Review and Reflect on Mark 14:66-72 – Peter denies Jesus.

As the soldiers brutalize and mock Jesus, they tell him to prophesy. Jesus had already told Peter he would deny him and Peter fulfills Jesus’ prophecy. So in their mocking, again, the soldiers don’t realize the truth of their statements. Jesus tells Peter he is going to reject him not once, but three times, and this is exactly what happens in Mark 14:66-72. Peter is a long way from when he responded to Jesus’ question saying, “You are the Christ”. This passage presents a contrast between Jesus and Peter under interrogation. Jesus is faithful, Peter is not. Jesus is faithful, and the man who is to become one of the most important people in church history is a miserable failure.

Peter first denies Jesus with a small denial, then a large denial, and then a great denial complete with curses and oaths. Sin starts out small, but then grows to something unmanageable. In Psalm 1, verse 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”. There is a threefold progression in the verse. This is something that can be found in several places in Scripture. First we walk with sin, then we stand for it, then we sit in it. Peter’s rejection reflects this. He is minding his own business when someone recognizes him as one of Jesus’ followers. He denies it to the girl and walks away. Then, this same girl, remarks to those standing with her, saying “That guy is one of them”. Peter denies it to the group of people. Then a group of people begins to recognize him. And he calls down curses and swears to them that he doesn’t know Jesus. Verse 72 says, “Immediately the rooster crowed a second time.”  Peter heard it, and he remembers what Jesus said, and he breaks down and cries.

We have all failed God in small ways. Most of us have failed in great ways. Most of us have seen how sin progresses in our lives when we accept it and then get used to it and then justify it. But it’s that destructive pattern of sin that runs its course in our hearts that Jesus died to break us free from. Don’t buy into the lie that we can live comfortably with sinful habits or thought patterns. We will eventually and inevitably reap what we sow. But, as we will see, Peter was restored. Jesus doesn’t condemn us in our sin; he was condemned in our place, for us. His desire is to restore us to proper relationship with God and others so that we love God and others properly. Sin hinders that love, it contradicts and opposes that love. So part of the restoration is removing the sin and sinful patterns from our lives. This can take time, this takes regular repentance on our part, and this takes God’s grace. God’s desire is to forgive our sin and restore us. So don’t run away from him, run to him. Go to him in confession and repentance and let his grace work forgiveness in your heart and life. Whether you need to do that for the first time today, or for the hundredth time, let God work his grace in your life and forgive your sin and restore you today.

God takes the man who publicly denied Jesus three times and uses him to point 3000 people to Jesus in his first sermon. Don’t you think he can use people like me and you?

Sources and Acknowledgments

Review and Reflect on Mark 14:27-52 – Jesus takes our place.

After Jesus shares the final Passover with his followers, they go out together to the Mount of Olives which overlooks the Temple area in Jerusalem. These are the final hours of Jesus’ life and he begins to speak to his disciples about what is going to soon happen in verses 27-31. Jesus quotes a passage from Zechariah 13 and tells his followers they are going to leave him, but he will gather them again in Galilee. The thought of rejecting him must have seemed impossible to the disciples and Peter voices this. He says, “I don’t know about these other jokers, but I won’t leave you.” Jesus replies to Peter giving him an even worse pronouncement. He tells Peter, “not only will you deny me, but you will deny me three times!” But Peter and all of the other disciples say that they are willing to die with Jesus in verse 31. After this conversation, Jesus takes his disciples to the place called Gethsemane in verses 32-42.

“Gethsemane” means “Oil Press” and John records it as a garden. Since it was on the Mount of Olives, it’s most likely this was an olive orchard. So, when you picture this in your mind, it’s probably less like a flower garden and more like an Apple Orchard. When they arrived at Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples to have a seat while he went to pray. Then, he took, the 3 closest disciples (Peter, James, and John) with him. Verse 33 says after this Jesus began to be deeply distressed and troubled. He tells them in verse 34 that he is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He tells the three to keep watch, or to pray for him. This is something we haven’t seen in Jesus up to this point. He has stood before crowds and before the religious leaders and remained strong. But, at this moment, sorrow and suffering has overwhelmed him. He goes to pray and in verse 36 we are given a glimpse into Jesus’ intimacy with the Father. Jesus is God in the flesh and he is also human. So even though it’s impossible to explain fully how these two aspects of his personhood come together, we see Jesus’ humanity in his agony. In the midst of this struggle, Jesus declares “Everything is possible for you”. In other words, “Father, you are strong enough to do whatever you want, so since I’m going through this you must have a good reason that’s unknown to me.” Jesus sees the circumstances that are coming and he has the opportunity to respond in faith in the Father’s plan, so too, we have the opportunity to respond this way in our circumstances. Some religions and spiritual teachings say that we should suppress our desires because they are the source of our suffering. Jesus doesn’t say this or model this. His desire to live and work is great, but his desire to obey the Father is greater.

