Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Mark 12:35-44

“And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?  For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.  David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:35-37)

The Pharisees and the Sadducees had challenged with loaded questions in an attempt ot discredit him.  He had re4sponded calmly and clearly, answering the questions in a way they could not twist his meaning to accuse him of anything.  Now he poses a question for them.  It was not an attack on them, but rather a question designed to make them think about their position.   While the attacks on Jesus were very similar to the attacks on Donald Trump, Jesus took a completely different approach to addressing those attacks than does Mr. Trump. 

Jesus asked, if the Messiah was to be a future descendant of David’s, how could David refer to him as his Lord? After all, David had died about four hundred years before  Isaiah made his prophecies about the Messiah, and seven hundred years later Israel was still waiting on Isaiah’s prophecies to be fulfilled.  How could he be David’s Lord?

“And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)

Jesus then warned the people to be aware of the scribes, the highly educated religious leaders, who made a big point of dressing in a way that called attention to their religion and made a point of developing contacts in the business world, constantly seeking publicity.  They deliberately used their religious positions to gain control of poorer peoples assets, while making a big religious show.  They were like many evangelists and pastors, who get people to give their homes and property to support their lavish lifestyle.  They make a special effort to attract public attention and curry political and business relationships, often holding large well publicized conferences for various purposes.    Jesus warned that in eternity these kinds of religious leaders will be judged even more severely than those who were not religious, because they have used religion to mislead and take advantage of people.   

“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:41-44)

II Kings 12:9 describes how offerings were collected in the Temple.  “But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the LORD: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD.”  as people went into the Temple to worship they dropped their money into the offering box or gave it to one of the ushers to drop in. 

Jesus noticed that some gave huge amounts of money and received considerable attention for their gifts, while those who gave smaller amounts went unnoticed.   Jesus pointed out that in reality, many times those who gave the smallest gifts were in reality giving more than those who gave most, because they were giving all they had.  Unfortunately people still focus on the size of the offerings rather than the person’s commitment today. 

A religious organization had several thousand small and medium sized churches which supported it, but over time they began to focus on the wishes of the larger churches that were able to give larger amounts.  Over the years they have lost most of those small supporting churches, and in the last few years, a single large donor has been allowed to override decisions made by the entire group,  When that happened, almost half of the remaining  churches that had been supporting them withdrew, feeling their contributions were no longer appreciated.   Because so many have withdrawn, the big donor is no longer willing to contribute as much, and the organization is having financial difficulties, and appears to be trying to merge with a larger organization.   It has happened because they have forgotten what Jesus was teaching his disciples in this passage.   The person who gives the biggest amount is not always the most dedicated.   Think about what you are doing and what you believe.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Seeking The Truth

Mark 12:28-34

“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28)

Many times television interviewers deliberately asked questions that it impossible to answer honestly exactly as asked in a deliberate effort to trip up and discredit a person who holds a political or moral viewpoint they oppose, and both the Pharisees and the Sadducees has attempted to do the same thing to Jesus.  Realizing Jesus had answered their questions while avoiding their traps, the scribe asked Jesus and honest question.  About which of the commandments they should give the most priority. 

“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Nowhere in the Old Testament does the scripture say exactly what Jesus described as the first commandment.  The Ten Commandments , in Exodus 20:2-6 start with, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”  Jesus paraphrased the entire passage.  He also paraphrased the second commandment.   He said there was no greater commandment than those.

“And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)

The scribe thought about what Jesus had said, that essentially all the law, even including the laws about the sacrifices was about demonstrating our love for God by obeying his commands.  The commands about not stealing, or committing adultery, etc., were about demonstrating our love for other people by avoiding things that would hurt them.  They were also about demonstrating our love for God by obeying his commands about how we were to treat others.  Jesus had summarized the entire law with those two commands. 

“And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.” (Mark 12:34)

Because he was seeking the truth, and willing to listen honestly to what Jesus said, and think about it seriously, there was a far greater likelihood of this scribes understanding the truth and being saved than there was for those who were only interested in convincing people Jesus was wrong.   People who set out to prove a certain point or position tend to downplay or ignore information that does not support their position, without regard for whether it is true or not.  They are not interested in the truth.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sadducees Challenge Jesus

Mark 12:18-27

“Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.  And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.  And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.  In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.” (Mark 12:18-23)

After Alexander the Great conquered Israel in 320 BC, Many of the wealthy Jews had adopted Greek customs and culture in an effort to be accepted by the people around them, often accepting even the Greek religious belief but unwilling to give up their positions in Israel.  The Pharisees had arisen in an effort to counter that influence, leading to an ongoing struggle for control.  When the Pharisees’ efforts to discredit Jesus failed, the Sadducees saw an opportunity to strengthen their standing with the people by discrediting him.

