September 19, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 15:33-47

Look closely at the image. Are the wheels spinning? Now use your hand to cover part of either circle and you will discover that nothing is moving. You’ve been tricked.

In Mark 15:32, the religious leaders mocked Jesus, challenging him to come off the cross if he, indeed, is the Christ. Just like in the picture above, these religious leaders have convinced themselves of their own illusion. Their indictment was to see if Jesus was the Christ, yet they were blind.

Several times in this short passage, we have references to seeing. The religious leaders wanted to see, darkness fell on the land illustrating the lack of vision by all, the man dipping the sponge wanted to see, but only one person saw—the centurion.

As Jesus expired, the centurion understood, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” This statement bookends the entire gospel of Mark. The centurion’s statement is the capstone of the whole Gospel that opens in verse 1 with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Peter’s great confession of Jesus as the Christ (Mark 8:29), has now been amplified. Not only is Jesus the Christ, but the Christ is the Son of God.

Instead of the Christ tearing the banner of Rome and establishing a worldwide empire, with the seat of power in Jerusalem, the Christ, instead, came to tear the veil in the temple. Before conquering the world, Jesus had to conquer sin. And when the veil was torn, humanity then gained access to the very presence of God.

The question becomes, how should a true disciple respond? This example we see with Joseph of Arimathea. Verse 43 says he took courage, and that must be an understatement. Jesus was condemned by Rome as a rebel convicted of high treason against Cesar—not someone you’d want to be associated with. Thus, in his example we witness that a true disciple is one who takes courage, unashamed of being identified with Christ no matter the cost.

Just like the darkness falling over the world as Jesus hung on the cross, this world is spiritually blinded in sin. This failure to see Christ for who he really is means that his followers, those seen identifying with him, will be misunderstood at best or maybe condemned to torture and death as Jesus was.

How do you see Jesus? How does your vision of him change the way you live: your work, your family, your recreation, your finances, etc.? Tell us in the comments, encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ, what is one thing about your life that is different after your vision of Christ changed by coming into a relationship with Him?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

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September 18, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 16

When reading this passage, we often look at it from the perspective that this is what Jesus is going through. That perspective is not wrong since it is an account of what Jesus went through in going to the cross. But today I want to challenge you to look at it not as what Jesus went through, but what our sin put Jesus through.

When I was a teenager I was hit between the eyes that Jesus didn’t just save me. Jesus took what I deserved. It wasn’t just that Jesus was mocked by those present, He wasn’t just condemned by the crowd, and He wasn’t just hoisted up on the cross to die by the soldiers. Because of my sin, I mocked Him, I condemned Him to the cross, I put Him on the cross. It was because of my sin that Jesus went to the cross. More often than not many of us forget this reality. We read the words and we cringe at the reality of Jesus’ death but we forget that when we sin it is the nail, and the thorns.

Verse 14 says, And Pilate said to them, why, what evil has he done? But they cried out again, crucify Him.

The reality is that Jesus had no evil and was not deserving of anything that He endured. We on the other hand deserved the nails, and the pain, and the death. Jesus took that for us.

Today I hope that this serves as a reminder for us of what Jesus did, and how He took our place. Every time I read this in any of the Gospels I have to step back and confess my sin. Would you today take some time to confess to God your sin?

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

September 16, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 14:32-72

I hope you’ve enjoyed our time through the book of Mark! We are nearing the end of our time together, and it’s no surprise that as we come closer to the end of this Gospel, it means we are getting closer and closer to the cross. The thing that stands out the most from this passage is the selfless focus of Jesus’s heart.

We see this first in verse 36: “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” The humanity of Jesus is seen in his distress. It can be said that the true test of spiritual maturity is where you turn in the middle of trial: either to God or away from Him. We see this exemplified in Jesus as He seeks the Father and submits to His will even in trial.

We also see this in verse 49. The hour has come where evil men are to take him and put him on trial and nail him to a wooden cross. Instead of fight these men (Luke 24:49-51), he knows that this is part of God’s plan of redemption and submits to this as well.

All of this shows us that Jesus dying on the cross is God’s plan of redemption for us. What we see as the positive character qualities of Jesus in this passage— the willingness to submit to the Father, the selflessness, the love—is only attainable for us through the death and resurrection he was being prepared for. Thank God that because of the cross, we have not only been saved from our sin, but are being transformed into the image of Christ!

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

September 15, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 14:1-31

What a rich passage to read today!  

In it we learn about:

  • The woman with the alabaster jar
  • Judas deciding to betray Jesus
  • The Last Supper
  • Peter’s denial of Jesus

I hope you enjoyed reading it – if you haven’t read the passage yet – stop and do that now.  God’s Word is WAY more important than my thoughts.

There’s so much I could say today for Mark 14, but I was most moved by the story of the woman in the beginning of the chapter.  The priests and religious leaders were trying to capture and kill Jesus and He knew it. They were sneaky – but you can never outsmart Jesus.

Jesus went to Simon’s house – the Bible tells us this is the Simon who was cured of leprosy by Jesus.  Leprosy, as you know, was a terrible, incurable disease.  Jesus had healed Simon and they were undoubtedly celebrating this.  

While Jesus is there, a woman anoints Him with an alabaster vial of costly perfume – pure nard.  This was painstakingly imported and used for burial on dead bodies.  It had value because of its characteristics and rarity.  According to the text, it could have been sold for 300 denarii or about $50 (no small sum for the poor in Jesus day).  Immediately Jesus’ critics (and Judas Iscariot) start in – “why wasn’t this sold and the money given to the poor,” they said.  They didn’t care about the poor – this was simply a vain argument to accuse Jesus.

Jesus defended the actions of the woman – “leave her alone” – He said. She’s done a good thing.  Others will hear of her action and her heart.

This story brings up some questions for us to ask ourselves today:

  • What have we given to Jesus recently that cost us something great?
  • Are we quick to criticize others for their costly gifts rather than focus on ourselves?
  • Jesus obviously had the advantage – He could see into this woman’s heart.  What does Jesus see in your heart today?  Selfishness?  Love?  Passion?  Frustration?  Love for God?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor