Review and Reflect on Mark 15:16-39 – The King has come and although he was dead now he is alive.

When the soldiers who are responsible to crucify Jesus take him into custody, they reject and abuse him. The Roman soldiers were more than happy to be able to abuse a Jewish man on this day. There was a strained relationship between Jews and Romans, and the soldiers expressed their feelings of racism and disdain for Jews by torturing this supposed criminal. Since he was accused of being the King of the Jews, in Mark 15:16-20, they mock him like a defeated king. They put a purple robe on him and place a crown of thorns on his head. They bow before him. Can you imagine dancing around like an idiot mocking someone who had been sentenced to death, only to find out that they are actually the King and you are going to answer for your actions? Jesus is mocked as King, but that doesn’t make him less of a King and soon we will see him claim his throne. After beating him, they lead him out of the Praetorium, which is kind of like the Barracks, to take him to crucify him in 15:21-39,

In verse 34, Jesus quotes a line from Psalm 22. Mark records it here in Aramaic and then translates it. Some who were standing there must have misunderstood what Jesus was saying, so they think he is crying for help from Elijah. They decide to wait around to see if Elijah would come to help him. But, Jesus’ words were a biblical reaction to bearing the sin of God’s people. The Father turns away from the Son in a moment where the Son must bear the weight of God’s wrath upon sin. God himself takes on human flesh and enters into history in the person of Jesus. God himself suffers, he’s betrayed, he’s abused, and he’s crucified. He experiences what it’s like to feel that God has abandoned you. He does this to show his great compassion for us and to reconcile us to himself. We may experience suffering and struggle in our lives, but one thing our suffering does not mean is that God has forsaken us. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be. So in your moments of darkness and struggle, you can ask all kinds of questions about what your suffering means, but Jesus makes sure we know that it doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. Jesus’ resurrection proves that even when death comes to us, that does not even mean he has abandoned us. The Father raised the Son, and if we believe in the Son, he will not abandon us to death, but we will be raised also.

Then, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple is torn. It’s torn from top to bottom showing that it’s God who has torn it. The veil is torn, and this means no more sacrifice, no more temple, no more holy place. Jesus is the sacrifice, the temple, and the holy place. He fulfills what the Temple was supposed to accomplish but couldn’t. We can now approach God through Jesus, but not anything else. He was forsaken and given over to death so that we would be received. He was the recipient of God’s wrath upon sin so that our sin could be forgiven and we could have eternal life instead of death.

The first part of what Jesus’ death means is the Time has been fulfilled. God has fulfilled his promises to Israel. The Law is satisfied. The Temple is replaced. God’s promises to rescue his people have come true. The Second part of what Jesus’ death means is that God’s Kingdom has begun to come to earth. Compared to the other Gospels, Mark’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion isn’t very gory. He doesn’t emphasize the bloody details of Jesus suffering because he is emphasizing the reason Jesus suffered. Jesus is asked by Pilate if he is the King of the Jews in verse 2. In verse 9, Pilate addresses the crowd and refers to Jesus as the King of the Jews. In verse 12, Pilate asks the crowd what he should do with the “King of the Jews.” In verses 16-20, The soldiers mock and abuse him as the King of the Jews. They even bow to him. Verse 26 says that the notice written above his head on the cross is “King of the Jews”. In verse 31-32 the chief priests and teachers of the law mock him on the cross saying, “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross”. In verse 39, the Roman centurion who was guarding him, confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

Over and over, Mark wants to show us that Jesus was convicted by the Jews and crucified by the Romans because of his claim that he is Messiah and King of Israel. The priests and teachers, the Roman leader Pilate, the soldiers, and the crowd all deny that Jesus is this Messiah and King, and they kill him for claiming to be him. In chapter 11, Jesus is hailed as King by the crowds when he enters Jerusalem. He goes to clean the Temple and teaches in it. In Mark 14:3-9 he is anointed. In Mark 14:61, the High priest identifies him as King. In 15:9 and 12 he is proclaimed to the people by Pilate as King. In 15:17-19, he is saluted as King by the soldiers. In 15:20 he is enthroned on the cross. Throughout the narrative of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, Jesus’ enemies unwittingly proclaim the truth about him.

Jesus is the King. They all recognize that this is who he is claiming to be and that’s why they kill him. This in itself isn’t so shocking, it happened several times in the decades before and after Jesus. What makes it shocking is what happens next. Those other so-called messiah’s and would-be kings were heads of movements. They had lots of followers. And all of the them fizzle and fade. But Christianity doesn’t fizzle; it explodes! In less than 250 years, the entire Roman empire will be declared Christian reaching from India to England. Jesus rises from the dead. In his resurrection, his claim to be Messiah and King and Son of God are all proven to be true. And since this is true, it changes everything. He suffered because of his claim to be messiah and King, and he rose from the dead to prove that in fact he is Messiah and King. He has fulfilled God’s promises and now God’s Kingdom is coming because the King has come. The King came and died, but he rose gain. This means that it is only a matter of time before his Kingdom comes in all of its fullness and completion.

The response that we are told we should have throughout Mark’s Gospel is belief and repentance. The King has come and although he was dead now he is alive. His resurrection proves he is King so we should believe he is our King. If he is our King, everything about our lives changes. We no longer live for the Kingdom of this world, but the Kingdom of the Risen Jesus. It changes our thinking, our actions, our motivation. We live in the in-between time though. So even though we believe this Kingdom will finally come, we still wrestle against the sinfulness in our hearts that fights against his Kingdom. So our belief and repentance isn’t something that happens once and then we live however we want until Jesus Comes. We must remain in this belief and repentance. We continue in this Gospel, practicing it daily. It requires more than mental adherence. It is more than an intellectual agreement. The Gospel demands our lives. Our King has come and will come again and we must prepare ourselves even today.

Is he your king?

 

Sources and acknowledgments

Review and Reflect on Mark 14:53-65 – Rather than condemning, Jesus is condemned.

Mark 14 records the final hours of Jesus life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Verses 53-65 are the first part of Jesus’ trial. Jesus is presented as being subjected to an unjust trial, and wrongfully condemned to death. Over and over, we have seen Jesus presented as the one fulfilling God’s promises and as the King bringing the Kingdom of God with him. This is what makes this unjust trial and condemnation so shocking. Jesus is the one coming to rescue Israel and rule in justice, yet he is rejected and condemned unjustly. But in God’s loving sovereignty, he works this injustice and the condemnation of his own son to bring about salvation and eternal life for not only Israel, but the whole world!

