Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mark 16:14-20

Passage

After these things Jesus did appear to the eleven as they were eating one day.  Jesus rebuked them since they did not believe the testimony and were stubborn in doing so.  After rebuking them, Jesus told them to go into the entire world and proclaim the Gospel.  Jesus reassures the disciples that all who believe and are baptized will be saved.  But those who do not believe will not be saved.  Jesus also says that there are signs that will accompany those who believe.  Such signs are that they will cast out demons, they will speak in many languages, they will be able to handle poisonous snakes, poisons in general will not hurt them, and they will be able to lay hands on people and they will be healed.  After saying these things, Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father.  He continued to do miraculous things through His disciples.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Jesus does appear to the eleven.  But notice that they are rebuked.  They are not perfect.  They don’t always get it right.  Even after spending three years in Jesus’ direct company they get things messed up from time to time.  They still need correction.  I’m willing to bet that I would need some correction had I just seen the person I chose to follow for the rest of my life crucified.  Yet, in spite of the rebuke Jesus commissioned them.  He gave them a task.   He told them to be apostles.  He sent them out.  He told them to go and proclaim the Gospel to everyone that would listen.  Their inability to believe would not disqualify them from future mission.

If Jesus was able to work through the imperfections of His disciples, what does that say to you?  In what areas do you find it hard to believe and trust what others say about God?  In what ways is God trying to use you in spite of that difficulty to believe?

Second Thought:

Jesus is pretty clear on a particular point.  Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.  Those who do not believe are not saved.  In those words, you can hear that the topic of salvation revolves around belief, not baptism.  Baptism is a response to what God is doing within us.  It is not baptism that saves us.  It is that which God is doing within us that saves us.

Why is this an important point?  What happens to our proclamation if we stress that baptism is the thing upon which salvation rests?  What happens to our proclamation if we allow salvation to hang upon faith?

Third Thought:

Jesus tells us that there will be certain signs that will accompany those who believe.  There are people who take these signs as a literal closed list.  That is to say that there are those who believe we must speak in tongues or handle snakes.  I do not believe this is Jesus’ point.  Jesus is giving examples of how His disciples will rise above the world.  Jesus’ disciples will not fear the supernatural as they proclaim the Gospel.  They will not fear learning foreign tongues as they proclaim the Gospel.  They will not fear creation as they proclaim the Gospel.  They will not fear disease as they proclaim the Gospel.  Sure, things on this list may literally happen, but I do not believe Jesus is giving this as a literal closed list.  There are many signs that accompany Jesus’ followers rising above their circumstances in order to proclaim the Gospel – more than this list can contain.

What does it mean to you to hear Jesus speak as though we are to rise above our circumstances?  What specific circumstances do you need to rise above?  What challenges and obstacles in your life do you need to overcome so that the Gospel may be proclaimed?


Passage for Tomorrow: Philippians 1:1-2

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mark 16:9-13

Passage

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene.  Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus had earlier cast seven demons out of her.  While Jesus’ disciples were mourning and weeping over Jesus’ death, Mary went to them and told them that Jesus had appeared to them.  When the disciples heard that Jesus had been seen by her, they did not believe.  Jesus also appeared to another pair of disciples.  These disciples went back and told the rest, but they did not believe these disciples either.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Many people think that Mark 16:9-13 is an alternate ending, perhaps even designed to replace Mark 16:8.  In this ending of the story, we have a different point of emphasis.  Here the emphasis is not on the women and their fear about carrying the message forward.  Rather, the emphasis is on Jesus’ disciples and their refusal to believe the testimony that they hear.  There is no reason to not believe either ending.  The women being afraid to be the first to carry forth the message is absolutely understandable.  However, Jesus’ resurrection is pretty unbelievable and we know from the Gospel of John that the disciples did have trouble accepting it at first until they experienced Jesus for themselves.  There is no reason to say that any of these verses in Mark 16 are in conflict with one another.  They simply focus on different aspects as the word of Jesus’ resurrection first spread.

Why is Mark a neat Gospel in that these different “endings” allow us to focus on different reactions to the news that Jesus is raised?  How can we see each of these different reaction sin the world today?

Second Thought:

The disciples seem to have difficulty believing that Jesus is alive.  From the perspective of a modern believer, this may sound strange or even spiritually weak.  We come from a line of about two millennia of believers who have no trouble accepting that Jesus was raised from the dead.  However, imagine being the first of that line of faith.  Imagine seeing Jesus crucified from afar and knowing that you were probably next.  Imagine trying to go from mourning because of what you saw and hearing that other people have suddenly begun to see Jesus alive.

Why is there reason to have a little pity upon the disciples who lived through the time of the crucifixion and resurrection?  If you think about it, who doesn’t have trouble in the beginning of faith honestly believing that Jesus was raised back to life?  Why is it something that requires faith rather than logic?  Is it true for you that Jesus is something easiest believed in after a person has experienced Him?

