Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Luke 4

The Spirit is doing a lot of leading. He led Jesus to the wilderness, "by the power of the Spirit." I need the Spirit more than I realize.

Luke speaks of the temptation lasting 40 days, yet only records three! The first two are temptations to "prove yourself." He continued to face those even while hanging on the cross. The third one has the hiss of the serpent, "Worship me and I'll give you glory and authority." It is the promise of what Jesus left behind in Philippians 2. The devil left him, literally, "for now."

Jesus got a stiff reaction when he mentioned the widow of Zarephath and Naaman. It is hard to overestimate the anti-gentile sentiment of Jesus' day. Their reaction, though, seems out of proportion to the offense. Which is a good indication more is going on that meets the eye.

I wonder what it would have been like to go home to your podunk Judean town and preach the kingdom of heaven! Wow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Luke 3

Never really noticed many of the details before. Luke lists four different levels of governmental leadership to help accurately record the time of John's preaching.

A tax collector wondered what it meant to work the works for repentance. So, John told him very specifically.

John did not hold forth in an ideal spot for church growth or missional strategy. Yet the Spirit of God got his work done there in the wilderness.

Luke says very little about Jesus' baptism and a lot about his genealogy. . . all the way back to God! It does not include the rogues that Matthew's version does.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Luke 2

It is interesting to read the Christmas story outside of December. Some observations come more easier outside "the season."

The "Heavenly host" is literally a heavenly army! Heaven was rejoicing at the birth of Jesus. The shepherds caught some of the overflow of heaven's delight.

"This will be a sign to you. . ." implies they were supposed to go looking. "Everyone marveled . . ." implies that the shepherds were quick to tell people about Jesus. These are two great responses -- Seek and Tell.

Joseph and Mary marveled at Simeon's words because he so clearly identified their baby as the Jewish messiah! His use of the Scriptures is impressive.

When Jesus was in the temple explaining why he missed the car ride home, his parents did not understand what he was saying -- the first of many times.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Luke 1:39-80

What a long chapter!

I am impressed by Mary's Song. She knew her Old Testament Scriptures. And, she knew how they connected to her Son. One of the facets of her virtue and righteousness is her knowledge of the Scriptures.

Zechariah's song of praise, likewise, was full of Scripture. What was going on with these babies was a Bible thing if it was anything!

In the womb, John jumped for joy. I wonder how Elizabeth knew that joy motivated him?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Luke 1:1-38

The angel makes the relationship of John with the Elijah prophecy in Malachi very explicit. He does not want us to miss it. He will do what Malachi prophesied.

John is an answer to prayer for a faithful, childless old couple who, month after month, had lived with renewed disappointment. The angel prophesied a ton of joy! He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. God, fill my children with your Spirit.

The angel was also very clear with Mary that Jesus is the promised Messiah to sit on David's throne. He connected her child with the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-4 and with the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7:13-16.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark 15:33--16:8

That Jesus would be able to call with a loud voice is remarkable. What he called is stunning and I'm sure was the greatest agony of the cross. The silence of God here is deafening. "Why have you forsaken me?"

Simon of Cyrene was just passing by but was conscripted to carry the cross and his life was changed. The centurion on the job noted, "surely this is the son of God." His life was changed, too. Joseph of Arimathea was a respected council member. What a week it must have been for him. Was he already sick that he had prepared his grave already?

From the silence of a sabbath with a defeated Messiah to the wonder of an empty tomb -- Whoa -- What a ride for the women and the disciples! Mark stops at the resurrection. "He's not here. Go to Galilee. Period!" Everything changes with that news!

The longer ending is very different from the gospel in style and content. It is generally not considered to be an authentic part of this gospel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mark 15:1-32

In the end, it comes down to this. Everything here is wrong. Political gamesmanship disregards justice. Insult is added to injury. The mockery in the midst of it all is breathtaking. And then, the temptation, "If you come down, then we'll believe." That sounds very much like his temptation by Satan in the wilderness.

What happened to Barabbas and what happened to me is the same. Jesus stepped in for both of us! What enduring love not to opt out at any point in this tortuous ordeal!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mark 14:53-72

What a sad few verses. The bravado of Peter and the others is short-lived as they not only flee, but as Peter denies Jesus. It would almost be comical if not so tragic. Everyone was either a regular employee of the priest or there to hear the trial of Jesus. Since Peter wasn't regular, there was really no denying he was there with Jesus.

The false witnesses couldn't agree, but when confronted with the truth they all called it blasphemy because they had already decided it wasn't true. That is a serious mistake.

I hate the spitting part!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mark 14:27-52

Why is this prayer in Gethsemane in the Bible? To show conflict within Jesus, maybe. To show obedience and submission to the Father's will, for sure. To show the feeble will of the disciples. To show the importance of prayer. To show the centrality of the cross, after all, God was able to do anything and He still sent Jesus to the cross.

I think, if I was a disciple, the prayer in the garden would have been the same. I'd have probably slept, too. It was late after all and their eyelids were heavy. Jesus' technique for avoiding temptation is simple -- Watch and Pray.

The betrayer's kiss will forever be the ultimate story of betrayal. The evil is almost suffocating.

