Mark 12:1-17 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 12:1-17

  • Mark 12:1-12
  • He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug out a pit for a winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went away. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from them. 3 But they took him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent another servant to them, and they hit him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 Then he sent another, and they killed that one. He also sent many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenant farmers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill the farmers and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this Scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 This came about from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes?” 12 They were looking for a way to arrest him but feared the crowd because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. So they left him and went away.
    • We’ve talked about how a parable must never be treated as an allegory and that a meaning must not be sought for every detail 
    • Originally, Jesus’ parables were not meant to be read but to be spoken and their eating was that which flashed out when they were first heard
      • This parable is kind of a hybrid, however, a cross between an allegory and a parable
      • Not all the details have an inner meaning, but more than usual do
      • And this is because Jesus was talking in pictures which were part of Jewish thought and imagery
    • The owner of the vineyard is God
      • The vineyard itself is the people of Israel
      • This was a picture with which the Jews were perfectly familiar
      • Isaiah 5:1-7
        • I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes. 3 So now, residents of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could I have done for my vineyard than I did? Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes, did it yield worthless grapes? 5 Now I will tell you what I am about to do to my vineyard: I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled.
        • This vineyard was given every equipment.
          • There was a wall to mark out its boundaries, to keep out robbers, and to defend it from the assaults of wild boars
          • There was a wine vat. In a vineyard there was a wine press in which the grapes were trodden down with the feet. Beneath the wine press was the wine vat into which the pressed-out juice flowed
          • There was a tower. In this the wine was stored, the workers had their lodging, and watch was kept for robbers at harvest time
        • The workers stand for the rulers of Israel through the history of the nation
        • The servants who the owner send stand for the prophets
          • Servant or slave of God is a regular title
          • Moses was called this in Joshua 14:7; David was called this in II Samuel 3:18; and the title occurs regularly in the books of the prophets
        • The son is Jesus 
        • Even on the spur of the moment the hearers could have made these identifications because the thoughts and pictures were so familiar to them
        • The story itself is something that might actually take place in the time of Jesus in Palestine
          • The country had much labor unrest and many absentee landlords
          • If the owner followed the law, the first time for collecting the rental would be fiver years after planting the vineyard (Leviticus 19:23-25)
          • In such a case the rental was paid in kind
            • It might be a fixed and agreed percentage of the crop, or it might be a flat rate, no matter what the crop came to
            • The story is by no means improbable and tells of the kind of thing that actually happened
    • It tells us certain things about God
      • It tells us of the generosity of God
        • The vineyard was equipped with everything that was necessary to make the work of the cultivators easy and profitable
        • God is generous in the life  and in the world that He gives to men and women
        • It tells us of the trust of God
          • The owner went away and left the workers to run the vineyard themselves
          • God trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose
        • It tells us of the patience of God
          • Not once or twice, but many times the master gave the workers the chance to pay the debt they owed
          • He treated them with a patience they didn’t deserve
        • It tells us of the ultimate triumph of the justice of God
          • We might take advantage of the patience of God, but in the end come judgement and justice
          • God may bear disobedience and rebellion for a long time, but in the end, He acts
      • It tells us something about Jesus
        • It tells us that Jesus regarded Himself not as a servant but as a Son
          • He deliberately removes Himself from the succession of the prophets
          • They were servants. He was Son
          • In Him God’s last and final word was being spoken
          • This parable was a deliberate challenge to the Jewish authorities because it contains the unmistakable claim of Jesus to be the Messiah
        • It tells us that Jesus knew that He was to die
          • The cross did not come to Him as a surprise
          • He knew that the way He had chosen could have no other ending
          • It is the greatness of His courage that He knew that and still went on
        • It tells us that Jesus was sure of His ultimate triumph
          • He also knew that He would be maltreated and killed, but He also knew that would not be the end, that after the rejection would come the glory
      • It tells us something about human nature
        • There could be only one reason why the workers thought they could kill the son and then enter into possession of the vineyard
          • They must have thought that the owner was too far away to  act, or that he was dead and out of the way
          • Some people still think they can act against God and get away with it
          • But God is very much alive
          • Human beings seek to trade on their own freedom and Hiss patience, but the day of reckoning comes
        • If people refuse their privileges and their responsibilities, they pass on to someone else
          • The parable has in it the whole idea of what was to come
          • The rejection of the Jews and the passing of their privileges and responsibilities to the Gentiles
    • The parable closes with an OT quotation which became very dear to the Church
      • The stone that was rejected was from Psalm 118:22-23
      • The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This came from the Lord; it is wondrous in our sight.
        • The rejected stone had become the stone that bound the corners of the building together, the keystone of the arch, the most important stone of all
        • This passage fascinate the early Christian writers
        • It is quoted or referred to in Acts 4:11, I Peter 2:4-7, Romans 9:32-33, and Ephesians 2:20
        • Originally it was a reference to the people of Israel
        • The Christian writers saw in the psalmists dream something which was perfectly fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus
  • Mark 12:13-17
  • 13 Then they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to Jesus to trap him in his words. 14 When they came, they said to him, “Teacher, we know you are truthful and don’t care what anyone thinks, nor do you show partiality but teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” 15 But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” 16 They brought a coin. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked them “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
    • There is history behind this shrewd question
    • Herod the Great had pulled all Palestine as a Roman tributary king. He had been loyal to the Romans and they had respected him and given him a great deal of freedom
    • When he died in 4 B.C., he divided his kingdom into three
      • To Herod Antipas he gave Galilee and Peraea
      • To Herod Philip he gave the wild district up in the north-east around Trachonitis and Ituraea and Abilene
      • To Archelaus he gave the south country including Judea and Samaria
      • Antipas and Philip soon settled in and on the whole ruled wisely and well
      • Archelaus was a complete failure
        • The result was that in 6 AD the Romans had two step in and introduce direct rule
          • Things were so unsatisfactory that southern Palestine could no longer be left as a semi-independent tributary kingdom 
          • It had to become a province governed by a procurator
            • Roman provinces fell into two classes
              • Those which were peaceful and required no troops were governed by the senate and ruled by proconsuls
              • Those which were trouble centers and required troops were the direct sphere of the emperor and were governed by procurators
              • Souther Palestine fell into the second category and tribute was in fact paid directly to the emperor
    • The first act of the governor, Cyrenius, was to take a census of the country in order that he might make proper provision for fair taxation and general administration
      • The calmer section of the people accepted this as an inevitable necessity
      • But one Judas the Gaulonite raised violent opposition
      • He stated that “taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery”
      • He called on the people to rise, and said that God would favor them only if they restored to all the violence they could
      • He took the high ground that for the Jews God was the only ruler
      • The Romans dealt with Judas in their customary efficiency, but his battle cry never died out
      • “No tribute to the Romans” became a rallying cry of the more fanatical Jewish patriots
    • There were three actual taxes imposed
      • A ground tax, which consisted of 1/10 of all the Granin and 1/5 of the wine and fruit produced
        • This was paid partly in product and partly in money
      • An income tax which amounted to one percent of a man’s income
      • A poll tax, which was levied on all men between the ages of 14 and 65, and on all women from the ages of 12 to 65
        • This poll tax, which was levied was one denarius, the daily wage of a working man
        • It was the tax which everyone had to pay for the privilege of simply existing
    • The approach of the Pharisees and Herodians was very subtle
      • They began with flattery that was designed to do two things
        • To disarm the suspicions Jesus might have had
        • Make it impossible for Him to avoid giving an answer without losing His reputation completely
      • In view of all the circumstances the question which they asked of Jesus was a masterpiece of cunning
        • If He said that it was lawful to pay tribute, His influence with the people would be gone forever, and He would be regarded as a traitor and a coward
        • If He said that it was not lawful to pay tribute, they could report Him to the Romans and have Him arrested as a revolutionary
      • Jesus said, “Show me the money!” Actually, “show me a denarius”
        • He asked whose image was on it
          • The image would be that of Tiberius, the reigning emperor
          • All the emperors were called Caesar
          • On the coin there would be the title which declared that this was the coin ‘of Tiberius Caesar, the divine Augustus, son of Augustus’, and on the reverse would be the title ‘pontifex Maximus’, ‘the high priest of the Roman nation’
    • In regard to coinage the ancient world held three consistent principles
      • Coinage is the sign of power
        • When anyone conquered a nation or was a successful rebel, the first thing he did was to issue his own coinage
        • That and that alone was the final guarantee of kingship and power
      • Where the coin was valid the king’s power held good
        • A king’s sway was measurable by the area in which his coins were valid currency
      • Because a coin had the kin’s head and inscription on it, it was held, in some sense, to be his personal property
        • Jesus’ answer therefore was, “By using the coinage of Tiberius you in any even recognize his political power in Palestine. Apart from that, the coinage is his own because it has his name on it. By giving it to him you give him what is in any even his own. Give it to him but remember that there is a sphere in life which belongs to God and not to Caesar.”
    • Never did anyone lay down a more influential principle
      • It conserved at one and the same time the civil and religious power
      • At one and the same time thees words asserted the rights of the state and the liberty of conscience
      • The NT lays down three great principles with regard to the individual Christian and the state
        • The state is ordained by God
          • Without the laws of the state life would be chaos
          • Human beings cannot live together unless they agree to obey the laws of living together
          • Without the state there are valuable services that no one could enjoy
          • The state is the origin of many of the things which make life livable
        • No one can accept all the benefits which the state gives and then opt out of all the responsibilities
          • It is beyond question that the Roman government brought to the ancient world a sense of security it never had before
          • For the most part, except in certain notorious areas, the seas were cleared of pirates and the roads of robbers, civil wars were changed for peace and tyranny for Roman impartial justice
          • It is still true that people cannot honorable receive all the benefits which living in a state confers upon them and then opt out of all the responsibilities of citizenship
        • But there is a limit
          • E. A. Abbot, the NT scholar: The coin had Caesar’s image upon it, and therefore belonged to Caesar. Human beings have God’s image upon time—God created them in His own image (Genesis 1)—and therefore belong to God. The inevitable conclusion is that if the state remains within its proper boundaries and makes its proper demands, the individuals must give it their loyalty and their service; but in the last analysis both state and human beings belong to God, and, therefore, should their claims conflict, loyalty to God comes first. But it remains tru that, in all ordinary circumstances, our Christianity should make us better citizens.

