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

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.

Gty.org website; sermons

PERSEVERANCE IN TRIALS

Mark 13:9-13

BRIEF RECAP:

In our previous study, we began to focus on the response of Jesus to one of His disciples regarding the magnificence of the temple (1-8), otherwise known as the Olivet Discourse. This discourse involves all of chapter thirteen, so we are jumping back into it this week with our eyes on verses nine through thirteen.

Jesus had previously warned them about deception from false messianic impostors (v. 6) and falsely misinterpreting contemporary events (7-8). In these following verses, He warns them of the personal dangers faced while under persecution.

“But [a]be on your guard; for they will hand you over to the [b]courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.

FOCUS ONE: BEWARE (9)

This section begins with the Lord warning them to “watch out” or “beware.” He is exhorting them to keep their eyes wide open as these days approach. This word (blepo)is the same word used in verse five. It is often used literally as “to see” or “perceive.” In this context, it has the idea of perceiving or discernment. Jesus wants these men prepared for the suffering that is to come for their obedience and allegiance to Him. 

He mentions councils and synagogues because these are the places and the people that will persecute them because of Him. “Councils” is the Greek word sunedrion, translated as council, court, or Sanhedrin. “These were local Jewish courts attached to the synagogues which tried charges of heresy and normal infractions of the law.” These local councils usually administered 39 stripes as a punishment after the person was stripped bare to the waist (13 stripes to his chest and 26 to his back). The synagogue is the place where such councils would meet.

Not only would they face Jewish courts and be publicly flogged, but they would also face Gentile civil authorities (Acts 12:1; 23:24; 24:27). As these men meet courts and people who disdain their teaching, they would be a witness to the gospel during their defenses. “Their witness to the gospel during their defenses would become, in God’s judgment incriminating evidence against their persecutors.”

10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 And when they [a]arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you at that time; for you are not the ones speaking, but it is the Holy Spirit.

FOCUS TWO: BE STEADFAST

Matthew adds to verse ten, “and then the end will come.” Not only will these twelve disciples play a part in the propagation of the gospel, but so will you and I and those that follow after us until the Lord returns! 

Take notice of what the Lord say’s regarding being arrested for the sake of Christ and His gospel. “Do not worry beforehand what you are to say.” I feel that many of you are, like me, a worrier. How can we not be anxious over such things? Being arrested, separated from loved ones, rights and privileges taken away, and being interrogated? Certainly, cause for anxiety. 

But our Lord says that even though such persecution is terrifying (notice that He is not oblivious to our humanity), we are not to be anxious in anticipation of those events. They will happen. But God is controlling all aspects of it! Even to the extent that at “crunch time,” our very testimony before such authorities has less to do with “us” and more to do with His Holy Spirit speaking through us (v. 11).

One commentator notes: “This assistance, however, did not guarantee acquittal.” Should that encourage us?

12 And brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and [a]have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by everyone because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

FOCUS THREE: BEAR UP AGAINST

If you haven’t grasped it yet, these days will be terrible. Notice the various ways in which opposition will come to those who follow Christ.

  1. Brothers betraying brothers
  2. Parents betraying children
  3. Children betraying parents
  4. Everyone (all kinds of people) will hate you

These are tough words to hear. Believers’ family members will betray them to the authorities at this time, and they will be “put to death.” As dark and disheartening as these words are to our hearts, they are not the final word! “But it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (v. 13).

In other words, the person who has “remained loyal to Jesus and the gospel” until the end of his life on this earth will “experience the consummation of his salvation.”

As hard as it is presently to think about such things happening to us and those we love, Jesus encourages us with the fact that His people will Persevere (patiently suffer) through these times.

Let me be clear on this point. Our perseverance in no way produces our salvation, “It is Spirit-empowered perseverance and proof of the reality of salvation in the one who endures.” Jesus Christ promises His people that He will eventually deliver them from such evil circumstances and welcome them home to His eternal abode!

Be strengthened, dear Christian; such suffering can be endured when it’s understood in light of God’s eternal plans rather than our temporal ones when it is viewed in light of His receiving the glory due to His name and all things corrupted by sin being made new!

MacArthur Study Bible notes 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

MARY’S VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Extended reading: Luke 1:26-38

Devotional reading: v. 38

“For some people, Christmas is just another, regular day. They don’t believe in any form of the holiday and just see it as a time to spend with family and friends. For these individuals, Christmas is usually filled with nothing more than normal traditions like exchanging gifts, eating large meals, and watching movies.”

“Christmas is a time of year that evokes a sense of joy and happiness in many people. Children, in particular, feel this festive feeling as they anticipate the big day. They look forward to waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa has left for them under the tree. But how do children really view Christmas? From their perspective, it can be interpreted as a day where they receive gifts from Santa and get to spend quality time with their family.”

As interesting as these views of Christmas are to us, I wonder what the view of the participants in the actual event would be like. For example , Mary. 