Third Thought:

Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene.  Jesus then also appears to a pair of unnamed disciples.  We continue to see that in the end, God spoke through people who up until now hadn’t had a major role in the story.  This doesn’t diminish the role of the disciples.  They will have their role in the developing early church.  But it does reinforce the idea that there are no small roles in the kingdom.  We may feel under-acknowledged and unnoticed, but God takes notice and is willing to use us.  In the end, it really doesn’t matter what human beings give us credit.  What matters is how we are relating to God.

Have you ever felt like a “small pawn” in God’s kingdom?  Why can that be frustrating?  What does this passage say to how God can use you?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 16:14-20

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mark 16:5-8

Passage

Entering into the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side.  He was dressed in a white robe.  The ladies were astounded.  The young man said to them, “Do not be astounded.  The person you seek, Jesus of Nazareth that was crucified, is risen and He is not here.  Go tell His disciples – especially Peter – that Jesus is going before you to go to Galilee.  There you will see Him as He told you would happen.”  After this the women fled away from the tomb, for they had been seized by trembling and amazement.  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

It wasn’t enough that the stone had been rolled away; there was a young man in the tomb and no trace of the dead body.  I can only imagine where Mary, Mary, and Salome’s thoughts immediately went.  No doubt they assumed that someone stole the body.  Perhaps this man was part of the plan.  No wonder the women were afraid.  Their savior had been crucified and surely they now believed that people had stolen the body to do all sorts of things to it.  Yes, they did not yet understand what God was up to.

Why is fear such a natural response when we don’t understand?  Why is fear innate to us?  When can fear help us?  When can fear get in the way of what God is trying to do?  What do you think is the case here?

Second Thought:

The young man – an angel – explains everything to the women.  He tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead.  He reminds them that Jesus taught about these events before He died.  He reassures them that what Jesus had said was going to happen was actually happening.  This is not the case of some stolen body or a really poorly timed joke.  This is a case of God doing something incredibly amazing in their midst.  However, this is not only the case of reassuring.  The angel commissions the women.  The women are sent on a mission.  They are to go and tell the disciples what has happened.  They are the first apostles of the resurrection era.  Even though they don’t fully understand what is happening, God still uses them to begin to get the message out.

What can we learn here from the fact that the women don’t fully comprehend what is happening but God still sends them out?  How much easier would it have been to send an angel to tell the disciples what had happened?  What does this tell us about God, His plan, and His desire to use anyone who is willing regardless of their natural capabilities?

Third Thought:

One of my favorite parts of the Gospel of Mark is that this is technically where the story ends.  Our oldest ancient manuscripts don’t have Mark 16:9-20.  This means that Mark wrote his gospel with this as the natural ending: “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”.  Their fear paralyzes them.

What is the point about humanity and fear that Mark might be making by having the story originally end this way?  How have you been paralyzed by fear before in your life?

Aside:  Of course, we know the women do eventually talk.  Their fear is not permanent.  The ladies do speak to the disciples.  Also, you may be wondering how it is that the end of Mark came to be in our Bibles.  Others – perhaps Mark himself later in life – felt it necessary to provide a more uplifting ending to the story.  Because the vast majority of later manuscripts include this ending, we can tell that it was an ending that was quickly adopted by the early Christians.  Therefore, in most of our Bibles we include the verses but put in a note indicating that these verses were not a part of the original gospel that Mark wrote.



Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 16:9-13

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mark 16:1-4

Passage

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices to the tomb so that they might anoint Jesus’ body.  On the first day of the week, once the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  As they went, they were wondering who was going to roll away the stone that Joseph of Arimathea had put in front of the tomb.  They looked and were amazed, because the stone had already been rolled away.  It was a very large stone.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

The women headed to the tomb to complete the work of burial that had not been able to be completed earlier.  When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came to take Jesus off the cross, they had to hurry to get him to the tomb and makes sure the tomb was sealed before the Sabbath started.  Jesus’ body hadn’t been fully cared for as tradition, custom, and simple cleanliness mandated.  The women returned to the tomb to finish the work – knowing full well that they’d be working with a body that had some time for decomposition.  What’s great about this part of the story is that we see God has completed the work and begun a new one.  The women come to finish what was started only to find out that God has already finished it and moved onto something unimaginable!

Have you ever had God finish a work that you have started?  Have you ever had the experience of someone else finishing what you started?  How does that feel?  What is good about unexpected surprises?

Second Thought:

As the women went, they were wondering about the stone.  They were wondering how this heavy stone was going to be moved.  In this we can see women who were willing to be obedient to God even if they weren’t sure how it was going to happen.  They may not have known all of the details of God’s plan, but that was okay to them.  They were simply putting themselves out there for God to use.  That was all God required.

Why do we think sometimes that we have to understand every detail before being obedient to God?  Why do we think we have to know everything before being willing to follow God and act upon His will?

Third Thought:

The natural conclusion to the prior point is that God provides.  God not only finished the work that was started on the cross, God also provided a means for the stone to be rolled away for the woman.  When we are obedient to God and listen to His voice, He will prepare the way for what He desires to happen.  Our task is to be open and be ready to respond to His calling.  God will provide everything else as long as He has truly called us to it.