Though they did not believe in the Jewish faith or tradition, they knew it well and decided to challenge Jesus on his teachings in an effort to convince those who followed the Jewish religion they still believed and practiced the old traditions.  Referring to the command in Deuteronomy 25:5, which stated that if a man died without children, his brother was to marry his wife and raise up a child to be his heir.  They asked whose wife the woman would be in eternity if she had been married to all the brothers and never produced a child. 

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?  For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.  And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:24-27)

Jesus said that they were making a serious mistake, because they only knew some of the scriptures and ignored others with the result that they had no real understanding of God’s word, or his power.  They had never stopped to think about what it meant when God told Moses he is the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, 400 years after Jacob’s death and 600m years after Abraham’s death.  He did not say he was, but that he is presently their God.  their bodies might be dead, but their soul and spirit were not. 

The Sadducees were like many today who cling to some of the old traditions and teachings but do not believe the word of God as a whole.  As an example who insist we must accept all the refugees who come without question, quoting  passages such as Leviticus  19:33-34, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.  But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  They are opposed to any vetting of those refugees, completely ignoring passages such as Numbers 15:15-16.  “One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.  One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.”   If refuges or immigrants come, they have to be willing to obey the same laws as the natives.   They could not insist on keeping their own laws. 

The conflict between the Sadducees and Pharisees was the same conflict we see today between liberals and conservatives, with both sides determined to have their own way.  Both sides attack those who try to stand for what is right, because they would rather fight over the things they blame the other side for than to admit their own faults.    


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Paying Taxes

Mark 12:13-17

“And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.  And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  Shall we give, or shall we not give?” (Mark 12:13-15a)

Frustrated that they had had to give up their challenge of Jesus authority, and resenting his warning that they were doing wrong, the religious leaders selected some of their top debaters, from both the Herodians and the Pharisees to debate Jesus and discredit him.  The Pharisees were focused on Jewish law and custom, while the Herodians would be focused on Roman Law.  The hope was that between them they could get Jesus to say something that one side or the other could use against him. 

After making a special effort to flatter him in hopes of catching him off guard, they asked whether the law required them to pay taxes to Rome or not.  It was a loaded question, because if he said yes, the Pharisees could point out that in fact the law said wrote only about giving to God and make him appear ignorant to the crowd.  If he said no, the Herodians could accuse him of breaking Roman law and stirring up trouble with Rome.  Either way, they could turn the people against him. 

“But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.  And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

And they said unto him, Caesar's.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:15b-17)

Jesus knew they were just trying to trap him and really didn’t care about the truth, despite their statements.  Instead of answering the question directly, he asked them to show him a coin.  When they did, he asked whose picture was on it and whose name was on it.  They said it was the Roman rulers.  Jesus said since it had his name and picture it obviously belonged to Caesar, and they should give it to him.  If it belonged to god they should give it to God.  They should pay both the tithe and their taxes.  Failure to do either one was in effect stealing. 

For years, the Jews had argued that they should not be taxed because they paid tithes to the support the temple and their leaders, so the Roman government did not have to support them.  The Roman government didn’t count the tithe as part fo their taxes.   They expected Jesus to take one side of the other.   His answer was totally unexpected, and left neither side any grounds for argument. 

The issue is still debated, and Paul addressed it in Romans 13:6-7.  “For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”    While I appreciate the privilege of receiving a deduction for donations to a church, the entire non-profit system needs to be reformed to eliminate serious abuses.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Questioning Jesus’ Authority

Mark 11:27-12:12

“And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11:27-28)

Jesus had thrown all the vendors of religious items out of the temple.  When he came back, the religious leaders demanded who gave him the authority to kick them out, totally ignoring what the law said about bringing things that were unclean into the temple.  Under the law, only those who had been sanctified were to come into the temple.   Ezekiel 22:27 says, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”  Leviticus 10:10-11 specifically commanded, “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;  And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.”  Though they were angry at Jesus, they were the ones doing the wrong, while claiming to do what God commanded. 

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.  And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell.” (Mark 11:29-33a)

Instead of answering their questions, Jesus asked them where they thought John got his authority to teach as he didThey knew that John had proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, and that he had accused them of violating God’s command.  If they said his power came from God, they would be clearly indicting themselves for not believing what he said.  If they said his authority did not come from God, they would lose all credibility with the people, who had seen John’s miracles.  They refused to answer, claiming there was not enough information. 

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.  And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.  And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.  And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.  And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:  This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (Mark 11:33b-12:1i)

When they refused to answer with so much evidence, it was obvious the leaders were not willing to consider any claim he made.  Jesus refused to waste time trying to explain to them.  Instead, he told a story about a man who prepared a farm and leased it out for a share in the profits.  When it came time to collect the rent, the renters refused to pay, even beating up those who tried to collect.  Finally they had his son murdered, believing he would just give up and let them have the property. 

