In today’s sermon we heard the first half of Renee’s story. Here’s the rest of the story. I now some of you are wading through forgiving someone who has hurt your deeply. I’ve been so encouraged hearing your stories–so honored to be your pastor. Be encouraged by Renee’s story…and Matthew West’s song.
Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t come natural–maybe most of the time. In simple terms, to forgive is to let go, to release someone of the debt they owe you for what they have done to you or to a loved one. Yet Jesus’ addendum to the Lord’s Prayer is unrelenting:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, ESV)
This begs the question: does my forgiveness of others bring about Jesus’ forgiveness of me? The answer is “No!” Jesus’ forgiveness of you comes out of his great grace toward you. When you receive Christ as Savior, you are forgiven, redeemed, justified and free to live a life you never dreamed possible.
But what about those who hurt you? Why should you forgive them? Why would Jesus add such difficult words at the end of such a beautiful prayer?
R. T. Kendall offers these motivations:
- Salvation is unconditional; fellowship with the Father is conditional.
- Justification before God is unconditional; the anointing of the Spirit is conditional.
- Our status in the family of God is unconditional; our intimacy with Christ is conditional.
- Our eternal destiny—whether we go to heaven or to hell—is fixed, but receiving an additional reward is conditional.
If your relationship with God is strained, if you struggle to sense God’s Spirit at work in your life, if your intimacy with Christ seems nonexistent, ask yourself if there is someone you haven’t forgiven. And forgive…Now! Do the hard work of forgiveness.
I offer a prayer to help you get started.
Father, I honestly don’t want to forgive ______________________ (the person who has hurt you). They have __________________________ (whatever they’ve done). Yet I want and desperately need your forgiveness. I need your help forgiving _____________________ (the person). I trust that you, through your Spirit, will give what I need to forgive __________________________ (the person). Thank you for forgiving me.
Last Saturday we watched and waited. For days we anticipated what Florence would do. Forecasters warned us about the North Fork River, Mill Creek and Catawba River. The impact of Florence seemed ominous.
We were spared. Florence did not hurt us. The rain came but the flood did not overwhelm us.
Many were not. Pictures of the devastation cause us to gasp. North East Volunteer Fire Department was flooded and all but two of the firemen completely lost their homes.
Many people lost everything. They lost their homes, their businesses, their schools, their county support. Devastating seems too small of a word to describe it. Craig Walker, Director of Operations for our local EOC who has been serving in Dublin County, sent these pictures:
We were spared to serve. Beginning tomorrow (9/23) morning, our first volunteers will leave from Grace to go serve. Our aim is to send teams as many weeks as we have volunteers available to go serve for the next two years. Also tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm (9/23) a truck will pull out loaded with supplies. At Grace, we are providing diapers and wipes. Come to worship tomorrow with open hearts and arms full.
For more information, or to sign up to serve go to http://www.graceforall.org/relief/.
The Unpacking Forgiveness sermon series is bringing up all kinds of questions. I’m so glad. Feel free to email me (email@example.com) with your questions. I’ll try to answer them here at enoughfortoday.org.
Can you forgive an unrepentant person? What if someone has hurt you deeply, or is still hurting you, but is unrepentant. They know what they have done (you’ve told them…or it’s obvious) but they refuse to accept responsibility. Can you forgive such a person?
First of all let’s define forgiveness. I’ll give you the short and the long definition. My favorite (short) definition of forgiveness is this: the refusal to punish someone for something they’ve done to you. We punish usually by our words. When someone hurts us we hurt them–by the things we say to them or about them. My favorite (long) definition of forgiveness: “When do we forgive others? When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity)
Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
So what does this mean for the unrepentant person? In short, you can’t give someone what they cannot receive. John Piper says, “When a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion, he cuts off the full work of forgiveness.” As such, you cannot forgive an unrepentant person. Now I know what some of you are thinking. Whew! I didn’t want to. Now I’m off the hook.
Not so quick! Notice Watson’s definition and Romans 12:18. The phrases “strive against all revenge” and ” so far as it depends on you” show up. While you cannot forgive an unrepentant person, you must release them. Piper again says, “We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.”
While you cannot give someone what he is unwilling to receive, the question is are you really willing to give it? Piper breaks down Watson’s definition like this:
Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means:
- resisting revenge,
- not returning evil for evil,
- wishing them well,
- grieving at their calamities
- praying for their welfare,
- seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
- and coming to their aid in distress.
Ouch. This requires a real heart check.