For most of us, when we face suffering, we want to escape it. Jesus possessed this desire also. He asks that the cup be taken from him in verse 36. His desire to escape the Cup of God’s wrath is not wrong, and he could have escaped it. But his greatest desire is not that the cup would be taken from him, but that it would be taken from us. So Jesus says, not what I will, but what you will. In other words, Jesus is saying, “Father if there is any other way to reconcile humanity to you, let’s do it, but if there isn’t, then I will drink this cup. If there’s any other way to reclaim humanity, let’s go that route, but if there isn’t, I want your will to be accomplished in my life, even if it crushes me.”

The Cup that Jesus refers to, represents God’s wrath poured out on Evil. The Cup can represent God’s blessing or God’s wrath and cursing. We see this connection between the Cup and God’s wrath in passages like Isaiah 51, Jeremiah 25, and in a few places in the Psalms such as 11:6. The cup represents God’s response those who attempt to undermine his rule and bring about evil. Jesus is in agony here in Gethsemane because he’s beginning to experience what it’s going to mean for him to drink the cup of God’s wrath.

A lot of people don’t like to think of God in these terms. We would much more prefer a God that expresses love rather than wrath. But, think with me please about how love works. Think about the person or people in this world who are most dear to you. Now consider your reaction if someone tries to harm them, or even if they try to harm themselves. Our response is anger precisely because we love that person. God’s wrath is one way that his love is expressed. God opposes evil and sin in his wrath because he knows how it harms his people whom he loves. God’s wrath is also an expression of his holiness. He displays his anger toward anything that might attempt violate his being. When we see evil happening in our world and we see evil people succeeding, we want a God who loves us enough to stop the evil we see. So, when the time comes for God to pour out the cup of his wrath upon sin and evil, Jesus takes the cup from us, and he drinks it himself. We have all opposed God, we have tried to run our own lives and do things our own way. This is sin and a rejection of God’s authority over our lives. It’s not only harmful to us personally, but to those around us, and all of the created order. We are deserving of God’s wrath. But God is not supremely wrathful, he is supremely loving. And in his love, he deals with sin in a way that doesn’t violate his holiness, and it properly exercises his wrath. Instead of me drinking the cup of God’s wrath, Jesus drinks it for me, for us. Because he takes God’s wrath in our place, God’s holiness is maintained and his love is adequately expressed. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 speaks of “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” We must not focus on the wrath to come and neglect the Jesus who delivers. God’s love, goodness, and holiness are at times exercised in wrath, but if we are in Jesus, we are rescued from that wrath.

In Mark 14, Jesus is about to drink this cup of God’s wrath to rescue us, and the physical, spiritual, and emotional weight of it is overwhelming to a degree that we cannot even imagine. Jesus is overwhelmed because he is feeling the weight of bearing God’s wrath and humanity’s sin. In verse 37 he goes back to his disciples and finds them sleeping; not praying. They all have just said that they won’t leave him and would even die for him, but he goes back to find them asleep. They say they won’t leave him, but they won’t even stay awake with him. He tells them in verse 38 to pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation. He tells them temptation is coming, so pray for the strength to endure it. But their inability to join him in this part of his suffering is pointing to the fact that soon they will also leave him in the next part of his suffering. In verse 41 we see that he returns to them three times and finds them asleep each time. He has already told Peter that he would deny him three times, and in Gethsemane Peter fails him 3 times along with James and John. So, Jesus tells them to get up and meet his betrayer.

