Mark 1

Mark doesn’t mince words. He dives right into it with the prophecies of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 – prophecies that point to the forerunner, John the Baptist who came preaching a baptism of repentance. Virtually “all the land of Judea” went out to him and were baptized by him, including Jesus Himself. I love the way John lifts up the coming Messiah in comparison to himself, in Mark 1:7-8, “And he preached, saying, ‘There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Jesus defeated the devil and went forward in ministry, preaching the Kingdom, declaring His time as the fulfillment of prophecy, and calling on the people to repent and believe (v. 15).

Jesus personally called His Apostles to be fishers of men, rather than fishers of fish. Peter, Andrew, James, and John all left their nets and followed Him.

Jesus proceeded to teach and preach with authority, to cast out demons, and bring healing to the people. They were astonished (v. 22) and amazed (v. 27) at the way He did all things with such awesome “authority” (see also Matthew 28:18-20).

I’ve always loved the way Mark gives us a glimpse into the secret to Jesus’ power – His prayer life. Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” No doubt the best part of prayer for Jesus was that time He spent, all alone with His Father, but it was also there where He received unction to function and direction for life and ministry – He was to preach, teach, and heal in other towns as well.

Warren Wiersbe said this, “Where did the Servant get His power? He depended on the Holy Spirit (v. 12) and prayer (v. 35). He did not allow the demands of the work to rob Him of the time He needed to renew His strength. If the holy Son of God needed to pray, how much more do you need to pray!”

Sandy Adams said, “There were reasons Jesus got things done without coming undone. He rose before daybreak, found a private place, and spent time with God. He fueled His spiritual tank in the morning and ran off high-octane fellowship all day long. We run down because we don’t stop to fill up.”

Two healings from Mark 1 jump out at me. The first is Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (nothing’s too small). The second is Jesus healing the leper, He did so by touching him. I am that leper; I was virtually dead and desensitized, all alone and without hope, until the heart and hands of Jesus Christ stretched forth to touch this leper…and make me clean. Thank You Lord!

Mark 2

Word about Jesus travels fast. Jesus is teaching, preaching, and healing with all authority. One day Jesus is ministering in a house that’s completely packed out – it was so packed, that four men who had brought their paralytic friend to Jesus couldn’t get in. Most people would have given up, they would have waited outside, or maybe tried another day – but not these friends. They cared, so they carried their friend to the top of the house, broke open the roof and let down the stretcher they had him on.

Sandy Adams said, “We all need friends with intercessory faith, who will bring us to Jesus when we are too weak to come ourselves.”

Jesus was amazed at their faith, and not only healed him physically, but he met his greatest need, spiritually, and his sins were forgiven.

Warren Wiersbe said, “The healing of the body is a great miracle, but it does not last. The forgiveness of sin is God’s greatest miracle, for it lasts forever and accomplishes the greatest good.”

Some of the religious leaders (old wineskins) had a problem with the Christ of the New Covenant, but Jesus proved Himself to them, time and time again.

Jesus continued to collect a rather Motley Crew as He calls Matthew the Tax Collector (of all people!). Matthew answered His call, left it all behind and followed Jesus. Jesus continued to shatter the traditional approach as He ate and spent some quality time with big time sinners. He was criticized sharply for it, but I’ve always loved His response in Mark 2:17, “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”

Jesus is then questioned about fasting, but the one thing about fasting is that it must be Spirit-led, it can’t just be regular routines. Jesus responds by saying the day for His disciples to fast would come – when He ascended into heaven. Jesus did fast at times, but with His disciples on earth, it was a celebration, a time of feasting. Blessed is the person who knows the difference. (See Mark 2:19-20)

Next, the religious leaders criticized the disciples when they were hungry and in need, and plucked the heads of grain, eating on the Sabbath Day.

It’s sad, but so often we miss the point, the Sabbath was made for man – to bless him, not burden him; to sustain him, not starve him. Jesus pointed them to the written Word in 1 Samuel 21, and then He pointed them to the Living Word – He was right there in their presence, the Christ, Who has the final Word, after all, He is Lord of all! Warren Wiersbe said,“Man’s religious traditions can be a terrible yoke of bondage; but when you follow the Lord, you experience freedom and rest.”

