Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday, October 31st Mark 11:12-21

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Lamentations 5, Song of Solomon 4, James 1
Today's scripture focus is  Mark 11:12-21

Mark 11:12-21English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree

20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

Rayburn says: Passover is, as Mark notes, not the time for figs. The point seems to be – and Mark is drawing attention to it by the last phrase of v. 13 – that a fig tree in full leaf at Passover time is making a promise it cannot fulfill. The point will be that the same is true of the temple. It too, for all its religious show, is barren, fruitless.
This is the only destructive miracle recorded in the gospels - and it is a picture of what Jesus would do to the unbelieving Israelites that were about to reject Him.

No man ever loved as Jesus loved. No one ever had the compassion for others he had. When he drove out the money-changers, he was but a few days from the cross and the terrible suffering he willingly endured for our salvation. No one ever came anywhere close to suffering so much or so willingly for others as did Jesus. But no one was possessed of a purer or hotter anger when his righteousness was provoked by the sin of man. And, lest we forget this, in fulfillment of the prophecy of that withered fig tree and in the fulfillment of his judgment of the perversion of the temple worship in his day, a few years later not one stone of that temple remained on top of another. It was razed to the ground and one of the most important buildings of the ancient world was wiped off the face of the ground. And now these thousands of years later a mosque sits where once sat the temple of the Lord.

And why? Because these people were making a travesty out of the worship of God and the honor of his Father’s name. Because these merchants in their lust for more trampled upon the opportunity of Gentiles and Jews to draw near to the Lord in prayer. This offended the Lord and it should have offended him. You are offended at injustice; why? Because you are made in God’s image. If you are offended at selfish, cruel, thoughtless behavior, how much more the Lord! The worldliness and the selfishness of these people – all the traffic of that bazaar – were effectively preventing the people who wished to draw near to God in worship from doing so. It should offend you when people undermine the faith of others, when they defame God’s name, and when they make light of holy things. His anger toward the money changers was his love for his Father, his church and his people in action. And his anger was also a manifestation of his own righteousness....

And just as divine wrath is the expression of the Lord’s perfect righteousness, the offense people take at the doctrine and their inclination to disbelieve it is an expression of their unrighteousness.....

Of course people do not like this aspect of the Lord’s character, his righteous indignation as human sin and his punishment of it. People don’t like the idea of being caught and punished for their sins. No one does. No one breaks the law expecting to be caught and they resent the punishment when it comes. They are confident and self-assured in their crimes and offended when judged and condemned...They don’t expect ever to have to answer for their unkindness to others, their indifference to the needs of others, their preoccupation with themselves and their pleasures, and, above all, their almost total indifference to God. They don’t believe there is any punishment awaiting them for one reason and one reason only: they don’t want there to be any such punishment. ...

You cannot take the sin out of your life, the sin that offends God and brings down his wrath. You cannot. But you can have your sins forgiven and have a new life in which the power of sin in your heart is broken. Jesus will do that for you, the same Jesus who thrashed the money-changers in the temple. Why, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of those same merchants became followers of Jesus Christ themselves a few weeks or months later. Admitting that you deserve his whip is the first step to knowing his love.

Monday's scripture focusMark 11:22-26
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Ezekiel 1-2
Sunday's passage: Ezekiel 3-4
Monday's passage: Ezekiel 5-6, Song of Solomon 5, James 2

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday, October 30 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Lamentations 3-4, Song of Solomon 3, Hebrews 13.
Today's scripture focus is  Mark 11:1-11

The Triumphal Entry
11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

This is a bit of a strange story, when you think about it.  Jesus knew in advance that there would be a colt available, where it would be, what the disciples would be asked and how they ought to answer.  And it happened EXACTLY as he told them.  Which shouldn't really be surprising by now, as he is near the end of his ministry, so the disciples have been with him a while and have seen and heard things stranger than this, without a doubt.

