1540.) Mark 13

March 27, 2015

Several of these billboards predicting Jesus’ return were up around Orlando some years ago. Actually, this is the same group that predicted the return of Christ in 1994 . . . oops!  (But see verse 32 below!)

Mark 13 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Foretells the Future

1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”

2 Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

This temple was originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15), but greatly expanded and improved by Herod. It was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years — so much so, that it was customary to swear by the temple (Matthew 23:16), and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13).

After Herod’s work, the temple was huge — nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. Herod’s rebuilding started in 19 B.C., and was not completed until A.D. 63, taking more than eighty years. The magnificent temple compound was finished only seven years before it was destroyed.

The beauty of the ancient temple is well documented. The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered on the outside with gold plates that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them it blinded any observer. Where there wasn’t gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow on the temple.

The comment of the disciples – see what manner of stones and what buildings are here – is especially appropriate given the massive stones Herod used in building the temple. Today, tourists can see some of these massive stones, at least the ones used to build merely the retaining wall for the temple compound. These cut, quarried blocks of limestone are so big – some are 50 feet wide, 25 feet high, and 15 feet deep – that modern construction cranes could not lift them. Archaeologists are still not completely certain how these stones were cut, transported, and placed with such precision that they don’t even need mortar.

As great as the temple was, Jesus never hesitated to claim that He was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:5). For many Jews of that day, the temple had become an idol — it subtly began to mean more to the people than God Himself meant. The temple was a good thing, but good things can become the worst idols; and sometimes God sours even good things that we allow to become our idols. God is in the habit of destroying our idols.

–David Guzik

3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, 4 “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”

5 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 6 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 7 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 8 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

9 “When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

This last verse, sad to say, has been so mis-used in the church!  The right words to speak will be given in an emergency or a difficult situation, Jesus says.  It is not an excuse for our own poor preparation.

12 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Galatians 6:9 (English Standard Version)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

14 “The day is coming when you will see the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing where he should not be.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 15 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 16 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 17 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 18 And pray that your flight will not be in winter. 19 For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. 20 In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.

21 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!

24 “At that time, after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

THE SON OF MAN

One of the most enigmatic phrases that ever came from Jesus’ lips is his unique name for himself, the “Son of Man.”  Over eighty times in the Gospels, Jesus uses this phrase in the third-person to refer to himself.  What does he mean?

Many Christians have assumed that Jesus is showing great humility by using this phrase.  Though divine, Jesus relates to our human condition.  Indeed, “son of man” in Hebrew and Aramaic can both be used in an idiomatic way to refer to a human being in general.  When associated with Jesus, the phrase could also have pointed to the fact that he is the true fulfillment of what a human being was supposed to be.

Jesus sometimes uses “Son of Man” in an ordinary way.  But more often he uses it in a very special sense, making bold claims about his messianic mission.  To catch what he is saying, we need to understand how the Jewish people of Jesus’ time interpreted a key messianic prophecy from the book of Daniel about an enigmatic figure called the “Son of Man.”  One night Daniel had a vivid dream in which he saw a great, heavenly court in session.  Suddenly, he saw “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Immediately this exalted figure approached the Ancient of Days and was “given authority, glory and sovereign power.”  Daniel goes on to say that “all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

In the first century, this passage was universally understood as a reference to the coming Messiah.  The book of Daniel predicted the rise of great kingdoms, which would eventually fall to the authority of one supreme king, a king who would rule forever.  The pinnacle of Daniel’s prophecy was this scene in which a humanlike figure enters God’s throne room, is crowned, and then sits down on the throne to reign.

Jesus also speaks of himself as the Son of Man who will come in glory on the clouds, a clear reference to this passage from Daniel.  His audience would know exactly what he is saying . . .

Once we begin to hear Jesus’ words as though we are his contemporaries, steeped in an understanding of the Scriptures and the cultural context in which they were spoken, the power of his claims becomes both obvious and striking.  The enigmatic phrase “Son of Man” becomes a multifaceted summary of Christ’s entire redemptive mission, speaking of his humanity, his coming glory, and his role as Judge and Savior of all the earth.  No wonder so many of his listeners responded with either awe or anger at his words!

(pp. 47-49)

28 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

34 “The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 36 Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is one of my favorites from Hillsong — “Hosanna.”   Christ is coming, and won’t that be a glorious day!