Be open, be flexible, God might be doing a new work, and new wine must be put into new wineskins. Remember, “Methods are many, principles are few, methods always change, principles never do.”

Mark 3

Jesus continues to prove who He is, His words and works, His message and miracles all point to His identity as the Christ, the Son of the living God, but the religious leaders despise Him.

Jesus is in the Synagogue, where there is a man with a withered hand; the religious leaders are watching Him to see if He’s going to heal the man, they’re convinced that it’s wrong to heal on the Sabbath Day (imagine that). Jesus tries to reason with them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…” but their hearts are hard, like concrete. Jesus heals the man, so they plot to destroy Him.

Multitudes are now following Jesus, so, after praying all night (Luke 6:12) Jesus chooses His 12 Apostles, whom He would train for the next 3 years; their training would consist simply in being “with Him” (3:14; Acts 4:13). That’s the best training, schooling, and preparation we could ever have, just being with Him!

The hostility continues to escalate, Jesus is now accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub. Jesus points out the foolishness of their claim, if a kingdom is divided against itself, it will fall. On the contrary, Jesus is binding the enemy and plundering his goods (the people held captive by the devil).

His accusers were resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit, so Jesus warns them – all sin is able to be forgiven, but the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, He convicts us of our sin and convinces us of the judgment to come, and the righteousness found in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit is the one who draws us to Jesus – so there is no hope for salvation if we resist Him and reject His message (Acts 7:51).

Warren Wiersbe said, “In spite of all that Jesus did and said, they hardened their hearts and resisted His ministry, even to the extent of accusing Him of being in league with Satan. In the end, they cooperated with the evil one!”

When His mother and brothers came looking for Jesus, it’s interesting to note that He identified His mother, brothers, and sisters as those who did the will of the Father, they were His “family.” More than likely, at this point of His ministry, Mary and Jesus’ half-brothers, questioned Jesus’ ministry. Mark 3:21 may include them.

Mark 4

Jesus now begins to teach in parables. A simple way of defining a parable is, “An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” These would be everyday experiences that the people would be able to relate to, the only question is would they be able to make that spiritual connection? The parable of the Sower, seed, and soils is a perfect place to start.

In order to bear much fruit, the condition of the soil is most important. Some hearts are hard, other hearts are shallow, and then there are those whose hearts are crowded. The hard heart is not open to the Word (which is what the seed symbolizes) and the enemy comes and snatches away that Word. The shallow heart gets excited about the Word, but the roots don’t go deep (there’s no room to grow), and when the trials come, this person withers away. The crowded heart is the one that I’m most concerned with in my life. The Word is sown, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful. (we can get so busy and/or materialistic)

O Lord, please grant us an open heart, with soft soil, and good ground for Your Word to fall on. Please weed out ANYTHING that doesn’t belong.

When I think of fruit, I think of both moral and ministry fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23; John 15:8, 16). O Lord, I long to bear 100-fold fruit.

Some see Jesus as trying to hide the truth through parables, but Matthew 13:15 insightfully lays the blame where it belongs, on the people, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes THEY have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”

I’ve always loved the parable of the growing seed. I’ve taken this parable very personally. My calling and responsibility is to first receive the message/the seed/the Word from God and then to simply scatter it and give it to the people. God will do the rest. I can rest in God doing the rest; I don’t know exactly how He does it, but He does!  It’s His church and it’s His kingdom! He is working and preparing everything and everyone for that great day of harvest!

