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: Who is this? (Matthew 20:29-21:10)

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So many times in this life we want to be right more than anything else. We know best. We want to prove our point is the correct one. (the prideful righteous)

or

Too often we get caught up in dwelling on our past mistakes. We failed. We’ll never be good enough so why try. (the unredeemable sinner)

Neither of these positions is how Jesus wants us to be.

It can be hard to change our habits sometimes based on how we grew up. Some of us grew up in the church. Others of us far from it. The basics of Christianity do not change either way – we must be repentful and believe in Jesus as the one God sent as the Savior for our sins. But other than that, our life and purpose on this earth has more to do with our relationship with others, showing God’s love, and forgiving others. It is in those things that we are most like Jesus, the one we follow and believe.

The problem with the first position (the prideful righteous) is that we put “our” being right above the relationship with others. We might think we’re helping, but we fail to trust God in His ultimate plan, timing and direction. And if we choose not to fully forgive someone in the process of being right (not just forgive on the surface but also in our hearts and actions), then anger and bitterness can spread to others like a wildfire out of control. Our kids see it, other family members are affected, and on and on.

The problem with the second position (the unredeemable sinner) is that we are not fully believing in who God really is. God does not condemn us the way society does. God is ready to offer mercy and grace to anyone who asks for it in their heart. Anyone. No matter what. Good or Bad. “Whosoever believes.” It seems ultimately fair, and yet a little unfair when viewed through the eyes of our world. We think those of us that are “good” have a better standing with God. After all, we’ve tried all our life. We resisted sin. Well, at least the big ones anyway.  But God is fair to all.  Anyone can be saved.  We are all equally valuable and wonderfully made by God.

~ Matthew 20:29-21:10  Who is Jesus ~

Two blind men were sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd told them to keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  “Lord,” they said to Him, “open our eyes!” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him.

Jesus came into Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two disciples telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.
Shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One!
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”

The chief priests and Pharisees asked the temple police, “Why haven’t you brought Him?” The police answered, “No man ever spoke like this!” – (John 7:45-46)

Jesus upset both positions – the righteous and the sinner.  Jesus changes lives.  The crowds may say keep quiet, stay in your place, but Jesus says differently.  Let Jesus take the burden and then let Him work out the rest.  All He asks you in return is to have faith in Him to works things out, to love others and to forgive.  Oh, and don’t forget to forgive yourself too – Jesus already has.feet with waves cropped

 

In Jesus’ Words: Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14)

10115486-yellow-taxi-sign-at-night“All humanity winds up in a taxi at one point or another.” – Dorothea Benton Frank, American author

I just love that line from one of her novels.  All of us, at least once in our life, have gotten lost.  We took a wrong turn, or we weren’t paying attention, or we just didn’t know where to go next.  Maybe we were running away, or perhaps we were returning home – anxious, excited, scared, alone.  We’ve all sat in the back seat of that taxi, in an unfamiliar place, dependent on a driver who probably doesn’t speak our language very well, waiting to be taken somewhere.  Suddenly our status, our money, our past – none of that seems to matter sitting in the back seat of a taxi.  We are all the same, wanting to belong, wanting to go somewhere, trying to figure out the secret, or if there really is one.

Jesus said his parables contain “the secret of the kingdom of God”. (Mark 4:11)
And the parable he told about the lost sheep touches us all.  It describes God’s greatest desire and love for us.  It is a child who returns, a heart that repents, a voice crying out to God, and someone to lead us safely home.