The trial of Jesus bears all of the marks of a backwards trial full of injustice. Once they arrested Jesus, they lead him to the courtyard of the high priest; it tells us in verse 54. This is not the official place of trial, but the property of the high priest. This trial is illegitimate from the beginning simply because of its location. Verse 55 says they were “looking for evidence…but they could not find any”. They had decided that Jesus needed to be taken out. They determined Jesus was guilty and were going to find him guilty. They weren’t going to let him get away with saying the things he had been saying. There was only one problem with this; Jesus hadn’t actually done anything wrong. He had actually broken any laws; he simply made the wrong people angry. They tried to find witnesses, but verse 56 says no one’s testimony agreed. Twice it says “false testimony” was given. The closest thing they could get too was to charge him with threatening to destroy the temple, but no one could agree on the words he had used. Jesus didn’t threaten to destroy the Temple, but that is a charge brought against him. There is irony in this though; in bringing this charge against him, the Temple will be destroyed. Because Israel rejects her messiah, they invite destruction upon themselves and these leaders are the ones responsible for it. Jesus talked about the Temple being destroyed, but not destroying it himself. He did say that he would rebuild it himself though.

In Verse 58 the word used for “Temple” changes. It’s a different for the word used for “Temple” in the other places in Mark’s Gospel. It might better be rendered “sanctuary”. You may even read that in some translations. This may not seem like much, but it shows the nature of the exaggeration in their accusations against him. –hey don’t just accuse him of destroying the Temple in general; they speak of the “sanctuary” or the inner room where the High Priest met with God on the Day of Atonement: “The Holy of Holies” or “The Holiest Place”. The language is more serious because they speak of him destroying the holiest place. Since they could come up with nothing, the High Priest begins to ask Jesus about these charges, but Jesus remained silent. So, the High Priest asks Jesus very plainly about what the crowds of people had been talking about. Remember they were singing his praises and treating him like a King on the day he rode into Jerusalem only a few days before this. In verse 61, he asks Jesus if he’s the Messiah. The High Priest is careful not to say the Name of God so that God’s name isn’t inadvertently taken in vain, so he says “Blessed One”. He’s precise in observing this custom, yet, he’s manipulating evidence and practicing injustice in the effort to kill Jesus. He is careful to practice his religion, but has rejected Jesus in the process.

This should be a warning to all of us. As important as religious duty is, we must not forget God in our observance of it. Should the High priest have used God’s name loosely and without respect? Absolutely not! But in practicing his religious observance, he neglected to observe what is most important – he did not love God. There are religious duties and moral obligations that Christianity requires of us, and these should not be neglected. Yet we need to always fight the temptation to be more absorbed with religious observance than loving God. Jesus is our model in this, completely sinless but not because he was trying not to sin, but because he loves the Father. The high priest misses this, and he rejects his Messiah in the process.

Jesus has avoided answering questions like this directly, but here he is very specific. He doesn’t make the claim to being the Messiah himself, the High Priest does, but Jesus answers clearly and boldly. At this point in Jewish history, they didn’t expect the Messiah to be literally divine, but when Jesus combines Messiah, with Son of Man, and Mighty One coming in the clouds in verse 62, it’s clear that he’s making a claim to divinity. These are references to Daniel 7:13 and Psalm110:1 which tells of the way the Messiah will Judge. Jesus is saying he is the Divine Judge who will judge the world, but at this moment he’s reversing everything. Rather than judging the world, he is being judged by the world. The high priest is sitting over Jesus the Messiah in judgment and Jesus’ reply to him is a warning. In effect, Jesus is saying, “you may be judging me now, but soon I will judge you in the highest court.” The high priest rips his clothes which is a response communicating the highest outrage. They deem him guilty of blaspheme.

This court called the Sanhedrin was a religious court that ruled on many things, but they needed the Roman procurator Pilate to rule on a death sentence. So in verse 64, they condemn him to death, but they lacked the authority to carry it out. Rather than being proclaimed the Messiah and Son of God being accepted by his people Israel, Jesus is rejected and the proclamation of his titles is in his condemnation and death. They kill him for saying he’s King and Judge and Son of God, when it should’ve been the reason they worshipped him. They put him to death when they should have believed in him. 

The witnesses don’t agree, the high priest asks Jesus to respond to unsubstantiated charges. They are meeting in an unofficial location. They are meeting at nighttime rather than during the day. This trial is a farce. There was not a shred of evidence against Jesus yet they find him guilty. They find Jesus guilty of breaking the Law, and in their claim to uphold the law, it was they who were breaking it. Then in verse 65, they spit on Jesus, their Messiah. They mock him saying “prophesy” as they beat him.  The irony of this is what happens next in the story. He does in fact give a prophecy that is fulfilled.

Sources and Acknowledgments

The Classic Christmas: Expecting consolation and redemption

At Christmastime children are overwhelmed with expectation. The soundtrack for the childhood Christmases of many was the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas record. The Chipmunks hit was “Christmas don’t be late”. One of the lines in the song is, “we’ve been good, but we can’t last, hurry Christmas hurry fast” and another line is, “we can hardly stand the wait please Christmas don’t be late.” This song strikes a chord with every child as they see the pile of gifts grow under the tree and door after door open on the Advent calendar.

One of the elements of celebrating the classic Christmas, is enjoying the expectation that’s cultivated during this season. A major part of our celebrating is looking forward to what is to come at Christmastime. We look back on Jesus’ first coming which causes us to look forward to his second coming and both of these work change in our hearts now, today. Jesus is the one who was, who is, and who is to come and this is communicated at Christmastime. So as exciting as it is to create that atmosphere of expectation and anticipation in our observance of the holiday, that same attitude should infuse our faith all the time. If we aren’t filled with an expectation and an anticipation as we wait for the Lord to move in our lives and in this world, then we aren’t properly understanding the Scriptures.

When Jesus instructed his disciples to pray “your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven,” this was a lesson in expectation. Not only can God move in our midst, but he will. Not only can God establish his rule on earth fully and completely, but he will. Not only is he transforming our hearts and lives into people who will live forever, it’s a work he will complete resulting in eternal life. This expectation is seen in the Scriptures and in the Christmas story.

