IN THE GARDEN

Mark 14:32-51

BRIEF INTRO:

We are about to enter the garden with Jesus and the disciples on the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, thanks to Mark and the other gospel writers who take us there through their written accounts of this event. If you somehow missed seeing the humanity of Christ throughout this book so far, you won’t be able to do so in the garden.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the humanity of Jesus Christ displayed in jaw-dropping transparency. Jesus is shown to be anything but above temptation. “Far from sailing serenely through His trials like some superior being unconcerned with this world, He is almost dead with distress” (Moule gospel of Mark, pg. 117).

It appears illogical to assume that the early church would have generated a story like this one and then included it in the “written Word” if not for the fact that it is true. Just as the rest of scripture is given to us with “astonishing fidelity,” so is this account of what happened in the garden. How can we possibly fathom what that means, much less what it looks like, without such deliberate honesty from the gospel writers?

Did I grab your interest yet? Let’s dig in!

32 They *came to a place named [a]Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter, [b]James, and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and [c]keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began praying that if it were possible, the hour might [d]pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! [e]Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus and the disciples in Gethsemane 32-42

Gethsemane “*was a garden located somewhere on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, in which there were olive trees and olive presses. It was one of Jesus’ favorite spots (Luke 22:39; John 18:2).” It was here where He faced one of His most crucial tests. He enters the garden with the remaining eleven disciples (remember Judas Iscariot left them to betray Jesus to the Chief priest). At some point and some distance into the garden, He tells eight of them to sit at the spot they are at, and He takes Peter, James, and John with Him.

I cannot say with absolute certainty why He took these men with Him further into the garden, as He is facing sorrow so gripping to His soul. Most people would try to be alone during a grievous time like this, but not our Lord. Perhaps, as MacArthur opines, “Jesus likely had them accompany Him into the garden because they were the leaders of the twelve and had to learn an important lesson to pass on to the others.” Or, as one commentator puts it, “He must have felt the need for their presence in this time of crisis.” Whatever the reasoning, He takes these three men with Him a little farther into the garden.

As they walk, Jesus expresses His feelings to them. Men take note of this. It is not weak, unmanly, or abnormal to share our “feelings” with those we trust. Jesus tells them. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” Was He exaggerating for effect? Doubtful. In these very expressive words, Jesus described an extremely acute emotion. A mix of Fear, uncertainty, and anxiety “that is nowhere else portrayed in such vivid terms as here.”

What He is going through at this time is directly related to what He is about to experience for the world’s redemption. In other words, His sorrow was so severe that it threatened to cause His death as He spoke to them! Don’t just read over that and move on without some pause.

After expressing His feelings, He tells these three men to remain there, and He goes a little further on His own into the garden (v. 35). He tells them to “remain here and keep watch.” A little later, He tells them to “keep watching and praying.” His words were not suggestions; instead, they were imperatives (commands) in the original language (Both verbs in the aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice). Perhaps He wanted them to stay awake and keep watch for those He knew would be coming to seize Him. At this point in the account from Mark, we get an intimate view of the sorrow of Jesus as well as a “fly on the wall” hearing of His prayers to the Father!

His prayer begins with Him asking His Father if it were possible to let the cup pass from Him (v. 36). Jesus knew that it was within the Father’s power and omniscience to fulfill His redemptive will in any other way, an “alternate plan of redemption.” And, He also knew that whether such an alternate plan was according to His will, He would be obedient, even to death, on a cruel cross. 

Again we find much practical application for us in these verses. Jesus knew what the Father’s will was and was deeply burdened by it. So much so that He asks if there could be any other way to fulfill it. He took His burdens over God’s revealed will to Him before His Father in prayer. It is ok for us to bring our burdens before our Heavenly Father. He wants to hear from us (1 Peter 5:7). But just like Jesus (the other side of the coin, if you will), we must be willing to move forward in obedience to His revealed will when it is clear that His divine will has not changed! His will MUST always supersede our own (v.36).

37 “And He *came and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not [a]keep watch for one hour? 38 [b]Keep watching and praying, so that you will not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again He went away and prayed, saying the same [c]words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to say in reply to Him. 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? That is enough. The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being [d]betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”

FOCUS TWO: The importance of prayer

“Keep watching and praying” are words that are meant for the reader. How easy it this for you and I to become complacent, apathetic, and indifferent in our Christian walk. Yes, they were tired; they had a busy couple of days before they entered the garden with Jesus, but as we read in this portion of scripture, Jesus still commanded them to “keep watch” and to “pray.” Constancy and vigilance were required at this time as prophecy was about to be fulfilled when the betrayer would soon be upon them.

We witness a contrast in Mark’s count between Jesus and Peter, James, and John. 

Jesus:                                                               Peter, James, and John

Tired but prayed. Tired and slept

Deeply grieved over coming events Indifferent to coming events

Discerning Lacked discernment

Relied on the Father Self-confident

Sought strength from His Father. Spiritually unprepared 

Willing to do the Father’s will Spirit willing, but the flesh was weak

We are so much like these men that we would do well in withholding judgment against them. They did not understand that spiritual victory only comes to those alert in prayer, depending on God, and confident in His omnipotence and omniscience in all things. We would do well to learn this lesson.

Jesus was “deeply grieved to the point of death” (v. 34). He was about to endure “the fury of God over sin.” Not for His sins, He had none, but for the sins of the world (John 3:16). But even though He carried this heavy burden, such sorrow beyond our comprehension, His resolve to be obedient to His Father and do His will was absolute! “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (v. 36). 

But, as seen above in the comparison I listed, those three men couldn’t stay awake and keep watch for Judas Iscariot and the crowd that was coming for Jesus. “Are you stillsleeping and resting? It is enough” (v. 41).

The hour has come. What does He mean by that? You might remember that at other times Jesus stated that “my hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Jesus was working on a divine timeline, not a human one. Before the foundations of the world were laid, the triune godhead made the plan for the redemption of fallen mankind. So many things would have to be fulfilled over a vast amount of time before the “lamb which takes away the sins of the world” would be handed over to evil men and be crucified. That time has arrived. Judas Iscariot was on the way with an unruly crowd behind Him (Psalm 41:9).

43 “And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up, [a]accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him and lead Him away [b]under guard.” 45 And after coming, Judas immediately went to Him and *said, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 And they laid hands on Him and arrested Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and [c]cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a man inciting a revolt? 49 Every day I was with you within the temple grounds teaching, and you did not arrest Me; but this has taken place so that the Scriptures will be fulfilled.” 50 And [d]His disciples all left Him and fled.

51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him.”

FOCUS THREE: Betrayed with a kiss (43-51)

Judas comes with an armed crowd into the garden, where he knows from experience that Jesus would be there. He is not alone. A mob of people wielding swords and clubs is with him. Unlike many “unruly” crowds that gather today and wreak havoc in our cities, this mob was a carefully selected group of people brought together to arrest Jesus so He could be put to death.

This was no small crowd. It consisted of people from among the chief priests, scribes, and elders, as well as a full Roman cohort (could have been as many as 600 soldiers) that sought to arrest Jesus and take Him to Annas first (John 18:12). But how would Judas Iscariot be able to “point out” Jesus? How would this crowd know who to take prisoner? Judas had thought of this and so gave them a signal so that they would recognize Jesus. The signal? “Whomever I kiss” (v. 44).

It seems odd to me that a signal of any type would be needed. After all, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching in the temple, a very public place. They should have known what He looked like! They would have seen Him often. 