Instead of discouraging the father, Jesus said the murder of his son would harden his resolve and he would not stop until the murderers were punished.  He then made it clear the story was about God and his chosen one being rejected by the world.  God will put him as the ruler over everything, despite the world’s efforts to prevent it. 

“And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.” (Mark 12:12)

The rulers clearly understood the warning Jesus was giving, that they would be punished if they killed God’s son.  Instead of listening, they got angrier.  Matthew, Luke and John indicate that this parable and the following teaching actually took place on Monday rather than on Tuesday, and Mark 14 supports that.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Using The Power Of Prayer

Mark 11:20-26

“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.  And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” (Mark 11:20-21)

Tuesday, morning, as Jesus and the disciples were headed back to Jerusalem, Peter noticed that the fig tre had completely dried up overnight.  Even our most powerful herbicides take several days to completely kill a tree.   Peter was amazed, not only that the tree died, but that it had dried out so quickly.  It would have taken days to dry up even if they had cut the tree down. 

“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.  For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.  Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:22-24)

Here we see another example of the importance of Peter’s statement in II Peter 1:20-21.  “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”   Praying in faith does not simply mean believing something will happen, if we use Jesus name, as many have inferred from the English translation of this and other verses.   It is the same basic teachings as the ancient pagan idea of manifesting, or causing something to happen by just believing , just “Christianized” by insisting it has to be “in Jesus name.”

I John 5:14-15 tells us, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.   James 4:3 tells us, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”   In other words, Praying in faith is not simply about Praying in Jesus’ name and convincing ourselves god wil give what we asked for, but about praying in accordance with his will as led by the Holy Spirit.  It is not about getting our way, but about seeking his. 

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26)

In Matthew this statement comes much earlier, just after Jesus had given the model prayer, also known as the Lord’s prayer as an example to illustrate how we should pray.  One of the requests I that our sins be forgiven, but as Jesus tells us, unless we are willing to forgive others and put away our grudges, there is no use praying for God to forgive us.  Dwelling on what others have done to us or our ancestors will keep us from receiving God’s blessings today.   We can’t change the past, but by focusing on the present, obeying God now, we can change both our present, and our future.    

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Cursed Fig Tree

Mark 11:12-19

“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.  And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.” (Mark 11:12-14)

Monday morning, Jesus and the disciples left Bethany on their way to Jerusalem.  Jesus was hungry, and when he saw a fig tree that was leafed out.  Figs bloom and begin developing fruit about the same time as they begin making leaves, and the fruit can be eaten long before it is ripe.  Figs have rather large leaves, making them relatively easy to identify from a distance.    Even though it not time for the figs to ripen, the fact that the leaves were well developed indicated there should be some fruit on the tree.  When he got there, there was no fruit and Jesus cursed the tree, commanding that no one ever eat fruit off it, because he had been deceived by the growth of the leaves.  The disciples overheard what he said. 
“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.“ (Mark 11:15-17)

Seven hundred years before the Assyrians conquered Israel and relocated them.  About a hundred years later the Babylonians conquered  Judah and relocated them.  When Judah was allowed to return after seventy years. Many stayed in the lands where they had been moved to.  In Jesus’ day many of them still traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple.  It was impractical to carry sacrifices such long distances, so they brought money to buy sacrifices in Israel.  To make things easier, the priests allowed livestock dealers and bankers to set up stalls inside the courtyard where people could exchange their money for Roman or Jewish coins and buy the things they needed for sacrifices right there. 

Because it offered such convenience, they were able to charge much higher prices than other people would get for their livestock.   Jesus accused them of using God’s house as a way of ripping the people off, overcharging for the sacrifices and fudging on their exchange rates.   He refused to allow them to carry any kind of supplies such as salt, oil, or flour around the temple for people to buy.  Matthew and Luke indicate this actually occurred on Sunday rather than on Monday.   It is helpful toe remember that neither Mark nor Luke were disciples at the time, and so they wrote what others told, some twenty five years later.  Such minor discrepancies are to be expected, if there has not been collusion between the writers.   About sixty years after the crucifixion, Papias quoted John as saying that Mark had gotten  the basic stories correct, but that some of the stories were out of order. 

“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” (Mark11:18)

The scribes and priests had been charging for the privilege of setting up booths inside the Temple grounds, and making quite a lot of profit.  They really resented Jesus forcing them to stop making all that money.  Afraid he was going to destroy their incomes, they began to actively plot to get rid of him, because it was obvious the people liked what he told them.   They were as desperate to stop him as the Liberals are to stop Donald Trump after the 2016 election. 