Mark 11:1-14;20-21 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 11:1-14;20-21

  • Mark 11:1-6
  • When they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and told them, “Go into the village ahead of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here right away.’” 4 So they went and found a colt outside in the street, tied by a door. They untied it, 5 and some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They answered them just as Jesus had said; so they let them go.
    • We have come to the last stage of the journey
      • There had been the withdrawal to the north, to the territory around Caesarea Philippi
      • There had been the journey south, with a brief stop in Galilee
      • There had been the way to Judaea and the time in the hill country and beyond the Jordan
      • There had been the road through Jericho
      • Now comes Jerusalem
    • We have to note something without which the story is almost unintelligible
      • When we read the first three gospels, we get the idea that this was actually Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem
        • The gospels, however, are short, and crammed into them is the work of three years
      • John’s gospel we find Jesus frequently in Jerusalem. In fact we find that He regularly went up to Jerusalem for the great feasts
      • The first three gospels are specially interested in the Galilean ministry
      • John is interested in the ministry in Judea
      • The first three all of indications that Jesus was frequently in Jerusalem as well
        • There is His close friendship with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary at Bethany, which speaks of many visits
        • There is the fact that Joseph of Arimathea was Hi secret friend
        • Jesus’ own words in Matthew 23:37
          • 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
          • Jesus could not have said that unless there had previously been more than one appeal which had been met with a cold response
        • This is one explanation of the incident with the colt
          • Jesus did not leave things until the last moment
          • He knew what He was going to do and possibly long ago, He had made arrangements with a friend
          • The disciples being sent ahead may have been pre-arranged
          • In any case, this was not a sudden, reckless decision of Jesus. It was something to which all His life had been building up
    • Bethphage and Bethany were villages near Jerusalem
      • Bethphage means house of figs
      • Bethany means house of dates
      • Jewish lawed that Bethphage was one of the circle of villages which makes the limit of a Sabbath day’s journey, less than a mile
      • Bethany was one of the recognized lodging places for pilgrims to the Passover when Jerusalem was full
    • When words failed to move people the prophets of old idd something dramatic as if to say “If you will not hear, you must be compelled to see”
      • These dramatic actions were what we might call acted warnings or dramatic sermons
      • Jesus’ action was a deliberate dramatic claim to be the Messiah
        • But we must be careful to note just what He was doing
        • Zechariah 9:9
          • Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
        • The whole impact s that the King was coming in peace
        • In Palestine the donkey was not a despised animal, but a noble one
        • When a king went to war he rode on a horse, when he came in peace he rode on a donkey
        • In the time of Jesus, a donkey was the animal used to bear kings
        • But we must note what kind of a King Jesus was claiming to be
          • He came meek and lowly
          • He came in peace and for peace
          • They greeted Him as the Son of David, but they did not understand
          • They were looking for a king who would shatter and smash and break
          • Jesus knew it—and He came meek and lowly, riding on a donkey
    • When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, he claimed to be King, but He claimed to be King of peace
    • His actions were a contradiction of everything that was hoped for and expected
  • Mark 11:7-10
  • 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their clothes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
    • The colt they brought Jesus had never been ridden
    • That was fitting, for an animal to be used for a sacred purpose must never have been used for any other purpose
      • It was so with the red heifer whose ashes cleansed from pollution (Numbers 19; Deuteronomy 21)
    • The whole picture is of a people who misunderstood
      • It shows a crowd thinking of kingship in the terms of conquest in which they had thought of it for so long
        • It is reminiscent of how Simon Maccabaeus entered Jerusalem 150 years before, after he had blasted Israel’s enemies in battle
        • It was a conqueror’s welcome they sought to give Jesus, but they never dreamed of the kind of conqueror He wished to be
      • The very shouts the crowd raised to Jesus showed how their thoughts were running
        • When they spread their garments on the ground before Him, they did exactly what the crowd did when the man of blood, Jehu, was anointed king (II Kings 9)
        • They shouted “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Which is a quotation from Psalm 118:26, and should read a little differently, “Blessed in the name of the Lord is the one who is coming”
        • There are three things to note about that shout
          • It was the regular greeting with which pilgrims were addressed when they reached the Temple on the occasion of the great feasts
          • The one who comes was another name for the Messiah. When the Jews spoke about the Messiah, they talked of Him as the One who is coming
          • But it is the whole origin of the Psalm from which the words come that makes them supremely suggestive
            • 167 B.C. Syrian king Antiochus conceived it his duty to be a missionary of Hellenism and to introduce the Greek way of life, Greek thought, and Greek religion wherever he could, even by force
              • He tried to do this in Palestine
              • To possess the law or circumcised a child were crimes punishable by death
              • He desecrated the Temple courts
              • Instituted the worship of Zeus in the Temple
              • Opened brothels in the chambers around the Temple
              • Offered pig’s flesh on the great altar of the burnt offering
              • He did everything he could to wipe out the Jewish faith
            • It was then that Judas Maccabaeus arose; and after an amazing career of conquest, in 163 B.C. he drove Antiochus out and repurified and reconsecrated the Temple, an even which the Feast of the Dedication, or the Feast of Hanukkah, still commemorates
            • And in all probability Psalm 118 was written to commemorate that great day of purification and the battle which Judas Maccabaeus won
            • It is a conqueror’s psalm
    • Again and again we see the same thing happening in this incident
      • Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, but in such a way as to try to show that the popular ideas of the Messiah were misguided
      • But the people could not see it Their welcome was one which befitted not the King of love but the conqueror who would shatter the enemies of Israel
        • In verses 9 and 10 there is the word Hosanna
        • The word is consistently misunderstood
        • It is quoted and used as if it meant praise; but it is a simple transliteration of the Hebrew for “Save now!” It occurs in exactly the same form in II Samuel 14:4 and II Kings 6:26, where it is used by people seeking for help and protection at the hands of the king
        • When the people shouted Hosanna it was not a cry of praise to Jesus, which it often sound like when we quote it
        • It was a cry to God to break in and save His people not that the Messiah had come
    • No incident shows the sheer courage of Jesus as this does
      • In the circumstances one might have expected Him to enter Jerusalem secretly and to keep hidden from the authorities who were out to destroy Him
      • Instead He entered in such a way that the attention of every eye was focused upon Him
      • One of the most dangerous things that anyone can do is to go to people and tell them that all their accepted ideas are wrong
      • Here see Jesus making the last appeal of love and making it with a courage that is heroic
  • Mark 11:11
  • 11 He went into Jerusalem and into the temple. After looking around at everything, since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
    • This simple verse shows us two things about Jesus which were typical of Him
      • It shows us Jesus deliberately summing up His task
        • The whole atmosphere of the last days was one of deliberation
        • Jesus was not recklessly punting into unknown dangers. He was doing everything with His eyes wide open
        • When He looked at everything, He was like a commander summing up the strength of the opposition and His own resources preparatory to the decisive battle
      • It shows us where Jesus got His strength
        • He went back to the peace of Bethany
        • Before He joined battle with the world, He sought the presence of God
        • It was only because each day He faced God that He could face the world’s challenge with such courage
    • This brief passage also shows us something about the disciples
      • They were still with Him
        • By this time it must have been quite plain to them that Jesus was committing suicide, as it seemed to them
        • Sometimes we criticize them for their lack of loyalty in the last days, but it says something for them, that, little as they understood what was happening, they still stood by Him
  • Mark 11:12-14;20-21
  • 12 The next day when they went out from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, he went to find out if there was anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And his disciples heard it…20 Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
    • Although in Mark’s gospel the story of the fig tree is divided into two, we take it as one
    • The first part of the story happened on the morning of one day, and the second part on the morning of the next day, with the cleansing of the Temple in between. But, when we are trying to see the meaning of the story, we are better to take it as one
    • There can be no doubt that this, without exception, is the most difficult story in the gospel narrative. To take it as literal history presents difficulties which are almost impossible to overcome
      • The story of does not ring true. To be honest, the whole incident does not seem very worthy of Jesus
        • Jesus had always refused to use His miraculous powers for His own sake. He would not turn the stones into bread to satisfy His own hunger. He would not use His miraculous powers to escape from His enemies. And yet here He uses His power to blast a Tre which had disappointed Him when He was hungry
      • Worse, the whole action was unreasonable
        • This was Passover Season, that is, the middle of April
        • The fig tree in a sheltered spot may bear leaves as early as March, but never did a fig tree bear figs until late May or June
      • The whole story does not seem to fit Jesus at all. What are we to say about it?
        • It we are to take this story as something that actually happened, we must take it as an enacted parable
        • We must in fact take it as one of those prophetic, symbolic, dramatic actions
        • If we take it that way, it may be interpreted as the condemnation of two things
          • It is the condemnation of promise without fulfillment
            • The leaves on the tree might be taken as the promise of fruity, but there was no fruit there
            • It is the condemnation especially of the people of Israel
            • All their history was a preparation for the coming of God’s chose one. The whole promise of their national record was that when the chosen one came they would be eager to receive Him. But when He did come, that promise was tragically unfulfilled
            • If this incident is an enacted parable it is the condemnation of unfulfilled promise
          • It is the condemnation of profession without practice
            • It might be taken that the tree with its leaves professed to offer something and did not
            • The whole cry of the NT is that we can be known only by the fruits of our lives
            • We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and remain entirely unique the Master whom we profess to love
          • If this incident is to be taken literally and is an enacted parable, that must be the meaning. But, relevant as these lessons may be, it seems difficult to extract them from the incident, because it was quite unreasonable to expect the fig tree to bear figs when the time for figs was still six weeks away
        • Luke does not relate this incident at all, but he has the parable of the fruitless fig tree (Luke 13:6-9)
          • Now that parable ends indecisively. The master of the vineyard wished to root up the tree. The gardener pleaded for another chance. The last chance was given; and it was agreed that if the tree bore fruit it should be spared, and if not it should be destroyed
          • May it not be that this incident is a kind of continuation of that parable?
          • The people of Israel had had their chance. They had failed to bear fruit. And now was the time for their destruction
          • It has been plausibly suggested that on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem there was a lonely withered fig tree. It may well be that Jesus said to His disciples, “You remember the parable I told you about the fruitless fig tree? Israel is still fruitless and will be blasted as that tree.”
          • It may well be that that lonely tree became associated in people’s minds with a saying of Jesus about the fate of fruitlessness, and so the story arose
      • It seems to us to be in some way connected with the parable of the fruitless tree. But in any event the whole lesson of the incident is that uselessness invites disaster