Is it easy to trust in God’s provision?  Have you ever been in a place where what you needed was provided for you even though you didn’t arrange for it to happen?  How can these moments be a sign to you that God is real and present in your life?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 16:5-8

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mark 15:42-47

Passage

It was the day of preparation when Jesus died, meaning that whatever happened to Jesus had to be done quickly because a Sabbath was about to begin.  Joseph of Arimathea – who was a member of the Sanhedrin as well as one who was looking to follow Jesus – was filled with courage and he went to Pilate to ask for the body.  Pilate was surprised that He would have died so quickly.  Pilate summoned the centurion to see if Jesus was already dead.  When the centurion confirmed Jesus’ death, Pilate gave the body to Joseph of Arimathea to dispose of as he wished.  Joseph brought a linen shroud to the cross.  Joseph took Jesus down from the cross and wrapped him in the shroud.  He laid Him in a tomb that had been hewn from out of the rock.  He rolled a stone over the entrance that had been cut into the rock.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were there to see where the body had been laid.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Typically, when a criminal was proven dead from crucifixion the Romans would pull the body down from the cross as disgracefully leave the body in a heap at the foot of the cross for the vultures to pick at and dispose.  It was the ultimate sign of humiliation for a criminal.  It would drive home the point to those still living that they didn’t want to cross the Roman governor in the land.  Joseph of Arimathea (and according to John’s Gospel, Nicodemus, too) likely knew this.  Therefore, a tomb was prepared with spices and linen.  Jesus would not lie in a heap for the vultures to pick apart.  Joseph acted quickly in asking for the body in order that he could prepare the body, wrap the body, and place it in the tomb.  All of these things would help prove the resurrection since the grave clothes would be left behind.

How does Joseph of Arimathea – a man wealthy enough to buy a tomb and several dozen pounds of spices for burial – demonstrate a servant’s attitude in this passage?  How does this story help indicate that Jesus embraced all people regardless of wealth and status?  How does this point go back to the point about counter-culturalism that was spoken of yesterday?

Second Thought:

Joseph also had to act quickly because by the time Jesus died he had three hours until the Sabbath began.  Of course, no work could be done on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ body had to be claimed, prepared, and laid in the tomb in three hours.  There was a sense of urgency because of the Law.  Jesus had come to fulfill the Law; nothing would serve the high priests more than having the Law being broken in His death and burial.  Being members of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were acutely prepared for this reality.  They understood the Law and its demands.  They were incredibly brilliant choices for Jesus’ mortician and caretaker.

How does this fact help us see God’s incredible grasp of reality and ultimate authority over what happens?  Are you amazed by how such a key role in the sacrifice of Jesus could be played by two figures that had such little roles in the overall story?  Why might it have been necessary for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to have such little roles prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Third Thought:

Then there were the witnesses.  The centurion who declared that Jesus was the Son of God witnessed to Pilate that Jesus had in fact died.  The Romans would not make a mistake on whether a victim of crucifixion was truly dead or not.  Mary Magdalene and a few other women saw where Joseph and Nicodemus put the body.  This way, they could be witnesses to the coming resurrection of Jesus because they could validate that they went to the correct tomb.  God was putting people in place to assure that truth was not missed.  Again, notice how little the players in the story are.  The centurion only appears in this story.  The women were women, a people that most societies throughout history have an easier time overlooking.  We don’t see the big name disciples at this moment.  God will use them in another way.  Proof of the atonement and grace that God provided for us comes from the witness of largely unknowns in the Gospel story.  God does not see status; He simply sees an obedient heart.

Why was it necessary to have witnesses who could attest to the process from crucifixion to resurrection?  How does it make you feel inside to know that God does not use status as the judge of who He can use in His kingdom?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 16:1-4

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mark 15:38-41

Passage

The curtain of the temple was torn in two as Jesus died.  When the centurion who was standing at the cross saw how He died, he declared that truly Jesus was the Son of God.  There also happened to be some female disciples of Jesus who were looking on from a distance.  These were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome.  When Jesus was in Galilee, He had ministered to them.  There were also many other women who followed Jesus who had followed Him to Jerusalem.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

The temple curtain is torn.  This curtain was the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place.  This curtain kept those priests who were not prepared to enter into the presence of God from actually entering into the presence of God.  Do not miss the spiritual significance of this testimony in the Gospel accounts.   We are told that the curtain is torn because with the atonement of Christ’s blood all people are now able to enter into the presence of God.  It is neither our works nor our own righteousness that allows us to enter into the presence of God.  It is Christ’s death on the cross that allows us to be righteous and enter into the presence of God.

How does this single statement reinforce the idea that salvation is through “grace alone?”  Are you prepared to enter into the presence of God?  Are you already in the presence of God?