Right after Jesus gathers his disciples again, in verses 43-52, a mob led by Judas shows up. Verse 43 says the mob was sent by the chief priest, the teachers, and the elders. These are the people who Jesus has opposed in his teaching and now they finally get him back. Judas identifies Jesus by giving him the kiss of death and in verse 46 they arrest Jesus. One of the twelve, which in John’s Gospel is identified as Peter, lops off a guy’s ear. And Jesus puts a stop to the fight before it escalates. He asks, “Am I leading a rebellion?” in verse 48. His pattern was not one of violence, but one of healing and teaching. They didn’t arrest him when he gave them plenty of opportunities while he was in the Temple teaching over the last few days. But, the fact was, he was leading a rebellion, but not one with swords and clubs. His rebellion was of a much different sort. Judas didn’t understand this which is why his party had weapons. Even the other disciples didn’t get this, which is why one cuts off the guy’s ear. But do you remember Jesus’ message from the Beginning? The Kingdom is coming close enough to experience and the time is being fulfilled. Verse 49 alludes to this fulfillment again. The King is bringing his Kingdom through humility, suffering and death, not through rebellion and military might. God’s promise to rescue his people isn’t about their nationalistic circumstances, but about their hearts that are stuck in sin and destined for death. Jesus doesn’t resist when they arrest him, but he allows them to take him. In verse 50 everyone leaves him and we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ statement to his disciples in verse 27. 

There is an odd statement in verses 51-52 about a young man running away naked when they try to arrest him too. He is not identified as one of the disciples, so we have no idea who me may have been. Some say it was Mark himself who was with Jesus that night, even as a young man. There are several things to read on this passage, but they offer little help in understanding the significance of it. But, something so odd that doesn’t really advance the story or tell us much does have the mark of verifying the historical accuracy of the story. If this was a made-up story, no one would make up something like that and put it in the story, they would leave it out. It seems more plausible to see this story being included to point to the shamefulness of Jesus’ followers in abandoning him in his hour of greatest need. He told them many times that this would happen, and when it happened, no one went with him. The disciples display their shame, by failing to follow their Messiah. But what does Jesus, the Messiah do?

He is arrested, and as we’ll see soon he is treated shamefully, and ultimately killed by crucifixion. Jesus, the Messiah, willingly takes the shame of not only his own followers who abandon him, but the shame of every sinner who has ever lived. Jesus takes our shame upon himself, he bears our sin on himself, and it’s crucified along with him. Because of this, no longer do we have to run from God or try to hide our shame from God, but we can stand before him boldly, because Jesus’ blood has covered our shame. Revelation 7:14 says of God’s people “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This young man lost his robe, revealing his shame. But Jesus gives us a new robe, one dipped in his own blood that covers our sin. He covers us with his love and acceptance, and even in our hour of shame and weakness, he loves us enough to die for us.

If you’ve failed to follow God fully and whole heartedly because of who you have been, or what you have done, let Jesus take on your sin and shame, and give you his love. When sinful behavior or sinful thought patterns are practiced in our lives, let Jesus’ love and grace lead you to repentance. Don’t be afraid to turn from your sin, and turn to the Good News of Jesus.

Review and Reflect on Mark 12:28-34 – Loving God and Loving People is the sum of what God requires of us.

Over the last chapter, Jesus has displayed his wisdom and authority over nearly every group among the influential leaders of Jerusalem. The Scribes, Pharisees, Elders, Priests, Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees all have tried to catch Jesus in his words and trap him, yet he eludes them. Their attempts to discredit him or have him arrested for something he says have failed. After seeing and hearing all of this, there is one from among these groups who comes to Jesus privately. He is struck by Jesus’ wisdom, and wants to talk to him further in Mark 12:28-34.

There was somewhere around 600 or more specific laws found in the Law that many of the Jews of Jesus’ day worked to follow. It was also commonly known that completely adhering to all of the law was nearly impossible, so in several places outside of the Scriptures there are discussions ranking the laws. A common way to debate this was to consider which laws were heavier and which were lighter. So, when Jesus is approached with this question, it wasn’t so out-of-the-ordinary. Most translations will translate verse 28 with the word “important” because that makes it easy to understand. But the phrase is more nuanced than this. A better way to understand it would be which command is “primary” or “foremost”. All the laws were important. The question is, “is there a law from which the whole law can be derived?” Which law must we be sure to uphold most of all? Which law is the weightiest? Which law sums up the others? This is what Jesus is being asked.

Jesus answers with a dual response. He says in verses 30 and 31 that Loving God and loving people is the sum of the Law. All of the laws or rules in the Law were given so that Israel would properly love God and properly love people. He gives his answer in such a way that we can’t view these as two separate laws, but as one law together. Like faith and works, like belief and practice, loving God and loving people cannot be separated biblically. This is why the message of the Gospel must be responded to with belief and repentance. It affects mind and body, thoughts and actions. You can’t love God without loving your neighbor and you won’t love your neighbor without loving God.

