Mark 16

Vs. 1, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.”  It’s always important to mention that it was quite unusual for the early church to have women as the primary witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection (vs. 1-8).  The women are not able to go until after the Sabbath (Saturday) to finish anointing Jesus’ body for burial.  It’s interesting to note that the women so struck with grief, they did not even think about who would role back the stone (vs. 3).  And most importantly, the Resurrection of Jesus shows us He was victorious over death!  In the latter half of our passage (vs. 9-20) there is a matter of debate to biblical scholars.  There are positions on both sides that support the Gospel of Mark ended on vs. 8 while others content it was added later on.  There has also been some controversy to the signs that will accompany those who believe (vs. 17-18).  Many believe these signs applied only to the time of the Apostles.  In the end, it’s important to remember these signs were not used to prove or test God.  They were only used to add to the bottom line: sharing the Gospel.

Regarding application…Preach It.  Vs. 15, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  We are recipients of this charge!  For nearly 2000 years, we have been spreading the Gospel to a world that needs to know Jesus.  There are many who need Jesus right now in their life.  In the midst of the chaos to our neighbors in Oklahoma, Christians have a chance to really bring hope to the suffering.  Let us pray that God would raise up people to be a beacon of light in that community.  Like the disciples who were mourning and weeping, God brought them the only hope that cut through all the pain of loss.  May we take the time to prayerfully consider how we can “preach it” to a friend, coworker or family member who need to hear “Good News” in their life this week.

Mark 15

Vs. 39, “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  The first verse in chapter one of Mark reminded us that Jesus is the Son of God.  Now we come to the end of Jesus’ life and Mark ensures we see the Roman centurion’s declaration having just seen the crucifixion.  After the disgraceful and unlawful trial of Jesus in the night, the Sanhedrin hand Jesus over the Pontius Pilate (vs. 1-15).  The Jews needed to find a way to convince Pilate to have Jesus crucified.  They spun it to make it look like Jesus was leading a revolt against the Romans.  It’s important to note the politics involved with Pilate and the Jews.  He wasn’t exactly a beloved figure for the Jews and though the Romans were in charge, his position needed to appease the Jews from rioting and also the Roman leaders who entrusted in Pilate’s ability to be the governor for them.  He personally felt no reason for the Jesus to be sentenced to death.  But the politics were pressuring him.  Pilate ingeniously used the tradition of releasing one prisoner and chose Barabbas to be next to Jesus.  He figured the crowds would surely not want Barabbas released and call for Jesus.  But, seeing the rioting crowds and the threat the Sanhedrin made to Pilate (John 19:12), He relents and sentences Jesus to crucifixion (vs. 15).  The Roman floggings (vs. 16-20) is excruciating to read and one of the reasons why Jesus died so early on the cross (crucifixion deaths could last days).  When it came to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, we are not given much detail from any of the Gospels since everyone at that time knew what crucifixion entailed (vs. 21-41).  And lastly, we see God’s providential hand at work as Joseph of Arimathea quickly request Jesus’ body for burial (vs. 42-47).

Regarding application…Access To God.  Vs. 38, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”  Question: What is the significance of the curtain town in two?  The curtains in the temple played an important part in separating and protecting the most holy of holies from the outside world.  The Ark of the Covenant was not present in the new temple, for it was lost in the Babylonian invasion nearly six centuries earlier.  But it still represented God’s holy presence.  The torn temple would now signify to all of us that access to God is now granted to everyone (Hebrews 10:20).  I used to have this notion that I felt closer to God in an actual church building.  But the beauty of this torn curtain reminds us as Jesus’ reminded the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) that the worship of God can be done anywhere.  That is why doing our daily devotions anywhere is such a privilege!  Of course, this does not negate our privilege of being part of the body of Christ: His church!

