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May 17, 2017: God’s Will

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 8-10, Psalm 110, Mark 14:32-42, Galatians 1 Mark 14:32-42: Gethsemane. Was ever any more mournful prospect, and yet, beyond all hopes, great salvation? Unlike all human-made religions, at the heart of biblical Christianity is the cross, and that means Gethsemane. Other religions must deny suffering, pretend it does not exist like the cults, rise to a philosophical distance mentally from suffering, or view suffering as failure. All such messages are ultimately hopeless because we all suffer, and it cannot be denied, nor long pretended it does not exist. Only in Christianity is there a crucified Savior, only is there grace, only is there a Messiah who came to bear our sufferings. It did not come at no cost. Jesus goes to pray. He instructs the disciples to sit while he goes on with Peter and James and John—the inner core—to pray. They come with him so far, and then he...

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May 16, 2017: Being Faithful

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 5-7, Psalm 109, Mark 14:12-31, 2 Corinthians 13 Mark 14:12-31: The Feast of Unleavened Bread becomes the occasion for a momentous new event. The arrangements are made according to Jesus’ command and prearrangement, and over the meal a prediction is made that was sure to raise the alarm in everyone’s mind: one of them will betray him. Even one of the twelve. This is all part of the plan, and it is God’s plan for saving sinners, but for the man who betrays Jesus, “it would have been better if he had not been born.” Let us make sure that we do not betray Jesus, but stay faithful to him. Nothing is worse than turning our back on the One and Only Savior. Who else has the Words of Eternal Life? The Lord’s Supper is instituted (14:22-25). It has two elements to it: the bread and the cup. A new covenant...

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May 15, 2017: Pure Nard

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 3-4, Psalm 108, Mark 14:1-11, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 Mark 14:1-11: Another end is fast approaching—this time not the end of all things, or Jesus’s coming, but his crucifixion, death and resurrection, the “Christ event.” It was now “two days before the Passover.” If you are unfamiliar with the story of the Passover, or the celebrations instructed to commemorate the event, it would be worth taking a refresher course in Exodus 12-13. Jesus is the True Passover Lamb, and his sacrifice is coming. Through his blood God’s wrath will “pass over” those who put their trust in Christ. The chief priests and scribes will not arrest Jesus during the feast. It was a popular event, and Jesus was popular with the people. They waited for the right time to seek to kill him. Jesus is in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. A woman anoints him with a very expensive ointment...

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May 14, 2017: Be on Your Guard; Stay Awake

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 1-2, Psalm 107, Mark 13:32-37, 2 Corinthians 2:1-12 Mark 13:32-37: Once again the practical instruction about the second coming of Jesus and the end of all things is relatively straightforward (if disconcerting): Be on your guard; stay awake. In the midst of this practical instruction, there are, though, portions which are hard to interpret. What does it mean that even “the Son” does not “know” “that day or hour”? Surely if the Son is God then he shares the properties of God, and if he shares the properties of God then he is omniscient, and if he is omniscient then he knows everything, and that must therefore include “that day or hour”? Various answers have been given for this conundrum. What we cannot say is that Jesus is therefore indicating that he is somehow less than fully God. After all, Jesus is about to be crucified precisely for his claims to...

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May 13, 2017: His Words Will Not Pass Away

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 29-31, Psalm 106:24-48, Mark 13:14-31, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 Mark 13:14-31: There are more quite complicated, interpretative challenges in these verses, but the essential and practical thrust is clear. “Be on your guard” (13:23). The “abomination that causes desolation” has caused much head scratching among the scholars, as has the phrase—breaking the third wall as cinematographers would put it—“let the reader understand” (13:14). Clearly a reference to Daniel, it probably is a nearer prophetic reference to the blasphemous actions that took place as the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. But I will let the reader chase down the different views in the commentaries for themselves! It does appear that the Christians heard their Master’s warnings about the fall of Jerusalem and were not present at that terrible siege, and had—as he advised—fled from the city beforehand. Verses 21 and 22 may be spanning back to the further eschatological horizon again. Certainly verses...