The parable of the mustard seed that becomes a tree can be taken to be an abnormal but miraculous growth, which is a good thing for people to come and nest under its shade, but I’ve always seen those birds as bad. Sad to say, but in every church, there will be bad birds in the branches, tares will be planted and hide among the wheat, even wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mark closes this chapter with Jesus’ promise to go to the other side (35b). When the storm hits, they should have peacefully woken Him up and asked Jesus for help; instead they were poisoned with fear to the point of and accusing Christ of not caring (We see something similar inPsalm 44:23). Jesus stunned them all, be stilling the storm. Who can this be that even the wind and sea obey Him? (Mark 4:41) Answer – “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Mark 5

What an amazing chapter of signs and wonders our Lord does, beginning with a man who is demon-possessed. Mark highlights one of two men who lives in a cemetery, who could not be tamed, he would only cry out night and day as he cut himself with stones. If we put two and two together, it’s obvious to see that the enemy was trying to kill this man, and the only way he could speed up the process is if the man committed suicide – which explains the self-destructive behavior.

Jesus crosses the sea to save him, He casts out the legion of demons who beg to enter the pigs – permission is granted, the pigs die, and the people of the city are completely blind to what just took place. God showed up to demonstrate His love and power, but they just beg Him to leave. Sounds like a pretty good summary of societies’ indifference towards Jesus.

The man who’s been healed wants to stay with Jesus, but Christ commands him to go out into the world, to tell his story of what God has done for him…and he does.

I’ve always loved the account of the woman who was healed from the flow of blood because she stood out in the crowd. Everyone was thronging Jesus and touching Jesus, but not like her. She was different, she had a desperate and determined faith, and she fought her way through the crowd, touched His garment and experienced God’s power.

Jesus commended her in Mark 5:34, “And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.’”

The woman had been suffering for 12 years and on the other side of the spectrum was a little girl only 12-years-old. Jairus, had also tried everything, what father wouldn’t? But he hadn’t tried Jesus, how could he? None of the religious leaders approved of Him, and Jairus was not only a member of the Synagogue, he was the ruler of the Synagogue! This would jeopardize his position his life as he knew it, but he was willing to lose it all, in order to do the right thing and go to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. Thank God that he did, his little girl was raised from the dead, all because of her daddy’s determined faith.

Never underestimate your prayers as a parent!

Mark 6

The chapter begins with Jesus being rejected at his hometown of Nazareth. It wasn’t that they weren’t impressed with His teaching, it’s just that they remembered Him from the neighborhood. It’s been well said that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” And there may have been more. To call Jesus the “Son of Mary,” was a cultural insult; they may have been pointing to what they thought was Jesus’ illegitimate birth…who was His real father? They paid the price for their lack of faith and Jesus could do no mighty works there, not that God Himself is limited, but we limit Him through our unbelief.

Jesus then sends out the 12, 2-by-2, giving them power over unclean spirits, commanding them to take nothing with them, so they’d learn the lesson of God’s provision. They weren’t to be picky in their lodging, just grateful, and to those who rejected the message, they were to shake off the dust of that city, separating themselves from the judgment to come. We read a synopsis of their mission in Mark 6:12-13, “So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.”

It’s so sad to read of the beheading of John the Baptist, simply because he was bold enough to speak the truth in love.

Things were getting so busy, Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have time to eat, so Jesus leads His disciples aside, hoping to get some rest, but the people find them, and their needs are great, so the Lord tends to them compassionately. We read in Mark 6:34, “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.”

The sun would be setting soon so the disciples suggested to Jesus that He send the people away, that they might go into the nearby towns to buy food. But Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” They didn’t have enough money, and definitely didn’t have enough food – they only had 5 loaves and 2 fish, but they gave it to Jesus (the key to victory), and He fed the 5,000 men, plus women and children (Matthew 14:21) with plenty of leftovers.

The Gospel of John tells us (John 6:15) that at this time the people wanted to make Jesus King, so He sends everyone away and goes to the mountain to pray. As He prays, He sees them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them, and He came to them walking on the sea. Jesus sees you too friend, they way you’re straining, the way the wind is against you; He’s praying for you and comes to you with the wind, waves, and water all under His feet. Thank You Lord!

They were afraid, but Jesus stilled their hearts, as well as the storm, and they marveled. Mark tells us that, “they had not understood about the loaves because their hearts were hardened,” meaning that they weren’t able to see Jesus’ deity – they weren’t open.

When they came to the other side, the people came to Him, “…and as many as touched Him were made well.” So simple and yet so rare. All it takes is a touch of faith.

