Mark Chapter 16

It is hard to imagine the extreme emotional experiences for the followers of Jesus those last days.  I envision many of these emotions and experiences were complete surprises from anything they would have ever expected.  In this last chapter of Mark, we see those emotional extremes continue to play out.  While still experiencing the pain and loss of what had just happened several days ago, Mark 16 starts the story of several of those followers continuing their mourning process by heading to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices.  

The first surprise.  The tomb entrance had been opened.  What are all the questions that started coming to their minds? Who rolled the rock away? Is anyone else in the tomb right now, is Jesus’s body still there, who would want to take away his body from us? We know from scripture, that even though Jesus explained his mission on earth was to save all people from their own sins through his sacrifice, even his closest followers still had visions of Jesus building an earthly kingdom to save them from other nations.  I wonder if at that point if the only question they might not be asking is:  Is Jesus alive?  

The second surprise.  Meeting an angel in the tomb.  Not only did the angel tell them they would not find Jesus’ body there, but that he was indeed alive and they should go tell the disciples and they would be able to meet him again.  Filled again with joy and excitement at the incredible news, imagine the frustration as they shared with the disciples this news to only be met with disbelief.

The last surprise.  Seeing Jesus ascending into heaven.  Saying goodbye to Jesus had to be a bittersweet experience.  I am sure it seemed such a short time in which they could again experience life with him here on earth after the resurrection.  While knowing he was alive had re-created the joy and excitement they had first experienced, I expect there would still be sadness that they would not be able to continue life with him on earth.

It is difficult to imagine any of those experiences or extreme emotions were expected from Jesus’ followers.  How many of us have expectations of experiences for our lives and see things turn out so differently from those expectations?  God has great things in store for those who follow him.  Although there is no assurance of life being easy or without pain as a follower of Jesus, but we can look forward to being part of God’s bigger story and carrying the joy that comes from knowing we serve a risen Savior!

Mark Chapter 15

Most of us are familiar with the details of Jesus’s last hours: it plays out in our mind’s eye in a medley of films we’ve seen, sermons we’ve heard.

What I read makes me angry; it makes me squeamish and heartbroken. But this chapter is almost all narrative, with just a little dialogue. What am I to glean from it to apply to my life, what truths does God whisper to me through these words?

I find plenty to satisfy my intellectual reading: the rich elements that could only be provided by eyewitnesses—the actions of the soldiers, the play-by-play of events. Then there are details such as the names of the sons of Simon the Cyrene and the name and translation of Golgotha, the hill where the crucifixion takes place—details that anchor the narrative in facts.

I see that the crowd is whipped up and responds exactly the way chief priests want them to. Pilate even sees the chief priests’ motivations for what they are, yet he still gives them what they want. But Jesus does the unexpected—he doesn’t defend himself. Jesus isn’t manipulated, goaded, or controlled. He’s surrounded by frenzy, accusations, interrogation, mockery, yet he is stalwart. It’s incredible to me that he knows what agony and torture he faces, yet he still moves forward. I wonder what his mind was fixed on? On his Father—on doing his will, carrying out the plan they’d agreed upon? On his expectations of the morning two days later, when all the torture would be behind him and the power of sin and death would be broken? On the surety of seeing those he loved enter into eternal life because of his own sacrifice?

What is my mind fixed upon? The hope of seeing God’s will being done, his plans coming to fruition? How much do I waver in my path, get manipulated and bullied? How often do I focus on the small, the taunts, the injustice, the pain and forget that I am part of a bigger picture?

Lord, help me to fix my mind on the hope, on the resurrection and the life.

Mark Chapter 14

The story of Peter’s denial of knowing Christ v. 66—72 is one that tugs at my heart for the sadness that Peter must have endured. Here was a man chosen to lead and was called to be a “fisher of men” by the Lord himself.  What might have changed his ideas about standing up for the Lord? 

Peter’s denial was just the result of being human.   Fear of harm was no doubt the reason he denied knowing Christ.  Yet how many of us would not have the same fears as he?  Considering that millions of Christians have been killed worldwide as a result of their profession of faith, this story illustrates that even the most solid believer can have weakness. Peter found that he was not prepared to face persecution and the ridicule that Jesus was suffering. 