Mark 10:32-52 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 10:32-52

  • Mark 10:32-34
  • 32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were astonished, but those who followed him were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them the things that would happen to him. 33 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 and they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him, and he will rise after three days.”
    • Jesus and His disciples were entering upon the last scene. Jesus had set His course definitely and irrevocably to Jerusalem and the cross
      • There had been the withdrawal to the north, to the territory around Caesarea Philippi
      • There had been the journey south, with a brief stop in Galilee
      • There had been the way to Judaea and the time in the hill country and beyond the Jordan
      • And now the final stage, the road to Jerusalem
    • This story tells us of the loneliness of Jesus
      • They were going along the road and He was out ahead of them, alone
      • There are certain decisions which can only be taken alone
      • There are certain decisions which must be taken and detain roads that must be walked in the awful loneliness of our own souls
      • Yet in the deepest sense of all, even in these times, we are not along, of never is God nearer to us
    • This story tells us of the courage of Jesus
      • Three times Jesus has foretold the things that were to happen to Him in Jerusalem, and each time they grow grimmer and some further detail of horror is included
      • There are two kinds of courage
        • The courage which is a kind of instinctive reaction, almost a reflex, the courage of those who are confronted out of the blue with a crisis to which they instinctively react, scarcely having time to think
        • The courage of those who see the grim thing approaching far ahead, whole have plenty of time to turn back, who could, if they chose, evade the issue, and who yet go on
        • There is no doubt which is the higher courage; this known deliberate facing of the future. That is the courage Jesus showed
        • If no higher verdict was possible, it would still be true to say of Jesus that He ranks with the heroes of the world
    • This story tells of the personal magnetism of Jesus
      • The disciples were sure that Jesus was the Messiah
      • They were equally sure that He was going to die
      • To them these two facts did not make sense when put together
      • Yet they followed. To them everything was dark except one thing—they loved Jesus, and however much they wished to, they could not leave Him
  • Mark 10:35-40
  • 35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask you. 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them. 37 They answered him, “Allow us to sit at your right and at your left in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We are able,” they told him. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. 40 But to sit at my right or left is not mine to give; instead, it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
    • This story tells us something about Mark
      • Matthew puts the request at the mother of James and John, Salome
      • This story shows us the honesty of Mark
        • It’s Mark’s aim to show us the disciples, warts and all. And Mark was right, because the disciples were not a company of saints
        • They were ordinary men
        • It was with people like ourselves that Jesus set out to change the world—and did it
      • This story tells us something about James and John
        • They were ambitious
        • They had completely failed to understand Jesus
          • The amazing thing is not the fact that this incident happened, but when it happened
          • It is the juxtaposition of Jesus’ most definite and detailed forecast of His death and this request that is staggering
          • Words were powerless to rid them of the idea of a Messiah of earthly power and glory. Only the cross could do that
        • But when we have said all that is to be said againset James and John, this story tells us one shining thing about them
          • Bewildered as they might be, they still believed in Jesus
          • Misguided James and John might be, but their hearts were in the right place. They never doubted Jesus’ ultimate triumph
      • This story tells us something of Jesus’ standard of greatness
        • He was telling these two disciples that without a cross there can never be a crown
        • The standard of greatness in the kingdom is the standard of the cross
        • It was true that in the days to come they do go through the experience of their Maser, for James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa, and John suffered much for Christ
        • They accepted the challenge of their Master—even if they did so blindly
      • Jesus told them that the ultimate issue of things belonged to God
  • Mark 10:41-45
  • 41 When the ten disciples heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. 45 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.”
    • Inevitably the action of James and John aroused deep resentment among the other ten
    • Jesus called them to Him and made quite clear the different standards of greatness in His kingdom and the kingdoms of the world
    • In the kingdoms of the world, the standard of greatness was power
      • How many people does a man control
    • In the kingdom of Jesus the standard was that of service
      • Greatness consisted not in reducing others to one’s service, but in reducing oneself to their service
      • The test was not what service can I extract, but what service can I give
      • The basic trouble is that it is human nature to want to do as little as possible and to get as much as possible
      • It is only when we are filled with the desire to put into life more than we take out that life for ourselves and for others will be happy and prosperous
      • The world needs people whose ideal is service—it needs people who have realized what sound sense Jesus spoke
    • He had come, He said, to give His life as a ransom for many
      • This saying of Jesus is a simple and pictorial way of saying that it cost the life of Jesus to bring men and women back from their sin into the love of God
      • It means that the cost of our salvation was the cross of Christ
      • Beyond that we cannot go
      • We know only that something happened on the cross which opened for us the way to God
  • Mark 10:46-52
  • 46 They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” 50 He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road.
    • For Jesus the end of the road was not far away
      • Jericho was only about fifteen miles from Jerusalem 
      • Jesus was on His way to the Passover
      • When a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey, it was the custom that he was surrounded by a crowd of people, disciples and learners, who listened to him as he discoursed while he walked
      • It was the law that every male Jew over 12 years old who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover, but this simply wasn’t feasible
      • Those who were unable to go were in the habit of lining the streets of towns and villages through which groups of Passover pilgrims must pass to bid them godspeed on their way
      • So then the streets of Jericho would be lined with people
    • Jericho had one special characteristic
      • There were attached to the Temple over 20,000 priests and as many Levites
      • Very many of these priests and Levites resided in Jericho when they were not on actual temple duty
    • At the northern gate sat a beggar, Bartimaeus
      • To those listening to Jesus’ teaching as He walked, the uproar of Bartimaeus was offensive
      • They tried to silence him, but on one was going to take from him his chance to escape from his world of darkness, and he cried with such violence and persistence that the procession stopped, and he was brought to Jesus
        • In this story we see the sheer persistence of Bartimaeus
          • In the mind of Bartimaeus there was not just a vague, wistful, sentimental wish to see Jesus
          • It was a desperate desire, and it is that disparage desire that gets things done
        • His response to the call of Jesus was immediate and eager, so eager that he threw off his coat to run to Jesus
          • Many people hear the call of Jesus but say in effect, “Wait until I have done this or have finished that.”
          • Certain chances only happen once
          • So ver often we do not seize the moment to act on it—and the chance is gone, maybe forever
        • He knew precisely what he wanted—his sight
          • It should be so with us and Jesus
          • And that involves the one thing that so few people wish to face—self-examination
          • When we go to Jesus, if we are as desperately definite as Bartimaeus, things will happen
        • Bartimaeus had a quite inadequate conception of Jesus
          • Son of David was a messianic title, but it has in it all the thought of a conquering Messiah, a king of David’s line who would lead Israel to national greatness
            • Bartimaeus had faith though
            • The demand is not hat we should fully understand Jesus
            • The demand is for faith
        • Bartimaeus may have been a beggar by the wayside but he was a man of gratitude
          • Having received his sight, he followed Jesus
          • He did not selfishly go on his way when his need was met
          • He began with need, went on to gratitude, and finished with loyalty—and that is a perfect summary of the stages of discipleship