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May 12, 2017: The End

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 26-28, Psalm 106:1-23, Mark 13:1-13, 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 Mark 13:1-13: The disciples’ pious wonder at the beauty and magnificence of the temple (13:1) leads Jesus to comment upon the temporal relative brevity of even such human religious magnificence (13:2). Not one stone left upon another. This prophecy was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. But Jesus’ next discourse, in prompting from his disciples, appears to range farther afield unto “the end” (13:7). It is one of the hard-initially-to-grasp but distinctive peculiarities of biblical prophecy that it tends to view the future a bit like you view a mountain range from a distance: from a certain perspective, they are one event, but then when you get over one mountain, you find there is a valley before you get up to the next mountain. The Old Testament prophecies of the Messianic age sometimes seem to collide the first coming of Christ...

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May 7, 2017: Questions

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 15-16, Psalm 101, Mark 11:27-33, 2 Corinthians 6 Mark 11:27-33: It is easy to use inquisitorial questions to attempt to gain moral superiority over another person. Hide behind the question a sense of wrongdoing on the part of the one being questioned, sneak that assumption unvoiced behind the question, and fire away and watch the results as the person squirms. “When did you stop beating your wife?” assumes that you have a wife, that you have been beating her, and that (of course) beating her is something that, while you have stopped, previous to that you were doing. Similarly, in our passage the religious leaders ask Jesus the authority question. What gave him the authority to do what he was doing? In this instance, the assumption is that Jesus had unwarrantedly taken authority to himself. They knew that, from a human level, the rightly constituted authorities were invested in themselves, that...

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May 5, 2017: King Jesus!

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 11-13, Psalm 99, Mark 11:1-11, 2 Corinthians 4 Mark 11:1-11: The triumphal entry—celebrated the world over in churches—but what does it mean? In these first eleven verses, we begin to get a sense of it. Jesus is coming as a king to Jerusalem, as the King, but he is not the king (the Messiah) that many of the people were hoping for. He came riding on a colt, not a war horse; he was not coming in military power, but in saving might. He came humble, he came to die, and so win back for us newness of life in his name. When, then, we celebrate the triumphal entry, we are celebrating the true meaning of the work of Jesus: that he is this King Jesus, the one who rode in humble, on a colt. We are also celebrating the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises—that at least some of...

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May 4, 2017: What Do You Want Jesus to Do for You?

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 9-10, Psalm 98, Mark 10:35-52, 2 Corinthians 3 Mark 10:35-52: Two of the disciples try to cut to the head of the line by asking Jesus directly to share in his glory. To sit at his right and his left—the honored positions—in glory. When they ask him, the way they ask exposes their presumption. We want you to do whatever it is we ask! Somewhat wearily (may we say?) Jesus replies, “What do you want me to do for you?” When he is told, he replies that they do not know what they are asking; can they share his cup and be baptized with his baptism—referring to his crucifixion and death. They answer glibly, “We are able.” Jesus tells them that they will face persecution as Jesus will, but what they are asking for is not something that is given away simply for the asking at a moment’s notice. The...

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May 3, 2017: Follow Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 6-8, Psalm 97, Mark 10:17-34, 2 Corinthians 2 Mark 10:17-34: A rich man—all in a rush with business—runs up to Jesus and asks Jesus the question of all questions. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich man gets right to the bottom line. What’s the most important question here, let’s cut to the chase. Jesus notices that the epithet with which he addresses Jesus is indicative of a heart confusion. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” In other words, the rich man rightly called Jesus “Good Teacher,” but he does not yet rightly understand why it is that Jesus is truly good—because Jesus is truly God. Jesus then probes him: you know the commandments. But, fascinatingly, Jesus only quotes from the second table of the Ten Commandments. The first table of the Ten Commandments is to do with love for God....

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