Mark 7

How easily we can drift into the rules and regulations of men, and make them more authoritative than the Word of God. That’s what happened to the Pharisees who had even developed a certain way of washing their hands – something they mandated upon others. When they criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands according to their standards, Jesus used this opportunity to rebuke them for their hypocritical ways. They had developed a law called Corban, teaching that rather than honoring one’s parents, they could take those resources and give them as an offering to the Temple – Jesus summarized it in Mark 7:12-13, “then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Jesus went on to teach that it’s not what goes in to a man that defiles him, it’s what comes out of a man. The Pharisees thought they’d be contaminated by possibly touching something unclean in the marketplace; how wrong they were, their hands may have been clean, but their hearts were filthy.

Warren Wiersbe offers insight, “Unless we are very careful, religious rituals can create serious problems. They may be given as much authority as God’s Word (v. 7) and even replace God’s Word (v. 9). They may give a false confidence that what you do on the outside will somehow change the inside. But the heart must be changed, and external rituals cannot do that. The heart can be purified only by faith (Acts 15:9).”

As the Jewish leaders are rejecting Jesus, a Gentile woman comes to Him and expresses some of the greatest faith you’ll ever see. Her daughter had an unclean spirit and she kept asking Jesus to cast out the demon. Jesus initially told her that He was here for the Jews first – for the children first, and not the puppies – He was testing her faith. But she wasn’t offended at Jesus’ statement, she was confident in the power and breadth of God’s love for all people and expressed to Jesus that all she needed was some of the crumbs the children give to the little dogs. Jesus’ response teaches us that prevailing prayer makes a difference. Mark 7:29, “Then He said to her, ‘For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.’”

Pastor Chuck Smith said this, “He (Jesus) wanted to draw out her faith to its full expression…when it looks like God isn’t going to help us, our faith is really tested. It is then that the Lord allows us to see and to show what we are made of. Do you just pray once for something and then give up? Or are you faithful and persistent in prayer, no matter how the circumstances look? If you are, you will see miracles.”

Jesus then went on to heal a deaf man with a speech impediment. All this is the beginning of a beautiful and wonderful fulfillment of Isaiah 35 – in this case we see one verse especially highlighted: Isaiah 35:5, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.”

Has anyone other than Jesus ever done this? I think not (see John 9:32).

Mark 8

Once again Jesus feeds the thousands, this time it’s 4,000 men, plus women and children (Matthew 15:38). Not only does Jesus want to meet the needs of the people, He also wants to show His disciples who He is, but unfortunately, they lack perception and understanding, their hearts are hard, they’ve shut their eyes, and closed their ears. Jesus’ signs were not sinking in, they weren’t mindful of His miracles. It’s almost as if Jesus couldn’t understand how they couldn’t understand (Mark 8:21).

Warren Wiersbe, “They apparently ‘soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel’ (Ps. 106:13). Each work that He does should encourage you to trust Him…”

Here were the Pharisees asking for a sign when the signs were all around them, even right in front of them. Jesus warned His disciples to beware of this type of leaven.

When Jesus healed the blind man, it wasn’t instantly, it was a process; sometimes the Lord heals in this way, over time.

The most important question anyone will every answer is “Who do you say Jesus is?” The world has various opinions, some say one thing, some another, a random rabbi, typical teacher, passing prophet, there are various views in our world, but it’s a personal question that every individual must answer.

Mark 8:29, “He said to them, ‘But who do YOU say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’” Christ means “Anointed.” Jesus is the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King – those were the Old Testament offices that experienced God’s anointing. As Prophet He is the Messenger, as Priest He is the Mediator, and as King He is Master.

Jesus preps His disciples for the cross He would soon carry, and Peter swiftly transitions from a spokesman for God, to a spokesman for Satan – my how we so quickly fluctuate! Peter’s problem was that he wasn’t mindful of the things of God, he was missing his calling as a Christian, so Jesus makes it clear, in His call for us all…to carry our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34-38).

