Sticking With Jesus: Mark 10:32-34

Focus Passage: Mark 10:32-34 (NIV)

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Read Mark 10:32-34 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus and the disciples were headed to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus pulls the disciples aside and tells them about what will happen to Him while they are there. Prior to this, Jesus’ followers already are aware that the Jewish leaders are looking for a way and time to arrest and kill Him, and it is likely that Jesus’ message here doesn’t ease their minds at all.

Mark’s gospel opens this event with an interesting description: “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (v. 32a)

This introduction is amazing in my mind because not only does Jesus know exactly what is coming, He is blazing the trail ahead right on schedule for it to happen. While this makes sense in most circumstances, the trail Jesus is leading the disciples on is the trail He knows will bring Him pain and death – even if He also knows that resurrection is in His future.

Mark tells us the disciples were astonished at Jesus, and those who followed were fearful. The whole group knows that Jerusalem includes the most powerful people who opposed Jesus, and Jerusalem was the place in the entire country where Jesus would be most easily condemned to death. The disciples are astonished that Jesus actively is leading the group towards certain death, and those following along are fearful not just for Jesus, but for themselves as well.

Often when a high profile arrest happened, those following would be arrested too, and there had been times in Roman history where all of a leader’s followers were executed (even crucified) along with the leader the Romans wanted to kill. If Jesus was correct with His prediction that death would meet them in Jerusalem (and He was), then those following along were completely justified in their fear.

But while Jesus blazed the trail forward, while the disciples were astonished, and while those following along were fearful, we don’t see any indication that the astonishment or fear present in the group caused people to stop walking with Jesus. All the disciples and all those following in the large group stayed with Jesus and this is important for us to remember.

We can learn from Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem that sometimes we will be amazed, astonished, or even fearful when walking with Jesus, but we can trust that He knows the future, and that at the end of history, the safest place for us to be is beside Jesus – even if being beside Jesus has been scary at times.

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Not Abolished, But Satisfied: Matthew 5:13-37

Focus Passage: Matthew 5:13-37 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Read Matthew 5:13-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One thing that has both intrigued me and bothered me is where this post’s passage fits within Christianity today. It is found neatly within Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, but it seems to be mostly forgotten – or at least discounted by many.

In this passage Jesus directly tells everyone present (and those who read about this later): “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (v. 17-18)

There are two ideas present in these verses that some might confuse the meaning of. The first idea is “abolish”, which would be another way of saying “eliminate”, “get rid of”, or simply “erase.” The second idea is “fulfill”, which would be another way of saying “complete”, “accomplish”, or simply “satisfy”.

Now if Jesus “fulfilled” or “completed” the law, wouldn’t that be the same as “abolishing” or “eliminating” it?

This is what many people seem to think Jesus said, except that He is says the opposite: “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (v. 17)

This must mean that Jesus satisfied the Law’s requirements, while not really removing them – except that Jesus does suggest a time when the law will have elements of it that disappear. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (v. 18)

In this passage, we get a picture of the time frame for the Law: it lasts for the length of heaven and earth and until everything is accomplished. Jesus accomplished a righteous sacrifice that paved the way for us to be saved while He was here on earth, but don’t confuse that with everything. In God’s perfect heaven and earth, there will be no sin, pain, death, or evil and since we have these things in our world today, everything cannot be accomplished according to God’s plan. When Jesus returns, we will get a better picture of His plan, and we can witness God recreating heaven and earth into the original, perfect world that He intended the first one to be.

But does this passage condemn those who break the Law? Not directly.

“Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 19)

This says that there will be those who set aside commands who will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. They are not outside of it, but in it – because they understand the biggest issue: Accepting Jesus’ righteousness and sacrifice as payment for their sins.

Legalism excludes people based on their actions/disobedience, and following a legalistic path does not lead into heaven. The most legalistic people in Jesus’ day still did not have the righteousness necessary to gain entrance into heaven.

Instead, Jesus made a way available through His perfection, and He made it available to everyone as a gift. We can choose to try and fail on our own, or lean into Jesus and be accepted.