Mark 10:13-31 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 10:13-31

  • Mark 10:13-16
  • 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them.
    • It was natural that Jewish mothers should wish their children to be blessed by a great and distinguished Rabbi. Especially they brought their children to such a person on their first birthday
    • We will fully understand the almost poignant beauty of this passage only if we remember when it happened. Jesus was on the way to the cross, and He knew it
      • Even with such a tension in His mind as that, He had time to take them in His arms and He had the heart to smile into their faces and maybe to play with them for a while
      • The disciples were not necessarily rude and uncivilized. They were simply trying to protect Jesus
        • They knew quite clearly that tragedy lay ahead and they could see the tension under which Jesus labored
        • They didn’t want Him to be bothered
        • They could not conceive that He could want the children around Him at such a time
      • Jesus said to let the children come to Him
        • This tells us that He was the kind of person who cared for children and for whom children cared
        • He could not have been a stern and gloomy and joyless person
        • He must have smiled easily and laughed joyfully 
        • This small story throws a flood of light on the human kind of person Jesus was
      • What is it about children that Jesus liked and valued so much?
        • There is the child’s humility
          • Ordinarily children are embarrassed by prominence and publicity
          • They have not yet learned to think in terms of place and pride and privilege
          • They have not yet learned to discover the importance of themselves
        • There is the child’s obedience
          • Their natural instinct is to obey
          • They have not yet learned the pride and false independence which separate us from one another and from God
        • There is the child’s trust
          • It is seen in the child’s acceptance of authority
            • Children often believe that their parents can do no wrong and know everything
            • Instinctively children realize their own ignorance and their own helplessness and trust the ones they think know
          • It is seen in the child’s confidence in other people
            • Children do not expect people to be bad
            • Children have not yet learned to suspect the world; they still believe the best about others
        • The child has a short memory
          • Children have not yet learned to bear grudges and nourish bitterness
          • Even when they are unjustly treated, they forget, and forget so completely that they do not even need to forgive
  • Mark 10:17-22
  • 17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother. 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
    • We must note how the man came and how Jesus met him
      • He came running and flung himself at Jesus’ feet
      • There is something amazing in the sight of this rich, young ruler falling and the feet of the penniless Jesus, who was on the way to being an outlaw
      • Good Teacher!
        • Jesus answered back basically, “No flattery! Don’t call me good! Keep that word for God!”
        • It looks almost as if Jesus was trying to pour cold water on that young enthusiasm
      • It is clear that this man came to Jesus in a moment of overflowing emotion
        • Jesus basically said, “Stop and think! Don’t get carried away by your excitement. I don’ want you swept to me by a moment of emotion Think calmly about what you are doing.”
        • Jesus wasn’t trying to brush the man off. He was telling hime even at the very outset to count the cost
      • Jesus was saying, “You cannot become a Christian by devotion to me. You must look at God
        • The danger is that the pupil, the scholar, the young person may form a personal attachment to the teacher or preacher and think that it is an attachment to God
          • Teachers and preachers must never point to themselves; they must always point to God
          • Teachers and preachers are in the last analysis only pointers to God (prophet)
    • Never did any story so lay down the essential Christian truth that respectability is enough
      • Jesus quoted the commandments which were the basis of the decent life; and all but one were negative commandments
      • The man answered “I never in my life did anyone any harm.”
      • But the real question is “What good have you done?”
      • Jesus was even more pointed with this individual
        • “ With all your possessions and wealth, what positive good have you done to others? How much have you gone out of your way tot help and comfort and strengthen others as you might have done?”
        • Respectability consists in not doing things; Christianity consists in doing things
        • That was precisely where this man, like so many of us, failed
    • Jesus confronted him with a challenge
      • Get out of the moral respectability trap; stop looking at goodness as consisting in not doing things
      • Take yourself and all that you have, and spend everything on others; Then you will find true happiness in time and in eternity
        • Sadly, the man couldn’t do it
        • True, he had never stolen and he had never defrauded anyone, but neither had he ever been positively and sacrificially generous
        • It may be respectable never to take away from anyone; It is Christian to give to someone
      • Jesus basic and essential question: “How much do you want real Christianity? Do you want it enough to give away your possessions?” Or whatever it is that is keeping you from fully following Jesus
      • We all want goodness, but so few of us want it enough to pay the price
      • Jesus looked at the man with love
        • There was the appeal of love
          • Jesus was not angry with him
          • He loved him too much for that
          • It was not the look of anger but the appeal of love
        • There was the challenge to moral courage
          • It was a look which sought to pul the man out of his comfortable, respectable, settled life into the adventure of being a real Christian
        • It was the look of grief
          • The grief of seeing a man deliberately choose not to be what he might have been and hand it in him to be
  • Mark 10:23-27
  • 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
    • Then Jesus turned the discussion back to His own disciples
      • How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
      • The word used for wealth  is defined by Aristotle as, “All those things of which the value is measured by coinage.”
      • The reason for the amazement of the disciples was that Jesus was turning accepted Jewish standards completely upside down
        • It was believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man
        • If a man was rich, God must have honored and blessed him
        • The disciples would have argued that the more prosperous people were, the more certain they were of entry into the kingdom
        • Jesus’ response was basically “How difficult it is for those who have put their trust in riches to enter the kingdom.”
      • No one ever saw the dangers of prosperity and of material things more clearly than Jesus did. What are these dangers
        • Material possessions tend to fix our hearts to this world
        • If our main interest is in material possessions, it tends to make us think of everything in terms of price
          • If our main interest in in material things, we will think in terms of price and not in terms of value
          • We may well forget there are values in this world far beyond money, that there are things which have no price, and that there are precious things that money cannot buy
          • It is fatal to begin to think that everything worth having has a monetary value
        • Jesus would have said that the possession of material goods is two things
          • It is an acid test of character
            • It takes a really big and good person to bear it worthily
          • It is a responsibility
            • We will always be judged by two standards; how we got our possessions and how we use them
            • Will we use what we have selfishly or generously
            • Will we use it as if we had undisputed possession of it, or remembering that we hold it in stewardship from God
      • The reaction of the disciples was that if what Jesus was saying was true, to be saved at all was basically impossible
        • Jesus then stated the whole doctrine of salvation in a nutshell
          • If salvation depended on a person’s own efforts it would be impossible for anyone. But salvation is the gift of God and all things are possible to Him.
        • Those who trust in themselves and in their possessions can never be saved. Those who trust in the saving power and the redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation
  • Mark 10:28-31
  • 28 Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions —and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
    • Peter couldn’t help drawing the contrast between that man and himself and his friends
    • Just as the man had refused Jesus, he and his friends had accepted the call, and Peter with almost crude honesty of his wanted to know what he and his friends were to get out of it
    • Jesus’s answer falls into three section
      • He said that no one ever gave up anything for the sake of Himself and of His good news without getting it back a hundredfold
        • A person’s Christianity might involve the loss of home and friends and loved ones, but entry into the Christian Church brought with it a family far greater and wider than the one left behind—a new spiritual family
        • Becoming a Christian may mean sacrificing ties that are very dear, but anyone who does so becomes a member of a family as wide as earth and heaven
      • Jesus added two things
        • He added the simple words “and persecutions”
          • He’s removing the whole matter from the world of quid pro quo
          • They take away the idea of a material reward for a material sacrifice
          • He never offered an easy way
          • He made it clear that to be a Christian is a costly thing
        • This tells us that Jesus never used a bribe to make people follow Him
          • He used a challenge
          • Certainly you will get your reward, but you will have to show yourself big enough and brave enough to get it
          • He did not call men and women to win the rewards of time. He called them to earn the blessings of eternity. God has not only this world in which to repay
      • Then Jesus added a warning
        • Many who are first shall be last
        • This was a warning to Peter who may have been estimating his own worth and his own reward and assessing them high
        • The final standard of judgment is with God. Many may stand well in the judgment of the world, but the judgment of God may upset the world’s judgment. Still more; many may stand well in their own judgment, and find that God’s evaluation of them is very different
        • It’s a warning against all pride
        • It’s a warning that the ultimate judgments belong to God who alone knows the motives of human hearts
        • It is a warning that the judgments of heaven may well upset the reputations of earth.

