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Mark 11 – Behold The Servant King!

You see crowed gathering. You feel the excitement all around you. As you follow the crowds out of the city you begin to hear chants and cheers of acclamation. Finally, you arrive at a vast parade. The army comes first. You hear the thunder of hoofs as the cavalry marching by. Banners fill the sky. The army has been victorious and the king has returned. You see him in the distance. He’s dressed in his finest robes standing tall on his chariot. His best horses lead the way. This is a victorious king displaying his power for his people to take pride in. This king is displaying commanding message to the world that he is mighty and no one will stand in his way.

This is not the entry Jesus makes into Jerusalem when he comes as king. This is not the kind of king Jesus is. The world expects pomp and circumstance but much like Jesus’ birth (and unlike Baby George who was just born into the British Royal Family) he enters Jerusalem humbly as a servant king. While they shouted “Hosanna” they would have marveled at the king of king Jesus was depicting himself to be. Nonetheless, Jesus was in fact depicting himself as king.

He goes into the Temple to clear it out. There was an expectation that the would-be Messiah would restore the Temple. Throughout Jewish history different people who tried to establish themselves as rulers or thought they were the Messiah did what they could to restore the Temple. Herod the Great built the Second Temple so that the Jews might accept him as their king. Jesus clears the Temple to vividly proclaim that he is king. He continues to proclaim that God is for all people, all nations. The part of the Temple he cleared was probably in the gentile section where they often had a market for those needing to make sacrifices. Jesus demonstrates that he is a king who cares about all people.

This is why the first question asked of him is what authority he has to do these things. The first accusations against Jesus after he is arrested have to do with his actions in the Temple (Mark 14). What he is doing in the Temple is not just throwing a holy temper tantrum. He is provocatively demonstrating himself as king. When asked about his authority for doing these things he puts them in a bind that produces the profound answer “We don’t know.” It is these actions that will lead Jesus directly to the cross.

This chapter sets the stage for the next few chapters to follow. If there was one thing to take away from this section, it is that Jesus does not do what the world expects him to do as king. Jesus continually turns the world’s expectations on its head and shows us a new way. We are followers of the Servant King. We are citizens of His Kingdom and we are called to look like our King.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

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Mark 9 – Help my Unbelief!

Jesus takes his inner circle with him up on the mountain where he would be transfigured before them. Peter doesn’t know what to make of this event so he just says what he thinks is best. What better place to be then with Elijah, Moses, and the Messiah! While Peter is fumbling over his words, God gives him a divine “SHHHHH!” and then confirms that this is His Son so they should listen. There is a lot of speculation as to what is going on here in this passage. There may have been debates between the early church and the Jews about Elijah’s appearance before the coming of the messiah and this story addresses that. One thing I take away from this story is that while there is a lot of emphasis placed on Moses and the Prophets, God emphasizes that it is His Son that they should be listening to. After the cloud lifts, Jesus remains and the others are gone again. We need to know the voice of Jesus well and listen for it. We need to continually listen to what is being said about Jesus and make sure it lines up with who Jesus is.

Why couldn’t the disciples drive the demon from the little boy? They didn’t pray. I don’t think Mark is giving us a formula for exorcisms but is reminding us that faith and prayer have to go hand in hand. We continually see Jesus modeling both in his life. When Jesus questions the father on the boy’s condition the father says, “If you can do anything…” Jesus’ reply is great! “If you can?!” Jesus then reminds the man that all things are possible for one who believes. The man then replies with something we should all remember, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We all live and function under the impression that we believe. The reality is that if you take a moment to examine you’re life you will find that your dependence is in a lot of things other than Christ. Help our unbelief! We continually worry about each day as though God does not exist in our day. Help our unbelief! We worry about the economy. Help our unbelief! We fail to see those around us in need because we are concerned about our own well-being. Help our unbelief! We worry about governing authorities forgetting that we have a King and a Kingdom that the gates of hell will not overcome. Help our unbelief!! We have a God who spoke everything into existence, who has not given up on His creation, and who has conquered death for us yet we continue to live terrified of death and do our best to figure out of to get out of this life alive. Lord, help our unbelief! We need to continue to live out our lives in faith and continually pray allowing our interactions with God to shape who we are.

From there, Jesus separates himself with his disciples from the crowds so that he can teach them. All throughout the Mark’s gospel, and in the other gospels as well, there is an emphasis that Jesus wants his disciples to understand what he is teaching even when they are in the minority of understanding who Jesus is. This is a good reminder to Christians who are continually in the minority. Jesus calls us to live a certain way that puts us in the minority of understanding. This way of life is embodied in his death. Jesus is a different kind of king. He is the servant king who came to destroy Rome by allowing himself to be crucified. This is the life Christ calls his followers to live out. The disciples demonstrate their struggle to understand this through their arguing over who is the greatest.