In Luke 2:22-24, Mary and Joseph were careful to obey they law in regards to this son that God had given them. The law required a lamb to be sacrificed when the first son came. There was a provision in Leviticus 5 that allowed the sacrifice of pigeons or turtle-doves if a family was too poor to have a lamb. As an aside, this is evidence that Mary and Joseph were of humble means. Jesus wasn’t only born in a stable because there was no room at the inn, they couldn’t afford anything more. But going back, verse 23 is a quotation from Exodus 13:2. Now, why would the exodus story be reference here? Exodus 12 is the story of the tenth plague and the Lord delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt by the blood of lambs. Exodus 13 begins the journey to the promised land where God says he will lead them and not leave them. And in Exodus 13, God says that as part of this redemption, any time the first male is born, whether to a mom and dad, or to livestock, that male is to be set apart for God. The firstborn male belongs to God, so this is the observance that Mary and Joseph were participating in. The fact that they take Jesus to the Temple for their “purification” as it says in verse 22, is a demonstration of their faith in God and that God delivers his people and leads his people. The firstborn belonged to God, so they had to take the firstborn to the Tabernacle in Exodus, or the Temple in Jesus’ case. Exodus 13 says that families had to pay a sacrifice to purchase their sons back from God. This new birth and purchasing back with a sacrificial lamb was to be a symbol of how God had redeemed Israel from slavery. Whenever a family had their first son, they would sacrifice a lamb. This was to point to God’s redemption of Israel from slavery. The firstborn animals were given to the temple, but the firstborn sons had a lamb substituted for them. The lamb was killed to purchase them back, just like what happened in Egypt.

This is the gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus is the firstborn son given as a sacrifice. He is the firstborn and the Lamb that redeems us from slavery. The firstborn is given by the Father so that we all might be redeemed from slavery and exile. So these couple of verses here in the middle of the Christmas story aren’t only to show that Mary and Joseph obeyed the Law. This points to who this firstborn son is. He is the one who will be given as a sacrifice to release us from slavery to sin and death.

This ceremony was observed by Mary and Joseph, and when they arrive in the Temple, there are people there worshiping. We see one of them in Luke 2:25-35. He was an old guy named Simeon. The defining statement about Simeon was that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. This idea of Consolation, carries the Exodus story forward again. Consolation can mean comfort, help, or encouragement depending on the context. In this time period many people were waiting for God’s Messiah to come and restore Israel as a political and military force. In Jewish thought, this Messiah was called by many names, but one was the Consolation of Israel. Israel had endured oppression and been ruled over for centuries and the expectation of the Messiah coming was growing and growing. This Messiah would be the one who would bring comfort in the midst of the oppression of this Exile and slavery under the Romans. During this time, many false-messiahs did come and attempted rebellion only to be crushed. So, for someone like Simeon to be expecting the Messiah in this time period, wasn’t the same as the people saying that the world is going to end on December 21st. It was different from that. This Messiah, or the one who would bring consolation to Israel, would restore Israel and overthrow the Romans. Consolation in this sense relates to what was lost or broken. Although Israel was a broken people, the Messiah would bring consolation and restore it.

This echoes back to the Exodus story on how God brought Israel out of Egypt as a great nation. The Messiah would make Israel even greater than before. Israel entered Egypt as a family but emerged as a nation. It was expected that the Messiah’s work would restore Israel in similar fashion. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. In his long life, it’s likely that he saw or heard about more than one false-messiah. He wasn’t promised that he would live to see the results the Messiah would bring for Israel, but he would see him. So he went to the Temple which would be the proper place to meet the true Messiah, and there he waited with faith and hope, and he expected to see the Messiah as the years and decades passed. But, God keeps his promise to Simeon.

We don’t know how he knew, but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was the Messiah. He didn’t need to see the water turned to wine, the healing, the triumph over demons, the betrayal, the crucifixion or the resurrection. He knew what God was going to do. God was going to bring Consolation to his people through the this baby. Verses 29-32 are a song of Blessing that Simeon sings. He sang a song about Jesus being Israel’s consolation. This baby he is holding is the conquering Messiah who will be the light to the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel. He knew that God had brought light and Glory in this Baby. God had not abandoned his people in their suffering, but he brings consolation by joining with them in their suffering. He did it in Exodus bringing them out of Egypt and this Gospel is showing us he is doing it again in Jesus.

As this scene is unfolding in the Temple, a woman in her mid-80’s walks into the Temple just in time to see this. Her name was Anna and we read about her in Luke 2:36-38. She was a prophetess. Her life was devoted to worship in the Temple. She came to the Temple at the same time Simeon was holding Jesus and also realizes that this baby is the Long Expected Messiah. So, she begins to tell the other people in the Temple. It says she spoke of him to “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” With Simeon, we talked about the Messiah bringing consolation and with Anna we see the Messiah is also going to bring redemption. Consolation relates to what is lost and broken. Jesus consoles by bringing restoration. Redemption relates to rescue from danger, release from slavery, or ransom from indebtedness. Again the story of the Exodus is echoed in Luke 2. People expected the Messiah to release Israel from Roman oppression and bring redemption. This baby will pay the ransom of Israel, Jesus will bring redemption to Israel. But it won’t just be for Israel, but as a light to the Gentiles as well. Jesus doesn’t free Israel from the Romans, but he frees humanity from sin’s oppression.  He brings a redemption that causes release from the captivity of death to eternal life. He pays the penalty that sin would have exacted from us and gives us resurrection instead. Because of Jesus, God offers us consolation for our past and redemption for our future. He forgives us of our past and he gives us freedom for our future. He pardons our sin and he seals our salvation.

Simeon and Anna lived in faith and hope for decades before seeing God fulfill the expectations that he placed within them by allowing them to see Jesus. Jesus the Messiah who is Israel’s consolation and redemption is also ours. Our attempts to find meaning and fulfillment in the pleasure, or power, or possessions of this world leave us empty and unsatisfied. They leave us longing for the consolation and redemption only found in Jesus. Our suffering, heartache, and brokenness fuel this same longing. When tragedy comes, we want it undone. We want it to come untrue. When the realization of that impossibility overwhelms us, we cry out wondering how God lets these things happen. Answer elude us all, but even if we had answers, it wouldn’t be enough. We want justice and restoration. And when we consider how even the best of lives eventually intersect with tragedy and death, we don’t know why God allows our world to operate this way.

What does all of this mean? Why do people go into theaters and schools and shoot people? It’s illogical, senseless, but most specifically, it is evil.

