The Value of Persistence: Mark 10:46-52

Focus Passage: Mark 10:46-52 (GNT)

 46 They came to Jericho, and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,
         Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!

 48 Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly,
         Son of David, have mercy on me!

 49 Jesus stopped and said,
         Call him.

   So they called the blind man.
         Cheer up! they said.
         Get up, he is calling you.

 50 So he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

 51 What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked him.

         Teacher, the blind man answered,
         I want to see again.

 52 Go, Jesus told him,
         your faith has made you well.

Read Mark 10:46-52 in context and/or in other translations on!

In our passage today, we witness struggle, persistence, and triumph. It is a perfect example for one of my favorite phrases: “Everything worth achieving involves a challenge.”

In this passage, the gospel of Mark gives the man with the challenge a name: Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus was blind, and this was the big obstacle in his life.

In that era, those who were disabled in some way had the social stigma that some sin they did, or a sin their parents did, was the reason for the disability being in their life. So they were an outcast from the start, and in that era, almost all occupations required some form of eyesight, so these individuals with disabilities were left to beg for money, food, and the other necessities of life. The culture was not their friend. There was no “government assistance” available to help – unless you requested death at the hands of a gruff Roman soldier.

But what makes the encounter Jesus has with Bartimaeus so interesting in my mind is that once Bartimaeus has a sliver of hope – that Jesus of Nazareth is close by – he does not let that sliver of hope slip out of his grasp. He is in a difficult situation, but his persistence, his hope, and his faith keep him from giving up.

Since he cannot pick Jesus out in the noise of the large crowd, he does the next best thing: Try to get Jesus’ attention to focus on him. Even the crowd trying to silence him does not distract him; it probably actually encouraged him because it meant that Jesus might have been coming within earshot.

Bartimaeus is a perfect example of the big idea for this entry because through his hope, his persistence, and his faith, he is healed. Through Bartimaeus’ example, we learn that: Persistence is one way to find healing and/or freedom from the “disabilities” in our lives.

When we persist and focus all our energy on overcoming an obstacle in our lives, eventually, we will either overcome the obstacle, or minimize its significance in light of new understanding. Our willpower alone cannot remove serious physical disabilities, but with willpower and the help of a team of friends, we can move the focus off the disability and minimize its significance.

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

The Woman Messenger: John 20:11-18

Focus Passage: John 20:11-18 (GNT)

11 Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb 12 and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her.

She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!”

14 Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher.”)

17 “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus told her, “because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.”

18 So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her.

Read John 20:11-18 in context and/or in other translations on!

In Jesus’ conversation with Mary Magdalene following His resurrection, we uncover an interesting statement and idea that would be challenging for those in that culture to grasp. Aside from some terrified guards who were present for the removal of the stone and Jesus emerging from tomb, the first person who actually talks with Jesus is Mary.

Jesus’ conversation with Mary concludes with Him telling her to, “go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.” (v. 17b)

What would make this message challenging for those in the first century to grasp is that Jesus would send an important message through a woman, because women in that culture were not valued like they are today. A woman’s testimony was not equal to a man’s testimony in that culture, and Jesus sending a message to the disciples through Mary would not make sense. If the gospel writers wanted to make up a believable story, this would be a poor way to do it.

Jesus first appearing to a woman, and one with a very shady past, before sending this woman with the message to tell the rest of the disciples what they had discussed is all very counter cultural at the time.

But if this was actually what happened, even if many people wouldn’t believe it, it cannot change the historical truth.

But in Jesus’ message, we see something else that is fascinating. Jesus calls us His brothers, and God the Father as our Father, and God as our God. Through His death on the cross, Jesus has solidified our adoption into God’s family, and this is something worth celebrating.

The Bible tells us that a place is being prepared for us in heaven right now, and when the time is right, Jesus will return to bring us home with Him.

We are adopted into God’s family when we place our faith, hope, and trust in what Jesus has done for us. This makes our future eternal life a promise we can count on God fulfilling when Jesus returns for us!

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — God’s Two Gifts: Matthew 22:1-14

Read the Transcript

As we move through the week leading up to the cross in Matthew’s gospel, we come to a challenging parable Jesus shares with some powerful implications. In this parable, we discover how one group of people gives up their privileged status, and another group gains the invitation to step into the first group’s place.

However, while this sounds simple, perhaps even too simple, the parable we are about to read really contains only two major details we should pay attention to, and these two details are crucial for our ultimate salvation.

Our passage and parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 22, and we will read it from the New International Version. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Jumping out of our parable for a minute, I want to point out that if Jesus ended His parable here, He would have ended on a high note, at the most positive point in this illustration, but He would have only shared with us one of the two major details we must pay attention to in this parable.

Instead, Jesus then continues in verse 11, saying:

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

In this parable Jesus shared, we started on a high point with a king preparing for a celebration. Things then turn worse when we discovered how those who had been originally invited to this celebration decide to ignore or outright reject the invitation that was theirs. Things then shift back to being positive when the king extends the invitation to everyone regardless of their prior status.

Part of me is curious about how those who were present and listening to this parable responded when Jesus shared how the king opened the invitation to anyone and everyone. This major detail in this parable is vitally important for us to pay attention to. This major detail draws our attention onto a gift that God offers to each of us. While I don’t know if God would have opened this gift to everyone if those who were originally invited had accepted their invitations, because this first group rejected it, it gives anyone and everyone who wants to the choice to accept the invitation.

This parable draws our attention onto the amazing gift God offers to each of us when He invited us to be a part of His family, and to take part in the celebration when Jesus returns to bring God’s people home.