Notice how Jesus was treated. They come out for Him with violent, hate-filled fury. A man that has only done good for everyone that came around Him. A man, the messiah, filled with love, healing the sick and offering forgiveness of their sins! And none of that matters; they only want one thing-to silence Him for good!

Things have not changed much, have they? When a person speaks out about their faith in Christ today when they stand for biblical virtue in defiance of the current culture and its morality. When they say no to evil and share the only hope of forgiveness-Jesus Christ, they too are hated with much fury, and the “crowd” seeks to silence (cancel) them.

Judas approaches Jesus and embraces Him. He betrays Christ with a kiss, an act of respect and affection. He chose an action that showed “1the closest love and affection, normally reserved for one with whom a person had a close, intimate relationship.” This scene always grieves my heart. It grieves me because such a signal was grossly evil and highly hypocritical. Think about it. Even today, what Judas Iscariot has done is used in a derogatory way when someone betrays us: “you Judas.” The rock band Nazareth released a song entitled “please don’t Judas me” in 1975.

Jesus is seized. Simon Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave of the high priest (John 18:10). Mark leaves out various details such as this in his short account. Jesus expresses a “Righteous resentment” against their seizure of Him, especially how they had one it (vv. 48-49). And then we read these heartbreaking words: “And they all left Him and fled” (v. 52). It is so disheartening to read of the failure of His disciples that day, but even more grievous to my soul knowing that I would have been one of them as well if I were there that day. So would you.

We believe that the young man who fled with nothing but a linen sheet over his body was the writer of this gospel, John Mark! But even the linen sheet was left behind (v. 52)! Fear triumphed over faith at that moment, and they all fled the area, not wanting to be taken with Him.

There is much speculation regarding why Mark was in the garden “wearing nothing but a linen sheet,” That would be an excellent topic for further study on your own. 

Lastly, but not unimportant by any means, is the fact that what is happening at this time in the garden is the fulfillment of scripture (Isaiah 53:7-9,12)! The Bible reveals myriads of prophecies about the messiah being fulfilled in Christ (for example, Genesis 3:15-Galatians 4:4; Micah 5:2-Luke 2:4,5,7)! 

“do not try to make the Bible relevant. It’s relevance is axiomatic. . .Do not defend God’s Word but testify to it. . .It is a ship loaded to the very limits of her capacity” (Bonhoeffer). 

*Expositors Bible Commentary 

1John MacArthur 

I WILL NOT DENY YOU

Mark 14:27-31

BRIEF RECAP:

What a fantastic dinner. From the disciple’s perspective, they would enjoy the Passover meal with Jesus and spend some much-needed and vastly overdue time alone with their teacher, messiah, and Lord. Some of which they did not understand fully. The sights and smells in the upper room that day were familiar to these men. The bread they would soon be eating and the cups of wine they would shortly be drinking were well-known objects of this feast. But to their surprise, Jesus establishes the truth of the New Covenant while eating a very familiar Passover celebration!

I am not sure what their faces may have looked like as Jesus said those words, “take it, this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant,” as they partook of those elements, but I can imagine a slight bit of pause and some weird looks to one another! 

At the end of the meal, they sing one of several hymns that were sung during the celebration. They then leave the upper room and walk to the Mount of Olives. This mountain stood between Bethany and Jerusalem. This is where our current study begins.

27 “And Jesus *said to them, “You will all [a]fall away, because it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus said to them

Jesus and the eleven disciples had just left the upper room where they had celebrated the Passover. Judas parted their company to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14). 

Take notice of how different the tone of the conversation is now that they have left the upper room, and Jesus is much closer to the garden of Gethsemane, where He will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot and handed over to evil men. In those words, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (v. 27); Jesus predicts their fear and falling away when He is handed over (v. 27).

Jesus quoted from the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 13:7):

“Awake, sword, against My Shepherd,

And against the Man, My Associate,”

Declares the Lord of armies.

“Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered;

And I will turn My hand [a]against the little ones.”

Zechariah is speaking of a future event. Preface to this section, the prophet was focused on the false prophets that were “*wounded in friends houses,” but now is speaking of the “true prophet wounded in the house of His friends, Israel.” MacArthur writes: “He compressed events of both the first (13:7) and second (13:8,9) Advents into this brief section. It spoke of Christ’s crucifixion (v.7) and the Jewish remnant at His second coming (vv. 8,9).” That is why Jesus refers to it with the disciples. 

These men will not only witness fulfilled prophecy but are the “scattered sheep” of the prophecy!

It is never wise to leave a person with only bad news. People need hope; they need encouragement to carry on. That is what Jesus gave them when He told them that He would rise again and go ahead to Galilee (v. 28)!

Take notice of the tense used when He speaks of being raised again. Not hopefully, or possibly, but after I have been raised! Christ speaks of His resurrection as an absolute fact! This is attested to elsewhere in the Bible. (Matthew 28:16; 17; Genesis 3:15, for example). We do not simply witness fulfilled prophecy in these verses, but in it being fulfilled, we glory at the Omniscience, omnipotence, and sovereignty of our God over all things!

29 “But Peter said to Him, “Even if they all [a]fall away, yet I will not!” 30 And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that [b]this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But [c]Peter repeatedly said insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing as well.”

FOCUS TWO: Peter says to Him

Can you remember a time, maybe recently, when you affirmed your behavior or attitude would be a certain way regardless of the outcome of some future event, conversation, or meeting? Did it pan out that way when the time came? 

This is the case with Peter. Directly after the Lord tells them that all of them will flee, He makes a bold statement signifying the opposite. “Everyone else might, but not me.” Peter’s sincere but prideful statement is based on his false evaluation of himself. He views himself as more spiritually mature than he is, more steadfast in his devotion to Christ than the others. One other way we can define this moment would be “presumption.” Peter is overconfident in his future behavior even though his past behavior doesn’t back him up!

So, Peter Denied the Lord’s claim (does he know himself better than the Lord does)? If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we are just like Peter. We struggle with the same problem. Presuming things regarding ourselves, others, or the Lord, usually doesn’t end well. Scripture proves this time and time again (Deuteronomy 17:12; Daniel 5:20), and we are counseled against it (Romans 9:20; 15:18). 

The Lord answers Peter’s denial by giving more detailed information about what will happen in the not-so-distant future.

  1. That very night
  2. Before a rooster crows twice
  3. You will deny me three times

Again we witness Peters’s audacity in insisting He knew better than the Lord! “I will die for you!” At this point in the discussion, all the disciples were saying the same thing (v. 31). How little did they realize that their faith in Him would collapse as soon as they realized that He would not resist arrest or perform some supernatural act to save Himself (v. 50). How true the word’s of the Lord was, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (v. 38). Praise the Lord that He is always faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13)!

How often do we presume something will happen one way or another?

Why do such presumptions betray our confidence and trust in the Lord?

The statement “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” summarizes the battle we face within (flesh vs. spirit). How is this evident in your own life daily?

IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME

Mark 14:12-31

BRIEF RECAP:

At the end of our last study, we left Jesus in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, where Mary anointed Him with some very costly perfume (14:3). Some of the disciples were upset with what she did, Judas Iscariot especially, since he was a thief and in charge of the money bag. We read how Jesus had a different view of her sacrifice and how she would be remembered for what she had done to Him “wherever the gospel is preached” (v. 9).

We also took notice of the sharp contrast between Mary and Judas. Mary was selfless, devoted, and giving. Judas, on the other hand, was selfishdeceitful, and greedy.

