As we all know, this is our 150th year of ministry as a church. In the course of our year-long celebration, we will continue to follow the liturgical calendar. We will mark Ash Wednesday with a time of worship and reflection. We will spend the rest of February in the series, By Faith.
We will begin to focus on Easter on the first Sunday of March. This year, Mark’s Gospel will serve to ground us in our pilgrimage together. Mark certainly was the first Gospel written. He gathered most of his materials through his relationship with Simon Peter (according to Church Father, Papias). He took this material and arranged a chronology that both Matthew and Luke will follow.
Mark’s account is succinct and fast-paced. There are three grand movements: The Ministry in Galilee, The Journey to Jerusalem, and The Ministry in Jerusalem. It is a fascinating account of the life of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Mark wastes no time in connecting the story of Jesus to The Big Story. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and His ministry will be about the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth.
Mark is not afraid of the truth. He shares the message about Jesus boldly and clearly. His insight into the essence of the role of the Messiah shines through on every page. Jesus is Lord. He will demand absolute loyalty. His way is not the way of this world. Following Him is both rewarding and costly. His death is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s grand plan of redemption. His resurrection is victory that inspired awe and fear. To follow Jesus is to embark on an amazing journey of faith. Buckle your seat belts! It is not for the faint of heart, but it is truly a worthy endeavor.
February 17, 2021 Faith and Fulfillment
Mark begins his account of the life of Jesus Christ by connecting this story to The Big Story. The first advent of the Son of God did not occur in a vacuum. God shared the promise of the future Messiah with the prophets and He fulfilled His promise in sending His Son, Jesus.
Sermon Text: Mark 1:1-15
March 7, 2021: Faith and Forgiveness
The opening act of Mark’s Gospel centers around the identity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Mark 1-8:26). How did Jesus demonstrate He was God’s Son and the Savior of the world? Mark shares numerous stories that reveal the reality of the Incarnation. Jesus exercised authority over nature, disease, the Sabbath, death, and sin.
Sermon Text: Mark 2:1-12
Daily Bible Readings
March 8, 2021 Mark 1:1-15
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the 4 Gospels. Most New Testament scholars agree that this is the first Gospel ever written. How exciting! As we read Mark together as a church family, we are reading the very first full account of the life, teachings, witness, message, and theological interpretation of the Person of Jesus Christ.
Don’t let his brevity fool you. It is jam-packed with truth, insight, and hard-hitting messages. Mark had a truly unique perspective. Historically, his life has been connected to both Peter and Paul. His life and ministry were intertwined with the two most famous Christians of the first century. Wow! Praise God he was led by the Holy Spirit to write this Gospel.
Today, let’s begin our Easter journey in humility and gratitude. Read this text today and reflect on just how good The Good News really is. Ask God to guide you through this season and help you develop a deeper understanding of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Ask God to help you more deeply understand The Good News.
March 9, 2021 Mark 1:16-28
Jesus is not like anyone who has ever lived. Mark gets right to it in today’s reading. Jesus calls people to leave their former way of life and invest in the Kingdom of God. This means different things for different people.
For some, it means to take up the Christian life as a vocation (full-time ministry). For most people, it means to live as transformed people in their everyday lives in the marketplace and in the community. Regardless, Jesus calls all of us to a different life than we had before. And He is worthy of that call. He is powerful and authoritative. Notice in Mark 1:27, the people were all “so amazed” (the Greek word means “astonished” and is only used by Mark in the Greek New Testament).
Give Jesus a chance to astonish you! Answer His call in your life.
March 10, 2021 Mark 1:29-45
Jesus begins His public ministry in Mark’s account with a brief message:
The time has come . . . The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.
As we begin our Easter journey together, let’s renew our commitment to believing The Good News. We are living in the “New Kingdom” Era. Jesus has established the Kingdom of God. That is good news! His message of hope and salvation is for us and it is for right now! We are not waiting on heaven. We are walking by faith and experiencing a taste of heaven on earth. That is God’s Kingdom.
Notice in our readings today, Jesus demonstrated to those early disciples that God’s power was at work in Him. He was establishing God’s Kingdom on earth through His message and displays of His power. Make notes from today’s readings and mark how Jesus displayed power. Ask Him to show you how His power is still at work today!
March 11, 2021 Mark 2:1-17
Mark wastes no time in recording how Jesus proved “The Kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus taught like no one else. Jesus demonstrated insight like no one else. Jesus healed like no one else. Jesus confronted theological limitations like no one else. Jesus claimed divinity like no one else.