Mark 14

Vs. 1, “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.”  As Jesus and the disciples get ready to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), we are privy that a plot was amiss.  Jesus’ last Passover meal would become the Last Supper (vs. 1-2).  Like Matthew’s Gospel, Mark also records the anointing of Jesus by Mary in Bethany (vs. 3-9).  Bear in mind, anointing is not placed chronologically for this happened the day before Jesus entered Jerusalem (Triumphant Entry).  I preached on this a few months ago and it is a wonderful reminder of the sacrificial love she gave Jesus.  This nard (perfume) was the equivalent of about $60,000 in our present day (at least in LA county where I live).  Sadly, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests (vs. 10-11) and unknowingly fulfills prophesied scripture (Zechariah 11:12).  The thirty pieces of silver were about four months wages (a price of a slave) which would be the equivalent of $20,000.  As the disciples gather for the Passover supper, Jesus informs that He not only will be betrayed, but that the betrayer is one of them (vs. 17-21).  It is here that Jesus calls out Judas, but the disciples were probably confused with what was going on.  The Gospel of John (John 13:30) further sheds light and tells us that Judas left the supper that night to go prepare for the arrest.  Jesus than instructs the disciples that the bread would signify His body (vs. 22).  You may recall the Passover was commemorated when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  Every home that had the lamb’s blood on the door, the Spirit of God would Passover that house and not kill the newborns.  Jesus was the Passover lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).  The cup (vs. 23-25) would signify the blood of Christ that would bring redemption to all.  Upon leaving the upper room, they travel over to Gethsemane a garden near the Mount of Olives to pray (vs. 26).  Sadly, Jesus predicts that not only was Judas a betrayer, but all of the other disciples will fall away and scatter (vs. 27-28).  Led by Peter protests, Jesus informs Peter he will deny Him three times (vs. 30).  It’s important also to note the others stated they too would not scatter (vs. 31).  The prayers at the Gethsemane (vs. 32-42) are incredibly intense as we get insight to the struggle Jesus was having.  He knew what He was about to face and it was going to be excruciating.  Being beaten and dying by crucifixion was intense, but nothing compared to bearing the sins of all and having the Father turn His face from His son.  The enemy’s temptation was strong for Satan and earlier he had tried to offer Jesus an easy way out (Matthew 4:8-9).  Judas now comes to the garden knowing the Jesus and the disciples would have been there.  He brings an angry mob ready to arrest Jesus (vs. 43-51).  Jesus accepts, Peter overreacts and all disciples scatter.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, broke even the Jewish laws by assembling a disgraceful trial at night and in his own home (53-65).  They even concoct bringing false witnesses to contrive lies.  They charge Jesus was blasphemy (speak contemptuously about God) and proceed to seek Jesus’ death.  It’s important to note that capital punishment was only delivered by the Romans (they gave the Jews some power, but not on this).  Additionally, blasphemy to the Romans was a not a legit reason for death.  And lastly, upon Peter witnessing the trial and seeing Jesus beaten, proceeds to deny he knows Jesus (vs. 66-72).

Regarding application…A Future Hope.  Vs. 62, “ I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” “A Future Hope” is the sermon series theme in the book of Ruth that started today (See Audio Sermon).  And in our passage, we are reminded that even in the midst of Jesus’ crises and His disciples, that there would be a hope for the future!  When I think about Jesus’ perspective, I can only imagine the weight of the whole world on His shoulders.  The human emotion in me thinks about the anguish of knowing His disciples were going to have to suffer so much loss and fear.  Yet, the storm of their crises would have to come.  But, even in the midst of those turbulent times, the disciples would find courage and rise up to begin the church!  Brothers and sisters, we must continue that hope for a better future.  Certainly, we have the ultimate vision of Jesus of Jesus returning on the clouds of heaven.  But, we also know that the promises of a better future can exist in our current life.  I pray you will find hope this week in the endeavors of your life.

Mark 13

Vs. 4, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”  Jesus had just finished telling the disciples that the Temple and it’s beauty would soon be destroyed (vs. 1-4).  It was almost impossible to believe and the Temple was the sign of God’s presence for them.  But, there would be a new spiritual temple in the church that would be coming soon.  Jesus now spends the next section of our chapter addressing signs both good and bad that will come (vs. 5-23).  I want to preface something important: Jesus does not give us any specific dates for a reason.  Biblical scholars are divided when it comes to the interpretation of Jesus’ signs.  Some believe it only applied to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.  Others believe that it has a dual meaning that applied for the disciples during the temple destruction but also for future believers during the Tribulation in Revelation.  Differences in interpretations should not divide the church.  The general principles of being watchful apply to all generations until Jesus returns!  We are in the birth pains (vs. 8) and the signs should be obvious just as a fig tree is about to bloom (vs. 28).  Even Jesus does not know the time or date of His own return, only the Father (vs. 32).  We must be ready to live in difficult times.

Regarding application…Be Watchful!  Vs. 37, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!”  Jesus reminded us of one major criterion: The Gospel must be preached to all nations (vs. 10) before Jesus returns.  Wycliffe Bible Translators estimate that only 209 million people have yet to have a bible translation in their language.  Brothers and sisters, we are so very close!  With the continued efforts of preaching, missions and global technology, we are almost at the end of the race!  Like the doorkeeper (vs. 34-36), let us be ready when the owner (Jesus) returns.  There are times when I selfishly wish it were now.  But there are also times when I forget about Jesus’ warnings when my own life seems to be too difficult to handle.  I remember when I was a little kid, I was so excited to go visit a big city with tall buildings.  No matter how long the trip, I would fight to stay awake so I could see the first glimpse of the approaching city!  Likewise, let us be always watchful and alert for the day and hour when Jesus will return.  Lord, please come soon!

