Mark 11 [Part Two]

What I’m Listening to: God Will by Johnny Cash

I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to talk about into one post, so here is part two to wrap up this mini-series. 

Now, I want to talk about the two stages we see in Mark 11. We talked before about how we have this emotional “downswing” from the jubilation of Palm Sunday. This is because after Jesus is essentially lauded as a king, He makes some judgements, He points out the failures that the Jewish community has. In a way this is a real life parable. 

When we learn of God, it is an awesome day! We celebrate, we cry out with joy. But after that initial happiness comes one of the hardest periods that every Christian faces. When we invite God into our lives, He starts to look around and point out where we need to improve. And in a lot of cases, that can make us angry, make us plot to make Him go away, much like the Pharisees. This is because now that we are being called to make difficult changes and choices we begin to think it might not have been so bad without Him. That’s our sinful, evil nature of course, to seek our old, threadbare comfort rather than letting God guide us to a new, better, eternal comfort. Now, this is most pronounced when we first know God, but we feel this rebellion all the time; in fact I would even go so far as to say most of us believers feel this discomfort almost all the time, we just push it into a corner of our mind so we don’t have to think about it too much. We live most days trying not to think too hard, we look at our Bibles and our religious Facebook posts and we reassure ourselves that that’s what God wants from us. 

Is it? Because I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go to church and only half-listen for fear they might feel called out or to exchange uncomfortable conversations with God for buying a pun-based Christian shirt. God is not a nanny, our immediate comfort is not His only concern. He cares about our forever, He wants us to spend it with Him. So yes, He is going to push us outside our comfort zone, He is going to point out the sin that clouds our life but He is also going to rebuild us so much better and stronger than we ever were before (if we will just put ourselves aside for literally two minutes). 

So, today, just take a moment to ask God what He actually wants you to do. Don’t shy away when you start to feel uncomfortable, realize you can’t live for yourself and recognize what God’s calling you to do. Don’t face this conversation or the  next steps He’s going to have for you with fear, because He’s right there with you and He is so excited to help you. He literally has the best of intentions for us. 

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

            ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10 (KJV)

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

Mark 11 [Part One]

What I’m Listening to: Are All the Children In by Johnny Cash

This is part one of a two part series covering Mark Chapter 11.

This last week in my church’s bible study we covered Mark 11, which starts with the story of Palm Sunday. 

 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

        ~ Mark 11:7-10 (NIV)

Then, the next day (still in Mark 11) the narrative takes a bit of a downswing from the parade we see above, mainly through three events that round out the chapter. The first is that Jesus is walking and He sees a fig tree. 

 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

       ~ Mark 11:12-14 (NIV)

The next event that happens is that Jesus arrives at the temple courts. 

 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

         ~ Mark 11:15-16 (NIV)

Finally, some chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jewish religion come and talk to Him. 

 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

         ~ Mark 11:27-33 (NIV)

Now, if I leave the story there, it sounds not great doesn’t it? Jesus sounds kind of fickle, spiteful and out for His own gain, like a selfish, fallen human. But the truth is, there is important context missing from each of those stories. In the first, it’s important to know that fig trees bring forth leaves and fruit at the same time, so there should have been plenty of fruit on the tree, (if perhaps hard and underripe), not only leaves. In this way, we are shown that God does not hunger for us to have “perfectly ripe fruit”, only that we have some, perhaps very imperfect fruit; that we try to grow and serve and fulfill our heavenly purpose. To have only leaves is to live only for ourselves, to be selfish and unwilling to aim for the prize of Heaven. 

The second story is important because Jesus was not walking into a place of Holy worship and turning out the faithful, He was casting out people who were perverting God’s laws for their own selfish gain. The money changers would charge exorbitant fees to exchange money for tithing. As for those selling sacrifical animals, they would force people to buy their wares by warning travelers that the animals they had brought were not clean enough to be sacrificed. 

The final story is all about intentions, when the Pharisees ask Jesus what authority He has, they did not want to get a real answer, they wanted to trick Him into saying something they could decry as blasphemy. 

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

            ~ Mark 11:18 (NIV)

Mark 11 is such a powerful passage, and one of the reasons for that is because when you skim it you’re a little taken aback because some of the things that Jesus does seem uncharacteristic. However, when you read deeper into the passages, you begin to understand that they are actually perfectly in the character of a, if you will, perfect character. 

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

(P.S. I’m not apologizing for closing my devotional with a pun.) 

Week One: Sin & Mercy

What I’m Listening to: Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line by Waylon Jennings

Welcome to week one of my September of Peace! (And a happy Labor Day Weekend as well). 

It can be easy to think of ourselves as “good people”. We donate to charity, we try to be nice, hey, we even paid for the person behind us at Starbucks one time. This is dangerous thinking. In Romans, the Bible teaches us that

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

                            – Romans 3:23

Now I hear you, you’re saying that you thought yourself a good person, but not like God-level good. Just, you know, better than average maybe. Definitely better than some. This is the heart of that dangerous territory. We can never save ourselves; Isaiah reminds us of this in this passage. 

All of us have become like one that is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 

                   – Isaiah 64:6

Think about that. Not only are we all horribly unrighteous, but our good deeds are useless in the face of our immeasurable sin. What should we do in the face of these (rather harsh) facts? Well, thankfully the Lord has the answer to that too. 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

                         – Proverbs 28:13

The truth is, we are all innately sinful, but God’s not asking us to fix ourselves, He’s just asking us to be honest. Like a tinker, he can fix anything; but only if we give it to Him to patch and heal. We will always be sinful, but if we allow the Lord into our life we will also be sinless. 

Prayer: May the Lord help me to not attempt to fix my sin myself, but instead be honest about it in the face of His immeasurable mercy.