He begins with a passage from Deuteronomy 6. This passage is a foundational passage for understanding who God is, and Jesus points to this passage in response to the question about the greatest commandment. Jesus gives four ways in which we are to love God – with our heart, soul or life, mind or will, and strength. In other words, with everything we have, do, and are, we’re to love God. There is nothing that we possess or nothing that makes us who we are that we are not to love God with. If it’s connected or related to us in any manner, we are to love God with it.

Secondly, in verse 31 Jesus says we are to love our neighbor. This is from Leviticus 19:18 (but you all knew that already because of your familiarity with Leviticus). The context of that chapter includes paying employees in a timely manner, leaving parts of your field unharvested so the poor could come and glean, and avoiding slandering people. We understand these as ways to show love to other people. Leviticus 19:18 sums these up by saying, “love your neighbor as yourself.” You’ve heard of “do to others as you would have them do to you” as the Golden Rule and that is certainly an expression of loving others, but there is more to it. It’s not just doing things for people and treating them right, we are supposed to love them. This means, patience, forgiveness, generosity, and all sorts of things.

In verse 31, he says “there is no commandment greater than these”. All of the other 600 or more laws flow out of these two. The remainder of the Law describes the ways to love God and others. The remainder of the laws describes how the people of Israel were to love, but this dual law that Jesus gives describes who we are to love. Jesus takes something that was very complex and simplifies it. In many ways Jesus simplifies the 10 commandments of Exodus 20. The first 4 related to God and the final 6 related to people and Jesus summarizes them both under the singular command to love.

An author named Tom Wright illustrates the nature of God’s commands by describing a road with guard rails and I have adapted his illustration here. Life with Christ is a life of love. Love is the name of the highway we are travelling. It has two lanes since we love God and love people, but it is one road. The Scriptures give us commands to shape that love and to direct it properly. These are the guard rails on the road. If we follow the guard rails we will go the right directions, but it’s a lot more fun to drive without hitting the rails all the time. Breaking the commands are like driving through the guard rail and you get banged up and damaged. They are there for our good, to teach us how to love God and others. But we aren’t meant to drive down the road bouncing off of the guard rails, we are meant to love God and others. As Jesus continues to renew us until eternity, we will be able to stay in the middle of the road all the more and enjoy our journey. The commands of Scripture aren’t to be avoided, but embraced, because they shape us and make us into the people God designed us to be.

At Shore Community Church, our mission statement is Loving God and Loving people simply, deeply, and authentically. This statement was formed largely as a result of what Jesus teaches here. Loving God and others cannot be separated. This is the goal and completion of our religion and our relationships. Whatever it is that we do as a church or as individual followers of Jesus must be related to this love for God and others.

At SCC, we are striving to love God and other people. There are three values that guide the way we do this – simplicity, depth, and authenticity. Christianity is difficult. It’s not easy. But it is simple. The Gospel is simple enough to explain to a child, yet deep enough to keep theologians busy for centuries. Jesus died for you and rose again to give you eternal life. It’s Simple. But this simple truth is so deep it will change everything about you. The more we know and obey God, the more we grow to love him. It’s Deep. However, none of us live perfectly before God, so there is no sense in pretending. Rather than being hypocrites, we are going to be authentic. Authenticity means humility. It means we know we need one another and we need God’s grace if we are to walk rightly before God.

Jesus sums all that God requires of us up in a few simple words: Love God and love people. In verse 32, the man Jesus was talking with responds to his answer and he says “well said”; “right on!” In verse 33, he says to love is better than offering sacrifice, which is significant since they are standing in the Temple where sacrifices are happening while they are talking. This is another way that Jesus is showing that everything God promises and commands is fulfilled in him. We love God by following Jesus, not by offering sacrifice. We love God and others, not by keeping a strict law code, but by living out the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our lives every day. In verse 34, Jesus tells this other teacher, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” This man understood that loving God and others was the sum of the Law. He even understood that love was the reason sacrifices had to be made for sin. What he didn’t understand was that Jesus was making that possible by living to fulfill the Law and bringing God’s Kingdom through his sacrificial death and bodily resurrection. He was close to the Kingdom, he only needed to take one more step and follow Jesus.

There are a lot of people who understand eternal life is only possible through what God has done in Jesus. They are not far from the Kingdom. What remains is that step of obedience in following Jesus. If you are following Jesus, this means that you love God and others. Any refusal to do so in our hearts or in our actions is rebellion and we need to repent of that. If you believe in Jesus, but you haven’t yet begun to follow him, you may not be far from the Kingdom. Decide today to follow him by not only believing, but responding to him by aligning your life with him, living for him.