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
billboard.     http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/harold_camping_nutcase.jpg
The end is near.     http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Ten-Notable-Apocalypses-That-Obviously-Didnt-Happen.html
hand holding growing plant.    http://www.ubcfayetteville.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/renew.gif
Bible.     http://ivarfjeld.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/bible-blue14.jpg

1539.) Mark 12:28-44

March 26, 2015

Mark 12:28-44 (New Living Translation)

The Most Important Commandment

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

LOVE, THE ESSENCE OF THE TORAH

Both before and after Jesus, the rabbis were fascinated by one important question:  “What is the greatest principle of the Torah?”  They were looking for the one abiding principle that would embody all the rest.  Hillel’s answer—”Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow”—was one response.  About a hundred years after Jesus, Rabbi Akiva said:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When Jesus was asked which commandment was the most important, his answer was to quote not one but two passages, beginning with the Shema:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”  (Deuteronomy 6:5).   Then he quoted from Leviticus 19:18:  “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”

But why two commandments, and not one?  Jesus was being typically Jewish in setting two truths in tension with each other.  Remember Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof, who used to say, “on the one hand . . . but on the other hand?”  Jesus was saying that love is the best possible interpretation of the laws of the Torah—the ultimate summation of everything that God has taught in the Scriptures.  In rabbinic lingo, you might even say that “love fulfills the law.”  In fact, Paul said exactly that.  And not only is love the best interpretation of the law, but Paul continues by saying that loving your neighbor is also the ultimate way to live it out:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Ultimately, for both Jews and Gentiles, love of God and love of neighbor is what fulfills the Torah.  And as John so eloquently tells us:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  (1 John 4:10-12)

(pp. 176-179)

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “More Love, More Power”  sung by Michael W. Smith.

_________________________

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

35 Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

37 Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

38 Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. 39 And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 40 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Here’s an illustration (by James Christensen) of the widow’s mite.  I particularly like it.

Notice how the rich people aren’t even looking at her.  They are looking away.  I heard a sermon once where this story was used to illustrate how we ignore the poor among us, turning away.  Did they care for her?  Did they provide for the widow in their midst, who had nothing, but was generous to the point of extravagance?

What does it say about us?

What does it tell us about how God would have us to act?

–from   http://sandpipersthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/03/widows-mite.html

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
I love . . .    http://authenticmike.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/ilove.jpg
Rules, Religion, Relationship.   https://timfall.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/1634993008_1391708946.jpg
Christensen, “The Widow’s Mite.”    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/the_widows_mite.jpg

1538.) Mark 12:1-27

March 25, 2015
I have seen vineyards on four continents but some of the most beautiful, in my opinion, are in Sonoma County, California.

I have seen vineyards on four continents but some of the most beautiful, in my opinion, are in Sonoma County, California.

Mark 12:1-27

(New Living Translation)

Parable of the Evil Farmers

(When I tell the Gospel of Mark, I divide the audience into two groups.  One joins me every time I say “this man,” and the other joins in — venomously! — when I say “these tenants.”  I have reworded the text slightly to allow this audience participation.)

1 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “This man planted a vineyard.

He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower.

Then this man leased the vineyard to these tenants and moved to another country.

2 At the time of the grape harvest, this man sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. 3 But these tenants grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed.

4 This man then sent another servant, but these tenants insulted him and beat him over the head. 5 The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, 6 until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. This man finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

7 “But these tenants said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 8 So these tenants grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.

9 “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—this man will come and kill these tenants and lease the vineyard to others. 10 Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
11 This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’”

12 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked tenants. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

Taxes for Caesar

A Roman imperial denarius (the coin Jesus asked for) was silver with the picture of Emperor Tiberius. These coins were minted from 14 to 34 AD.

A Roman imperial denarius (the coin Jesus asked for) was silver with the picture of Emperor Tiberius. These coins were minted from 14 to 34 AD.

13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Can you see their smug faces?  If Jesus says yes, then he grants to Caesar, rather than God, sovereignty over the nation of Israel.  If he says no, it could be construed as treasonous.  Ah, they think he cannot win!

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.

A coin with the emperor’s image on it belongs to the emperor.  But we, who have been made in God’s image, belong to God.  Jesus clearly wins this round!