Second Thought:

The centurion recognized Christ by the way He died.  This might seem strange.  But remember that the Romans were masters at crucifixion.  They were masters at it because this was a very common means of executing people in the Roman Empire.  No doubt this centurion had seen a multitude of crucifixions over his years of service.  But in all the crucifixions that he had seen, he had never seen anyone die like Jesus died.  This man, who was a veteran soldier in that he was a centurion, had never seen anyone die with the grace and presence of spirit that Jesus displayed.  He had never seen anyone give up their spirit and die as Jesus did.  To put it fairly bluntly, I’m willing to bet that the centurion had never seen anyone submit in the moment of their death.  This man saw Jesus submit to the power of the cross because He was submitting to God.  The centurion saw this and responded.

What can this story teach us about the power of submission with respect to our public testimony?  To whom are you submitted?  To what are you submitted?  How does this impact your testimony?  What testimony are you actually giving through your life?

Third Thought:

All of the Gospels – not just Mark – make a point to mention the women at the crucifixion.  In fact, every Gospel except Luke included at least one name of a woman not included in any of the other Gospels.  When we put this all together it means that there were many female disciples of Jesus at the crucifixion.  I think the early writers of Jesus’ salvation story are making a very intentional point.  Jesus actively taught women.  Jesus welcomed women into His inner circle.  Jesus accepted their presence as equals.  They responded.  I believe it is this dynamic of Jesus that eventually leads us to Galatians 3:28.  When we are truly in Christ, we no longer see status – any status – period.  We don’t see rich or poor.  We don’t see free or slave.  We don’t see male or female.  Instead, we see “child of God.”  Anything less is our humanity trying to superimpose itself onto the faith God is attempting to create within us.  Remember, the temple curtain was torn.  In Christ there is now nothing between us and God for all of us.

Why is Christianity ultimately counter-cultural to every culture?  Why is the call to become a Christian inherently a call to leave behind our worldly culture rather than to “make our worldly culture more Christian?”  Why is this such an important point to realize?  Why might this point be easiest to make through social categories such as women (or slaves, in the case of the verse from Galatians)?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:42-47

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mark 15:33-37

Passage

In the sixth hour, noon, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 3 PM.  At the end of the period of darkness, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me to be uncared for?”  Some people heard the Aramaic and thought He was called for Elijah to help Him.  One of those people grabbed a sponge and ran to Jesus to give Him something to drink.  They wanted to help sustain His life and see if Elijah would really come.  Instead of drinking, Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed out His last breath.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Jesus’ death is a throwback to what began at Passover.  At the Passovercelebration with His disciples, Jesus became the Passover Lamb, whose blood would make atonement for the people so they could continue to live with God.  However, right before the original Passover there were also plagues.  The last of the plagues were an impenetrable darkness and the death of the firstborn.  Here we have a re-fulfillment of those plagues.  The Passover Lamb has been slain.  God’s own firstborn is losing His life.  There was a great supernatural darkness upon the land.  {Also note that this had to be a supernatural darkness and not an eclipse as many have suggested because Passover is celebrated during a full moon, meaning the moon is on the far side of the earth.}  God truly is pointing people back to the exodus story in an attempt to get people to see what He is doing.

How neat is it that through Jesus’ death God goes back to the original Passover and recreates the final events?  If you had been there, would you have picked up on the connection between Jesus’ death and the Passover? 

Second Thought:

As long as we’re talking about Passover, we should understand that the point of the original Passover lamb was to prevent God’s judgment from taking effect upon certain houses.  The angel of death would pass over those who were atoned through the blood on the door post.  That same message is true here with the crucifixion, except that it is on an eternal scale and not simply a single release from bondage.  By linking this act to the Passover, God is making a clear statement to the world.  God’s angel of judgment is going to come among the inhabitants of the earth.  Anyone not covered by the blood of Jesus will die – eternally.  Anyone covered by the blood of Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb, would live – eternally.  The slaughter of the Passover lamb in Egypt brought about a time of judgment upon the Egyptians.  The death of God’s Passover Lamb does the same thing.  It is a wake-up call.  God’s judgment is coming.  Our job is to be ready.

Are you covered by the blood of the God’s Passover Lamb?  How do you know?  What does that tell you?

Third Thought:

When Jesus cries out, people around Him think about Elijah.  In a sick display of humanity, they rush to grab a sponge to help Jesus live longer.  They aren’t trying to sustain Jesus’ life.  In fact, if you think about it this is really a cruel move.  Who out of compassion would try to extend the life of someone who is inevitably dying a painful death?  No, these people are cruel in trying to extend Jesus’ life.  Why do they do it?  They want to see Elijah.  They want to see some really cool supernatural event.  They are not compassionate.  In their act we see these people display human self-centeredness at its worst.

