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Summer Bible Reading

Tuesday 3rd August

Mark 5:21-43 (NIV)

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered round him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed round him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’

31 ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”’

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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In January 2021 the number of direct deaths in the UK from Covid-19 surpassed 100,000 people. The reality of death has been made terribly clear to us as a nation. But death has always been there - never far away. We know this painfully well. And yet we can have great hope and certainty in the face of death, because there is One who has power to raise the dead: King Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel so far we have seen Jesus’ power and authority over sickness, over evil, over sin. We’ve seen his authority to teach and declare Himself as God’s King bringing in God’s Kingdom. And today we see King Jesus has power over death itself.

A father (v22-24) comes to plead with Jesus: ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him.

When Jesus arrives at the house, the daughter is dead (v35). But to Jesus, raising the child will be as simple as waking someone from sleep (v39). And so, with a mere command (v41) Jesus raises the girl! Jesus has power to raise the dead! And Jesus’ raising of the girl here is a picture of what the risen Jesus will ultimately do when He returns in His second coming: Jesus will raise Christians from death to life!

And so as Christians, we need not fear death. Instead, we have a great gospel hope to share to a world reeling from Covid-19.

 Dear Father

Thank you for King Jesus who has the authority to overcome death and raise the dead to life

Thank you for the life we already have in Jesus that will last forever through death

Thank you for the promise of resurrection on Jesus’ return

Please help us to share the great gospel hope with a world in fear of death

In Jesus name, Amen

Friday 30th July

Mark 4:1-41 (NIV)

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’

Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

‘“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

13 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.’

21 He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.’

24 ‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’

26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’

30 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

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How do you find listening? Really listening?

In Mark 4 King Jesus teaches parables about the kingdom of God. Whilst a great crowd hears him (v1), it is only the disciples who come to ask for the meaning (v10). And even then, Jesus warns them to listen carefully to his words (v24).

In the parable of the sower (v1-20) God’s Word about Jesus and the Kingdom is going out - the seed is sown. But the results - the responses - are different. V15: Satan instantly takes away the word so people refuse it straight away without finding out more. V16: Some are initially joyful about the gospel but give up ‘believing’ in Jesus when faced with opposition/ridicule/persecution. v19: For some only time reveals where their heart really lies, as the daily pressures and priorities of ordinary life very slowly and subtly deceive and choke ‘faith’.

And finally (V20) some truly hear the word of the gospel and believe. How do we know that they have really listened and believed? Because over their lives they keep going through persecution, they aren’t distracted from Jesus by daily worries and priorities, but instead centre their lives around Jesus’ kingdom and produce a great crop. A crop which springs from God’s Word - which in Mark’s gospel means a crop of people for the kingdom!

We are hearing King Jesus’ words today - will we listen? Will we really listen?

Dear Father

Thank you for Jesus’ kingdom Word - for your gospel that we have heard

Please forgive us for not listening carefully.

Please show us where we might be in danger of being deceived and choked by worry and wealth.

Please may we always keep listening to Jesus’ words and centre our lives on working for your kingdom, that others may hear your word from us and by your grace, join your kingdom too.

For your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday 29th July

Mark 3:7-34 (NIV)

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’

30 He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’

33 ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’

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Do you think that Satan is real?

The religious leaders did. They (v22) claimed that Jesus was from Satan and doing Satan’s work! They claimed that Jesus and all that he did and said and taught was evil! Jesus was dangerous! Jesus was to be opposed! Jesus’ words and way were morally wrong!

Jesus also knows that Satan is real. Satan has his own kingdom - one of evil power and strength and malice. One utterly opposed to God. So it would be ridiculous for Satan to start destroying his own demons (v23-26).

Instead, Jesus came to destroy Satan and Satan's kingdom! in v27 Jesus is the one who has come to tie up and plunder the strong man (Satan) and his house. In plundering the strong man Satan, Jesus shows that He is victorious over Satan! In rescuing sinners from Satan, Jesus is doing God’s work!

But be warned Pharisees - whoever (v29) calls God’s king and God’s gospel work evil is ‘blaspheming against the Holy Spirit’ - and so they are rejecting the only way to be saved. Rejecting Jesus and Jesus’ gospel brings eternal judgment.

As Christians, as those who have repented and believed in Jesus, and trust He is God’s King and His gospel work is from God - we need not fear. Instead, we can rejoice that Jesus has plundered Satan - Jesus came to destroy the work of Satan, and to bring sinners like you and me into His Kingdom. Hallelujah!