Acknowledgements and Sources

Review and Reflect on Mark 12:18-27 – Jesus speaks on temporal marriage and eternal life.

On one occasion, Jesus was questioned by a group of religious leaders known as the Sadducees. Generally, this group was made up of influential and wealthy people. Some of their beliefs included holding only the first five books of Moses as their authority and not regarding what we would call the rest of the Old Testament as authoritative. They also didn’t believe in the resurrection, but that the only way one might live on would be through their lineage. So, when this group confronts Jesus, they are already at odds with much of what he has been teaching, and this would have been obvious to him.

The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, but, in Mark 12:18-27 they are asking a question about it. They don’t care about the answer; they are just trying to cause Jesus to stumble in his words. Their question is based on a law out of Deuteronomy 25 that said if a man dies without children, his brother, or close relative, would take his wife as their wife and have children to carry on the family name. So, Jesus is asked a hypothetical question about how to apply this law in relation to the resurrection.

Jesus’ answer teaches us about both marriage and resurrection. First, in verse 25, he says there won’t be marriage in heaven because we will be like the angels. This doesn’t mean that we turn into angels, by the way. Marriage is an earthly institution, not an eternal one. The intimacy we will experience with God in heaven is much deeper than that of even a husband and wife relationship. We’ll experience life differently and fully. The marriage relationship is an indicator of some of the characteristics of life to come, but doesn’t continue in it. The belief that marriage is an eternal institution has no scriptural foundation. In fact, Jesus teaches the opposite here. This is a belief of Mormonism, but is unfounded in biblical, historical, and orthodox Christianity. Some people wish it were so because of the love they have for their spouse. But, the love that will be experienced in eternity, will be deeper and more profound than we can even imagine. This is why marriage is so important. It’s the most profound way we can conceive of love, yet compared to what we will experience in the presence of God eternally, it is merely temporary. Marital love is a sign pointing to the way we will love when Jesus returns to set everything right and we love God and one another the way in which we were intended.

In this passage we also learn a bit about the resurrection. Jesus says God is the God of the living, and since he is, those who are his followers must be living. Jesus refers to Exodus 3, where Moses is confronted by God. Exodus 3 would have been an authoritative text for the Sadducees, so when Jesus argues for the resurrection from it, he proves that they don’t know the Scriptures as well as they presume they do. This was something they boasted in and Jesus accusation would have not been well received by them.

The Bible only gives us glimpses into what happens after death at times describing it as “sleep” until we are awakened at the resurrection. Hebrews 12 says the believers who’ve gone before us are a “cloud of witnesses” who have fully experienced God’s faithfulness to those who live and die for him. But Jesus asserts here in this passage, that God is the God of the living. He gives life, sustains life, takes life, and can certainly give it again. He doesn’t cease to be our God at death. Our relationship with him continues and deepens eternally because he is eternal. This is why Jesus’ resurrection is our hope and peace. It’s the indicator of our final state for eternity as well. The in-between time may be grey and confusing, but God will raise those who believe in him.

Acknowledgments and Sources

Small Group Recap for the Week of 9.23.12

This week in Small Group Bible Study, we read and discussed 1 Thessalonians 3. Here are the major points which we discussed:

1 Thessalonians 3

(1) What does this passage teach about God?

  • If we cannot help someone in our presence, God has given us prayer to aid others (verse 10).
  • God will work in his church through prayer. There are other ways that God works in his church, but a primary and essential way is with and through the prayers of those in the church (verses 10-13).
  • God is the one who makes our love for one another increase (verse 12).
  • Jesus is coming again(verse 13).

(2) What does it teach about me?

  • Trials and suffering can cause us to be unsettled in our faith if we aren’t encouraged through them by other believers (verses 2-3).
  • We will face trials without a doubt because we follow Jesus (verse 3 “we were destined for them” (NIV)).
  • God can use my faith to encourage someone who is enduring trial, distress, and persecution (verse 7).

 3) How must I believe or obey to align my life with God’s Word?

  • Paul was facing persecution for preaching the Gospel, how does this give perspective to our trials? Do I endure suffering for a worldly gain that I will not endure to further the Gospel? Do I give time and energy to everything except the Lord’s work?
  • Is my life enhanced by my work to help other stand firm in the Lord? (verse 8)
  • Do we pray for other this way: to supply what is lacking in the other’s faith, to increase their love for others, so their hearts would be blameless in holiness? (verses 10-13)
  • Does our church have overflowing love for each other? (verse 12)
  • Am I praying for fellow believers? (verses 10-13) This is how God will grow the love for one another within our church. If I’m not experiencing the deep and authentic love within the church body, is it because I have neglected to pray for it?