If we stopped reading here, this parable would end with the best news possible.

However, Jesus continued sharing, and things take another turn downward. When the king arrives in the banquet hall, he sees a person who isn’t wearing wedding clothes, and he throws this man out.

On the surface, this sounds both reasonable and ridiculous. The reasonable side of this is that this is the king, and he can do what he wants. If the king didn’t like how someone was dressed, he is perfectly within his right to kick that person out of his home and his event.

However, this also sounds ridiculous. When we look at how the parable progressed prior to this point, those who ultimately are in the banquet hall are those people who woke up that morning with no thoughts or plans of heading to the king’s banquet. All those present are last-minute invitees to this special event. Those present represent anyone and everyone from the rich to the poor, the good to the evil, and the well connected to the social outcasts. In this parable, those present come from any and every background, and they are all miraculously wearing wedding clothes when the king arrives.

The only way this detail makes sense, especially when reconciling this with the realization that not everyone present would have been able to afford appropriate wedding clothing, is that the king gave the guests wedding clothes on their arrival. With this detail in place, we discover how the king is fully within his rights to throw someone out who had refused the second portion of his gift. The king had given everyone an amazing gift of an invitation and he gave each person present the gift of wedding clothing.

In this parable, we discover how God gives each of us two gifts. God first gives us the gift of an invitation into His family and into His special event. If you’re worried about whether you are in the first group of invitees or the second, don’t worry about this. All you need to know is that you have been given an invitation. Everyone in this parable received an invitation to this wedding banquet!

This first gift requires a choice, and we must choose whether we will accept this gift or not.

The second gift present in this parable is the gift of wedding clothing. It is completely possible to accept the gift of an invitation but reject the gift of wedding clothing. The person who the king throws out for not wearing wedding clothes may have believed he had wedding clothes on, he had on the best clothes he had, or that the clothing one wore to this event wasn’t significant. Regardless of the reason, this man is thrown out for rejecting the second gift.

If you are concerned about whether you have accepted the gift of wedding clothing, this might be something to look into. The gift of wedding clothing is Jesus’ righteousness. The gift of clothing is defined for us in Revelation as the righteous acts of God’s people. In one of the most symbolic books of the Bible, John gives us the definition of this metaphor.

The second gift is a challenge for each of us. The second gift challenges us regarding where we place our focus and our hope. With the gift of clothing, are we going to come before God showing Him what we have done for Him with the attitude of trying to build ourselves up, or are we going to come before God thanking Him for what Jesus blessed us with and how nothing we do could ever repay His generosity?

For some reason, the man in this parable who is thrown out decided that He could appear before God with his own righteousness, and this cost him his salvation. I might be understating this when I say “Don’t be that guy!”

Instead, choose to accept God’s two gifts, both the choice and the challenge, and live your life as a thank you to God for everything He has blessed us with, both through what Jesus did for us, and through what Jesus is still doing for us each and every day!

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

As I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and let Him give you the two gifts that matter the most. Make the choice to accept His invitation and accept God’s challenge to replace your life and character with Christ’s life and character. This is only possible with God’s help and it is the best way we can say thank you to God for giving us what we easily don’t deserve.

Also, pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God each and every day. God wants a personal relationship with you and He doesn’t want a relationship where you filter Him through the thoughts and opinions of others. Choose to make your relationship with God personal by choosing to spend time with Him on a regular, frequent basis.

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 tricked out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 39: In a challenging parable Jesus shares, discover how God gives us two important gifts, and how our salvation depends on us accepting the gift of a choice and a challenge!

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

Fit To Worship: Mark 7:1-23

Focus Passage: Mark 7:1-23 (CEV)

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Read Mark 7:1-23 in context and/or in other translations on!

In Jesus’ response when the Pharisees challenge the disciples over not washing their hands, He draws our attention onto how we should be more interested with what comes out of our mouths than what goes into them. However, like what often happened following Jesus teaching, the disciples bring up the subject again when they were alone with Jesus and they ask for more clarification.

In this event, Jesus’ responds to the disciples in a similar way as He had done earlier with the crowd, but He contrasts two different body parts: the heart and the stomach.

Food we consume in our mouths goes into our stomach. It is then digested. However, this food never reaches your heart before being filtered and dissolved into the basic nutrients. Instead, what leaves our heart will leave through our mouth. Our words reveal what our heart is thinking, and what comes from our heart is what can make us unclean. If you were curious if Jesus defines specifically what can make us unclean, these four verses contain Jesus’ definition: “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.” (v. 20-23)

Jesus says that any one of these things can make us “unfit to worship God”, and this list includes some pretty bad things. Looking past the surface items in the list, we can see that this list includes items that are thoughts, actions, choices, and attitudes. Any evil thought, action, choice, or attitude will make us unfit to worship God.

While we are sinners and Jesus came to die for our sins, this doesn’t override our freedom of choice. All the evil things in the list are things that we have the freedom to choose to do or not to do.

However, what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage is how we can feed our heart. This is done by choosing what we focus on and pay attention to. While we cannot eliminate every negative thing from reaching our senses, we can be so intentional about pushing good things into our mind that the good can crowd out the bad. In many ways, this is how we are able to eliminate the things from our heart that can make us unclean and unfit for worship.

In order to find the best things for our mind, we don’t need to look any further than the Bible and the Holy Spirit. By prayerfully reading and studying the Bible, we can help the Holy Spirit push the bad habits in our lives and replace them with good, Godly habits that will make us fit to worship God.

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.