Jesus demonstrated He had the power to heal people of all illnesses. That included spiritual healing. Jesus demonstrated He had the power to forgive sin! Remember, He is like no one else!
In our reading today, notice Mark 2:12 --- once again, the people were “amazed” (different Greek word this time – it meant “to be knocked off of your feet!”). Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He forgives sin --- including ours! Take the time today to reflect upon how Jesus has revealed Himself to you as the Son of God.
March 12, 2021 Mark 2:18-28
Jesus did not come to this earth to just make minor adjustments to a pretty good situation. He does not enter into your life to just tweak a few things. Jesus came to this earth to take over! He is God in the flesh. He came to answer the deepest need of humanity. He is our Redeemer and Savior!
So, what does this mean to us? It means we can’t force Him into our molds. We can’t just “add” Him to our list of priorities. He is not an “add-on” to our spiritual lives. He is Lord. He is Lord of all that is.
The temptation in the first century was to just “add Him on” to the traditional Jewish understanding of the Law. Make a few adjustments here and there. Just add His teachings to the list, so to speak.
Jesus rejected that perspective then – and He does today! You can’t sew an unshrunk piece of cloth to an old, stretched-out garment. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. Nope! It won’t work.
Jesus came to transform. That is what He is after in your life. Let Him work! Let him transform you. Every part of you. Ask Him today to show you how He is working in your life to transform you and re-shape you into His image.
March 13, 2021
What have you learned this week about Jesus? Take some time on this Saturday to reflect.
Read Mark 2:13-17 again to prepare yourself for Sunday.
March 14, 2021: Faith and Following
Mark provides several examples of what it means to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is the right and best path for anyone to take. However, it comes with a cost. Jesus will demand absolute loyalty and full commitment. The journey of faith is not for the faint of heart.
Sermon Text: Mark 2:13-17
Daily Bible Readings
March 15, 2021 Mark 3
Mark’s Gospel is fast-paced and hard-hitting. It is challenging to keep up with him! He tells stories, offers summaries, provides running commentary, and strategically places it all in an organized account of the life of the Son of God. Mark 3 is a great example of this. He tells 4 stories, offers his own comments on the action, and paints a portrait of Jesus that includes the hues of radical teaching and actions.
Today, let’s focus in on Mark 3:1-6. In this story, the difference between Jesus and His religious counterparts could not be more striking. Look at how the story ends; Jesus heals a man (does good) and the religious leaders strike a pact with a group of political activists to kill Him (engaging in evil). Wow!
Jesus was confronting a burdensome approach to the celebration of worship, acknowledgment of God, obedience to the Law, and appreciation of the Sabbath. He offered a radically different perspective from the laborious, tedious teachings of the leaders of His day. Because of the burdensome approach of their religious teachers, many Jews had lost a sense of connection to the real meaning of the Sabbath in the first place.
Jesus demonstrated that it was intended to be a day where God was honored. It was to be a day where God’s people set aside their engagements with necessary pursuits (like work), and/or selfish pursuits ----- and take the time to worship God and reflect on His provision for them all.
However, it was also a day when it was ok to do good! It was never intended to be a slavish forced march to the synagogue. It was a day of refreshment, celebration, joy, acceptance, dependence on God, and acknowledgment of the holy.
It is easy for us to be guilty of the same thing in our day. Sunday is our day of worship and reflection. It is the opportunity for God’s people to celebrate, reflect, refresh our spirits, affirm our belief in the Lord Jesus, and refrain from selfish pursuits that dominate daily life. It is a day where good can be done in God’s Name.
Take some time today to take an honest assessment of your Sunday routine. How do you spend your Sundays?
March 16, 2021 Mark 4
Mark 4 contains a healthy amount of teaching from Jesus. Some of His most famous teachings are found in this chapter: Parable of the Sower, A Lamp on a Stand, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
Let’s focus in on Mark 4:35-41. Jesus was in a boat with His disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. This particular body of water was well-known to these followers of Jesus. They knew about the furious squalls that could literally blow in out of nowhere. In fact, Mark records that is exactly what happened that night.
The disciples were afraid for their lives. Jesus slept through it! I love that! Mark tells us He was asleep on a cushion. After frantically awakening Jesus, He spoke to the storm and there was complete calm. Wow!