Mark 12

Vs. 6, “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.”  You may recall previously, we are traveling with Jesus in His last days during the Passion Week.  Jesus is in the temple courts with the crowds, but also with those who were against Him (Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, teachers of the law).  The Parable of the Tenants illustrates the nation Israel and the violent hypocritical acts they administered to the owner of the vineyard.  Those against Jesus were incensed for they knew Jesus was speaking of them (vs. 12).  The enemies of Jesus who were normally opposed to Him, collaborated together to try to trap him.  The Pharisees and Herodians who did not agree politically on their view of Rome’s role with Jews, conspired together to ask how taxes should be properly handled (vs. 13-17).  Paying taxes to Caesar was a hotly debated issue amongst the Jews.  But Jesus with wisdom above all others, share with us how we can give to Caesar (current government) and give to God at the same time (vs. 17).  The Sadducees now come into the picture.  Though not popular among the masses, they controlled the priesthood.  They only adhered to the Pentateuch (the first five books) which limited their understanding of Resurrection.  They come to challenge Jesus on marriage at the Resurrection (vs. 18-27).  The Sadducees come up with a ridiculous hypothetical situation but Jesus again puts them His detractors in place.  But the enemy is persistent, and again they send a teacher of the law to challenge Jesus about the most important commandment (vs. 28-34).  Bear in mind, there were 613 commandments that were in the OT Law.  Jesus infuses two OT references (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18) and this pretty much silenced everyone (vs. 34).  It’s interesting to notice the teacher of the law was impressed and Jesus comments about how close He is to the kingdom of God.  Jesus now takes the opportunity to ask his own question (vs. 35-37).  He points out Psalm 110:1 where David’s future son (descendant) would also be David’s Lord.  This points to the doctrine of incarnation (God becoming human in Jesus).  Jesus also warns us against desiring or looking up to the religious leaders of their day.   Many of them fell into the trap of the “Honor/Shame” culture and tried to look good on the outside.  And lastly, I find it interesting that Jesus watches closely the people placing money in temple treasury (vs. 41-44).  It is a sobering reminder of how giving should be a sacrifice.  The widow’s two copper coins had the least value, but she gave it all to the Lord.  It is a picture of Jesus who would give much more in the days following.

Regarding application…True Sacrifice.  Vs. 44, “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  As Jesus watched the crowds put their offering into the temple treasury, it’s important to note that it wasn’t the issue of giving.  It was Passover festival time, so there were people of all backgrounds and financial means giving into the temple treasury.  Let me stop here for a moment…God’s will is going to be accomplished no matter how much we give or keep.  The issue here is this understanding of giving that is truly a sacrifice.  If we were to strictly follow the OT tithe, it is far more than just 10%.  The issue isn’t how much we give.  The issue is, is what we give an appropriate sacrifice to the Lord?  When we give to the Lord, we should do it cheerfully (II Corinthians 9:7).  There is always going to be opportunities for us to give and help each other out.  Because the church is God’s gift to us and we see how the Apostle Paul had a burden to collect funds for the church in Jerusalem to meet the needs of the poor, I believe we should continue that spirit of giving.  Tithe to your church.  If can give 10%, wonderful.  If less or more, do so according to what you can give.  And if God has blessed you beyond that, look for ways to give additionally to others like the Good Samaritan did.

Mark 11

Vs. 7, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.”  Jesus’ ministry is now coming to an end.  In our opening scene, Jesus is getting ready for the triumphal entry in Jerusalem (vs. 1-11).  We see another example of Jesus’ omniscience as he directs the disciples to go and retrieve a colt.  In the Gospel of Matthew, he records a colt and a donkey (Matthew 21).   Jesus rode in on a donkey as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9).  It’s important to note that the donkey was in fact an animal that was very appropriate for a king to ride on (I Kings 1:33).  The people initially welcomed and praised Jesus as many thought He was coming to help overthrow the current Roman regime.  However, this triumph of Jesus would not be with pageantry and festivities, but it would be shown on the cross.  The next morning, Jesus would reenter Jerusalem (He was staying in Bethany during the night) and come to clear the temple (vs. 12-19).  There are many factors involved in understanding this, but it’s important to note that the temple and OT practices would soon be obsolete after the Roman destruction in 70 A.D.  There was much corruption in the temple sacrifices and selling of the animals.  There was also the impediment of preventing Gentiles from being able to worship because of all the commotion (vs. 17).  The cursing of the fig tree (vs. 12-14; 20-25) illustrates not only the nation Israel, but the lack of spiritual fruit from the temple worship.  And lastly, we se another scene of the chief priests approaching Jesus to corner Him into blasphemy (vs. 27-33).  Jesus masterfully turns their question with His own question that dumbfounds them.