Why can human beings be so cruel?  Why is the default human position that of self-centeredness, self-preservation, and self-mongerism?  How does this story help us understand why we need the influence of God upon our life?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:38-41

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mark 15:27-32

Passage

They crucified two thieves with Jesus, one on either side of Him.  People who walked by blasphemed Jesus while shaking their heads.  They said, “You said you could destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, yet you cannot even come down from the cross yourself!”  The religious leaders in Jerusalem likewise made fun of Jesus by distorting His words, saying, “Let the Christ come down from the cross so we may see and believe.”  Even the thieves crucified with Him mocked Him.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Jesus was mocked upon the cross.  This was actually the point of the cross.  The reason that the Romans crucified people was so that they could publically humiliate them.  They wanted people to see the person on the cross and say, “I don’t want to be that guy, so therefore I won’t do what he did.”  As they walk by Jesus, the crowds do exactly that.  They mock Him.  They take His words and twist them.  They close their hearts to what God is doing largely because of the social pressure put onto them by the world.  They assume that because Jesus is on the cross, something is wrong.  In reality, nothing could be more right according to God’s plan.

Why do we succumb to peer pressure so easily?  Why do we have such as easy time accepting things that are publically accepted already?  When can this be a bad trait?

Second Thought:

The Jewish leaders likewise mock Jesus, which is no big surprise.  However, look at their words.  They say, “Come down from the cross so we may see and believe.”  What they don’t realize is that Jesus does exactly that.  Jesus does come off the cross.  He will live again.  Yet they still won’t believe.  There words here are hollow and without true substance.  The Jewish leaders are cruel in their pursuit of leadership and dominion over that which had been placed in their hands.  Their leadership is not one of love, mercy, forgiveness, and discipleship.  Their leadership is dominion, control, power, and force.  Their leadership does not welcome others but derides all who are different than they.

Why do powerful leaders often grow cruel and cold under the weight of their leadership?  Have you ever seen a good leader turn bad?  What is so dangerous about power and control that it does this to so many people?

Third Thought:

Even the thieves mock Jesus.  The thieves, who were themselves destined to die, felt the need to mock Jesus.  This is the old trait of humanity that doesn’t want to be the lowest man on the totem pole.  Even though they were themselves being crucified, if they could make Jesus lower than they were then their situation would be “better.”  Even during a crucifixion we see humanity acting in this way.

Why do we not want to be the low man on the totem pole?  What does Jesus say to those who would follow Him by being the low man on the totem pole in this situation?  Go back and read Mark 10:45.  How does that verse come alive when we see the thieves acting in this manner?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:33-37

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mark 15:21-26

Passage

Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus.  He is noted as the father of Alexander and Rufus.  The Romans brought Jesus and His cross to Golgotha – which means The Place of the Skull.  They offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, but Jesus would not drink it.  They crucified Jesus and divided His clothes among them by casting lots.  It was the third hour when they crucified Jesus.  They hung a sign above His head that read, “The King of the Jews.”

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Cyrene was in Africa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea almost due south of Greece.  I’m not going to say that Simon had to scrimp and save to attend the Passover and this was his only time to come to Jerusalem, but most visitors of Jerusalem at the time of Passover were in that boat.  A Jew would often save for a long time to come even once to Passover held in the temple.  Imagine Simon’s horror as he felt the tap of the Roman spear on his shoulder indicating that he was to carry the cross for Jesus.  A man had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  Now he would come in contact with blood and become ritually unclean.  His dream pilgrimage to worship God was shattered with the single tap of a Roman spear.

How often does God break into our life unexpectedly?  How often do we consider the unexpected things as curses and bothers upon our life?  How often are we guilty of taking what God is trying to do in our life and looking upon them as unfortunate chores?

Second Thought:

We are told that Alexander and Rufus are Simon’s sons.  Clearly, Alexander and Rufus eventually became known to Mark.  Simon’s sons were likely a part of the congregation to whom Mark is writing – or at least known to them.  It is almost a certainty that Alexander and Rufus were themselves part of the early church.  What began for Simon as a horrible chore potentially ruining his Passover pilgrimage eventually turned into an act that most certainly brought salvation into his whole family.  It’s amazing what God can use in our life if we let Him!

What has God redeemed in your life?  What has God used for your betterment that you originally thought was going to be a horrible experience?

Aside: many people believe that Mark’s Gospel was written for the church that developed in Rome.  If this is the case, then it is possible (although not certain) that this same Rufus of which Mark speaks is the Rufus that Paul addresses in Romans 16:13.  If that is the case, Paul knew the wife of Simon of Cyrene and even considered her as her own mother!  Isn’t that a neat possibility!

Third Thought:

Those at the crucifixion site offered Jesus wine that was drugged.  The myrrh would ease the pain.  Jesus would have none of it.  We must be careful here.  It is easy to read these words and adopt a martyr complex.  It is easy to hear these words and adopt an attitude that we must always do things the hard way.  I don’t believe that is the point.  I believe the point here is that Jesus would fulfill living the human experience.  He had the joy of making disciples.  He had the joy of seeing people healed and relieved of their pain.  Now He would experience the downside of humanity.  He would experience physical pain and death.  I believe Jesus rejects the myrrh wine so we can see in Him a savior who has born all of our experiences and knows how it feels.