Jesus demonstrated He was truly Lord over creation that night. What a lesson for the disciples. However, notice that Mark points out that they were terrified after coming face to face with the Lord! (Mark 4:41). Their fear had shifted from fearing the storm to fearing the Master of the storm!
Are there storms brewing in your life right now? Here is what I know to be true. Jesus Christ was able to calm the physical storms of His day. He also can bring calm to all manner of storms in our day. He may not choose to immediately calm the storm in your life. But you can trust Him to be with you in the midst of your storm. You can trust Him to bring you what you need to face your storms. You can trust Him to care and to act.
Offer Him your circumstances today and give Him a chance to work in the midst of them.
March 17, 2021 Mark 5
This chapter contains three incredible stories: the healing of the demoniac, the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage, and the raising of Jairus’ daughter. All three of these miracles continued to give evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God displayed through the ministry of Jesus.
In his book, The Stature of Waiting, W.H. Vanstone offers these appropriate comments of the ministry of Jesus:
“As He moves about, He leaves behind Him a trail of transformed scenes and changed situations—fishermen no longer at their nets, sick people restored to health, critics confounded, a storm stilled, hunger assuaged, a dead girl raised to life. Jesus’ presence is an active and instantly transforming presence: He is never the mere observer of the scene or the one who waits upon events but always the transformer of the scene and the initiator of events.” (p. 17-18)
Today, I invite you to stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.
March 18, 2021 Mark 6
Today’s reading contains some incredible miracles and riveting narrative. I want to focus on Mark 6:1-6. Jesus returned home to Nazareth. His disciples were with Him as they entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. Presumably, this is the synagogue of Jesus’ youth. He is now returning as this famous teacher and miracle-worker.
In fact, the people of Nazareth were “amazed” at His teaching (6:2). The word, “amaze” used here means to “strike out of one’s senses” or to be completely astonished. It is a strong word. The people of Nazareth initially were just blown away by the teachings of Jesus.
However, they began to reason among themselves. How could Jesus be so wise and how could He be such a miracle-worker? These folks commented, “He is just a carpenter!”
Jesus responded by exclaiming how hard it can be for a prophet in his hometown. But then, Mark offers his personal commentary in verse 5. Jesus was not able to perform many miracles there. The reason? Look at verse 6. He was surrounded by a lack of faith. How did Jesus respond? It was His turn to be amazed (different word). Wow!
This is the only time Jesus was amazed in all of Mark’s Gospel. And He was amazed at the lack of faith in His hometown.
Yesterday, I invited you to stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. Now, I am asking us to amaze Jesus with our faith --- instead of our lack of faith!
Today, ask Him to increase your faith.
March 19, 2021 Mark 7
Let’s focus on Mark 7:1-23today. In this story, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about His disciples’ disregard for the purity laws. The Pharisees had taken the purity laws that applied to the priests who worked at the Temple and sought to broadly apply them to the entire congregation of Israel.
Now, the intent might have been honorable in the first place. However, the actual application of these laws had become cumbersome by the first century. In fact, the teachings had become so harsh that the people had no hope of maintaining the rigidity of the application. It was a guilt-producing environment that promoted a lack of accessibility to God’s presence for the general population.
Unfortunately, many of God’s people across Israel were judged by their observance of rituals. Jesus railed against this legalistic attitude and offered a powerful alternative. He drew a powerful distinction between religious ritualism and transformational faith.
Jesus taught us that we have to be transformed on the inside first, and then our behaviors will follow suit. The Gospel is a message of transformation and hope. Human beings can be cleansed, forgiven, and truly changed ---- from the inside out!
Let’s not be guilty of that legalism today! We still need the transformative power of Jesus Christ at work within us.
March 20, 2021 Reflection
What have you learned this week? Take some time today to truly reflect on the Person of Jesus and how He is at work in your life.
Read Mark 2:13-17 again and prepare yourself for worship tomorrow.
March 21, 2021: Faith and Future
Following Jesus will require faith and flexibility. We cannot force Jesus into some kind of mold shaped by our expectations and desires. He is not our Messiah; He is THE Messiah. He will lead us into new horizons that will challenge our faith as we follow Him into the future.