Discussion about Resurrection

This is amazing! I found the picture from the first wedding! See the groom (who will soon die, poor thing) and all his brothers!  And the long-suffering bride!

18 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees, who followed only the Five Books of Moses, spun an imaginary story to make the whole idea of resurrection look ridiculous.

They posed this question: 19 “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. 20 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 21 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. 22 This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. 23 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

24 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

26 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 27 So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”

So Jesus uses one of the Five Books of Moses, Exodus, to prove that they are wrong!  Another brilliant victory for Jesus!

_________________________

Music:

Recently I have said good-bye to two wonderful women, dear friends of mine; the Lord has taken them to their new home in Heaven.  And my father died just six months ago.  So I am reading this question from the Sadducees differently now, and thinking of what it will be like there, with the angels and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the others who have gone before.  These thoughts are more interesting to me now as I am older than they were when I was younger, and I look forward to singing my “Heaven Song” once I pass from time to eternity.  HERE  is Phil Wickham and “Heaven Song.”

_________________________

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

THE LIFE OF A RABBI

Rabbis interpreted the Torah, explained the Scriptures, and told parables.  Some traveled from village to village, teaching in synagogues.  Though they relied on the hospitality of others, rabbis were never paid.  They often took disciples who would study under their direction for years, traveling with them everywhere they went.  Study sessions were often conducted outdoors in vineyards, marketplaces, beside a road, or in an open field. Disciples would then go out on their own, holding classes in homes or in the synagogue.

Knowing more about the life of a rabbi sheds considerable light on the life of Jesus.  Remember Dan Brown’s enormously popular but historically flawed book, The DaVinci Code?  It advances the notion that Jesus was married.  Brown bases this assertion on the idea that Jewish society would not have allowed him to remain single.  Listen to what he says through the lips of his main character, Robert Langdon, “According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable wife for his son.  If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible’s gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for his unnatural state of bachelorhood.”

Brown is right in one respect.  Most Jewish men married at a fairly young age, often between the ages of eighteen and twenty.  But he seems ignorant of the fact that rabbinic scholars spent many years in study and travel, causing some to postpone marriage until much later in life.  As David Biven points our, “A bachelor rabbi functioning within Jewish society of the first century was not as abnormal as it might first appear.  Rabbis often spent many years far from home, first as students and then as itinerant teachers.  It was not uncommon for such men to marry in their late thirties or forties.”

This fits perfectly with Jesus’ statement that “others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), and Paul’s affirmation of singleness as well.  Singleness was not an impossibility, but a sign of a rabbi’s great commitment to God.

(pp.27-28)

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Leon Hardt Vineyards.   http://www.leonhardtvineyards.com/img/vineyardFall.JPG
parable of the evil farmers:  all art by Henry Martin.     http://www.sermons4kids.com/parable-tenants-ppt-slides.htm
denarius.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Emperor_Tiberius_Denarius_-_Tribute_Penny.jpg
wedding picture.   The bride and groom (center front) are Joe Orban’s grandmother and grandfather. He said the image was photographed in 1912 in New Jersey.  Before Joe’s father passed away he wrote a history of his heritage and gave Joe some old photos. This encouraged Joe to research his paternal heritage several generations to a small town on the Austrian-Hungary border.  In this old photo Joe’s grandfather, Youzef, was 24 and he thinks his grandmother, Ester, looks somewhat younger. Youzef traveled to the USA in 1904 at the age of 15 on a steamship and Joe found details of this from the Ellis Island entry records. The couple had 3 children, but two died in their teens. Within 7 years of this photo being taken, Ester died in the Great Flu Plague of 1919.
http://www.fashion-era.com/images/Wedding/1910s_weddings/1912-old-wedding-photo-joes.jpg

1537.) Mark 11

March 24, 2015
Pilgrims from around the world come to modern-day Jerusalem to celebrate Palm Sunday. They wend their way down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and through the streets of the city to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Pilgrims from around the world come to modern-day Jerusalem to celebrate Palm Sunday. They wend their way down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and through the streets of the city to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Mark 11 (New Living Translation)

Jesus’ Triumphant Entry

1 As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’”

4 The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. 5 As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it.

Jesus has everything already arranged for this important week.  He has taken care of the colt for his entry into Jerusalem, and later we will see how he has taken care of the location for the Passover meal they will share.