For this entire week the Scripture reading skill is to read with imagination. This is a remarkably powerful and moving scene. Read this once, and then again. And again. This account is called the Passion for a reason–feel the pain, hear the cries, imagine the hair being ripped from someone’s face. As I type this I am heavily burdened again. What Jesus endured is unbelievable.
Monday, August 27
Scripture: Mark 15:1-20
 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  And the chief priests accused him of many things.  And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.”  But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked.  And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.  And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.  And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”  For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.  And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”  And they cried out again, “Crucify him.”  And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.”  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.  And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion.  And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him.  And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (ESV)
Tuesday, August 28
Scripture: Mark 15:21-41
 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull).  And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.  And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.  And it was the third hour when they crucified him.  And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”  And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.  And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,  save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.  And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.”  And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”  And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem. (ESV)
Put yourself in this passage. How are you feeling and what are you thinking if you are Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out demons? Or Mary Jesus’ mother. If you’re a mother what is going through your mind? How about Simon? How must he have felt being pulled into this unfolding saga–he was simply a passerby. Such passion in this account. Brings me to tears.
Wednesday, August 29
Scripture: Mark 15:42-16:8
 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.  And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. (ESV)
 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Wow, how the mood changes! You can feel it as you read it. Such relief! Such astonishment!
Thursday, August 30
Scripture: Mark 16:9-13
 [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.  After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. (ESV)
Notice how confused the disciples and followers of Jesus are. They can’t figure out what to think. This is so true to life isn’t it.
Friday, August 31
Scripture: Mark 16:14-20
 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] (ESV)
Note: This is the most disputed passage in the NT. Your translation should tell you that some of the earliest manuscripts do not include it. I would encourage you to read a good commentary on this passage. Daniel Akin has written a recent commentary (Christ-Centered Exposition) on Mark. I recommend it. Space here is insufficient for me to discuss some of the difficulties of this last section.
Monday, August 20
Scripture: Mark 14:10-21
 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.  And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”  And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.  And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.  And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”  They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?”  He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.  For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: True to life. Sometimes in seeking the theological implications of a story, we miss the things in it that are true to life. What is happening in this Passover meal that is true to everyday life? Don’t miss the details. Allow the story to move along its plot line. Read it and read it again.
Tuesday, August 21
Scripture: Mark 14:22-25
 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Figurative language. Metaphor is a comparison in which one thing represents another. (Hendricks) What represents what in this passage? How does that help you understand the passage more clearly?
Wednesday, August 22
Scripture: Mark 14:26-42
 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”  And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.  And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  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.”  And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.  And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: This is another passage where you need to look for things that are true to life. What do the disciples do that you yourself might be tempted to do? (Hint: sleep!) Before you judge them, realize your own humanness.
Thursday, August 23
Scripture: Mark 14:43-65
 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.”  And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.  And they laid hands on him and seized him.  But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.  And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”  And they all left him and fled.  And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him,  but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.  And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.  And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.  For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying,  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”  Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.  And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”  But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?  You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.  And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: I’m not intentionally repeating myself. True to life is the best principle to use in taking in these accounts. I quote Hendricks, “This is where you need to use your sanctified imagination. You need to look for principles. We obviously live in a culture that is dramatically different from the cultures of the biblical era. Yet the same human condition that the biblical characters experienced, we experience. We feel the same kinds of emotions they felt. We have the same kinds of questions they had. They were real, live people who faced the same kinds of struggles, the same kinds of problems, and the same kinds of temptations that you and I face.”
Friday, August 24
Scripture: Mark 14:66-72
 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came,  and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”  But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.  And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”  But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”  But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”  And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Again, learning to read the Scripture as it is true to life. I quote Hendricks: “So as I read about them in Scripture, I need to ask myself: What were this person’s ambitions? What were his goals? What problem was he facing? How did he feel? What was his response? What would be my response?”
This will change how you judge Peter.
Monday, August 13
Scripture: Mark 12:35-40
Mark 12:35–40 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.  And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces  and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,  who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Remember Hendricks’ hand illustration: Here look for what is repeated. It’s obvious: scribes. Jesus alludes to them in two different ways. Also Hendricks said to look for things that are unlike. Who is being compared/contrasted to whom here?
Tuesday, August 14
Scripture: Mark 12:41-44
 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. You have to ask historical questions here. How did they do the offering? Was it public? How would Jesus know who had given what (other than the fact that he is Jesus!). This gives insight into this passage.