Jesus spent most of the day teaching the people there in Jerusalem before returning to the hills around Bethany for the night, according to the other gospels. 

“And when even was come, he went out of the city.” (Mark 11:19)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11

“And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,  And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.  And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.” (Mark 11:1-3)

Thursday evening, six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived Bethany.  Friday, Martha and Mary served a dinner in his honor and Mary washed his feet with ointment, according to John 12:1-10.    At night Jesus and his disciples camped out in the nearby hills.  Saturday, the Sabbath, the people went to Jerusalem and spread the word that Jesus was there.  Many people came out to Bethany to see both Jesus and Lazarus. Sunday morning, on their way back into Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples to Bethphage  To get an untrained donkey.  They were to bring him , telling anyone who questioned him that it was for the Lord. 

“And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.  And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strowed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” (Mark 11:4-7)

The disciples found the donkey and brought him to Jesus, placing their coats on him so that Jesus’ clothing would not be sweat stained when he got to Jerusalem.   As a show of respect, many of the people spread palm branches on the road to help hold down the dust, treating him like royalty.  Some went before him and others followed after him, all singing and rejoicing that God had sent him.   Four days later, some of the same crowd would be shouting “crucify him,” at the priests’ instigation. 

And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:11)

Jesus spent most of the day looking at how things were done in the temple, healing people and teaching them and his disciples.  According to Matthew and Luke, this was the day Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time, and the priests and religious leaders challenged his authority to do so.  That evening he returned to the hills around Bethany to camp.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blind Bartimaeus

Mark 10:46-52

“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” (Mark 10:46-47)

As Jesus traveled south, at Jericho there was a blind man named Bartimaeus.  He heard the crowd traveling with Jesus and asked what was going on.  When he learned that it was Jesus, he began to cry out, asking Jesus to help him, recognizing Jesus as a descendant of David , and the Messiah. 

“And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called.” (Mark 10:48-49a)

Like the disciples with the little children, the crowd was concerned that the blind man’s cries would interrupt and interfere with Jesus’ teaching.  They told him to be quiet, but he just yelled louder.  Jesus was not upset by the interruption.  Instead, he asked that they bring Bartimaeus to him, just as he had asked them to bring the children.  A pure democracy focuses only on what the majority wants.  those who are in the minority get ignored.  In a Republic, there is an effort to limit the majority in an effort to also meet the needs of the minority, which is why we have the electoral college and some of the constitutional protections we are guaranteed in America  It was the standard  Jesus set, Taking care of those who would otherwise have been ignored. 

The church needs to hav ehtr attitude Paul described in I Corinthians 9:20-22.  “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 

“And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.  And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?

The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.” (Mark 10:49a-51)

While most of the crowd wanted to hear Jesus teach, the blind man urgently needed to get the ability to see.  When we get too caught up with the wants of the majority, we don’t know what the needs of the others is.   The only way to find out is to talk to them personally, just as Jesus asked the man what he needed. 

“And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.” (Mark 10:52)

Jesus addressed the man’s needs, telling him his faith had made him whole, and he could go where he wanted to.  As soon as he received his sight, the man followed Jesus just like the others, because he could now see to follow, and now he could appreciate the things Jesus was teaching.  Until his need was met, he was forced to focus on it, and could not follow Jesus.  The greatest good was accomplished by meeting the needs of the individual.    

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Carnal Attitude

Mark 10:35-45

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:35-38)

The disciples were very competitive, arguing about who would be the greatest in Mark 9:34, and forbidding others to preach in Jesus name in an effort to eliminate competition.  Writing some twenty years earlier than Mark, says James and John’s mother was the one who asked for them to sit on Jesus’ right and left, in Matthew 20:21-23.  In any case th4ey were seeking to get ahead of the other disciples. 

Jesus said they didn’t even understand what they were asking for.    To earn the right to the positions they were asking for, they would have to go through all the sufferings and sorrow he would go through.  He asked if they thought they could do what he would do. 

“And they said unto him, We can.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.” (Mark 10:39-40)

The disciples still didn’t understand what Jesus meant about being killed and resurrected from the dead.  They only had a partial understanding of what it meant for him to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  The Holy Spirit had not yet come into them, to make them understand, because John 16:7 tells us the Spirit would not come until Jesus left.  “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”    They were still living and walking in the flesh, and in their carnal pride, they believed they could do anything Jesus could do. 

Jesus warned them that they would get to sample some of the things he would go through suffering persecution and eventually being killed, but he told them that he didn’t have the right to promise them such a position.  God had prepared those positions for those he had chosen. 