Jesus talks about welcoming “little ones” and not causing them to stumble. Between these comments about the “little ones” John tells Jesus that someone was driving out demons in his name but they were told to stop since they weren’t part of the Jesus club. Jesus, still holding on to the child, reminds them that the kingdom is for everyone and not just his special group of disciples. If they are doing the work of Christ then you should be careful to not get in the way. If you do cause someone, a follower of Christ, to stumble then it would be better for you to take on a milestone and drop yourself in the sea. We need to be careful of our arrogance in dealing with others who bow their knee to Christ.

This last bit about cutting off limbs that cause us to stumble is a hard one that I’ve heard a lot said about at different points in Bible classes. We don’t take it literally but often use it as analogy for how we should get rid of things in our lives that cause us to stumble. This time when I read this passage, it occurred to me that the context seems to be about the Christian community and how we respond towards one another. Could Jesus be saying that it would be better to remove those who are causing others to stumble from the community? The hope would be that they would realize that their actions are wrong and change. Is it better for some to be cut off from the church so that they don’t drag others down? These would be drastic circumstances but should they be considered?

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

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Matthew 27 – The Servant King Gives His Life

There is so much in this chapter to take in that I think I’m going to do my best to just hit some key things that I haven’t really focused on before. If you have questions that aren’t addressed, I’d love to have some dialogue.

The question of Judas’ repentance is an interesting one. What was the real motivation behind what Judas did? He had followed Jesus for 2-3 years at this point. Was 30 pieces of silver really worth having him killed? At the point that Judas saw that Jesus was condemned to die he was filled with remorse. I tend to lean in the direction that Judas really did see Jesus as the Messiah but his understanding of Jesus as the Messiah was way off. He wanted the warrior king who would rise up against Rome instead of the servant king. By turning Jesus over, Judas thinks (in how I see it) that Jesus will have to come to action and rise up. Judas is trying to get the ball rolling for Jesus to take power by forcing his hand. The implications of his actions were unexpected by him. Was Judas saved by his repentance? What he did is not beyond the forgiveness enacted on the cross. The question we need to ask ourselves is in what ways do we try to force Jesus’ hand in being the Messiah he didn’t come to be? Do we pray or do certain things so that we will then be bless monetarily? Continue to read the Gospels and get to know Jesus so you don’t make the same mistake Judas makes.

Pilate’s name is important here. He is a real person who connects the real Jesus to the real world. Pilate’s role is to keep some kind of control over an ever troublesome group, the Jews. He is a state official and he wants to know if Jesus is a rival to Herod. What he doesn’t even think to question is whether or not Jesus is a rival to Caesar. When Christians profess that Jesus is Lord they are emphatically saying that Caesar is not.

Pilate does everything he can to set Jesus free but ultimately he has to appease the crowed to keep peace. Rome doesn’t care too much about the things Jesus has claimed about himself or even what others have claimed about him. Rome simply wants order.

Jesus is silent before his accusers because he is the new order of peace standing in the face of the old order of lies and injustice. He is willing to be wronged when he could use power to be right. He is the model for how we should approach a world of evil.

If Pilate saw Jesus as an innocent man, why did he have him flogged? In order to execute someone in the horrible way of crucifixion they must be dehumanized. They beat him and then mock him. The soldiers were doing what they do. They were going about business as usual. They had no idea they had God in the flesh before them.

With Jesus on the cross, he is faced with the same temptations that were before him in the wilderness. This time the desire to give into those temptations are much greater. “If you are the Son of God…” prove it. Not only did they mock Jesus but they also mocked God, calling God out to save Jesus if he really is his father.

The question has come up throughout history as to who actually killed Jesus. Matthew’s gospel has often been used to justify calling Jews “Christ Killers” bringing about (or justifying) persecution of the Jews. Did the Romans kill Jesus? Pilate? Me? Humanity? Matthew’s gospel emphasizes that Jesus gave up his spirit. He willingly died for the creation.

Matthew points out who of Jesus’ disciples were actually there by his side. The disciples had fled but the women stayed. Joseph of Arimathea plays a significant role in the passion story. With Jesus’ comments in the Gospel of Matthew about the rich, it is interesting that Matthew points out that Joseph was a rich man. He made a bold move in asking for Jesus’ body. This could have gotten him thrown in prison or even killed but Pilate ordered that Jesus’ body be given to him. Using his own tomb, Joseph gives Jesus a proper burial because he was fully human and fully died.

Mary and the other Mary seem to be the only followers of Jesus who listened to Jesus that he was going to resurrect from the dead…though they seemed to miss the three days part. They sat faithfully across from Jesus’ tomb being the examples of what it looks like to fully follow Jesus.

Not only did Mary (x2) remember that Jesus said he was going to resurrect from the dead but the chief priests and the Pharisees remembered as well and asked for a guard to be posted. Sixteen men post guard anticipating the disciples and build our anticipating for what will happen tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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