What makes me see it as strange today is how incongruous the procession is with how Jesus lived and how he would be killed.  He lived very simply.  He was homeless, for all intents and purposes, he didn't have a job, or a wife or children, he didn't have savings accounts, stocks or bonds, or really have any worldly possessions, at least none worth mentioning.  Everything he had was provided for him on an as needed basis by God through the people who believed in him and supported his ministry.  He lived simply, among the common people, generally despised by anyone with any authority, particularly the Jewish religious leaders.  This event is about a week prior to his crucifixion.

Yet here he is being heralded and paraded like a king.  He is King, to be sure, but up until now he avoided any attempts by the people to be set up as an earthly authority figure.  So I wondered, why now?  MacArthur had an answer for me:

There really is no question about Christ, that He is the Messiah, that He is the promised King, that He is the Son of David, that He is the one with a right to reign. His lineage checks out, His mother and father both in the line of David. He has all the qualifications. He is the Son of Man. He is the Son of God. He has demonstrated His deity and His full humanity throughout His ministry. He is the true King, but this is a false coronation.

That’s why it’s such a strange event. It is not a true expression of faith. It is not a true expression of praise. It is not a true expression of a claim. And it certainly isn’t God’s coronation anymore than it is a true human coronation. What did happen on this day was an odd, bizarre event, not like any other coronation of any king.

Now up to this point, Jesus had never allowed such an occasion as this. He had never allowed an open, public demonstration declaring Him to be the Messiah. In Galilee on one occasion when there were some people who wanted to press Him in to sort of taking authority and acting like a King, He fled the scene because He knew the implications. And the implications were not positive. It was not the way that He would want to establish His purpose, not by taking authority, wielding power and establishing the Kingdom. That would come and it will come when He returns. This time He came to die.

Any kind of massive demonstration that made them think His popularity was expanding would then be a threat to the leaders and would only hurry up their act of murder against Him. So He never let it happen. But here He lets it happen. Here the real planner by divine providence is God because this is the week He must die and therefore, their desire to kill Him must be escalated to its fever pitch. They weren’t really prepared to execute Him on the Passover. In fact, the New Testament tells us they didn’t want to arrest Him and execute Him on the Passover because they were afraid of the people. But they didn’t have a choice. They were so fearful of His escalating power that they sped up their murderous intent, which is exactly the way God wanted it so that on Friday on the Passover, He would be the Passover Lamb.

This is a false coronation for a purpose that none of them would ever have understood. It is strangely designed by God, not as a legitimate exaltation but to inflame His enemies at exactly the precise time to get things moving so there would be time for a trial and an execution at exactly the right day. He wanted this display with the greatest possible mass of people, the largest crowd possible so that His enemies would be severely threatened and would execute Him on the divine schedule.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Mark 11:12-21
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Lamentations 5, Song of Solomon 4, James 1

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29th Mark 10:46-52

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Lamentations 1-2, Song of Solomon 2, Hebrews 12
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:46-52

Mark 10:46-52English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Final Miracle of Mercy
Accompanying David Legge sermon: A Real Eye-Opener
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: A Representative Disciple

This is such a direct contrast to yesterday's passage.  "What do you want me to do for you?" The disciples wanted Jesus to elevate them, whereas this man wanted Jesus to heal/rescue/save him.

Rayburn makes this interesting note (MacArthur does as well)...
Bartimaeus is the only one of the many people whose healings are recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke who is referred to by name. Mark adds the translation of his name, a patronymic, for the benefit of his Gentile readers. That he is known by name and mentioned by name almost certainly indicates that the man was known to the disciples and to the Christian world. The disciples continued to know this man and knowing him they mention him by name.
This is such a clear illustration of salvation.  We need to know that we are spiritually blind.  We need to know that Jesus is the only one that can help us.  We need to know that we personally rely completely on His mercy and we need to cry out to Him for that mercy.  And then we need to follow Him - wide-eyed and exhilarated!