“And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.  But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45)

The other disciples were quite upset with James and John’s efforts to get ahead of the rest of them.  , Jesus called them together to settle the matter.  He explained that in the unsaved world, the leaders exercised authority over the people, bossing them around and forcing them to do what they wanted, much like a boss or an officer in the military, in accordance with their rank.  He said that this is unacceptable in the church.  The one who was greatest in the church was to be the one who, instead of demanding his own way, spent his effort working on behalf of the others.   This was the example Jesus set, putting up with their lack of faith and arguments, not scolding then for forgetting some food.  He was never too busy or tired to stop to help someone in need, and he was concerned to supply food so that no one became weak on their way home. 

A competitive, superior, or bossy attitude is a clear sign of a carnal, unspiritual heart.  We need to learn to allow people to follow the Holy Spirit instead of trying to impose our will on them.    Even Jesus’ clo0sest disciples struggled with this carnal attitude.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jesus' Last Trip to Jerusalem

Mark 10:28-34

“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.  But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” (Mark 10:28-31)

Jesus had warned the disciples how that one had to make a choice between God and material wealth.   Peter pointed out that, although they were not rich men, each of the disciples had given up careers and business to follow Christ.    He and several of the others had had businesses as fishermen.  Matthew had had a career as a Roman tax collector, and others had had other jobs.  In order to follow Christ they had walked away from those careers.   They were not like the man who turned away because he was not willing to give up his wealth. 

Jesus told them that everyone who is willing to forsake his personal benefits for Christ’s sake and his salvation will receive far more in this world, gaining a whole new family and new lands and homes, but that they would be accompanied by persecution.  As I look back, I look at how many Christian brothers and sisters I have had the privilege of knowing, the different places I have lived and country I have been blessed to enjoy in the process of serving God, even though there were problems in every place.  It makes one realize how much they have been blessed, and especially when we realize we still have eternal life with God to look forward to.    It is important to realize many of those who have seemed most blessed and successful here will be the least rewarded there, and some of those who have had least success here will be most blessed.   We have no way of judging how much a person is really doing for Christ. 

“And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Matthew 10:32-34)

This was Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem, in the spring of 31 AD.  I realize that this is different from the traditional date, but as Isaac newton noted almost four hundred years ago, Passover in 33 AD fell on the Sabbath, and thus that could not be the proper year.  It could not fall in 32 AD. Because Passover fell on Monday and Christ was raised on Sunday. 

The disciples were concerned about Jesus leading them back to Jerusalem because the Pharisee’s opposition was so strong.  Jesus explained that he was going to be arrested and turned over to the Romans to be mocked and executed.   It was exactly what they were worried about, and I suspect made them more nervous, even though He tried to reassure them that he would be raised from the dead. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

God Or Mammon?

Mark 10:13-27

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Many years ago, the pastor of one of the mega churches demanded that his people not bring infants or small children into the main auditorium because they would disrupt the service and prevent the Holy Spirit from working.   He held pastor training seminars and hundreds of pastors adopted the practice.   Jesus’ disciples were doing the same thing, telling people not to bring their children so they didn’t disturb the other people.    Jesus was quite upset with them, ordering them to allow the children to come and forbidding them stop them.   He even picked up some of the children and held them while he was teaching while patting others on the head or hugging them. 

He said they were not to forbid them because God’s kingdom is made up of people like those little children.  Anyone who does not accept Christ like a little child will never be part of his kingdom.  Little children tend to be unsophisticated, more free and honest in expressing their feelings and opinions than most adults, with the result that they are more likely to focus on the main issues.   A similar kind of openness and honesty is required for a person to be saved, even though it makes the people more apt to question what is going on.    
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” (Mark 10:17-19)

When the man asked what the needed to do to be saved, Jesus made and important point, in essence asking if he was recognizing his as God or if he was just trying to flatter him.  He then reminded him what the law demanded if they were to receive the promises of God’s covenant with Israel for this life. 

“And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:20-22)

The man had done all those things throughout his life, and clearly understood that was not enough for salvation, as Romans 3:20 tells us.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  He understood he needed something more. 

Jesus told him that he needed to make a complete commitment to Christ, placing him above everything else, because as Luke 14:26-27 tells us, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”   The man wanted to be saved, but he was not willing to put Christ ahead of everything else.  He still wanted to hang on to the things he had. 

“And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!  And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23-25)

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus stated, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  One must make a choice whether God is more important or whether other things are.  Few wealthy people are willing to give up their position to obey God. 

“And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:26-27)

The disciples had made the same mistake many missionaries have made, thinking that if you win the rich, the poor will copy them.  If that doesn’t work, how is it possible to win anyone?  Rich people tend to depend on something new to satisfy them and not realize they have a spiritual lack.  Poor people know they have needs, and since they cannot buy anything to temporarily relieve their longings, they are more apt to take God’s promises seriously.  Thankfully, God is able to reach even those who have wealth.    