Where does the naked fleeing man come from? What a curious detail! How would you like to be in the Bible for that reason?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mark 14:1-26

The tension in this chapter is thick. The extreme consternation at this woman who gives her heirloom vase of perfume to Jesus shows us something deeper is truly the issue.

One might look at Judas' betrayal as a result of fiscal differences with Jesus. . . if the results were in proportion to the difference.

I love the random guy with the jar standing in the city waiting for disciples to come along. What a role in this eternal drama! The passover night is a sober and tender one.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mark 13

No one knows the day or the hour. So. . . watch.

A few things keep me off-balance here:
  • This generation will not pass away before these things happen (Mark 13:30) and many of the things did happen then.
  • On the other hand, the celestial catastrophes and the Son of Man coming on the clouds and the gospel being preached to all the nations make it seem like it is still future.
The one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13). How many times I am tempted to quit? Things were much worse then than they are for me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mark 12

Mark's editorial comment, "They knew he spoke this against them. . .", tells us how obvious and how stinging this story was to the original listeners.

Jesus saw the real issues behind their questions. I think the "render unto Caesar" answer is the best answer to any question ever!

Interesting the Sadducees asked a question about something they didn't believe in. They were deceived because they did not know the power of God or the Scriptures. How many people today are easily deceived for the same reasons?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mark 11

This whole chapter is amazing. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey then walked back to Bethany! He was deliberately identifying himself with Zechariah 9:9.

I'm sure they didn't fill the temple with money changers overnight. There was a gradual creep as they adapted ideas that made it easier started out making it easier to for people to worship. One thing led to another and they were stealing from people in the name of God!

I'd like to figure out this fig tree situation. Mark says, "It wasn't time for figs." This wasn't about fruitfulness or cursing. Jesus made it about prayer and faith when they came back and found it shriveled. It is a picture of the level of authority he had and was passing to them. "Ask believing, and you will receive it." What do I really believe God will do when I ask? Not enough, that's for sure.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mark 10:31-52

Jesus pulled his disciples aside from the crowd to tell them of his death. Not everyone got the same level of information.

That all the disciples were indignant with James and John shows how little they understood what Jesus teaches in these verses. It is NOT natural to serve. Perhaps their question is positive in some regard. Maybe they understood a glimmer of what it meant to rise again. . . maybe.

Jesus made Bartimaeus, even though it was obvious to Jesus, what he needs. He did not need the information. Even normal people can figure out that a blind person needs to see. Jesus likes to be asked!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mark 10: 1-30

This is one of my favorite chapters in all the Bible. Watching Jesus move through these unusual pastoral experiences back-t0-back makes me love and admire him all the more. I love how the disciples are all trying to keep up with and understand him.

The passive voice in the verb "be one flesh" is interesting. It is something done to the couple, they are made to be one flesh. The beginning in Genesis is the standard for marriage and divorce.

Unless you come to the kingdom as a child, you can't come. I illustrated this for Layne, who was sitting on my lap, by talking about her falling into the deep end of the pool. She won't get out unless she calls for and accepts help, like a little child.

The disciples marvel, more than once, at how hard it is to be saved.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mark 9:14-50

This father says, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." This may be the perfect prayer, certainly one I need to pray all the time. Then he stumbles as he asks, "If you are able. . . " Jesus objects to the question! He will NEVER have ability problems in response to my requests.

The disciples couldn't cast out this demon and asked why. Jesus told them, "It comes out by prayer." Yet, the text doesn't record Jesus praying as he cast it out. I wonder how many things I'm unable to do that I would have been able to do if I'd prayed?

As the disciples argued about who was the greatest, Jesus took a child and stood him up in the middle of them. Show and tell! Jesus thinks we should take sin seriously enough to cut off body parts to avoid it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mark 8:31-9:13

I've not read straight through the chapter break like I did this time. But this is a clear foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. He talked about his death at the end of chapter 8 and gave a demonstration of his resurrection in chapter 9.

Mark 8:36ff is the most forceful, the clearest definitive statement about following Jesus in the Bible. How easy it is to stop short , to work to save your own life, and give lip service to following Jesus. Oh, God, help me go all the way!

The transfiguration shows many things. Not the least of which is the stupid things people say and do when they are afraid. "Let's build three tents."

I do love the disciples attempts to figure out what they just experience. I think they made progress as they processed what happened on the mountain.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Apologies for not posting

Sorry I haven't added to this for the past couple days. I'll be back on Saturday or Sunday. Thanks for your patience with me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mark 8:1-30

Jesus asked the same question this time as he did when he had 5,000 to feed, "How much bread do you have?" Assessment was the first step in the miracle process. If they'd had a warehouse, I suppose a miracle wouldn't have been needed. Jesus is fond of doing miracles with ordinary ingredients. If I'm going to ask Him for a miracle, I can expect him to ask me first, "What do you have?"

Jesus minced no words with them. They were not getting it. He applied to them the same quote from Isaiah that he used on the Pharisees. Not a complimentary quotation, either.

