more than a covenant promise.

Consumer-contracts are merely agreements that remain in force as long as both parties feel that their needs/objectives are being met by the other party and any failure to deliver or change of desired objectives is grounds for breaking the contract as it is no longer serving its purpose.

A good example is the ‘relationship’ (consumer-contract) you have with your hairdresser. You like your hairdresser, might even love them, you’re committed to them, you only go to them to do your hair. But that ‘commitment’ is only one bad experience away from being broken. In reality, what is really happening is you’re committed to them as long as they do what you want them to do for you. It is not a relationship, it is a self-serving consumer-contract that hold reserve the right to terminate whenever terminating it serves you.

Although you won’t hear many talking like this about marriage, it is in fact the default for many these days when it comes to marriage, and it was the same in Jesus’ day – that’s how far we are from God’s ideal.

A life-long covenant promise however is what Jesus and all of Scripture reveals is God’s desire for us in marriage. Unsurprisingly, God’s way of covenant promise has incredible benefits for marriages:

1) Covenant makes love deeper because it enables a covenant relationship to grow rather than consumer-contract relationship
2) Covenant creates a cradle of security allowing for true relational vulnerability and allowing for true sacrificial service of one another
3) Covenant creates stability through tough times, and gives you something solid to hold fast to when storms hit
4) Covenant gives freedom as you are not ruled by your feelings anymore, you’re not just a slave to the moment, to impulses, to feelings. You’ve made and keep these promises in-spite of feelings which makes you a truly free person.
5) Covenant provides a reason & a resource to resolve conflicts

A marriage relationship founded on a covenant promise provides the foundation for intimacy, stability, freedom and beauty!

How do you view marriage? Consumer-contract or Covenant-promise?

Which raises a question; “What should you do when your experience doesn’t match up with what you read is God’s will for you in Scripture?”

  • Do you bend your interpretation of Scripture to line up with your experience?
  • Do you begin to disregard Scripture?
  • Or, do you repent if any repentance is needed and ask God to help your life to get restored back a place where it more closely resembles what is His revealed will for you?

Because of the brokeness of our world and our lives due to the fall and due to our sin and the sin of others against us, it is highly likely that your experience of marriage up to the present hasn’t been what God’s intended plan was for you. If that’s your story, may I urge you;

  • To repent and make changes if you have been treating your marriage as a ‘consumer-contract’ rather than as a ‘covenant-promise’.
  • To renew your covenant-promise commitment to your spouse if you’re married.
  • To come and be prayed for to allow God to begin to heal you, if you have broken marriage(s) already.
  • To honour marriage highly if you’re not married or not yet married, and to keep for marriage only, that which God has created for marriage alone (sexual relationships).
  • To repent and make changes if you have been sinning sexually, to come approach leadership so you can be loved and helped to honour God in this area of your life.

Upside down right side up (Mark 9:30-50)

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Jesus’ kingdom is an upside down kingdom. The King of kings came to serve rather than be served, the last will be first and the first will be last, the weak who lean on God become strong, the seemingly strong will in the end be shown to be weak, the repentant sinner is forgiven and the self-righteous pious one will be condemned…

In Mark 9:33-37 there is an almost embarrassingly honest conversation between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus has just been teaching them about His death and resurrection (Mark 9:31), they are afraid and don’t ask Jesus questions about this but end up discussing amongst themselves who’s going to take the lead when Jesus is gone, a discussion about which one of them is the greatest and therefore by implication should lead next.

Cringe moment! Jesus asks them; “What were you discussing on the way?” (vs33) Silence, you can hear a pin drop. Shame, awkwardness… Nothing else needed to be said in one sense, they knew He knew, they knew they were offside.

Jesus calls the 12 around Himself in the house and says;

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Jesus turns the whole conversation about leadership upside down! Being a leader means being the ‘servant of all’, not being served by all. Being a leader in God’s kingdom means being like Jesus who came; “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Being like Jesus means to value every person, from the littlest to the oldest, from the poorest to the richest, those you get along with easily to those who push every button you have. Receive them, serve them, love them – as you do you’re loving Jesus, loving the Father!