We ended that study as Judas Iscariot “went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him” (Jesus). As we continue our study of Mark, We will be meditating on the last Passover meal and how Jesus “transformed” the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, a memorial meal to remember what He had accomplished for us in our deliverance from sin!

12 “On the first day of [a]Unleavened Bread, when [b]the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples *said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 13 And He *sent two of His disciples and *said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ 15 And he himself will show you a large upstairs room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples left and came to the city, and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

17 When it was evening He *came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will [c]betray Me—[d]one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20 But He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, the one who dips bread with Me in the bowl.”

FOCUS ONE: The last Passover

The feast of unleavened bread and the Passover are very closely related. The seven days observance of “unleavened bread” directly follows the Passover observance! The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days, during which all yeast had to be removed from their dwellings. No one could eat anything that had yeast in it or “that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15). On the first day of the feast as well as the seventh day, they were to hold “holy assemblies” or “holy days.” 

The celebration of Passover then began. The Passover lamb was slaughtered at twilight, and some of its blood was sprinkled on the altar. The lamb was taken home to be roasted and eaten in the evening with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed pineapples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which the bread was dipped), and wine (Exodus 12).

I share all that background with you because it is helpful to us in understanding the work that lay before Peter and John (the two disciples sent cr. Luke 22:8) as they go to “prepare” the Passover. 

I want to point out something exciting in Mark’s account. Places like this in scripture help us apply some of the big theological themes we hold in our Christianity. In this case, The Lord’s omniscience is on display! Take notice of their question: “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover” (v. 12)? 

Now, observe His answer (read 13-16). I will condense it here. He tells them that they will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water in the city. Follow him wherever he goes and then tell him, “the Teacher says, ‘where is MY guest room in which I may eat the passover with my disciples?” After they telPassoverese things, the Lord says that the man, without any argument, will show them a “large upper room furnished and ready.” So what happened? Everything Jesus said was going to take place, did, and they “found it just as he said” (v. 16).

In the evening, Jesus came with the disciples to celebrate the Passover. What is highlighted here by Mark is the Lord pointing out Judas Iscariot as His betrayer (v.v 17-21). He says, in front of all present, the one who is eating with Him, more clearly the one “who dips with Me in the bowl” (v. 20), is the one who will betray Him!

According to John’s gospel, it is at this point when Judas Iscariot leaves to betray the Lord (John 13:23-30), just as was prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).

As bad as this is, we need to remember and be encouraged by the fact that Jesus was not a victim! Everything that happened was according to God’s “predetermined plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23)!

22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and [a]after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink it, new, in the kingdom of God.”

26 And after singing a [b]hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

27 And Jesus *said to them, “You will all [c]fall away, because it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even if they all [d]fall away, yet I will not!” 30 And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that [e]this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But [f]Peter repeatedly said insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing as well.”

FOCUS TWO: The Lord’s supper instituted

We do not know at what part of the meal this took place. Some commentators say it’s most likely just before they eat the roasted lamb. 6

There are a few things here that we don’t want to miss. First, it is important to recognize that Jesus “*establishes the truth of the New Covenant while in the midst of eating the Passover.” When He said, “this is my body,” He gave a new meaning to eating the bread. When He said, “This is the blood of the covenant (new), which is poured out for many,” He gave a new meaning to the cup they drank from.

What the unleavened bread symbolized for generations has now been “transformed” by these words! “The unleavened bread symbolized the severing of the Israelites from their old life in Egypt” (slaves). From now on, the bread will represent Christ’s body that was given as a sacrifice for sin! The shedding of blood was always a requirement in establishing any covenant (Genesis 8:20; Exodus 24:5-8). This cup now represents the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for “the remission of sins,” thereby establishing the New Covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Another important point to make here regarding the institution of the Lord’s supper is that the elements represent something; they do not become something other than they are. This is contrary to Catholic teachings. The catechism quotes St. Thomas Aquinas in saying that “in this sacrament are the true body of Christ and His true blood  [and]is something that cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority” (CCC1381).

These elements represent something else, something grander, and they do not become it! There are two ways Mark and the other gospel writers could have stated what is going on with the elements. One way would be with the words “Touto estin” representing or standing for. Or, by using the words “Touto gignetai” which means something has become something else. IN ALL CASES, the gospel writers used the first meaning.

Lastly, we notice the promise of Jesus that “I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” What does He mean by this? One commentator explains it this way: “He vowed that He would not drink it in this festive way again until He can drink it anew. He will enjoy renewed table fellowship with His followers in a qualitatively new existence in the kingdom of God.” 

We are witnessing the transformation of the Passover meal into the Lord’s supper, yet everything was not “transformed” regarding the meal. The hymns, or most likely “Hallel,” were always sung in connection with the Passover. “The first two (Psalm 113-114) before the meal and the last four (Psalm 114-115) after it to conclude the evening observance. It’s probably the very one that is being referenced here.

19 “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (LUKE 22:19).

23 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not properly recognize the [a]body. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number [b]are asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

FOCUS THREE: This do in remembrance of me

Since the last Passover meal that Jesus had with the disciples and its transformation into “the Lord’s supper,” the church has understood its meaning and significance in daily life. Because New Testament believers understand that the new covenant promised in the book of Jeremiah has been ratified once and for all by the death of Christ (Hebrews 9:28), they celebrate this “memorial Meal” regularly in their corporate worship.

In the Corinthian passage, Paul uses the same terminology as our Lord did when He instituted the meal: “do this in remembrance of me.” There are important reasons why we observe the Lord’s Supper. The first reason would be focused on the congregation as a whole. “To show the Lord’s death till He comes (v. 26). Christ wants us to remember His sacrifice for us. To remember His being “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). “There is a vivid portrayal of the redeeming sacrifice of the Christ of Calvary. His matchless life, His victorious sufferings, and His faithfulness even unto death are brought to mind,” and should lead us to bow humbly before Him in praise and thanksgiving.

But this, too, is a powerful presentation of the gospel for those in our sanctuaries who do not know Jesus as their savior. As each of the elements is explained during the meal, they point unbelievers to His physical incarnation, sacrificial death, resurrection, and His coming again for those who are His!

Another reason the church observes this communion meal on a regular basis is directed at the individual. Communion reminds the individual that Christ’s death was for them. More than simply being a “corporate” remembrance, it is an individual assessment. Christ died for us, yes. But Christ died for ME because of my guilt, unworthiness, and for my pardon!

So, we celebrate, meditate, and reflect on our lives in light of this glorious truth. As much as we glory in the cross work of our redeemer, we are also made aware of the wrongness of our sins, base desires, ungodly motives, vain ambitions, and hurtful attitudes, and then we are able to acknowledge our unworthiness and walk the “painful but necessary path of repentance again.”

Paul speaks of self-examination as we enter this meal (vv. 27,28). He cautions believers not to partake in “an unworthy way,” and exhorts his readers to examine themselves honestly in light of the cross. We ought to examine our hearts as we remember Christ. Are we about to “partake” in an unworthy manner? Am I doing this with the mindset of “just going through the motions? MacArthur gives some examples of self-reflection: “Ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.” To do so not only dishonors the ceremony, but it also dishonors His body and blood, treating lightly the gracious sacrifice of Christ for us.”

So, we partake of this memorial meal, not because we are worthy, not because of any righteousness of our own, or because any magical thing takes place as a result. We come, we partake because Christ bids us to come! It is His table, and He has extended an invitation to us, to those He redeemed!

