Judas, like many others, hoped Jesus would accomplish more. They hoped he would establish a new government and kingdom. This scene demonstrates just how blind everyone is to what Jesus is doing. He is going to do so much more than their hopes and dreams. He is establishing a new kingdom but it has a different politics than the kingdoms of the world. Swords and clubs have no purpose in his kingdom. Judas’ action is the epitome of betrayal. He isn’t a passive bystander following the temptations of the devil. He completely and willfully surrendered to darkness.
It’s hard to let go of how things used to be. It hasn’t even been a month since we cancelled large gatherings and began to socially distance ourselves, yet, I know for many of you, the weight and the heaviness of this time has made it seem like we’ve been living this way for so much longer than we have. We don’t want to let go of how things were. Some of us are afraid of what permanent changes may result from all of this going forward.
When you think about what you remember the most about where you’re from and growing up, I bet some of the first things you’ll recall are experiences you had and things you did with your family or friends. Lindsey Kay vividly remembers her older brother and sister seeing if she would fit in their family’s freezer. Haha. It was one of those refrigerator/freezer combos where the freezer was smaller and above the fridge section. For the record, she had many beautiful memories with her family too.
I am forever grateful for the community of Trinity UMC in Elkhart, IN for the way they loved me and my family growing up. From before first grade started through graduating high school, this was our home church. They challenged me to lead at an early age. They saw something in me long before I had any awareness of a calling to ministry. Like FMCM, Trinity was a multi-generational church.
Growing up in Indiana, it’s hard not to love the game of basketball. I’ve always loved to watch and play the game. It’s surreal not having March Madness this year. The opening weekend of the tournament was a tradition at my house every year. All of my friends would come stay overnight on Friday and we’d stay up late and watch all of the games. Point guard was always the position I played, in part, because I was typically the shortest person on the court. Shocking, I know. I didn’t finish growing into my towering 5ft. 8in. figure until my freshman year of college. Among the key responsibilities of a point guard is to protect and distribute the basketball amongst the team, creating opportunities for scoring without turning the ball over. In other words, protecting or guarding the basketball is more primary in this position.
Perhaps the most insidious temptation we face is distraction. How much of our time is gradually gone, unnoticed because we got lost scrolling through our news feed or were caught up watching a show or we didn’t feel like doing what we needed to be doing? After all, we have more time. We’ll get around to it later. The spiritual disciplines require intentional effort and focus. From here at the end of Mark through the history of the church, we’ve always wanted to know when the end will come.
A few years ago my friend, Cammie Avers, said, “Shea, God gave me a vision for you last night!” Of course I was excited and curious so I asked her what she saw. She said, “It’s not time for me to tell you yet. There is much you have to go through first. I’ll know when it’s time to tell you.” Don’t you hate it when that happens!? Someone comes up to you and says they have something really important to tell you and then they forget or realize they were speaking out of turn or discern it isn’t the right time. Meanwhile, you’re left hanging...and frustrated.
When you’re in your closet deciding what to wear, when you’re at the dinner party deciding where to sit, when duties are being drafted for the team project, when you’re all alone in the house, when you’re in the middle of a crowd walking into a stadium, in all the important places where you are making big decisions, and in every seemingly insignificant place, the Holy Spirit is with you. There isn’t a moment in our lives where God’s presence is absent. The last words Jesus says to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew are, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20).
Many of the Psalms speak about the Messiah coming through the line of David. Matthew, at the beginning of his Gospel, calls Jesus the “son of David” and proceeds to show us through his genealogy how Jesus is in the line of David. Blind Bartimaeus has already identified Jesus as the “son of David” a few chapters earlier. In 2 Samuel 7, we see God’s eternal promise through the line of David promising that his house will reign forever. It was widely expected that the Messiah would not only come through the line of David but would also be the kind of king and warrior David was.
Like a lot of men, I have trouble remembering where everything goes. Lindsey Kay will often tease me because I’ll mix up Max’s toys and put the dinosaurs in with the trucks. So I’m affectionately reminded where the dinosaurs go and where the trucks go. They each have their own separate compartments. Of course, this is especially true in the kitchen. You don’t want me putting dishes and mixing bowls away. That’s why my kitchen duties involve cleaning the dishes and loading the dishwasher...not putting them away.
I can’t help but hear echoes of what Jesus says in 9:19: “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Jesus teaches another parable that has the immediate effect of provoking the chief priests and teachers of the law who have been questioning him. They interpret the parable as a judgment against them. They aren’t wrong. But Jesus’ message in this parable is much broader than this small group in front of him. The farmers aren’t just these current teachers of the law who have rejected God’s only Son who has actually come to put everything right and in its proper place.
Lindsey Kay listens to a podcast called Stuff You Should Know. Hosts Josh and Chuck educate listeners on topics ranging from “The Amazing History of Soda” to “Can Nuclear Fusion Reactors Save the World?” It’s quirky and funny. The podcast is almost 12 years old with over 1,400 episodes! Needless to say, their brains have sizable storage for knowledge and information that continues to expand.
If I were to go to the grocery store expecting to buy watermelon and cantaloupe today, you might say, “Pastor Shea, let me explain something to you about when melons are ripe in this country.” The only melons I might find would be from Mexico or Central America. The summer months are when melons are ready in the U.S. On the off chance, I did find an American grown melon today, it probably wouldn’t taste very good. We’ve seen how Jesus’ knowledge and wisdom far exceeds our own. So what do you make of his reaction to the fig tree? Surely Jesus knows it isn’t the season for figs. While figs, in general, still grow in Israel, there are no more seasons for Israel and the temple to continue to function in the salvation history between God and his people in the same way. This particular fig tree symbolizes a permanent change.
Lindsey Kay loves to take pictures. She has always had a quality camera in addition to her phone. We won’t be short on pictures chronicling family life with baby Max and the dogs. I’m not looking forward to the days ahead when he grows tired of hearing us explain his earlier years to him. I don’t like thinking about him getting older. Right now, I’m enjoying how difficult it is trying to take a picture of a rambunctious 2 ½ year old who loves to run and play. These aren’t easy days for keeping pictures in focus. I’m becoming the designated picture taker as Lindsey Kay’s tremors have made it harder for her to take clear pictures. Tremors or not, it’s hard to hit the moving target that is Max William Reyenga.
Throughout this week’s First 15’s we have been hearing the echo of Jesus’ observation that “many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31). And here, in today’s passage, we come upon a character who certainly occupies that position of “last.” Jesus and his band of disciples are continuing their journey to Jerusalem and tucked in the crowds lining the road is a blind beggar. We are told by Mark that his name is Bartimaeus, which means “son of honor,” an ironic name if ever there was one for a man whose desperate lot in life has resigned him to a position of no honor, bumming for coins from those who pass him on the road.