Mark 9

As Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up the mountain, He is transfigured before them. Luke tells us that it was “as He prayed…”(Luke 9:29). Once again, the disciples were sleeping while Jesus was praying (I think there’s a message here). Eventually they were awakened to get a glimpse of His glory unveiled. They woke to see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, representatives of the Law and the Prophets. Peter didn’t know what to say, so he suggested they make 3 tabernacles (1 for each of them) he wanted to stay on the mountain. The Father interrupted Peter – and – corrected Peter, pointing Him to Jesus only, “This is My beloved Son, hear Him.”Peter writes about this glorious event in 2 Peter 1:16-18.

On the way down the mountain Jesus answers their question about the prophecy of Elijah in Malachi 4:5-6; Jesus essentially tells them that Elijah will come again before His Second Coming (see Revelation 11), but in another sense Elijah has come, John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

As often is the case, the demon-possessed valley follows the mountaintop experience, and sure enough, Jesus is met with a situation (great multitudes were there) where a boy was demon-possessed, and the disciples could not cast it out. Jesus was a bit frustrated with their lack of faith (the father and His followers) and He casts out the demon. Later the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the demon, to which Jesus responds in, Mark 9:29, “So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’”

Wiersbe, “The nine disciples who were left behind had neglected their spiritual disciplines and lost their power (v. 29; 6:7). When you find yourself defeated, turn to Him for victory and discover where you went wrong.”

“O Lord, please give me wisdom in this, how would You have me to fast? We are in desperate need of Your power. Your words to this father reside and resonate deep within me, as well as his response to Your words in Mark 9:23-24, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Jesus goes on to predict His cross and resurrection; He, once again addresses their pride as they argue about who would be the greatest, and He forbids divisions over local congregations or Christian denominations – even warning them not to make these little ones stumble.

“O Lord, help us to take these things to heart – big time – for these are heavy, heavy warnings.”

Wiersbe, “If you pamper sin in your life, you will lose your ‘salty’ character and not be able to affect others for Christ. Deal drastically with sin as a surgeon does with a cancerous tumor.”

Mark 10

The Pharisees come to Jesus with a question about divorce, they were testing Him. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus puts the question back in their lap, and they say divorce is ok, looking only to the surface of the Scriptures…but Jesus goes deeper. Jesus takes them back to the original marriage, the origin of marriage and reveals the fact that there was a concession in the Mosaic law because of the hardness of man’s heart, but the Master’s law is, “What God has joined together, let not man separate!” (the only exception being adultery and abandonment -1 Corinthians 7:15)

Divorce in such trivial cases might be allowed by the law of the land, but it doesn’t line up with the heart of God for marriage – He’s made us one, and we are to remain one – this type of love, is true love and blessed by God.

In those days children weren’t esteemed as they should be, but Jesus loves the little children, lifts them up as infinitely important, and even uses them as an example of faith, for all to follow.

In those days if you were rich, you were considered blessed by God and, for the most part, in good standing with Him. But Jesus teaches us, through His dealing with the Rich Young Ruler that it is hard for a rich man to go to heaven. The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus knowing he needed more than religion, he saw something in Christ that called him, but in the end, he went away, choosing riches over righteousness.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”That should stop me in my tracks when I’m tempted to make some moves to make more money, maybe it would be better to learn to live within my means.

Peter asks the Lord about any rewards they might receive, since they had left all to serve and follow Christ – Jesus promises blessing on earth and rewards in heaven, but He wouldn’t leave out the fact that there’s a cross before the crown.

Again, Jesus predicts His cross and resurrection, and again, the guys ignore the cross in every way; a couple of them start jockeying for position. It’s ironic, Jesus came for humiliation and His so called followers look for exaltation. Jesus uses this as another teaching moment, He explains the fact that the non-believer wants to rule over others, but those in the Kingdom of God are called to SERVE others. As a matter of fact, if you want to be great – be a servant, and if you want to be first, be the slave of all! Of course Jesus is our example and leader in every way. (see Mark 10:45)

Mark 10 closes with Blind Bartimaeus teaching us how to pray – he heard there was hope that Jesus might hear him, and he cried out for mercy. They told him to be quiet, but he yelled even louder. He caught Jesus’ attention who came to him, spoke with him…and answered by healing him. (See Mark 10:52)

Mark 11

Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem on a donkey had been predicted – to the very day.

