Mark’s gospel ends up circling around to where it began. Mark wants you to see who Jesus is and consider what that means for you.
While we’re very much focused on the incarnation of Jesus at this time of year, if it wasn’t for His resurrection, we never would have heard of Jesus. But Mark is not simply calling us to know about Jesus, rather, he is calling us to truly know Jesus. Knowing Jesus is much more than assenting to the historical truths about Him or inviting Him into your heart. Knowing Jesus is about union with Him and about an ongoing and radical, Holy Spirit transformation of the heart and mind resulting in a desire to follow and be conformed to Christ. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. No one is too far gone and no one is the “perfect” disciple. Truly knowing Jesus is about trusting Him for salvation and for life. It is about surrender and abiding in Christ alone.
Maybe you’ve been blind to or putting Jesus off. Perhaps you’ve been waiting to have all your questions answered, only to push the line in the sand of trust a few steps further away, keeping Jesus at what you consider a safe distance from your heart. Perhaps you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, but have held back from surrendering all to Jesus because you feel too inadequate, fallen or weak to be used by Him. Well, the same power of God that came over Mary and conceived Jesus is the same power that raised Him from the dead. And it is that same power of God in which you can trust to transform your mind and heart and which He will use to fulfill Jesus mission for His Church through your inadequate, fallen and weak person.
Really, what are you waiting for? Who is Jesus to you and what does that mean for your life? That is the most important question anyone can ask and it is one all must face. What is your answer?
Although our passage, the next to last one in our journey through Mark’s gospel this year, appears to be a straight forward, factual report of Jesus’ death, it actually it has a lot to say about the true meaning of Christmas. Yes these few verses, describing the way in which Jesus died, tell us the reasons why He came in the first place. Mark wants us to know that what brought Jesus to the manger was accomplished on the cross. You might say he provides us reasons for the season.
At this time of year, as always, it is good to focus on W.W.J.D. (what would Jesus do?), but I find it more helpful to focus on W.J. D. (what Jesus did). When we take a careful look at the reasons why Jesus came and at what He accomplished, life is put into perspective. The stress of the Christmas rat race and the challenges we face at this time of year don’t push us over the edge. I’m not talking about denying reality. I’m talking about God’s transformative power working through W.J.D. to provide a transcendent peace to navigate this time of year and the difficult times we live in. Mighty is the power of the cross!
We continue, in this our second week, in the last full chapter of Mark. The landscape, as we come into the home stretch, is much different than when we began this journey back in January. Mark’s gospel began with throngs of people crowding Jesus and nears the end with Jesus completely alone. Earlier in the gospel, Jesus was praised by the masses but nears the end despised and mocked by religious leaders, Roman soldiers, the general populace and even rebellious criminals.
Have you noticed how this passage places emphasis on the mocking of Jesus, time and time again? That mocking seems to be the central focus of the entire passage this week. It makes us ask the question, “What is the meaning of it all?” The mocking of Jesus seems to accentuate the contrast between Jesus and the others. Jesus is silent and appears powerless, while the others are impassioned and forceful.
Together, we’ll dig deeper into this contrast on Sunday, which is our first Sunday in Advent. Because it is Advent, we will sing our first carols of the season, light candles and receive God’s grace when the entire body comes together for worship.
No the church isn’t jumping on the Black Friday sales wagon this week. The Black Friday our Sunday sermon title refers to is the last day of Jesus’ life and ministry. This is the day Christ was crucified and it is the day we’ve now entered in our journey through Mark’s gospel. The “deal” refers to the deal Pilate made with the Sanhedrin and the multitude to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. This is a story of the love of God doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. The guilty man was set free and the innocent man condemned. That is something to meditate on and be thankful for.
I pray that you all have a great day of Thanksgiving tomorrow. We will have Christian formation classes at the normal time of 9:15 AM this Sunday and worship at 10:30 AM. A special time of fellowship, to give God thanks for Elizabeth Biron’s 97th birthday, will follow the service in the vestry. A great way to share Jesus is by inviting a friend to church. Ask someone this week!
