In Jesus’ Words: The Gospel of Mark

Over a year ago, I started on a journey to tune out the needless noise, the constant back-and-forth of our society, the politics and debates, and go directly to the source – Jesus’ words – to see what He really has to say about all of this.  For if Jesus really is who he said he was, then his spoken words should mean everything to us and how we live our lives.

There is a book called “Five Seconds After You Die”, in which Mike Connell writes, “In the first five seconds after we die, we will know how we should have lived.”  That’s a startling thought.  Jesus talks a lot about the after-life and how we should be living now.  His advice is wise and timeless.  We get no do-overs in this life.  It is worth a few minutes of our time now to think about those five seconds later.  What if Jesus’ words are true?

In this journey of going directly to the source, I have just finished Matthew’s historical account of Jesus’ words.  Matthew was an outcast, a sinner, a deceiver and a thief.  Yet Jesus chose him, called him out of his lifestyle and he repented.  Matthew was so happy over this that he invited all of his rowdy friends to dinner at his house to meet his new friend, Jesus!  It certainly caused attention.  Matthew was also a Jew who wrote primarily to the Jewish audience to show them that Jesus was in fact the long-awaited Messiah and King of the Jews they were looking for in their prophecies.

Mark writes with a different purpose.  Where Matthew had been one of Jesus’ original disciples, Mark was a contemporary of Peter and Paul.  He wrote to a Roman audience and focused on the servanthood of Jesus.  Matthew showed us who Jesus is, Mark will show us what Jesus does.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many. 
Mark 10:45

There were many different types of witnesses, many different accounts of Jesus’ life, but the message in all the gospels is always the same and remains the same today.  Jesus did not engage in political rhetoric or protests.  He did not challenge the Roman government.  He did not waste time on fruitless arguments.  He looked at each person individually, and he looked at their heart.  No one was a “less” sinner than another.  Not a single one.  All of Jesus’ words lead to one thing – repentance – and to believe in the One who can and will forgive.  It will be your five seconds.  Between you and Jesus only.  I hope you will join me as we begin to look at the words Jesus spoke to us as recorded by the Apostle Mark.

In Jesus’ Words: Forsaken and the Gift (Matthew 27:45-51)

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice. Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?  My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.
Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.
~ from Matthew 27:45-51

Forsaken.  At this moment, Jesus was abandoned by God. Jesus had been with God from the very beginning, and now he was alone, abandoned, and in despair. Jesus became the sin-bearer for us, carrying all of our sins and those of the entire world, while God poured out his wrath and punishment on sin.  It was far worse than any physical pain and torture he had received – it was the moment Jesus feared the most.  God could not look at his son.  He was forsaken, shamed, and separated from God.  It was the ultimate sacrifice, and for no other reason than the love for his creation.

There is so much to think about from this event and Jesus’ final words before his death:

Jesus has already paid the price for our sins (past, past and future). For those who accept this sacrificial gift, we will not be punished again for any of our sins.  God does not punish twice for the same crime.  Here, Jesus represents the loving, compassionate, and merciful side of God.

But God also hates sin.  It goes against His holy nature.  For those who do not accept Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s wrath will still be on their sins.  People often have difficulty imagining God sending people to hell, especially with the images of devils and fire and torture.  But the reality is, hell is a place where there is complete abandonment of God.  A place where you can no longer call out to God and have any hope of Him responding. It is a place where there are no good characteristics of God available anywhere – of love, compassion, mercy, sacrifice.  Hell is permanent abandonment and separation from God. People sometimes doubt there is any evidence that God is even in our world today, but imagine if you took out all references to God and love and good in our world, what would be the effects then?  Complete lawlessness and chaos and evil without any hope of goodness or love.  And definitely no self-sacrifice.

But why is Jesus the only way?  I would rather ask the question like this… Why would God promise a Savior and then punish and sacrifice his son so much, only to turn around and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter, there are many ways.”  No other way or religion offers a sacrifice for you.  But just like when someone gives you a gift, you have to accept that gift.  It cannot be forced on you or it is no longer a gift.

Finally, I always get asked this question… What about those before Jesus, or those who have not heard, or places where their culture prevents it?  Jesus came for past, present and future.  He is not time-bound.  Let Jesus deal with those things.  He is the gate-keeper, and His gift is for everyone and He gives everyone a chance to accept.  We should be more concerned about those of us who know better, who have knowledge, and yet have openly rejected his gift.  Once you have been offered a gift and refuse, you may not have another chance to accept.  Others may not have been offered yet.  We are to accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life and fellowship with God, and pass the good news on to others.  This is what Jesus died for, so that we may never have to experience separation from God.