Amy Carmichael says, “When our Lord Jesus comes again He will want to have a company of people upon whom He can count to do anything at a moment’s notice, without fuss or demanding explanation.  If that is to be so, we must prepare now.  How delightful it must have been for Jesus to be able to count on the owner of the colt and know that he would not disappoint Him.  And there was another unknown man in Jerusalem to whom it would be enough to say, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?

“Are we like them in this readiness?  Can we say what David’s servants said to their king in 2 Samuel 15:15?  Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall choose.”

7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.

8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields.

"Triumphal Entry"  by Liz Lemon Swindle

“Triumphal Entry” by Liz Lemon Swindle

9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

These statements from the crowd come from Psalm 118:19-29.  In this, their praise was Scriptural. It’s important that we praise God as He wants to be praised.  So if God says we are to come to Him with words (Hosea 14:2), then that is how we come.  If God says we are to come to Him with song (Psalm 100:2), that is how we come.  If God says we are to come to Him with hands raised up (Psalm 134:2), that is how we come.  The whole point in worship is to do what pleases God, not what pleases us, but the beautiful truth is that when we please God, we find ourselves wonderfully pleased.

–David Guzik

11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

The prophets spoke of the Messiah coming to inspect the Temple:

Malachi 3:1-3 (English Standard Version)

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.  But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

12 The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14 Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.

Jesus Clears the Temple

15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

PRAYERS JESUS PRAYED

Since about A.D. 400, blessings have always started with the words, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe . . .”  In the first century they were much shorter, simply beginning with the words “Blessed is he . . .”  The first book of the Mishnah lists dozens of blessings and when they were used.  Here is one of them:

When something terrible happens, you say,

Blessed is he who is the true judge.

(pp. 215-216)

19 That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.

20 The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. 21 Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!”

Mk11 figs

When Jesus approached the fig tree, the text indicates that the tree had plenty of leaves. R.K. Harrison, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, explains that various kinds of figs grew in Palestine during the first century. One very important aspect of fig growth has to do with the relationship between the leaf and the fruit. Harrison notes that the tiny figs, known to the Arabs as taksh, “appear simultaneously in the leaf axils” (1982, 2:302) This taksh is edible and “is often gathered for sale in the markets” (2:302). Furthermore, the text notes: “When the young leaves are appearing in spring, every fertile fig will have some taksh on it…. But if a tree with leaves has no fruit, it will be barren for the entire season” (2:301-302).

Thus, when Jesus approached the leafy fig tree, He had every reason to suspect that something edible would be on it. However, after inspecting the tree, Mark records that “He found nothing but leaves.” No taksh were budding as they should have been if the tree was going to produce edible figs that year. The tree appeared to be fruitful, but it only had outward signs of bearing fruit (leaves) and in truth offered nothing of value to weary travelers.

In addition, anyone even slightly familiar with the character of Jesus knows that He did not spend His time on this Earth eradicating barren fig trees as an ecological service to Palestinian farmers. What, then, was the point of such abrupt action against the tree? When one notices the context of the event, Jesus’ intention seems to become apparent and two fold. First, in its immediate context, the barren fig tree seems to apply to the pretentious religion of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Following Jesus’ curse upon the fig tree, the text says that Jesus went to Jerusalem and began to drive the money changers out of the temple (Mark 11:15-19). The activities in the temple that once had been fruitful and wholesome had become empty of value and useless. Allen Black commented: “The cursing of the fig tree symbolizes God’s judgment on Israel for not bearing the fruit he wanted from the temple. It foreshadows the cleansing of the temple and ultimately the prophecy of its destruction in chapter 13” (1995, p. 200).

Second, in a general sense, Jesus often insisted that trees which do not bear good fruit will be cut down (Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-9). The fig tree did not bear fruit, was useless, and deserved to be destroyed: the spiritual application being that any human who does not bear fruit for God will also be destroyed for his or her failure to produce.

Jesus did not throw a temper tantrum and curse the fig tree even though it was incapable of producing fruit. He cursed the tree because it should have been growing fruit since it had the outward signs of productivity. Jesus’ calculated timing underscored the spiritual truth that barren spiritual trees eventually run out of time. As for personal application, we should all diligently strive to ensure that we are not the barren fig tree.

–Kyle Butt

22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

“The one who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lord, give me a forgiving heart!