MacArthur sums it up....
So many lessons here. You see the Lord’s profound compassion. You see that He never ignores the cry of a true heart of repentance and desperate sinners who know they’re worthy of nothing will always gain a hearing with Him. You learn again what we’ve seen all through His ministry that He has the power to heal disease, but far more importantly, He has the power to save sinners, turn them in to obedient followers who live lives of true worship.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 11:1-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Lamentations 3-4, Song of Solomon 3, Hebrews 13

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday, October 28th Mark 10:35-45

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Jeremiah 51-52, Song of Solomon 1, Hebrews 11
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:35-45

Mark 10:35-45English Standard Version (ESV)

The Request of James and John

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them,“The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

MacArthur sums it up well: God hates pride and honors humility... 

The path then to glory in God’s Kingdom is through humble sacrifice, seeing yourself as a servant and a slave and your model is Christ and He was lifted up and exalted by His Father and given a name above every name and the names that come under Him in the glory to come will be the names of those who have served and sacrificed and deemed by God to be at the highest level.

The path to greatness is not the world’s way, it’s God’s way. The world’s way works in the world. God’s way works in the Kingdom.

Tomorrow's scripture focusMark 10:46-52
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Lamentations 1-2, Song of Solomon 2, Hebrews 12

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, May 27th Mark 10:32-24

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Jeremiah 49-50, Ecclesiastes 12, Hebrews 10
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:32-34

Mark 10:32-34English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: A Preview of Messianic Suffering

Jesus' death did not come as a surprise to Him.  In this passage in particular, it is very clear that Jesus knew exactly what was coming.  Because of both His perfect knowledge of Old Testament scripture, and because of His personal omniscience, He knew what was going to happen, and why it had to happen that way.

He knew every single detail. His suffering was personally planned by God, as recorded in the Old Testament, personally known by Him in detail through His own omniscience. He knew every bit of it and thus He lived in the anticipation of all this agony long before He ever experienced it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Always in all three of these predictions, it ends this way, verse 34, “And three days later, He will rise again.” And He did.

As the Christmas season approaches, this is exactly what we have to keep in  mind. He came for one reason - to live a perfect life, and to die in our place in order to pay our ransom, and to rise again, victorious over Satan, sin, and death.  Christmas isn't really about a manger.  It's about a cross and an empty tomb.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 10:35-45
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Jeremiah 51-52, Song of Solomon 1, Hebrews 11

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24th Mark 10:23-31

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Hebrews 9; Ecclesiastes 11; Jeremiah 43-44.
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:23-31

Mark 10:23-31English Standard Version (ESV)

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfoldnow in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: God's Perspective on Material Wealth
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Rich But Wretched
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: A Prosperity Gospel?

those who take their stand on their riches or like worldly pleasures and possessions will in the end have nothing, while those who forsake everything to follow Jesus will not only be compensated for their losses but granted immeasurably greater things both in this world and the world to come. The kingdom of God takes from its citizens many things they are tempted to want to keep, but promises in return riches they can scarcely imagine.
What type riches and blessings can we expect?  Is this a prosperity gospel?  No, not at all.  Over and over in both the OT and the NT it is made clear that Christians are not immune to suffering, and in fact, will likely suffer because we are Christians.  But, we will also be blessed because we are His followers - and those blessings will make our sufferings pale in comparison.

So, what are the blessings?  They are spiritual.

To know God himself, the living God, the Almighty; to know him, for him to call you by name and to make you his child, to have him as your father in heaven; to have his Word to guide your steps through this dark world, to have the Holy Spirit accompany you every step of the way through this vale of tears, to know the fellowship of the saints, the joy of salvation, to be assured of the forgiveness of your sins; to have the satisfaction, the impossibly great satisfaction of living for the highest conceivable purposes, to be able to face death without fear, to know that God is pledged to your children and he is to yourself; I say, these are blessings compared to which a hundred actual fields are just so much fuss and bother.