Where is God in all of this? He is infinitely strong so he will bring justice and he is infinitely good, so he has reasons which reason cannot comprehend. But most importantly, he has not abandoned us. One thing this does NOT mean is that God does not care. God identifies with those who suffer. He joins himself with Israel, with Mary and Joseph, with Simeon, with Anna, with people in Newtown, CT, and with us. He doesn’t merely watch us suffer, he steps into our suffering and he conquers it. He submits to death and then overwhelms it. God knows what it’s like to lose his son in a senseless act of violence, in a display of sinfulness and evil. And it is because of this that like Simeon and Anna, we await the Messiah who will bring us Consolation and redemption. His Kingdom will come and his will, will be done on earth as in heaven. He will reign in righteousness and justice, love will be his law, and we will be his people and he will be our God. Let today be the day you trust in Jesus for your consolation and redemption.

Review and Reflect on Mark 13 – The Temple-Religion is being replaced by Jesus-Religion

Mark 13 is focused around Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question in verse 4 about when the Temple will be destroyed. In Jesus’ day, all of Jewish religion was focused on the Temple, but Jesus has been teaching throughout Mark’s Gospel that religion is changing because the time is fulfilled and God’s kingdom had come. As Israel’s situation became more and more desperate under Roman oppression in the 1st century, there was increasing expectation that God was coming to intervene and correct what was happening. Many Jewish people were awaiting a Messiah to come and overthrow Rome and bring in a golden age for Israel much like David had done. In this period of history there were many so-called messiahs who attempted to do this only to be violently defeated. But people continued to follow these types men who would arise with some measure of influence and military aptitude. The people thought God was coming at any moment to vindicate Israel.

In many ways, Mark 13 is a message contradicting this. Jesus is teaching against the man standing on the side of the street in a sandwich sign which reads “The End is Near!” In fact, Jesus is teaching that rather than being freed by military might, Israel is going to be overcome and the temple destroyed. Jesus is teaching that the time of this end is coming for Israel, but not as soon as they thought. He is telling them to get ready for the long struggle before them. 

Historically, people have interpreted Jesus’ answer here in Mark 13 in various ways. Some say that the entirety is referring to the Temple being destroyed in 70 AD during the First Jewish-Roman War. Others say that it is partially speaking about this and partially speaking about the end of all things or “End Times”. Still others interpret this passage with only the End Times in mind focusing on what it may or may not teach about the future.

There are some things that should guide us in our understanding of Mark 13. First, we should focus on what the passage clearly says before we move to speculation on future events. Allow the biblical text to drive our system of thinking rather than trying to fit a text into our system. The Bible is not a crystal ball so there’s no clear and decisive picture of how the future events are going to unfold. There are elements of future events recorded in the scriptures, but only enough to drive us to a proper response. That response is hope that God will bring justice and restoration to his world and proper fear of God that directs our behavior so we are ready to meet him at any moment. A second idea that should guide our understanding of Mark 13 is that we should consider how Jesus’ answer fits into the message of the Gospel of Mark before we think about how it fits into our understanding of unknown future events. And third, we should consider how this might impact us now and today rather than in some theoretical future. So our task is not to speculate about when the end of the world may be, but to consider what Jesus is teaching us about the Gospel, or Good News of God in Mark 13.

There are many passages to study when it comes to “End Times” studies, but the focus here is on Mark 13. This is not an attempt at an exhaustive discussion on Mark 13 (that would be exhausting!). In light of the three ideas proposed above, there will be two points argued in this approach to Mark 13:

  1. Here, the Bible is teaching that Temple religion is being replaced by Jesus religion.
  2. Applying what is read here out to teach us to live properly with watchfulness and expectation.

Jesus has spent the last few days in the Temple arguing with Israel’s religious teachers and leaders and teaching the crowds of people who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. In Mark 13:1-7, he now leaves the Temple with his disciples. As they are leaving one of the 12 remarks on the magnificence of the Temple structure. And in verse 2 Jesus says  the Temple is going to be completely destroyed. His disciples reply in verse 4 with a question about the timing of this destruction. The remainder of chapter 13 is primarily concerned with answering this question. There are two parts to their question: 1) When will this happen? And 2) what will be the sign of the destruction.

The disciples want to be prepared for this, so they ask Jesus to teach them about when the Temple will be destroyed. Whatever your view is of the Bible’s teaching of the End Times, it makes no sense to think of Jesus not answering the disciples question in Mark 13. Verse 4 frames the entire chapter around the subject of the Temple being destroyed. Mark 13 is not centered around the End Times, it is centered around answering this question. This is not to say that End Times elements are not found here, but they are not the center or focus of Jesus’ answer to this question.

Jesus warns them in verse 5 of those who would deceive them about these matters. In verses 6-7 he says false messiahs will come and there will constantly be news about wars local and throughout the Empire. He says the disciples are to respond to these things calmly because the end of the Temple will not have arrived quite yet. Verse 7 says, “do not be alarmed”. Why? Because “the end is still to come”. In other words, history will go on as always. There will be turmoil and problems. This doesn’t mean the end.

This would be the period in between Jesus’ resurrection and when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, around 37 years. A lot happened during that time and Jesus was telling his disciples not to worry about the political upheaval and false teachers that would arise during this time.

In Mark 13:8-13, Jesus teaches that all of the problems the disciples were going to face should be expected. There will always be nations jockeying for power. There will be earthquakes and famines just as there has always been. Verse 8  says these things are birth pains. There is no doubt that you are going to have a baby when you have birth pains, but just because you have them, doesn’t mean labor has begun. Jesus moves from political turmoil and natural disasters to speaking about the preaching of the Gospel. The task of preaching the Gospel to all nations wasn’t going to be an easy one, so when his disciples do it they should expect to be opposed. Jesus says there will continue to be turmoil and upheaval all around them. They will be persecuted and it is through this persecution that the Gospel will be preached to the nations. This is what happens with Paul in the book of Acts when he goes before a Governor named Felix, before certain rulers, and ultimately he goes to Caesar himself and shares the Gospel. Verse 10 refers back to the question of verse 4. “What are the signs that the Temple will be destroyed?” is the question of verse 4. And verse 10 says, First, or before that happens, the Gospel will be preached to all nations. The nature of Gospel includes a missionary component from the beginning. It’s automatic that those who believe it will teach it everywhere they go. In the generation of believers after the resurrection, the Gospel spreads like wildfire all over the world. This is seen in the book of Acts: Paul and his entourage takes it throughout the Roman Empire. Church history holds that Thomas went to India. Philip preaches to an Ethiopian who believes and takes the Gospel to Africa. That generation after the resurrection takes the Gospel to the whole world. So, why was this necessary before the Temple would be destroyed?