~ Matthew 18:10-14  The Parable of the Lost Sheep ~

Jesus said, “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of My Father in heaven. [For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.]
What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the 99 on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, I assure you: He rejoices over that sheep more than over the 99 that did not go astray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

The overall theme throughout the entire Bible shows God seeking out his children and bringing them back to him.  When Jesus came, he continued that same theme of His Father.  Jesus did not make it difficult with a long list of rules to follow, or require that we have everything figured out first or make sure our house was all in order.  Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.”  Accept My Grace.  And I will show you the way.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: Wheat and Weeds (Matthew 13:1-2,18-30)

Jesus could have easily been talking about the fair-weathered or pretend Christians of today when he was telling the parable of the Wheat and Weeds.  Hardly a week goes by where we do not hear the surprising and shocking news of someone who is not the person they had pretended to be.  Jesus never asked us to be perfect (for He is the only perfect one), but he did ask us to be authentic.

It reminds me of a time earlier this summer when I attended a small seaside church near the beach.  The sights and sounds of the ocean always bring to my mind images of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman disciples, their boats and fishing nets, shipwrecks and storms, and Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach for his disciples.  So as I sat in church on that Sunday morning, listening to the music and pondering my thoughts, I saw a man walk in late just as the music had finished and the preaching started.  The man shuffled his way through the row of people and took the empty seat next to me.  He was nicely dressed – perhaps a little too nice for a seaside church where sandals are more the norm; and he smelled nice too – of expensive cologne and wearing an impressive watch.  As the preacher began his sermon, the man opened his Bible, took out his notebook and fancy pen, and shouted a few loud “Amen’s” here and there, nodding to the preacher.  I saw that he wrote down the title of the sermon in his notebook, while saying a few more “Amen’s”.  I was impressed for a few minutes.  But then he never wrote another word in his notebook.  At the end of the sermon, when the music started back and the preacher gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to follow Jesus, the man packed up his things, climbed over all the people again, and left.

I don’t think Jesus was impressed with his show.  Jesus would rather see someone come to the church in their wrinkled and disheveled clothes, worn out from the stresses and burdens this world can sometimes bring, falling down on their knees, pouring out their heart to Jesus and asking for His help.  Authentic and Repentful.

The reason some people were angry with Jesus during his ministry on earth and chose not to follow him was because Jesus was not impressed with their wealth or status.  How aggravating that must have been for them!

Jesus used ordinary people – fisherman, tent-makers, tax collectors and sinners, a prostitute, and a murderer (Paul) – and He made them extraordinary.  Now that is impressive.

~ Matthew 13:1-2, 18-30  Parable of The Sower, and The Wheat and Weeds ~

On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.

“You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”

He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him.

‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”

feet with waves croppedFor more on images of Jesus and the sea… Breakfast cooking on the beach

In Jesus’ Words: Dining with sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:2-13)

forgiveness

No one else has ever claimed they can forgive sins except Jesus. The concept was incomprehensible at the time. Why did Jesus say this? Not once or twice, but all the time. Jesus’ response to this question was just as unconventional. He asks those that questioned him, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Then even more puzzling, Jesus picks out a tax collector in the crowd and goes to his house to eat with him and other sinners. Tax collectors were so hated at the time that they were called out separately from all the other sinners. They were a special class of sinners. Can you imagine how Matthew the Tax Collector must have felt when Jesus picked him? Elated! He was the kid nobody liked, never got picked for the team, or the bully everyone hated.

The sinners associated with Jesus were probably some of the worst people of that time – thieves, con artists, prostitutes, rapists, the undesirables of society. People could not believe Jesus would associate with them, let alone eat with them! Today this would be equivalent to drug addicts, alcoholics, sex abusers, AIDS patients, the homeless. So while we are trying to be good and do all the right things, or busy taking stands against this sin or that one, hiding our own sin (if we are truly honest), Jesus is over there eating dinner with some of these same people!

~ Matthew 9:2-13  Dining with Sinners and Tax Collectors ~

 Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”   At this, some of the scribes said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”  But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?  For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”  And he got up and went home. 

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Mercy not sacrifice says it all. This is how we should live our lives. When Jesus says that he did not come to call the righteous, he is referring to those who pretend to be righteous and therefore are not willing to repent. We must first admit we are sinners before we can repent and accept a Savior. Repentance is not considered a negative thing but a very positive thing!feet with waves cropped