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 28 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”

29 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 30 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”

31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 32 But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. 33 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”

. . . and we don’t care.  Their answer shows clearly they are not interested in the truth about either John or Jesus.  They just want their own power left to them undisturbed.

And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

_________________________

Music:

The wonderful men’s choir Chanticleer with a piece of early 17th-century music by British composer Orlando Gibbons — HERE  is “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Palm Sunday pilgrims.    http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/jerusalem-syndrome-4.jpg
Swindle.   http://img.deseretnews.com/images/article/midres/690273638/690273638.jpg
figs.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/81f16-brownturkeyfigs3-30.jpg
Simon.     http://fineartamerica.com/featured/a-forgiving-heart-fania-simon.html

1536.) Mark 10:32-52

March 23, 2015

Mark 10:32-52 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

Jesus speaks of the shame he will face, being handed over to Gentiles and physically and emotionally humiliated.  It took some time, but eventually the disciples understood what it meant for them as well:

Acts 5:39-41 (Contemporary English Version)

The council members agreed with what Gamaliel said, and they called the apostles back in. They had them beaten with a whip and warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they let them go.

The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus.

Jesus Teaches about Serving Others

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What is your request?” he asked.

37 They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

In Mark 9, the disciples were arguing about who is the greatest; James and John, with great self-confidence, wanted to lock in the #1 and #2 spots for themselves.

38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39 “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering.

James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).  Long-standing tradition asserts that John was sent into exile to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.

40 But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier.  Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them.  Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”  The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers.  The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.”  With that George Washington got back on his horse and rode off.
 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key,
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave-notes fall on my ear,
Ev’rything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let it bear
Gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

–Clara H. Scott, 1841-1897 — a music teacher from Lyons, Iowa

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

Psalm 91:14 (English Standard Version)

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

Oh!!  Jesus asks YOU that question!!   

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Just now, give him your specific answer.

“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

PRAYERS JESUS PRAYED

Since about A.D. 400, blessings have always started with the words, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe . . .”  In the first century they were much shorter, simply beginning with the words “Blessed is he . . .”  The first book of the Mishnah lists dozens of blessings and when they were used.  Here is one of them:

When you first open your eyes in the morning, you say
Blessed is he who gives sight to the blind.

(p. 215)

_________________________

Music:

My husband, David, suggested this song.  It works well for Bartimaeus and for the rest of us!  HERE is Casting Crowns and “Who Am I.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Mark 10:45.    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5090/5337876362_79fdfef6c4.jpg
Via Dolorosa.    http://www.wherejesuswalked.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/6a00d8341c563953ef00e5509c5c978834.jpg
We’re #1.    http://media.point2.com/p2a/htmltext/47b6/fc41/4060/5894e06ba15e008797e4/original.jpg
Bartimaeus.     http://freetobefred.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/blind-man-healed.jpg

1535.) Mark 10:1-31

March 20, 2015
One of Jesus’ best metaphors! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I have read where the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a small gate in Jerusalem, or that the word for “camel” is mistranslated and should be “cable.” I don’t buy either. I think Jesus just meant it to be outrageous, to get us thinking how useless riches are when it comes to us trying humbly to seek God.

One of Jesus’ best metaphors! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I have read that the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a small gate in Jerusalem, or that the word for “camel” is mistranslated and should be “cable.” I don’t buy either. I think Jesus just meant it to be outrageous, to get us thinking how useless riches are when it comes to us trying humbly to seek God.

Mark 10:1-31  (New Living Translation)

Discussion about Divorce and Marriage

1 Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.

2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”

Mk10 just-married-car

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”

4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”

5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

Jesus Blesses the Children

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

The Rich Man

Mk10 rich car

17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

NO SALVATION WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP

There is an excuse that many of us use to get around the Law of God as it is given in the Ten Commandments.  We reason that the standard given in the commandments is an ideal one that is really unattainable.  It is a target for which to aim, but a person should not really expect to hit it.  Plus, it is part of the old covenant that is now past.

Jesus apparently did not feel this way.  When the rich ruler wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes portions of the Decalogue and extends their claims on us.  He does not relax them.

