Mar 16

March 16, 2015

read | Mark 14:26–27

“When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” 

 

Everybody knows the story. Jesus is smitten, His sufferings on the cross so intense that His followers scatter. In a few short hours, they transition from singing Passover hymns to cowering in a dark and hopeless place. They’re without their Master, One whom they deeply love, and they face the prospect of being next in line. Who will save them?

Jesus’ friends ran when He was taken. None of us would ever turn our backs on Jesus, right?

There are a couple of things that jumped out at me when I read these verses, and then cross-referenced them to the Zechariah prophesy that Jesus cites.

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is my associate,”
says the Lord of hosts.
Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
(Zechariah 13:7)

The Father’s sword of justice is raised to smite the Messiah, His “associate.” Christ, the God-man, and the Father are one. From the dawn of time, the Father knows He must inflict His justice on the Son, for without shedding of the life-blood, there would be no remission. The ruling Jews and the Romans are bit players in this master plan. While Jesus came to usher in His Kingdom on earth, He was also born to die, and the Father’s sword was destined to awaken against Him. Oh, how He loves us!

Mark 14:27 says, “…and the sheep will be scattered.” The scattering of Christ’s disciples when He was apprehended was a partial fulfillment.

In a macro-sense, this was also a pledge to disperse the Jewish nation after they crucified Him. The Jews, although “scattered,” are still the Lord’s “sheep,” waiting to be gathered.

This reminded me about how sometimes I feel like God isn’t listening. But in those times, it’s me who is scattered, not Him. I was talking with a close brother who raised many questions to ponder as we become a praying church. Like, how can I re-engage with God after a long time of asking for something, only to have the opposite occur? What do I do with the growing doubt that prayer actually makes any difference in how God plots the course of human affairs? Of course, there are no easy answers. But as I ponder, I will rest on this promise: Now I know only in part; then I will know fully… (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In the meantime, let’s remember: The Good Shepherd was stricken but rose again, so we can find solace and peace in His sheepfold. Do you feel isolated this Lenten season? He may be silent, but He is there.

 

- Mike Mizrahi

 

Mar 15

March 15, 2015

read | Mark 14:12–25

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

 

Mar 14

March 14, 2015

read | Mark 14:25

“Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 

 

Imagine Jesus sitting around a table with His disciples when he says these words. The meal being shared wasn’t your normal midweek meal because it was the Passover meal—an annual meal that was observed (and is still observed today) by the Jewish people as they remembered God’s faithfulness, protection, and deliverance when God rescued them under the leadership of Moses from slavery in Egypt so many centuries ago.

Though different groups within Judaism celebrate Passover with slight variations, traditionally there are five cups that are prominent within the Passover meal. The first cup, preceding the meal, is the Cup of Sanctification—based on God’s statement, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The second cup, preceding the first course, is the Cup of Judgment or Deliverance—based on God’s statement, “I will deliver you from slavery to them.” After the meal there is the third cup, the Cup of Redemption—based on God’s statement, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” The fourth cup is the Cup of Protection—based on God’s statement, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” In fact, pesach, translated “Passover,” most literally means “protection.”

Jesus did not take this cup, forfeiting the Passover, God’s protection against the death. Instead, He said: “Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
(Mark 14:25)

Although Jesus drank no more wine at that meal, He did drink from another cup. You see, the traditional Passover has a fifth cup, taken from Jeremiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to Me: ‘Take from My hand this cup filled with the wine of My wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.’” (Jeremiah 25:15 NIV)

This is the cup of God’s wrath, also known as Elijah’s cup. In the traditional ceremony, this cup is filled but not drunk—not until the coming of Elijah. But Jesus “drank the cup of wrath” when He went to the cross praying just before it, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath against the nations so that we wouldn’t have to! On the cross, the cup of wrath was full for Jesus but because of the resurrection, it is now empty for us. As Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 

- Rev. Dr. Drew Sams

 

Mar 13

March 13, 2015

read | Mark 14:22–24

“While they were eating, He took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’” 

 

A lot of things in life are mysteries.