Glad you asked!

If you recall, at places in several previous posts on Mark’s Gospel, we have talked about how Jesus was changing the way God’s people would worship him. No longer do the people of God need to go to a Temple and approach God through sacrifices, but now they can come to God face-to-face and approach him boldly through Jesus’ sacrifice. In order for Temple to be fully replaced, the Gospel needed to be fully established. We can think of it another way too: in order for the former Temple-and-Law-Religion to be replaced, the new Jesus-religion had to be established. So after the resurrection, the disciples proclaim the Gospel all over the world. All the nations of the earth now see how they may approach God through Jesus. They are no longer required to travel to a temple to offer sacrifice, because Jesus is their sacrifice and their temple. Here verses 8-13 talk about this task of taking the Gospel to all nations. It is not an easy task but it is a task that remains with us today and all Christians are called to it. Verses 12 and 13 speak about betrayal and death being results of participating in this mission. This has undoubtedly been the case for many throughout history from the apostles until today.

Mark 13:14-23 make reference to Daniel 11-12 and verse 14 refers to the” Abomination that causes Desolation”. It also appears in Matthew 24. Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled around 167 BC when a Roman ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar in Jerusalem. Jesus borrows this same imagery when he foretells the temple destruction in 70 AD. The Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 and three and a half years later the Roman General Titus destroys the Temple in 70 AD. Jesus is warning his followers to be prepared and ready when they see this happen. In verses 21-22, he says false messiahs will continue to try to gain followers and Jesus says in verse 23 that his elect needs to be on their guard.

After this the language changes in Mark 13:24-31. The language becomes more stylized and figurative. Jesus is likely quoting Isaiah 13:10, but there are other similar passages to verses 24-25. Whether this is referring to AD 70, future events, or both is difficult to tell. One reason to interpret it as referring to 70 AD is because of the term “This Generation” in verse 30. Jesus is referring to the disciples and those following him at this point. Many of them lived long enough to see the Gospel expand worldwide and also for the Temple to be destroyed. This passage says that there will be no debate when this time comes. Jesus uses the fig tree again as an illustration. He says in verse 28 that when you see the fig tree covered with leaves there is not a doubt that it is summertime. Like this, Jesus says when all of these things happen, the end will be near. In other words, by the time you can tell it’s that close, it will be too late to prepare for it.

Moving on to Mark 13:32-37, there is another shift in the wording. Verses 17, 19, 20, and 24 refer to “Days” when speaking about the time surrounding the destruction of the Temple. Then in verse 32 it switches to “day”. There is a change of language that points to a change of subject. I view this as a change from Jesus speaking about 70 AD to talking about future events because of the change of wording in the text. Jesus changes the subject from answering the question in verse 4 about the sign of the destruction of the Temple, to the last Day or what we call the Second Coming of Christ. In verse 32 he says that although he has knowledge about the coming “days” of trouble in verses 17, 19, 20, and 24, about “that day” in verse 32, only the Father has knowledge. So the “days” of trouble are different from the coming “day”. He uses the example of a man leaving his house in charge of his servants in verse 34. This is pointing to Jesus’ resurrection and return to his heavenly throne. And he ends his answer with a challenge in verses 35-37 to “Watch” or be prepared.

So, after taking all of our time this morning to offer a brief explanation of Mark 13, let’s return to the two ways we need to apply it:

1.  The Bible is teaching us that Temple religion is being replaced by Jesus religion. This first application is related to our thoughts and how we read the Bible and understand Jesus. Mark 13 continues to teach Jesus’ Gospel that the Kingdom has come and the time is fulfilled. Jesus says the Temple is going to be destroyed because he has fulfilled anything and everything the Temple was meant to do. We now go to Jesus and through Jesus for worship. We worship him and he makes worship possible by his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system that was practiced in the Temple. Animal sacrifice could never take away man’s sin. So Jesus becomes man, lives perfectly, and gives his own life as the perfect sacrifice for the sin he never committed. This passage is about the period of time from when the Temple religion changed to the Jesus religion and the latter was decisively established when the Temple was destroyed. The book of Acts and much of the New Testament describes this in between time. There are lots of questions about how Jews who believed in Jesus are to live. Jesus speaks beforehand showing that once the Temple is destroyed a lot of their problems were going to be resolved. He also makes a way for the whole world to be brought into God’s plan of redemption. There was an outer court to the Temple so non-Jews or Gentiles could come to worship, but Jesus tears the innermost curtain of the Temple so that now there is no more separation between Jew and Gentile. All who come to Jesus are God’s people regardless of race. Verse 10 points to the inclusion of all races in the plan of God because everyone can come to God through the Good News of Jesus, or what we also call the Gospel. In light of this, if you are attempting to come to God on your own terms then you are mistaken. God doesn’t require us to clean up our act before he’ll accept us. In fact, even if we do that, it doesn’t mean he will. He will accept all who come to him believing in Jesus and repenting or aligning their life with him. Attempting to be reconciled to God in any other way is not enough. Only Jesus can make a way for us to come to God. Not only does Jesus fulfill and replace the Temple, but he demonstrates that any attempts to reach God on our own are deficient. Only Jesus gets us forgiveness and eternal life.

2. Living properly includes a watchfulness and expectation. This second application of Mark 13 is related to our thoughts and our actions. “Be on guard” is mentioned 4 times in v 5, 9, 23, 33. Verses 35-37 summarized the point of the whole passage with one word “Watch!” Jesus leaves his followers and us with a responsibility to prepare for whatever following him might invite into our lives. He says watch in such a way that you endure persecution, aren’t led astray, have hope, and do not fear his return. The Christian life is one of continual preparation. We are called to regularly evaluate the way we think about life and the way we conduct our lives and be sure they are honoring to God. The Christian church has always believed that Jesus could return at any moment and if we should meet the grave before he does, then for those who believe, we understand to be a peaceful sleep. We are to live our lives in light of this.

Review and Reflect on Mark 12:41-44 – Understanding Money in Terms of Worship

Contrasting the story of the religious leaders who exploit poor widows, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus points out a poor widow. The important and wealthy people are throwing large sums of money into the temple offering and they are making sure everyone sees them do it. In the middle of this, along comes a poor widow and she drops two small coins into the offering. The value of these two coins was about 1/64th of what a laborer might earn in a day. Let’s say a person in our day makes $100 in a day, this offering would be $1.56. She had only two coins, she could have kept one for food or something, but she gave both.