We read in these verses of Luke’s gospel that an angel was sent to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to give a message to a virgin named Mary. Although she was “legally promised to Joseph” (betrothed) they did not have sexual relations. What’s his message to her from God? Only that she has found favor with God and because of that she will conceive in the womb and “will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus.”

I can’t imagine how that news hit her. We only get a small picture of her reaction to his greeting in verse twenty-nine. “But she was greatly perplexed at the statement, and was pondering what sort of greeting this might be.”

While she is pondering what’s been said to her by an angelic being, he continues to speak and communicates to her something totally unheard of and humanly  impossible: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Mary, without the interaction of a man and solely by an act of God is going to become pregnant, but not with an “ordinary “ child by any means. She is going to give birth to the Son of God, Emmanuel! The One who “the Lord God will give the throne of his father David. 33 And he will reign over the house of Jacob ⌊forever⌋and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

We can’t begin to fathom what she experienced in her heart, mind, and body that day. She is going to be the vessel God uses to bring forth His Son into a lost and decaying world to redeem mankind unto Himself. Christmas begins with the birth of a baby, Jesus, but ultimately is about the cross He bore to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf and in our place!

It is amazing to me that she didn’t faint, run, or try to get out of it (I’m thinking of Moses). Rather we get a clear picture of her view of Christmas. 

38 “So Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

She may not have understood it all perfectly, but she was willing to be used by God to fulfill His plans. As crazy as it all may have sounded, Mary walked by faith in what the Lord revealed to her! She understood, to some degree, that this day, the birthday of God’s Son, was no ordinary, superficial, or self-centered event. Rather, it was a day to ponder the greatest expression of God’s love to mankind. “But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering them* in her heart” (Luke 2:19). 

Crystal Mathews: 4 Different Perspectives on What Christmas Actually Means

THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS QUESTIONED

Mark 11:27-12:12

BRIEF INTRO: As we look into these passages, we notice Something odd. The questions that the chief priests, scribes, and elders are asking Jesus are the wrong questions! Rather than asking, “by what authority are (you) doing these things?”They should have asked each other, “why aren’t (we) doing these things?”

Have you ever asked the wrong question? In some ways, I can relate to this problem. If you are married, you understand what I mean. I am not using that example to be sarcastic or discourteous towards our spouses, but it is within such a relationship that we are most prone to realize that we have struggled in much the same way.

The problem here, however, is that they are asking the wrong questions of the Lord, not a spouse. And in so doing, they reveal that they are ignorant of the truth, self-serving, and hypocritical because they are not genuinely seeking to understand but instead want to “destroy Him” (v. 18).

Remember, back in vv. 15-16, Jesus cleansed the temple. He cast out (drove away) those people that were changing the “Roman money the pilgrims brought to Jerusalem into the Tyrian currency (closest thing to the old Hebrew shekel), since the annual temple tax had to be paid in that currency.” He turned over the seats of those selling the doves. These things originally were done for the “convenience” of the pilgrims, but had defaulted into a money-making scheme. They should not have been done inside the temple court. 

So by His cleansing of the temple, Jesus directly challenged their authority since it was by their authorization that these things took place within the temple. That is one reason they want to destroy Him (v. 18) and why they would not answer Him (v. 33).

27 And they *came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders *came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 But Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 And they began considering the implications among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But should we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the [a]people, for they all considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they *said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus has “all” authority 

Within those verses, I highlighted the main issue; what authority does Jesus have to cleanse the temple? How drastic the cleansing was the previous day certainly got their attention. That is why all three groups are present this day in the temple when Jesus returns (v.27). With intentional laser-like focus, they approach Him and ask the question, “by what authority? Their hope was that by His answer Jesus would be brought into disrepute (rejected by the people) with the people and thereby clear the way for their arresting Him.” But once again, Jesus turns their intentions back on their heads! “You answer my question first, then I’ll answer yours” (v.28). Jesus is the master of debate!

The question He asks is about whether or not God was behind John the Baptist’s mission. Think about the implications. “John had clearly testified to the divine source of Jesus’ mission. If they recognized the divine authority of John’s mission, they would be forced to recognize Jesus’ also and His cleansing of the temple as the legitimate exercise of His authority.”

The implications were obvious. It was too much for them to handle. So, they reasoned among themselves how to wiggle their way out of answering it. “We do not know” (v. 33). One commentator has said of their reply, “to save face they pleaded ignorance.” I can relate to that as well. 

So Jesus, upon hearing their response, refuses to answer their question. Even so, They got the answer, didn’t they?

12 And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and put a [a]fence around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and leased it to [b]vine-growers and went on a journey. And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive his share of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. He had one more man to send, a beloved son; he sent him to them last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’8 And they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the [c]owner of the vineyard do? He will come and put the vine-growers to death, and give the vineyard to others.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus has divine authority as the Son of God

Now Jesus begins to speak in parabolic language and, in this way, answers the question of His authority. It seems logical that these religious leaders are the “them” referenced in (12:1; cr. 12:12). The parable is easy to understand once we recognize the key components.

