Looking Past Our Failures: Mark 14:17-31

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We have arrived at the place in Mark’s gospel where he begins describing the evening of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. During the night before this event, Jesus shares a special meal with the disciples, and during this meal, Jesus shares and does some things that surprise the disciples.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this last night Jesus spent with His disciples leading up to His crucifixion. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read it using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 17, Mark tells us that:

17 When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve disciples. 18 While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you that one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 The disciples were upset and began to ask him, one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, do you?”

20 Jesus answered, “It will be one of you twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with me. 21 The Son of Man will die as the Scriptures say he will; but how terrible for that man who will betray the Son of Man! It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant. 25 I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Pausing our reading here, it is interesting in my mind that Mark really abbreviates this special meal Jesus shares with the disciples. While Mark’s gospel is known in part for summarizing events and moving at a faster pace, what we can discover from Mark’s summary are big, important details that we should pay attention to.

At this supper, Jesus openly declares that one of the disciples would betray Jesus, and this visibly upsets all the disciples. Jesus also uses this as another opportunity to share about His upcoming death, and Jesus tied this death to the scriptures predicting this.

Mark describes how Jesus would identify the betrayer, but we are left to simply wonder if this actually happened. Mark describes Jesus telling the group that He would dip the bread at the same time as the betrayer, but nowhere do we read in Mark’s gospel that this happened, that Judas Iscariot was identified, and we don’t even know when Judas Iscariot leaves to assemble the mob, soldiers, and people to arrest Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel, he also shares a brief, four-verse summary of the last supper and the details of Jesus breaking bread and sharing it with the disciples, passing a cup around, and giving a symbolic meaning to both the communion bread and communion wine.

However, what Mark shares next is powerful. After the group of remaining disciples leave with Jesus for the Mount of Olives, continuing in verse 27:

27 Jesus said to them, “All of you will run away and leave me, for the scripture says, ‘God will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will all be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

29 Peter answered, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!”

30 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the rooster crows two times tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.”

31 Peter answered even more strongly, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!”

And all the other disciples said the same thing.

In this last portion of this passage, I am amazed that Jesus clearly restates His imminent death, and that He will be raised back to life. He tells the disciples that after He has been raised to life, He will return to Galilee ahead of them.

However, it really appears as though Peter missed Jesus’ statement about resurrection, that he ignored yet another prediction of Jesus’ upcoming death, and he devoted his focus onto Jesus saying that all the disciples would leave Him.

Peter, being as outspoken as he is described in all the gospels, boldly makes the claim that he would die with Jesus and that he would never deny Him. However, Jesus counter challenges Peter with the prediction that before a rooster had crowed two times that very night, Peter would openly say three times that he didn’t know Jesus.

Mark also adds that Peter wasn’t the only one to make this promise to Jesus. All 10 remaining disciples make this promise to Jesus as well.

The amazing part of Jesus challenge is that, while all 11 disciples promise Jesus they would stick with Him to the end, only Peter is challenged and warned about openly denying Jesus. I go back and forth in my mind if this challenge is a positive one or not.

While Jesus does challenge Peter in this way, simply receiving this challenge implies that Peter will be in a place where people would recognize he is a follower of Jesus. This means that Peter will not have abandoned Jesus as significantly as the other disciples will. It is implied that the other disciples go into hiding – avoiding everyone – while Peter will be in a place where he could be recognized and singled out.

The challenge Jesus gives Peter does sound negative. After all, who wants to be told they will deny the person they looked up to and were friends with for over 3 straight years. The disciples’ response to Jesus telling them they will scatter is where our focus is drawn to in this passage, because it is what the disciples focused in on.

However, I believe Jesus told the disciples this not because He wanted them to obey His prediction, but because He wanted them to look past their upcoming failure to His upcoming triumph. While this weekend marked the triumph of sin and sinners, Sunday would open a new week, marking the triumph of Jesus and the ultimate defeat of sin.