There were others in the Temple whose spirituality was noticed. The wealthy threw lots of money in the offering and it made them look and feel spiritual. Yet, their spirituality cost them very little. It didn’t require them to sacrifice. Everyone recognized they must be very spiritual because of their show they put on. But truly and deeply, their spirituality was anemic and had no substance. Yet this woman’s genuine spiritually goes unnoticed because she only tossed in two coins. She has done what Jesus said his followers must do – deny themselves and take up the cross. She has loved God truly and authentically, unlike the others, yet no one even knows about it.

What Jesus points out here is that her worship and love for God was true and genuine. Even the person of humble circumstances can come before God in worship. God doesn’t consider one’s wealth or social status when we come in genuine worship. She had no means and no influence yet she worshipped God properly.

Jesus talks about money enough to make it uncomfortable for us. But, really this passage is about a person’s heart. This poor widow’s heart belonged to God. The wealthy people worshipped themselves, not God. Where we place our money is a great indicator of whether or not our hearts belong to God. The way we give tells us a lot about the condition of our hearts. The way we see others give tells us little about the condition of their hearts. Whether you see someone give or not, whether you see the amount they give or not, only God knows their situation and motives.

In discussing this passage, it isn’t necessarily vital to apply it in the context of giving money to the church, although that is important. What is most important though, is that you understand money in terms of worship. Let it be a means of worship rather than an object of worship. Be generous and honor God with your money whether you place it in a basket at church, or give it randomly to those in need, or contribute to alleviating poverty in 3rd world countries through microfinancing. There are lots of ways to worship through giving. Be like this widow. Have no concern for what others see, but use your money as a physical and tangible way of worshipping God. We can worship God by giving in a way that only he knows. Do it publicly, do it secretly, but worship him in this way.

If Jesus is not Lord over your life, you will find yourself worshipping yourself, or your money, or your desires, or any number of other things. Life is disjointed, it’s out of sync when we worship ourselves or other things. Worship Jesus, not your money.

Acknowledgments and Sources

Review and Reflect on Mark 12:35-37 – How is Jesus the Son of David, Messiah, and King?

In the final days of Jesus’ ministry, he stands in the temple arguing with the leaders of Jerusalem and teaching his disciples and the crowds of people. You can imagine how much he would have taught so these few passages in Mark’s Gospel might be considered selections from his teaching over the course of the Passover week. Mark 12:35-37 is only a few verses, yet in these few verses is a profound lesson from Jesus. Rather than being asked a question, this time, Jesus raises the question before the crowd listening to him. Verse 35 reminds us that he is in the Temple teaching these things. We have already seen how Jesus’ teaching is reorienting the Temple worship around himself and this teaching continues to do this.

It was believed in Jesus’ day that the Messiah was to be a descendant of David. I’ve mentioned this before and it is an idea reflected in the term “Son of David,” used in the New Testament. This is the title Jesus was called the blind and deaf man he healed in Chapter 10, just before he rode into Jerusalem on a colt where they said “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Father David” in Chapter 11. But Jesus is taking the term, and expanding it here in these verses. His question shows a problem with limiting one’s understanding of the messiah to a person from the lineage of David. He’s not denying this, but expanding it.

The Messiah was to come from David’s line, he was going to be a King like David. The popular conception was that the Messiah would be as great as David, but Jesus uses this quotation from Psalm 110 to show that the Messiah would actually be greater than David. He is like David because he is from his lineage and because he is a king. But, he is also not like David because he is David’s Lord. Jesus is teaching that he is both the Lord and the Son of David. The conception of a political messiah that would fulfill Israel’s patriotic and nationalistic hopes was communicated through referring to the Messiah as the Son of David. David was a warrior bringing peace through victory over Israel’s enemies. So the thought was, the Messiah will do the same thing; wage war and achieve victory. But Jesus points to being a Messiah that is greater than this. “Son of David” made the average Jew at this time think of a Messiah who conquers, waging war and overthrowing Rome. Jesus was helping his followers unlearn this.

“Son of David” was a misleading title for the Messiah for Jews, but it was a meaningless title for non-Jews. Non-Jews knew nothing of David, so calling the Messiah Son of David was unhelpful. So Jesus brings in both Jew and Gentile by referring to himself as Lord here. “Lord” was a title the early church would adopt for Jesus and one that we continue to use today. Jesus is Lord. He is Messiah and King together, man and God together. This can be seen in Romans 1 also where verse 3-4 says, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”. Romans 1:3-4 shows that understanding Jesus as Son of God and Son of David are complementary truths. Verse 4 also says “Christ” which is the term Messiah in Greek, and he is referred to finally as Lord here.

We understand the Lord Jesus as the Son of David fulfilling God’s promises to his people Israel, and has the Son of God bringing the Kingdom of God through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Paul’s Gospel is the same as Mark’s Gospel: Jesus is fulfilling promises and being King bringing the Kingdom through resurrection.

This is another example in Mark’s Gospel of what Jesus means when he says the Time is fulfilled. He is the one fulfilling the promised Time and keeping God’s promises. He is the one like David that was to come, and he is the one who is God dwelling amongst his people. He is the one who rescues us from our oppression, not a government or a tyrant. Jesus rescues us from the oppression of Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness, and he rescues us from the oppression of our sin and the result of death. As Messiah, King, and Lord he gives us true life eternal and resurrection into God’s presence forever.

He is like King David, but he is greater to an infinite degree. This is how Jesus uses this passage from Psalm 110 to teach his followers here in Mark 12:35-37.

Acknowledgments and Sources

Review and Reflect on Mark 11:27-12:12 – The old is fading away and something new is coming

In Mark 11:27-33, Jesus has entered the Temple and the Temple leaders confront him. They ask him where he derives the authority that allows him to say and do the things he has been saying and doing. Had they understood the significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, they wouldn’t have had to question him about his authority for doing what he did in the Temple. As it was, either they denied that he was presenting himself as King, or they simply didn’t understand it. Jesus sees that they are trying to catch him in a trap, so he responds with a question about John the Baptist that’s a trap for them. If John’s baptism was a godly thing, they should have followed him, like the masses of people in Israel did. If John’s baptism wasn’t from God, then the people would take issue with the leaders because they followed John. It’s a trap, so the leaders respond by saying they don’t know. So, Jesus won’t tell them his authority is from God either.