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pharisees Question Jesus About Divorce

Mark 10:1-12

“And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.  And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.” (Mark 10:1-2)

Jesus traveled south from Galilee on the east side of the Jordan.  As he came into Judea, the area was more populated, and he was recognized.   Crowds began to assemble, and Jesus took the time to teach them as was his habit.  The Pharisees were trying to trick him into saying something they could distort and use to discredit him, in much the same way many liberals try to get President Trump to say things they can use against him.  Unfortunately the President sometimes falls for their tricks.    Jesus did not. 

“And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.” (Mark 10:3-4)

They had asked if divorce was legal.  Jesus asked them what the law said.  If they knew and practiced the law like the claimed, this shouldn’t even be a question, because it was quite specific.   They admitted the law provided for divorce provided it was done in a specified manner.  Clearly they already knew the answer to their question and didn’t need to have a hearing to find out the answer. 
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:5-9)

The Pharisees considered themselves better and more godly than other people.   Jesus went on to explain that while the law permitted divorce because people were so determined to have their own way, God’s standard was much higher.  Marriage was the result of God’s action, and no human entity, either church or government, had the authority to break it.  They become one flesh, and no legal action can ever end the emotional hurts caused by separation.  Even following the law was not enough to make one Godly, as Paul explains in Romans 3:20.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”   The law only established a minimum standard of what was acceptable, not the ideal.   

“And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.  And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.  And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mark 10:10-12)

The disciples were concerned about what Jesus was saying and asked him more.  Jesus said that leaving ones mate and marrying someone else was adultery, just the same as having an affair, even though the law permitted it.  As Matthew 19:10 tells us, the disciples concluded that if the were the case, it would be better to never marry, if there was no way to get out of it.  Jesus pointed out that not everyone could be expected to keep such a commitment.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dealing With Conflicts In The Church

Mark 9:38-50

“And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.  For he that is not against us is on our part.” (Mark 9:38-40)

The disciples had seen a man casting out devils, claiming the authority of Christ.  As humans we tend to be very possessive and the disciples were no exception.  They immediately commanded the man to stop claiming Jesus name.    Jesus told them not to stop him, because if he was really getting his power from Christ, he could not easily turn his back on Christ.  His actions supported what Christ was doing. 

Paul recognized the fact that even though they might not be teaching exactlt what they should, such teachers were still teaching about Christ, in Philippians 1:15-18.  “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.  What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”  Though they may do things differently, they are still trying to serve Christ.  We should not interfere. 

Paul tells us how to treat them if their behavior doesn’t match the standard the scripture standard, in II Thessalonians 3:14-15.  “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  The fact that he is not holding a proper moral standard. It does mean he is not a Christian.  We should approach him as a brother in an effort to help him understand what God expects.  If he refuses to listen, we should avoid association for the sake of our own reputation, but not treat him as an enemy.  As we see in Jesus’ instructions on church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17, we are to treat them as we would any other unsaved person.  Paul says the same thing in I Corinthians 5. 

If they are deliberately trying to cause confusion and conflict, teaching things that contradict the scriptures, we are to recognize them as serving something other than Christ, as Paul warns in Romans 16:17-18.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  They are deliberately trying to mislead people to accomplish their own goals.  We need to avoid any association with them, not just to protect our reputation, but to prevent others from being misled.   

Sometimes a man begins teaching something that is not true simply because he has misunderstood a passage.. We should go to him and show him what the scriptures actually say,  If he is sincere about serving God he will listen if approached in a non-confrontational way,  I f he refuses to consider what he scriptures say, he is not trying to serve God.  Titus 3:10-11 instructs, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”  The fact that he refuses to consider what God said clearly indicates he doesn’t care about God.   

We should not make an issue of things that are not clearly stated in scripture, as Romans 14:1 tells us.  “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”  The rest of the chapter gives examples and warns against imposing our standards on others, warning that doing so can turn weak Christians away.  Jesus expands on this concern, both in Matthew 18, and here in Mark. 

“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.  And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:41-42)

A person can be serving Christ I ways we deem unimportant such as giving someone a drink of water in the Lord’s name, and God will reward them accordingly.  If we turn them away for not doing what we think they should, we will be held accountable for their failure to obey God.  As Romans 14:4 asks, “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.”  We should not be judging how others serve God.  Romans 14:13 advises, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”  Instead of worrying about how others are serving God we need to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to. 

