Walking Towards Death: Mark 10:32-45

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Reading Mark’s gospel, one has a hard time missing the emphasis Mark places on Jesus repeatedly warning the disciples about what would be coming the next time they visited Jerusalem. However, at the start of our passage, Mark describes this trip in an interesting way. From how Mark describes this trip, one might be confused with how Jesus acted on this trip.

Like all of the passages in our year in Mark, our passage for this episode comes from Mark’s gospel, and this episode specifically focuses in on a section of chapter 10. Reading from the God’s Word translation and starting with verse 32, Mark tells us that:

32 Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus was walking ahead of them. His disciples were shocked that he was going to Jerusalem. The others who followed were afraid. Once again he took the twelve apostles aside. He began to tell them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We’re going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to foreigners. 34 They will make fun of him, spit on him, whip him, and kill him. But after three days he will come back to life.”

Let’s pause reading for a moment because what Mark has described here is powerful and also easy to miss. Jesus fully knows what is coming when they reach Jerusalem. Jesus also knows that He will be betrayed, even before Judas Iscariot knows he will be the betrayer. And it is amazing in my mind to read Mark’s description that Jesus walked ahead of the disciples towards Jerusalem.

Mark tells us that the disciples were shocked Jesus was headed to Jerusalem, and the other people who were following were afraid. This response is understandable. With Jesus repeatedly telling the disciples Jerusalem will be where He will be killed, it is understandable that the disciples and those following Jesus would be concerned about His trip headed in that direction. This verse suggests that Jesus was determined to face death head on. Jesus was not afraid of death because He knew the resurrection would come afterwards.

In an interesting way, Jesus’ lack of fear regarding death should be our response as well. We shouldn’t fear death. Instead, we should be determined to walk along the path God has placed before us and not be concerned if that path ends in death. However, like Jesus modeled for us, when we follow God’s path for our lives, death is not the end. Whether we live or die following the path God has for our lives, we can look forward to the resurrection that Jesus promised and the resurrection Jesus experienced.

Two of Jesus’ disciples saw an opportunity on this trip. It is unclear if these disciples understood what Jesus was telling them, or if they were simply looking past what Jesus had said to the point when He would set up His kingdom.

Continuing in verse 35, Mark tells us that:

35 James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

37 They said to him, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 Jesus said, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive?”

39 “We can,” they told him.

Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive. 40 But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.”

41 When the other ten apostles heard about it, they were irritated with James and John. 42 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the acknowledged rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 43 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone. 45 It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

In our passage and specifically in James’ and John’s request, we discover a spirit of wanting to be elevated, honored, and given status. When the other disciples heard about this short discussion and request, I’m sure they were irritated, but likely not because James and John had asked Jesus this. Instead, I suspect they were irritated because they wished they were the ones who had asked Jesus this question instead.

Before calling the disciples together to challenge them regarding this spirit of hierarchy among them, I find it fascinating that Jesus tells James and John that they will take part in the suffering He will face, but that the places of honor that these disciples are requesting have already been reserved for other people. And it is interesting that these other people are not chosen by Jesus. Jesus tells us that He doesn’t have the authority to make this decision.

From what I can tell, the Bible doesn’t indicate who will fill those two honored roles. I suspect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people believe, that these two positions were actually filled by the two thieves or criminals who hung on crosses along with Jesus. However, whether this is the honored position Jesus is referring to or not, this detail is not what Jesus wants His followers to focus on.

Instead, when James and John’s request is discovered and the disciples have this topic fresh in their minds, Jesus pulls them all together and challenges their focus on status in this world. While culture wants to pressure us to continue stepping up, Jesus challenges His followers that they should instead focus on stepping down and serving. In God’s eyes, the most important person present is the one in the lowest position who is serving everyone around them.

