Preparing My Heart for Victory
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. - Mark 1:1-13
We've all seen them. The internet articles with titles that promise us miraculous and certain victory over our issues. But one quick click to read them often reveals nothing more than empty words and perhaps even veiled attempts to take our money.
Authority that Demands a Response
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.' - Mark 1:14-45
My boys have a bad habit that I have unfortunately reinforced. On occasion when I tell them to do something, they don’t obey right away. They will delay doing what I ask. In response, I’ll get mad, raise my voice or threaten an ultimatum to get their attention and action.
The Authority of Jesus To Forgive Sins
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ - Mark 2
Recently, my mom began struggling with some symptoms that signaled the need for her to see a heart specialist. Without delay, she was diagnosed and admitted to the hospital for open-heart surgery.
The Two Parts of Our Calling
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. - Mark 3
When I first heard the word "chosen" in relation to God's feelings toward me, I couldn't process it. In human terms, it seemed quite presumptuous to think God would pause to pay attention to me.
Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. - Mark 4
My daddy is 87 years young and is the best storyteller I’ve known. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember him entertaining rooms of people with his tales. He could be speaking to a crowd at a family reunion or to a person he just met in a hospital waiting room. He always has a story to tell.
No Fear, Just Faith
Don’t be afraid; just believe. - Mark 5
In Mark 5, we read a trilogy of miracles involving a demon-possessed man, a chronically diseased woman and the father of a dying 12-year-old girl. What do these three people have in common?
What Amazes Jesus?
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. - Mark 6: 1-29
For all who feel overlooked, unappreciated and undervalued, Mark 6 has a profound message: Jesus understands because He experienced the same things. Which means we are in very good company when it happens to us.
Jesus, Where Are You?
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. - Mark 6:30-56
Have you ever walked through something so difficult, so terrifying, that you’ve caught yourself asking, "Jesus, where are You?"
It’s a Matter of the Heart
He replied, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules." You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.' - Mark 7
If we ever desire a story that reveals how deeply Jesus values the heart above all else, we find it in Mark 7. The scene opens with the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day) challenging Jesus over His disciples’ failure to engage in the ceremonial washing of hands before they ate. By failing to do this, the Pharisees accused them of eating with defiled, unclean hands.
Who Will Meet My Needs
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.' - Mark 8:1-26
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to stand in a crowd just steps away from Jesus? To see with our own eyes Jesus instantly heal a blind man. That would be amazing.
Who Do You Say Jesus is?
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ - Mark 8:27-38
I grew up in a small church, and our pastor was quite beloved. He pastored me from my teenage years all the way through my first three children being born. When he retired, the church went through the arduous process of finding a replacement. To say we all had our own expectations of the next pastor was an understatement.
Don’t Leave at Intermission
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. - Mark 9:1-13
I remember as a little girl going to see my first show at the theatre. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but when everyone clapped, the house lights came on, and people began to exit. I thought it was time to go home. But it was just intermission. The best part was yet to come. I wonder if this was a bit how Peter felt as he witnessed Jesus' transfiguration.
The If Factor
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ - Mark 9:14-50
Have you ever had an emotional experience with the Lord, only to encounter the reality of the world soon after? Unfortunately, heavenly experiences don’t hold off earthly complications.
A Kingdom’s Worth
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' - Mark 10:1-31
When we study the Word of God, we do more than just read it. We look, think, highlight, reflect and notice. As we've been studying Mark, have you noticed Mark likes to highlight Jesus' authority?
We Serve a Different King
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. - Mark 10:32-52
In the latter part of this chapter, Mark gives us a beautiful glimpse into Jesus' heart. He opens Mark 10:32 by identifying for the first time where Jesus is going, "[The disciples] were on their way to up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way" (Mark 10:32a).
Hosanna, The Lord Saves
'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' - Mark 11
Jesus had traveled the dusty road to Jerusalem many times. But on this occasion, His entrance into the city was dramatically different. Instead of quietly traversing on foot, Jesus publically rode into the city on a colt with crowds surrounding Him.
Renovating Our Theology
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. - Mark 12:1-27
A significant theme in Mark's Gospel is Jesus' authority in and over the kingdom of God. Jesus' authority wasn't always accepted or celebrated.
The Most Important Command
'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.' - Mark 12:28-44
It's unsettling to read Mark's stories of the Jewish leaders and teachers repeatedly confronting Jesus to discredit, antagonize and trap Him. Yet, one by one, Jesus shut them down. Today is no different.
So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. - Mark 13
Have you ever been given a detailed explanation of what to expect when preparing for surgery? Maybe you read through the warning labels listed on medication or prescriptions before taking them.
How Do I Want to Be Remembered?
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. - Mark 14:1-31
What important person do you remember and why? Is it the Sunday School teacher who taught you about Jesus? Perhaps you recall your grandmother and her homemade cakes and pies. Maybe you think fondly of a kind neighbor who taught you how to change a tire. Are you thinking of the person who brought you a casserole when you were recovering from surgery? Today, we read of a woman who made quite an impression on Jesus. The imprint was so great, Jesus said, "what she has done will also be told, in memory of her" (Mark 14:9b).
When I Deny Jesus
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.' And he broke down and wept. - Mark 14:32-72
It's easy to believe God when everything is going according to our plans. But when we assume we know what a good God would do, and He doesn't do it? Well. That's when things can start to get a bit complicated.
Path to The Cross
Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. - Mark 15:1-32
It may seem a little odd to be reflecting on Jesus' betrayal, beatings and crucifixion in today's reading, since yesterday we celebrated Christmas. But everything surrounding Jesus' birth points directly to His purpose for coming to earth in the first place. Like weaving a red ribbon through a Christmas wreath, the Father's love and shed blood of Jesus weaves His birth and crucifixion together like a salvation ribbon for all of humanity.
The Precious Gift of Jesus’ Last Breath
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. - Mark 15:33-47
On Easter, we celebrate the death and glorious resurrection of Jesus. It’s the framework around which we build our faith. But, Jesus also gave His life that day to open the door to a deeper, richer relationship between God and His people. Jesus died to give us victory over sin and death, which enables us to have a personal relationship with Jesus and intimately engage with God in prayer.
Faith Over Fear
'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.' - Mark 16:1-8
After witnessing Jesus' miraculous ministry, I can only image how Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome felt at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The women and others who followed Jesus surely experienced a crisis of belief as their theology didn't line up with their reality.
Not-So Superheroes of Faith
He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all 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 drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.' - Mark 16:9-19
We might think that faith was easier for those who walked and lived with Jesus. Perhaps they were spiritual superheroes who never struggled or doubted. But as Mark wraps up his Gospel, he closes in a unique way. He focuses on three different scenes where Jesus appears to separate groups of His followers and addresses their doubts regarding the resurrection of Jesus.