It is in the resurrection Jesus’ disciples missed seeing predicted that Jesus wanted them to focus in on. With less than 24 hours before His death, Jesus wanted the disciples to look past their failure and His death and onto the resurrection.

In a similar way, while we are able to look back and see the crucifixion and resurrection clearly, when we face struggles, trials, and challenges in our lives today, let’s remember to look past our failures and these challenges, and forward to our future resurrection and recreation when Jesus returns to end this age in history and take us home!

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, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. When facing failures in our present or past, choose to forgive yourself and move forward, focusing on what Jesus accomplished and what He has promised each of us when we accept the gift of His life and death on our behalf.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and open your heart to God, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and Bible study, discover firsthand what God wants to teach you through the pages of His Word and discover how we can claim the promise and hope for a future, eternal life with God.

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 deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 39: When describing the Last Supper and what Jesus tells the disciples as they make their way to the Mount of Olives, discover in Jesus’ prediction and warning a promise that we can claim and apply in our own lives today!

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Flashback Episode — Caught Speechless: Luke 14:1-6

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Not long after the Sabbath miracle we focused on in our last episode, we come to another miracle that Jesus did on the Sabbath. While the last miracle happened while Jesus was at the local synagogue, the miracle we are looking at in this episode likely happened after Jesus had been at the synagogue, and during lunch. Jesus had been invited to eat at the home of a prominent religious leader, and everything about this event suggests that this invitation was a setup.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this miracle. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 14, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

On a day of rest—a holy day [most translations simply say “On the Sabbath”] Jesus went to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee. The guests were watching Jesus very closely.

A man whose body was swollen with fluid was there. Jesus reacted by asking the Pharisees and the experts in Moses’ Teachings, “Is it right to heal on the day of rest—a holy day, or not?” But they didn’t say a thing.

So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. Jesus asked them, “If your son or your ox falls into a well on a day of rest—a holy day, wouldn’t you pull him out immediately?” They couldn’t argue with him about this.

In how Luke describes the details in this passage, we see plenty of signs that this event is a setup. From the moment Luke tells us at the end of verse 1 that, “The guests were watching Jesus very closely,” we can conclude that they intended to challenge Him about something. We read this detail even before we are introduced to the detail that a man was there who was ill.

However, this miracle is unique. In no other miracle that I can think of does Jesus ask the religious leaders a question. This question is almost like Jesus is asking for permission or approval for helping this man. While everyone is looking intently at Jesus and what He will do in the presence of someone who needs help on the Sabbath, Jesus catches them off guard by asking them the question they had already determined the answer to. Verse 3 tells us this question. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in Moses’ teaching whether it was right to heal on the Sabbath or not.

This question is interesting on many levels, because with an answer, Jesus could open a dialog about how He interpreted the Sabbath commandment about rest before healing the man. Instead, Jesus is met with silence as a response. I don’t think these religious leaders were caught off guard with Jesus’ question; instead, it is more likely they had passed judgment on the idea of healing being acceptable while not having an actual scripture to back up this specific belief.

However, the silence was enough of a consent that Jesus healed the man and told him to go home.

While those present likely were preparing to debate Jesus with what was considered work and acceptable behavior on this day of rest, Jesus cuts their breath short by asking them another question, this time a partially rhetorical question. When those present were preparing their case against Jesus’ actions, Jesus speaks first, and in verse 5, He asks the obvious question about if we would help our child or an animal if he, she, or it fell into a well on the Sabbath. Only a heartless person would say no to helping their child because it was a holy day.

Luke concludes by telling us that those present couldn’t argue with Jesus over this detail, and while these religious leaders probably still disliked Jesus, they didn’t have much of a case to call Jesus’ form of healing as “work”.

In this event, we discover a group of people who believed a certain way without scripture to back their belief up. While some beliefs are fine to hold onto in places where the scripture is silent, any belief about God, about Jesus, or about eternity should be grounded in the themes and truths of the Bible. Any belief about God that the Bible speaks in opposition to is a belief that should be discarded in favor of the truth.

