How do you respond when someone says, “I have good news and I have bad news”? Several times in today’s Bible reading, Jesus does just that.
He talks about the Last Days and His return. In the way He describes things, it would be very easy to be anxious. But that’s not why He tells His Disciples about the end times. Instead, He gives them this information so they would be encouraged. As they see things happen in the future, instead of being anxious, they should be encouraged, knowing that the end and Jesus’ return is coming soon.
Note: The “End Times” isn’t something that will happen sometime in the future only. When Bible teachers talk about “the End Times”, they’re talking about the time that began when Jesus arrived preaching His good news. In other words, we are in the “End Times” now. Yes, we are closer to the end than when the church was birthed in Acts 2, but we have been in the “End Times” for almost two thousand years. We are in an overlap of this Present Age and the Age to Come. A time of “already, but not yet”. Some of the things Jesus prophesied have already been fulfilled, such as the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and prophesied in today’s reading. (Mark 13:2) But Jesus hasn’t yet returned in all of His glory to take His bride — Believers — to her eternal home with Him. 26-27)
Are you ready for Jesus’ return? What does it mean to be ready? It means to live with an expectancy that Jesus will come soon. It means to live an obedient life, telling other people how they, too can have an eternal hope.
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus tells His Disciples — and us — that we should always be ready because no one knows when He will return. Even He doesn’t know when His Father tells Him to bring His children home. If you’re one of His children, He will come for you, so you want to make sure that you’re always ready.
As we continue reading through the Gospels and Revelation during this year, it’s important to see Jesus’ warnings as both good news and bad news.
Spend some time today thanking God that He has a plan to bring His chidren home to live with Him for eternity.
“Which is the most important commandment?” a young man asks Jesus in today’s Bible reading. (Mark 12:28)
At the time, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the original six hundred, thirteen Laws of Moses — which included the Ten Commandments — and added thousands of additional laws in the Midrash, a commentary on the Mosaic Law. The main idea behind adding the other laws was to “build a fence around the Law” to ensure that no one broke the laws of Moses.
For instance, the Fourth Commandment concerns resting on the Sabbath Day. (Exodus 20:8–11) The rabbis took that one commandment and added thirty-nine categories of qualifications to it. They defined how many steps you could take before you began to “travel”, thus violating the command to “rest” on the Sabbath.
But instead of helping the people to love, worship and obey God, the additional commandments built a bigger stumbling block that kept people from coming to God at all. The focus became on obeying the Law, not having a relationship with God. And that wasn’t good.
So when the young man asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he wasn’t asking which of the “Big Ten” was the most important. He wasn’t asking which of the six hundred, thirteen was the most important. He was asking which of the thousands of laws was the most important.
And Jesus told Him which was the most important. In fact, the most important commandment is what the rest of the Law is based on. If you can master this one most important commandment, you won’t have to worry about any of the others. The problem is, no one has been able to master this one: Love God with everything you are. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here and elsewhere, I have referred to Christian Hedonism. It’s a term coined by John Piper, which he expanded in his first book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Given that hedonists are pleasure-seekers, Christian Hedonists recognize that the highest source of pleasure can only be found in a relationship with God. And seeking the highest pleasure in a relationship with God brings the most glory to God.
CS Lewis rightly pointed out that our problem isn’t that we seek pleasure/satisfaction. Our problem is that we are far too easily satisfied. We settle for fleshly pleasures found in relationships with people, experiences, and things. But ultimate satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God.
Do you pursue a love relationship with God? First of all, do you even have a relationship with God? Do you pursue Him with all that you are? Your heart? Your soul? Your strength?
Spend a few minutes today asking God to show you that your ultimate satisfaction is found in Him. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask Him to satisfy you with all that He has for you in Jesus Christ.
At the end of today’s Bible reading, we read about the religious leaders questioning of Jesus’ authority: Where does it come from? (Mark 11:27-33) Jesus offers to answer their question if they will answer His own question.
“Regarding John the Baptizer, where did his authority come from?” The religious leaders knew that Jesus had just trapped them. If they said that John’s authority was from God, they would be asked why they didn’t believe. But if they answered that John’s authority didn’t come from God, the people would revolt against them; the people believed that John was sent by God. So the cowards told Jesus they didn’t know where John’s authority came from.
Jesus’ question was one of those critical questions that, when considered with its ramifications, demands an answer. And in refusing to answer the question, one actually does answer the question.
Jesus says, “Neither will I tell you where my authority comes from.” (Mark 11:33)
“What will you do with Jesus?”