We read one prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was the Day He presented Himself to Israel, He didn’t hold back, for this Day had been prophesied in Daniel 9:25 predicting 69 7-year periods, which on the Jewish calendar totals 173,880 days after the command of Artaxerxes to restore and build Jerusalem, bringing them to April 6, 32 AD, the VERY DAY Jesus rode into Jerusalem – here He was Messiah the Prince!

The initial response of the people was receptive, they fulfilled prophecy in quoting from Psalm 118, which everyone knew to be a Messianic Psalm.

Unfortunately, their faith in Him would not last long, it would wither away, pictured in the fruitless and withering Fig Tree, also giving a visual of the judgment to come. The religious leaders were lining their pockets with the exorbitant charges of the money changers and those who sold “pre-approved” sacrifices…so Jesus cleaned house, and drove them out. People were making light of the Temple, despising it when it was supposed to be a House of Prayer for all Nations (they had made it a den of thieves).

Peter is amazed by the way the Fig Tree withered away, roots and all, and Jesus uses this as an illustration of the power of prayer – if we have faith we can move mountains, if we believe, Jesus says, we will receive – it’s the power of God when found within the will of God (1 John 5:14). But not only do we need faith, we also need forgiveness – we must forgive others, for if we don’t, our Father won’t forgive us – a serious and sobering warning!

The religious leaders questioned Jesus’ actions and authority, He hadn’t gone to their schools, or run with their circles, He hadn’t been elected into office, or appointed by the Romans, how could He have the audacity to clean house like this and oppose them in their positions of power – where did Jesus get that authority?

Jesus responds with a question of His own, “What about the baptism of John? Was it from heaven or from men?” If they would be honest with that question, they would have their answer, but they weren’t willing to be honest, they weren’t open, they weren’t real. They thought they could simply forget God’s prophet, bury him and be done with him, but they couldn’t. God wouldn’t go any further with them, until they honestly dealt with what He’d already given them.

Is there anything in my life that the Lord has been saying or dealing with – and I just won’t listen and surrender? If so, I very well might be stuck, or worse…in danger of judgment. “O Lord, please help me to be 100% honest and open to You!”

Mark 12

As the Lord Jesus draws closer to the cross, He shares some heavy warnings with the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed Him every step of the way.

Israel is described as a vine in Isaiah chapter 5, and here the Lord sees the religious leaders as tenant-farmers who refused to acknowledge that God owned the land and that the heart of the covenant was to produce fruit for the owner. Instead, these leaders persecuted the prophets of God who called for fruit and they were about to execute the Son of God – they actually thought they could rob the living God of His land. But Jesus warned them of the consequences of their decision in v. 9, “He will come and DESTROY the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.”

The Pharisees then tested Jesus with a question about taxes, but He blew them away with that heart wrenching response in Mark 12:16b-17, “‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at Him.”We are created in the image of God, His inscription is upon us, let’s give ourselves completely to Him!

Jesus goes on to confirm the resurrection of the dead (yes, there is an eternal afterlife) and then He shares the greatest commandments, to love God and to love others…that sums it all up!

Jesus gives them something to think about when it comes to a title they’d always given the Messiah, the Son of David. If the Messiah is simply David’s descendant, why did David refer to Him as Lord in Psalm 110:1? They had to think deeper, He is both the root and offspring of David, both God and man.

“O Lord, please help us to take to heart this warning You gave to the religious leaders of that day.” They were pretenders who liked the perks and preferential treatment, even the power, but they did not like or love the Lord or the people of the Lord – they were in it for themselves. Imagine having a heart that would even devour widows houses!

Our Lord closes with a lesson on giving – in God’s economy the widow who gave 2 mites gave more than all the others, because they gave out of their abundance, but she, even though she was poor, gave all that she had.