Sermon Text: Mark 2:18-22
Daily Bible Readings
March 22, 2021 Mark 8:1-9:1
Mark 8 signals a shift in Mark’s Gospel. Most scholars conclude that the action now turns from the ministry of Jesus in Galilee to the journey to Jerusalem. Notice in Mark 8:29, we read “on the way” to Caesarea Philippi. Then, later in Mark 10:32, we discover that they are on their way to Jerusalem. The teachings of Jesus take a serious and somber tone.
Jesus has to confront the misunderstandings about His role as Messiah. At this point in the story, His disciples still have a limited and nationalistic view of the Messiah. Jesus begins to re-shape their perspective (and ours!). Take a moment today to reflect on Mark 8:27-9:1.
On the one hand, Peter is correct ---- Jesus is the Messiah (8:29). On the other hand, Jesus warns them not to proclaim this openly. Why? Because they still are buying into the narrow, militaristic, nationalistic view of the Messiah. They need more understanding. They need their view of the Messiah to be re-shaped, expanded, and corrected.
So, Jesus begins to communicate more bluntly. Look at Mark 9:31-33. Jesus predicts His impending death in Jerusalem. How did the disciples respond? “This can’t be true! The Messiah is supposed to vanquish our foes and set up the Kingdom of Israel!” (my take on Peter’s rebuke in 8:32)
The suffering and death of the Messiah was actually the fulfillment of God’s plan. Further, take a look at Mark 8:34-38. The followers of Jesus must be prepared to follow their Master in sacrifice and service. Following Jesus was to include self-denial and bearing crosses.
The disciples in the first century will not be the only followers of Jesus who have sought to force Him into a mold or seek to create a more palatable Messiah in their own image. Throughout the generations of Christian history, Christians have often tried to force Jesus to fit their understanding of who they need Him to be. So, how about you? What is your view of Jesus? Are you guilty of trying to re-shape Him to fit some mold of your choosing?
Ask God today to guide you to a deeper understanding of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God!
March23, 2021 Mark 9:2-29
Mark 9:1 contains a prediction from Jesus that some of His followers would see the Kingdom of God coming in power. Scholars are divided over what He meant. Some argue He was referring to the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). Others think it was a reference to the resurrection. Others think it is referring to the many displays of the power of Jesus through miracles. I think it is a reference to all of it!
Three of His disciples will be eyewitnesses of the majesty of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18). Others will witness several more miracles. They will personally encounter the risen Christ after the resurrection. So, the prediction of Jesus will come true.
However, the glory of the Kingdom of God will be juxtaposed to the suffering of the Messiah. The Mount of Transfiguration and the Cross of Calvary are both real experiences for Jesus. They are contrasted in Mark’s Gospel.
The Mount of Transfiguration was a majestic, unforgettable experience. Moses and Elijah were present. Jesus’ garments were dazzling white while His glory was on display. The voice of God thundered from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.”
The cross was different. Two thieves were present instead of two Old Testament heroes. The disciples fled but the women surrounded the cross. The garments of Jesus were soaked in blood. The voice of a hardened Roman soldier could be heard, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Two experiences. Both real and significant. The glory of Jesus and the suffering of Jesus. Mark describes them both in great detail. We are to learn that the glory of the Kingdom of God remains in the future. We have glimpses of it in the present. But our current reality is characterized by the presence of sin, suffering, pain, grief, loss, and death. However, we are encouraged by the glimpses of the victory of a resurrected, glorified Christ.
We are well on our way in this year’s Easter journey. Next week, we will trace the steps of Jesus to the cross. Ask God today to prepare you for the week ahead.
March 24, 2021 Mark 9:30-50
In our reading today, Jesus reinforces His teachings about His impending death and resurrection. The disciples were still confused about this due to their limited perspective about the Messiah. They were not ready to embrace the way of suffering that would lead to the atonement for all sinners. This understanding was going to take time and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
The real issue for these disciples is revealed in Mark 9:33-34. As they were still expecting some kind of coronation of a King Messiah, they were wondering who would be given places of honor in the new Kingdom. Jesus responded to this discussion with a valuable lesson.
Read Mark 9:36-37. Look at tomorrow’s reading and read Mark 10:13-16. Jesus used children as an object lessons for the Kingdom of God. The humility of a child is to be emulated in the new Kingdom. Welcoming children. Humbling ourselves like children. This is life in the new Kingdom. I love it!
I love little children! We can learn so much from them. Our granddaughter, Adah awakens every day to a party. We are always invited to her party! She sees every day as an opportunity to have fun, to love, and to be loved. It is so simple. So innocent. So important!