How great is Jesus?  What does it mean to you that He does this all for our sake but because the Father asks?  What does it mean to you that He knows the whole spectrum of human experience?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:27-32

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mark 15:16-20

Passage

The soldiers led Jesus away.  While they were still in Pilate’s quarters, the decided to call the whole cohort together.  The dressed Jesus in purple and then placed a crown of thorns upon His head.  The made gestures towards Him as though He was a dignitary and called Him the King of the Jews.  They struck Him.  They spit upon Him.  They bowed down in mock worship of Him.  When they were done, they put His own clothes back onto Him and led Him out to crucify Him.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

A cohort was the equivalent of six centuries or one tenth of a legion.  That means about 600 men.  600 men were called together to mock Jesus.  Let that sink in for a second.  Let me put that in perspective.  There are on average 220 customers in any Walmart across the country at any given hour, 24 hours a day.  So imagine taking a little under three hours worth of Walmart customers and standing in front of all of them.  Then imagine being mocked publically before all of them at the same time.  That’s what Jesus endured.  For you.  For me.  Publically mocked by the world.

What does it mean to you that Jesus was publically mocked by that many people?  How can this story help you the next time you are wondering about whether or not you should stand up publically for your faith?

As an aside, here’s some cool Roman military terminology:
  • 10 soldiers = 1 Squad
  • 10 Squads = 1 Century
  • 6 Centuries = 1 Cohort
  • 10 Cohorts = 1 Legion


Second Thought:

Jesus said nothing.  Jesus literally did not resist.  Through the beatings, through the mocking worship, through the crown of thorns, through the spitting – Jesus said nothing.  He was doing the work of the Father.  His victory would come on the cross.  What need did Jesus have of dominating over these soldiers?

Why do you think Jesus was able to endure this treatment?  Why do you think human beings have a difficult time accepting abuse from the world?  How can Satan use our human nature to cause us to actually stray from God’s work when persecution comes?  How do you know when the right time is to stand up and resist and when the right time is to accept the persecution?

Third Thought:

When they were done, it was back to business as usual.  The Roman soldiers had their fun with Jesus.  Then they led Him out to die.  I have to wonder about the particular cruelty that resides in the human heart.  We have such a nature to kick people when they are down.  They didn’t need to mock Him; crucifixion would be bad enough.

What can this part of the crucifixion story teach us about the cruelty of the human heart?  Who in your life has shown you mercy when they could have turned on your weakened position?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:21-26

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mark 15:6-15

Passage

At the time of the Passover, Pilate was in the custom of releasing one prisoner kept under guard.  In prison while Jesus was being tried was a man who had committed murder and led insurrections.  His name was Barabbas.  The crowd gathered before Pilate and asked him to do what he normally did for them.  Pilate conceded, asking if they would like for him to release the king of the Jews to them.  Pilate gave this offer to the crowd because he thought that Jesus’ arrest was only popular among the Jewish religious leaders as they were envious of Jesus’ popularity and fame.  The religious leaders stirred up the crowd to ask for Barabbas instead.  Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus since they did not want him released.  They cried out that Jesus should be crucified. When Pilate asked what Jesus had done, the crowd simply chanted “Crucify Him.”  Pilate released Barabbas and sent Jesus off to be crucified.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

There is no passage that more greatly demonstrates the motivation of the religious leaders than this passage.  The religious leaders voluntarily trade Jesus, who healed people, for a murderer.  But perhaps even more significant than this is the fact that Barabbas was a known leader of insurrections.  What was it that the religious leaders were looking for in a Messiah?  They believe that the Messiah would overthrow worldly power and bring the Jews to the pinnacle of world power.  That’s the Messiah they wanted, not someone who comes to atone for the sin of the world.  They choose the one who is known for insurrections over the salvation offered to the world.

Why are human beings prone looking to their own desires and missing what God is doing in the world?  Why do we have trouble seeing what is really good for us?

Second Thought:

As we look at the timeline of Jesus’ crucifixion, I can’t help but think about what has transpired.  Nobody could have guessed that Jesus was going to be arrested.  When arrested, nobody could have guessed that the Sanhedrin was going to violate their own policy and have a trial after dark.  Nobody could have guessed that they would be ready to deliver Jesus to Pilate this quickly.  Add to that the fact that Jesus’ own disciples were hiding in fear.  When you put all of this together there really were no supporters for Jesus to be found in the crowd.  In addition, as we read this passage from Mark it reads as though the crowd was prepared to ask for Barabbas.  They knew about Pilate’s tradition of releasing a prisoner.  Yes, he was a murderer, but as an insurrectionist he would have had quite a large following among Jews.  They wanted to get rid of Rome and someone who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the Romans would have a good public opinion regardless of whom they had killed.  The murders probably were Romans or supporters of Rome, anyway.  My point is this.  It may seem strange that the crowd would have such ire towards Jesus.  I think this was a crowd that had gathered in support of Barabbas and they genuinely didn’t care what happened to Jesus.  To the crowd, Jesus was superfluous to having Barabbas free.  The religious leaders used this fact to their advantage.