This also means that when we are faced with the challenge of whether to follow tradition or Bible truth, we should always follow Bible truth, because traditions change faster than generations do, and what was once a novel idea one day can become a tradition the next, even if there is no scriptural foundation present. If we pick tradition over Bible truth, we will ultimately stand speechless in front of Jesus when He challenges us regarding what we thought was true.

When resolving some tricky passages or beliefs, we would be better served looking closer at the scripture that speak against our position to understand them better. While it is easy to discount, explain away, or simply ignore passages that speak against our chosen belief, whenever we discount any portion of the Bible, we run the risk of missing truth that God wants to teach us. We can learn more from the passages we might disagree with more than the ones we agree with.

By giving greater weight to the passages we are tempted to walk away from, we can minimize the chance that Jesus will catch us speechless when He asks a question that we should have an easy answer to. By giving greater weight to the passages we are tempted to walk away from, we can avoid the trap of believing tradition over Bible truth.

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

Always be intentional about seeking God first in your life. Ask Him to lead you into His truth and ask Him to give you the strength, endurance, and open-mindedness to learn what He wants to teach you through His Word.

Then, make regular prayer and Bible study a habit for yourself. Ask God to show you want He wants you to learn and ask Him to help you understand His truth. The Bible is the best spiritual teacher we have, because when we open its pages with a prayerful, humble attitude, expecting to learn from God, the Holy Spirit will come teach us, and challenge us with its words. This has been my experience, and it is why I share insights with you every week! I believe God wants you to have a great study relationship with Him when you open the pages of the Bible to study His Word!

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 ignore where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 39: When Jesus accepts the invitation to a Pharisee’s home one Sabbath, we can discover something from this event that might surprise you, though hopefully something that doesn’t leave you speechless.

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

Setting Up a Betrayal: Mark 14:1-11

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Leading up to the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Mark’s gospel pulls two events together and connects them. However, it is likely that these two events did not happen as closely as Mark and Matthew describe them. Instead, while these two events happened within a week of each other, these two gospel writers connect the two events because together, these events give context for what will take place during the following weekend.

Reading this passage, which could be broken apart into three different parts, gives us an amazing insight into how God’s timing for events supersedes our timing and our planning. Let’s read about what happened, and discover what Mark teaches us about the events leading up to Jesus’ betrayal.

Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read from the New International Version. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us:

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

Pausing our reading here, these two verses make up the first part in this passage. Basically, Mark tells us that the chief priests and other religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him, but they decided to wait until after the festival because they feared the people would riot.

However, Mark then jumps back to an event that happened a few days earlier. If what we just read happened on a Wednesday, then the event being described likely could have happened the Thursday, Friday, or Sabbath of the week before. We can conclude this because John’s gospel gives a clear timetable for the event Mark is about to describe.

Continuing in verse 3, Mark then tells us:

While he [referring to Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

This marks the end of the second part of our passage. While Mark doesn’t say who prompted the condescending remarks towards the woman and her gift, the context of what happens next gives us a clear clue that Judas Iscariot was among those who were leading the belittling remarks towards this woman. John’s gospel also validates this by telling us it was clearly Judas Iscariot, and John tells us that he challenged this use of the money, not because he cared for the poor, but because he wanted a larger moneybag that he could more easily help himself to.

However, Jesus clearly foreshadows this event as preparing His body for burial. The two events in that culture where people were anointed were when they were set apart or dedicated as a ruler or king, and when they were a corpse and were being buried. The first anointing is a symbolic and spiritual action, while the second anointing was primarily for very practical reasons, otherwise known as masking the smell of decaying flesh.

While the woman anointing Jesus with the perfume likely could sense Jesus nearing the culmination of His ministry, everything in that culture pointed to the Messiah stepping into the role of king. She likely gave Jesus this type of gift because she wanted to be the first to anoint Him as king.

However, Jesus validates the gift she gives, but then attributes the symbolism onto the other reason for anointing. Instead of anointing Jesus who would become king, Jesus tells everyone present that this anointing was preparing Him for His burial.

