Jesus and the Critics: Mark 5:35-43

Focus Passage: Mark 5:35-43 (NLT)

35 While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

Read Mark 5:35-43 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Right before Jesus resurrects Jairus’ daughter, we read about a startling reaction the crowd of mourners gives to Jesus following a profound statement. Jesus wanted to stretch how people viewed death, but instead, we read a completely different response. After Jesus tells those present that the girl is not dead but simply asleep, Mark tells us, “The crowd laughed at him.” (v. 40a)

Jesus was being serious, but the crowd didn’t believe Him. They laughed at Him instead.

But Jesus didn’t worry Himself with what others thought. He simply sent them away and then focused on helping those who He came to help.

Mark tells us that this was not the first crowd Jesus stopped in this event. Just a few verses earlier, after telling Jairus to have faith, Mark tells us that Jesus, “stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James).” (v. 37)

And after the crowd in Jairus’ home laughs at Him, we read, “But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying.” (v. 40b)

Jesus had sent everyone away except for three disciples and the two parents. Jesus didn’t need a crowd full of pessimists and mourners present. He needed only a minimum number of believers present for this miracle. This miracle was to foreshadow His own resurrection, but the crowds present – and even many of the disciples had closed minds towards what Jesus was really capable of.

But Jesus didn’t worry Himself with what others thought about Him. He simply sent them away before focusing on helping those who He came to help.

Jesus serves as a role model for each of us. The more we focus on helping people, the more people will take notice, and many people won’t understand. Even the act of helping others will bring critics our way. But Jesus’ example is ignoring the critics’ words, sending them away, and helping those He came to help. When we face people who are critical of what we are doing, ignoring them may be the best option. Ignoring them frees us up to focus on helping those we came to help.

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Flashback Episode — Secret Lessons from a Secret Meeting: John 3:1-22


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During one of Jesus’ earlier visits to Jerusalem after starting His ministry, John’s gospel describes a fascinating secret meeting Jesus has during the night with a leading Pharisee. In this secret meeting is found one of the most famous verses in the entire Bible, and one of the most concise summaries of God the Father’s view of humanity.

However, while this summary is at the heart of Jesus’ response to the man named Nicodemus, in many ways, it is simply the starting point for our understanding of God the Father. Let’s read Nicodemus’ secret conversation with Jesus and discover what else we can learn from this discussion.

We will be reading John, chapter 3, using the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, we learn that:

There was a man named Nicodemus who was one of the Pharisees and an important Jewish leader. One night Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot be in God’s kingdom.”

Nicodemus said, “But if a person is already old, how can he be born again? He cannot enter his mother’s womb again. So how can a person be born a second time?”

But Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born from water and the Spirit, you cannot enter God’s kingdom. Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit. Don’t be surprised when I tell you, ‘You must all be born again.’ The wind blows where it wants to and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it is going. It is the same with every person who is born from the Spirit.”

Nicodemus asked, “How can this happen?”

10 Jesus said, “You are an important teacher in Israel, and you don’t understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we talk about what we know, and we tell about what we have seen, but you don’t accept what we tell you. 12 I have told you about things here on earth, and you do not believe me. So you will not believe me if I tell you about things of heaven. 13 The only one who has ever gone up to heaven is the One who came down from heaven—the Son of Man.

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, the Son of Man must also be lifted up. 15 So that everyone who believes can have eternal life in him.

16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. 18 People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son. 19 They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things. 20 All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do. 21 But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God.”

22 After this, Jesus and his followers went into the area of Judea, where he stayed with his followers and baptized people.

In this secret discussion, we find a number of interesting topics we could focus in on. As I was preparing this episode, I had planned to focus in on talking about how Jesus had used the phrase “Son of Man” in this conversation, and that this phrase would foreshadow how Jesus would often refer to Himself during the gospels.

But just now, as I read this to you, I don’t think I had ever noticed a different phrase. Before Jesus lets Nicodemus in on a secret, verse 13 says, “The only one who has ever gone up to heaven is the One who came down from heaven”.

Even as I quote this, I am reminded of Enoch, who walked with God and according to Genesis 5:24, was taken by God, supposedly to Heaven, as tradition would tell us. This is later restated in the book of Hebrews, chapter 5, verse 11.