“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.  Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Mark 9:43-50)

Every person’s works will be judged by God. If we have something in our life that prevents us from serving him, it would be better to live the rest of our lives without it, than to end up in hell because we were not willing to give it up, because once we die, there will be no more second chances.  I f we haven’t made the effort to purify ourselves, no one else can.  We need to allow the spirit to work in us to remove the sin, and eliminate the conflicts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Greatest In The Kingdom

Mark 9:30-37

“And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it.  For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.  But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.”(Mark 9:30-32)

From Lebanon and Syria, Jesus returned into Galilee, avoiding the towns in an effort to avoid attracting attention.  He wanted to teach his disciples some important things and the large crowds would have prevented him being able to concentrate on teaching them.  In teaching, it is essential to start with what the people already know and build on it.  With a large crowd he would need to spend time explaining things the disciples already understood instead of teaching them something new because so many would not have the background they had.  They were too proud to admit they didn’t understand, fearing somebody would think they were

One of the things Jesus taught them was that he would be arrested and killed, that three days later he would rise from the dead.  Though he had already explained this , but it did not fit with what the disciples had grown up believing and they coud not understand how this could happen and him still set up his earthly kingdom as the expected.  Unfortunately the traditions we have been taught often prevent us from understanding what God says.  .      

“And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?  But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.  And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,  Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37)

On the way they had argued about which of them would be the greatest, literally, who was going to be the leader.  When Jesus questioned them about their argument, they embarrassed and didn’t answer.  When he came to the house where they were to stay, spent time explaining the greatest leaders would be the ones who put their own desires last and devoted their efforts to taking care of the others.  He took one of the children and used him as an illustration for them. explaining that in caring for those who others ignored, they were in effect allowing Christ to work through them, and in doing so, representing God. 

If one is to have much influence with a group of people it will be necessary to focus on the needs and desires of those he wishes to lead, rather than simply focusing on his own agenda.  A large percentage of the American populace felt that the Mainstream candidates from both parties were only concerned about a small group of the people, and began to focus on candidates who were not part of the establishment, namely Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.   When the Democratic party forced Bernie Sanders out, it convinced the people  they had been right in believing the establishment politicians were only concerned with  what a few small groups wanted, and they rebelled, selecting Donald Trump as president. 

In much the same way, if we are going to have a significant beneficial impact for Christ, we are going to have to be willing to reach out to all the people, not just the ones who have the same socioeconomic status we have or desire.  We need to understand that God’s doctrine does not change, but that it applies equally to everyone.   Too many politicians have forgotten that the laws must apply equally to everyone.   They must not give one group an advantage over others.  When one group is receiving special treatment, the nation, or the church is no longer functioning properly.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Obtaining Powerful Faith

Mark 9:14-29

“And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.  And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.” (Mark 9:14-15)

When Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, with Peter, James and John, he found the other nine of his disciples surrounded by a crowd, with the scribes interrogating them.  When the People saw him they came running to greet him. 

“And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. “ (Mark 9:16-18)

When Jesus asked why they were interrogating his disciples, one of the men explained that his son had a demonic spirit that made him unable to talk intelligibly.  He had brought him to the nine and they had not been able to heal him.  They were questioning why some were healed and others were not.  Perhaps it was just some kind of scam.  Every time someone claims they can heal and then fails to heal someone, it casts doubt on God’s power. 

“He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.  And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him?

And he said, Of a child.  And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” (Mark 9:20-22)

Jesus asked How long he would have to put up with their lack of faith.   The demon was afraid of being cast out and cause the boy to have a seizure in an effort to keep from being cast out.  Jesus asked how long they had been living with this situation, and was told it had started when he was just a little child.  The father asked Jesus to do whatever he could for his son. 

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 23-24)

Jesus told the father that with faith, anything is possible, and the father asked for help in believing.  Unfortunately, many motivational teachers today use this verse to convince people that you can make things happen by just believing in them.  It is a false teaching.  Positive thinking will not make anything happen.  What Jesus was saying was that if we could believe, God could make it happen, because as Matthew 19:26 tells us, “…with God all things are possible.”  It is not man’s faith that makes things happen, it is God’s power.   Faith in his power inspires God to act. 

“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.  And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.  But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.” (Mark 9:25-27)

Jesus ordered the evil spirit to leave and not bother the boy any more.  Just as a tenant who doesn’t pay his rent and is evicted may get angry and trash the house, the evil spirit tried to trash the boy before he moved out, leaving him unconscious.  Jesus took him by the hand and he recovered completely. 

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. “ (Matthew 9:28-29)

Many have interpreted Jesus’ statement as meaning that if we want a certain result, we need to spend more time fasting and praying about it.   Isaiah 58:4 tells us, “… ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.”  Fasting and prayer where we try to pressure God into doing what we want is sin.  Isaiah 58:6-7 tells what kind of fast pleases God.   Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?    