The Kingdom of God is about service, humility, love, acceptance, care, patience, grace, sharing, giving, and many other things. We can learn so much from engaging with children. They have much to teach us!
Maybe it is time for you to spend some time with some little ones! There are many lessons to be learned. I have to go – it is time to go play with my granddaughter!
March 25, 2021 Mark 10:1-31
Today’s reading has two hard-hitting messages. Yesterday we combined both Mark 9:36-37 and 10:13-16to learn the lessons children can teach us. So, today we will consider the two stories found in 10:1-12and 10:17-31. The first story is about marriage and the second is about wealth. Could you pick two more controversial topics? And – on the same day?
First of all, notice Mark 10:2 – the Pharisees “tested” Jesus. These are bitter opponents of Jesus. They are not interested in learning more about the Law or the true intent of God’s commands. They are only interested in trapping Jesus. Further, they are not concerned with a holistic, pastoral, comprehensive, caring, theological treatment of marriage. They were searching for justification for divorce. Notice the divorce was also the prerogative of the husband alone.
In the second story in Mark 10, Jesus was confronted by a wealthy man who wanted to know about eternal life. Jesus recognized this man’s challenge was his dependence upon his accumulations and accomplishments. He challenged the rich young man to transfer his trust from his own possessions to the Messiah. The man was simply unable to do that. He did not trust Jesus that much. Consequently, he missed out on the Kingdom of God.
These two stories both contain challenging teachings from Jesus. And yet, they are compassionate and caring messages from our Lord. In the first story, Jesus challenges all of us to take into consideration how seriously we should take the prospect of marriage. God’s original design is more important than our “hardness” of heart or our sinful desires. Divorce is never easy, and it leaves many victims in its wake. Jesus knew that. Anyone who has ever been touched by divorce knows that. God’s original desire is for a marriage to last a lifetime.
And we all know how the singular pursuit of wealth can captivate the human heart. In fact, Jesus said it was possible to gain the whole world and lose our soul in the process. History is filled with too many examples of “rich young rulers” who lost their way.
Walking with Jesus should result in our perspectives being shaped and aligned with the purposes of God. No matter the issue, God wants us to consider His desires, His purposes, His will, and His perspective.
MARCH 26, 2021 Mark 10:32-52
Today’s reading will bring this major section of Mark’s Gospel to a conclusion. Since Mark 8, Jesus has been “on His way” to Jerusalem. The final section of this book begins in Mark 11 with Jesus’ arrival in the Holy City.
Once again, Jesus shares the very blunt message about His impending death with His disciples (10:32-34). This message was still confusing to them. Consequently, we discover that James and John are anticipating a very different reception in Jerusalem. They are hoping for a showdown of sorts where Jesus will be crowned the Messianic King for which Israel longed. Their ambition was hard to hide as well as evidenced by their request to be seated in the places of honor (10:37).
Jesus responded with both a rebuke and a further explanation of the Kingdom of God. As we read Mark 10:38-45, much comes to light. First of all, God is in charge of this plan. Jesus has submitted Himself to His Father’s will. He would be obedient even unto death.
Second, places of honor in God’s Kingdom will be decided by God Himself. And in God’s Kingdom, His perspective will be preeminent. Earthly perspectives will quickly erode, and God’s priorities will be on display.
Finally, the sacrificial act of Jesus will result in the salvation of sinners. His death will not be the tragic end of a melodramatic, failed enterprise. Rather, the glory of God will actually be on display through the sacrificial death of Jesus. His offering of His life will serve as the ransom (10:45) for the sinfulness of humanity. It will be a purposeful offering of an innocent life that will result in the inauguration of a new era in salvation history.
Wow. Much to consider today as we prepare ourselves for Holy Week.
March 27, 2021 Reflection
This has been an action-packed week. How has God been speaking to you? What have you learned about Jesus this week? What have you learned about yourself?
March 28, 2021: Faith and Fullness
Jesus really is Lord. Mark recounts the story of Jesus Christ as it unfolded in real history. Jesus established Himself as the Lord over God’s creation. That includes everything! He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and to establish God’s Kingdom on earth.
Sermon Text: Mark 2:23-28
Holy Week Daily Bible Readings
Holy Monday 2021 Mark 11
Mark 11 signals the beginning of the final section of Mark’s Gospel. You may remember we have divided the book into 3 broad sections: Ministry of Jesus in/around Galilee, Journey to Jerusalem, and Jesus in Jerusalem. Our reading today is the account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and He begins the final week of His earthly life. We now know this week as Holy Week.