Monday's scripture focus: Mark 10:32-34
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Jeremiah 45-46
Sunday's passage: Jeremiah 47-48
Monday's passage: Jeremiah 49-50, Ecclesiastes 12, Hebrews 10

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday, October 23 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Hebrews 8; Ecclesiastes 10; Jeremiah 41-42.
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:17-22

The Rich Young Ruler
17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

Well, I think we can all identify with the rich young ruler.  Well, maybe not the rich part.  ha ha  But certainly the desire for earthly treasures is present in pretty much everybody, to one degree or another.  Definitely some people are more enslaved by it than others, but we can all understand wanting that dream house or car or vacation, etc.  or even just to not worry about our finances and whether there will be enough to go around each month.

As we've discussed before, there isn't anything wrong with wanting those things, having them, or working towards them, but we do need to make sure of our priorities and our motivations.

I think it comes back to serving others and putting others first.  Not that we should make ourselves destitute or anything like that, but if we are aware of a need that we could meet and we choose instead to invest our money or our time or our help or whatever it is in something for ourselves rather than meeting that need, that can be a problem.  May we be aware of people and situations around us where we can help in some way, and be good stewards of our talents and blessings, whatever they may be.

Have a great rest of the week.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Mark 10:23-31
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Hebrews 9; Ecclesiastes 11; Jeremiah 43-44.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday, October 22nd Mark 10:13-16

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Hebrews 7, Ecclesiastes 9, Jeremiah 39-40
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:13-16

Mark 10:13-16English Standard Version (ESV)

Let the Children Come to Me

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciplesrebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Why Jesus Blessed the Little Children
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Sanctity of Marriage and the Security of Children
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Disciples and Their Children

MacArthur's Bible Commentary notes that...
most, if not all, of these children would have been too young to exercise personal faith. Jesus' words imply that God graciously extends salvation to those who are too young or too mentally impaired to exercise faith.

We need to receive the kingdom of God like a child - with humble, trusting dependence, and the recognition of having achieved nothing of value or virtue

Rayburn points out that little children bring nothing to the table - they need everything ....

And the Lord extends the point to embrace every Christian. We bring nothing to God but the sin and guilt from which we need to be redeemed. Followers of Jesus Christ are those who know that they have been saved by grace and grace alone and the proof of that is that the kingdom belongs to helpless babies....
(Note: Rayburn believes in paedobaptism, and that children of Christians are to be viewed as Christians unless they prove to be otherwise as they grow older, so that is the viewpoint he is taking here)
The fact is the Lord made this point by making a statement about children that was the direct contradiction of the disciples’ prejudice and then goes on to say that children are to be welcomed not simply as an illustration of how things are in the kingdom of God but precisely because they belong to the kingdom of God. The lesson the Lord draws for every Christian is only significant if the theology of children the Lord articulates here is both true and important. And Jesus says that this is the truth about the children of the church and his irritation with his disciples’ and with their view of these children as a bother and an interruption indicates the importance he attaches to the point....

it is inevitably asked: surely not all Christian children prove to be believers in their adult life? And, alas, that is so. The Bible says it is so and shows us that it is so. This is a promise and a privilege that parents and churches and covenant children themselves can forfeit by unbelief and disobedience. But in this they are as any other Christian. We know alas of people who came into the church as adults or young people. They professed to be Christians. They thought themselves to be Christians and we also thought them to be Christians. For a time they lived as Christians. But time proved both of us wrong. They went back to the world like a dog to its vomit. We cannot understand this but we know it happens. The Lord told us it would. But at no point is the possibility that a convert might return to the world allowed to undermine the obligation of the church to disciple him, to expect faithfulness from him, to help him to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord. The possibility of failure is never made the principle of sanctification. Everywhere in the Bible, adults who profess faith in Christ and their children are immediately treated as Christians, spoken to as Christians, expected to conduct themselves as Christians, encouraged as Christians, and so on. The Bible never suggests that we are to wait to see if a new Christian will stick before we begin treating him or her as a Christian. Quite the contrary. Discipleship, training and spiritual development begin immediately.