*John MacArthur 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg, 178

Clyne W. Buxton

THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS

 

Mark 14:1-11

BRIEF INTRO:

We are now entering Mark’s passion narrative, the account of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. All of these upcoming events take place in or around Jerusalem. We previously meditated on Jesus’ response to the questions put before Him regarding the destruction of the temple and the manifestation of His kingdom. We now find Jesus in Bethany, the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:1). A town located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, approximately two miles east of Jerusalem. Chapter fourteen opens with Mark revealing the plot of the chief priests and scribes to kill Jesus. Let’s begin!

14 “Now the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him covertly and kill Him; for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there will be a riot of the people.”

FOCUS ONE: THE PLOT

Mark begins this narrative by giving the reader a time marker. He mentions that Passover and unleavened bread were two days away. The Passover would have started on Thursday after sunset. Passover commemorated the “passing over” of the homes of the Israelites by the angel of death, who killed the first born of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13:16). “The Passover began on the 14th day of Nisan (the first month of the Jewish calendar) with the slaying of the Passover lamb, and continued into the early hours of the 15th.” 

Unleavened bread was a feast commemorating the departure of the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus 23:15), and it began immediately after the Passover and lasted from the 15th to the 21st. 

Mark tells us that these celebrations or memorials were to begin in two days. Matthew, however, tells his readers that Jesus predicted that He would be crucified in “two days” (Matthew 26:2), which would be Friday because, as He states, it is Wednesday evening! Mark does not tell us how important that information is to the reader.

The chief priests and the scribes wanted to kill Jesus, but they didn’t know how to seize Him without the people getting upset. Trying to do something like that during the festival might cause a riot. The Greek word for “stealth” or “covertly” is the word(dolos). It means deceit, guile, or betrayal. It involves trickery and deception. They would have taken Him immediately if they could have, but fear of the people necessitated a more concealing approach!

As the passion narrative begins, we find that these leaders are looking for a way to seize and kill Jesus. Later in verse 10, we see Judas ready to betray the Lord. Judas becomes the man that fills in the blank spots in their plans!

3 “While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon [a]the Leper, He was reclining at the table, and a woman came with an alabaster vial of costly perfume of pure [b]nard. She broke the vial and poured the perfume over His head. But there were some indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume could have been sold for over three hundred [c]denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a good deed for Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the entire world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

FOCUS TWO: MARY ANOINTS JESUS

I mentioned earlier that Jesus was in Bethany at this time. More specifically, He was at the home of Simon, the leper. It seems this man is only mentioned in the New Testament concerning this story. At some point, Simon was healed by Jesus and prepared this dinner for Jesus to honor Him. Considering that there are many other “Simons,” a name prevalent on that day, we can be thankful that Matthew and Mark retained the name so we can distinguish him from the other Simons (Simon the Pharisee and Simon Peter, the apostle, for example).

Matthew and Mark both place this meal at the home of Simon the Leper. John informs us that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were also at this meal and that it was Mary, Martha’s sister, who took the costly perfume and anointed Jesus’s feet (John 12:1-3). Mary comes forward on her initiative, humbly and sacrificially, to show her love and adoration for the Lord. Little did she realize the greater significance of her act!

She offers her costly perfume and pours it over Jesus’ head. One pound of “very costly perfume of pure nard” was equivalent to a year’s wages. This “nard” was an oil extracted from the root of a plant grown in India. She gives freely from her heart! We can picture those eating, reclining at the table with their feet extended away from it, making it easy for Mary to anoint the feet of Jesus. What she did, she probably never realized! Her anointing of Jesus became a symbol that anticipated His death and burial only two days later (Matthew 26:2).

We must take notice of a striking contrast between Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, and Mary. Judas Iscariot (the one that intends to betray Jesus, cr. v.10) was upset that she didn’t sell the perfume and give the money to the poor. Sounds good in theory, but not in principle! Judas was a thief and had control of the money bag (John 12:6). He wasn’t interested in the welfare of the poor; he was interested in his welfare.

Jesus responds to those that rebuked her by telling them to “let her alone.” The poor of this world will always be with you, Jesus said, but “you do not always have me” (v. 7). In other words, opportunities to help the poor, feed the poor, and minister to them will always be available to you. But My presence is limited in time. This particular moment was not the time for meeting the needs of the poor. Instead, it was the time for “sacrificial worship” of the One who would soon be crucified for the sins of fallen mankind!

His following words are fascinating. “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for the burial” (v. 8). Mary most likely never realized what she did. “But it became a symbol that anticipated His death and burial.” His last words in this section regarding Mary are a wonderful testimony to her sacrificial love that moved her heart with pure worship of the Lord. The very fact has guaranteed his promise of what Mary has done that it has been included in our New Testament! Every time we read the gospel narratives, we read of what Mary has done, and we talk about it!

10 “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to [a]betray Him to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.”

FOCUS THREE: JUDAS SEEKS TO BETRAY JESUS

He seeks the priests out! They didn’t come to him; he went to them. That Judas (Iscariot) was not a Galilean like the others should get our attention. “Iscariot” means man of Kerioth, a small town in Judea about twenty-three miles away from Jerusalem.

“It should be clear that Judas never had any spiritual interest in Jesus,” Rather, he was motivated politically. He expected Jesus to manifest His power so that He would overthrow Rome and become an influential political leader, not to the exclusion of being a “religious” one too. Perhaps he thought he would gain prestige, power, and influence because of his association with Him. But when it became clear to him that this wasn’t going to happen, he “went off” to the chief priests to betray Him.

Mark’s account is much less detailed than Matthew’s and Lukes’s. Matthew shares a bit of the conversation that took place. “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” Their answer? “They weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him” (Matthew 26:15-16). Exodus 21:32 tells us that this was the price of a slave. That gives us an idea of what Judas thought about Jesus, right? 

Luke tells us something that Mark and Matthew do not. Luke tells us what is going on with Judas at this time. Sure, he was upset that Jesus was not acting as he hoped He would, but then we read: “And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot. . . And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them” (Luke 22:3-4). Let’s back up a bit to understand what’s happening with Judas.

In the gospel of John, we are told that “during supper, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him” (John 13:2). This took place at the feast of Passover and does not excuse Judas Iscariot for his actions. Judas, without faith in Jesus, already desired to do the very thing Satan wanted. They agreed, so his actions were the natural outcome of his wicked heart.

Something more eye-opening happens after Jesus washes their feet. Jesus not only speaks about one of them betraying Him, but He also gives direct insight into who it would be! “He who eats My bread has lifted his heel against me” (John 13:18). And then in verse 26, “Jesus then answered, ‘that is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” 

“The host at a feast (in this case, Jesus) would dip into a common bowl and pull out a particularly tasty bit and pass it to a guest as a special mark of honor or friendship.” Jesus gave it to Judas. Whether or not he ate it is uncertain, but we know that “after the morsel, Satan entered into Him” (v. 27).

We should notice the progression (perhaps digression) from before the feast till after the morsel, from satanic influence to satanic possession. Jesus said that “he who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). Judas is an example of how tragic it can be for someone who rejects and hardens their heart against Christ. 

“BEHOLD, NOW IS THE ACCEPTABLE TIME, BEHOLD, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

  • * Macarthur Study Bible

THE SECOND COMING

Mark 13:24-37

BRIEF INTRO:

This study will finish our meditation on Christ’s response to the questions proffered earlier by Peter, James, and John (v. 3). Jesus told them that wars, rumors of wars, and false messiahs must come, but are only the beginning of birth pangs (v. 8). He told them of the persecution that would come for those who follow Him (v.9), and the gospel’s proclamation to “all the nations” before His return (v.10)! If those things were not concerning enough, He tells them about “the abomination of desolation” that will happen to usher in an even greater time of tribulation (aka “the great tribulation-the last half of the seven years of tribulation). 

