Today’s Bible reading is Mark 15. It’s good to read chapters like this and compare what we read with what we believe.
If you’ve been around church very long, you may have seen a Passion play that chronicles the last week of Jesus’ life. Normally the play portrays the masses of people welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, waving their palm branches. A few minutes later, the same masses call out for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Is that how it happened? Well, sort of.
In Mark 15:6-8, the people approach Pontius Pilate, requesting that he release one of the Roman prisoners as was his custom for the Passover. Pilate expected them to ask for Jesus to be released; he would gladly release Him because he felt that Jesus was not deserving of death.
However, the Chief Priests whipped up the crowd into a frenzy and the masses actually demanded that a prisoner named Barabbas be released. Barabbas had been convicted of what the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of: insurrection.
It’s important to note that when the people came to Pilate, they were hoping that he would release Jesus. But as is too frequently the case, the religious leaders exercised their toxic authority over the very people that God had entrusted to them. A mob mentality resulted and people behaved very differently than they would have otherwise.
Unfortunately, there are still religious leaders today who spiritually abuse the very people that God has entrusted to them. James tells us that God holds leaders to a higher standard (James 3:1). Jesus says that those who have been given more will be held more accountable. (Luke 12:48b)
This higher accountability is just limited to the “ordained”. There are many other “ordinary” people in leadership positions who will have to give an account for their toxic leadership. And there are still others who exercise toxic leadership who don’t have a leadership title.
Now, while God will hold the leaders accountable, isn’t there some accountability to the ordinary people to be careful who they “hitch their wagon to”?
Matthew 7 begins with the famous, “Don’t judge” (Matthew 7:1), but just a few verses later, Jesus cautions his followers to discern (ie, to judge) false teachers in order to avoid them. (Matthew 7:15-16)
Be careful who you “hitch your wagon to”. We all need healthy leaders who can lead us into a healthy relationship with God and other believers. And just because a particular religious leader is very popular doesn’t necessarily mean that they are godly or correct in what they’re teaching.
Be careful of the mob and the mob
Even people who don’t believe in Jesus are familiar with the story (or at least the concept) of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Peter’s denial of Jesus is also a familiar story to many of us. Both stories are part of today’s Bible reading in Mark 14.
During the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus, we see three encounters with a servant girl of the High Priest. The first time they meet, she suggests that Peter had been with the man from Nazareth. (Mark 14:67) Of course, Peter denies it and he immediately hears a rooster crow.
Sometime later, she sees him and tells some bystanders that Peter was “one of them”. (Mark 14:68) Again, he tells her that she is mistaken.
A third time, she points out that Peter is a Galilean and he swears that he doesn’t know Jesus [think about that: he swears to God that he doesn’t know God!].
Immediately, Peter hears the second crow of a rooster. He remembers that Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice.
Now, I’m sure he wasn’t wearing his Nazareth High School letter jacket, so how did the servant girl know that Peter was a Galilean?
If you grew up in the South, you can tell when a Northerner says, “Hello.” Maybe it’s the absence of the typical “Hey” greeting. Or maybe it’s the accent. I’m sure Northerners can easily recognize when a Southerner greets them, too. Perhaps they recognize the “Hey” greeting or the multiple-syllable inflection of it. 😉
People from the region of Galilee/Nazareth spoke Aramaic as their native language. Aramaic is a dialect of Hebrew. Perhaps the servant girl recognized his language or his accent as Peter talked with people around the campfire.
My point is, without saying much, Peter clearly told the girl that he did, in fact, come from the region of Galilee and probably did know Jesus.
Do people recognize that your language and accent is a little different? I’m not talking about the “Christianese” that we tend to pick up as we spend time with church people. But believers just tend to talk about things a little differently than nonbelievers.
If you’ve been a believer for very long, and if you’ve grown in your faith very much, your language will tend to represent the One you’ve been spending time with.
Your lips will betray who you are, whether you realize it or not. And if you’re a growing believer, people will know you’re one of His people. And if they don’t recognize that you’re different… well are you? Your lips will betray you regardless.
