March 6, 2016
Jesus “watched” to see who was putting money into the Temple offering box. His observation is notable. He not only sees the amount of the gift, but He sees the heart of the giver. The rich that gave out of their “abundance” would be most impressive to others, but the widow who gave out of her “poverty,” most impressed Jesus. For she gave all that she had. Jesus still watches our giving. He is still looking for one that would entrust all that they have to Him.
March 4, 2016
What is a “parable?” The word parable is from the root word “paraballo” or in the Greek “parabole.” This compound word comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “to throw.” So, a “parable” is a simple story that stands “alongside” another story and “throws” towards, or points towards, a deeper meaning.
To whom was this parable directed? The chief priests, scribes and elders who had come questioning His authority.
What was this parable’s meaning? The “vineyard” pointed to Israel and the “winepress,” to the temple. The “tenants” were those chief priests, scribes and elders that the owner had left in charge. The “servants” who the owner sent were the prophets. And of course, the son of the owner, that the tenants killed, was Jesus. With this parable, Jesus was actually answering their earlier question concerning by what authority he acted. He was telling them that He was the Son of God and predicting that they would reject and kill Him. And that because of this rejection they would suffer God’s judgment.
He answered them with a parable. But they didn’t understand.
February 27, 2016
This is the confession of a man who desperately wanted to believe, but still had doubts. This isn’t the greatest of confessions, yet Jesus healed the man’s son nonetheless. Jesus still answers the prayers of those who have a mixture of doubt and belief. The important thing is to confess the doubt, saying, “Jesus, help my unbelief! Increase my faith!” We all begin our journey with Jesus with a “mustard seed” of faith. Following Him, the seed grows into a tree, overshadowing all our doubts, so that only our believing remains.
February 25, 2016
The crowds that followed Jesus as He passed through the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”) were “astonished beyond measure” at Him. These cities were founded by Greek colonists and were given favor under Roman rule. The gospel writer Mark tells this story after sharing a previous encounter Jesus had with a Greek woman in Tyre and Sidon who begged Him to free her daughter of a demon. These stories are predictive of how the gospel will go out from Jewish to Gentile lands and be more quickly accepted in the latter. People who have no knowledge of Jesus are still “astonished” when they hear the good news about Him. For He “has done all things well.” This is why we must carry the gospel out to every people group, so that everyone has heard.
February 24, 2016
Jesus explained that sin begins with an attitude of the heart before it becomes a behavior. Focusing on changing the behavior is unfruitful when only faith in Jesus will change the heart. The human heart is born with an attitude of rebellion against God saying, “My will,” rather than “Your will be done.” This teaching of Jesus also served notice that certain Pharisaical cleanliness laws were human additions to the Mosaic law and therefore not binding. The Pharisees had not lightened the burden of the people, instead they had added to it. Jesus came to change human hearts knowing that no amount of washing our hands would cleanse our hearts.
February 21, 2016
This with today’s reading in Leviticus 11-12 makes for a revealing juxtaposition. The law details how touching a dead body or a bleeding woman makes one unclean. Mark shows how a touch from the holy Jesus has the reverse affect: The bleeding woman is healed and the dead girl rises again.
February 20, 2016
The demoniac who lived among the tombs of the Gerasenes must have been a startling welcome as he ran, screaming and crying, down the hill towards Jesus and his disciples as they came ashore. Having just experienced a life-threatening storm on the Galilee and witnessing Jesus command the wind and the waves to be still, I’m sure the disciples’ knees were still shaking as they climbed out of their boat. And then, to be greeted by the hair-raising screams of a wild man running straight at them must have been terrifying! Yet, Jesus responded just as He had to the storm. With the same sense of confident authority He commanded the “legion” of demons out of the man and into the pig herd on the hillside. And just as the wind and waves had obeyed, so did the unclean spirits. The tortured soul of the wild man was suddenly at peace.
February 17, 2016
The Pharisees brought out the full range of emotion from our Lord Jesus. When He tried to show them the spirit of the Sabbath, they clung to the letter of the law, even that which they themselves had added to it. He asked them a simple question, one that begged a correct response. He asked whether the law permitted good on the Sabbath or evil? They wouldn’t reply. So, he put the man with the withered hand before the whole assembly in the synagogue and healed him. The man and his family rejoiced, but the Pharisees left angry, plotting with the Herodians, whom they normally hated, to plan the killing of Jesus. This scene caused conflicting emotions in Jesus. He was both angry and sad. Angry at the sinful pride that wouldn’t answer His question. And sad at the hard hearts that wouldn’t listen.
February 15, 2016
Jesus became famous in the region of Galilee for his miracles and authoritative teaching. He made Capernaum His center of operations when He first began His ministry. This was a strategic location. Located at the Northern end of the Sea of Galilee, it was a major crossroads with the Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) passing through it and the King’s Highway intersecting just North, connecting Cairo to Damascus and beyond. Here, Jesus called His first disciples and began to teach, “Repent of your sin and believe the Good News!” Great crowds of people began to travel to the area to see and hear Jesus. This is our calling today. We want to make Jesus famous, not ourselves. We want “his fame” to spread “everywhere.”