Finally! Jesus gets His day in court. Yeah, He gets His day in court alright. But justice is not about to be carried out when the judge also serves as prosecutor. It is ironic that the true High Priest is called to account by the high priest. That the Judge of the world is being judged by the world. The Sanhedrin is not interested in determining the facts, they are only interested in testimonies resulting in a speedy conviction and a death sentence for Jesus. This has been the plan for the religious leaders for some time, to get Jesus out of the way.
This kangaroo court provides the final hinge point in Mark’s gospel. It leads us into the final phase of the story that asks the critical questions, “Who is Jesus?” and “What does that mean for me?” As part of His trial, Jesus provides the answer to the first question, both pleasing and infuriating His captors. It is infuriating because they assume His answer is false without examining the evidence and it pleases them because they know it will result in the conviction they are hoping for.
Just when we were ready to write Peter off, he shows up again at the beginning and end of our passage (can you smell a sandwich?). But Peter seems influenced by those around him and doesn’t deal well with the truth when it comes to his own testimony about Jesus. He has distanced himself from Jesus and that brings into serious question the integrity of his faith. What would God’s word have us learn about Peter and ourselves from this passage? Have you examined the evidence about Jesus or have you already made up your mind without a fair hearing?
Christian formation classes start at 9:15 AM and worship at 10:30 AM. A time of fellowship follows the service. A great way to share Jesus is by inviting a friend to church. Ask someone this week!
The term, “Kiss of Death,” originates from our passage this week, referring to Judas’s kiss that betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders known as the Sanhedrin. When we use the term today, it refers to a ruinous act. It is an act with fatal consequences. Certainly the act of betrayal portrayed in Mark’s gospel resulted in fatal consequences for Jesus when He was murdered on the cross. It also resulted in fatal consequences for Judas, who took his own life rather than face what he had done. But for many, this kiss set off a chain of events that would mean new and eternal life for thousands of years to come. Christ’s death on the cross was followed by His resurrection, and the offer of eternal life to all who place their faith in Him. What Judas and the Sanhedrin meant for evil, God meant for good.
Even though we may be saved by the good plans of God and the faith we’ve been given in Jesus, there are times when we as Christians don’t feel so good. There are times when we feel as if we’ve failed God and let Him down. We identify personally with the behavior of the disciples more often than we do with the righteousness of Jesus. Over time, this view of ourselves can result in our slide away from rather than toward God. But Mark shows us, this week, that God will not give up on or fail in His plans for us, even when we give up on and fail Him. Come join us as we look at and seek God’s Spirit in applying that truth to our own lives.
Christian formation classes start at 9:15 AM and worship at 10:30 AM. A time of fellowship follows the service. Invite someone new to church this week!
The view of Jesus recorded in this week’s passage is one that we don’t often think about. It portrays Jesus’ humanity in the clearest sense. As He waits for the hour to come, Jesus is troubled and deeply distressed. He is in so much inner agony and sorrow that it nearly kills Him. He even asked the Father to take away that which stands before Him, if He would. We’ve all had to wait for potentially bad news or a dreaded event and know that the waiting and uncertainty is often worse than the event itself. That certainly is true for Jesus, but not in the way you may think. Jesus spent His hour of suffering and agony in prayer and through it found comfort and strength. When the answer came, that it was God’s will for Him to suffer for many, the suffering ceased to be suffering. He had accepted God’s will and was strengthened for the hour to come.
So what does all this have to do with love? Perhaps you think, like others have, that Jesus almost backed out of His appointment with the cross to save His own hide. Perhaps you think His Father did not love Jesus very much when He refused Jesus’ plea to remove the cup and the hour to come. Well, I beg to differ. I believe there is no greater expression of Jesus’ love found anywhere else in the Bible than in the olive grove at Gethsemane. I believe there is no greater expression of Jesus love for the Father and no greater expression of Jesus’ love for you. In fact, this might just be the greatest love passage in the entire Bible. I hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we try to both fathom and receive so great a love.