The Law has not been abolished, but it has been satisfied through Jesus’ life and death.

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The Power of Persistence: Luke 11:1-13

Focus Passage: Luke 11:1-13 (GNT)

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:
 ‘Father:
    May your holy name be honored;
    may your Kingdom come.

3 Give us day by day the food we need.

4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.
    And do not bring us to hard testing.’”

5 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. 6 A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ 7 And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. 9 And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12 Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Read Luke 11:1-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While teaching the disciples how to pray in Luke’s gospel, Jesus first gives them a model prayer before quickly transitioning into an intriguing parable-illustration that on the surface implies that God can be pestered into answering our requests.

In this illustration, Jesus tells His disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.” (v. 5-8)

This parable amazes me because it appears to encourage us to be extra persistent – even annoying at times – when asking God for something. In some ways, God is way more loving than I am because if a “friend” kept pestering me at midnight for some loaves of bread, I am uncertain if he/she would remain a friend. While they might eventually pester their way into getting bread, it would probably cost a friendship.

However, thankfully God is more loving and merciful than me, and when Jesus shares this passage, He frames it along the lines of us doing the asking and persisting, rather than us being the friend who is woken up at midnight.

While on the surface, this parable is pretty powerful, hidden in the details is an even more amazing truth that anyone, anywhere in the world can claim and act upon – regardless of if they are a Christian or not. As Christians and followers of Jesus, we can consider ourselves friends of God. In Jesus’ concluding line, He sweeps our friendship aside when He says, “I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.” (v. 8)

Jesus tells these disciples that regardless of a person’s view of God or of the strength of their relationship, persistence in their prayers will lead to answers – and this is even for those who are not considered friends of God. As I write this, I wonder if more people would see more blessings added to their lives if they would simply persist with heartfelt prayers, regardless of their view of God, their level of faith in Him, or their belief about whether or not He exists.

Persistent, sincere prayers appear to be one thing God wants His followers to model for others. Tucked inside this parable is the promise that anyone, anywhere can start being persistent with their prayers and can expect God to answer with a gift of what they need – which may look different from what they were asking for to begin with.

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Knowing Where Jesus Went: John 8:12-20

Focus Passage: John 8:12-20 (NCV)

12 Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.”

13 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “When you talk about yourself, you are the only one to say these things are true. We cannot accept what you say.”

14 Jesus answered, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards. I am not judging anyone. 16 But when I do judge, I judge truthfully, because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that when two witnesses say the same thing, you must accept what they say. 18 I am one of the witnesses who speaks about myself, and the Father who sent me is the other witness.”

19 They asked, “Where is your father?”

   Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, too.” 20 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the Temple, near where the money is kept. But no one arrested him, because the right time for him had not yet come.

Read John 8:12-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part way through Jesus ministry, some Pharisees got together and challenged Him about making claims about Himself that appeared to be invalid, because no one else had validated them. When responding to this challenge, Jesus opens by making a startling statement. To begin His response, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going.” (v. 14)

Before answering their challenge, Jesus first acknowledges He does make some startling claims, but this is because they don’t know who Jesus’ Source of knowledge is. The point Jesus is making is that just because they don’t agree with His claim doesn’t make the claim any less true.

Jesus counterchallenges these leaders by making the point that they really don’t know what they are talking about because they don’t know where Jesus is really from or where He is going. However, Jesus does know where He came from and where He is heading – and this detail is crucial for us to have faith in Him.

The reason this is important is because Jesus is the only one who can take us to heaven. While there are plenty of worldviews that claim to have the knowledge about how to get to heaven, none of them can compare with the offer Jesus has given to us. With all the other claims about religions leading to heaven, Christianity is the only one where everything has already been done for us. With other worldviews, the focus is on what we have to do; Christianity’s focus is on what Jesus has done for us.

In this passage, Jesus tells us that the religious leaders are clueless regarding Him, which shouldn’t surprise us if we read the gospels with the goal of learning about Jesus. But just because the most religious people in the first century didn’t understand Jesus, we can trust Jesus knew what He was talking about. Jesus knew He came from heaven and He knows how to take us back with Him.

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