That is the key question you can — and should — pose to anyone you’re telling about Jesus. How they answer the question will reveal their answer, even if they try to avoid it, especially if they try to skirt the issue.
Why? Because one day soon — no one knows when — everyone will have to answer that question.
Someone can try to pass off Jesus as a prophet or a good moral teacher. But doing so reveals that they don’t know what Jesus really said. He said that He is the way to God; no one comes to God except by Him. (John 14:6) No other way leads to God. All other religions and philosophies are completely incompatible with Jesus’ claims to be the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
Either Jesus was Who He claimed to be … or He wasn’t. If He wasn’t Who He claimed to be, He isn’t worth following because He’s a liar. But…
But if Jesus was Who He claimed to be, each of us must come to terms with Who He claimed to be and adjust our lives accordingly. If He was Who He claimed to be, He is worthy of worship! He is worth laying down your life for. He is worth forsaking your own way for. He is worth turning away from everything else for.
So what will you do with Jesus?
Reading through Mark 6 (today’s Bible reading) one word struck my mind: authority.
In the beginning paragraph, we see Jesus’ townspeople only seeing Jesus as “Joseph and Mary’s son”. They didn’t see Him for Who He was, so they didn’t recognize the authority He had. Neither did people recognize the authority of the prophets. Because of their lack of belief, Jesus is only able to heal a few people. (Mark 6:5)
In the next section, Jesus gave His disciples authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7) They went out in His authority and saw great success in their ministry. (Mark 6:13)
In the next section, we see that Herod misuses his authority and even submits to the wishes of his daughter to deliver John the Baptist’s head on a platter because he wants to save face in the presence of his guests.
In the next section, Jesus exercises His authority over the natural realm by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to the point that over five thousand people (5000 men, plus wives and children!) eat their fill. And after all was said and done, they collected twelve baskets of leftovers!
In the next section, Jesus exercises His authority over the natural realm to walk on water. After the storm calmed, His disciples were astounded.
In the final section of the chapter, Jesus heals everyone who even touches His clothes. Why? Simply because they recognized His authority.
Do you recognize Jesus’ authority? Really?
Is Jesus able to heal and do miraculous things? Really? When was the last time you saw Him do it? Did you give Him credit for it? Or did you deep down inside think it was a coincidence or perhaps the marvels of medical science that brought it about?
I think it’s safe to say from today’s reading that the more we believe and recognize Jesus’ authority in the world around us, the more we will see His authority demonstrated in the world around us.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus encounters a man who has been demonized by a legion of demons. The demons manifested in ways we would describe mental illness today such as self-mutilation and paranoid schizophrenia. Mental illness is real. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it can be debilitating. In many cases, mental illness can be managed with medication. And there should be no more shame for taking antidepressants or antianxiety medications than taking statins for high cholesterol. In other words, there should be no shame in seeking medical attention for medical problems.
But this man didn’t suffer from mental illness. He suffered by being demonized. (Note: The Bible doesn’t differentiate between demonic “possession” and demonic “oppression”; it only describes someone like this man as being “demonized” or “having an unclean spirit” as this man is described. (Mark 5:2b)
We don’t know how many demons there were. The Roman army was divided into several groups of differing sizes; the legion being the largest of these groups. But there wasn’t a hard-and-fast number that comprised a “legion”. However, we do know that the legion of demons was cast into a herd of two thousand pigs. Assuming at least one demon went into each pig, that’s a lot of demons who were terrorizing this poor man!
We can thank Hollywood for portraying demons in violent, dramatic ways. But if you look at how Jesus dealt with demons, nothing like that happens. Demonized people may have violent outbursts before encountering Jesus, but the actual encounter with Jesus is markedly undramatic. Demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Greater is He Who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Now, that’s not to say that we should go looking for them. But if we encounter them, we should simply claim the authority we have because of Whose we are.
Note that after being delivered from the legion of demons, the man tells Jesus he wants to follow Him. It’s a natural response to want to be with Jesus after such a transformation. But Jesus tells the man to go back home. Jesus wants the man to be a living testimony of what Jesus did than to simply sit at His feet and follow Him from town to town.
A big part of following Jesus is living out our deliverance from sin. And who better to live out our freedom in front of than our family and friends who have seen us at our worst as slaves to sin! In fact, separating from our lost friends and family may be the last thing we need to do when we come to faith in Christ, or become more committed to our faith in Christ. Yes, it’s important to protect ourselves from the temptations to fall back into sin, but doing so can prevent us from having the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.