The blind man was healed in two stages. I don't normally think of miracles taking place in steps. In fact, I wonder how many miracles I miss because I give up on them too early.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mark 7

When Jesus quotes the Old Testament, he does so with extraordinary power. His language is more graphic with his disciples that with the crowd (he explains about the latrine). Jesus' message is about heart transformation, not mere external conformity to rules. What is in your heart will come out!

Jesus went to Tyre to hide!

This woman believed that even the scraps from Jesus would be adequate to heal her daughter. Why did Jesus initially accept cultural barriers between himself and this woman?

"He does all things well." What a good conclusion once the deaf, mute man talked. No one complained at that moment about the long years he had been deaf and mute throughout his life. He does do all things well.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mark 6:30-57

Cool things about this text:
  • Jesus was on a retreat. He was so busy he didn't have time to eat. . . I always have time to eat!
  • The disciples had already researched how much bread and fish they had before Jesus even asked.
  • He prayed while they strained at the oars. In the end, they both made it the same distance. I wonder if I prayed more and strained less, if I'd get as far?
  • He walked on the water because he wanted to go to them. His was a relational motivation that turned out to be quite spectacular.
  • They did not learn the lesson of the loaves. . . so they were surprised.
They had witnessed the two most spectacular supernatural events, back-to-back, prior to the resurrection. They were face-to-face with majesty . . . and they missed it. Their hearts were stubborn. Oh, God, don't let me be like that!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Mark 6:1-29

The barbarity of this section of Scripture is paralleled only, perhaps, by the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. A whoring mother who uses her sexuality to gain intimate access to the king, trains her daughter to do the same and then twists it into the murder of an innocent man. The girl receives the head of John the Baptist on a serving platter and gives it to her mom. I wonder how she slept that night with the head sitting on her dresser staring at her?!

The clear, bold preaching of John made Herod afraid, yet glad to hear him. And, it made Herodias angry enough to kill him. That had to be great preaching! Apparently the disciples' preaching resembled it because people thought John might have come back from the dead.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mark 5:21-43

Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue. It is easy to forget how antagonistic religious leaders were to Jesus. This is a bold and desperate concession on his part.

Don't know how I'd missed this before but the woman had been suffering for 12 years and the girl who died was 12 years old.

After they heard the girl was dead, Jesus told the man, "Don't fear, only believe." In the heat of that moment, when your precious daughter just died, that must have sounded ridiculous. I suspect those same words would have sounded even stranger and harder to the woman who'd suffered for a dozen years. Yet, Jesus healed both the acute and the chronic problem -- one in dramatic fashion, one without even looking.

The disciples' statement, "How can you say, 'someone touched you,' when there is a crowd pressing you on every side?" and Jesus' response to the woman tell me that many can be in close, close proximity to Jesus and still not have any experience of his power! God, don't let me be part of a crowd that hangs around Jesus but misses His power because of a lack of faith.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mark 5:1-20

The spiritual presence of Jesus was so obvious the demons reacted to him from a great distance! A crazy, violent man with invisible demons recognized a Galilean traveler who was invisibly the Son of God. His spiritual power and presence could not be ignored.

The drama of the drowning pigs gets most of the attention, but the commission of this newly freed man is a great commission for every believer, "Go to your home, to your people, and tell them what the Lord has done for you and of his mercy." That mission was more important than traveling with Jesus!

The pig farmers reject Jesus out of fear. Jesus will mess with your business!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mark 4:21-41

I love the focus on the futility of human effort in these two parables. The grain grows "automatically" when the farmer sleeps. He told them the kingdom would grow undetected and appear to be doing nothing. And the farmer only contributes going to sleep.

Then Jesus goes to sleep himself. They did not see the connection and were terrified of the great storm. Then Jesus wakes and calms the storm and they are even more afraid of the great calm and the king who ruled the sea.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mark 4:1-20

I love this! The sower is indiscriminate about dispensing the word. He even appears careless.

Satanic opposition comes, not to the sower, but to the recipients of the seed, by removing the word before it can take root.

For others, their rapid response is related to their rapid demise. They lack sufficient root. Perhaps care should be taken to cultivate so they can take root better. It is best NOT to insist on a fast response unless there's deep soil.

The word may be choked out by lack (the cares of the world) or by plenty (the deceitfulness of riches).

Any farmer knows the purpose of this parable is the grain in the end. What farmer is content with live, but sickly plants that don't produce a harvest? He is not sowing a lawn!

Oddly, the parables are intended to hide the spiritual reality of the kingdom from hard hearts.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mark 3

Jesus knows he's in a trap. I love the drama of Jesus calling the man to the center. He frames the issue in a way that it is both clear and incontrovertible. Then he looks around very deliberately with grief. . . and heals the man. Sweet! This is very instructive in dealing with difficult people who oppose you on inadequate grounds.

He chose the twelve -- that they might be with him. What a gift! I choose you to be with me. Oh, to be with Jesus. They were chosen to preach and have authority over demons, too.

Mark is the clearest of all gospels about the unforgivable sin. He says, "because they said he had an unclean spirit." He actually has the Holy Spirit. That is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to call him unclean. He suggests, too, that Jesus has bound the strong man and is plundering his house. How fun to be in on that!