Mark 16:1-20 – Just the Beginning

Read Mark 16:1-20

Jesus is not dead! He was raised from the dead on the third day, just like he said! What those women must have felt that morning. They had gone prepared to see and anoint a dead body. But it was gone!

Unbelief! Fear? Do you think they feared Jesus’ body had been taken? It doesn’t sound like they even questioned who the “young man” was in the story. How do you accept news like that from a stranger! There was God.

What his friends must have felt when they saw Jesus among them. Did they think he was back for good? Some great exchanges took place. There was God.

I found it a little interesting that there were three endings to this gospel. Did your Bible have them all? (If not, be sure to click the link above.)

I was delighted to see that these disciples were finally getting to work. They were finally able to see what their purpose and mission was. They had quite a testimony to share. By sharing their story as Jesus had instructed, we are able to speak of and worship Jesus still today. There was God.

What if the disciples had continued to be blinded and confused by what Jesus was trying to tell them? Where might we be today? Do you think that people can change that fast? Neither to do. It must be God. God began a good work in them.

We have the same instructions. We are called to be disciples to this dark and dreary world. Jesus’ final words before he left this earth to ascend to his Father were, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” 

The disciples did just that. The text says they went “everywhere.” Praise to God for opening their eyes and their mouths!

What frightens me a bit is Jesus also said, “But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” Do you have loved ones that don’t believe in Jesus? Do they “refuse” to believe, or is it they just don’t have the understanding they need to believe? Either way, they are separated from Jesus and the eternal life he brings.

That is our purpose, our goal, our “why”, as we’d say in business. Jesus declared it. We need to tell as many people as we can to keep the ripple effect going worldwide. It’s a very big world. It starts in our homes and neighborhoods.

Who in your circle of friends or family need to hear about Jesus? What do you share? Your story. That’s simple, just tell them how your life is better with Jesus in it. They can choose to accept or not, but your story is still your story. It’s yours. Jesus loves you.

Let’s pray. Jesus forgive me when I don’t seize every opportunity presented to me to share the gospel. I pray for the wisdom to see your path for me. If there are folks that need to hear of your saving grace today, please open my eyes. I thank you for the many blessings you have given me and my family. May they all turn to you and rely on you. May the truth they have heard resonate in their heart and take root. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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Mark 15:33-47 – This is the End

Read Mark 15:33-47

This is it. The moment Jesus was born for.

Are you  mourning for what could have been for Jesus’ ministry? What if Jesus had lived for even another year or more? How many more lives could have been changed? How many more people would be following him?

God’s perfect plan played out this way. Thousands of years later we still follow Jesus and yearn to know him more. He didn’t need to stay on earth longer. His purpose was fulfilled.

Even a Roman soldier, totally unattached from the whole story, said out loud, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Jesus’ charge was King of the Jews, yet this soldier could see the truth. It’s cool to see who God gave that wisdom to.

We can’t tell from this reading whether Joseph of Arimathea was a follower. Why did he want to do something special for Jesus? The “risk” was for his own reputation. What would people think if a council member, one of the ones who had called for Jesus’ execution, now wanted the body. Would he lose face or be thought a traitor? Did he have ulterior motives? If so, what would they be?

I would say he was a secret follower, after all he was waiting for the Kingdom of God. He was one who saw the truth, too, that Jesus was of that kingdom. Joseph was part of God’s plan in this precious story. A tomb was needed for Jesus to leave empty.

The story is not finished but only beginning.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus I am so grateful to you and the sacrifice you made for me. I have been washed white by your blood and made right by what you have done. What amazing grace. My heart overflows. I am beyond saddened by what you had to endure for me. May my life be a tribute to you. May all my actions reflect you and your love for humanity. Fill me with the confidence I need to be your servant. Thank you for the opportunity to be your hands and feet and the example you have given for me to follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Mark 15:16-32 – Getting Worse

Read Mark 15:16-32

People can be so hurtful. We hear so much about bullying these days, it’s frightful. Kids can be so mean to each other. Why is that? And in today’s story, I always puzzle at the shouts and taunts of the people. So crude and rude. But there was one hero in the crowd that day, Simon. He took the weight of the cross off Jesus’ weary shoulders. He may have been “forced” but I imagine he was also blessed.

Jesus wasn’t your common criminal. He wasn’t a criminal at all. Yet here, even the criminals ridiculed him. Oh the ignorance.

As we’ve been walking with Jesus through the book of Mark on his journey to Jerusalem, I hope that you, too, have taken a fresh look at a familiar story. I find myself expecting to see Easter lilies and pastel colors in the stores. Yet as I write this, we are approaching Thanksgiving, and instead poinsettias are all around.

The truth is that we should have Easter faith year round. To muster up the joy and gratitude, we first need to walk with Jesus and remember. The Easter story is so much more powerful when we recall the extreme struggle, the torture, the bullying, not to mention the pain and agony that came first. We need to really feel it along with Jesus, just like he has experienced and felt all of our emotions firsthand.

Jesus came to earth stripped of his divinity but was majestic until the final moment. He took our sins, our guilt, and our shame respectfully to the cross. He did not put up a fuss, he did not lash out, he simply went. He went to the cross for us.