What a challenging passage for any leader! And what if you’re not a leader? Well you too are called to be like Christ, to not be self-centred but Christ-centred who will lead to you to be other-centred, will lead you to serve and value and love.

Help me Lord, help us to be like You more and more. For when we are, when we live out this upside down kingdom value, everything begins to feel and look right side up.

My Jesus? (Mark 8:22-9:29)

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Jesus is characterised by the unexpected. The Jesus of Scripture doesn’t fit into the box of neatly arranged human expectations. Some people walk around with “WWJD” rubber bracelets with the intention of suggesting we should live like Jesus, but what would Jesus really do in many situations?

For example: if you come across a deaf guy with a speech impediment like Jesus did in Mark 7:31-37. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well Jesus stuck His fingers in the mans ears, spat and then touched the mans tongue and he was healed!

Or again, if you come across a blind man like Jesus did in Mark 8:22-26. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO & WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Well again, Jesus spat, this time on the man’s eyes, laid hands on him and he was healed after praying initially and then praying again.

I would hazard a guess that these are not suggested methods in many; ‘How to heal manuals’. You can’t put Jesus in a box you’ve made for Him.

Seeing all that Jesus was doing, people began to have growing opinions regarding who Jesus was and what He had come to do. Was Jesus, John the Baptist raised from the dead or Elijah or one of the other prophets raised from the dead? Why was Jesus here, what had he come to do?

In that moment, Peter has a revelation and exclaims; “You are the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 8:29). In that moment, God the Father reveals to Peter WHO Jesus really is (Matthew 15:17), the long-anticipated Messiah.

But still Jesus will not be boxed by our limited expectations regarding what Jesus had come to do. The Jewish people had been anticipating the Messiah for hundreds of years, they had hoped that the Messiah would deliver them from human oppression and the national disgrace they’d endured under foreign ruling powers. Peter and others expect that the Messiah will deliver them from Roman rule and oppression…

And so when Jesus starts to teach about how he is going to suffer and be rejected and be killed…Peter can’t handle it! You can imagine him crying out; “No, Jesus”, ”This is not how it is supposed to be”. He wants Jesus to fit into his box, but Jesus won’t.

Jesus rebukes Peter, calls him out as doing Satan’s work in resisting what Jesus is saying is his ultimate mission. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)

We do this at times don’t we? We want Jesus to fit into the box we have made for Him? I sometimes encounter people who will use the phrase, “Well my Jesus wouldn’t do that/say that/expect that…”

But if He is YOUR JESUS then He is not the Jesus revealed in Scripture. Reading the Gospels it is apparent to me that the disciples were on a journey of discovery, learning more and more (often in unexpected ways) about WHO Jesus was and WHAT Jesus had come to do on planet earth.

May I, may we remain humble, open to the real Jesus revealed in Scripture.
May we always be in awe & wonder at WHO Jesus is & WHAT Jesus did for us.
And then may we worship Jesus with our whole lives.

When signs aren’t needed… (Mark 7:24-8:21)

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A road sign that says “Cape Town – 200km” is necessary because the traveller hasn’t yet arrived, and the traveller might need to know how to answer the incessant questioning of their child from the back seat; “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?”.

The sign in one sense is a comfort that you are on the right route but it is also a confirmation that you’re not there yet.  Because signs aren’t needed when you’ve crested the majestic Sir Lowry’s Pass after 18hrs of driving and you’re enraptured with the beauty of the setting sun sinking into the ocean alongside Table Mountain.  You’re there and so signs that mattered in the endless roads of the Great Karoo where everything looks the same, matter no more – you can see the mountain now.

As we read Mark 7:24-Mark 8:1-10 its hard to not be amazed again at the miraculous power and love of Jesus on display.  Jesus delivering the Syrophoenician woman’s child just like she asked Him to, Jesus healing the deaf man with the speech impediment, Jesus feeding 4000 people with just loaves & a few fish…

And yet after all this, the Pharisees approach Jesus and demand that He give them a sign to prove or explain who He was and where His authority came from (Mark 8:11).  In a rare sign of frustration Jesus sighed deeply!  What more could they have asked for, what more would convince them?

