March 26 – The Anointing of Jesus, A Love Story

Read Mark 14:1-11

The account of Jesus’ anointing in Mark 14 is a story of love told from three perspectives.   It was two days before Passover and knowing it was close to the time He would be crucified, Jesus wanted to be with friends, so he went to a little village called Bethany about 2 miles from Jerusalem that he frequented.

Jesus had just predicted the utter destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and as you might expect, this didn’t make him very popular with the authorities.  In fact at that very moment they were consumed with devising a plan to have Jesus killed.  You see, these authorities were in love;  in love with power.  They were in love with the need to maintain their power in a very tumultuous, uncertain time.  Their love of power was so strong that it had led them to miss the truth about the Messiah, and ultimately seek to have him destroyed.

Judas was in love as well.  Judas was what was known as a zealot.  In Jesus’s day zealots were a faction of Judaism driven by socioeconomic reasons to overthrow Rome’s occupation of Israel.  However the zealots also believed that if they turned Israel toward God and incited the nation to war with the Romans that the Messiah would rise up from their midst and set up his kingdom.  The zealots were in love.  They were in love with an idea, albeit a wrong idea.  Judas believed in that idea more than he believed in Jesus as God’s son.  In fact all of Jesus’s  talk of dying must have been a huge disappointment to Judas.  Judas expected messiah to come with power and crush the Roman enemy, not be killed by them.  Ultimately Judas’ love for his misinterpreted messiah led him to betray Jesus.

Finally, there was “a woman”.  The bible doesn’t even mention her name.  She was in love too.  She was in love with her Savior.  She was so in love, in fact that she took the most costly thing she owned, a jar of perfume from India which would have cost about a year’s wages, and she broke it open and poured it over Jesus’ head.

To those in love with power, it seemed a silly thing to do.  Waste something so costly for no good reason.  She could have sold it and been rich.  To those in love with their ideas, it seemed sinful, as she could have helped the poor.  But to the one in love with the Savior it was simply the most extravagant way she could think of to show Him in some small way that he was worth more to her than everything she owned on this earth.  Jesus saw her heart, He knew her motives, and He was touched by her kindness.

ejt

Posted in Entry to Ascension, Mark

March 25: Christ’s Return

Read Matthew 24:1-51

The disciples are a confusing group to understand.  At times, they seem to be unaware of the necessity and unwilling to accept the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and His eventual departure from the earth.  Meanwhile, we read passages like Matthew 24, in which they specifically ask about the timing and signs of His return.  So, when will He return?  Did you understand that from the text?

Before we attempt an answer to that question, it is essential to understand what is meant by “Christ’s coming.”  Many readers equate the “coming” spoken of here with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, when Christ will return in the air to resurrect the bodies of those who died in faith in Christ and to receive those who are alive in faith.  Together, these go to heaven while tribulation breaks out on earth.  That is the “rapture.”  But that is not the focus of Matthew 24.

In reality, the coming spoken of in this passage is the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation.  At that time, He will return with the redeemed from the church age to reign on the earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6).

As to the precise timing of this event, it is humanly unknowable.  In fact, neither the angels nor Christ know precisely when it will take place.  Only the Father is aware (v. 36).  Like the flood of Genesis 6-8, we can know that it will happen, but we will not know when it will happen (vv. 37-41).

But, while we may not know the precise timing, there are things that people will be able to watch for and other things to ignore.   People should ignore the claims of many that they are the Christ and the false prophets that will attempt to mislead (vv. 5, 11).  Meanwhile, there will be signs that precede His return.  These signs include:

  • Increased conflict on the earth (vv. 6, 7)
  • Multiplied false teachers (v. 11)
  • Worldwide gospel proclamation (v. 14)
  • Blaspheming abomination of desolation (vv. 15-18; cf. Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:3)

Ultimately, there will be no mistaking His return.  There will be no need to ask, “Was that it?” or “Is that Christ?”  It will be visible and obvious to all (vv. 29-31).

Are you living a pure, evangelistic life that anticipates His return at the rapture and, then later, His coming to the earth?

sbk

Posted in Entry to Ascension, Matthew

March 24: The Pharisee in Me?

Read Matthew 23:1-39

As one who has a firm grasp of the obvious, let me just say, “The scribes and Pharisees were not Christ’s favorite groups of people.”