Well so with Christian children. Very clearly one doesn’t do one’s duty to a young Christian by worrying about the possibility that he or she might defect at some future date. One does one’s duty to young Christians by loving them in God’s happy and expressive and faithful way, by teaching them the Bible, by helping them to exercise their faith in the presence and promises of God, by teaching them to pray, by firmly but affectionately correcting their mistakes, by setting an example of godliness that they will want to emulate themselves, and by reminding them again and again what an unspeakably great privilege it is to have had the knowledge of the Lord and the gift of eternal life from the very headwaters of one’s life.

And as the Bible assures us and as we can see with our own eyes, children raised that way in their homes and in their churches grow up to love and serve the Lord. They do in vast numbers.

The fact is this doctrine that the children of believers belong to the kingdom of God is as fundamental to the welfare of the church and the people of God as is the fidelity of Christian marriages, the subject treated in the previous paragraph and the subject we took up last Lord’s Day morning. The embrace of our children, their welcome in the household of God, as little Christians and our training of them and our expectations for them accordingly are crucial to the growth, the stability, and the influence of the gospel and the Christian church in the world....

when Christian families and the Christian church fail to realize the magnificent potential of this reality, that they bring children into the world who already belong to the kingdom of God, and when they fail to embrace their calling to disciple these little Christians, when they neither faithfully teach them, discipline them, nor set for them a winning example of Christian faith, life, and love they not only squander their children – terrible as that is to contemplate – they squander the church’s power, her influence in the world, and so the salvation of untold multitudes of other human beings whose salvation depends upon a vibrant, growing church in the world.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 10:17-22
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Hebrews 8, Ecclesiastes 10, Jeremiah 41-42

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21st Mark 10:1-12

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Hebrews 6, Ecclesiastes 8, Jeremiah 37-38
Today's scripture focus is Mark 10:1-12

Mark 10:1-12English Standard Version (ESV)

Teaching About Divorce

10 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.
And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said,“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Truth About Divorce Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Sanctity of Marriage and the Security of Children
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: A Test Case

I love that Rayburn points out that Jesus' point was not about how to get out of a marriage but the importance of staying in it.

Yes, there is an exception clause - marital unfaithfulness.  In the OT marital unfaithfulness called for the death penalty.   An unfaithful partner would be executed, and the innocent party would be free to remarry.  God's grace in allowing the unfaithful partner to live, does not tie the innocent party to permanently stay with an unfaithful partner.  Divorce is allowed (but certainly not required) in cases of adultery, particularly unrepentant adultery.

In Jesus' day, divorce was now being allowed for virtually any reason, and Jesus took them straight back to God's original intent for marriage, that it was between a man and a woman for a lifetime.

Rayburn continues....
In the context we are being taught what it is going to require of us to be a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus. We are being given to see what loyalty to Christ is going to look like and what its implications are. And Mark starts with that relationship more profound and more consequential than any other, that of husband and wife. To be a follower of Jesus one must be a Christian there first of all. One must desire to honor Christ and do his will as a husband and as a wife....

Jesus is as much as saying that those who wish to follow him must do so in loyalty to his will and in obedience to his commandmentseven if that loyalty and that obedience are punishingly difficult. That is precisely what is going on here. That is precisely what the Lord means to say here. That is precisely what Mark is intending to teach us by including this conversation here as he does. Everyone reads this passage the same way. Everyone thinks about the same things when he or she reads it. They did in Jesus’ day and they do in ours.

What about the person who is married to a jerk? There are, alas, many women in this world married to jerks. What about the man who is married to a shrew? There are plenty of men married to shrews. Sometimes there is a jerk and shrew in the same marriage and the two spouses simply deepen the sinful tendencies in one another. What about the poor woman who does not and cannot respect her husband? What about the man who has lost all interest in his wife? What about the unkind, critical, sharp-tongued, angry husband? What is the poor woman to do? And on and on it goes.....