Dear Father

Thank you that Jesus has overcome Satan and rescued us from Satan’s power

Please protect us from Satan’s lies about Jesus

Please may the gospel keep being shared, and believed instead of rejected - please may Jesus plunder more and more people for His kingdom.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday 28th July

Mark 2:13-3:6 (NIV)

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’

19 Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 ‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.’

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some ears of corn. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’

25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’

27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’

Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

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 We’ve been seeing Jesus say and do amazing things in Mark’s gospel: Jesus’ authority and compassion is such good news! God’s King is here!

But who would God’s king want to hang out with? Who would he spend time with? Who would he seek to become his disciples, to become his followers and his friends?

The moral ‘good guys’ of the day thought they had the answers to these questions sorted. If God’s King turned up, surely the religious leaders (Pharisees) likely thought, surely he would spend time with them.

God’s King would welcome the kind, the polite, the thoughtful, the respectful, the educated, the decent people - the people just like them. God’s king would welcome those who know their Bibles, who say their prayers, who do the right thing…

Well in v13  God’s King Jesus calls a traitor to follow him. Jesus calls Levi - the tax collector who had sided with the Roman occupiers and stole from his own people.

And in v15 Jesus has dinner with Levi and his friends - ‘many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him.’

With lockdown we’ve not been able to share meals together or welcome one another in our homes. We’ve missed it so much - it’s such an important sign of friendship and relationship.

And so it is massively significant that Jesus eats with Levi. God’s King eats with sinners. God’s King hangs out with sinners. God’s king seeks sinners to follow him.

Isn’t that great news for us?! Surely we’d want to get in on this - surely we’d want to be with Jesus?

Yes! But only if we see our sin and need of Jesus.

For the Pharisees were greatly offended that Jesus ate with sinners (v17). The Pharisees didn’t see their own sin - they were too busy being ‘moral’ and ‘respectable’ - and so they didn’t think they needed Jesus.

As Jesus says (v17) ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill.’

If you think you are well (sinless) you won’t think you need the doctor (Jesus). But how terrible it is to think you are well, when really you are ill - very ill indeed. You’ll miss out on the doctor you need.

God’s king Jesus came to call sinners - and that’s everyone! Don’t miss out on following Jesus.

Let’s give thanks that Jesus has come for us sinners, and let’s listen to his voice as he says ‘Follow me!’

Dear Father

Thank you that Jesus has come to call sinners like me to follow him

Please keep me following Jesus, always aware of my need of him

Help me to share the good news of Jesus with other sinners, and may they listen to Jesus’ voice calling them to follow him too.

Amen.

Thursday 22nd July

Mark 1 v1-13 (ESV)
'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
 “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.'
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Reading the Gospels can sometimes be hard work. We are familiar with the stories and some of the phrases, but when we read them and try to find applications we come unstuck. Mark is not trying to be complicated. He is straightforward and to the point - you only need to look at the first sentence to understand why he has written the book and what you are meant to learn by reading it! In a world of spin and cynicism it can feel naive and simplistic, but we should take this straightforward approach as a breath of fresh air. 

At the start of a Summer break where perhaps our routines are affected, we can cut through all of the confusing extras and remind ourselves of the key points. With small children, we don’t get a lot of quality time as a couple together - when we were given a morning together the other week it reminded us why we got married! Coming back to the simple truths of the gospel can be the same and I hope it is for you. It can remind you why you love your Lord and Saviour. 

In the other Gospels we are told about three of the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness. Mark doesn’t, and it is easy for us to read in what we know. Why doesn’t Mark mention these points? What he is pointing us to is not the substance of the temptations but the fact of them. Jesus was driven into the wilderness, just like Israel. He was there for 40 days, mirroring the 40 years that Israel was there. He was baptised - a sign of repentance (though he did not need to repent). 

Jesus is going to be the Israel that Israel never was. The new and perfect Israel. Before Jesus starts his ministry, he faces trials of obedience in the wilderness and is 100% faithful. God the father in turn was faithful, and his angels minister to Jesus amidst temptations and danger. What joy, what hope for a people worn down by temptation, sin, their own disobedience. Pushed to breaking point by dangers and snares from outside and in. Jesus, the chosen and beloved son of God faced these dangers and temptations and was obedient, was protected, was ministered to by God’s angels. 

As we read on through the Summer, let us try and rediscover the joy of great and simple truths, and encourage each other to rekindle our relationship with our great saviour, the Son of God. 

For further thought: Read the passage again, and make a note of what struck you about what Mark did say in these opening sentences. We can be worn down by struggles and temptations. How does this passage help you in these?