We often speak as if keeping the Law would be a heavy burden.  But how would keeping the Law be a burden?  Do we really believe that living with a divided heart is easier than living with a single heart?  Is our life any richer if we look to the creation for what only the Creator can give us?  Must we deal profanely with holy things like the name of the Lord and his Sabbath?  Are we better off having no respect for those who gave us life?  Do we have to live with deadly hate for any of our fellow persons?  Is there no deliverance from the defilement and the destructiveness of lust?  Can we come to the place where we can use language truthfully, even it if means our own hurt?  Can’t God make us content with what we have so we do not have to perpetually covet what is not our own?

Just to frame these questions ought to bring us to the conclusion that the Ten Commandments were not given to be an onerous burden and a structure to bind us.  Rather, the Decalogue is our charter of freedom.  The commandments are not a set of demands to bind us, but a tenfold promise of the freedom into which the Spirit of Christ wants to release us.  If I will let him flood me with his Spirit and with his love, there is not one commandment that I have to break today.  That is good news!

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

HOW TO ENTER THE KINGDOM

But the kingdom is not inevitable for everyone.  Because he is a merciful king, Jesus issues an invitation, not a command.  He will never force anyone to join but waits patiently for us to repent and follow him.  When Jesus spoke about receiving the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17), or entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21), he wasn’t talking about how to get into heaven after we die, as many people have thought.  He was speaking about having the greatest life possible.  How?  By living under his reign through the power of his grace. And he was using a Jewish idiom to communicate his message.

One of the earliest and best-known sayings about the “kingdom of heaven” is one that commented on the Shema—the prayer of every faithful Jew, uttered morning and evening.  The Shema beings with Deuteronomy 6:4-5:  “Hear [Shema], O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  The rabbis taught that anyone who prays this prayer with a sincere heart “receives upon himself the kingdom of heaven.”

Why did the rabbis associate the “kingdom of heaven” with this particular prayer?  They understood that people who made this daily commitment were mentally bowing down before God, “enthroning” him as their king.  Such people were proclaiming their faith in God and pledging to live under his reign.  To make this commitment had nothing to do with taking part in a political movement but everything to do with making an individual, spiritual decision.  This understanding fits completely with Jesus’ words that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) . . .

Jesus also declared that “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).  Notice that he didn’t say we are to receive it like teenagers testing the boundaries and pushing the envelope.  Nor are we to receive it like self-reliant adults, people who think they have it together.  No, we are to have the attitude of a small child responding with trust, dependence, delight, and a desire to please.

Remember what Jesus said to the wealthy young man who turned down a chance to become one of his disciples:  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24).  Jesus wasn’t talking about what the man needed to do to get into heaven after he died.  He was saying that the proud young ruler was refusing to accept God’s kingship over his life right then.  How difficult it is to choose God’s will over our own.

(pp. 192-194)

_________________________

Music:

HERE is Steve Green singing “Embrace the Cross.”

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
camel – eye of a needle.    https://taulantbytyqii.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/camelneedle.jpg
Just married.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/4b54b-just-married-car.jpg
Brink.    http://annecbrink.com/galleries/visiblekingdom/Mark/fullsize/WIB02004_Jesus_Blesses_the_Children_fs.jpg
rich man with car.   https://christfromtheheart.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/very-rich-ryruler.jpg
tablets of the Law.     http://rpmedia.ask.com/ts?u=/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/83/The10Commandments.png/250px-The10Commandments.png

1534.) Mark 9

March 19, 2015
A mural from the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.  The church belongs to the Franciscans.

A mural from the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The church belongs to the Franciscans.

Mark 9 (New Living Translation)

The Transfiguration

2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Moses represents the Law, and Elijah the Prophets.  What are they talking about?  Here is my guess:  Since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, they are discussing what Jesus would do in Jerusalem and what he would accomplish there.  As Jesus says later to the disciples, he has come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”

The Father says ‘Hear him.’ Many voices clamor for our attention: new philosophies, modern theologies, and old heresies revived, all call to us and entreat us to hearken, but the Father says, ‘Hear him.’

–C. H. Spurgeon

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

_________________________

Music:

“Only Jesus” — such a powerful thought!  HERE  is Matt Redman and “Jesus, Only Jesus.”  This song makes me want to bow down.

_________________________

9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”

This event made a strong impression on Peter; he remembered it years later—

2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV)

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.”

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.

16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.

17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

HELP MY UNBELIEF!

Faith does not come from ignorance.  Faith is based on what we know.