What does this line of thinking tell us about the “crowd?”  What motivates crowds in general?  Where do crowd generally get their values?  How can this make any crowd dangerous?

Third Thought:

Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified.  This is an act for which Pilate will be accountable.  It seems as though Pilate had no reason to crucify Jesus.  He certainly gave plenty of room for Jesus to escape crucifixion.  However, in the end Jesus is crucified by Pilate simply to appease the crowd – and more importantly the religious leaders.  Jesus truly is an innocent man led to the slaughter for no good reason.  He becomes the sacrifice that God intended – but for all the wrong human reasons.

Why is Pilate interested in appeasing the crowd and the religious leaders?  What is at stake for him if the religious leaders or the crowd become upset with him?  Is this a good reason to make a decision to crucify someone?  Why do we as human beings often make bad decisions for the wrong reasons?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:16-20

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mark 15:1-5

Passage

As soon as it was morning, the religious leaders held council once more.  They decided to bind Jesus and take Him to Pilate.  Pilate asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews.  Jesus replies to Pilate that it is a confession that Pilate has made.  Once more the religious leaders make a charge against Jesus.  Once more Jesus is silent.  Pilate asks Jesus if He plans to make no defense against their accusations.  Pilate is amazed when Jesus does make no defense.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

The religious leaders wait until morning to take Jesus to Pilate.  Knowing what I know about the law of the Sanhedrin, I am willing to bet that this was done to “save face.”  Remember, the law of the Sanhedrin was that they could only meet during the day.  Thus, while publically dealing with Jesus they would do it during the day.  They give the appearance to the crowds in the temple that they are abiding by their rules.  But we know from the story that the prior night had all been contrary to their own governance.

Why do people who break the laws still try and give a public perception that there is nothing strange or unusual happening?  Why do people often pursue public perception instead of truth?

Second Thought:

Notice that Jesus does not take ownership to being the King of the Jews.  He has owned up to being the Son of God.  We saw that earlier when Jesus was being tried the prior night.  But Jesus does not claim to be the King of the Jews.  You see, God’s Messiah is not just to be the King of the Jews.  God’s Messiah is to be the one who restores the relationship between all of creation and the Creator.  Yes, the Messiah is the King of the Jews.  But the Messiah is so much more than that.

What is the Messiah to you?  What is Jesus to you?  How would your life be different if Jesus was merely the King of the Jews?

Third Thought:

Pilate is amazed by Jesus.  He does not come to believe in Him in this story, although historically speaking church tradition is that Pilate does become a follower of Jesus.  But Pilate is amazed that one person would be willing to take so much abuse and not lash out.  Again we see the love of Jesus.  Only someone who loved His friends as well as His enemies could take this kind of abuse and not lash out.  This is what makes Jesus amazing in my book.  This is why Pilate is amazed at Jesus as well.

Do you lash out against those who come against you?  Why is reacting in opposition the easy thing to do?  How good are you at loving your enemies and displaying love towards them?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:6-15

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mark 14:66-72

While Jesus was on trial, Peter was warming himself in the courtyard.  A slave girl of the high priest came up to Peter and asked if he was with Jesus.  Peter denied it and moved away from her.  A rooster crowed as Peter went into a gateway.  The slave girl pressed the issue, telling others that Peter was one of them.  Again Peter denied it.  A little later, even more of the people agreed with the slave girl, recognizing that Peter was a Galilean.  Peter invoked a curse upon himself and swore that he did not know Jesus.  Immediately a rooster crowed again.  Peter remembered how Jesus had said that Peter would deny Him.  Peter broke down and wept.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

I think this is a favorite story for many people.  It isn’t a favorite in that it is a pleasant story.  Rather, it is a favorite story in that it illustrates Peter’s weakness and his humanity.  Peter was likely the person to whom Jesus was absolutely the closest, and even Peter failed Jesus.  If Peter can fail Jesus and still find eternal life, then we understand that the same is true about us.  We don’t like that Peter failed; but we appreciate that in spite of his failure grace can come to him.

What does this story help us understand about being transparent to those to whom we are ministering?  While we don’t necessarily want to tell everyone every problem we have, how can our own failures be important to hear for those whom we are discipling?

Second Thought:

Jesus words came true.  Earlier in the story, Jesus told Peter what would happen.  Peter refused to believe it.  In the end, Jesus was right and Peter was wrong.  God is truth.  God knows what will happen.  He doesn’t force it to happen, but He knows.

Why is it important to realize that God knows what is true and we don’t always know what is true – even about ourselves?  Why don’t we always know what is true about ourselves?

Third Thought:

When the truth was revealed to Peter, he broke down.  I think he broke down for two reasons.  Yes, I think he understands that he just denied Jesus and that had to have hurt.  However, I believe there is a deeper reason.  I believe it is at this moment that Peter understands his own humanity better.  When he comes in contact with his inner essence – the self-monger that is ultimately interested in self-protection – it breaks him.