Jesus modeled this focus for us. Jesus modeled what it means to have position and status in the universe’s eyes, and then to step down into humanity. Jesus then modeled for us here on earth what it means to step down even further because as the Messiah, which was a role that would have resulted in fame, status, and a kingdom, Jesus focused His life towards serving others rather than being served, and on giving His life for the lives of others. No earthly leader would do this, but this is what Jesus called His followers to do. We are called to put others ahead of ourselves just like Jesus did!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I regularly challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first and to model Jesus by stepping down and serving others. Accept the gift Jesus has given to us through His death and don’t be afraid of facing death while walking along the path God has created for you. When we are living the lives God has called us to live, death is not the end. Instead, death marks the point when we are able to finally rest and look forward to Jesus resurrecting us back to life.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Choose to let God lead and teach you through His word and take what you read, hear, or learn and filter it through the spiritual lens of the Bible. The Bible is a gift God has kept safe for thousands of years, and it is a present that teaches us how we can accept Jesus and be saved for eternity!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be scared out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 27: As Jesus begins to head towards Jerusalem where He will face death, Mark includes an interesting description for this trip, and an interesting request two of the disciples ask Jesus. Discover in this passage what Jesus modeled for each of us and how dedicated Jesus was for walking the path God had set before Him.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Living the Witness Life: John 9:1-41

Focus Passage: John 9:1-41 (NLT)

 1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

 3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

 6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

 8 His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

   But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

 10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

 11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

 12 “Where is he now?” they asked.

   “I don’t know,” he replied.

 13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

 17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

   The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

 18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

 20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

 24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

 25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

 26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

 27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

 28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

 30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

 34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

 35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

 36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

 37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

 38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

 39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

 40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

 41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

Read John 9:1-41 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In our passage for this journal entry, Jesus’ disciples see a blind man as they are walking along, and they ask, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

Jesus responds by saying, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

In each of our own lives, good things happen, and bad things happen. Many of these things result because of choices that we made, and some of these things are because of the choices of our parents and/or grandparents. However, once something (anything) has happened, it becomes cemented in what we call “the past”, never to be undone. The past is only meant to be a platform and a teacher for our present and future lives.

However, in our own lives, many things happen that are beyond our control. Really, this accounts for most things. We have only a sliver of control in a sea of uncontrollable circumstances. It is in these uncontrollable circumstances that we (including me) seem to get caught up way too often. We too often focus our attention on the glamorous – though usually fake – lives contained in the media, or we focus on the lives of those in our family and circle of friends, and all the while we neglect looking at our own lives.

Let’s look at this story from the beggar’s perspective. There are things in our lives that we are not responsible for, and things that our parents are also not responsible for, but things we can lean on God to help us with. It is in miracles like this where we can see how our lives are the best witnesses for Jesus.

When we apply the ideas Jesus shares here into our own lives, we can see how everything that happens to us – from the things that we can control to the things we cannot – can be used as part of our story to show others what God is doing in our lives. Each situation we face can teach others what to do, and also what not to do. With the miracles that God does in our own lives (think “coincidence” if you are unsure), we can show others how God still works in lives today.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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God’s Law in One Verse: Matthew 7:7-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:7-20 (CEV)

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

12 Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.

13 Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. 14 But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.

15 Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. 16 You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. 20 You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

Read Matthew 7:7-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If God’s entire Law was summarized in a very practical way in one verse, Jesus shares that verse with us during His famous Sermon on the Mount. In this statement/summary, Jesus shares a principle that has amazing implications.

During this sermon, Jesus tells those listening, “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.” (v. 12)

What is especially powerful about this statement is that is does not say, “Treat others as they have treated you.” That statement would cause a downward spiral that leads everyone towards violence and hate.

Instead, when we intentionally choose to treat others as we want them to treat us, it prompts an upward spiral that uplifts all parties involved. When we treat others with kindness and compassion because that is what we want to receive, we are not only setting a good example, but we are also intentionally breaking the cycle of reacting based on what they have done.

When we simply react, we give up control because we let the other person determine our mood and our response. Reacting usually results in the downward spiral, with each reaction getting progressively worse.

If we chose to intentionally respond by acting as though they treated us how with how we would have preferred they treated us, and then responding to that action accordingly, we break the downward cycle.

