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Mark 10 – The Blind Man Sees and Receives Sight

Mark chapter 10 is the end of a larger narrative that began in chapter 8:22. This central narrative of Mark begins and ends with blind men receiving their sight. The first blind man, as you may remember, gradually received his sight, first seeing men blurry as though they were trees. This first man received his sight gradually. The second man in 10:46-52 gains his sight immediately and as the bookend to this section he provides a contrast to the other stories found in chapter 10.

Chapters 8-10 are composed of three stories of Jesus proclaiming that he must suffer and die and then he turns to his disciples and tells them that they must do the same. They continually fail to understand who Jesus is and therefore continue to misunderstand what Jesus calls them to do. These three passion predictions by Jesus climax with James and John requesting that they have seats of honor when Jesus comes in his glory. The other apostles became indignant with them, not because they were any different than the Sons of Zebedee but because they too wanted the power that came with being close to Jesus. It is obvious that none of them understood who Jesus was.

Bartimaeus, the blind man at the end of the chapter, though he is blind, saw clearly who Jesus is. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem (10:32) when he came to Jericho (about 15 miles away). When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was near he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people around him rebuked him but his faith led him to call out to Jesus all the more. When Jesus called him over, he threw his cloak aside. This may not seem like a major detail but his cloak was probably laid across his legs to catch any money that people might toss his way. Is throwing his cloak aside, scattering the coins he would have to live off of, demonstrating that he has a better understanding for who Jesus is that the rich young ruler?

When Jesus called him, he went with blind abandonment; casting his belongings aside, jumping to his feet, he went to Jesus. The blind man staggering towards the voice of Christ is reminiscent of the demon-possessed boy’s father who went to Jesus and said, “Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:24). When he reached Jesus he was asked the same thing Jesus asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man asks for something the apostles thought they already had, the ability to see. When Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him, he immediately received his sight and “followed him on the way.” Some translations (like the NIV) translate that he followed Jesus “along the road.” The New Revised Standard Version (along with the KJV) better capture the imagery that Mark is painting by translating it as “the way.” The early church was called “The Way” before they were called Christians (Acts 9:2). Bartimaeus, who was able to see Jesus for who he is and received his sight at the gates of Jericho, was the first person Jesus allowed to follow him of the people that he healed.

To follow Jesus along “The Way” you must first have sight to see who Jesus is. We often desire Jesus because of the benefits we gain from following him. We desire his salvation but we don’t want to follow him on “the Way.” He called his disciples (and us) to follow the way of service in a world that promotes claims for power. The disciples time and again were blind to who Jesus is and were left confused by Jesus’ call to become servants and slaves to one another.

When the Sons of Zebedee make their request to Jesus he responds by asking, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” One can’t help but be reminded of the cup of the Lord’s Supper and of Baptism. These are the two earliest elements tied to Christian faith. We think of the cup as a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross for us, and our Baptism for our sins being washed away. When we only think of this we are solely focusing on what Jesus provides for us. We quickly forget what Jesus has called us to: to be self-sacrificial and servants to all. The Cup and Baptism are continual reminders for the life that Christ has called us to live.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Bible Blog, Mark

 

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John 13 – Shamefully Clean Feet (Love Each Other)

In this chapter, John does something that we see in every Gospel: He connects Jesus telling his Apostles of his impending death with a story about the Apostles failing to understand the kind of servant life he is calling them to.  None of those stories is as emotionally evocative as this one in John’s Gospel.

Even though it doesn’t say so specifically here, we know from the other Gospels that this was the Passover meal that we know as the Last Supper.  The Passover meal would have begun with everybody walking into the room and the one who was “the least” would take off his outer garment and begin washing all of the others’ feet.  Often this would have been the youngest or one who was actually a slave.  The problem began when all of the Apostles began arguing about which one of them was the least.  While they were all bickering, Jesus simply slipped off his robe and picked up the wash basin.  When suddenly they looked up they would have all been mortified.  While they didn’t know who was the least, they knew that Jesus was the greatest.  This was wrong.  It couldn’t stand.  

And Peter said so.  But Jesus insisted.  This is the way it has to be.  Jesus is done lecturing the Apostles about how the greatest must become the least.  He is showing them.  You can’t imagine that this is some happy motivational moment for the Apostles.  It’s deeply convicting.  The most dominant emotion for most of them was likely overwhelming guilt.  While they were refusing to wash feet because they were arguing about who was the greatest, the one who was the greatest actually began washing.  It’s likely that for the rest of their lives, any time somebody mentioned “greatness” that the Apostles’ thoughts would have gone back to this moment and they would have begun washing other people’s feet.