John gives us the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as Sunday (John 12:1). Mark describes the event in Mark 11:1-11. Jesus is welcomed by the crowds with shouts of “Save us (Hosanna)!” The shouts from the crowd and the priests on Friday of this final week of Christ’s life are in stark contrast to the welcome He received on Palm Sunday (Mark 15:27-32).
Notice in verse 11 we read that Jesus entered the temple courts, looked around and left. Perhaps He was already thinking of His visit to the temple on the next day.
Mark 11:12-26 contains two very famous stories from Holy Monday. Jesus cursed a fig tree and caused quite a scene at the temple in Jerusalem. Mark intertwines them together in the narrative purposefully. First of all, these two events are connected chronologically. Second, they are connected theologically.
Let’s consider the theological connections. Jesus was leaving Bethany and heading back into Jerusalem. It was April and not the season for fig trees to be bearing fruit. He saw a fully leaved fig tree that was barren. He actually “spoke to” the fig tree and condemned it! Remarkably, His last recorded miracle in Mark’s Gospel is cursing this tree!
Then, He ventured into the temple courts and condemned the commercial activity and the similar lack of fruitfulness in the temple operations. The temple had become the economic, cultural, and political capital of Israel. Yet, it no longer represented the spiritual capital of the world. It now belonged solely to Israel and was the center of it authoritative grip on the people. Jesus responded to the role it had taken in the lives of the people with a profound rejection. It was more a rejection than a “cleansing” of the temple.
These two actions demonstrate the prophetic role of Jesus. Acting as a Prophet, he symbolically expressed a rejection of “fruitlessness” and portends a new day dawning. In fact, He will boldly declare later that the temple will be destroyed (Mark 13:2). However, the events to transpire during this fateful week will render the temple no longer necessary in the atoning work of God.
Once again, we are reminded that Jesus Christ made unprecedented claims and engaged in unprecedented actions that distinguish Him as the true Messiah. He is Lord. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He truly is the King of Kings.
We begin this Holy Week with an opportunity to bow in His presence and be amazed once again.
Holy Tuesday 2021 Mark 12
Jesus continued to tour Jerusalem. He is surrounded by the bustling crowd that has gathered in the city for the celebration of the Passover. As we read through Mark 12 today, Jesus continues to teach, answer questions, and befuddle His opponents.
In the midst of this accounting of the actions of Jesus, Mark records a conversation between Jesus and one of the teachers of the law (12:28-34). Let’s focus on that text today.
In this exchange, the teacher seems genuinely interested in Jesus’ answer to his questions. Mark notes that the man was impressed with how Jesus had handled the Sadducees (12:28). He wants to know Jesus’ view on the greatest commandment in all of the law.
Jesus responded most famously to the question by declaring that we are to love God first and then love others. He sums up the entire law by pointing us to the foundational truths of living in relationship with God and with one another.
The essence of Christianity is love. God is a God of love. In fact, God is love! God has always desired to be loved by His people. He loves us first and then we are able to love Him appropriately. Our love for God is comprehensive and encompassing. We are to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the most foundational relationship in our lives.
And that love for God results in a love for other people. God has placed us in community, and we have the tremendous capacity to engage in deep relationships with other people. Our love for God is transformative in nature. It is a response to His love for us. Consequently, our love spills over into our human relationships.
Holy Week is about love. Remember? For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son. God demonstrates His LOVE for us in that while we are yet sinners, He died for us. That is right. This week is about the love of God. We are to respond to His profound love for us by returning that love for Him. And because of our love for Him, we love others as well.
Let’s take some time today to assess our love for our God and our neighbors.
Holy Wednesday 2021 Mark 13
Today’s reading contains some of the most graphic and most challenging teachings from Jesus during His earthly ministry. He left the temple grounds and walked across the Kidron valley and sat on the Mount of Olives with His disciples. From that perspective, one has a panoramic view of the city of Jerusalem. At this point in the history of Jerusalem, the most prominent structure in the city was the temple located at the apex of the temple mount.
In this setting, Jesus casts His gaze into the future and shares His prophetic discourse recorded in Mark 13. There are two threads woven together in an eschatological mosaic: the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of time. Sorting out these threads marks a significant challenge for the interpreter!
