Archive for the ‘Mark’s Gospel’ Category

I preached from Mark 16:9-20 this morning and part of that passage has to deal with “picking up serpents with their hands . . . and it will not hurt them.” (Mark 16:18).  There are several reasons why one cannot claim this promise today but apparently there are still some that are doing it anyway.

“In West Virginia, snake handling is still considered a sign of faith”

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The Gospel of Mark is quite a fascinating book in a number of ways.  As I have preached through it I have learned how Mark likes to “make sandwiches”–a literary technique where he starts a story, preempts it with another story and then finishes the second story.  I also have seen much irony in this gospel that Mark uses in a masterful way.  Erik was preaching a bit ahead of me through this gospel but he lists several of the better known, though often overlooked, ironies that Mark’s stories contain.  Here are a few:

The priests judge Jesus as guilty of blasphemy, but by their rejection of him they are guilty of blasphemy, because they make God a liar (cf.1 Jn. 5.9-11)

They priests are quick to obey the law and partake of the Passover lamb while corrupting the law to reject the lamb of God. (cf. John 18.28)

They ask for “Barabbas” which means “son of the Father”, while rejecting Jesus, the true Son of the Father.

Pilate says he is innocent of Jesus’ blood, but the only way one could be innocent is to be washed by his Jesus’ blood.

Pilate exercises authority as judge over Jesus, but Jesus is actually the King of kings who will judge.

The one who is mocked as king, is truly the king.

As they mock his kingship, the prophecies of his kingdom come true. (Is. 53.3-5Mark 10.32-34)

The one who appears as powerless, is truly powerful.

The one who is mocked as king of the Jews is truly the king of the Jews.

Keep reading his whole list here.

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There were a few times in my life as a young person when my father told me “no”.  Looking back at those times I am grateful he did.  His wisdom was better than my wants.

I preached recently on Jesus’ agonizing intercession in the Garden of Gethsemane where he asked the Father to remove the cup of His wrath about to be poured out on Him if there were any other way to save sinners.  Of course, Jesus ended that prayer by saying, “Not my will, but yours Father be done!”

Thabiti has posted five reasons why God the Father said “no” on that night and why we should be glad God said “no”! Here are the five main points and part of Thabiti’s conclusion but read it all here.

1. The Father answers “No” because we need a High Priest who can identify with us.

2. The Father answers “No” because Jesus is the only possible mediator between God and man.

3. The Father answers “No” because there would otherwise be no atonement for our sin.

4. The Father answers “No” because there was no other way to vindicate His own righteousness.

“God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–He did this to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26 ).

5. The Father answers “No” because there was no better way to reveal the mutual glory of the Father and the Son.
Because the Father answered “No,” sinners have a High Priest perfectly intimate with all their weaknesses, merciful and faithful. We have One we can approach for grace. Because the Father answered “No,” we have one who stands between us in all our ungodliness and God in all His holiness to reconcile us and reunite us as friends rather than rebels. Because the Father answered “No,” those who have faith in Christ need never fear the Father’s wrath again; His anger has been fully satisfied in the Son’s atonement. Because the Father said “No,” we stand assured that our acceptance with God happened on completely legitimate grounds–no parlor tricks, no loopholes, no legal fiction, no injustice to threaten or question the exchange of our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. Because the Father said “No,” we will forever enjoy and share the glory of Father and Son in unending, timeless age to come.

I’m so glad the Father said “No.”

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“And they all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50).  I spoke yesterday on Jesus’ arrest, betrayal and being forsaken by all his disciples.

I ended by sharing a few lessons we could learn from all of what happened in the Garden but here are two more lessons that J. C. Ryle mentions which are worth pondering well (emphasis added)

There is something deeply instructive in this incident. It deserves the attentive study of all professing Christians. Happy is he who marks the conduct of our Lord’s disciples, and gathers from it wisdom!

Let us learn from the flight of these eleven disciples not to be over-confident in our own strength. The fear of man does indeed bring a snare. We never know what we may do, if we are tempted, or to what extent our faith may give way. Let us be clothed with humility.

Let us learn to be charitable in our judgment of other Christians. Let us not expect too much from them, or set them down as having no grace at all, if we see them overtaken in a fault. Let us not forget that even our Lord’s chosen apostles forsook Him in His time of need. Yet they rose again by repentance, and became pillars of the Church of Christ.

Finally, let us leave the passage with a deep sense of our Lord’s ability to sympathize with His believing people. If there is one trial greater than another, it is the trial of being disappointed in those we love. It is a bitter cup, which all true Christians have frequently to drink. Ministers fail them. Relations fail them. Friends fail them. One cistern after another proves to be broken, and to hold no water. But let them take comfort in the thought, that there is one unfailing Friend, even Jesus, who can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, and has tasted of all their sorrows. Jesus knows what it is to see friends and disciples failing Him in the hour of need. Yet He bore it patiently, and loved them notwithstanding all. He is never weary of forgiving. Let us strive to do likewise. Jesus, at any rate, will never fail us. It is written, “His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22).