Before we will trust others with something precious to us, we first try to find out if they are trustworthy. This father was asking that he might come to know God in such a dimension that he could trust Him to cure his son.

His son had been possessed by an evil spirit since early childhood.  The father did not know Jesus well, but he had heard and seen enough to convince him that if there was any hope for his son, it lay with Jesus.  In desperation he cried out to Jesus for help.  Jesus’ response was to heal his son.  The desperate father had correctly gone to Jesus with his problem even when he was struggling with his faith.

When you are struggling to believe, that is not the time to avoid Christ or to be ashamed of your struggle.  You will never increase your faith by not going to Jesus!  Rather, Jesus wants to help you with your belief.  He can not only meet your need, but He will also give you faith to trust Him to provide for you.

If you are struggling to believe that God can take care of your need, it is because you don’t know Him as He wants you to.  Go to Him and allow Him to convince you of His ability to meet every need you will ever face.

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

“Jesus found disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, and defeated disciples . . . He silenced the scribes, He comforted the father, He healed the boy, He instructed the disciples.”

–George Campbell Morgan

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

The Greatest in the Kingdom

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity.  The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success.  It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds.  Success alone justifies wrongs done . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means . . .

The figure of the crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.

–D. Bonhoeffer, quoted in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Using the Name of Jesus

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)

JESUS, THE RABBIS, AND SMALL SINS

The Sermon on the Mount:  Imagine for a moment that you are packed into the hillside along with the rest of the crowd, above the glittering waters of the Sea of Galilee.  The longer you listen, the more uncomfortable you become.  The crowd is hushed, as though everyone is holding their breath, listening as Jesus compares lustful thoughts to adultery and anger to murder.  His examples are hitting a little too close to home.  Then it dawns on you that Jesus is himself employing the rabbinic method of “fencing in” the Torah by telling the crowd that small sins lead to greater sins, advocating that you set up boundaries against great evils by avoiding small ones.

This idea of linking small sins to greater ones was common among the rabbis.  Listen to a rabbinic comment on laws in Leviticus:  “He who violates,’Love you neighbor as yourself,’ will ultimately violate, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,’ and ‘You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge,’ until in the end he will come to shedding blood.”  The rabbis wisely noted that the consequences of sin slope ever downward:   not loving your neighbor deteriorates to hating him in your heart declines further to taking revenge on him and finally falls to taking your neighbor’s life.

Both Jesus and the rabbis were preaching that the time to avoid sin is when it is small, before we slip any further down the slope . . . .

Later rabbis also preached about sin by comparing small sins to greater ones.  Listen to what they had to say about gossip:

“To which is gossip more similar, robbery or murder?”

“Murder, because robbers can always give back what they’ve stolen, but gossips can never repair the damage they’ve done.”

Such comments remind us of Jesus’ striking exhortations to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye should they cause you to sin.  The rabbis knew the great damage that even tiny sins can do.  A little bit of gossip can ruin a reputation.  One sharp retort can ignite a war.  The goal of their exaggerations was to impress upon their listeners the dire consequences of sins.  Jesus, too, was urging his listeners to avoid evil at all costs.  His strong warnings express his anguish at the destruction that ensues when we do not resist temptation at the very beginning.

(pp.169-170)

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

Fire and salt.  What is Jesus talking about? This passage has led to many different interpretations.

The first main interpretation is that fire refers to tribulation and suffering; these things accompany the “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) of the disciple. Since Old Testament sacrifices always included salt (Leviticus 2:13), Jesus is saying “just as every sacrifice under the law required salt, so the living sacrifice My followers bring to Me must be seasoned with suffering and tribulations.”

The other main interpretation is that fire refers to the Holy Spirit. As His presence in our lives “seasons” us, it purifies, preserves, and adds flavor to our lives, and so it makes our “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.

–David Guzik

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New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Church of Transfiguration.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Mt_Tabor_Church_of_Transfiguration_mural,_tb_n040200.jpg
MAFA.     http://biteintheapple.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Pentecost-5-Healing-the-Possessed-MAFA-1973-Cameroon-e1371441682242.jpg
Have faith.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/faith1.gif
Via Dolorosa.    http://www.wherejesuswalked.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/6a00d8341c563953ef00e5509c5c978834.jpg
success.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/success.jpg

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