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May 19, 2017: Spit on Him

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 13, Psalm 112, Mark 14:53-65, Galatians 3:1-14 Mark 14:53-65: Jesus is brought before the Council. The religious leaders are all gathered together. It is a kangaroo court—not following proper procedure, brought together for the sole purpose of giving a spurious legal rationale for condemning Jesus. Peter has followed “at a distance.” So far, so good for Peter, but (as we shall see tomorrow) his “at a distance” following is the first step towards his denial. False witnesses brought to condemn Jesus do not even agree in their fake testimony. So the high priest asks him directly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replies, “I am,” and rather than considering whether Jesus is telling the truth, the high priest immediately is moved to condemn Jesus for so-called “blasphemy.” When we come face to face with the claims of Jesus, it leaves us with a choice: either we...

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The Power of Like

Big Brother is watching you. That creepy idea has sparked movies, books, and conspiracy theories galore: someone, somewhere, knows what you like, whom you vote for, what you ate for breakfast. Marketing companies analyze your online habits and tailor-make ads to snare you, even varying the cost of potential products depending on your socio-economic status. “Like-farming” is a spammer’s delight. When companies can pinpoint a prospective customer’s vulnerable moments and pounce with confidence-boosting ad campaigns, or a candidate’s campaign can spin out fake news to lure new voters, we really have sunk to a new low. According to Cambridge University, just clicking 10 likes on Facebook allows advertisers to “know” you as well as a co-worker would. Keep “liking” stuff, and marketers’ predictive ability concerning your purchases and preferences rises accordingly. What you like, in other words, reveals an awful lot about you. But truthfully, the power of like is nothing new. The power of...

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May 18, 2017: Judas

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 111, Mark 14:43-52, Galatians 2 Mark 14:43-52: Judas arrives. And as if to tell us how deep was the betrayal, we are reminded that he was one of the twelve. To be betrayed is one thing; to be betrayed by a companion is another; to be betrayed by one sworn to loyalty to you is a terrible, terrible wound. Judas comes with a rabble with clubs and swords, as if for battle, and with the religious along for the ride too. The betrayer’s signal is woeful: a kiss. No doubt this was their usual greeting, as it often is in the Eastern world among friends. Judas, perhaps not wanting to be given up as the double agent who has betrayed Jesus, greets Jesus in the normal way; but by doing so he indicates to the authorities who this Jesus is. Did they not recognize Jesus? Perhaps they had...

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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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Book Review: Thirty Thousand Days

Living Purposefully “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” These were the opening words to the soap opera my great aunt watched when I would visit her growing up as a young child. Her interest in the storyline became mine, and much to my dismay today, I watched off and on through high school and college. Today, a new generation is more likely to spend their time watching reality TV or Netflix, playing video games, and engaging with social media. But if these are, in fact, the “days of our lives,” what are we doing with them? Are we living on purpose and with intention? Do our lives have meaning? Or do the days assigned to us simply slip by as those sands through the hourglass? Are we at risk of wasting our lives, distracted by many trivial things, losing focus on the One thing? Each year, I...

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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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