I am also reminded of Moses, who even though he died before entering the Promised Land with the children of Israel, was resurrected and taken to Heaven, and Elijah, who was one of the more famous Old Testament prophets. Both Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus later on in His ministry known in the event called “The Transfiguration of Jesus”, and this event is recorded in three of the four gospels.

I am challenged by Jesus’ description of the Son of Man in this regard, because we have three clear other individuals who appeared to go up to heaven prior to Jesus having come down. However, while this might be a reason for some to doubt Jesus’ words here, in the three cases we have before us that seem to contradict Jesus’ words, every one of these individuals was “taken” to heaven rather than ascending on their own.

This is a key distinction, because this also means that no one is able to ascend to heaven on their own. Jesus is the only one capable of taking people to heaven. While it is not politically correct to state this, Jesus is the only road that leads to Heaven. This is confirmed by our pair of famous verses, John 3, verses 16 and 17 which tell us: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.

This is simply a starting point, because Jesus hasn’t stopped talking. He goes on to describe in verse 18 and 19 that “People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son. They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things.

In our passage, like bookends on the famous set of verses, are a set of challenges for all of us.

The opening bookend challenges us to always depend on and believe in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of Man. While we might be tempted to think that we can earn salvation through something we do, we are unable and incapable of taking ourselves to heaven. Ascending to heaven is only something Jesus can do, and He promises to take us to heaven if we believe in Him, which is another way of saying that we depend on and trust Him.

The closing bookend tells us that belief in Jesus is the key to avoiding judgment. However, belief is not the only condition, because Jesus describes those who do not believe as people who did not want light, because they were doing evil things. Belief in Jesus is connected with living like Jesus, which means that we are living a life that represents God as best as we can, and these two things together are how we live a life that intentionally avoids the judgment. When we combine faith with a life that is surrendered to Jesus, we avoid facing the judgment.

With all this said, here are the “official” challenges I am leaving you with at the end of this podcast episode:

Apply both of these bookend challenges into your life. Choose to depend daily on Jesus for strength to face each day, and trust that He is the only one who saves. While those living in the Old Testament had the lamb as a symbol pointing forward to Jesus, through the gospels, we actually have the record of Jesus’ life and what He was like.

Also, choose to study this record of Jesus’ life personally and prayerfully for yourself. By prayerfully reading the gospels with the goal of learning what Jesus was like, you will let the Holy Spirit into your life and begin to let Him change you into the person that God created you to be.

And when this happens, never stop short or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 5: Cam focuses on Jesus’ secret meeting with a man named Nicodemus and he draws some challenges for each of us from what Jesus tells Nicodemus in their conversation.

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

Believing His Promises: Luke 1:26-38

Focus Passage: Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Read Luke 1:26-38 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In Mary’s conversation with the angel in the first chapter in Luke’s gospel, we read an incredibly powerful statement that the angel shares. While the context of this statement is the birth of Jesus, the way this statement is phrased makes it much more universal than being confined to just one conversation that happened over 2,000 years ago.

The last thing the angel tells Mary after sharing God’s plan for her life is this: “For no word from God will ever fail.” (v. 37)

Of all the verses included in the entire Bible, this one may come in as one of the most powerful messages ever spoken. This statement tells us that every single thing He has promised will come to pass. We might not always know the details or the timing surrounding when it will happen, but we can be assured that because God said it, it will happen.

It is worth paying attention to a follow-up question surrounding this statement: “Why?”

We should ask ourselves the questions “Why can we be sure that no word from God will ever fail?” and/or “Why is it that no word from God will ever fail?”

We can believe the message the angel shares is true because it tells us a key piece of God’s character. While God is merciful and He is willing to delay judgment (the events surrounding Jonah’s message to Nineveh), His words will ultimately come to pass (Nineveh was eventually destroyed, but it was at a later date because God delayed His punishment as a result of the peoples’ response to Jonah).

This statement also assures us of another promise we have: Jesus will return and God will remake the heavens and the earth to be perfect like they originally were before sin. God has promised us this in His Word, and we can be sure that His word will never fail!

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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Clearing the Temple: Matthew 21:12-17


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As we continue moving into the week Jesus was crucified, we come to an event that happened in the gap that we skipped over last week. Last week, if you noticed, we jumped over the daytime and focused on two consecutive mornings, one where Jesus curses a fig tree, and the day after when they pass by the withered fig tree and learn the lesson Jesus wanted to teach them.