These days will be filled with many satanic-inspired pseudo-miracles that are utilized to convince people (even the elect if possible v. 22) that they are the true Messiah. But, everything they and we need to know so as not to be deceived He has told us in advance (v. 23) so we would be alert! 

The alertness of God’s people is a theme that develops within His answer to the disciples beginning in verse five: “see to it that no one misleads you.” Then we read: “Be on your guard” (v. 9), “but when you see” (v. 14), “I have told you everything in advance” (v. 23), and “Take heed, keep on the alert” (v. 33, 37). 

As we begin our focus today in the remaining part of this chapter, we quickly realize that the days being spoken of now by the Lord, after the abomination of desolation appears, are far worse than what has been previously mentioned.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His [a]elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.”

FOCUS ONE: In those days (24-27)

The first thing to be noticed in “those days” will be the magnitude of the celestial catastrophes that will be taking place. The sun will “go black,” no longer bringing forth its radiant light. The moon will no longer give its light as *”the universe begins to disintegrate prior to the return of Christ” (Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12). 

The stars in the sky that we enjoy observing on clear nights will begin to fall through space. “All the forces of energy that hold everything in space constant, and which Christ controls, He will allow to become random and chaotic” (Isaiah 13:6-16; 2 Peter 3:10-12). And then?

Then, “they will see the appearance of the Son of Man (v. 26). He is said to be coming in the clouds with great power and glory. In Acts chapter one, verse eleven, we are told that Jesus will come again “in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” In other words, His coming will be:

  1. Powerful
  2. Visible
  3. And rescuing

Jesus Christ will redeem the elect, restore the devastated earth, and establish His rightful rule on earth! He will send forth His angels to “gather the elect from everywhere; not one of them will be absent from His kingdom(v. 27)! At this point in history, the “elect” will include the 144,000 Jewish witnesses (Revelation 7:4) and all those converted through their witness (v.9). Also, and very awesome to contemplate, are those too that were converted through the angelic proclamation we read about in Revelation 14:6!

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So you too, when you see these things happening, [a]recognize that [b]He is near, right at the [c]door.30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

FOCUS TWO: Learning from a fig tree (28-32)

In the following scriptures (28-37), Jesus uses two parables to teach and exhort the disciples and those who would be reading these words in a later generation (v. 14). The first is the parable of the fig tree; the second is about the master’s return. This first parable, that of the fig tree, is meant to exhort the followers of Jesus Christ to always be ready for His return. 

Just like the fig tree, “branches become tender, putting forth its leaves” when spring is ending and summer is beginning” (v. 28), sure and certain signs that reveal a change in seasons, so too are the events that reveal Christ is returning! These things, the events mentioned in (vv. 6-23), are to be just as much a clear indication of His approaching return!

Just as the fig tree reveals that summer is near; so these events indicate that Jesus is close!

Jesus then promises that these things will come to pass. He solidifies His promise basing it on the eternal and indestructible Word of God (v. 31). We know from His previous teaching (v. 24-25; Luke 21:25-28) that the universe as we now know it will be dramatically and eternally changed (2 Peter 3:10). But His Word will never pass away. It is impossible for His Word to be altered or destroyed in any way. This fact, this truth, makes His promise about His coming resolute. And it makes the point clear-we are always to be ready because the end will come with a swift conclusion.

The following words seem a bit confusing. “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the father alone” (v. 32). “When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return.” That’s a bit hard to believe. After all, He is the second person of the trinity, co-equal, co-eternal, etc. He is, after all, Emmanuel (God with us). MacArthur writes: “Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1,14), when He becam a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Philippians 2:6-8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions, but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of his humanity”(John 15:15). So it is because of this we read that He did not know the timing.

Luke wrote: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:2). Paul wrote the Thessalonians two letters in which He spoke of the “coming of the Lord” repeatedly. His first letter mentions the coming of the Lord at the end of every chapter! Why? It is something to be looking for. It is the truth that we are to “comfort one another” with. It is a reality that should push us to “excel still more” in our walk of faith.

How does this truth, Jesus coming again, encourage you, dear Christian? 

3“Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and [a]putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Therefore, stay alert—for you do not know when the [b]master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 so that he does not come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!‘”

FOCUS THREE: Pay attention (33-37)

As I mentioned above, there are two parables that Jesus employs with the intention of teaching and exhorting the disciples, and all that will read these words in a later generation (v.14). The above focus point discussed the first; now the second. 

This is a parable about the master’s return. The point is to exhort the reader always to be ready because Jesus could come anytime. The master goes on a journey and assigns his slaves tasks to be accomplished. He commands the doorkeeper to “stay alert.” Alert for what? For his return!

No one knows when he will return, just that he will return. Jesus begins this parable with an exhortation to “take heed, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the appointed  time will come.” 

In this parable, we find that alertness is likened to being a doorkeeper (v.34). “In Jesus’ day, this individual guarded the outer gate of the house, so as to be ready to let the returning master in upon his arrival.” He was to be on the alert, always ready for the master to return.  

These parables teach us that “being alert” ought to be the “standing position” of every believer. Jesus may come suddenly, and we don’t know when. He could come at any time, so His children need to be ready. “All of Christ’s disciples are to be like doorkeepers, always remaining alert and vigilant for their Master’s return.” 

And, keep in mind, He didn’t just say this to the twelve. “What I say to you I say to all, be on the alert!”

  • * MacArthur Study Bible
  • Exegetical Guide to the New Testament

JESUS’ VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Various scriptures

As I write this post, the temperature in Indiana has dropped into the negatives, the snow has ceased falling, and the wind is constant and bone-chilling. I have been writing the previous post’s on the view of Christmas (incarnation) from the standpoint of various people in the Bible and directly related to the Christmas story. I have been doing this because it seems that we, and by we, I mean our American culture, have lost NOT only a “proper view” of Christmas but a biblical one as well.

*A poll conducted back in 2017 asked 1,000 people nationwide, “How do you view Christmas today?” They have come up with some interesting responses. 43% of the respondents said they think “it is all or mostly cultural,” while 31.3% said it is an even mix between cultural and religious. Only 15% view it as most or all religious.

Part of the problem that has led to a shift in the past thirty years is the growing number of people who identify as “spiritual” but not religious. While numbers might not be “your thing,” what they represent should be. They reveal a decline in Americans viewing Christmas as a “religious” celebration and a rise in a secular view of it. 

But that is not the only denominator that affects this cultural shift in America. Age also appears to play a role in it. In the 18-35 age group, 55.4% say they view Christmas as cultural rather than religious. The most interesting aspect of all this is the number of people that still plan on celebrating Christmas across America. “85% plan on celebrating Christmas even though they have different views of its meaning and significance.”

That is why these biblical viewpoints of Christmas from people involved in the first coming of Jesus are so vital. But the most important view is that of the “baby” Himself, Jesus Christ. What is His view of His birth, life, death, and resurrection? This is a view of Christmas, and our children and children’s children need to be reminded of the purpose of Christmas.

Jesus Christ came into the world through the virgin birth and was found lying in a lowly manger to display God’s love for us! “But God shows His love for (us) in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While mankind was lost in their sins (lust, greed, adultery, fornication, murder, hate, envy, blasphemy, etc), God made very clear His love for His creation and His desire to redeem them from the bondage of their sin through His Son Jesus!