Fasting that pleases God is about eliminating sin from our lives and getting to know God and whathe wants.  When we do so, Isaiah 58:9 promises, “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. …” Proper fasting leads to our listening to God, and as Romans 10:17 tells us, “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Jesus Manifested As the Messiah

Mark 9:1-13

“And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

This ver4se actually goes with the previous chapter.  Jesus had been teaching about making a commitment and being faithful to him.  Now he promised that some of the people were standing there would not die until after they had seen the Kingdom of God come in power.  Later, when Jesus told peter about how he would die. Peter saw Jophn and asked what he would do.  John 21:22-23 tells us, “Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.  Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”  When they heard what Jesus said, they jumped to the conclusion that John was the one who would never die, although as John points out, he didn’t say that, but rather that it was Christ’s business whether he lived or died.

We do know that John outlived most of the disciples and was still around until about 100 AD.  There is no record of his death although two different traditions exist about it.  One places his death in Israel about 55 AD. While the other places it near Ephesus about 98 AD.    Many have speculated that he will be one of the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11. 

“And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.  And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.” (Mark 9:2-4)

Six days after Peter’s declaration that they believed Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain where he was transfigured before them, appearing in a heavenly body, probably similar to what he had after the resurrection.  His clothing was changed so it shone like sunlight reflecting off new fallen snow, whiter than the best cleaners and dies can possibly produce.  Elijah and Moses appeared at the same time, talking with Jesus. 

“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.  And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.” (Mark 9:5-8)

When he was excited or scared, Peter responded by talking, usually without thinking first.  He suggested the build a home each for Jesus, for Moses, and for Elijah.  As he had done when Jesus was baptized, God declared Jesus to be his son and instructed them to wait for his instructions instead of rushing into something. 

“And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.  And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.” (Mark 9:9-10)

On their way down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell the others what they had seen until after he was resurrected from the dead.  Olthough he had told them earlier that he would be killed and later resurrected, they really couldn’t understand how that was possible and assumed it must refer to something other than a physical resurrection, but they were hesitant to ask him what he meant. 

“And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?

And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.  But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.” (Mark 9:11-13)

Instead of asking Jesus what he meant by the resurrection form the dead, Peter james and John asked why the scholars said Elijah had to come before Messiah.  They knew Jesus was the Messiah, and they hd just seen Elijah, and knew he had not come before Jesus came. 

Jesus pointed out that Just as Elijah had come to Israel telling them what was to happen and what they needed to do to prepare, John the Baptist had come warning of what was to come and teaching them what they needed to do.  The scribe simply didn’t realize John was fulfilling the role of Elijah, and they had contributed to his being Killed by Herod by refusing to stand for what he was teaching.  Despite what they thought, the prophecy had been fulfilled.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Who Are You Following?

Mark 8:27-38

“And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.

And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.” (Mark 8:27-30)

From Bethsaida, Jesus went north into Lebanon and Syria, to Philip’s capitol at Caesarea Philippi.  On the way, he asked his disciples who people thought he was.  They said that some, like Herod, thought he was John the Baptist come back from the dead.  Other people thought he was Elijah or one of the other prophets.  When he asked who they thought he was, Peter was quite adamant, that he was the Messiah.  Jesus instructed them not tell anyone so, but to let them figure it out for themselves.   

“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.  But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (Mark 8:31-33)

Jesus began to explain that he was going to be rejected d by the religious leaders and eventually, they would kill him.  They were not to be concerned because three days later he would rise from the dead.  It was quite clear what he meant, and Peter interrupted him insisting that that couldn’t happen, because he was the man God had chosen and they would protect him. 

Jesus accused him of being led by Satan for wanting to prevent God’s plan from being fulfilled because he was only looking at what he told them from a carnal human perspective.  It was essential that Christ be crucified in order to atone for man’s sin and make salvation possible.  One can only wonder how many times, in our effort to protect someone, like Peter, we have allowed Satan to control us.  . For example, how many times have we rushed in to help someone financially when God was trying to teach them to take responsibility for themselves.  Even in our efforts to help others, we need to be sure we are doing it God’s way. 

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)

Jesus then assembled the whole crowd and began to address them.  He made the point that anyone who wanted to follow him, to be one of his disciples would have to give up his own agenda, as Luke 14 26 tells us.  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”    If they would give up their agenda to serve him they would experience the richness of real life, but if they focused on getting what they wanted they would miss out.  The earthly things are only temporary, and it would be a poor choice to give up eternal life for earthly blessings.  There is nothing on earth worth trading for one’s soul.  It would be better to go through this life disabled and in poverty than to have great wealth and end up in hell for eternity. 

Mr 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

People who are afraid to choose Christ for fear they might have to go without things or be ashamed for their stance I this life will find God has no place for them in heaven when the Judgment comes.