Our last two weeks in Mark’s gospel have focused on Jesus’ second coming and the final judgment. Now we’re brought back to the present reality: Jesus is only two days away from His death on the cross. The future will have to wait for the present. It’s hard to believe, but we are now in the last section of Mark’s gospel. From now on, Mark records the events leading to the cross with crisp precision, mentioning even the days and times of days. This is surprising for Mark who has, to this point, panned out to give us the big thematic picture and is rather to the point compared with the other gospels. He will now draw our attention to the focus of the entire gospel – the death of Christ for sinners.
In this week’s passage, we see perhaps the last act of kindness toward Jesus, as a women anoints Him with an alabaster flask of pure and expensive Indian oil. It seems to us a rather odd way of blessing Jesus, but as we look further there’s a whole lot more to this story. Those in the story have a variety of opinions about what the woman did, and all of them have more to do with Jesus than the woman mentioned.
Sandwiching the woman’s act of kindness is another narrative illustrating undoubtedly the most hateful act of betrayal against Jesus. An act perpetrated by of one of His own apostles. It may seem odd to insert the story of anointing Jesus in between the narrative of such a heinous act. Yet this is a technique we’ve seen Mark use time and again, and it should cause us to wonder how one story relates to the other. So, how do you think they do?
This Sunday, like investigators, we’ll be examining each of the witnesses to these events in order to try and make sense of it all. We’ll dig deep to learn Jesus’ message for you and for me in all of this. Take a few minutes to read through and meditate on the passage, asking yourself, “What was going on in the minds of each of the persons mentioned?”
Ready or not, Jesus is coming. This is His warning, not only for Christians, but for all people. In the last verse of Mark 13, Jesus said, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” We are not to be wasting time by living as if this world is all there is. We are not to get overly focused on the timing of the end of this world and Christ’s return.
Pastor and author Sinclair Ferguson said, “How sad it is that instead of seeing Jesus teaching as a way to live in the future, as to spur on further obedience and faithfulness, it has often been used as an excuse for either controversy or laziness in the Christian church.” We know Ferguson’s pointed remark is right. A stroll through our favorite Christian bookstore on online Christian book distributor’s website proves it true. Books and movies on this or that view of the end times are what sells, which means this is what many Christians want. Yet the Bible only teaches two things for certain about the return of Christ: He will return and no one except for the Father (not even the human Jesus) knows when. Understanding these two things and removing our obsession with uncertain details can radically alter the way in which we live our Christian lives in the present.
The point of this week’s passage, for instance, is that we are to live in awareness that the Master (Jesus) could return at any time. Mark’s gospel illustrates that in the fourteen compact verses contained in this week’s passage, while Matthew does so in an entire chapter and a half! (Matthew 24:41-25:46). If Jesus’ words in Matthew and Mark don’t encourage you to more rigorous faithfulness, perhaps you have not yet let Jesus last words in our passage have the last word in your own life – “I say to you all – Watch!”
Consider the following questions as you meditate on this weeks passage. What are the ways in which Jesus suggests we should live? What are the practical implications of verse 31 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”
If you just read this week’s passage, your first thoughts were probably not that this Sunday’s sermon topic will be encouraging! Yet, I think encouragement is exactly what Jesus had in mind as He warned the four disciples about the impending events described in Mark 13. Jesus had given lots of warnings to those outside the kingdom of God, but now He was warning those on the inside. Jesus was clearly envisioning a time when He would not be there to guide His disciples. It was meant to be an encouragement to His followers in His absence. While the timing of a few of the prophecies Jesus mentions are somewhat difficult to nail down with complete certainty, the warnings given to His followers are to be taken seriously by all those in the kingdom of God today.
Jesus was trying to show the disciples that the destruction of the temple would not be the “end” of the world (in both senses of the word) but rather the “birth” of a new era where the Gospel would spread rapidly based on the dispersion of Jesus’ disciples. It would, however, mean that the destruction of the temple was not the end of the suffering but was a continuation of it, as they were to be Christ’s witnesses to the world.
Please take a few minutes to find encouragement in the midst of difficulty as you read this week’s passage. Also, ask yourself, “Am I able to persevere under the types of conditions and hardships we’re told to expect?” Do you believe we are know living in times like these?