“In this is the love of God made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that (we) might live through Him”  (1 John 4:9). Our Children need to know that “that the reason the Son of God appeared (baby Jesus) was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Not so we can spend ourselves into debt and have a day or two off of work or school!

Jesus, Himself stated that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (you and I) may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He also said of Himself, “The Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). His “view” is clear; His “purpose” evident. 

So, why should we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Is it simply a “cultural” or secular holiday void of religious value? Is it just something we do no different than the Fourth of July or Labor Day? OR can it be that this day we celebrate has a vastly more significant value? 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. . .” (1 Timothy 1:15)!

This is “the reason for the season.” This is the view of the triune Godhead. This is why we celebrate Christmas! God sent His only Son to pay the penalty for sin that I owe so that I would be made right with Him and enjoy Him forever!

Nothing anyone in this life can give us that is as important, as valuable, and indestructible as the salvation given to sinners through the gift of the baby in a manger over two thousand years ago-Jesus Christ!

I pray that we fully enjoy this greatest of gifts this Christmas season.

*Saint Leo University polling institute, an online poll

WHAT DOES CHRISTMAS MEAN?

                                                                                                                                          

                              Galatians 4:4-5

With Christmas drawing near I wanted to share with you a message I shared at a local church recently. Merry Christmas to all.

Intro:   

What a wonderful time of the year it is, amen ? Have you noticed the decorations on the houses in all the towns in this area —or the lighted displays that are up all over the place. And how about the many commercials now on tv that are enticing us to spend more money on more gifts?  Ohh yesss all those Christmas songs being played on the radio these days. Yes, it is Christmas! What does Christmas mean to you? (Pause briefly)  

Perhaps you think like some people who say that It is the time to reflect on what’s truly important in life. To “reflect” on your life, the good, bad and ugly and “re-orient” your thinking to the “truly” important things that you, perhaps, have forgot about along the way.  

Or maybe you think as some do that It’s about showing gratitude and compassion. It’s a time to make others happy. A time to make up for the rest of the year where you weren’t so compassionate and giving.  

Possibly, your answer is more along the lines of Christmas being all about opening presents and having fun, being with your family and being out of school or work for a day or two.   

But I hope, and am pretty sure, most of you sitting here this morning would answer that Christmas is not about presents- but to remember Jesus’ birth and to thank God for His sending His one and only Son to be the total satisfaction for the debt sinners like us here today owed.    

(Read our text) Galatians 4:4-5  

What I have just read here to you, you are familiar with elsewhere in the Bible, i.e., the incarnation of the Son of God. Turn to Matt 1:18-25. (Read)  Paul has given us the,  “readers digest condensed version” of this account.    

This story of the Christ Child is as beautiful as it is miraculous, but as beautiful as the story is, as touching and special as it is, I wonder, do we truly know what Christmas means?  

What does Christmas mean? Well, as you can see in your outline–    

1. Christmas means that God (is interested). Paul said, “God sent forth His Son.”       

Dear friends, God is not a far off, impersonal, indifferent, insensible God unmoved by man’s problems. Quite the contrary! He is a (personal) and (responsive), (involved) and amazingly (loving) Father.  The Psalmist wrote: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” Church, this is important for us to understand because it will encourage us and strengthen us on our walk of faith with Christ. What a blessing it truly is knowing that God is interested in us.       

Actually, I believe we can say- This is the gospel! God is interested. We read here together a few moments ago: That when the time was right, He intervened on man’s behalf. “God sent forth His Son.”  

The message of Christmas, the importance of the baby in the Bethlehem manger, is that God is interested!  

He is interested in your struggles, fears, doubts, addictions, whatever hang-ups you may have. HE IS       I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-E-D!  

Perhaps there is at least one person here this morning that is thinking that God is NOT interested in them. Why would He possibly care about me, you think, after all, who am I in the grand scheme of things?  

Friend, I beg you —please listen to me as I share some examples from our Bible that prove just the opposite .  

Examples:   

Hagar and Ishmael Genesis 16 and 21 (cruelly mistreated)  

Sarai was married to a man named Abram (Sarah and Abraham). And she was barren (could not have children). Now, the Lord has promised them that they will have a child, a son, but time has a way of moving ever forward, and Sarai was still without any children.       So, she concocted a scheme in which she would give to her husband, her hand-maiden to have relations with and then, as she stated: “I shall obtain children through her.”

 Ironically, Abram agrees and has sexual relations with her maid, Hagar the Egyptian. She conceived, BUT this IS NOT the son of the promise and a magnitude of problems immediately arise. Sarai treats Hagar harshly, so bad, that Hagar “fled from her presence,” she ends up in the wilderness, alone, distraught, confused. Is the God of all creation concerned about this one seemingly insignificant woman in distress in the wilderness? Could it be possible for Him to be “interested” in her life? Verse 7 tells us that the angel of the Lord found her. He came to her where she was and expresses mercy toward her. He cares. But we take notice to verse 13 as well. He is a God who “sees.” He see’s, He knows, He cares, he IS interested, and church, He is m-e-r-c-i-f-u-l toward us!    

Religious yet lost Acts 8 (searching, questions)  

Here we find a man, an Ethiopian eunuch, on a desert road that went from Jerusalem to  Gaza. He had come to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews. Sounds like a good thing, and it is, and yet, as good as it is, as religious as this man is and as sacrificial in his time spent to worship this God that he is—-he is still lost in his sins, you see (religion) or religiosity never saved anyone, ONLY CHRIST CAN SAVE SINNERS!      

Does God care about skeptics? Is He concerned about those who doubt and are honestly searching for the truth?    

Yes, yes, he is VERY interested. Look at what He does for this man. He speaks to Philip, an Apostle, and directs him to this man. Why? Look at verse 29. Philip is sent to him to explain to him what he is, or WHO he is reading about in the scriptures. HE is interested, He wants this man to come to a personal relationship with Himself. Philip explains the scriptures (35), the man believes the scriptures, puts his faith in Christ and is than baptized.  

Is God interested?         

Names of God–=El Roi—the God who sees: Jehovah Shammah—the Lord is there: Jehovah Jireh—the Lord will provide.   God is interested!  

But being interested in something or someone is not very helpful without acting on behalf of that person or thing. Interest without action is not very helpful. So, what do we see God do?   

2. Christmas means that God is acting.

 “God sent forth His Son. . . (vs 5) to redeem them that were under the Law.”      Sending His Son was not only a show of God’s interest. God acted on our behalf. He acted to free us from the bondage and frustration of attempting to keep God’s laws by our own efforts.    

But, why Send His son? Why do we need to be “redeemed?” 1:4 says Jesus: “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” 

You see, God’s standard is perfection, mess up in one area of the law and you are found guilty as a lawbreaker. (one lie makes you a liar and guilty before a holy God) According to James, such a one is guilty of breaking all by that one offense! (James 2:10)   

Precise and consistent obedience to the divine will is beyond our natural ability. Our imperfections can never satisfy a perfect God. Paul says it this way: “There is none righteous, not even one, there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God….” (Rom. 3:10)  

We are forever defeated and always under condemnation when law-keeping (trying to be good enough) is the basis of our would-be relationship with God. It was not intended to be that way.            

Faith is what justifies a sinner!   Paul in Romans 3:23-24 Says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I know we heard that all ready, but it bears repeating because then he says, “being justified (good enough) as a GIFT by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  

Listen as I sum up chapter 3 (Read Gal 3:13,14,19,24,26,27,28)   

Paul is writing to Jews who had left their Judaism to follow Christ. He is reminding them of these elemental truths because they were listening to false teachers and turning back to the ceremonial aspects of the law. They were adding it to their faith in Christ and Paul is seeking to remind and encourage them that their salvation, just like ours, is by faith alone in Christ alone.   