I realize, it does not take a theological degree to recognize that!  After all, in the final days leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus made it abundantly clear as He warned the crowds and disciples against them (vv. 1-12) and, then, as He proclaimed “seven woes” towards them (vv. 13-36).  Bottom line, Jesus hated hypocrisy, and that is what characterized these first-century men.

Before we adopt a “holier-than-thou,” “I’m-glad-I-don’t-have-that-problem” mentality about them, however, it is important that we allow the truths of these warnings and woes to be points of examination in our own lives.  Let’s use God’s word to pose some pressing questions that penetrate our skin and reach to our souls.

  1. Do I have expectations of others that I do not fulfill myself? (vv. 3, 4)
  2. Am I all about appearance and titles rather than service? (vv. 5-12)
  3. If others became like me, would this lead them to a closer relationship with God or further from Him? (vv. 13-15)
  4. Do I have an inconsistent and unbiblical set of rules that orders sin according to severity? (vv. 16-22)
  5. Do I give too much attention to the minutiae while overlooking God’s overarching plans? (vv. 23, 24)
  6. Am I guilty of giving more attention to external issues rather than issues of the heart? (vv. 25-28)
  7. As I criticize those from my past, do I overlook the same tendencies within me? (vv. 29-36)

Are there hypocritical issues that need to be addressed in your life?  Don’t excuse them any longer.  Pause now and get them out in the open before God.  Confess them as sin that displeases Him and invite Him to transform those areas of your life.

sbk

Posted in Entry to Ascension, Matthew

March 23: Interrogation

Read Mark 12:13-40

Christ’s ministry threatened the attempts of other religious leaders and sects of the day.  As the countdown timer continued to tick off the time towards the crucifixion, leaders of some of those groups came to Him.  They came to pose questions.  In at least one instance (perhaps all three?), the question was originally designed to trap Him.  If He lost credibility, you see, perhaps they could regain theirs!

The encounter with the Pharisees and Herodians (vv. 13-17)

This was an unlikely partnership that began back in Mark 3:6.  Pharisees developed external and extra-biblical laws that they imposed on others but did not keep themselves.  Herodians were an elite political party that had greater national interests than they did spiritual interests.  Still looking for reason to have Jesus executed.  They asked about taxes.  But, yes, even we as Christ-followers have responsibility to our nation!

The question from the Sadducees (vv. 18-27)

Sadducees were unique in two ways.  First, they only adhered to the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and not to the entire Old Testament.  Second, they did not believe that there was a physical resurrection of the dead.  Jesus makes clear, however, that God is the God of the living!  There is life after this life.  For believers in Jesus, He is “the resurrection and the life; he who believes in [Him] shall live even if he dies.” (Jn. 11:25)

The inquiry of a Scribe (vv. 28-34)

Scribes were experts in the Old Testament.  And yet, they seemed to base their interpretations of the Scriptures on the teaching of rabbis of the past and present rather than authoritatively making their own assertions from the word of God (Mk. 1:22).  If you read this man’s question in its context, you may wonder too, if it was an honest one rather than a trap.  Regardless, the answer is clear…and just as valid today.  Christianity has both vertical and horizontal dimensions that cannot be ignored.  We must love God and love people!

The teaching of Jesus (vv. 35-40)

While we may wonder about the motive of the specific scribe mentioned above, as things quiet down, Jesus capitalizes on the opportunity to point out a misunderstanding and a warning about the scribes in general.  Scribes had minimized Christ’s authority (vv. 35-37) while inordinately maximizing their own (vv. 38-40).  Guard yourself against those pitfalls!

sbk

Posted in Entry to Ascension, Mark

March 22: If Only They Would See

Luke 19:28-44

Hailing Jesus as King when He entered Jerusalem, the crowd liked their ideas of what Messiah would do.

They figured He’d reign in their immediate kingdom. They thought that was why He was now in Jerusalem. They expected Him to overthrow the ruling Romans and save them like they thought He’d promised. So they threw down their robes, and loudly hailed Him as King.

But their idea of His kingdom was entirely different from the truth of what Jesus would endure to procure it. The people couldn’t recognize it, though, for the excitement of their own ideas. Just over a week later, that crowd’s chant would change from Hosanna! to Crucify!

I imagine Jesus full of emotion as He rode in that day. Emotion and passion and perfect purpose for His plan.

(I)f these were silent, the very stones would cry out (v40).

I wonder if His thoughts went to next week when the rocks would do just that as the earth shook and the rocks split at the gift of His last breath. (See Matt. 27:51.)

The. Very. Stones. Would. Cry. Out.