Here again Jesus links his ministry with that of John the Baptist. John was the prophet that came before him to call Israel back to God in repentance. Jesus continues that ministry, but he also heads toward the same end as John. The leaders are going to have him killed. Because of their response and because of their desire to kill Jesus rather than believe and follow him, he tells a parable to them in Mark 12:1-12.

This parable is an example of why for centuries Jesus has been considered one of the greatest storytellers and teachers to ever live. It is told with incredible skill and drama. Even though it is great literature, its content is even more incredible. This parable is an allegory against Israel’s leaders which teaches that those who have rejected God and his messengers will themselves be rejected so that others will inherit their promises.

It’s likely that Jesus borrows some symbolism from Isaiah 5 here. Isaiah 5 is about Israel being God’s vineyard that didn’t produce fruit and Jesus’ audience would have certainly been reminded of it when he told this parable. This passage plays on certain elements of Isaiah 5, but it is also different. The heir is not mentioned in Isaiah 5 and that is a main part of Jesus’ story. Jesus is the heir sent to bring order and justice to the vineyard. God has sent dozens and dozens of prophets and men and women of God to call his people back to him for centuries. Finally Jesus has come on the scene. His message is that the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom has come. All the things the prophets spoke about are coming true in him. And in this parable, what does Jesus say will happen?

The heir will be killed.

He knew the leaders were plotting to kill him, but he comes to them anyway. He speaks this parable against them. Just as there has always been a remnant of believing Israel, there has also always been a group of those who reject God. Jesus is accusing the leaders of the Temple of being the one’s entrusted with the vineyard, but have rejected the landowner’s authority to the point of killing his messengers and even the heir. In the last passage in chapter 11, Jesus quoted Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7 when he taught the crowds after cleansing the temple. He quotes from two passages that talk about God including foreigners in his plan for his people. His intent was always to include Non-Jewish people in the plan he had for Israel. Yet, in Isaiah and Jeremiah’s time, the Jewish people did not follow his plan. Then, in the NT we read how the Jews of that time didn’t follow God’s plan either.

In verse 9 Jesus says in this parable that the vineyard will be given to others. This is another hint that the Gentiles are going to be included in God’s plan. He hinted at this when he fed the 4000 in non-Jewish territory as well as when he healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. Now he is speaking about it again. Jesus will be killed by these leaders in Jerusalem, but he will die for the world. This is why Jesus can be Israel’s Messiah yet speaking of him, John says for God so loved the World that he gave his son. His death is the sacrifice for sin for anyone who comes to him believing and following him; anyone, regardless of race or nationality.

In Verse 10 he ends the Parable and begins to teach, just in case it wasn’t obvious to the religious leaders that he was speaking this parable against them.   He quotes a passage from Psalm 118:22-23. He speaks this against them saying that in their rejection of him, God will establish something new upon him. Out of the broader context of Jesus cleansing the Temple in the previous passage, teaching that the vineyard will be handed over to new tenants points to the fact that true worship is now centered on the Heir, it is centered on Jesus, not on the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel’s leaders reject their King, yet Jesus rises from the dead to be the beginning, the foundation, the cornerstone of a new people of God, those who follow him. Christianity is born out of Judaism, but very quickly it begins to differ with Judaism. Many of the NT books talk about this transitional period where Jews who believe in Jesus are seeing this new way of living as increasingly different from their Jewish religion. The reason for this divergence is Jesus fulfilling what God had promised and bringing the Kingdom in his sacrificial death and his resurrection. No longer is a Temple necessary for prayer, sacrifice, or worship, we can now approach God anywhere through the work of Jesus on the cross. For Jews who followed Jesus, Judaism faded away into following Jesus, or what would later come to be known as Christianity. So, when Jesus quotes this verse from Psalm 118, he is speaking again about what Israel’s religion had become and how in its rejection of him, something new was coming. We will see this illustrated again when he talks about the temple being destroyed and rebuilt it in 3 days. The old is fading away and something new is coming. Another important part about Jesus quoting Psalm 118, is we just heard it in chapter 11 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. The people were shouting from Psalm 118:25-26. The crowd who came to Jerusalem with Jesus was quoting this verse in their acknowledgement of Jesus as Israel’s true and rightful King. This is what terrified the religious leaders. Now Jesus is quoting from this same passage a couple of days later.

But what does verse 12 say? They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid. The crowd loved Jesus. The leaders didn’t want to have to answer to them so they leave him. After they leave, on another occasion, whether the same day, or another day, we can’t tell, but on another occasion something similar happens. Some different leaders are sent to try to trap Jesus.

Acknowledgements and Sources

 

Review and Reflect on Mark 11:12-26; The Barren Temple illustrated by the Withered Tree.

Amid the cheers of the crowd, riding on a colt, Jesus displayed himself as Israel’s King. Everything about what Jesus was doing was showing how he fulfills God’s promises. Jesus was riding into Jerusalem as Israel’s King, just like God had promised. When he arrived at the Temple, he looked around and saw a disturbing site. So he leaves. He goes to a neighboring village for the night, and the story continues in Mark 11:12-14.

Jesus is on his way to the Temple in Jerusalem and stops at a fig tree for breakfast. The tree looks fine on the outside, but upon close inspection, there is no fruit. A fruit tree with no fruit is good for nothing. Jesus curses the tree because it has no fruit, and we know this is more important than simply the reaction of a hungry man because it says in verse 14, “his disciples heard him say it.” This seemingly irrelevant little story will become important after what Jesus does next when he gets to the Temple in verses 15-25.

The Temple had become both a patriotic and a religious symbol. It was a source of national pride for Israel. It came to be recognized as a symbol of God’s favor upon Israel and as a symbol of Jewish identity. And this may not sound all that bad, but it wasn’t supposed to be any of those things. The Temple was for worship. Allowing commerce and politics and nationalism to enter into it was a degradation of its intention. The Temple wasn’t supposed to be just another place, it was a place to meet with God. Jesus opposes this corruption of the Temple and for the next several passages, until Mark 13, we’ll hear him talk about these things. Jesus wasn’t against the Temple, but he was against what the Temple had become. It was no longer a place to worship or pray, it was the center of politics and commerce. It wasn’t only that people were being exploited by the money changers and animal salesmen, people were buying things in the Temple and walking through the Temple courts on their way to do other things. So, by the time we get to Mark 13, we will hear Jesus say that the Temple will be destroyed and replaced. Worship impacts all of life, and they were letting life impact their worship. Things were upside down. People made money there. People were networking and politicking. People were walking through the courts because it was closer to their destination than walking around. The time for formal worship was to place all other aspects of life in perspective, and they had rearranged worship to fit aspects of life into it.