And so reading a passage like this we pour our energies into the casuistry of marriage and divorce. Just when is divorce an option for a Christian? For what crimes against the marriage covenant can a Christian sue for divorce? And, if divorced, which spouse, if any, can remarry? I do not say that these questions do not have to be answered. Of course they do. I served on a study committee appointed some years ago by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to study precisely such questions and, in particular, whether persistent physical abuse could be construed as a ground for divorce. At some point such questions must be asked and answered.

But that is not Jesus’ interest here. What he wants his disciples to do is not to think through the possibilities of divorce but to embrace the divine intention for marriage and especially to accept that loyalty to him may very well come at a price. As we learn in Matthew’s parallel account the disciples were not entirely ready to hear what Jesus said on this point. They still wanted to know that they had an out if the marriage turned out to be a disappointment. But Jesus wasn’t interested in talking about the failure of a marriage. He wanted his disciples to make a commitment to the divine purpose of marriage and to demonstrate that commitment in their lives as husbands and wives. That is what it would mean to follow him. And the fact that he spoke this way when asked specifically about divorce indicates that he intended them to realize that a bad marriage in most cases would have to be borne. That is precisely the cost of discipleship in certain Christian lives. That is precisely what loyalty to Jesus will mean for some of his followers. He is precisely not saying that it is of first importance to him that all his followers be happy and that, therefore, a way should be found for them to dump a disappointing spouse and find a better match.

Christians in unhappy marriages are accustomed to look at believers in very happy marriages and complain that it isn’t fair that they should be unhappy while others are happy. They don’t usually put it that way, of course. What they usually say is that these other Christians don’t really understand what they are suffering, how hard it is, and so on. That is what they say; but what they mean is that they shouldn’t have to be stuck in an unhappy marriage when other Christians are blissfully happy in theirs.

But that isn’t a viewpoint any serious Christian can very long entertain. There are some Christians who suffer the loss of children in their infancy or youth but most do not. There are some faithful followers of Christ who die young but most do not. There are some ardent Christians who live in intense poverty and want but most do not. There are some who are sick most of their lives but only a comparatively few. There are some who wish to marry and are never able to – there is a growing number of such people in our time – but still most Christians marry. There are some whose spouses betray them and blight the otherwise happy situation they might have enjoyed in life. But, thankfully, that is not the lot of most believers in the Lord Jesus. And there are those who face danger every day because they are Christians; but most Christians live in safety. What the Lord summons any one of his followers to suffer for his sake is no other Christian’s business, but that our loyalty to Jesus will be tested in one way or another and that in our following Jesus we will find that we have come to some cross that must be carried, that Jesus makes very clear.

The great interest of this text is not to forbid divorce. It is not to discuss the question of what constitutes a ground for divorce. It is to summon believers in Jesus to live for him and demonstrate their loyalty to him in every aspect of their lives, even when the particular aspect in question is a source of deep disappointment and sadness in his or her life.
The brute fact and the challenge of this text is found precisely here: loyalty that does not demonstrate itself in a willingness to suffer for its sake is not loyalty no matter the protestations to the contrary. Fidelity to Jesus is proved, it has always been proved and it is proved today, by what people are willing to suffer for its sake, what they are willing to endure, what they are willing to strive to improve and perfect however seemingly unlikely the improvement or impossibly distant the perfection.

A marriage that for its unhappiness some Christian might be tempted to end with a divorce is the example used to make the point. A hundred other examples might be used to make the same point. Jesus never said it would be easy. What he said was that those who were his faithful followers would go to heaven; those who turned aside from him because the going got to be difficult would not. People who worry less about adultery than their own personal peace and fulfillment are in a fair way of going to hell. That is the moral equation Jesus has written out for us here. Follow him, come wind, come weather. That is what Christians do.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 10:13-16
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Hebrews 7, Ecclesiastes 9, Jeremiah 39-40