Forty Days with Christ – November 23

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Introduction to Mark 9

Jesus tells them they will see the Kingdom of God come with power before they die.  Is this the Resurrection?

The Transfiguration and discussion of Elijah (one of the great prophets of Jewish scripture) is addressing Messianic expectations.  What the disciples saw and the teaching of Jesus confirm that while Jesus does not reflect many of the expectations of a Messiah, he certainly has Messianic credentials.

The healing of boy so horribly possessed is a lesson that remains true for us today.  We can do all things right but if we do it without prayer, we are omitting a great source of power.

The rest of the chapter speaks to how Christians are called to live.  Humility is our calling and we must care for the welfare and faith of others.  We are to partner with others and share in the work of ministry.

Mark 9

And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.’

When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

Lord, allow my prayer life today give me the power to live faithfully, the humility to serve willingly and the passion to give you the glory.  Amen.

Forty Days with Christ – November 22

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Introduction to Mark 8

This chapter opens with the feeding of the 4000 and reminds of the feeding of the 5000 in chapter 6.  Here we are given some insight to the compassion of Jesus for the people.  We also see this as more of a movement with people following Jesus for days.

We also get a sense of the frustration Jesus has to deal with when Pharisees asked for signs after the miracles already performed.  The disciples worry about having only one loaf of bread for the twelve after twelve baskets of leftovers came from feeding 4000 with seven loaves.   How easy it is to be blind to the bounty around us while we complain about what we don’t have.

After another healing, Jesus asks his disciples what they have heard others say about him.  After the events of this chapter, you can imagine why!  Peters confession that Jesus is the Messiah is met with Jesus telling them to keep quiet about it.  Why?  Because when Jesus explains to his closest disciples what it would mean for him to be fulfill his mission, they cannot believe it.  It would have to live it out for anyone to understand. Any conversation before his life was over would be pointless.

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 22”

Forty Days with Christ – November 21

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Introduction to Mark 7

Jesus was not afraid of holy conflict.  His battle with the Pharisees is at the core of what mattered to Jesus.  Faith was not about rules.  Faithfulness for Jesus was experienced when people were valued over procedure and their needs met by the power of God.  Jesus redefines what holiness and real faith is in this world.  

His conversation with the woman over the healing of her daughter makes us uncomfortable.  Was Jesus acting this way because he forgot the very lesson he was speaking to earlier?  Why is this passage in here and why did Jesus act this way?  Perhaps I can take some comfort in knowing everyone has an off moment.  It is helpful to notice that in the middle of a holy argument, the right action can come to pass.  The little girl is healed.

The healing of the deaf man shows a familiar formula of prayer and holy touch.  His actions make it harder to keep the crowd refrained in their celebration of Jesus.

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 21”

Forty Days with Christ – November 20

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Introduction to Mark 6

Jesus had very hard times in his life.  He was rejected by his own home synagogue.  Sometimes familiarity does not allow us to really see people as they are.  But Jesus could see in people what they could not see in themselves.  He sends out his newly called disciples out in mission.  Notice their mission was more successful than Jesus experienced in his own home town.   We are then given insight into the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  This is more than a story about Jesus’ cousin.  It is a passing on of the ministry of John to the fulfillment in Jesus.  It is also a foreteller of the ending awaiting Jesus.

After hearing the news of the death of his cousin, Jesus seeks a quiet place.  His popularity and the needs of the people crush in on him.  He responds with compassion and ministers to him.  This includes feeding of the 5000.  His power to make the impossible happen is demonstrated in this feeding and in walking on the water in the storm.  It is found in the lives of all he blessed and healed along the way.

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 20”

Forty Days with Christ – November 19

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Reading Mark 5

This is chapter is about healing.  It is also about emancipation.  In each of these healing stories, Jesus makes it possible for people to be set free from marginalization, from life debilitating illness and loss of faith and death.

The healing of the man with unclean spirits seems bizarre at first reading.  However, there are aspects of this story we can recognize from our experiences.  Disease of body and mind have often forced people to be mistreated and excluded.  This confrontation with Jesus reminds me of conversations I have had in the past with those trapped in mental illness of various forms.  The exorcism of evil spirits into a herd of pigs that kill themselves seems foreign to our world.  We can relate, however, in the power of what we cannot control to seem to have a mind of its own.  The healing of the man understandably leads him to want to follow Jesus.  The mission Christ gives him is to stay in his neighborhood and make a difference.  Once he was always known as the broken one. Now he would be remembered for how far he had come and a witness to what is possible with Christ.

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 19”

Forty Days with Christ – November 18

I have invited our congregation to read the Gospel of Mark and Luke one chapter a day.  We began on November 15 and will conclude on Christmas Eve.  I invite you to read along with us. Please feel free to share comments, questions and insights.  I look forward to the interaction and the blessing of reading with you!

Today we  are reading the forth Chapter of Mark

Jesus’ teaching ministry continues.  The Parable of the Sower is a word of instruction and encouragement.  Preparation to receive the word of God is directly proportional to the harvest we experience.  It is also true that sowing seeds, (sharing faith) will have some impact.  This is a rare time when Jesus tells a parable and it is followed by an explanation.  The follow up is that we are to be stewards of the harvest and to put into use what we receive.  

Jesus is beginning to describe the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is where God and the ways of God are lived out in action.  Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.  The miracle of the calming of the storm is demonstration of the Kingdom of God bringing peace out of chaos.  Our calling is of have faith in Christ and trust in the Kingdom of God as a way of life even in the middle of chaos and storm. 

Mark 4

Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:3‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ 9And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 18”

Forty Days with Christ – November 17

The third chapter of Mark seems to be a line in the sand.  The healing of the man with a withered hand leads immediately into a confrontation with religious authorities.  Their intolerance leads to judgement and plans to destroy Jesus. Others flocked from every region and background to Jesus for healing and hope. Jesus does not want his identity to be revealed this early in his ministry.  The title, Son of God, carried specific meaning for the Jewish community.  Jesus knew his actions and teachings would redefine the work of the Savior.  The identity and role of Jesus would be revealed by his life and any title attached to him would be inadequate.  

Jesus also calls his disciples.  He is now ready to launch his ministry.   His commitment to his followers was so deep they became family to him.  His teaching on family at the end of this chapter is intended to emphasize the close relationship with his followers more than an intent to dismiss his biological family as unimportant.   

Mark 3

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Continue reading “Forty Days with Christ – November 17”