In the past I have wondered how I would respond if I was threatened with death as a result of a confession for Christ.  Of course until the actual test came, I do not know how I would respond.  Self preservation is a strong motive for us and there are many factors that need to be considered in making a life or death decision.  Alone, I may have difficulty in admonition of Christ, with His strength upon me I may be brave enough to die for His sake. 

The conclusion of Peter’s denial story is continued in Luke 22. Why did Jesus predict and allow Peter to fail so miserably? God allowed it to strip away his self confidence and vanity which allowed Peter to gain humility and to eventually serve his Church with a new determination. 

What can we learn about ourselves from Peter’s failure?  We will fail and continue to disappoint ourselves and God.  Whether we carry guilt from something we said or didn’t speak up for, something we did and know we shouldn’t have, thinking evil about someone, take heart because Peter felt like us as well.  Did we walk away from God and feel far from him? There is hope for us all.    Praise God!

Mark Chapter 13

In Mark 13, a pretty graphic picture is painted of the end of days.  Believers arrested, flogged, deceived.  False prophets, some of whom can even perform signs and miracles to impress the population at large.  The environment itself (sun darkened, stars fall from the sky, heavenly bodies shaken) in complete upheaval.

Over the years, there have been situations that could make you believe that this must be the start of the end (wars, natural disasters, people and countries lied to, mass killings), but life marches on.  I know the big takeaway from this chapter is that no one knows when all this will occur, and that we should live our lives accordingly and be prepared to stand before our God.

A definite reminder to us as we go through our everyday lives, young (relatively), healthy and with what we think is an abundance of life in front of us, that there is no assurance of today, tomorrow, or anything other than Jesus Christ.

But as I went back again and read through the chapter, another thought kept running through my mind.  We look forward to Christ’s coming but not necessarily the trials and tribulations preceding His coming.  To me, it is a parallel to the end of life for most of us.  We should welcome the end of our earthly life because it means we are going to finally be face-to-face with the Father.  But we still dread the thought of dying, fight the end of life on earth and do everything we can to preserve our time here.

There was an elderly lady who occasionally watched our daughters when they were little.  She had never married, had no remaining relatives and scant financial resources, but a love of the Lord.  Yet, when she was on her death bed,  she cried out  “I don’t want to die”.  Reluctant to give up the smaller gratifications of what she knew was presently around her for the  greater reward of eternal life.  Just human nature, I guess. 

Mark Chapter 12

As I read and study Mark 12, I hear a resounding theme of Love being taught by Jesus. Love of the widow for her Lord , that she gave  so much out of so little. Such a humble sacrifice. While the religious leaders questioned  Jesus as to what was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus did not hesitate to reply, "It is love." We are to love the Lord God with all our hearts, our souls, our mind and all of our strength. He was stressing complete love. He also included our neighbors (I am assuming all people we come into contact with) were to be loved. This makes me so happy to think that right after loving the Lord he includes his children. He has made us in his image and likeness so that, in and of  itself is reason enough to heed his guidance. I recall the passage where it says we are fearfully and wonderfully made.We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and make up a family. He must be so honored when he sees this behavior from us. Just like me, a mother, when I see my children respecting and loving one another. So, it was no wonder this chapter in Mark left me with hope, that love when practiced at all times will win out and honor Jesus as we cling to his teachings.

Mark Chapter 11

Mark 11:24 - "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours."

 Pondering this passage, one might think that this statement by Jesus states that if you pray for anything, you will receive it at some point in the near or possible distant future.  However, often times our prayers aren't answered the way we ask them to be and therefore we question this kind of declaration.  Perhaps, it's Jesus wanting us to not only practice our prayer life, but to recognize that in the moment of that prayerful time, we find peace and contentment in the notion of our confidence in God's ability to accomplish all things possible with an incredible level of ease no matter how difficult the request is.

When God does answer our prayers, they are free gifts of mercy because it was Jesus that died for our sins and that sacrifice by our Lord,  laid the foundation for us which allowed us to ask in prayer for things, but ultimately, it's always God's will.

