If you ask for a list of favorite Bible stories in my household, today’s narrative makes the top three. Let me show you why. Jesus is heading southwest, toward Jerusalem. In Mark’s next chapter Jesus’ final week will begin. But first, Jesus passes through Jericho. As Jesus departs the city he is accompanied by a large crowd. It’s quite the procession.
Why did Jesus come, and why did he die? What do you think? By offering an answer you join a long line of pastors, theologians, and laypeople across time and space who have looked upon the life of Jesus and wondered about his mission and his particular end.
Jesus got upset. Most people are familiar with Jesus’ anger at what he witnessed in the temple (Mark 11:15-19). We call this “righteous anger.” You might also know Jesus became deeply upset upon the death of Lazarus (John 11:28-37). Jesus wept, and we often see this as being rooted in sorrow, grief, and loss.
One of my commitments as a Christian is to face things that are hard. This includes reflection on passages of Scripture that are not easily interpreted or that are difficult and painful to hear. Today’s reading is found at the beginning of one such passage when Jesus is questioned about divorce.
Whoa! This statement by Jesus literally knocked me to the floor, took my breath away, and caused my head to spin at the amazing speed of one million miles per hour, all before I had my first cup of coffee!
One of the things we do not often address in the community of faith is doubt. We encourage people to believe, to have faith, to express confidence in God. And that is good. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there are times when we enter a dark hour.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are one of Jesus’ closest associates. Jesus invites you and two other close friends to join him on retreat to a mountain location. Your imagination takes off.
One of the most prevalent and unmistakable themes running through Mark centers on the identity of Jesus. Who is he? Mark is clear: Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son (Mark 1:1). But for everyone else in the narrative Jesus’ identity is an open question. The only beings who identify Jesus immediately are the demons, whom Jesus quickly silences and dispels.
During a recent trip to the Hill Country, my family visited a ranch not far from Utopia, Texas. The ranch was not visible from the main road. We were told to look for a cast iron sign shaped like a Christmas tree, visible just past a specific mile marker.
In the Gospel of Mark, there is an observable narrative movement concerning the mystery of Jesus’ identity. Mark lets us in on the secret, telling us from the beginning that his account is one of good news concerning Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son.
In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus engages in a lengthy and detailed exchange about what constitutes cleanness and defilement. The Pharisees and teachers of the law came to speak with Jesus. The Pharisees were the strict moralists, the people who closely followed the commands and rules found in the law.
Jesus and his friends had been busy. Mark reports that the apostles had gone out, healed the sick, cast out demons, and announced the kingdom. Jesus listened to them as they told the stories. Mark adds that so many people were coming and going to see Jesus that his company did not even have time to eat.
The Jesus movement was growing exponentially. Jesus was becoming “well known.” The kingdom of God, which Jesus compared to a mustard seed, had taken root and was spreading (Mark 4:30-32). “King Herod heard about this.”
I’m a youth basketball coach. My players are six and under. This is the first time for five of my eight players to play organized hoops. Beginners begin at the beginning. Dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, defense. Fundamentals.
It’s easy to be afraid. It takes courage to have faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” To have faith, to believe, means to have confidence. Being of strong faith is born of knowing the one in whom you trust. When you see God is trustworthy, faith grows.