 

What insights do you have into this passage that aren’t mentioned above?

Small Group Recap for the week of 9.9.12

This week in Small Groups at SCC, we took a look at 1 Thessalonians 1. Take a moment to read it, and reflect on these questions. Feel free to discuss what your group talked about in the comment section.

Context: The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to a church in the Greek (Macedonian) city of Thessalonike. He proclaimed the Gospel there on his second missionary journey to take the Gospel all over the Roman world.

(1) What does this passage teach about God?

Verse 9 refers to God as the “living and true God”.  Verse 10 refers to Jesus as God’s Son who will come from heaven. God raised Jesus from the dead. And because of this Jesus rescues us from the wrath of God, which is the death that we all face as punishment because of sin. We often don’t like to think about God in terms of wrath. But, if God truly loves, then he will display his wrath against anything that threatens that love. Also, in verse 10, it is important to keep the “Jesus who delivers us” together with the “wrath to come”. Jesus has made a way for us to not suffer God’s wrath, but instead be welcomed as sons and daughters into his Kingdom. We look forward to when Jesus is going to come again because we await his rescue, not his wrath. The way we “wait” (verse 10) is with expectation and is motivation for living and ministering faithfully.

(2) What does it teach about me?

The general theme of verses 2-10 is Thanksgiving. Verse 2 begins with “We give thanks…” and then in the verses following we see what thanks is given “for”. As we look at the people God has placed in our lives, how might we give thanks for them?

Paul remembers how the members of this church turned from idols to follow the true God in verse 9. In Paul’s day, people worshipped physical, actual idols made from wood, stone, or metal. They believed these statues possessed powers that they could benefit from if they worshipped them. In some places in our world people still worship this kind of idol. What about in places where people don’t worship physical idols? The famous reformer Calvin wrote, “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” We have a natural propensity to substitute things for God.  Our minds naturally replace a proper worship of God for lesser things, for idols. We are quite creative when it comes to devising ways to avoid following God properly. Let us regularly remember this and make sure we are following the One True God and not any lesser thing.

 3) How must I believe or obey to align my life with God’s Word?

In verses 2 and 3, Paul mentions his constant prayers for this church. In this there is the implied command to pray for one another. In verse 4, he refers to these believers as “brothers loved by God”. This should remind us that because of Jesus, we are the family of God. We should care for one another like family. We are also loved by our Father. This is a truth we must never forget!

In verse 6 we see that following Jesus can lead to suffering. Is my love for comfort hindering my love for God? Also from verse 6, is the way we follow Jesus worth imitating? Verses 8 and 9 describe how the faith of these people causes life change that was noticed in their community. Is our faith known in such a way that it is obvious that we have turned from other things to follow God?

What truths or insights did you have regarding this passage?

Why does our church do what we do?

This Sunday evening from 6-7:00 pm we are gathering at the Lion’s Club to share a meal together, and talk about some of the ideas that drive the ministry at SCC. Our mission statement is to Love God and Love People Simply, Deeply, and Authentically. This Sunday evening, we will hear the first of three talks about what this means for us and how it drives what we do as a church.

For most people life is already complicated. Following Jesus may not make things easier, but it does simplify life. Being part of a Church is essential for anyone who wants to follow Jesus in a manner that is biblically faithful. But, problems arise when church life becomes so complicated that it hinders us from following Jesus. This Sunday evening we are going to talk about how SCC is working to Love God and Love People in a way that is simple. Join us from 6-7 as we look to the Scriptures and talk about how this works at SCC.

You can check out what else is happening at SCC here.

Review and Reflect on Mark 10:17-31

The story of this wealthy man in Mark 10:17-31 is a contrast to the previous few verses about those who enter the Kingdom like children. This story describes again the intensity and seriousness of following Jesus: he tells this man to sell everything he has! Although God may not call me or you to do that, we have to be careful not to temper this message. Jesus does and will call people to forsake everything in a physical and tangible manner. Some have given away wealth, others fame, and still others their physical lives. So, when we approach a passage like this we need to make sure we feel the tension and the weight of what it would mean for us to sell all that we have and give the money to a homeless shelter. For some of us it is inconceivable that we would do this. For others of us, we know that if we had to do it, we would immediately get to work rebuilding what we had. God gives us everything we have to leverage for his Kingdom and his glory. Our temptation is to leverage it for our own comfort and pleasure. God gives us the time we have, the talents we have, and the treasure we have to bring people to him, to build the church body, and to honor him.