God just wants us to direct all things to him and he looks for our commitment to do so, which means being consistent and obedient in our attempts to be whole with him. We are all sinners and as such, he forgives us, but I believe what he wants more than anything, is for us to pray for things that are in alignment with God's will and then by believing that you will receive it, the understanding is, it will be yours.

Mark Chapter 10

In Mark 10, Jesus and his disciples were walking to Jerusalem for the last time as Jesus told them about his impending death but also of the third day when he would rise from the dead.   

In the comments from his disciples that followed in this chapter, surprisingly to me, the disciples raised no questions, sympathy, or denial of the plan Jesus laid out.  Instead, James and John, two of Jesus’s disciples who had followed Jesus for years and still addressed Jesus as “Teacher”—not as Lord or Master--  took this opportunity to seek  a position for themselves.   Jesus listened to their request though they did not seek something they needed and the request itself seemed untimely and inappropriate.  Nevertheless, Jesus used this situation to respond patiently and challenge them in their faith when he asked them if they knew what their request meant because they would “drink the cup and be baptized as Jesus would.”  Jesus gave them the gift of understanding what lay ahead for them though may have been disappointed by not receiving what they had asked for. 

The petition by James and John was juxtaposed with another petition later in the chapter as Jesus and his disciples encountered a blind man who also wanted something from Jesus.   Jesus also patiently asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” just as Jesus had asked James and John.  The blind addressed Jesus as his “Master” and asked for his sight—something the blind man needed and trusted the Master could perform.

Jesus’s response to the blind man was restoration of eyesight because the man’s “faith had made him well.”  Interestingly to me, the blind man had not followed Jesus for three years as James and John had done but knew who Jesus was and how to petition Jesus in faith.  He followed Jesus after that in faith even though the blind man did not know the journey ahead. 

Over my lifetime, I have prayed many different prayers—some for specific outcomes and some for help and guidance.  In looking back, my prayer requests at times were likely as those of James and John  where I was seeking something not needed or I did not understand what I was asking for and may not have asked in faith trusting that Jesus was truly my Master and cared for me and my needs.  

When Jesus responded to James’s and John’s requests, he strengthened their faith so that they could stay faithful until their deaths to the One who had become their Master and Lord.  Jesus response to the blind man also strengthened his faith so that he could follow Jesus.

These two stories emphasized to me that God knows how to respond to our prayers and petitions to strengthen our faith regardless of how or what we ask for.  My prayer requests do not have to be for specific outcomes or needs because God’s response may be that I don’t know what I am really asking for – as in the case of James and John.  For all occasions, whether for healing or future opportunities, I should ask God in faith for His guidance and direction when I need help and don’t know what to pray for because God knows what I need. 

“Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.”  Ephesians 6:18

Mark Chapter 9

Jesus tells us in Mark 9 that to be a truly great follower of his we must put everyone else before ourselves.  Jesus says in verse 35, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all”. This sounds so strange and yet this is the essence of the Christian life. It is totally the opposite of what culture and society tell us.  The rallying cry today is “I am number 1!”  However, Scripture tells us to consider others as better than ourselves, to look out for others, to serve others.  This is the way of the cross.

In other words, God is looking for humble people.  Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you but to walk humbly with your God.”  Luke 14:11; 18:14, our Lord says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  That is a basic spiritual principle.  Ephesians 4:1 and 2  we are told to “Walk with all humility.”  Colossians 3:12, says “Put on a heart of humility.”  James 4:6 says, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Verse 10 “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.”

Jesus goes on in Mark 9 verse 37 to give us an example of what this looks like.   He takes a child and lifts him.  In Jesus’ time, children were maybe not even seen and certainly not heard, because they were considered to be the lowest of society, not real people yet, just children.  Yet Jesus serves the child and welcomes him.

Mark 9 verse 37 says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  What Jesus is saying is profound.  He is saying that whatever we do in his name and whatever we do for him including all our acts of service, it is as if we are serving Jesus himself!   When we serve others like this child or someone who needs our help, it’s as if we’re serving our Lord. We are welcoming Jesus, and in addition when we welcome Jesus, we welcome the one who sent Jesus - God the Father himself.  Let us serve the Lord with humility.