Mark 9:30-42 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 9:30-42

  • Mark 9:30-32
  • 30 Then they left that place and made their way through Galilee, but he did not want anyone to know it. 31 For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
    • This passage marks a milestone. Jesus had now left the north country where He was safe and was taking the first step toward Jerusalem and to the cross which awaited Him there
    • For once He did not want the crowds around. He knew quite clearly that unless He could write His message on the hearts of His chosen disciples, He had failed
    • He had to make sure, before He left this world in the body, that there were some who understood, however dimly, what He had come to say
    • This time the tragedy of His warning is even more poignant
      • The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men
      • He was not only announcing a face and giving a warning, He was also making a last appeal to the man in whose heart was forming the purpose of betrayal 
      • Still the disciples did not understand. The thing they did not understand was the bit about rising again; something they never grasped the certainty of the resurrection until it had actually taken place
        • When they did not understand, they were afraid to ask any further questions. It was as if they knew so much that they were afraid to know more
          • Medical diagnosis that we know is bad, but are afraid to ask more questions because we don’t necessarily want to know more
            • Sometimes we are amazed that they did not grasp what was so plainly spoken, yet we do the same thing
            • The human mind has an amazing faculty for rejecting what it does not want to see
            • People still accept the parts of the Christian message which they like and which suit them, and refuse to understand the rest
  • Mark 9:33-35
  • 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
    • Nothing so well shows how far the disciples were from realizing the real meaning of what the Messiah was going to accomplish than this. Repeatedly He had told them what awaited Him in Jerusalem, and yet they were still thinking of His kingdom in earthly terms and of themselves as His chief ministers of state. There is something heartbreaking in the thought of Jesus going toward a cross and His disciples arguing about who would be greatest
      • Yet in their heart of hearts they knew they were wrong
        • When He asked them what they had been arguing about, they had nothing to say. It was the silence of shame
          • It is strange how a thing takes its proper place and acquires its true character when it is set in the eyes of Jesus
          • So long as they thought that Jesus was not listening and that Jesus had not seen, the argument about who should be greatest seemed fair enough, but when that argument had to be stated in the presence of Jesus it was seen in all its unworthiness
          • How much different would we live if we thought of everything we were doing as being done in the sight of Jesus (my toes hurt)
    • Jesus dealt with this very seriously. It says that He sat down and called the disciples to Him
      • Rabbis sat to teach when the subject was of great importance
      • Jesus deliberately took up the position of a Rabbi teaching his pupils before He spoke
        • Greatness in His kingdom would be found not by being first, but by being last; not by being masters, but by being servants
        • It was not that Jesus abolished ambition
          • He recreated ambition
          • For the ambition to rule, He substituted the ambition to serve
          • For the ambition to have things done for us, He substituted the ambition to do things for others
            • The really great people, those who are remembered as having made a real contribution to life, are the ones who said to themselves, not, “How can I use the state and society to further my own prestige and my own personal ambitions?” But, “How can I use my personal gifts and talents to serve the state?”
            • JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
            • Instead of coming to church to get something, come to see how you can give/serve
    • The divisions and disputes which tear the Church apart would for the most part never occur if the only desire of its leaders  members was to serve it without caring what position they occupied. When Jesus spoke of the supreme greatness and value of the one whose ambition was to be a servant, He laid down one of the greatest practical truths in the world
  • Mark 9:36-37
  • 36 He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.”
    • Jesus is steal dealing with the worthy and unworthy ambition
      • Children have no influence at all; they cannot advance a career nor enhance a person’s prestige; they cannot give us things
      • Children need things; they must have things done for them
      • So Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes the poor, ordinary people, the people who have no influence and no wealth and no power, the people who need things done for them, is welcoming me. More than that, that person is welcoming God.”
        • It is the person who needs things that we must seek
    • There is a warning here
      • It is easy to cultivate the friendship of the person who can do things for us, and whose influence can be useful to us
      • And it is equally easy to avoid the person who inconveniently needs our help
      • It is easy to want favor with the influential and the great, and to neglect the simple, humble, ordinary people
      • In effect, Jesus says here that we should seek out not those who can do things for us, but those for whom we can do things, for in this way we are seeking Jesus
  • Mark 9:38-40
  • 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name who can soon afterward speak evil of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us.
    • There was one very common way to exorcise demons. If you could get to know the name of a still more powerful spirit and command the evil demon in that name to come out of a person, the demon was supposed to be powerless to resist
    • Jesus declared that no one could do a mighty work in His name and be altogether His enemy. Then Jesus laid down the great principle that “Whoever is not agains us is for us.”
    • A lesson we should all learn
      • We all have a right to our own thoughts
      • We all have a right to think things out and to think them through until we come to our own conclusions and our own beliefs
        • We are never going to agree with someone 100% of the time. There are going to be differences of opinion, and that is ok
          • It is necessary to remember that truth is always bigger than any individual’s grasp of it
          • No one can possibly grasp all truth
          • The basis of tolerance is simply the realization of the magnitude of truth itself
            • We should never “tolerate” something that is obviously against Scripture
      • We must concede the right to do our own speaking
        • There are of course limits.
          • If someone is spreading doctrines calculated to destroy morality and to remove the foundations from all civilized and Christian society, they must be combated. But the way to combat them is certainly not to eliminate them by force but to prove them wrong
          • Voltaire~ “I hate what you say, but I would die for your right to say it”
      • We must remember that any doctrine or belief must finally be judged by the kind of people it produces
        • The question must always ultimately be, not, “how is a Church governed?” But, “What kind of people does a Church produce?”
      • We may hate a person’s beliefs, but we must never hate the person
        • We may wish to eliminate the teaching, but we must never wish to eliminate the teacher
  • Mark 9:41-42
  • 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ —truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward. 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away —it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
    • The teaching of this passage is simple and straightforward
      • It declares that any kindness shown, any help give to the people of Christ will not lose its reward
        • When Jesus saw someone in need, He helped that person in the most practical way, and the duty of help has been passed down to us
        • It is to be noted how simple the help is. The gift is a cup of cold water. We are not asked to do great things for others, things beyond our power. We are asked to give the simple things that anyone can give
          • A missionary tells a story about telling a class of African schoolchildren about giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. She was sitting on the veranda of her house. Into the village square came a company of native bearers. They had heavy packs. They were tired and thirsty, and they sat down to rest. Now they were men of another tribe, and had they asked the ordinary non-Christian native for water they would have been told to go find it for themselves, because of the barrier between the tribes. But as the men sat wearily, and the missionary watched, from the school emerged a little line of tiny African girls. On their heads they had pitchers of water. Shyly and fearfully they approached the tired bearers, knelt and offered their pitchers of water. In surprise they bearers took them and drank and handed them back, and the girls took to their heels and ran to the missionary. “We have given a thirsty man a drink”, they said, “in the name of Jesus.” The little children took the story and duty literally.
            • Would that more would do so! It is the simple kindnesses that are needed
      • But the opposite is also true
        • To help is to win the eternal reward
        • To cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble is to win the eternal punishment
          • The millstone here is literally a millstone turned by a donkey
          • To be cast into the sea with that attached was certainly to have no hope of return
          • To sin is terrible but to teach another to sin is infinitely worse
        • God is not hard on the sinner, but He will be stern to the person who makes it easier for another to sin, and whose conduct, either thoughtless or deliberate, puts a stumbling block in the path of a weaker brother or sister

The Night the Sports World Stopped

About a week ago, the sports world stopped here in the United States. I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, I don’t think any of us have. During a Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Bills Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making tackle.