You might call these things “The 3 T’s” – Time, Talent, and Treasure. We are all given the same amount of time in our days and weeks, and it’s up to us to make the most of that time for the Kingdom of God and not squander it. Everyone is busy, the question is, are you busy in a way that honors Jesus? Also, we all have some type of talent or gifting that God has given us. People are naturally good at certain things or are naturally inclined to doing other things, and we have opportunities to use those talents for the glory of God. The Bible also talks about spiritual gifts like mercy, giving, leadership, teaching, hospitality, and many others. God equips each of us with gifts to serve the whole body. Although some gifts are in plain view, others are behind the scenes, but if any of us neglects to practice our gifts, the whole body suffers. In the church, our lives in Christ are intertwined; we are not completely separate and autonomous. There needs to be those who teach, those who listen, those who perform acts of service, those who encourage, and those who practice lots of other gifts. Many times, each of us have a combination of talents of differing degrees and it practicing them, we find how we can best serve the body. Practicing our gifts is to build up the church: to build in numerical growth, and to build the body spiritually. We all are given time, we all are given at least one talent or gifting, and then we all have Treasure. Some of us don’t have much and some of us just think we don’t have much. Whatever we have, we have an opportunity to leverage for the Kingdom of God and to see it as a tool rather than a goal, as a means of worshipping God rather than an object of worship itself. In the Gospel of Luke we see this element of our treasure discussed in several places especially in Luke 16:10-13 where Jesus says we cannot love both God and money.

This was the source of the internal struggle of this man in Mark’s Gospel. He had lived his entire life properly and uprightly, but there was a void, a problem in his soul. He followed all the rules and lived morally. But, he was trying to serve both God and money and Jesus knows it. So, this man asks Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, and Jesus responds with theology, with love, and with application. Jesus’ response is deep, authentic, and simple.

First, in verse 18 Jesus responds to this man with theological depth. He responds to the man’s greeting “Good Teacher” by saying “There is none good but God.” Jesus recognizes this man has come to him with sincerity looking for answers, but out of the gate, Jesus reminds him that even with his moral achievement that doesn’t make him good. Only God is good. There are aspects of goodness reflected in humanity because we are made in God’s image, but the only one who is good in essence, who defines goodness, and who is the embodiment of goodness is God himself and God alone. Jesus responds this way because if we properly understand goodness, this man is correct. Jesus is good because he is God. So when Jesus responds to this man’s search for filling that eternal void in his spirit, this isn’t simply moral advice dispensed by some guru. Jesus speaks the word of God. He speaks from authority and he speaks not just advice, but truth. This man has undoubtedly heard of Jesus’ reputation and authority and this is why he comes to this teacher and healer. But Jesus lets this man know a little more about him than most do, although he does it in a cloaked manner. Jesus hints to this man at his divinity. He’s not just a healer and teacher, but God in human flesh. This is a deep theological truth, but it is also immensely important for people who follow Jesus to understand. Jesus is a man, he is a teacher, he is a healer, and he is also God. He is God and man together in one person. So when we speak of God we speak of Jesus and when we speak of Jesus we speak of God. Jesus is our friend and brother, and he is also our King and God. This should give us comfort when we are lonely or discouraged and it should cause us to fear when we are tempted by our sin.

Another theological point of this passage is found in the interaction Jesus has with his disciples about this discussion with the rich man. In verse 17 the man asks about eternal life and in verse 23 Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. Then Jesus mentions eternal life in verse 30 in speaking of the age to come. Our understanding of eternal life should be more shaped by Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God than by popular conceptions of clouds, harps, golden halos, and angels. Living in God’s Kingdom is eternal life and there is not eternal life outside of God’s Kingdom. There are quite a few more references to the Kingdom of God than to eternal life in the New Testament. Eternal life is much bigger than we can conceive it to be. Eternal life exists in the context of God’s Kingdom. He is infinite and so is his rule, so life in and with him will surely be much greater than the popular conceptions of the afterlife. Jesus teaches about the Kingdom that has come and has begun, but it continues eternally and we are invited into eternal life in his Kingdom if we believe and repent. Jesus calls this rich man, and his disciples to a greater depth in understanding who he is.