There is the mystery of how the earth spins on its axis. Did you know that scientists have discovered that the earth’s timing is so reliable, that we can calculate it exactly, with only the addition of a “leap second” every few years to the atomic clocks that orient the world of navigations systems and air traffic controllers and the like? No one knows how or why the earth is so consistent. It’s a mystery.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the mystery of the unseen world that can only be discovered through a microscope. Did you know that if an electron could be increased in size until it became as large as an apple, and if a human being could be increased in size proportionately, that person could hold the entire solar system in the palm of their hand, and would have to use a magnifying glass in order to see it? How is there so much going on in the microscopic world? It’s a mystery.

Some mysteries are not as profound. For instance, there’s the mystery of the traffic lane. Why is it that whenever I change lanes the one I get in becomes slower than the one I just got out of? Or the mystery of the checkout lines in the grocery store—same principle.

From the mundane to the fabulous–we are used to mystery in our lives—so why is it that we are so reticent to admit to it with regard to our spiritual lives?

Sometimes our search for the right answer can blind us to a search for a real answer.

Theology is both art and science, and the Bible is more story than it is equation. Perhaps the age-old theological wrangling over exactly what happens in communion (“…this is my body…this is my blood…”) is a signal to us
that the real answer is a mystery.

And perhaps embracing mystery is a key thing Jesus wants us to learn from communion.

We need mystery, because it causes us to keep on searching and keep on wondering.

We need mystery, because it keeps us open to the new things God is doing.

We need mystery, because we need to be reminded that sometimes our “right” answers are not so right. Sometimes, we need God to give us the great gift of helping us to realize that we’ve been wrong about important things.

When he took his followers to the upper room, Jesus was intentionally involving them in a subversive, counter-cultural, alternative re-purposing of the thousands-of-years-old tradition of the Passover. His actions functioned as prophetic symbolism—deliberately invoking the whole exodus tradition while at the same time investing it with brand new meaning.

Is there something new God wants to do in your life? Maybe it’s time to embrace it and take the first step of a journey where the end is not yet clear. Living creatively inside a mystery could be the most important step you ever take.

 

- David Cobia

 

Mar 12

March 12, 2015

read | Mark 14:16–21

“So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, He came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray Me, one who is eating with Me.” They began to be distressed and to say to Him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with Me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’” 

 

In this passage, right off the bat, many of us won’t identify with the one at the table who would betray Jesus. Initially, many of us might relate more with one of His non-guilty, non-evil friends and just think how utterly shocking it is that someone so close to Jesus could do such a horrible thing… however, we would never do something so awful, so disgraceful. “Surely, not I?” we say.

And yet, my heart hurts with an ache of familiarity for the one at the table who would betray Jesus.

Judas didn’t trust who Jesus said He was. He didn’t believe in His good teacher’s message of grace. The freedom and redemption that was promised…
it seemed too good to be true. Judas deeply doubted in God’s love and care and so acted out of fear, full to the brim with the anxiety of self-preservation.

Can you imagine his feelings that night?

I profess to be a friend of Jesus, to eat at His table and to keep company with Him. I claim to be a faithful servant, working for Him and surrendering to His will and teaching. I sing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” and “It Is Well With My Soul.” I pray, “God, I give my life to You and Your will…” and in the very next breath, I quickly recoil, retreating back into the shadows of fear once again. We do this dance, where I am learning to trust His lead. I fall. Then fall again. Does He know what He’s doing?

He is guiding and patient but I will leave Him and embrace the darkness of doubt and second guess His love… is it really unwavering? Really unconditional? Really limitless and immeasurable? And in the questions, and in the searching He pursues me. And when I have calmed and stilled my heart, I will hear His voice, a gentle… yes My beloved, yes… and I am called out from the shadows once again.

 

questions

Where might you be doubting God’s goodness in your life? His love?

Take a moment to envision being at the table with Christ. With all that is in your heart and soul before Him… What might His face be communicating to you?

