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.”
March 12, 2015
This was the question the women who wanted to anoint the Lord’s body had as they headed towards the tomb on that first Easter morning. Arriving there, they found the huge stone had already been rolled away, revealing the empty tomb. Do you know someone that seems close to believing, yet there is a kind of unmovable stone standing in the way? You can lead them to the cross and to the tomb, but only God can remove the stone. Pray that the stone is removed, so that they can finally see and believe.
March 11, 2015
Roman soldiers were expert executioners. They had seen men die in the cruelest of ways. They had witnessed their various human responses to torture and death. Yet, this officer had never seen anyone endure suffering as Jesus did. What was it about Jesus that moved this hardened death squad centurion? Was it his dignity and demeanor amidst such ugliness and disdain? Was it his care for the thief crucified beside him or his forgiveness of the taunting crowd? Perhaps it was the darkening of the sky or the ground that shook when he cried out his last? Maybe there was a way that he looked at the Roman leader with compassion in his eyes even as he was dying? Whatever it was, this officer was moved to affirm Christ’s identity. His normally sarcastic, biting tongue was moved to childlike wonder. I wonder. What became of this Roman officer? Did he turn in his sword for a seat at the Lord’s table? Did he exchange his Roman helmet for one of salvation?
March 9, 2015
Did Jesus sing? Absolutely. He and His disciples, like every other Jewish gathering for Passover concluded the sacred meal with singing. The traditional hymn selection would have been the Hallel Psalms 113-118. Take time to read through those psalms and picture the Lord and His disciples singing with baritone voices every word by heart. I’m sure they had memorized these psalms, just like we know the words to hymns like Amazing Grace. After all, they had been singing them every Passover with their families since they were born. Jesus sang before He went up on the Mount of Olives to pray. Jesus sang the night before He was crucified. Have you thought of hearing Jesus sing?
March 8, 2015
On the Wednesday before Christ’s crucifixion, Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus (see John 11:2-3), anointed His head with an expensive oil. This oil, which was worth over 300 day’s wages (“300 denarii”), was contained in a sealed alabaster flask. Some have suggested that the flask was part of her dowry to be given to her future husband. Others have said it was part of the family’s own preparation for her burial someday. Yet, Mary took her most valuable possession, broke it and poured its entire contents over Jesus’ head. The disciples criticized her for what seemed to them an extravagant waste, but Jesus rebuked them and approved her sacrifice of love. For only two days later, He would offer His own body, broken and poured out, for their sins.
March 6, 2015
This is one of the eschatological signs that Jesus gave the disciples in response to their question about the end times. It is both sign and instruction. Are you involved in helping proclaim the gospel to all nations? Those who are obedient are involved in sending, going or both.