Regarding application…Faith in God?  Vs. 22, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.”  It’s important to see the context of Jesus’ example of having faith in God: prayer (vs. 23-25).  The Jews epitome of prayer was a location: the temple.  That would soon be destroyed.  But, faith in God is not in a tangible object.  Having faith in God is shown in our dependence upon Him through our prayers.  For many Christians, we eagerly claim that we have faith in God.  But a good litmus test for faith in God is the heart for prayer and doing it.  The more we pray, the more we will be able to confidently do the seemingly impossible.  The more we pray, we will be able to love and forgive others (vs. 25).  The more we pray, our faith in God will be a positive example for the world that needs to know Jesus!  Question: Do you have faith in God?

Mark 10

Vs. 1, “Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.”  The Galilean ministry is over and Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem.  The Pharisees continue to challenge Jesus and this time they bring up the issue of divorce (vs. 1-12).  It’s no surprise this issue was brought up in Judea, for this was the region where Herod Antipas ruled.  Herod’s divorce and remarriage led to John the Baptist beheading.  It’s interesting that the victims of divorce are often children and the next issue is about them (vs. 13-16).  In Jesus’ indignation, we see the value of children and how important they are in reminding us about our faith.  We also see Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man (vs. 17-31).  It is a sobering story of someone who had so much opportunity, but left with nothing.  The young man seemed to have everything, but lacked the most important one: faith in Jesus.  As they continue their journey, Jesus gives them more detail regarding His impending death; the location and who would crucify Him (vs. 32-34).  Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 20:20-28), we were given another perspective on James and John’s request to be at the right and left of Jesus in His glory (vs. 35-45).  It was still very hard for the twelve to understand what true humility is.  As came and left Jericho towards Jerusalem, they encounter the two blind men on the road.  Mark focuses in on Bartimaeus for he was the more vocal one (vs. 46-52).

Regarding application…Putting Things Aside.  Vs. 50, “Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”  Notice that our blind friend Bartimaeus did not shy away when he knew Jesus was coming by.  He boldly called out Jesus’ name and threw his cloak aside when Jesus called him.  I couldn’t help but notice the many who rebuked him when he tried to reach out to Jesus.  In some ways, this is a microcosm of what happens when we do likewise.  Our Christian walk is not a timid one.  There will be naysayers and detractors.  And like our earlier example in the rich young man, we must be willing to put aside all things that could potentially keep us from following Jesus.  Question: What are you putting aside?  This past week, our bible study series challenged us to do a twenty-four hour media fast (no music, no internet, not television, etc.)  I have to admit that it was pretty difficult to set these things aside.  But, we are certainly challenged to set aside much more than just those things.  Our lives were bought at a price and so let us apply what the writer of Hebrews stated, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1)

Mark 9

Vs. 1, “And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”  Jesus was speaking about the three (Peter, James & John) who would witness the Transfiguration (vs. 2-13).  It is no coincidence that Jesus takes them up to a mountain, for mountains were often the places where God would reveal Himself.  Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets and both would point towards Jesus.  There is no coincidence that the Transfiguration followed the events in our previous chapter (Peter’s confession of Christ and Jesus’ prediction of His death).  Therefore the Transfiguration would be a reminder to the disciples Jesus would return in glory!  Upon descending the mountain, there is a encounter with a demon-possessed son (vs. 14-29).  The disciples had already experienced exorcising demons (Mark 3:15; 6:7), but this was an opportunity for Jesus to share with them that prayer was of the utmost importance.  As they continued their journey, Jesus reminded them that He will die, but be raised again in three days (vs. 30-32).  However, the disciples not only didn’t understand, but they were quarrelling about who the greatest was amongst them.  But, Jesus would use this opportunity to teach them what true humility is (vs. 33-37).  The child represented not so much innocence, but the humble state of their social position.  Children were completely dependent and had no power, status or rights.  It’s interesting that the disciples could not cast out a demon earlier and now an outsider had successfully done it (vs. 38-41).  There is power in the name of Jesus and surely this outside person was not against Jesus.  And lastly, Jesus uses this concern about the disciples wanting to stop this man to causing others to stumble (vs. 42-50).  Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggerated statements not to be take literally) with the examples: millstone around neck and cutting off body parts.