In this gap, we discover that Jesus spent some time in the temple, but during this period of time, He didn’t make very many people happy. Let’s read about what happened from Matthew’s gospel. Our passage is found in chapter 21, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 12, Matthew tells us that:

12 Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out everyone who was buying and selling there. He overturned the moneychangers’ tables and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. 13 He told them, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!”

14 Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them.

15 When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated. 16 They said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, I do. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?”

17 He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

In this passage, we discover how Jesus began this week by trying to point people back to God in God’s house. For the most part, while He didn’t make any friends among the religious elite, we do see that after His rampage through the temple chasing the commerce away, He welcomed those who needed healing and those who came to praise God. This paints a beautiful picture of God, of Jesus, and about what God intended His temple to focus on.

Luke places this event immediately after Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on the donkey. If this is when this event occurred, it provides continuity with the praise that the children shouted in the temple courtyard with what they shouted while He was traveling towards Jerusalem. When Jesus rode towards and into Jerusalem, the crowds shouted hosanna, and whether these children followed Jesus into the courtyard on the same day, or if they arrived to praise Jesus a day or two later, we see a beautiful picture of Jesus accepting those that society had rejected, and pointing everyone present towards God.

Regardless of when this event specifically occurred, a phrase in Jesus’ rampage stands out in my mind. Jesus challenged the priests and religious leaders on their focus and their priorities by saying in verse 13: “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!

Regardless of where you believe the line to be regarding commerce within church buildings, Jesus frames His entire rampage pushing the commerce away on the scripture and ideal that God’s house would be called a house of prayer. While prayer is possible in a commercial environment, it is a stretch to connect the two.

Commerce at its core is about exchanging goods/services among people for the benefit of both parties involved. While helping others is one side of commerce, helping oneself is also included. This is the ideal framing of commerce. Some people see commerce as simply one person trying to trick or con others into giving them money. In this case, commerce is only self-serving.

However, prayer stands on the opposite side of both the positive and negative views of commerce. Prayer is all about coming before God, and submitting ourselves to His will. While prayer can include requests for help from God, prayer is inherently focused on God and not on ourselves. An exclusively self-focused and self-serving prayer is unlikely to be answered ever.

Moving to the second half of our passage, after Jesus has finished clearing the commerce out of the temple, another phrase stands out in my mind because of what it says and does not say about the religious leaders. In verse 15, Matthew tells us that “When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated.

While both the miracles and the praise irritated these leaders, they choose to confront Jesus regarding the children’s praise. This is an interesting choice in my mind, but not unexpected, because while they were probably more irritated that Jesus was healing and performing miracles, there wasn’t much they could do about it. The only way Jesus was able to perform miracles, or even heal anyone, was if God was with Him, and the religious leaders know that they don’t have any solid ground to challenge Jesus on this – especially since this wasn’t the Sabbath day.

Other times the religious leaders confront Jesus regarding His healing ability, it was always framed around Sabbath observance and Sabbath rest. Since this wasn’t the Sabbath, they can’t really argue or refute His healing miracles.

But they can challenge Him regarding what the children are shouting about Him, and that’s what they decide to focus on. They really dislike the messianic implications tucked within the children’s praise. They want this praise to stop because it is drawing more people towards Jesus, and away from them.

However, Jesus knows He is the Messiah, even if He also knows that the Messiah He came to be was different from the messiah that the religious leaders were looking for. Jesus was willing to defend the children praising Him with a messianic title because He realizes that the children’s words speak truth. Jesus also knows that this event would add to the pile of reasons that the religious leaders would use to condemn Him.

Jesus knew that the cross was about to happen, and He clearly and deliberately walked along the path that led to it.

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

Be sure to intentionally seek God first and walk the path He has created you to walk. While the plan God has for your life may not be easy in this life, God’s plan and His path leads to eternal life in your future. Know that there will always be people, religious or otherwise, who will dislike your decision to walk with God, but know that God’s truth matters more than the world’s opinion.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to keep your connection with God strong. A personal relationship with God begins with personal prayer and personal Bible study and as I always challenge you to do, make your Bible study personal and don’t let me or anyone else stand between you and God.

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 5: When Jesus arrived in the temple, He found commerce and thievery taking place. Discover what we can learn from Jesus’ reaction to what He saw taking place, and what He chose to replace the chaos of commerce with.

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