Reflection on Mark 13:1-8

Scripture
“When you hear of wars and rumours of was, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

Observation
Jesus and His disciples leave the Temple building, and one of them exclaims, “Look at these magnificent buildings!”

Jesus replies that the Temple will be so obliterated that not one stone will remain on another. He goes on to tell them that many will come claiming to be Jesus and to speak in His name, and they will deceive many people. There will be wars and rumours of wars, but the disciples are not to be alarmed.

Application
Although people often look at this passage as being about the end times, it primarily refers to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, when the Temple, which seemed so magnificent and indestructible, was totally destroyed.

There are two warnings in this passage that apply to us.

  1. Do not be deceived by false messiahs claiming to come in the name of the Lord. The people of God must exercise discernment. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” When celebrity preachers or political leaders offer a different gospel or a different salvation, we must recognise that they are a false messiah, a false teacher, a false leader- even if they claim to be born again.
  2. We must not be alarmed by the tumult of the nations. Wars have always been a part of human existence. In fact, we live in an era of unprecedented peace, yet people are more fearful than ever. Our focus must always be on Jesus rather than the affairs of the nations.

When people offer “peace in our time” without Jesus then we can be certain that they are a false messiah. Only Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Peace without Him is a false peace, brittle and short-lived.

Prayer
Help me, Holy Spirit, to discern what is true, edifying and from you. Let me see the truth in every situation and trust my fears and anxieties to you. Amen

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Reflection on Mark 12:28-34

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Scripture

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Observation

One of the teachers of the Law hears the debate going on between Jesus and those who are seeking to catch Him in His words. He asks Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?”

Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second most important is to love your neighbour as you love yourself.’

The man affirms Jesus’ response because he sees that loving God and loving your neighbour are more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus tells the man that he is not far from the Kingdom of God.

Application

Many people take this exchange out of its context and assume that Jesus is all about love- love for God and love for our neighbours.

In a sense this is true, but it misses the full truth. The man was commended by Jesus for his understanding. He declared, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” He did not say, “You are in the kingdom.”

To say we must love God and love our neighbour is what logicians call a “necessary but not sufficient” condition. Yes, those who are in the kingdom will do these things, but so will some who are not in the kingdom.

To say that love for God and for other people is the way into the kingdom overlooks the effect of sin in our lives. I am a sinner so I cannot love God fully. I am a sinner so my love for my neighbour will always be corrupted by judgement or expectation of a return or by resentment.

Before we can love we must deal with the sin problem. We must experience God’s total and unconditional grace. When we say “Yes” to Jesus, He washes away our sins and transforms our heart.

It is Jesus alone who enables us to fulfil His commandment to love.

Prayer

Jesus, I thank you that your love for me enables me to love you and my neighbour. Continue to remove sin from my heart so that my love is pure. Amen.

Reflection on Mark 10:17-31

 

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Scripture

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.

Observation

A rich young man comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by listing the commandments. The man replies that he has kept them all.

Jesus then tells him he must give all he has to the poor, and then he will have treasure in heaven.

The man is sad at this, because he is rich.

The disciples are amazed and ask Jess if the rich cannot be saved, then who can be saved. Jesus tells them that what is impossible for men id possible with God.

Application

Jesus tells the rich young man that he must give all his wealth away to the poor and then he will have treasure in heaven. The man goes away sad because he has so much money.

This prescription of giving away possessions is not for everybody. Jesus gives this instruction to test this particular man’s motives.

When we put conditions on our discipleship with Jesus, we are setting up idols and are not really being disciples at all. For this man, wealth was more important than eternal life. He wanted eternity, but he wanted to enjoy this life first.

What are the idols that get in the way of my life? I am convinced that Jesus is first in everything, but there may be a point at which I say “No” to Him. I hope not. I sincerely believe not. Nobody knows what their idols are until God demands that we let them go.

Some people have placed their family above Jesus. They will not follow Him because they fear losing their family. For others, it is work or business opportunities.

Jesus will not tolerate second place in anyone’s life.

We must always be prepared to give up anything that we own for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, please show me any idols that I have which stop me from following you completely, and give me the grace to let them go. Amen.