Bring this to our present day. We gather for worship as a church for a small period of time weekly. This time allows the rest of our lives to be focused and ordered accordingly. Worshipping God is focusing on what is most important and it also shows us how the rest of our lives can be focused on God. These people looked at God through the lens of life, rather than looking at life through the perspective God gives his people. We experience this same temptation in our day. Business, networking, politics, and many aspects of our lives are brought into worship when they should be left outside. Our worship of God informs and directs all of those things, but if we aren’t careful we will approach God with all of those things. We’ll worship business, social life, and politics and we will ask God to bless it; when we should worship God alone, and ask him to direct our involvement in all other various aspects of life for his glory. Not that those other aspects of life aren’t important, but their importance hinges upon God being placed in the center of our lives. Without taking regular time to specifically devote ourselves to worshipping God and aligning our hearts with him, we are in danger of moving his place in our lives from the seat of Lordship to the guy who helps me do the stuff I want to do. This is called idolatry and this is what Jesus saw in the Temple that day.

In Verse 15 Jesus addresses everything going on in the outer court of the Temple. He doesn’t single out those who were selling, but also addresses those who were buying. In Verse 16 it says people were carrying merchandise through the courts. The Temple had several layers leading up to the innermost place called the Holy of Holies where the high priest went once a year to make sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. Where Jesus is at this point, is in the outermost court called the Court of the Gentiles. This was where Gentiles (non-Jews) who wanted to worship God could come and do so. In verse 17, Jesus begins to teach after he has just wrecked the place and his words are from Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7.

Isaiah 56:6-8 is about foreigners who don’t belong to Israel that God will include in his people. Jesus was calling attention to the plan of God to allow foreigners to come to worship him. The people who oversaw the Temple had allowed things to be put in place that hindered this. Jesus saw the place where Gentiles were permitted to worship become commonplace and no longer sacred. The commerce and activity happening everywhere in the Court of the Gentiles wasn’t worship, and Jesus acts to restore the sacredness of that place. His actions included knocking over tables and scattering money everywhere. He stopped people who were cutting through the Temple courts and told them to leave. In doing this, Jesus references the passage from Isaiah which talks about God including foreigners in his plan when he restores God’s people and rescues them from their exile.

The other passage he quotes is from Jeremiah 7:2-11. This passage is a condemnation of the people of Israel. Although they had a temple to worship God, it hadn’t translated into a life that worshipped God. They trusted in the existence of a Temple rather than loving God and living rightly. In Jeremiah 7:6, the reference is again to the foreigner in addition to orphans and widows. Jesus is quoting these two passages from Isaiah and Jeremiah to condemn Israel’s religion. They thought that just because they had the Temple, this meant they were right with God. But they had neglected to love God and people from their hearts, and their religion was only outward, not from their hearts. Isaiah and Jeremiah condemned Israel when they turned away from God. They warned God’s people of a coming exile if they didn’t turn back to God. They refused to do so, and were taken away to foreign lands. Jesus is calling Israel to true worship again, and in Mark 11:18 we see that the response of Israel’s leaders is to try to kill Jesus. Just like Israel in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, in Jesus’ day they refuse to worship God properly, but live for their own desires and pursuits. Verse 18 says that the leaders were afraid because the crowds were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. They were going to have to do something quickly, or Jesus would be made King and the leaders would lose their positions of influence and comfort that they had.

In verses 19-25, it’s clear now that Jesus cursed the fig tree, not because he was hungry and it didn’t feed him, but as a symbol or metaphor for what was happening in Israel. The barren temple is illustrated by the withered tree. This is why the story about the fig tree has the story of Jesus cleansing the temple in the middle of it. Jesus is effectively saying that Israel has become a tree without fruit. They bear all the marks of religion yet they don’t know God. About this passage, Tim Keller says, “Jesus was returning to a place that was religiously very busy, just like most churches…but the busyness contained no spirituality. Nobody was actually praying.” Jesus goes into the temple and there is no worship. No one was praying.

Of all the things we might do as a church and as individuals, we must worship God. There are different ways to do this, but primarily in the church, it has to do with singing, praying, and reading and preaching the Scriptures. If we neglect worship, we are club, or a benevolent organization, but we are not a church. So, among the other things that churches do, our primary focus must be worshipping God when we gather. No other place does this, only the church. We can get advice from all kinds of places, but we only know God through his word.

The day after Jesus goes to the Temple; Peter recognizes the fig tree and points it out to him. Then, Jesus begins to talk about praying. The focus of the Temple should have been prayer, but that had been replaced. So Jesus is teaching that although the Temple has now become an example of Israel’s fruitlessness, prayer remains an essential aspect of worship. He is also teaching that prayer doesn’t have to happen only in the Temple, but you can pray anywhere. Jesus tells his followers that prayer is the way in which the power of God is translated into daily life.

Verses 24 and 25 give us two instructions regarding prayer. First, if we ask God believing that he will give it, it will be ours. Secondly, when we pray we are to release anything we hold against anyone by forgiving. We talk a lot about the first and not so much about the second. God has the ability to throw a mountain into the sea, it says in verse 23, and when we believe in God’s power, we will pray accordingly. But our prayers are a place where theology and life intertwine. Loving God cannot be separated from loving people so we when we pray our theology that informs us of God’s ability, must be joined with the practice of forgiving others of their wrong against us. God doesn’t count our many sins against us, and we have no right to count the sins of other against them. Prayer is affected by our view of God and our view of others. God made a way for us to be reconciled to himself so in our application of that reconciliation, we must also reconcile ourselves to one another. In talking about prayer, here Jesus speaks to the vertical and horizontal aspects of the Gospel.

Jesus died for our sins and rose again giving us eternal life. But that eternal life is not just with him, but with all who turn to him in faith. So, it’s likely that you will spend eternity with people you don’t particularly care for. In fact, it’s possible that you might spend eternity with people you might actually hate. God hasn’t turned me or you away, and he won’t turn away anyone else who comes to him believing and trusting what Jesus has done. The Gospel affects us in a God-ward way and an others-ward way. At Shore Community Church, we say that our goal is to Love God and Love people. Jesus teaches that here with his instructions on prayer. He says, believe that God can do anything you ask, but your prayers are affected by whether or not you forgive other people.