Now sports injuries are not that uncommon. I think most of us that are sports fans are kind of numb to most injuries, because they tend to happen. But this was different. We didn’t know how different at first, but the longer the training and medical staff was on the field, the stranger the whole situation felt. Then cameras started catching the faces of Hamlin’s teammates and competitors, and we knew without a doubt that this was different.

Hamlin ended up in cardiac arrest, receiving life-saving CPR on the field before being transported the to hospital, where it wasn’t certain if he would survive or not. Thankfully, it seems that we are experiencing a happy and encouraging outcome, as Hamlin is slowly recovering. It will be a long process for sure, but he survived and has been in communication with his team and even made public statements through Instagram.

But like I said, the sports world stopped. The situation in Cincinnati that night was unprecedented, and it led to some unprecedented responses as well. First, an NFL game was suspended and eventually cancelled because of the dire nature of the situation. And this was a game that was very important in the playoff picture. The NFL, most definitely, made the right decision in suspending the game. No doubt about that.

The biggest unprecedented response, however, was ESPN announcers, analysts, fans, players, and anyone else you can think of not only bowing in silent prayer, but publicly stating that the best thing any of us could do at the time was to pray for Damar Hamlin. In fact, the most surprising thing to me, was an ESPN analyst, the following day, openly and vocally praying on air. 

And as Hamlin has continued to improve, and started making public statements, he has been very appreciative of the prayers, and in fact, asked that people continue to pray for him. It seems that this unprecedented event in the sports world has led to unlikely people not only turning to God in prayer, but doing so openly. I’m excited about that, actually. That’s a good thing.

But over the years, that has happened at different times. People tend to turn toward God and pray when the unthinkable happens. This country became a praying nation in the days following 9-11-2001. As the days went along though, that open prayer and longing for God in public waned, and people went back to their normal routines. Hopefully, however, there were some people that changed for the better during that time, and kept praying and developed a relationship with God. And that is my prayer right now during this Damar Hamlin injury. That many that have openly turned to God in prayer will continue to pray and come to truly know the One True God.

There has been a negative side, in my opinion, in this situation. And it has been from Christians. A few years back, Tim Tebow would kneel and pray on the field before and even during NFL games. He was absolutely blasted by commentators and analyst for being so open about his faith and praying. And now that some of those same analysts and commentators have been talking about praying for Hamlin, I’ve seen a lot of Christians complaining and saying that they all owe Tebow an apology. Really? I don’t agree. And here’s why.

First, let’s celebrate that attention has been drawn toward our God. That people are actively seeking Him, even though it might just be for a few days. Who knows how many people might be permanently impacting in positive ways in a relationship with Jesus Christ through this. And that is something to celebrate, again in my opinion.

But what about Tebow? Shouldn’t he receive an apology? I don’t know Tebow, but I think I can answer that and say that that is not what he would want. Think about it. Was Tebow kneeling and praying to get approval from other people, or was he doing it because he has a strong relationship with God and wanted to make sure he was keeping things in the right perspective? If his faith is real, then it was keeping things in the right perspective and giving God the glory. And I think that’s what it was. He wasn’t doing it for the approval of man. He was doing it for God. And through his actions, on and off the field, Tebow has introduced the idea of a relationship with Christ to a lot of people.

Plus, there is the fact that Christ warned all of us that the world would neither understand or like our relationship with Him. The world doesn’t like anything that is not like the world. And putting our relationship with Christ first and foremost is definitely not like the world. That’s what Tebow was (and still is) doing, and that is why the sports world hated on him praying so much. 

Jesus warned in John 15 that this would happen to His followers.

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason.

John 15:18-15

And John, Jesus’ disciple that recorded that warning for us to read, had his own warning for us in I John 3.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

I John 3:13

In other words, if we are living for Christ, then we should not be surprised when the world around us hates us or disagrees with what we are doing. For a few days, the world has come together to pray for Damar Hamlin. It is my prayer through this situation that many will continue to pray to God and come to know Christ after all the attention to this event has returned to normal. But at the same time, there are always going to be those that pray when things are bad, and then go right back to the same old, self-reliant lifestyle when things improve. Many times, we that are following Christ do the same thing, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Keep praying. Follow Christ. And when the world hates you for it, keep doing it anyway. Be bold in your faith, no matter what anyone else says about it, and don’t be surprised when attacks come. If attacks aren’t coming, then maybe you need to reevaluate how well you are showing Christ in your daily life. Thank you God, for healing Hamlin. Thank you God, for the faithfulness of Tebow when he had the platform to point others to You. Most of all, thank you God for Christ, who sacrificed Himself for our sins. May will life faithfully, in such a way to honor that sacrifice. In Christ’s name I pray, AMEN!

Easter 2020 Announcements

Hey North Boulevard Christian Church!

We are in the middle of Holy Week; The last week of Jesus’ physical life on earth before going to the cross for our sins. This past Sunday was the day that we call the Triumphal Entry, when Jesus and His disciples came into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the cheers and excitement of the crowd.

But in just a few days, the mood around Jerusalem had shifted. As Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover that would soon become known as “the Last Supper”, the Pharisees and the other members of the Sanhedrin had already agreed to pay Judas to betray the Messiah. Of course, they either didn’t understand that He was the Messiah, or they just didn’t care because He was changing things too much.

I wanted to take a few minutes today to encourage you. Spend time with Christ this week, thanking Him, communing with Him, and realizing that the pain, humiliation, and heartbreak He went through during His betrayal, beatings, crucifixion, and death were all for you. He went to the cross because He love you so very much.

I know throughout our country, the Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. But I really think an argument could be made for the Friday of Holy Week for being known as the true Black Friday. Hell, Satan, and the world thought that they had won when Jesus died on Friday. The skies around Jerusalem even turned black, and the ground shook. It was Friday…

But Sunday is coming. The day that we celebrate the realization that death has been defeated. The gates of hell have been stormed. Sin has no power anymore, and Satan knows his fate…that is if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior! And it is my hope and prayer that all that hear or read these words already know Him that way, or will come into a saving relationship with Him through baptism and living your life for Him.

I never dreamed that we would be celebrating Easter the way that we are going to be this weekend. As our church buildings sit empty, I can assure you that the grave of Jesus is empty as well. And it has been for 2,000 years…and will be for all of eternity. He has risen, and has opened the door for us to have a relationship with God that our sin had caused to be shut. Praise God!

That being said, I want to tell you a few things about what is going to take place this weekend as we celebrate the Resurrection together, but on our own. I plan on going live on Facebook around 8:00 AM Sunday morning for a short devotional that would have been our Sonrise service. I hope you can plan on joining me for that.