The “man” represents God. The vineyard symbolizes Israel, possibly the leaders of Israel. Slaves are the prophets, and the “beloved son” is Jesus.

Jesus, in using this parable, is in some way relating to the history of Israel. They rejected and killed the prophets of God, and they rejected and killed the Son of God (Acts 7:52). In sending the son the parable underscores the serious view of the owner of the vineyard. 

To draw out the parable’s meaning, Jesus asks them a question (funny in a way, cr. 11:33), and then answers it Himself. His answer is frightening-judgment is coming! (Most bible scholars believe this happened in A.D. 70 at the fall of Jerusalem when the Romans destroyed the city and sacked the temple).

10 Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘A stone which the builders rejected,

This has become the [a]chief cornerstone;

11 This came about from the Lord,

And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the [b]people, for they understood that He told the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus has divine authority as the chosen cornerstone of God

The observations we make are amazing when we take the time to look. How much have we missed in our reading of the Bible? This study and what we are observing is simply one case of that very thing. At first glance, Jesus did not answer their question (11:33). But that is not the complete picture we see in this section. He did not answer them “outright,” but take notice that in the parable we just looked at, and now by citing Psalm 118:22-23, He is giving them a clear, understandable answer to their question. They understood His answer (v. 12)!

In quoting those verses in Psalm 118, Jesus is speaking of Himself as the Stone. Like in the parable before this, He (the Son) was rejected. But in this quote, we learn that what was rejected has become the key component that holds the building together. This “stone” language was very familiar in early Christianity, as shown by Acts 4:11 and 1st Peter 2:7. Something counted as worthless (like a particular stone) becomes invaluable (and now it holds the building together)!

The application of the Old Testament quote was unmistakable, but once again, the leaders could not grab hold of Jesus to destroy Him (11:18) because they were afraid of the people. This is the second time in these two chapters that we are told they fear the people (11:18; 12:12). 

And so what else is there to do when your opponent has the better hand, and you fear the reprisal of the crowd? “and so they left Him and went away” (v. 12).

The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg, 730

NEHEMIAH PRAYS

                                                               

     Nehemiah 1:1-28                                             

                                                        

 A story is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible.

The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

Do you believe in prayer—-the power of prayer—would that belief be evident in the way you live your life?

                                                   Our study today:

  1. Nehemiah prays out of a burden for His people (1:1-4) Read

          Nehemiah’s story begins with a great burden being placed upon his heart, through the agency of “one of his brothers,” and men from Judah. It is unclear as to whether or not Hanani was simply a Jew or an actual brother as it appears in 7:2. But the term for brother is the same in both places and is widely interpeted in the original language. In any event, through these people a burden, deep burden, was placed on the heart of Nehemiah for his people.

       At this point in their history the Jews had been delivered from their exile in Babylon. However, those that returned to Jerusalem and Judah, and inhabited the city, were faced with broken down walls and burned down gates (security was an issue), and with many enemies around them fear grows like weeds. Because of this there is embarrassment and shame as well.

      As Nehemiah learned of the plight of his people, he sat down and wept. He was in great sorrow over these things and so he turned to the God of heaven in fasting and prayer.

   Notice, this is not just a casual sadness, or a sudden emotional response to some bad news, no, he is deeply feeling their trouble and disgrace, so much so, it leads him to mourn for several days. It is this heavy burden for others that leads him to pray to the God of heaven! If you looked at Genesis 18 you would find something similar happening to Abraham.

There we see Abraham entertaining three men by the Oaks of Mamre. He desires to be hospitable and wash their feet and feed them, so they can refresh themselves. They agree, and so Abraham get’s Sarah to quickly prepare some food for the men. In verses 9-15 the promised birth of Isaac is foretold, but it is verses 16-32 I want to focus on.

          Verse 17 is said in Abrahams hearing, “shall I hide from Him.”

          Verses 20-22 The Lord speaks of the “outcry” from Sodom and Gomorrah, their depravity, and His placing a judgement on them. And then adding to his concern, the men turn and went toward Sodom!

When Abraham learned that the Lord was about to destroy the city of Sodom, he immediately became burdened for those people, maybe more so his nephew Lot who lived there. We see his concern, or burden, led to his pleading with God  not to destroy the whole city.

Here, as in Nehemiah, we see the power and importance of intercessory prayer. As Abraham pleads with the Lord for the city and the number of the righteous to be found gets lower, God remains faithful in his intention NOT to destroy the city if even only 10 righteous are found there.

God answered his prayer one better than he asked for (19:27-29)! Only Lot and his two daughters made it out alive, no other “righteous” people were found there. Just as nehemiah prayed out of a burden for his people, so to Abraham out of a burden for those people, and more so his nephew.

Question: Do you see a relationship between feeling burdened over something and praying with intensity or deseration?

  • Nehemiah prays to God who forgives and redeems (5-11) (Cr. David Psalm 32)
  • Nehemiah prays while he takes action (2:1-8)

           

                    Prayer is: Purposeful, powerful, and His answers are praiseworthy!