J.C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Location, 8776 Kindle Edition

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Based on Jesus’ prayer itself and his call to the disciples to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane we can learn many valuable lessons regarding prayer.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”” (Mark 14:32–42, ESV)

These are somewhat paraphrased and yet the kernel truths come from James Rosscup in his Expositions on Prayer in the Bible:

1. Jesus is a great example of preparing before a crisis by praying.

2. Jesus has also left us a great command to pray.

3. Failure to pray before a temptation makes believers more vulnerable to failure in the crisis itself.

4. Jesus still entrusts us with the privilege of watching and praying with Him (Ephesians 6:10-20)

5. The Lord gives His servants repeated opportunities to snap out of lethargy and pray aggressively.

6. It is crucial in prayer to submit to God desiring what is finally best, that His will be done.

7. Sometimes urgent matters require more than just a little time with Jesus!

8. The importance of prayer necessitates we keep at it.

9. Good intentions are not good enough

10. Don’t sleep [grow lethargic] when you should be praying.

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“In a valley beneath the city Jesus allows his soul to be crucified; on a hill above the city he relinquishes his body.” –James Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark. The Pillar New Testament commentary (436).

““You will never understand Golgotha until you first come to grips with Gethsemane!”–Dr. Doug Bookman, Shepherd’s Seminary

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Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:38, ESV)

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:11–14, ESV)

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV)

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV)

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2, ESV)

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

“We must watch like soldiers–we are upon enemy’s ground. We must always be on our guard. We must fight a daily fight, and war a daily warfare. The Christian’s rest is yet to come. We must pray without ceasing, regularly, habitually, carefully, and at stated times. We must pray as well as watch, and watch as well as pray. Watching without praying is self-confidence and self-conceit. Praying without watching is enthusiasm and fanaticism. The man who knows his own weakness, and knowing it both watches and prays, is the man that will be held up and not allowed to fall.”–J.C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Location 8744 of Kindle Edition.

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We should follow Jesus’ example of praying, “Not my will but yours be done” as we beseech our heavenly Father. (Mark 14:36).

“Let us daily pray and endeavor to be enabled to mortify our self-will. It is for our happiness to do so. Nothing brings us so much misery on earth as having our own way. It is the best proof of real grace to do so. Knowledge, and gifts, and convictions, and feelings, and wishes, are all very uncertain evidences. They are often to be found in unconverted people. But a continually increasing disposition to submit our own wills to the will of God, is a far more healthy symptom. It is a sign that we are really “growing in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”–J.C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Location 8272 of Kindle Edition

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“This is a remarkable fact and deserves to be had in continual remembrance.  Let us take comfort in the thought that the Lord Jesus does not cast off his believing people because of failures and imperfections. He knows what they are. . . . He is a merciful and compassionate High-priest. It is His glory to pass over the transgressions of His people, and to cover their many sins. He knew what they were before conversion–wicked, guilty, and defiled; yet He loved them. He knows what they will be after conversion–weak, erring, and frail; yet He loves them. , , , Let us learn to pass a charitable judgment on the conduct of professing believers. Let us not set them down in a low place, and say they have no grace, because we see in them much weakness and corruption. Let us remember that our Master in heaven bears with their infirmities, and let us try to bear with them too. The Church of Christ is little better than a great hospital. We ourselves are all, more or less, weak, and all daily need the skillful treatment of the heavenly Physician. There will be no complete cures until the resurrection day.” (J. C. Ryle commenting on “you will all fall away” in Mark 14:27-31 in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels)

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Thinking about Judas

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”” (Mark 14:21, ESV)

This verse is one of the strongest statements on divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the Bible.  Jesus affirms both clearly here  and this view comports with many other Scriptures.

What we see here is that Judas was absolutely responsible for his moral action in betraying Jesus. Here are some sobering words regarding this man that we do well to remember:

Some people try to defend Judas by arguing that he betrayed Jesus in order to force Him into revealing His power and setting up the Jewish kingdom. Others say that he was nothing but a servant who obediently fulfilled God’s Word. Judas was neither a martyr nor a robot. He was a responsible human being who made his own decisions but, in so doing, fulfilled the Word of God. He must not be made into either a hero (“After all, somebody had to betray Jesus!”) or a helpless victim of merciless predestination. Judas was lost for the same reason millions are lost today: he did not repent of his sins and believe on Jesus Christ (John 6:64–71; 13:10–11). If you have never been born again, one day you will wish you had not been born at all.

–Wiersbe, Warren W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mk 14:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

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