Then Jesus caught a glimpse of the city that would put Him to death. The time and place for which He had lived His entire life. The moment that would quite literally change history forever.

I imagine the glimpse, a quick sucking in of His breath, tears starting to fall as His voice breaks hard and turns to weeping for people He loved so much He was about to give everything for them.

If only you would recognize me! If only you could see!

But most of them couldn’t see. They wouldn’t. Even when they watched Him endure what He did just a few days later on that cross on that hill. They just stuck to their guns, unwilling to budge on their own expectations.

Pride is what kept them from seeing their need. The Pharisees and the majority of the people in that crowd couldn’t see beyond their own ideas of what God should be doing, so they missed the peace, the life, the real kingdom He offered.

Pride. It’s an age-old problem. Even today, it can keep us from seeing Jesus Christ as the One True Savior. Unless we are willing to accept His way, faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to real life, we will miss it too.

Don’t miss it!

brw

Posted in Entry to Ascension | Tagged

March 21 – The Bond Between the Faithful

Read Romans 16

Have you ever noticed that there is a special bond between believers?  Even when you meet someone new, once you know they are a believer, it’s almost as though you immediately share something and have a connection.  There is an even deeper connection between those who have served side by side with you for the gospel.  The deepest connections are shared between those who have labored together through hardship.  These can be among the most special of relationships.

It’s interesting to note that Paul had never been to Rome, so it’s very likely that Paul had never met at least some of the people he recognized in the text.  This shows the deep connection Paul and the believers in Rome shared because of their faith and the level of communication that was circulating among the various churches at the time.  Paul had heard of the service of these individuals from others and was eager to commend them for their distinguished work.

Because most of Paul’s writing constitutes teaching and correction of the churches, it can be easy to see him at a distance and forget that he was a person just like us.  Among the things Paul mentions about these believers are the following: servant of the church, fellow workers in Christ Jesus, worked very hard, been in prison with me, I love in the lord, fellow worker in Christ, my dear friend, has been a mother to me, etc.  Each of these snippets is a snapshot into Paul’s personal world and it appears that it was a world rich with personal experience and deep relationships.

Of particular note is the number of women mentioned among these respected believers.  Paul specifically mentions: Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junias, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, Nereus’ sister.  Both the number of women mentioned and the specific words Paul uses to describe their service shows that the church had provided an environment where women had become an integral part of the mission of the church and it also shows that the early church had really elevated the role of women in a society where they were commonly regarded as property and not permitted much freedom outside the home.

God’s mission for us as believers while on earth not only serves to advance His kingdom, it can also produce for us some of the best relationships that can be had this side of heaven.

ejt

Posted in Romans

March 20: On Mission!

Read Romans 15:1-33

This is one of my all time favorite passages of Scripture.  It may seem like an odd choice.  Most people choose passages that make great promises of God’s faithfulness.  This one is Paul’s personal description of his ministry past, present, and future.  Nevertheless, God used this passage to prompt our family to move towards European missions years ago.  And He used it again today to prompt me to be on mission in Wooster, Ohio.  Here are some of the things that touched me.

Paul’s purpose:  Paul understood his call to be that of taking the gospel to the Gentiles…especially in regions of the then known world where Christ was not known.  Amazing!  I am challenged to consider those in my world…and around the world…who yet need to clearly hear about the Savior.

Paul’s past ministry:  Somehow, Paul was able to say that he had “fully proclaimed the gospel…from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum…” (v. 19)  That means he had traveled from Jerusalem into Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and even as far as present day Croatia.  In any given location, he spent anywhere from days to months and years as he faithfully shared the gospel.  Wow!  I have to ask whether I see myself as Christ’s ambassador everywhere I go.

Paul’s present ministry:  As Paul wrote these words, he was carrying financial gifts from Christians in other parts of the world to Jewish believers Jerusalem.  Paul wasn’t only about evangelism.  He had a genuine concern for all who knew Christ as well.  Incredible!  I need to pause to ask myself about the limitations I may place on my own sacrifice for the welfare of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul’s future ministry:  Paul had plans of pushing even further westward.  He wanted to spend time in Rome where he would encourage the believers.  But even Rome was only a stepping-stone to Spain, the land that formed the western border of the Mediterranean.  It was there that people lived who had yet to hear about Christ.  Impressive!  I must ask what my goals are for expanding the work of Christ!

Where will today take me?  I know some of what I have in mind, but I must see myself as God’s servant no matter where I am.

sbk

Posted in Romans