I am amazed at how often a Bible teacher will come along, trying to convince God’s people that he knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return. I am also amazed how often these Bible teachers will “fleece the flock”, convincing them that he needs money to get the word out. As they give, he pockets much of the money.
Our Lord could not say more plainly that even He doesn’t know when His Father will say, “Son, it’s time. Today is the Day.” The Father is not sharing His timetable with anyone. And yes, that’s a good thing!
Sure, it would be nice to know that I have two years before the End. It would give me time to grow in my faith, tell people about Jesus, teach believers how to grow in their faith, read my Bible more, and pray more.
But Jesus’ point in today’s Bible reading from Mark 13 (specifically Mark 13:32-37) is that I should be doing those things anyway. I don’t know when the Master of the house will return, so I need to always be ready.
How about you? Seriously, are you more interested in knowing when Jesus will return than being ready for His return? Do you spend more time reading Last Days novels and listening to Last Days teachers than you spend reading your Bible and listening to teachers talking about God, and how you can know Him better and love Him (and others) more? Is your Bible reading broad-based, drawing from different parts of the Bible, not just your favorite books, chapters, and verses? (Note: That’s one reason we need to use a Bible reading plan goes through the New Testament or the entire Bible in a year.)
He says to be alert. He gives us signs to let us know that the End is near. Yes, we are in the Last Days. But know that we have been in the Last Days since He arrived on our planet two thousand years ago!
The Kingdom of God has come (Luke 11:20). Its consummation has not come yet, but His Kingdom has already come! For now, we live in a state of “already, but not yet”.
Are you ready?
At the end of today’s reading from Mark 12, we find the story of the widow dropping money into the treasury (Mark 12:41-44).
We aren’t told if Jesus was the only person who was watching, but I think it’s safe to assume that he wasn’t alone in observing people as they dropped in their offering. Jesus makes the point elsewhere (Matthew 6:3) that our giving should be done in secret.
Jesus is the only person who should know how much we give. Unfortunately, because of the way tax deduction documentation is set up in the US, it’s difficult to truly give in secret. When you drop a check in the offering plate, put cash into an envelope, or make an online donation, more eyes than you think will see your offering.
It’s important to give. Not because the church needs the money. Not because the preacher needs the money. And not because God needs the money. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Trust me, He doesn’t need your money!
But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give. Actually, I would add that we need to give. Giving is good for us. Giving reminds us that everything that we have belongs to God and that we are merely stewards of what He has given us. Everything we receive we should hold with open hands.
Some people give to be seen by others. Some people give in order to receive a tax deduction. But what if you didn’t receive a tax deduction? Would you still give?
When you give, do you give something, just to have something to drop in the offering plate so other people
The widow gave what she had… all that she had. How about you?
Today’s Bible reading from Mark 11 includes Jesus cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15-17).
To understand what’s going on, it helps to get an idea of the general layout of the Temple in the First Century, which was divided into several parts. The High Priest was the only man allowed into the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies), and then only once a year. Other priests could go into the Court of the Priests and the Holy Place. Men were able to go into the Court of Israel, but not into the Court of the Priests. Women were able to go into the Court of the Women, but not into the Court of Israel. Surrounding the Court of the Women and the Court of Israel was the Court of the Gentiles.
During the First Century, Jews would go to the Temple to offer their sacrifices. For convenience’s sake, instead of bringing the animals from home, they would often purchase acceptable sacrificial animals when they got there. The marketplace for buying their unblemished animals was in the Court of the Gentiles. And this is where Jesus created a scene. Well, a
So why was Jesus so upset? Think about it: The Court of the Gentiles was the only part of the Jewish holy place that Gentiles could access. So all they could see of Jewish worship was corrupt, crooked activity. Instead of it being a sacred place, it was a profaned place. Instead of it being a place of prayer, it had been turned into a “den of thieves”. (Mark 11:17)
Although He does not live in a building (Acts 7:48), God takes worship very seriously. Where we worship isn’t nearly as important what and that we worship. (John 4:21-24) And what was being done in the Court of the Gentiles distracted Jews from a God they could worship and kept Gentiles from knowing a God they should worship.
God is worthy of Worship. Christians do missions and evangelism because we want to help people to find the God Who created them to worship Him.