We could add this statement as one more example of Jesus foreshadowing His upcoming death, and the disciples, Judas Iscariot especially, missing the obvious conclusion to Jesus’ clear statement.

The third part of this passage shifts back to the timing of the first event, just days before the Passover celebration. Continuing in verse 10, Mark tells us:

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

In these two concluding verses, we discover that while the chief priests and religious leaders decided to wait until after the festival, Judas Iscariot’s decision changes their plans. While Judas Iscariot may have plotted and planned how to respond to Jesus’ rebuking him because of his response regarding the woman’s gift, it took several days for Judas to conclude that betraying Jesus was the way to get back at Him.

Judas Iscariot ignored, forgot, or was blinded into discounting all the foreshadowing Jesus had shared regarding His upcoming death, His upcoming betrayal, and His upcoming resurrection. Prior to this weekend, even before Judas Iscariot knew he would be the betrayer, Jesus had warned the disciples about the events of this weekend.

Everything in this passage leads me to believe human timing for Jesus’ death should have happened after this weekend festival. However, God’s timing for this event clearly dictated the time Jesus would die, and all the details and human plans are rewritten during the 48 hours or so leading up to the cross to make humanity’s planning and timing match God’s plan. The religious leaders had decided to wait until after the Passover; however, Judas Iscariot’s offer of betrayal changes their plans to match the timing God had planned from the beginning of our world.

In our own lives, it is always good for us to remember that while we can plan and move towards goals in our own lives, it is always best to leave room in our plans and expectations for God to step in and redirect our lives to match His plan for each of us. When God steps in and changes our plans, we can choose to be upset, or we can be grateful that God is bringing us into alignment with His will. When faced with that choice, I always recommend being grateful because when God redirects our lives, it reminds us that He cares about us and that He wants the best for us from eternity’s perspective!

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, intentionally seek God first in your life and leave room for Him to step in and change your plans and your goals to match His will for your life. Invite God to come into your heart and let the Holy Spirit lead and guide you into matching your goals and plans to His will for you!

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. While other people can have ideas and great things to think about, filter everything you learn from other through the truth of the Bible! Through prayer and Bible study, discover how God opens our hearts to Him and His will and decide to invite Him into your heart!

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 abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 38: Before beginning to describe the events of the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Mark pulls two separate events together that sets the stage for Jesus’ betrayal and the creation of a betrayer. In this event, discover how God’s plans and timing will always happen regardless of our planning or timing.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Freed to Praise God: Luke 13:10-17

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In our walk through the gospels looking at Jesus’ miracles, it seemed that a disproportionate number of miracles happened on the Sabbath. While this may accurately reflect what actually happened, this also could be because no other day of the week prompted the religious leaders to challenge Jesus on what He was doing. Perhaps the friction Jesus created because of His views regarding what was acceptable and not on the Sabbath pushed the miracles Jesus did on the Sabbath into the spotlight and memories of those present.

However, when Jesus healed people, rarely did He ever actually do something that would even remotely have been considered work. In the miracle for this episode, nothing even hints at Jesus doing any action that would be thought of as work, even though a healing took place. In this event, not only do we discover a miracle, but we also discover Jesus sharing a new picture regarding how we should view the Sabbath, or as our chosen translation describes it, as a day of rest – a holy day.

Let’s read what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 10, Luke tells us that:

10 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the day of rest—a holy day [most other translations simply say on the Sabbath]11 A woman who was possessed by a spirit was there. The spirit had disabled her for 18 years. She was hunched over and couldn’t stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her to come to him and said, “Woman, you are free from your disability.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight and praised God.

Let’s pause reading here for a moment because what this last verse said prompts us to why Jesus may have healed this woman on this occasion. This verse tells us that when the woman stood up straight, she “praised God”.

Probably the best reason Jesus healed and helped people was to bring God praise and glory, and this formerly disabled woman was happy to lead those present to praise God for what He had healed her of.