What irony! No sign from heaven would be given because Jesus Himself had come from heaven, and when you have the real thing, you don’t need a sign. God incarnate in Christ there right with them, performing miraculous wonders, and yet they couldn’t see the Him, rather they wanted a sign that would point to Him.

Jesus is God’s final word as Hebrews 1:1-4 says;

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” 

Friend, Jesus is the supreme sign of God’s love for you and for me.  There is and will never be anything or anyone greater than Jesus and His life, death, resurrection & second coming.  There is no other sign from God because Jesus is God and Jesus has come and He will come again.

Jesus is the sign and the destination we long for!

Why trumps what! (Mark 7:1-23)

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Why trumps what!  Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.

The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.

These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!

Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).

So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.

You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.

God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.

This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;

‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel

God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!

So, gaze again at Jesus!  Consider who He is and what He has done for you.  Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you.  What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.

Faith (Mark 5:21-6:6)

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pistĕuō (Greek): to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), to entrust, to believe, commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Faith is believing God.  Faith is to put one’s trust in God regarding something when one has yet to still see the outcome.  Faith is believing and acting according to that belief.  Faith is always rooted in SOMEONE or something.

Jarius the Synagogue ruler had a need, his daughter was desperately ill.  Jarius has seen or heard of myriads of people being healed by Jesus and on that basis Jarius believes that Jesus is worth approaching and reveals his faith when He says to Jesus (Mark 5:21-23); “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live”.

Coming to Jesus revealed his belief that Jesus was worth coming to, imploring Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter puts his belief about what was possible with Jesus on display.

Similarly, the woman who has seemingly unsolvable long-term medical issues believes, has faith.  Scripture clearly explains that the reason for her action was;

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:27-28)

Her thinking was, Jesus is the answer to my unsolvable problem – that’s faith!  And faith is what God loves.  Jesus commends the woman for her faith (vs34) and Jesus urges Jarius to keep believing (vs36) when he hears the news that his daughter has passed away.

Why does God love faith?  

Is it because of the relational component that there is to faith?  

I remember teaching my children to swim in the pool and in the ocean.  I remember so clearly just wanting those little freaked out kids to trust their dad, to believe that he would not let them get hurt or worse, to believe that he knew what they could handle.  I know what it feels like now teaching my 18yr old how to drive, when she is panicking that she can’t do something I know she can do, or drive somewhere where I know she can drive, I know what it feels like to just want her to trust me, to trust that I’ll help, I’ll direct and counsel and together we will achieve things she will be proud of and delighted with in the end…  Faith has a relational component to it.

God loves it when we trust Him, when we choose to believe He is good, He is loving and all powerful and that He knows what’s best for our lives.  Will you trust Him, will you have faith like this woman, faith like Jarius?  They saw their unsolvable problems solved because they believed!

In closing, Mark 6:1-6 is set in stark contrast to this.  Jesus goes to his hometown and He encounters the exact opposite of faith, people don’t believe they disbelieve He is anything special and so it says;

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6)

Jesus still did some miracles, but it was not much, He was astounded at their unbelief and as a result of their unbelief, His hometown lost out on what might have been if only they had believed like the woman, like Jarius.

Will you believe?

Do you trust Jesus in everything?

Are you living today, filled with the faith that God loves?

Perspectives (Mark 5:1-20)

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Let’s consider this account of Jesus and the demonised man from a number of perspectives.

Townspeople: Imagine the combination of feelings from the towns people…  This man was wild, uncontrollable, strong, scary.  They used to be able to keep him locked up with ropes,  then when he kept breaking those they tried chains (vs4), but eventually even those failed to restrain him.  So he roamed the outskirts of the town amongst the tombs, crying out, terrifying people.

The demonised man: What did he feel?  Tormented from inside, not in total control of his outbursts, under the influence of not one but many demons (vs9).  Although nothing physical could hold him, he was nonetheless gripped with fear and anger and shame, ostracised and unloved.  Where were his parents?  His family?