But not only is this principle one that fits within our relationships and human interaction, it also can fit our spiritual relationship with God. When we sin against God, He could treat us the way we deserve to be treated, but that would cause a downward spiral.

Instead, God responds to us with forgiveness, and this response is how He wants us to treat Him – and how He wants us to treat others. When we sin, we deserve death, but God chose to make a way around the problem through Jesus. God bent the rules in our favor because He loves us.

When He treated us as He wanted us to treat Him, He gave us the greatest display of love that He could: Jesus entered a world that was actively rebelling against God, and Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice on our behalf. The response God is looking for us to return is by giving our lives to Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — The Sacrificial Gift: John 6:1-15

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In our last episode, we looked at how Mark described the events leading up to Jesus feeding the crowd of over 5,000 people. However, in our last episode, we ran out of time before we could cover the miracle itself. While in other episodes, we focused in on the same gospel for multiple episodes, since this miracle is in all four gospels, I thought we could look at a different gospel this week. As I’m sure you noticed in the intro, the gospel we’ll be using this week is the gospel of John.

Let’s read how John describes this miracle, and then talk for a few minutes about some things we can learn from this miracle. This event is found in John, chapter 6, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

In this miracle, we see an amazing theme that God is able to supply all of our needs, and in many cases, God is willing to bless us with more than just the bare minimum of our needs. While the disciples calculate among themselves that 200 days wages would be enough for a light snack for everyone present, Jesus fully knows there is a boy in the crowd who had the foresight to bring a lunch with him, and that this boy is generous enough to give his lunch to Jesus.

While the disciples and the crowd had an amazing story to tell, nothing would match the excitement we could imagine the boy telling his parents his side of this story, if they weren’t already present, and specifically about how Jesus took the lunch they packed for him and used it to feed over 5,000 people.

From the boy’s perspective, we can see another huge theme within this miracle. From this perspective, we learn that Jesus is able to multiply the little we give to Him into a lot of blessing. When we give to God, we don’t have to worry about whether it is too little to be considered significant because God will multiply it to be more than enough. Generosity is one key we can use to see and experience God’s blessings.

However, while we talk about the boy’s gift and his generosity, it’s worth pointing out that nothing in this entire event hints at the boy only partially giving a gift. John doesn’t describe the boy having a basket with six loaves and taking one before giving the remaining 5, with the two fish, to Jesus. While the boy could have had 8 loaves and 3 fish when he left home that morning, whatever he had eaten prior to his gift isn’t relevant because his gift contained all that he had left.

Up until his gift, the boy was simply carrying food for himself to enjoy, but when he learned that Jesus might need something to eat, he is more than willing to give all he can to help Jesus. This boy sacrificially gave, because, like the disciples, this boy had no idea that he would be able to eat much more than his original gift supplied. When we sacrificially give, God is able to bless in extraordinary ways.

The last theme I want to draw our attention to as we begin wrapping this episode up is that we should bring people to Jesus regardless of whether we believe the gifts they have to offer are significant or not. While Andrew was doubtful what this small gift could become, he had enough faith to bring the information, and the boy with his gift, to Jesus. Like Andrew, we are called to bring people to Jesus, and we are to bring people to Him regardless of what we think their potential, or lack thereof, is in God’s kingdom.

We might say that we should bring people to Jesus simply because we know that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins. There’s no better reason to invite someone to God than because of what Jesus has already done for us.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first in your life and intentionally invite others to experience Him for themselves. While this can be done in a church setting, serving others is also a great way to invite people to experience God for themselves. Never discount your invitation based on what the person you are inviting appears to offer. Instead, freely extend your inviting because you know that God loves them and because Jesus died for them.

Also, as always, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow your faith. While it is easy to simply take someone else’s word for it, God wants a personal relationship with you and that means learning directly from His Word, with no-one else in the middle. While many people are happy to share their opinions with you, filter everything you learn through the truth contained in the Bible.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 27: When a boy gives his lunch to Jesus, we discover one of the most significant miracles in all the gospels. We know this because this is the only official miracle included in all four gospels. Discover several things we can learn from this event that we can apply into our own lives today!

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.