But not everyone present was happy with what happened. While the synagogue leader could not argue with praising God, he did take offense to Jesus healing on this day. Continuing in verse 14, we learn that:

14 The synagogue leader was irritated with Jesus for healing on the day of worship. The leader told the crowd, “There are six days when work can be done. So come on one of those days to be healed. Don’t come on the day of rest—a holy day.”

15 The Lord said, “You hypocrites! Don’t each of you free your ox or donkey on the day of rest—a holy day? Don’t you then take it out of its stall to give it some water to drink? 16 Now, here is a descendant of Abraham. Satan has kept her in this condition for 18 years. Isn’t it right to free her on the day of rest—a holy day?”

17 As he said this, everyone who opposed him felt ashamed. But the entire crowd was happy about the miraculous things he was doing.

In this event, Jesus challenges the notion of what is work and what isn’t. Nowhere in this miracle does Jesus deny the synagogue leader’s reference to the Sabbath commandment and it being a commandment about resting from work.

Instead, Jesus challenges the idea of what work included and what it didn’t include. The woman didn’t pay Jesus for the healing, and nowhere that I know of was Jesus ever paid for healing someone. In contrast, doctors earn a living through healing and helping others. By looking at the income angle of this passage, we can see one filter for what is work and what isn’t – and even though the synagogue leader had reduced Jesus to a doctor who could teach the scriptures, Jesus was more likely a teacher of the scriptures who healed people as a hobby.

The comparison Jesus makes in His reply is interesting. Jesus responds to the synagogue leader by first calling them hypocrites, then giving them an example of why. It is likely that everyone present would bring water to their animals on the Sabbath for the animals to drink. This isn’t work. Instead, this is kindness.

However, this act takes more time than Jesus took and more energy than Jesus exerted. But Jesus doesn’t challenge the idea of work based on the difficulty level or on the level of income earned. Jesus challenged the idea on the angle of freedom. If those in the first century were more than willing to untie their animals to let them get a drink, how much more applicable would it be for God, through Jesus, to untie this disabled woman who had been bound up for 18 years. In this miracle, Jesus not only redefined what was acceptable on the day of worship, but He also elevated this woman’s status above that of the animals.

All this is summarized nicely in the verse we focused on part way through this passage. Immediately when the woman was freed from her disability, she praised God, and she led those present who were willing in praising God as well. The only people present who were upset were the ones who held their opinions about what were acceptable activities for the Sabbath over the wellbeing of others.

This idea is powerful. It tells us that when we let our opinions of the world or of certain people become greater than our desire to help the world, this person, or this group of people, then we will become more hostile, bitter, angry, and withdrawn. We see this happen in people who are so far removed from those who struggle that they cannot even grasp what others are going through, and we also see this from people who have grown calloused towards helping others.

God doesn’t want His people to be calloused from helping others, but instead, He wants love, help, kindness, and compassion from all His people, and He has called us to help others because we can help. We are to help both Christians and non-Christians alike, and we are to be known for our love over our religion, our faith, our politics, or any other measure that we can think of.

We are Jesus’ representatives in the world today, and Jesus came and He loved and helped those who needed help.

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

Always seek God first and look for ways you can show love and help to others. Through Jesus, God stepped down to earth, down to the cross, and down to the grave for you and me. If we accurately model Jesus, we should be stepping down and helping wherever we can, and we should look for people we can help who need help, love, and encouragement.

Also, to better reflect Jesus to others, we should always pray and study the Bible for ourselves to learn what Jesus is like. While it is easy to take someone else’s word for it, the best, most trustworthy source for what Jesus is like is in the pages of the Bible, specifically the pages of the gospels, and in the Bible we can truly discover God’s love for each of us!

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 ignore where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 38: In a Sabbath miracle, Jesus heals a woman who praises God, much to the dislike of the synagogue leader. Discover what we can learn about how the religious leaders viewed Jesus, and what this has to do with praising God, helping others, and working on the Sabbath.

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