Archive for the 'Gospel of Mark' Category

04
Sep
08

And Peter (Mark 16)

This post’s title reflects the words that caught my attention as I worked through Mark 16.

The angel was telling the women that had come to finish the burial rights that the Jewish sabbath had interrupted that Jesus was no longer grave-bound but had risen!  This amazingly good news these very first ‘apostles’ were to tell “the disciples and Peter” (v. 7).

Why did Peter need to be singled out from among the disciples as one that needed to hear the good news that Jesus was alive?  I suspect it is because he, more than the rest, had miserably failed Jesus.  He had boasted, the night of the betrayal, that although the others might abandon Jesus he would not.  Yet he did.  He abandoned and denied that he even knew Jesus.

The good news is that is exactly the kind of failure the risen Jesus can deal with.  Jesus’ death, from an earthly perspective was a sham, but from God’s side it was the love of God fulfilling the requirements of his holy justice.  Deciding to willfully line up behind Jesus as our Lord brings with it forgiveness from sin and empowerment to live life rightly, wholly and eternally.

Have you ever failed Jesus?  Despair not, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is for you!

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26
Aug
08

Don’t switch to auto-Pilate (Mk 15)

The story of Jesus crucifixion, as told in Mark 15, is ripe with reaction from various sides.  Don’t miss how the Roman governor Pilate responded!

Pilate was amazed that Jesus met the barrage of accusations leveled at him with silence (v. 5).  As the drama unfolded, the governor came to realize that Jesus was not an criminal, but a victim of the chief priests’ envy (v. 10).  Pilate offered to grant amnesty to Jesus, as was his practice at the Jewish Passover, but the crowd, spurred on by the chief priests requested another be freed instead and that Jesus be executed.

Here is the thing, Pilate who knew Jesus to be innocent, and who earlier had marveled at him, decided to go along with this miscarriage of justice so as to please the people (v. 15).  The accolades of the crowd, short-lived as they no doubt were, trumped truth in Pilate’s mind.

This is what confronts me.  Do I sell-out on Jesus for some temporal gain?

21
Aug
08

Jesus utters the condemning sound byte (mark 14)

For much of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been reluctant for his true identity to be openly disclosed, but in Mark 14, he finally identifies himself as the Christ, who will be seated at the right hand of Power (v. 62).  No Jewish rabbi would or could make such a claim.  For a mere mortal to do so would be blasphemy, an affront to the supremacy of God.  Yet Jesus of Nazareth makes that assertion, not because he is a deluded mad man or an impudent con artist, but because he is the divine one, God’s anointed.

Not only Jesus’ enemies, but even his friends stumbled about trying to live in the light of this truth.  Peter was so sure of his unshakable allegiance to Jesus, but his eyes were heavy with sleep while Jesus’ heart was heavy with sorrow (v. 37), his sword was swift when it should have remained in place (v. 47) and his own lips betrayed his devotion as they spoke thrice the words of denial (vv. 68ff).

I am prompted to ask of myself whether I would have fared any better than Peter did.  Better question: Am I right now faring better than that?

19
Aug
08

Keeping watch for the master of the house (Mark 13)

There is a boat-load of intriguing details in Mark 13 regarding the end of the age that we will not address here.  Let me for now focus your attention on the warning Jesus gives his followers to be on their guard against false christs, prophets and miracle workers (v. 21-22).  Implicit in this is a clear indication that Jesus considers himself as the true Christ, prophet and miracle worker.  A little bit later, in talking about the time following the great tribulation, Jesus refers to the ‘Son of Man’ coming in the clouds with great glory and power.  On one level the phrase ‘son of man’ is a third person way of referring to oneself.  On another level it is an allusion to the exalted figure in the prophet Daniel’s vision (see Dan 7:13-14).  Either way it is another indication the Jesus is not just a carpenter from Nazareth, but someone of great significance, who will be appointed to gather the elect of God at the end of the age.  He is the Son who will, at an unknown hour, return to the house as master, desiring to find the servants alert and at work (see vv. 32-37).

How do you understand this?  What does it mean to be alert and at work?

14
Aug
08

X-ray vision (mark 12)

In Mark 12 Jesus continues to confront the hypocrisy and the duplicity of the religious leaders, who are bent on trapping him in his words.

What struck me as a read through the chapter was that Jesus has the uncanny capacity to see through people and into people and to be able to measure things up for what they really are.  Not only do I see that with the way he dealt with the religious leaders, but also in thee other places.

The scribe comes asking which commandment is the most important.  Jesus replies that loving God with all that you are and loving others as yourself are the greatest.  The scribe and he dialogue further and Jesus discerns that the scribe is not far from the kingdom of God (v. 34).

Although that scribe is moving God-ward that wasn’t the case in general.  In fact, later in the chapter (vv. 38-40) Jesus warns against the piety of the scribes.  Jesus can see through their religious facade to their heart and realizes their public conduct is but vanity.

Third, as Jesus sits across for the temple treasury he notes that many give large amounts that cost them little, while one widow gave a small amount that cost her much.  Again he sees beyond the externals to internal realities.

I believe Jesus is beginning to reveal his identity; he is the “beloved son” (v. 6), the cornerstone (v. 10), and king David’s lord (v. 37).  It is this identity, that is beyond the earthly, that gives him the capacity to accurately judge hearts, those long ago and ours today.

11
Aug
08

Jesus takes the fifth (mark 11)

There is a lot of interesting stuff happening in Mark 11: donkey rides, fig-tree cursing, and temple cleansing to name a few.  In this post I want to focus on the exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day (see vv. 27-33).

They ask Jesus by what authority he is doing “these things”.  For sure, they must be referring to Jesus prophetic cleansing of the temple grounds.  The outer court was to be a place into which non-Jewish people could gather to pray, but greed had transmuted it into a commercial carnival complete with sideshows and shysters. Jesus turned the tables (better stated over turned the tables) on those on the take.  In so doing, he not only threatened the financial interests of complicit leaders, but his growing popularity with the crowds threatened their power base.  Their query about Jesus’ authority was neither intrigue or curiosity; it was a ruse by which they hoped to discredit and even to destroy him.  Jesus met their duplicity with a question of his own by which to test their sincerity.  A test they subsequently failed and as a result Jesus remained unforthcoming.

Do you think that we will fair any better than those religious leaders?  If we approach Jesus from a place of insincerity and deceit, will we find him responsive to our overtures?

08
Aug
08

Come here, get away (mark 10)

The above title is what popped into my head as I focused on verses 13-22 of Mark 10.  Here we find two encounters with Jesus.  In the first, the disciples are keeping the children from Jesus.  He becomes indignant and instructs them to let the children come to him.  In the second, a rich young man comes to Jesus for spiritual direction.  Jesus tests his obedience to the 10 commandments and then advises him to sell all he has and follow him.  The children come and are blessed by Jesus; the young man goes away disheartened by Jesus.

At first glance one might see a discontinuity in Jesus’ respones, compassion towards the children but harshness towards the young man.  Yet verse 21 states that Jesus loved the young man and it was out of that heart commitment Jesus advised the selling of the possessions.  Jesus had just finished teaching that one can only enter the Kingdom of God as a little child (v. 15).  Little children enter full of trust in God.  They have not accumulated the baggage of possessions, power, prestige.  They rely on nothing else but God.  That is what the young man needed to learn, and difficult as that lesson is for those that have wealthy, all is possible for God (see v. 27).

Jesus does not tell us what we might like to hear, he tells us what we need to know.  His mission was not to be ‘managed’ by followers or flattered by seekers, it was “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).




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