Regarding application…Don’t Stumble Others.  Vs. 42, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”  Question: How can we prevent this from happening?  Jesus’ use of hyperbole points to an underlying lesson: Be willing to cut off things in your life that can cause others to stumble.  The Apostle Paul also gives us perspective when he refuses to eat meat sacrificed for idols for the sake of new believers (I Corinthians 8).  For example, when I was a Youth Pastor, I knew how influential music is for youth.  So I was very careful about the type of music I chose to listen to.  I didn’t want the youth to be stumbled by this.  Certainly, other aspects of living can also relate (our language, alcohol, entertainment).  Younger believers need to be cared for.  It doesn’t matter what age they are, seasoned Christians should be willing to cut off things in their life so that the church members do not stumble.  I realize this is not a popular notion, but I think that is why Jesus used such extreme examples to make His point.

Mark 8

Vs. 2, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”  We come to another miracle feeding of the four thousand (vs. 1-9).  While the first miracle feeding transpired in Galilee, this one is near Decapolis in a predominately Gentile setting.  What a wonderful picture of Jesus’ compassion upon the needs of people!  Traveling back to Galilee, Jesus and the disciples are intercepted by the Pharisees again (vs. 10-13).  Jesus’ healings were not enough for them, for they wanted a supernatural sign.  We can see Jesus’ raw emotion as he sighs heavily in disappointment (vs. 12).  We see another scene with the Jesus and the disciples in a boat (vs. 14-21).  Jesus uses their worry about not bringing enough bread to warn them against the yeast of the Pharisees (vs. 15).  Their lack of understanding still showed that they had much to learn.  Mark expertly gives us an example of Jesus healing a blind man in light of the disciples being spiritually blind (vs. 22-26).  Peter’s confession is similar to the blind man’s initial sight of only seeing people moving around like trees (vs. 27-33).  Peter understands who Jesus is, but does not see clear enough to see Jesus must die first (vs. 32).  Lastly, we see Jesus speak quite clearly about true discipleship (vs. 34-38).

Regarding application…What is Discipleship?  Vs. 34, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  A disciple is a follower of Jesus.  We just wrapped a 3 part series on Discipleship (see audio sermons).  I love how Jesus cuts through all the tape and gets real with all those who were following Him.  There are three things Jesus demands: We must deny ourselves, we must take up the cross, and we must follow Him.  Discipleship is so tantamount, that it can literally save our life!  Question: Are you “sold-out” for Jesus?  We are more like the original disciples than I think we realize.  It took them time to understand fully what it meant to follow Jesus.  Likewise, each of us are going to have to struggle with letting go of our own understanding and letting go of things we think can help us in this life (money, success, etc.)  Jesus was patient with them and I know He is patient with us.  Don’t grow discouraged if you are struggling.  Struggling is going to happen, but just don’t get separated from the group (church) and completely lose your way.

Mark 6

Vs. 4, “Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  Jesus returns to Nazareth and we are shocked to see how the people respond to Him (vs. 1-6)!  How sad to think that Jesus desired to love and heal them, but their hearts could not accept Jesus because they looked at Him as a human rather than the Son of God.  They couldn’t get past the fact that they knew Jesus as a man and boy growing up in Nazareth.  Jesus then confidently sends out the twelve apostles in pairs of two (vs. 6-13) to help minister to the growing need of the kingdom of God.  Not only is there safety in numbers, but we must also serve.  Mark then gives us different perspective on Jesus’ growing ministry and how it has now reached the ears of King Herod.  We are sadly reminded that it was Herod Antipas who scandalously had John the Baptist beheaded (vs. 14-29).  After the disciples short missions trip, they gather to report only to find crowds of people surrounding them and Jesus (vs. 30-44).  However, there is an issue that the crowds were so many that now they all found themselves hungry.  It is here that Jesus miraculously feeds the five thousand.  Upon instructing the disciples to set sail to Bethsaida on the sea, Jesus goes to pray. And lastly, we encounter another storm, where Jesus walks on water (vs. 45-56).

Regarding application…Finding Rest.  Vs. 31, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  The disciples had just gotten back from a busy schedule of missions.  They were all excited to share and talk about what God had done through them.  But, Jesus could see the weariness on their faces.  I love how Jesus encouraged them to get some rest!  While we may not all have grandiose opportunities to serve in missions, our workplaces and school environments serve as our own version of missions.  Sometimes we get too busy in our lives.  Jesus not only encouraged rest, but He was the source of their rest.  Question: Are you getting enough rest?  When we come to church, Jesus brings us rest in His word and the fellowship of believers.