The greatest give any one of us can receive is the gift of redemption through Christ Jesus!  

One great preacher said: “we never know how bad man is until the gospel is preached to him. The gospel acts as a white background to set forth the darkness of man’s heart.”  

So dear friends, it is because of the black stains of sin in your heart and my heart, OUR HEARTS, that Christ came!  

So many people give excuses why they can’t trust in Jesus today. “Satan is always ready to help men with excuses…If you will fire the gun, Satan will always keep you supplied with ammunition.” (CHS)     

So, God acted to redeem us. Now, I know It is comforting to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” But isn’t it(more deeply) satisfying to hear (Jesus) say, “The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  

         Not only God with us but God acting on our behalf.   

Do you remember the angels announcement to Joseph? “thou shalt call His name Jesus, for he shall save His people from their sins.” This is what Christmas means.  

Brothers and sisters, friends, guests—Christmas, ultimately, is all about the cross!  

The Christ child, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is God’s action. For as Paul wrote, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19)   

If we could Read together Isa. 53 We would see how that looks in application.

He poured out Himself to death, to pay the price necessary, to redeem (buy back) sinners from the curse of and bondage to their sin.                                               

Christmas means -God’s interested—-God’s acting  

And It also–   

3.  Christmas means that God is completing.

Our verse states: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the (adoption of Son’s).” This scripture is telling us  that God acted to redeem us because he wants to bring His relationship with us to its completion:  (Future Rom. 8:23) in accordance to “the kind intention of His will) Eph. 1:5.

  Actually Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Just as He chose usin Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love. He predestined us to (adoption as sons) through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. (Eph. 1:4-5)  

Church, Predestination does not refer here to the choice of who will be saved. (Election or chose above deals with that)It refers to the destiny appointed for those who are chosen. First, God chooses, that is, he unconditionally sets his favor on whom he will, THEN, he destines them for their glorious role in eternity. (piper)  

What can we learn from this scripture and others about God’s completing work: this “adoption as sons?    

1. Adoption was (for God) costly. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (in order that He might redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.) (Galatians 4:5)  

I want to place stress on the word redeem here. To redeem means to obtain or to set free by paying a price. What was the price that God paid for our liberation and adoption? In the previous chapter, we read the answer: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13-14). It cost God the price of his Son’s life.    

2. Adoption did involve the legal status of the child. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:5)  

(Highlighted part is our emphasis) Because there were legal realities God had to deal with. His own justice and law demanded that we be punished and excluded from his presence for our sins. Righteousness was required and punishment demanded. God had to satisfy his justice and his law in order to adopt sinners into his family. This he did by the life, death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.  

3. Adoption is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)  

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:15-16)  

God does not leave us in the condition of aliens when he adopts us. He does not leave us with no feelings of acceptance and love. Rather, he pours his Spirit into our hearts to give us the experience or Spirit witness of being embraced in the family.   

Listen as I quote one preacher on this topic: “Adoption in God’s mind was not Plan B. He predestined us for adoption before the creation of the world. Plan A was not lots of children who never sin and never need to be redeemed. Plan A was creation, fall, redemption, adoption so that the full range of God’s glory and mercy and grace could be known by his adopted children. Adoption was not second best. It was planned from the beginning.”   

God did not begin something with no thought to finishing it. He is a completing God! He, throughout the ages said what He would do, and He did it, ALL of it. He is a completing God. You and I Christian, can rest in the truth that God will finish the work that He has begun in us. He will achieve the goal He set for us!   

Christmas means that God is interested in us, He is acting on our behalf, and He promises to accomplish everything involved in our sonship!

Closing prayer: Closing hymn:      

HEROD’S VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Extended reading: Matthew 2

Devotional reading: vs. 13

Although most people saw the birth of Christ as wonderful, joyful, and praiseworthy, Herod had quite a different perspective regarding baby Jesus. When Herod heard about the magi from the east questioning the people in Jerusalem as to the whereabouts of “He who has been born King of the Jews,” he was troubled. The greek word for “troubled” is tarasso and it can mean to disturb, agitate, or stir up. Herod wasn’t just a bit off; He was seriously agitated about it.

But why? Herod saw the baby Jesus, the One born King of the Jews, as a threat to his throne. His power and authority as well as the future of his family ruling was in jeopardy if this baby was a king. Herod could not have that!

Herod secretly sets up a meeting with the magi (v.7) in order to find out the exact time the star appeared. He told them to report back to him when they found this baby and where he is located so “that I too may come and worship Him” (v.8). But Herod had no intentions of worshiping Jesus, rather his intentions were far more sinister than that. Herod wanted to kill the newborn baby!

An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him: “Get up! Take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy Him” (v. 13).

Joseph obeys and remains in Egypt until the death of Herod. Herod had all the male children who were in Bethlehem and it’s vicinity from two years old and younger killed ((v. 16).  Why? Because he didn’t know what Jesus looked like, so he killed them all figuring that by doing so he would get the “anointed One.”

Sadly, there are still people today that despise the “anointed One,” King Jesus. He is a threat to their self-rule over their own lives. They too will go to extremes if it means getting rid of Jesus. Denial, false religions, and pure hate for the Lord are some means by which such people seek to render Him “dead” to them. They plot various ways in which to keep themselves on the throne of their hearts.

But, as we learn in this account, no one is powerful enough to stop Jesus from sitting on the throne that the Father promised Him! Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. The only right response is to worship Him!

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

Mark 13:14-20

BRIEF RECAP:

In our last two studies, we read Jesus’ answers to their questions (v.1).

His answers go far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, which would happen in 70 A.D, and graphically encompasses events that would transpire at and during the tribulation period. He warned them of deception, wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters increasing in frequency and amount, and the persecution that would happen because of His name. 

He told them what to expect regarding the councils they would stand before. He instructed them not to be anxious at that time but to look to the Holy Spirit, who would give them the words to say. He also revealed how terrible it would be in the homes of those who followed Him in those days. Parents were turning in their children, and children their parents. Siblings report one another and hand them over to be put to death (v 12).

And then Jesus makes this profound statement: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Those words from Jesus indicate that the truly regenerated WILL persevere through these terrible times showing that they are truly His children!

14 “Now when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be—[a]let the [b]reader understand—then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

FOCUS ONE: THE TRIGGER (14)

If the words of Jesus to His disciples so far haven’t been that concerning, these next ones certainly would be. Some striking observations in this verse alone need to be pointed out. Statements that make clear to us what this abomination of desolation is and when it will take place.

 We take notice of the term “seeing,” the abomination of desolation standing where (he) ought not to be. The definite greek article used for “it” or “he” is ho. Your translation may have it either way. But I think we can accurately summarize from these words that there will be a person that stands where he shouldn’t be (the temple) proclaiming himself to be god, as we read about in Daniel 9.

This will take place in a period identified in verse 19 as “a time of tribulation.” That tribulation period is seven years, according to the prophet Daniel in Daniel chapter 9 – the seventeenth week of Daniel. “It is a time of deadly destruction. Satan is let loose, demons are let loose, Satan and demons do terrible damage to people, terrible destructive damage and death is brought upon people. The Antichrist shows up, the false prophet shows up, the Antichrist takes over and dominates the world with his power; he is aided and abetted by demons and by men who form his armies.”

When you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand).” Those words, let the reader understand, are essential as well. Remember that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, telling them these things. The NT was not written down for many more years!