Why are we often broken when we receive a glimpse of who we really are on the inside?  In what ways do we create fa├žades that even fool ourselves about who we are at our very core?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 15:1-5

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mark 14:60-65

Finally the high priest stood up and took the accusation to Jesus.  He asked Jesus if he had no defense against what the people were saying in testimony against Him.  Jesus stood silent.  Then the high priest asked one very important question.  The high priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, the Son of the One Who Deserves Praise.  Jesus affirmed that He was.  Jesus also said that they would see Him both sitting at His right hand and coming in power.  The high priest had what he wanted.  He claimed Jesus had spoken blasphemously, he tore his clothing, and the religious leaders shouted for His condemnation.  Some in the group proceeded to strike Him.  Others covered their faces so as to not look upon Him.  Still others commanded Him to prophesy.  They handed Jesus over to the guards, who treated Him roughly.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

When asked about the testimony of others, Jesus remained silent.  This was not between Jesus and other people.  Jesus was not here to argue for His defense.  Jesus had no desire to incriminate others or even involve them in what had to happen.  Like a sheep being led to the slaughter, Jesus remained quiet.

How difficult do you think it was for Jesus to remain quiet when people were speaking testimony against Him?  How does the fact that the testimony wasn’t even completely true impact how hard it must have been to remain quiet?  What does this point say regarding Jesus’ obedience and submission to God’s plan?

Second Thought:

Jesus also knew that the time had come.  Remember all of those times that Jesus performed a miracle and forbid people to say anything about it?  It was now time for Jesus to confess the truth.  If He was going to be condemned, He would be condemned for the truth.  Jesus wanted to testify about Himself, so that the religious leaders could hear the testimony from His own mouth and choose themselves to reject Him.  He knew they were in no mind to listen; they hadn’t been in a mind to listen all along.

What does it say about Jesus to know that He spoke the truth, knowing that this truth was the very thing that would condemn Him?  What does it say about His focus?  What does this point say about His obedience and submission to God?

Third Thought:

The religious leaders heard what they thought was blasphemy.  They had gotten what they needed.  They could condemn someone for putting themselves equal to God.  In their mind, it was blasphemy.  From the perspective of Jesus, it was truth.  They beat Him, spit upon Him, and turned away from Him in shame because they were unable to perceive the truth and instead heard His words as blasphemy.

How does our perspective taint what we perceive to be true?  Why does this make it more difficult to hear God?  What must we remember about our preconceptions in order to genuinely hear God speak to us in truth?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 14: 66-72

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mark 14:53-59

Passage

The people who arrested Jesus led Him to the high priest.  The whole group of the leading Jews came together.  Peter followed the crowd from a distance, even into the courtyard of the high priest.  Peter sat and warmed himself with the guards by the fire.  The chief priests were seeking testimony through which they could justify putting Jesus to death.  Many came to bear false witness against Jesus, but their testimonies didn’t agree.  They said that they heard Jesus say that He would destroy the temple and build another one not made with hands.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

The group of the leading Jews was called the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin had certain laws in place governing their meetings.  They had to meet in a particular place called the Hall of Hewn Stone.  They were not allowed to meet at night.  If the Sanhedrin decided a case and determined a person would die, they had to wait a night before the person would be executed so that there was time for the Sanhedrin to change their mind towards mercy.  Only the members of the Sanhedrin could speak against the person on trial.  As we can see here and will see in the coming chapter, when it comes to getting rid of Jesus the Sanhedrin freely broke their own rules.  They were meeting at night.  They were meeting at the home of the high priest and not the Hall of Hewn Stone.  They allowed testimony against Jesus.  They would crucify Jesus without waiting a night.

What does this tell us about the hearts of men – especially with respect to getting what we want in spite of the “rules?”  When are you willing to break the rules to get what you want?  What was so threatening about Jesus that the world wanted to be done away with Him? 

Second Thought:

 Peter followed from a distance.  He wasn’t willing to stand with Jesus and die with Him – at least not yet, anyway.  But he was curious enough to follow.  He wanted to know how it would end.  He wanted to know the fate of the guy he had been following for a few years now.  While he wasn’t willing to stand with Jesus, he wasn’t completely convinced to abandon Him entirely, either.

What does this tell us about Peter?  In what way is Peter acting human?  When have you not been strong enough to stand up for the right thing but still curious enough to lurk about and see how the issue resolves?

Third Thought:

The testimony of the people against Jesus did not agree.  I really don’t find this surprising.  There is an old adage.  If you take 5 witnesses and get their testimony, you will end up with 6 stories.  The 6 stories are each person’s witness and the truth.  The reality is that we as human beings always hear, see, and process according to our context.  Our brains are wired to make things make sense according to our understanding of the world and our focus at any given time.  What this means is that human testimony is simply not always that reliable.  In fact, what it really means is that any testimony that is based on human observation is likely flawed at some level.

Are you surprised that the testimony against Jesus came from multiple perspectives?  Are you surprised those perspectives didn’t agree?  Given that Jesus’ ministry was so public, what does it say that the Sanhedrin had a difficult time finding words against Him?


Passage for Tomorrow: Mark 14: 60-65