Will you step out of the shadows of fear and doubt and trust in His love for you?

 

prayer

God help me to trust in your love and goodness. Replace any fear and doubt that is in me with the unshakable and staggering truth of who you are… my Healer, my Redeemer, my Savior. Amen.

 

- Rebecca Burchett Morgan

 

Mar 11

March 11, 2015

read | Mark 14:14–15

“and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 

 

In our Scripture verses today, two disciples have been given a task by Jesus. A task of great importance…and yet, as God so often does, they are given very few details. They have to go ahead of everyone else, find a stranger, follow him to an unknown place and prepare the Passover meal. That’s all the information Jesus gives them. The only way they can do this is to trust that God has taken care of everything. They must go out in faith, believing that God has made the arrangements.

I think that’s a great example of how we are to live our lives. Although we should be wise and prepare for the future, no matter how much we plan, things often turn out different than expected. It reminds me of Proverbs 16:9,
“The human mind plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps.”

My instinct is always to do things on my own, without going to God and seeing what He would like me to do. I like being in control. It’s really hard for me to step out if faith, with the confidence that God is looking out for me.

However, I can look back on my life and see instances where God looked out for me and made arrangements that I couldn’t have. Things that changed the direction I would go, and made my life richer and better. I went along for the ride, but He set the course.

I hope that during this season leading to Easter, all of us remember that Easter is the ultimate example of God making arrangements for us. There is nothing we can ever do to earn forgiveness for our sins, and restore
a relationship with God. God made arrangements for Christ to go to the cross and pay the price for our sins, so we could know him. Believing that, accepting that, and allowing God to work in our lives, is all that is required of us.

 

- Lee Garrison

 

Mar 10

March 10, 2015

read | Mark 14:13

“So He sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him,” 

 

Who is this water bearer? Who is this man who (perhaps unknowingly) is entrusted with this key role in preparing for one of the most momentous evenings of Jesus’ earthly life? He is not the first water bearer to play an integral role in God’s story. Rebekkah is selected to marry Isaac because she willingly bears water to Abraham’s servant’s camels (Genesis 24). The same is true for Rachel, who first meets Jacob at a well while drawing water for her father’s sheep (Genesis 29), and also for Zipporah, who is given in marriage to Moses after encountering him at the well where she and her sisters went to draw water for her father’s flock (Exodus 2). Girls drawing water at the well gave directions to Saul as to how he might find Samuel; shortly after their meeting, Samuel anoints Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 9). At the wedding at Cana, Jesus instructed servants to fill six stone jars with water; Jesus then performed His first miracle, turning that water to wine, thus revealing His glory (John 2). And it is a Samaritan woman drawing water at Jacob’s well who engages with Jesus in the longest recorded one-on-one conversation of Jesus’ ministry, to whom Jesus offers Living Water, and who, subsequently, becomes the first witness of the Messiah’s coming to the Samaritans (John 4).

So, who is this water bearer? Who is this man engaged in work traditionally reserved for girls and women? What might he have been thinking as he traveled to the well that day to draw water? Did he feel embarrassed, out of place, isolated? Was he aware of the meeting he was about to have? Did he notice Jesus’ disciples following Him back to the house? Could he conceive that, by faithfully completing this menial chore, he was a key participant in one of the most important occasions of Jesus’ earthly life?

One biblical commentator notes the “mysterious minuteness” of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in this passage. Paul refers to Jesus as the “wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and affirms that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Jesus (Colossians 2:3). This includes the minute details. And on this day, God was at work in the details of this water bearer’s life. The “mysterious minuteness” of Jesus’ instructions intentionally drew in this water bearer, meaningfully included him in the greatest Story ever recorded.

How might God be mysteriously at work in the minuteness of your life? What is your water jug? What seemingly inconsequential details or chores in your life might, unbeknownst to you, be key to God’s greater plan? Are there pieces of your life which cause you to feel embarrassed, out of place, isolated or even a failure? Offer those pieces faithfully to God. You might be amazed to see how He mysteriously works them—and you—into His story.