John then stops for a moment to explain how Judas came to betray Jesus.  You might have noticed that John (the beloved disciple) is very harsh towards Judas.  Any time he is mentioned in John’s Gospel, I can almost imagine John spitting just to get the vile taste of Judas’ name out of his mouth as he tells the story.

At the same time, just because Satan prompted Judas and entered Judas does not mean that Satan is in charge.  Even at this dark moment of Jesus’ betrayal, John understands who is in charge.  Vs 3 says that Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power.  Vs 18 says that Judas betrayed him to fulfill scripture.  Vs 27 goes so far as to tell us that Jesus instructed Judas how to go about his betrayal when he tells him to go quickly.  It may look like Satan is getting his way, but there is no question in John’s mind who is in charge of everything.  Jesus is no victim.  Jesus is in control.

Finally Jesus returns to the other Apostles and gives them what might be considered “John’s Great Commission.”  At this final moment before his arrest, trial and conviction, Jesus has a moment to leave them with his final words and they are: “Love one another.  As I have loved you, you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

We spend a lot of time in churches developing evangelism programs, marketing campaigns, visitor friendly whatever and that’s all good.  But it’s nothing without this, that we love each other.  Jesus has this unwavering belief that if his followers, both the Apostles and also just anybody who goes to church today, will just love each other then the world will know who we are and whose we are.

Want a church evangelism program?  Love everybody at your church.  Want a marketing campaign?  Treat other Christian like you love them.  Want to be visitor friendly?  Start by being member friendly.  Love each other.  Love each other.  The world will know you belong to Jesus if you just love each other.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in John

 

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Matthew 25 – The World is Going to End! How Should You Live?

The question of the end of time is not answered in any way really. As usual, Jesus answers the question that needs to be asked and isn’t being asked. The question was how to interpret the end times but Jesus gives us a cue that this question isn’t as important as we think it is. People have spent way too much time trying to predict the end of time. A major war breaks out and they think Jesus is about to return. The real focus of Jesus’ comments is that after he leaves we will not know when he will return but we should be ready. What do we do in the meantime? That is the question Jesus really answers.

In chapter 24 there is the parable of the two slaves and Jesus doesn’t explain it. Instead, Jesus tells two more parables in order to explain what the first parable was talking about: the ten virgins and the talents. These two parables together emphasize the necessity to be both watchful and the work necessary those who watch. Jesus uses the familiar formula of “The kingdom of heaven will be like this,” but this time he uses “Then” signifying to the disciples how they must learn to live in light of his death and resurrection. While Jesus is away, he calls us to live as he did in this world.

Jesus connects the parable of the ten virgins with the phrase, “for it as if.” The preparation of the five is associated with the money that has been entrusted to the three slaves. The parable of the talents is possibly one of the most misused parables. Jesus is not using this parable to recommend that we should work hard (not that working hard is  a bad thing). Stanley Hauerwas says that, “The parable of the talents is a clear judgment against those who think they deserve what they have earned, as well as those who do not know how precious is the gift they have been given.”

The servant who received only one talent feared losing what he had been given and turned it into a possession. The contrast is the other two recognized that to try to secure the gifts they had been given would mean they would certainly lose it. They understood the joy of the banquet, the joy that comes from learning to receive a gift without regret.

These two parables are commentaries on the slave who continued to work, to feed his fellow slaves, until the master returns. The climax of Jesus’ response to his disciple’s question is the Son of Man coming in his glory. Jesus will come as king but like the triumphal entry, Jesus isn’t the king like everyone expected. He is the servant king and in this case, he is the shepherd-king. He will separate the sheep and the goats. The question here is while the king was away; did you continue to do what he was doing? Were you a proper representative of him in this world? Did you continue to do what he started as the Kingdom of God?

It is significant that the righteous have not known that when they ministered in these ways that they did all of this for Jesus. It was simply in the fabric of who they had become. They were so in tune with Jesus that they naturally continued to do what he did. The second group also had no idea that these people they ignored were Jesus. Had they known, they would have served them. The difference between those who follow Jesus and those who do not know Jesus is that those who have seen Jesus no longer have any excuse to avoid the “least of these” because this is exactly what Jesus was about. As Christians, we should naturally continue Jesus’ ministry in everything we do. Who are the “least of these” in our society? We tend to look to the list that Jesus gave and just minister to them because he has told us that when we minister to them we are actually taking care of him. Jesus died for all people. He died for the least of these. He died for those who are despicable in our society. Who are these people? How can we serve them?

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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