 

In Jesus’ Words: The Rock and the Denier (Matthew 26: 31-35)

I would bet that each of us have been like Peter at least once in our lives.  Before Peter became the Rock, which was the name Jesus promised him earlier, he was the Denier.  It was probably the lowest point in Peter’s life.  He was in agony over what he had done.  He denied his friend and Lord when Jesus needed him most.  In his mind, he had failed.  Thankfully for all of us, Peter didn’t stay that way.  And neither should we.

As I read this story where Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him, a few thoughts crossed my mind.

Jesus never stopped loving Peter even as He told Peter what he was about to do, even in His greatest hour of need.  How many times have we failed someone when they needed us?  Jesus understands our human nature and He still loves us.  He can still use us.

Interestingly, after Jesus tells the disciples that they will fall away, He tells them, “after he is resurrected, He will meet them in Galilee.”  Did they not catch that part?  Jesus is telling them He will be resurrected and plans to see them again, but they’re so obsessed over telling Jesus they will never run away from Him that they don’t see the future.  How often are we preoccupied over something we did and miss Jesus’ most important words – words of hope and the future?

Jesus knows knows we all fail from time-to-time.  That is why Jesus came.  We need a Savior – someone who can help us when we can’t help ourselves.  Jesus came to save (future), not condemn (past).  Stop looking back, stop focusing on what went wrong, and look at what Jesus is saying.  He wants to lead you forward, not backward.

~ Peter’s Denial Predicted  Matthew 26:31-35  ~

Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written:

I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.

But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter told Him, “Even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away!”

“I assure you,” Jesus said to him, “tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times!”

“Even if I have to die with You,” Peter told Him, “I will never deny You!” And all the disciples said the same thing.

In Jesus’ Words: The First Lord’s Supper and Forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-30)

As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.”  Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.”  After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives. – Matthew 26:26-30

This is the last Passover Jesus has with his disciples, and through this, he transforms the Passover into the first Lord’s Supper.  He is preparing his disciples for what is to come after his death.  Jesus has finished his ministry – there is no more teaching the crowds and performing miracles, no more discussions with the religious people in the synagogues, and no more parables.  He had recently spoken of the end times and the signs of times to come.  As Jesus nears the end of his life, his words began to take on a more serious tone.

I took a glance back through the book of Matthew and noticed that the first part of the book is almost completely covered in red-letters showing Jesus’ words and sermons, but now as I look ahead to the remaining few chapters in Matthew I noticeably see that Jesus’ words become less.  His remaining spoken words are to his disciples and to God.  This last Passover becomes symbolic, not because of its ending but because of new beginnings.  Jesus turns this last Passover into the first Lord’s Supper, and He shows the disciples how to celebrate a new covenant and the blood that is to be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus reveals his purpose – the forgiveness of sins.

I once heard Bishop T.D. Jakes ask someone, “How valuable is it to you to be forgiven?”

The person replied with tears in his eyes, “It is everything.”

In Jesus’ Words: Free Will and Hope – the Betrayal at Passover (Matthew 26:17-25)

People often ask, “Why does God allow evil?”  It could also be asked another way, “Why does God allow people to do evil when He knows ahead of time what people will choose and the outcome of their choices?”  And if a person says they do not believe God knows everything ahead of time, then they would be saying God is not all-knowing and not in control.  I don’t think any of us want to believe or follow a God who is not in control or who can be caught by surprise.  So then the question becomes “Why does an all-knowing and in-control God still allow us to do evil?

The standard answer is usually “free will”, but I believe it’s more than just that.  Free will by itself does not guarantee anything or carry any hope.  It just means you are free to make your own choices, but not necessarily that anyone cares about your choices.  But the all-knowing, in-control God is also a God of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  God gives everyone a chance – many chances – to do the right thing, to change their hearts, sometimes even to their last dying breath, no matter what they have done in their past.

This is why God allows our actions and choices.  He never gives up hope on any of us that we can change and choose Him.  And that is why in this next story of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, even he was given a chance though Jesus knowingly could have prevented his actions.

~ Matthew 26:17-25  The Betrayal of Jesus at Passover ~

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover so You may eat it?”

“Go into the city to a certain man,” He said, “and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time is near; I am celebrating the Passover at your place with My disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, He was reclining at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me.”

Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He replied, “The one who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl—he will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

“You have said it,” He told him.