Tuesday 27th July

Mark chapter 2:1-12 (ESV)

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

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I remember doing this story in middle school. We watched a video and then answered some questions on a sheet about it. It perplexed me so much that I went and spoke to the teacher about it afterwards. I understood that Jesus was teaching people, I knew what that meant. I saw that someone was healed as in other New Testament stories. What got me was that Jesus said, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ It seemed odd. No person can change another or forgive them for wrongs they’ve done against other people.

This story sees Jesus come back to Capernaum when he is surrounded by people in need. Whether they are after physical healing or teaching we do not know but we do know that he preaches the good news to them, that is why he has come, as we saw yesterday. Then, four good friends, who can’t get in the door, break through the roof of someone’s home in order to get help for their friend. They had faith that Jesus could and would heal and they took their friend in need to Jesus. It is worth remembering that in those days, many believed that any illness was directly related to sin. So it was someone’s own fault, or the fault of their family, if they were unfortunate in life. How can you heal someone who is ill because of their sin? No doctor can achieve that. Jesus’ response here is, as always, one of love and compassion. Not ‘I hope you’re going to fix the roof!!’ or ‘Join the back of the queue.’ No, he says that strange thing; ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’. (v5)

The teachers of the law are fuming. He can’t do that! They were, like others, amazed at Jesus’ healing ministry, but outraged by this comment. And rightly so. That’s blaspheming. That is the ultimate sin. It comes as a real shock to everyone there. This man has turned up speaking with authority and acting like he’s God. He has just claimed to forgive sins. It would have been the most shocking thing for anyone to have ever said, but it is an earth-shattering statement that reflects his identity and mission on earth. Think about that for just a minute.

The fact that the paralysed man then picks up his mat and walks out is important here as there is no way to prove forgiveness. It is the sign that Jesus has power to heal and authority over disability and illness. A sign of God’s kingdom. Only God has the power to heal conditions like paralysis. Only God has the power to forgive sins. Just like the 1st century people at Jesus’ house, we can glorify God with thanks and praise that he has the power to not only heal our earthly bodies, but also to forgive us from our sin.

Further Thought

● Jesus forgiving this man’s sins is a way of saying if all I do is heal your body, your happiness won’t last because the roots of our discontentment run far deeper than our worldly problems. What do you think about this? Where are you discontent in your life at the moment? Commit it to God in prayer.

● Think of one thing you can do to help, support or encourage a friend today. How can you bring them to Jesus? In your prayers? With a text? Tea and biscuits with a listening ear? Whatever it is, pray about it and give thanks for the opportunity.

● Jesus was both fully God and fully man, both Son of God and Son of Man. Because Jesus is fully God he had the power to both heal and forgive sins. How amazing and what an encouragement to us that we can come to him and be forgiven for our sins and healed from it.

Friday 13th August

Mark 10:1-16 (NIV)

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?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 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.”

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked 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.

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Jesus won’t allow His enemies to trip Him up when they remind Him of God’s provision allowing a marriage to be dissolved. He takes all those listening back, verses 6-9, to the first principles of a permanent and exclusive relationship forged by God and dissoluble only by Him (by death).

The married will know the challenge of this high bar given the two sinners involved, recognised by Jesus when He explains the reason for the provision of divorce, verses 4&5. They will know better than most the effects of sin on this, the closest of relationships. The divorced will know the sadness even more.

When Jesus explains in private to the disciples, we don’t know who, apart from Him, was married, once married, yet to be married, never to be married among those there. But He explains the stretching implications of the reality of God’s original plan for marriage, to them all. All God’s people can recognise, support, pray for the married among us.

In verses 13-16 Jesus’ indignation shows us more of His heart. All who belong to Him entered His Kingdom by receiving membership, like a child, as a gift and being welcomed personally by Him. This is the union all God’s children enjoy.

Our Father, thank you for the lasting privilege of belonging to Jesus. In our different situations, please help us to walk His way as children of the Kingdom today. Amen

Monday 16th August

Mark 10:17-31 (NIV)

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must 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, Honour your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 

21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 

22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

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 hundredfold now 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.”

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Yesterday (verses 13-16) we saw those who enter God’s Kingdom do so as children, who have nothing. Today Jesus calls his disciples ‘children’, as he helps them to see His Kingdom more clearly.

Contrast the children Jesus welcomed, with the man who has decided Jesus is good, and what it means to be good.

Contrast the children who had nothing with this man who has ‘everything’.

See Jesus’ welcome to the children and His response to the man in verse 21.

Contrast the man in verse 22 with the disciples in verse 28.

What do you think is the one thing the sad man lacked?