Waren Wiersbe offers rich insight, “The Lord watches how we give (Mark 12:41–44) and examines the motives of the heart (Matthew 6:1–4). He also sees how much we give and measures the proportion, not the portion (1 Corinthians 16:2). An old epitaph reads, ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’”

Mark 13

Everyone was mesmerized by the glory of the Temple – the disciples make a comment about the stones, some of them forty feet long, weighing up to 160,000 pounds! Jesus wasn’t as impressed, informing them that the time would come when these very stones would be thrown down, not one would be left upon another.

When they reached the Mount of Olives, some of the guys asked Jesus about this, when will these things be, what are the signs of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

Jesus went on to share what Christians often refer to as the “Olivet Discourse” (see also Matthew 24 and Luke 21). Jesus predicts the persecution of the Apostles who would be hated by all, betrayed by families, testify to the world and even world rulers – God would give them the words to say. He then predicts the false Messiah’s who would come, the wars and rumors of wars, ethnic tension, earthquakes, famines and so much more, all these would increase in frequency and intensity before the Second Coming of Christ.

Verses 14-21 hone in on the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation Period, when the Antichrist will persecute the Jews – many of them will be saved, and then Jesus will come. We read those wonderful words in Mark 13:26, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

“O Lord, there’s so much heartache, tears, pain – and utter evil on earth, I do pray You’d come Lord Jesus…please come.”

I’ve always sided with the interpretation of Pastor Chuck Smith, that the fig tree is representative of Israel, and as they’ve begun to bloom again, miraculously becoming a nation in 1948, it’s an indication that the return of Christ is near…even at the door (see James 5:9 & Revelation 3:20).

Jesus emphasizes the fact that His words are true – Mark 13:31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

In light of Jesus’ imminent return, Jesus gives us a vital warning in Mark 13:33, “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” Jesus tells us again in verses 34, 35, and 37 – “WATCH!”

Warren Wiersbe, “You want to be found faithful when He comes, and He could come today.”

Mark 14

I’ve always been so touched by this anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, who seemed to be the only one who understood that Jesus was about to die. Her act was so beautiful, sacrificial, and so powerful that the enemy couldn’t take it any longer. Judas may have had his eye on this costly oil of spikenard all along, so now that it’s gone, he goes to the religious authorities and makes an agreement to betray the Lord Jesus.

Wiersbe said this, “Mary’s act of worship brought joy to the heart of Jesus and malice to the heart of Judas, who wanted the money she had spent (John 12:6). Other women came to anoint Him after His burial (16:1), but Mary did it when He could be encouraged by her love.”

Jesus supernaturally directs His disciples to a large furnished upper room where they might celebrate the Passover together, it was a meal He knew would be special – we often refer to it as the “Last Supper.” Jesus predicts His betrayal, while reaching out to His betrayer, Judas, who doesn’t respond. Jesus institutes communion, that we’d remember Him and the New Covenant, and He warns His disciples about the temptation right around the corner – too bad they didn’t believe Him. Do I?

Jesus takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Peter, James, and John are called further, to watch with Him in prayer. Unfortunately, because of their self-confidence, and oblivion to the demonic danger right in front of them, they slept when they should have been praying. But Jesus prays, three times, that this hour and cup would pass, that He wouldn’t have to go to the cross. The suffering and sin He would bear was part of it, but the separation from His Father was the heart of it. Jesus expressed His desire, but ultimately tagged His requests by yielding to the will of the Father.

When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, with all those enemy soldiers, visible and invisible, we read in Mark 14:50, “Then they all forsook Him and fled.”

It wasn’t much of a trial in front of the Sanhedrin – what was it that Jesus was condemned for? He told the truth, He was the Christ the Son of the Blessed, He would sit at the right hand of the Father, and He would, someday, come again in glory (61b-62).

The soldiers condemned Him, spit on Him, blindfolded Him, beat Him, and struck Him, this was just the beginning…and then if that wasn’t enough, His right-hand man denied ever knowing Him. How was Jesus able to carry on? Wiersbe said, “Jesus could submit to the abuse of men because He had already submitted to the will of God.”