Wednesday, August 15
Scripture: Mark 13:1-13
 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”  And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”  And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,  “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.  And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.  “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.  And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.  And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.  And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Jesus here teaches about the end of the age–signs. One of the important realities of studying the Gospels is to read parallel passages in the other Gospels. Matthew 24 will shed great light on this passage.
Thursday, August 16
Scripture: Mark 13:14-32
 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out,  and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!  Pray that it may not happen in winter.  For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be.  And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.  And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.  “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,  and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.  Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: See notes on Wednesday
Friday, August 17
Scripture: Mark 14:1-9
 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him,  for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”  And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.  There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.  But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: This is a beautiful passage. In order to understand it, you need to know the setting (time and place…see verse 1). You also need to know the importance and effect of leprosy. Also you need to read the parallel passages in the other Gospels–they will shed more light on this passage. This passage will come to life when you do your research on those things. Powerful.
Monday, August 6
Scripture: Mark 11:27-33
 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him,  and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”  Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.  Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”  And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’  But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.  So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. This passage forces you to look backward. In order to adequately understand Jesus’ question to the Pharisees (which was so clever!) you have to know the John to whom Jesus is referring. Read Mark 1:1-8 and then consider Jesus’ conversation. If you want more context, find the same account in the other Gospels.
Tuesday, August 7
Scripture: Mark 12:1-12
 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.  And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.  And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.  He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.  Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;  this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. I know you must think that we often go back to rules of context but they are so very important. You cannot understand this parable well without reading Psalm 118 that Jesus quotes at the end of the parable. What do you think the parable means? Who is the beloved Son?
Historical context is also important. What was the function of the cornerstone? Check this out: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Christ-cornerstone.html.
Wednesday, August 8
Scripture: Mark 12:13-17
 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.  And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”  But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”  And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.”  Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Who are the Herodians? How does knowing who they are change your understanding of this text? Again, I want you to get used to using resources (https://www.gotquestions.org/Herodians.html). This lets us know that Jesus was being opposed by both religious and political leaders…he was doomed to die.
Thursday, August 9
Scripture: Mark 12:18-27
 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying,  “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.  There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.  And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.  And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.  In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”  Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?  For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Yes again. Don’t grow weary of discovering the historical realities behind the text. In the previous passage we discover that the Herodians and the Pharisees are against Jesus. Now a 3rd group is mentioned: the Sadducees. Who were they? What did they believe? What does this let you know about Jesus that the Sadducees are also opposed to him?
Friday, August 10
Scripture: Mark 12:28-34
 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical Context. Yes again! Here another group emerges: the scribes! Who were they? Do you see the pattern of opposition to Jesus? He lived in the reality of constant opposition.
However their opposition resulted in a great truth from Jesus, a summary of the OT commandments into one! This requires even more look into historical context and into the Old Testament. Jesus is quoting the shema. The shema was a statement that every Hebrew child was taught from infancy: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” It is found in Deuteronomy 6. Jesus takes their greatest statement of command and replaces it with his own. How significant is this?
How does this apply to our lives today? How do we live out this commandment?
Monday, July 30
Scripture: Mark 10:35-45
 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Figures of speech. Metaphors abound in Scripture. In order to understand this passage, you must know how metaphors work both in literature and in this passage. A metaphor is a “comparison in which one thing represents another.” (Hendricks)
In this passage Jesus refers to a cup and baptism. If you take these literally, Jesus is simply saying they will drink from the same cup (which they did at the Last Supper) and be baptized as he was baptized. However, this is not the intent of Jesus’ words.
In order to understand this statement, you must ask and answer some questions:
- What is the cup to which Jesus is referring?
- What is the baptism to which Jesus is referring?
- Where are cup and baptism used elsewhere in Scripture?
Hint: The cup is referred to as a cup of wrath (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-cup-consumed-for-us). Here, by extension the cup refers to the suffering Jesus will undergo…as does the baptism. They are metaphors.
Tuesday, July 31
Scripture: Mark 10:46:52
 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Why did Bartimaeus call Jesus “Son of David?” So a good reliable resource is gotquestions.org. It is a theologically sound resource, dependable and reliable. Check out their understanding of this: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-son-of-David.html.
Now, with that in mind, what was Bartimaeus saying? What did he understand or at least think, that others did not?
Wednesday, August 1
Scripture: Mark 11:1-11
 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples  and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”  And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it.  And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.  And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.  And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “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!”  And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Geographical context. Look up a map of ancient Israel and trace Jesus’ journey. What do you learn from this? What gate would Jesus have come through? What is the significance of this gate.