Secondly, Jesus responds to this man in Verse 21 with authentic love. Before Jesus gave instruction to him, he loved him. He felt compassion for him. Remember that Jesus is the true King who has compassion and love for his people. This man is often referred to as the Rich Young Ruler because Matthew notes his youth and Luke refers to him as a ruler. In Tim Keller’s book “King’s Cross“, he notes that one of the reasons Jesus loves him is because of his status. Like this man, Jesus is young, around 30-33 years old. Like this man, Jesus is a ruler, his Kingdom knows no end. Like this man, Jesus possesses great wealth, he owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. The rich man recognizes Jesus as a good teacher, but has no clue with whom he is speaking. Jesus has authority and wealth in an infinitely greater way than him. And yet, at the prime of his life Jesus in his early 30’s Jesus will forsake it all and go to a cross. He tells this man to give away his wealth because of its stranglehold on his heart. But Jesus can tell him to do so with integrity because he is doing the same thing, but to an infinitely greater degree. Jesus gives up a heavenly throne to rescue people like this man, and when he says, give your wealth to the poor, he knows exactly what that means because he has done no less.

The third ways Jesus responds to this man is with simple application. Jesus says, all you have to do is sell everything and follow me. All you have to do is deny yourself and pursue the cross for your life. The man understands this command because it is simple, but it is so difficult for him that he leaves full of sorrow. It says he’s “disheartened”. Other translations say he is “grieved”. Why? Because he knew he wouldn’t do it. Jesus requires him to forsake what is most dear to him, his wealth. And he loves God, but not quite as much as he loves his money. More than this Jesus doesn’t require him only to give up what he has, but to set a new course for the future as well. Jesus says “follow me”, no longer is he to pursue God and money, but only God. Jesus is calling this man, to give up what he can gain in this life, to gain the next life. He has said this before in other places. He says it in chapter 8 when he says “deny yourself” and he has just said it in verses 13-16 saying that we must receive the Kingdom like a child. For some people, God will remove obstacles that prohibit us from coming to him, but in this case, he asks this man to remove the obstacle himself and give away his wealth. Sometimes we need to pray for God to remove what is holding us back, and other times we need to pray that God would change our hearts to help us love him more than our stuff and ourselves. Jesus’ Disciples sensed the magnitude of this simple command as well. We see Jesus interact with them in verse 23-31. In verses 23 and 24 Jesus tells his disciples twice “How difficult is it for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God”. He says it twice so we should make sure to hear it. In verse 25 Jesus says his famous saying that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for the rich to enter the Kingdom. It’s impossible Jesus says. There’s not a chance it’ll happen.

Verse 24 says the disciples were amazed at this and in verse 26 it says they were exceedingly astonished. They say in verse 26, “Who can then be saved?!?!” Jesus says that God will make a way in verse 27. It is impossible for us to save ourselves. It is impossible for us to squeak by and obtain eternal life in God’s Kingdom. But, what is impossible for us is possible with God. He would make a way for people who continually turn away from him to pursue ourselves and our own desires and pleasures to enter his Kingdom.

Then in verse 28, ol’ Peter chimes in. He calls to attention that these disciples have given up everything to follow Jesus. “But we have given up everything, does that mean at least we will get eternal life.” “Look at us” he says. “Look at me!” – I left everything, I give 10%, I go to church every week, I sacrificed something for God, I, I, I….If you are still looking at what you have done, then you aren’t looking to Jesus for your salvation, but to what you have done. Jesus’ response to the question “Who can be saved?!?!” is crucial. Though we would attempt to gain the Kingdom through wealth, influence, power, or even our own righteousness, it’s insufficient and sub-standard. This is not how eternal life in the Kingdom is gained. Jesus changes everything. This is why he says in verse 31, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Whatever you forsake or lose in this life will be gained in the next.

But the difference between what you can gain in this life and what you can gain in the next is infinite. The more we realize this, the less we will live for the things of this world and live for the one to come. What are you living for? Can you sincerely and truly say you love Jesus more than your financial portfolio? Jesus loved this man and he saw that the greatest obstacle to life with God for this man was his wealth. Jesus loves you and if there are things in your life before him it is dangerous and destructive whether they are matters of wealth, relationships, hidden addictions, or anything else. When we read this story, it should cause us to repent of anything we are pursuing or loving more than Jesus. Do you love God more? More than your wealth? More than your hobby? More than your job? More than yourself? Don’t forget that he loves you so much he went to a cross for you, so anything that hinders us from loving him, is not good for us. Open your heart and life to him today and give him everything.

Acknowledgements and Sources.