Then, at 11:00 AM, if all goes as planned, we will be premiering a video on our Facebook page ( and my Youtube channel. To access it on Youtube, just go to and search Kraig Birchfield. It will include a welcome and announcement time from a special guest, a communion meditation from Chad Logan, and my Easter message. This is a different Easter for me, even if we weren’t having to meet online. I’m doing something I’ve not done before. We are starting a new sermon series this week, and I’m excited to share it with you. I normally end a series on Easter Sunday, but this year, we are beginning a series called “I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That”. We’ll be looking at some of the toughest sayings and teachings of Jesus over the next ten weeks.

And I thought it would be fun today to give you a little preview. So, I have included my introduction to our Sunday message for you today. 

Today, we’re celebrating Easter. I never dreamed that we would be doing it in this manner, but let’s not forget why we celebrate in the first place.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to live a human life, did so perfectly, and then willingly allowed Himself to be crucified, which is arguably one of the worst ways ever conceived to die, and then three days later rose from the dead, paying the debt for our sin. That’s what we celebrate today, and even with most of the church buildings across this nation empty this morning, we hold out hope because the grave is empty as well!

Here’s the thing that we have to realize. If Jesus really came back from the dead, which I believe with all my heart, then we have to obey what He says. If He didn’t, then we shouldn’t pay any attention to it. That means that we have to listen and apply all that He said to our lives, even the things we find hard or wish He hadn’t said.

If you are joining us today, and you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior through baptism and following Him, then I want to encourage you to pay attention to this message. There are going to be some very tough things that we look at this morning, but please stick with me to the end.

I’ve often told people that if I’m not stepping on toes at times, then I’m not really doing my job as a preacher. But that includes me. I often am stepping all over my own toes, because I haven’t gotten all of this perfect myself. So, let’s lace up our metaphorical steel-toed boots, and let’s see where God is taking us today!

Have you ever found yourself reading through the Bible and come across a statement and think to yourself, “Man, I really wish Jesus hadn’t said that?”

I hope that this preview may pique your interest. Share it with others. Invite them to join us, again at 8:00 AM Sunday on Facebook Live for a short devotion, and then either on our Facebook page or my YouTube account at 11:00 AM (or anytime after that).

God Bless and stay healthy! 

It’s Friday…

Hey North Boulevard Christian Church!

I wanted to take a few minutes today to update you and where we are at with regards to services and leave you some encouragement.

These are fluid and difficult times. With Governor Tate Reeves’ announcement this week of the statewide shelter in place order, along with much prayer and contemplation, we have decided that for the foreseeable future, we will only be hosting our services online. We are asking you to stay home and join us on Facebook each Sunday. 

We are asking that you set aside time to have communion with your family. Read a devotion and have prayer on your own, and spend time with God. If you don’t have juice and communion bread, that’s fine. Use what you can. The important thing is focusing on the sacrifice of Christ, not the bread and juice. 

Also, we want to encourage you to continue to give to the church if you so choose. You can do that by sending it to our P.O. Box 472 Amory, MS 38821. If that doesn’t work for you, contact me and we’ll make some arrangements.

This week, I will be preaching at 11:00 AM, and we hope that you will all join us on Facebook live if at all possible.

This is a very tough decision, and it is not one that we take lightly. It is not that we feel the government should be telling us what to do as a religious organization. But we feel that it is prudent to encourage all of us to stay home whenever possible. 

Here is the other side of it. We live in an age of public opinion and outrage. We’ve been talking at great length about living on mission and sharing Jesus with as many as possible. We don’t want to do anything to hurt our witness or mission either. Seeing and hearing the opinions of many either online or at other workplaces about churches that are continuing to meet has made us realize that we might actually be doing more harm than good by continuing to offer live, in person gatherings.

I’ll be the first to admit I despise that it has come to this. It pains me to not see each and every one of you at least weekly. But it’s time to go this route for the time being. Without going into a lot of detail, this virus has gotten close to home this week. We have always pushed caution, but it’s time to take it a step further. Kelley and I are fine. We have not been experiencing any symptoms or anything like that, but the spread of this virus has potentially hit very close to home in Amory.

Here’s the great thing. We are the church. The church is not a building. The church is the people. And we can worship and fellowship from afar. We live in an age of technology that allows us more connectivity than ever before. While we never want to encourage you to stop meeting together as Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us; 

24 And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 CSB

We don’t have to be physically together to stay connected. Call, video chat, or write letters to one another. Be the church without being gathered. We can get through this together because we know the God we serve is ultimately in control of this whole situation. Maybe He saw that this world, all of us included, needed to take a step back and slow down.

I know this is a scary time. It’s not a time that any of us saw coming, and the fear of the unknown is a real thing. I challenged you last week to look for the good in this situation. Likely, it seems to be getting harder to find the good. But I promise you there is good coming out of this situation. We are getting a chance to slow down and reconnect with God in a deeper way if nothing else.

You may be asking with all the uncertainty, fear, and panic going on, how can you ask us to stay positive. Well, I want to take you to one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite professors from my time in Bible college. I know that it is not exclusive to him, and likely you have heard it before. But it was Dr. Jon Weatherly that I first heard this from in my Introduction to the Gospels class. With Easter being just next week, I think it an appropriate reminder for us today.

We would be discussing something in class that seemed like bad news, whether it be the status of the people, the rage and plotting of the religious leaders, or even the despair of the disciples after Christ’s arrest. Those are all dark times, and it seems that there is nothing good to come out of those situations if you don’t know the rest of the story. Dr. Weatherly would pause, and tell us “It’s Friday…but Sunday is coming!”

Do you get what he is saying? Christ died and was put in a tomb on Friday. Satan and all of Hell thought they had won. The world looked lost. But Sunday came, and Christ defeated death, Satan, and Hell once and for all. A lot can change in three days. 

Now, I know that this situation we are in is probably going to last for longer than three days, but I promise you when the disciples were in their state of despair between Friday and Sunday, it felt like an eternity. This may feel like it will never be over. That our world is going to continue to spin out of control. 

But you see, Easter is not going to be cancelled. Yes, we may be having to do something different, but nothing is going to cancel the real meaning of Easter; Jesus Christ being raised from the dead! My mom sent me a picture on Facebook the other day that said “Easter cannot be cancelled. 2,000 years ago, all the forces of hell tried that. They failed.” And it contained a picture of an empty tomb.

So, I want to leave you with this thought. This world is in turmoil. And it may get worse before it gets better. It may seem that there is nothing but despair, fear, and panic. But our God has got this under control. He sees the big picture. It’s Friday…BUT SUNDAY IS COMING!”

Spiritual Gifts Survey

We are talking about what gifts we can have as Christ followers this Sunday evening at North Boulevard Christian Church.  If you have never taken a Spiritual Gifts Assessment, feel free to take one of these below.

It is important to not only figure out what our Spiritual Gifts are, but it is equally important to develop and use them. I recommend not only taking this survey, but also retaking it annually, as our gifts grow, develop, and change as we grow in Jesus.

Spiritual Gifts List (Lifeway)

Spirtual Gifts Survey (Lifeway)

Spiritual Gifts Assessment (1)