Let’s pray. Father I really struggle with those final moments of Jesus’ earthly life. But it was all part of your plan in some way. Your Word was being fulfilled all over the place. It’s good for me to remember how this chapter closes. I come with a grateful heart, struggling to find words to describe the depth of my devotion, thankfulness and trust. Guide me this day. Watch over my wonderful family today and bless our time together in the days ahead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Mark 15:1-15 – Condemned

Read Mark 15:1-15

Our walk with Jesus to the cross continues. In today’s reading we meet a perplexed Pilate, the Roman governor. He’s not sure why these religious leaders have brought Jesus to him. He questions Jesus’ identity as King of the Jews. The Jewish people had no current king, and the Romans were in control. He probably wanted to make sure Jesus wasn’t planning a takeover.

Pilate must have also been astonished at Jesus’ silence in the face of all the accusations. Most people I know would be trying to defend themselves or at the very least making excuses. Right? If you were accused of something you didn’t do – what would it take for you to stay silent and accept the consequence?

Love and devotion. Jesus was so focused on the godly love he had for mankind that he stood bravely by while his earthly life hung in the balance. Super significant. This was his mission. He knew it and would not deviate from it.

Meanwhile, Pilate was seeing right through to the hearts of the religious leaders. They were jealous. They were frightened by the numbers of people listening to and following Jesus. They were feeling undermined and less important. Their eyes were blinded by this fear.

Has this happened to you? You are so focused  on a problem that you miss the beautiful reality blooming around you? I think we have all had times in our life when we have put too much of our time and energy into something that was not in our best interest. It’s sad to think what we may have missed out on because we let our problems overtake us. Instead, we should be striving for God’s will–that’s the best place to be.

Troubles will come, but they will also go. Sometimes it’s hard when we are in the midst of a trial or struggle to think beyond the moment. We may feel like we are stuck in the mud, unsure of how we will ever manage to get back on track. Thankfully, we have been redeemed, and Jesus is there to pull us out of the muck. We just need to take his hand. Why do we resist that sometimes?

Whatever you may be struggling with right now, remember it’s not too big for Jesus. He is standing by ready to rescue us. Taking Jesus’ stoic example, we stay calm, and we stay focused on the fact that God is in control.

Finally, we see the people pleaser side of Pilate. He knows full well that Jesus is innocent, but to pacify the crowd, he orders cruel physical abuse and death. This crowd had to have believers and followers in it, don’t you think? The riled ones, thanks to the religious leaders, had bigger voices. I’ve even seen it depicted that the followers and supporters of Jesus were pushed farther back and their voices unable to be heard. Imagine how frustrated they were. They couldn’t save their friend and teacher. They didn’t realize that wasn’t ever the plan.

This unfolding story involves many active participants. Are you able to see yourself in each of them: jealous leader, people pleaser, rebel for a cause, silent worshiper?

Beyond that, Jesus’ fate has been sealed, and the torture and death to follow is cruel beyond imagination. Stay tuned as the story continues.

Let’s pray. Lord I come with a heavy heart as I think through the horrible things you experienced in your final hours. That you would do that for me? You were sinless and not deserving of this. Yet for sinners like me you gave your life. I can’t even find the word to describe my love and admiration for you. Forgive me for being worried when I know you have things in  control. Forgive me for wanting to please everybody, when the only one I should be concerned with is pleasing you. Thank you for what you are doing in my life to mold me in to the best me possible. In Jesus name. Amen.

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Mark 14:53-65 – Fake Trial

Read Mark 14:53-72

Jesus is on trial, but what a laughable trial.  No preparation, only jealous rage. So much perjury. But, I suppose you can’t lie under oath if you don’t swear an oath in the first place. Where did all these witnesses come from? And, when truth was spoken by Jesus, it was deemed blasphemy. Jesus was in no way insulting God, his Father!

How does it make you feel to knowing how our Lord spent his final hours on earth? He warned us, as the prophets had, it wouldn’t be pretty. Despite the heads up, it’s still hard to imagine.

Meanwhile, the text says, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard of the very house where Jesus was being assaulted. It sounds like he just sort of cozy-ed up to the guards to keep warm by the fire. Did he think he’d go unnoticed? What was he thinking? That could be the topic for a whole devotion in itself.

Then it happened. Jesus’ prophetic words came true. Peter must have had an evil spirit overtake his words on his final, very strong, denial of being associated with Jesus. Almost like a dream where you see yourself saying or doing something, but you’re only watching from a distance. But it wasn’t a dream. Jesus was right. Peter denied him and the despair at the thought left him sobbing.

Have you ever had a moment like Peter just did? Have you said or done something for which you would give anything to take back? Maybe you’ve wished for a do-over? We’ve all done those things. And, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It happens, yet we don’t like it.

God doesn’t either, and that’s exactly why he sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus is the bridge that brings us back to the father when we are separated by our sin. It’s better to focus on what God is doing for us, loving and forgiving us, then to dwell on the bad stuff. Ask for forgiveness, and be done. Forgive others, and be done. Simple but not easy.

Do you feel separated from God right now, or are you on fire and burning bright? Maybe somewhere in between? Doesn’t matter. God’s got your back. Relish this true with a grateful heart.

Let’s pray. Lord I don’t like when I feel apart from you but I know that you are always there to reel me back in. Forgive my heart when it is selfish and self-serving. I don’t want to be caught up in the world’s trap. Restore my servant heart. May it beat along with yours. Guide my steps this day, and I thank you for your protection. I am safe in your arms, and safe as I fall at your feet. What peace you give. May I spread your peace in this world for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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