Reflection on Mark 10:1-16

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Scripture

When Jesus saw what was happening, he became indignant with his disciples and said to them, “Let all the little children come to me and never hinder them! Don’t you know that God’s kingdom realm exists for such as these?”

Observation

While Jesus is teaching the crowds, some Pharisees come to trap Him with a question. They ask if it is permissible for a man to divorce his wife.

Jesus replies that Moses permitted them to divorce, but this was an exception for their hard hearts. In fact it was God’s purpose from the beginning of creation for a man and woman to be joined together as one flesh. Nobody can separate what God has joined together.

Some parents want Jesus to bless their children, but the disciples keep sending them away. Jesus rebukes them, telling them that everyone who wants to enter the Kingdom must come to Him as a little child.

Application

The Pharisees come to Jesus wanting to show that they are better than Him at interpreting God’s will. Jesus says that this is not the way to God’s Kingdom. We must come as little children, ready to receive Him as God’s Word.

For many people, we start our walk with Jesus like a little child, ready to soak up everything Jesus will say to us. Then gradually we become like the Pharisees, the experts, the know-it-alls,

Religion is a very hard attitude to kill in our hearts. We desperately need to tame God, and so we become the experts on what He is like and what He wants.

Child- like humility and acceptance that we don’t have all the answers are the attitudes that bring us closer to God and His Kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, help me to repent of all my expert knowledge about you. Help me to be the little child in love with you. Amen.

Reflection on Mark 9:38-50

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Scripture
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me.”

Observation
Some disciples tell Jesus that they saw a man casting out in His name and and they told him to stop doing it because he wasn’t a part of their group. Jesus tells them not to do this as anyone who is not opposed to them is for them.

It is better to rigorously remove sin from our lives, even removing parts of the body if necessary, than to maintain an intact body but go to hell.

Application
Tribalism is strong amongst christians. We love to criticise those whom we think are less pure in doctrine than we are. Google any famous preacher’s name, and there will be a host of hate pages criticising their ministry.

I don’t like Benny Hinn’s style. There are many things that he does that make me cringe. But he has led many people to the Lord, and God has used him to heal countless people. When I am walking in that level of power and authority I might have the qualification to correct him.

Too many people spend too much time pulling other christians apart. Jesus urges us to be more tolerant.

Does this mean that we cannot ever judge ministers? Is everyone who claims to speak for Jesus above correction?

Not at all. Every pastor, preacher, and indeed every christian, needs to be accountable to the Body in some way.

Rather than being critical of people we disagree with or are not part of our group, we must focus on our own ministry, sharing the Good News with the people God has called us to. Then we can leave the judging to Jesus.

Prayer
Lord, help me to be more open to brothers and sisters outside my “tribe” and to accept even those I choose to disagree with. Amen.

Reflection on Mark 9:30-37

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Scripture
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Observation
Jesus and His close disciples go to a secret place so that He can spend some time teaching the,. They come to Capernaum, and He asks them what they were arguing about along the way. They do not want to admit that they were arguing about who was the greatest.

Jesus tells them that anyone who wants to be first must be last, the servant of all. He then takes a child and says that whoever welcomes a child in His name welcomes Him.

Application
The world often equates leadership with power- whether military, political, financial or positional power. Whoever can get to the top gets to write the rules and exercise power for their own ends.

In God’s kingdom, the power equation is reversed. We lead by serving, go higher by becoming lower, exercise authority by being the least.

This doesn’t make sense in the world, which is used to selfish leadership.

In a community in which the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love one another, the world’s rules must be reversed.

The world says, “Look after Number 1.” But God says, “Serve everyone else and trust me to provide what you need,”

Leadership comes when we serve others. Influence comes in helping people. It is not something we seek, for what we seek is to serve. In serving the opportunity may come to lead.

I used to joke that I spent three years at theological college to learn how to vacuum and wash dishes. The qualification for being a pastor, or any other christian leader, is not a college degree but a heart that serves in whatever way is necessary.

Prayer
Lord please help me to seek nothing more than to use my abilities to serve you and your people. Amen