Jesus: Jesus has been busy.  Healing, delivering crowds from their sickness and all forms of oppression, teaching parables about the kingdom challenging mindsets and preparing the ground for the gospel.  So tired he fell asleep in the midst of the storm while on the lake (Mark 4:35-41).  Arriving on the shore, Jesus is met by this man (who must have looked unkept at best, wild or even unclothed even maybe) who comes running and throws himself down before Jesus.  Jesus is discerning, he knows what’s in play here this man is not free, this man is being traumatised, humiliated by demonic influence.

The Disciples: They’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the highs of seeing multitudes set free from oppression and healed, hearing perplexing yet mysteriously uplifting parables, afraid for their lives because of a storm & then in reverential awe at Jesus the one who just spoke and waves and wind obeyed Him!  Maybe this guy’s reputation had preceded him, maybe they fear again as this man comes running to them…

‘Legion’: Terrified!  Trembling, this is going to be a bad day!  The King of kings has landed on their shore and they know who He is, they are in no doubt of His ultimate authority.  “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (vs7)

The demonised man: Did he feel hope?  Did he often fight his own body and what the demons made him do?  This time, did he feel hope as he found himself running to Jesus?  Had he heard about Jesus, was he crying out inside yet his voice silent to those watching him?  Scripture doesn’t say, but when Jesus began to engage the demons controlling and robbing his life – I believe suddenly he must have felt hope for the first time in a long time!  Can Jesus help me, is this going to be the best day of my life?

The Disciples: What’s going on here?  Who’s talking to Jesus, begging him?  Who is Legion?  How do they know Jesus is God, we’re just starting to get that!

‘Legion’: In the presence of the Almighty one, this group of demons who had seemingly had so much control and power, had none at all.  They are pleading with Jesus the King of kings; ‘send us to the pigs…’ (vs12)

The herdsmen/farmer & townspeople: That day, one man’s freedom was more important to Jesus than 2000 pigs owned by someone else.  What a statement about the value to Jesus of the man who had been seen as having no value by the town he came from.  Was this action of Jesus’ a judgment on the town for the way that they had treated the man?  Strangely, they beg Jesus to leave them (vs17).  Did he rebuke them?

The redeemed man: What an incredible instant transformation!  From raving mad-man, scary and uncontrollable to ‘sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (vs15).  He tries to join Jesus, stay longer with Him, Jesus days ‘no’ but rather commissions him to share the good news of his transformation through his encounter with the Messiah.  And so he does, and he comes probably one of the greatest evangelists in the New Testament spreading the good news with the 10 cities in that region to the amazement of everyone (vs20).  #grateful

The disciples: “Note to self…” at this point in Mark’s Gospel

  • Jesus really has authority over sin & forgiveness (Mark 2)
  • Jesus really has authority over sickness
  • Jesus really has authority over the waves and wind
  • Jesus really has authority over all demonic influence whether it’s mild (Mark 2) to massive (Mark 5)
  • Jesus is really God!?

What’s happening in your life right now?

Have you considered not just yours but some of the other perspectives especially God’s?  How could that change things?

How does knowing Jesus’ authority over all things impact your perspective?

Small stories BIG impact… (Mark 4:1-34)

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Parables, simple stories with profound revelation.  Jesus had a way of engaging with people through stories that were instantly recognisable everyday scenarios and yet contained within them veiled revelations, truths about God, His kingdom and the life of the listener.  The key to unlocking the revelation was a humble heart combined with a desire to know more about God.  In Mark 4:9 Jesus said; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So, I urge you with the Parables to pay keen attention to the audience Jesus was addressing, consider the context of the day, repetition, take notice of surprise twists in the parable and especially the ending and then try to discern the BIG IDEA as there is normally one BIG IDEA in a parable.

Why don’t you do this yourself with;

  • The Parable of the Sower
  • The Parable of the Seed Growing
  • The Parable of the Mustard Seed