Hint: Bethany was on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Jesus would have come through the eastern gate. The eastern gate shows up again in prophecy of the return of Christ.
Thursday, August 2
Scripture: Mark 11:12-19
 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.  And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.  And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. Why did people sell things in the temple? Was Jesus angry because they were selling things? Or because they were being extortioners?
“Doves were the recognized offering of the poor, required for the purification of women, the cleansing of lepers, and other purposes. The installation of stalls for the sale of animals and of other requirements for the sacrifice such as wine, oil and salt, had the effect of transforming the Court of the Gentiles into an oriental bazaar and a cattle mart. Jesus was appalled at this disregard for the sanctity of an area consecrated for the use of Gentiles who had not yet becomes full proselytes to Judaism.” (William Lane)
How does this historical background change your understanding of Jesus’ frustration. Where was Jesus’ heart in this display of anger?
Friday, August 3
Scripture: Mark 11:20-26
 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.  And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”  And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical Context. This brief passage is packed with historical and biblical references. Let me list them for you. (In case you’re wondering, this isn’t tucked away in my brain. I wished it was! Did some research.)
- The fact that the tree is withered from the roots goes back to Job, Ezekiel and Hosea and denotes total destruction. Could this be a reference to the temple where the moneychangers were thrown out?
- If you reference Psalm 90:6, Joel 1:12 and Hosea 9:16, could this be a reference to impending judgment?
- The Dead Sea is visible from the Mount of Olives where Jesus is teaching. “This mountain” could refer to the Mount of Olives that will be split in two on the last day.
“When prayer is the source of faith’s power and the means of its strength, God’s sovereignty is its only restriction.” (William Lane)
Monday, July 23
Scripture: Mark 9:38-50
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Figurative language. Scripture employs the use of figurative language. Hendricks, in Living By the Book, gives some principles for understanding figurative language.
Do you think Jesus intends people to literally cut off their feet or gouge out their eyes? No! This would violate the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. If you love yourself, you’re not going to gouge out your eyes!
Jesus is employing hyperbole. Hyperbole is “exaggeration to say more than is literally meant.” In light of Jesus’ hyperbolic statements, what do you think he is trying to say? My guess is that he’s making the point to deal with sin in your life…in a serious way. Don’t tolerate it.
Tuesday, July 24
Scripture: Mark 10:1-12
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. In order to best understand Jesus’ teaching on divorce, one must understand the NT view of divorce as well as why Moses gave the permission for divorce. This is where a good commentary can be helpful. I recommend Christ-Centered Exposition, usually available under $10 and providing ample background. For example, Christ-Centered Exposition says this about the understanding of divorce in Jesus’ day: “There were different schools of thought in first-century Judaism about what might allow for divorce. One school of thought believed that a man could divorce his wife if she had committed any type of immodest behavior or sexual immorality (the school of Shammai.) The other school of thought (Hillel, the more dominant point of view) interpreted Deuteronomy 24 much more broadly, saying that divorce was possible whenever a wife did anything displeasing to her husband. This latter interpretation of the law basically led to men divorcing their wives for just about any reason.”
Jesus is responding to this mindset. Now reread the passage in light of your historical understanding of divorce. How do you think differently now?
Wednesday, July 25
Scripture: Mark 10:13-16
 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. In our culture today, children are almost worshipped by their parents. At lunch today I was so distracted by a mom whose 3-year-old dominated her lunch, demanding her way and causing the mom to completely miss the time with her family and friends. In Jesus’ day children were not valued. They were considered the equivalent of dogs and women. In light of that, reread this passage. How does it change your perspective? Your view? Your understanding?
Thursday, July 26
Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Remote context. Yes, we’re looking at this again. In order to better understand the rich young ruler, you must read what comes before and after this passage. Children are in the kingdom, the rich young ruler is out. Children who were despised and rejected are celebrated and accepted. An adult who has the potential to influence, to give significant sums, is deemed unfit for the kingdom. Jesus even uses the term, children, in explaining the rich young ruler’s plight: “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:25) Then he foretells his death again. The kingdom is completely contrary to what the people are expecting to see and hear.
Friday, July 27
Scripture: Mark 10:32-34
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,  saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (ESV)
Scripture Reading Skill: Look at the other 2 times Jesus predicts his death. What is going on before and after? What is the point you think he is trying to make? What does this tell you about Jesus? The people around him?