Jesus still had plans for Peter, He knew this would happen from the very beginning, but He loved Peter, and that love would restore Him to be a leader in the church. Pastor Chuck said something so true, “Jesus sees us as we really are and loves us anyway. We see ourselves as we wish we were and we constantly disappoint ourselves.”

Mark 15

The Jewish leaders realize they don’t have the authority to put Jesus to death, so they bring Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who marveled at the way Jesus refused to defend himself; it didn’t take long for Pilate to realize that they had handed Jesus over because of envy (v. 10).

It’s appalling that the people would choose a murderer over Jesus, and it’s just unbelievable that they were so easily compelled to cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” – the One who had only loved them, taught them, healed them, fed them, and in so many ways – tirelessly cared for them the last 3 years.

Pontius Pilate eventually gave in and Jesus was condemned to be crucified; clothed in purple, crowned in thorns, hailed and hit, scourged, struck, and spat upon, mocked and numbered with the transgressors, and there “they crucified Him.”

What a clear-cut fulfillment of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 – to which Jesus pointed the people with His cry in v. 34, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”It was then that our sins were placed on Him – and the Father turned His back on the Son, there was a separation between them for the first time in all eternity – He was forsaken, so that we’d NEVER EVER EVER be forsaken.

When Jesus finished His work on the cross of Calvary, He cried out loud (“it is finished”) so everyone would hear, and then He breathed His last, He died for us, after which comes one of my favorite passages in the all the Bible, in Mark 15:38, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”This means there is no longer any separation between believers and the Lord, we are welcomed in to the Most Holy Place! We can even enter in with boldness to the very throne of God’s amazing grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Mark mentions Joseph of Arimathea and John includes Nicodemus as the men who mustered up the courage, motivated by love, to take Jesus’ body down for burial. They placed Him in a borrowed grave, but it would only be for the weekend.

The world says, “love yourself,” but Jesus loved His Father and all of us created in His image. The world says, “defend yourself” but Jesus opened not His lips. The world says, “pamper yourself” but Jesus refused to numb the pain. The world says “serve yourself, show yourself, love for self, save yourself” but Jesus gaveHimself, suffered, and died…that we might live.

Mark 16

It was early in the morning, on the first day of the week, the lovely ladies head out to finish the anointing of Jesus’ body. When they arrive at the tomb they find the stone rolled away and the angel is waiting with a message to share: Don’t be afraid, I know you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, but He’s not here – HE IS RISEN! Come, see for yourself, it’s an empty tomb; go, tell the disciples that Jesus is alive, and make sure to tell Peter!

Jesus appeared to many people after He rose from the dead and before He ascended into heaven, He even appeared to over 500 people at one gathering! Paul informs us of this assembly in 1 Corinthians 15:6 and he told us that some were still alive when he wrote that letter – there were an abundance of witnesses!

Of course we know that the Resurrection from the dead, seals the deal for mankind – this is the sign of signs (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; John 2:18-22). The resurrection proves to all the world that Jesus is true, that He stands, not just head and shoulders above the rest, but infinitely above all others – there’s no comparison! He gutted the grave, He conquered the coffin, He defeated death. He’s proven to the world that He is the One to believe in and follow. Jesus’ death on the cross is payment for our sins and the resurrection is the receipt!

This is the best news ever – Jesus said in John 14:19b, “…because I live, you will live also.”

After Jesus’ resurrection, He stayed and ministered for 40 days before He ascended into heaven. Luke talks about this in Acts 1:3, “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”One of the main messages of Jesus’ final forty days was the Great Commission. We read in Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’”God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), so Jesus commands us to “go.” Jesus didn’t appear to them so they’d be the elite, He showed Himself to them so they’d be evangelists. It may seem to be an impossible mission, when you contemplate the whole wide world, but it’s not, for it’s a CO-mission – Jesus is with us (Matthew 1:23; 28:20). We read in Mark 16:20, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”

Verse 16 teaches us that the difference between salvation and condemnation is simple faith in Christ. Baptism should be the “first step” after salvation but it doesn’t save us (1 Corinthians 1:17). We’re not saved by works, but by faith in the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and rose from the dead (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

I want to know Christ more, and make Him known…

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