There are 17 imperatives in this chapter (Watch out, Be on your guard, Do not worry, etc.). There is a sense of urgency in the tenor of the teaching. There are terrifying images of judgment. There are also messages of hope.
At the end of the day, we discover that Jesus proclaims that God is in charge of history, God will bring history to a certain conclusion, God’s Kingdom will prevail, and God’s timing is in His hands. Jesus also challenges His followers to be faithful, brave, humble, and watchful.
Notice verse 10. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations! We continue in that task today. We are a part of the fulfillment of this powerful prophetic proclamation. We are not in charge of the eschatological calendar. However, we are to be faithful to the task of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world.
We also notice in this text that suffering is a part of this story. We should not be surprised. After all, this is Holy Week! We are reflecting on the suffering of our Savior on our behalf. Jesus prophesied that many of His followers will be called upon to follow His example of suffering for the noble cause of the gospel. In fact, most of these disciples will die as martyrs. Millions more will join them in suffering for the sake of righteousness.
This suffering will not go unnoticed—nor will suffering be purposeless. God is paying attention and He will settle all accounts in his own time.
Be encouraged today. History is moving ahead to God’s desired end. He is charge. He is always on time. His will is secure. His plan is in place. His Kingdom will prevail.
Maundy Thursday 2021 Mark 14
Today is Maundy Thursday—so named for the mandate (Latin mandatum) to “love one another” recorded in John 13:34. In some traditions, congregants will gather to wash each other’s feet as a response to the example and admonition of Jesus (John 13:1-17).
In our reading for today, Mark recounts the memorable events from the anointing of Jesus at Bethany to His arrest on Thursday evening in Jerusalem. This is one of the most moving accounts in the entire Gospel. The Son of David was hailed by the crowd on Palm Sunday was not to be betrayed by one of His own on Thursday night.
We read this account today with great reverence and humility. I would encourage you to read it aloud. Let the words sink in. Allow yourself to experience the emotion of this part of the story.
Take time today to reflect on the meaning of these moments in salvation history.
Good Friday 2021 Mark 15
Mark 15:24 states it very succinctly: And they crucified him.
Mark refuses to outline the savagery of crucifixion. He sticks to the facts and shares the story in short order. Yet, he offers enough details to allow his readers to grasp the import of this fateful, historic event. His readers were familiar with crucifixion. But he wants them to know that this particular crucifixion was unlike any other in history.
The taunts of Mark 15:27-32 are hard to hear. The people who called on Jesus to save them (Palm Sunday) now chide Jesus with His seeming inability to even save Himself. What they don’t realize is that in not saving Himself, He is actually saving all of us!
We pause today on Good Friday and remember the darkness that covered the land at noon that day in Jerusalem.
The Son of David – The Son of Man – The Son of God ---- Jesus of Nazareth hung on a sinner’s cross, suspended between heaven and earth. Why? Because of His profound love for the Father and for us. His death would be unlike any other death in the history of humanity.
Again, we read this page with great reverence and humility. Stick close to this page today. Let this story captivate you today.
Take the time like the two Mary’s in verse 47 and pause to take in where He was laid.
Silent Saturday 2021 Reflection
On what we call “Silent Saturday” – I invite you to reflect on the events of this week. Be reminded that our faith as Christians is rooted in actual history. We are beholden to a fanciful tale wrought in the imagination of literary architects. Our faith is rooted in a real story about a real man who lived in real time.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth is at the heart of who we are as people. Today, we mourn His death. We stand at His tomb . . . hopeful.
April 2, 2021: Faith and Faithfulness
In order to accomplish God’s great plan of redemption, Jesus had to demonstrate His faithfulness. In so doing, not only did He make salvation possible, He also proved Himself to be the example for us as we follow The Jesus Way.
Sermon Text: Mark 15:33-47
April 4, 2021: Faith and Fear
Mark’s Gospel ends with fear. The women, eyewitnesses of the empty tomb, were afraid. Don’t be shocked by that. These early followers certainly were afraid. Remember, Mark’s Gospel is merely the beginning (Mark 1:1). There is much that follows the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fear gave way to faith. The good news was too good to keep. And—this story is still being written!
Sermon Text: Mark 16:1-8
Daily Bible Readings
April 5: Mark 16:1-8
April 6: Mark 2:1-12
April 7: Mark 2:13-17
April 8: Mark 2:18-22
April 9: Mark 2:23-28
April 10: Reflection
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