So, that event is a significant event that will let everyone know that they are in a time of tribulation. “Please notice: this was not for the disciples. This was for readers – see it? ‘Let the reader understand.’ That is not added by some editor; that is what Mark wrote.”

So what I believe our “take-away” is from this statement is that this isn’t going to happen until this is written down in Scripture and read; therefore, this is for a future generation of readers – not for those who are listening on the Mount of Olives, but for future readers of the New Testament – and what would they look for? The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. You say, “What is that?” As I mentioned above, referencing Daniel, he spoke about it three times!”

Let’s go a step deeper and define precisely what abomination means. It means something blasphemous, detestable, abhorrent to God, sacrilegious, and irreverent. It’s used to refer to immorality, idolatry, and pagan religion; it’s used in the Old Testament and even in the book of Revelation at least three times.

“So, when the Antichrist comes, he’s going to establish his rule in Jerusalem, in the temple, and he’s going to place himself where he ought not to stand, in the temple devoted to God. Chapter 12 of Daniel repeats this in detail; that he will come, two thirds of the Jews will be judged by God for unbelief, one third will believe; that at midpoint – time, times, and half a time – the Antichrist will come; he will desecrate the temple for a period of three-and-a-half years – or as Revelation 11:2 says, 42 months. So, those are two times Daniel refers to it.”

Again I am going to quote John MacArthur because he does a great job of laying out this terminology’s history. “He refers to it one other time, and that’s in chapter 11, verse 31 – it’s imperative – because, in chapter 11, verse 31, Daniel has a fascinating mention of the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. In 11:31, he mentions the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, about what Antiochus Epiphanes did. Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid king who came into Israel on December 15, 167, and brought an army of a quarter of a million men – Seleucid army.

Slaughtered Jews, massacred Jews – 167 B.C. – sacrificed pigs on the altar, splattered pig broth everywhere, set up an idol to Zeus, banned sacrifice, stopped all temple worship – that according to 1 Maccabees. He wanted to establish the worship of Zeus in the temple – that is also an ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. Daniel gives that in the middle of the other two, to give us a historic model of what this abomination will be.

It’ll be a ruler who goes into the temple, wanting to blaspheme and desecrate that which is associated with the true and living God and establish the worship of himself there; you have a model of it in Antiochus. That, too, is an abomination when he put an idol standing where it shouldn’t stand; that’s exactly what’s going to happen in the middle of the week. This guy will appear to be a peacemaker, he will break the peace, he will start to slaughter the Jews, He will establish a throne from which he will rule – that’s Antichrist – you read more about him in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and elsewhere.”

“DISCERNMENT” IS CRITICAL TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT DAYS WE ARE IN. 

 15 [c]Whoever is on the [d]housetop must not go down, nor go in to get anything out of his house. 16 And [e]whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 17 But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 Moreover, pray that it will not happen in winter.”

FOCUS TWO: THE WARNINGS (14-18)

Flee, don’t go down, don’t turn back, and pray it will not happen in winter, are all very concerning warnings. They make it clear that the coming crisis and its distress leave no time for packing, planning, or anything else. Those people will have minimal time to flee what is coming, if that’s even possible.

When we (the reader) think about the approach of the Roman army before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70, these admonitions make much more sense. These days of tribulation will be far worse than when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. The situation will be urgent and need a hasty response from people from all walks of life to escape this unprecedented distress falling upon them.

So, all the scenarios (rooftop, in the fields, pregnant women, and timing-winter) are mentioned to get the readers’ attention so that they would better understand the gravity of the situation they find themselves in and are mentally and psychologically prepared to flee without hesitation.

19 For those days will be such a time of tribulation as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will again20 And if the Lord had not shortened those days, no [a]life would have been saved; but for the sake of the [b]elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

FOCUS THREE: THE HORROR (19-23)

As I mentioned earlier, some of these answers do appear to fit the time of the fall of Jerusalem, but parts like we are reading now do not; they are speaking of another event, far worse than the fall of Jerusalem-the seventieth week of Daniel!

Why do I think that? Read verse nineteen. “19 For those days will be such a time of tribulation as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will again.” Do you see it? Clearly, He is speaking of some other time, not Jerusalem’s fall. That event was terrible but was nothing compared to what will happen during these seven years of tribulation.

God shortens those days in His mercy and complete sovereignty over all things. No one would survive if God, in His mercy, did not limit the duration of these horrible times.

21 “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the [a]Christ’; or, ‘Look, there He is‘; do not believe it22 for false christs and false prophets will arise, and will provide signs and wonders, in order to mislead, if possible, the elect. 23 But beware; I have told you everything in advance.”

 After these people flee and go into hiding, Satan’s activity shows itself operating in various ways. One of those ways is through deception. Satan will cause many false christs to appear on the scene with one goal- deception. “Seeking to lead astray, if possible the elect” (the elect could refer to the nation of Israel (Isaiah 45:4), or those who become Christian’s during the tribulation (Revelation 17:14). These false teachers or false prophets will claim that Christ is with them, even in their midst, in an attempt to deceive the elect and have them leave their places of refuge.

The signs and wonders from these false prophets and teachers are satanically induced. They are pseudo-signs and wonders meant to support their false claims. But believers in these days ought not to be deceived. Jesus told us/them everything in advance (v. 23)! Because He told us all that we need to know to discern the times so as not to be deceived by all that is going on, we should be on guard.

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THE SHEPHERDS VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Extended reading: Luke 2:8-18

Devotional reading: v. 15,17-18

In the time of Christ’s birth, shepherds were viewed as “unclean” in the community of God’s people because of the type of work they did. They were constantly in contact with dirty, smelly sheep, their manure, their blood from cuts and scrapes, and the many insects that buzzed around them. This meant that shepherds were virtually never clean enough to worship with God’s people in God’s presence. So they were generally treated as outsiders.

Yet, “Bethlehem was nearby Jerusalem, and many of the sheep used in the temple sacrifices came from there. The surrounding hills were prime grazing land, and shepherds worked in the area day and night, all year round.” 

It is to this group of people that the angel of the Lord appeared one night. Suddenly, and surrounded with amazing light, the angel stood before them (v.9). He gave to them “good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” He tells them of the “saviors” birth, right there in the city of David! He even tells them where to find this heavenly child, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). And then, as if that is not to much already, a multitude of the “heavenly host” appear and are praising God!

That had to be one amazing night. A lowly group of shepherds, angels in the sky all around them praising God and revealing His birth; a divine gift to men! Imagine how you and I might have reacted to such a sight.

Gripping fear?

Fainting?

Confusion, perhaps disbelief?

They were afraid, in fact, “terribly frightened” (v. 9). The Greek word used for “terribly “ is (megas). It can mean exceedingly, over abundant, or great. But just as in other times when an angel appeared to men, He encouraged them to fear not (1:11-13; 1:30). When the angels leave and go back to heaven (v. 15) we begin to get a pretty good idea of the shepherds view of Christmas!

Faith overcame fear- “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made know to us” (v.15). 

Excitement overcame distance- “So they came in a hurry and found where Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger” (v. 16). Just as the angel said!

Joy overcame silence- “They made known the statement which had been told them about this child” (v. 17).

Praise and worship filled their hearts- “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them!”

The shepherds view of Christmas was one of faith, excitement, and joy. What they “seen” and “heard” ultimately gave them a new spring in their step and a new song in their hearts!

This is only the second view of Christmas that we looked at (the first was Mary’s), but each one of them has given me a renewed joy and heart of praise for a time of the year that our materialistic culture so actively seeks to control.

What’s your view of Christmas?