 

- Melanie Howard

 

Mar 09

March 9, 2015

read | Mark 14:12

“On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to go and make the preparations for You to eat the Passover?’”

 

Have you ever looked at your calendar and noticed all the different “holidays” in it? Besides the obvious Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, I was looking at my new 2015 calendar recently, and there are some strange remembrance days in there: Earth Day, Administrative Professionals Day, Bosses Day, All Souls Day, Grandparents Day, Peace Day. I mean, do we really need a day to celebrate and remember to live peacefully with one another? Shouldn’t “Peace Day” be everyday? It seems like there are so many “holidays” that it’s hard to keep up with them all.

What is the purpose of these holidays anyway? Are they so we can get a long weekend every now and again? Are they designed to give kids a day or week off from school? Which ones are the important ones to remember and which ones are not so important? Which ones are true “holy days” and which ones are not-so-holy days?

That’s one thing I appreciate about the ancient Israelites. Their holidays had a sacred-ness to them. When they had a holiday or festival put in place, it meant something. Maybe because when the ancient Israelites had a holiday, it was foundational to their identity as the people of God. Holidays were intimately woven as part of Israel’s narrative.

The Festival of Unleavened Bread was celebrated immediately following Passover, and was a seven-day memorial festival to remind the people of God of their departure from Egypt. This “departure from Egypt” was a big deal for the people of Israel. They had been living in bondage in Egypt for 430 years. Their purpose and destiny seemed hopeless and lost. But the story goes that God heard their cry and freed them from their slavery. In short, salvation had arrived and a new life was beginning for the people of God.

So during the time of the Festival or Feast of Unleavened Bread, words like “salvation,” “freedom from slavery,” and “hope” permeated the language that week. Those images, the images of freedom from bondage, were at the forefront of every Israelite in the world.

This is where the story of the Gospel is so brilliant because the writers are keenly aware of this. They see what Jesus did and when He did it, and everything that it represented. Jesus didn’t do things at random times in the calendar year; He did them when He did them on purpose. Jesus’ death and resurrection was ripe with symbolism and profundity. It was not a coincidence that Jesus chose the time of His death and resurrection to happen parallel to Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread when words like salvation and new life defined the lexicon of those particular holidays. It was no accident for Jesus’ death and resurrection to mark the coming out of the slavery to sin for the people of Israel (and later understood for all people).

So next time you read the Gospels, notice the significance of when Jesus does something, and not just what Jesus does. Chances are He’s reminding the people of why the holiday is important, and how He is the fulfillment of those holidays…And it’s not so we can have a long weekend.

So may you live with anticipation for the Easter holiday, and may it not be just another holiday on the calendar. May the words salvation, hope, and new life permeate your heart and mind during this time, and may you experience those words in your life. And may you remember what and who makes this “holy day” sacred.

 

- R.O. Smith

 

Mar 08

March 8, 2015

read | Mark 14:1–11

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

 

Mar 07

March 7, 2015

“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray Him.” 

 

How easily we are tempted and led astray by the things of this world that seem so important and desirable at the time. The lure of being a temporary big shot with the chief priests, a significant, appreciated collaborator with the authorities, and the promise of a little money for his help were more than Judas could resist. Pride–the desire to be somebody important–and greed for a little more money led him to betray Jesus.

Did Judas strike a good deal? Not hardly! The promises of fame and fortune proved incredibly shallow. In the bigger picture there was only infamy, with his name the most despicable in history. The money was so insignificant that in his angst and shame, Judas threw it away before going out and hanging himself.

We all are targets for the same old temptations today. We have weaknesses with pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy, addictions, etc., that would lure us away from our relationship with Jesus. Only with God’s help can we strike a much better deal, resisting the shallow fleeting promises of sin and focusing on the much bigger picture—God’s promises that extend from here through eternity.

 

- Barry Glaser

 

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