Father God, thank you for the privilege and permanence of belonging to our loving King Jesus. Please help us follow Him today. Amen

Tuesday 17th August

Mark 10:32-52 (NIV)

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.”

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.”

 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.

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In the previous chapter (verses 30 and following) Jesus predicted His final days, and the disciples argued about greatness. Here we see the same pattern. Jesus predicts in detail what will be done to Him. James and John, by contrast, tell Him what they want Him to do for them.

Jesus kindly doesn’t detail exactly what it is they are asking or what they will suffer later, but shows His co-operation with His Father’s plan. Verse 45: The Son of Man (the name for the one with absolute authority in Daniel 7) willingly came to serve. His life wasn’t taken, He gave it. His life paid for ours.

What does Bartimaeus see, even though he is blind? Contrast James and John telling Jesus what to do, with this blind man who just asks Jesus, recognised as the promised King in David’s family, for mercy.

Addressed like this, Jesus offers to do what he wants! He gives sight, commends faith, gets a new follower.

“Followers” of Jesus ask Him only for mercy and follow His example. Pray this for yourself…

Wednesday 18th August

Mark 11:1-33 (NIV)

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.’” 

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.

 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.

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.

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.” 

22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have receive it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

 27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 

29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 

31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 

33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

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It is not possible to suggest Jesus’ death was a tragic miscarriage of justice. From the moment He approaches Jerusalem for the final week of His life, He demonstrates His authority publicly, and challenges the religious authorities head on.

Can you see He predicts exact details (verses 1-6), and the two disciples involved see things work out just as he said? He sets up the royal reception of verses 7-10 and doesn’t correct the crowd welcoming in the Kingdom predicted to King David.

God’s King goes to the place defined by the living God as the place where he graciously lives among His people, and sees the sham of the temple. The following day He deals brutally with the marketplace in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, which makes a mockery of access to the living God for non-Jews. He shows this won’t be tolerated when he calls out the sham of the fig tree without fruit, and it withers under His words.

The call to believers is more in verses 22-25. Why do you think faith (Have faith in God, v22) and forgiveness (forgive him, verse 25) are the 2 instructions to disciples from the authoritative King, feared by the powerful (verse 18)?

 

Friday 27th August

Mark 15:1-15 (ESV)

1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

“What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. Brought the sun and the flowers where the rain used to be.” Dinah Washington

Have you ever had a day where it’s all going wrong and then someone does a random act of kindness that just changes it all for you? Or vice versa, it's going fine then bam! Your day starts to spiral out of control and nothing goes right? Life can change so quickly, even what seems like the smallest of things can alter your day so quickly. For me today, I thought I was totally on it, a load of washing on before we were all even dressed only to discover later I had washed a tissue. It crushed me slightly.

The Sanhedrin, (high court Jewish council), were given a great deal of authority by the Roman government to keep the Jewish people in order, but, they could not impose capital punishment. So here we find our problem. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead, so it must go to a Roman court, but the Romans had no interest in religious matters. So what do they do? They don’t tell the Romans he is accused of blasphemy but of treason. This is of interest to Rome. They don’t want someone else trying to be king. So Pilate asks the only question that is of interest to him as a representative of Rome;

“Are you the King of the Jews?” (v2)

Jesus' response? “You have said so.”(v2) Jesus is then accused of other things but he doesn’t say anything. He makes no attempt to defend himself like I would have done. According to Roman law, if you make no defence for yourself, the court is forced to pronounce you guilty. Pilot is amazed, and so should we be at reading this. He knows he will be found guilty so why not defend himself?!?

Pilot clearly doesn’t believe that Jesus is a threat to the Roman empire, otherwise he would have done something about it pretty quickly. Instead he follows the custom of the time and offers a prisoner for release hoping they’ll free Jesus. The chief priests stir up the crowd so they shout for Barabbas (v11), a freedom fighter but a pretty violent one. This seems like an overall win, the people get their hero back, the Jewish council sees Jesus condemned, and Pilot has a way out of a fairly awkward situation. He is left in peace with no uprising from the Jews over releasing Jesus who seems to have caused some trouble amongst them.

But what about Jesus? He is knowingly allowing himself to be condemned to death. Barabbas was on charges of insurrection. The Romans certainly wouldn’t let anyone who leads violent uprisings against them get away with it. They saved crucifixion for such people. A cruel, slow, lingering death was one a rebel deserved and now Jesus was going to take this punishment instead of Barabbas. The tables have turned in the space of a few hours. Barabbas started the day condemned and ended it walking away a free man. Like us. Mark is making a clear point here; unjust Roman officials are putting to death a harmless and innocent man. The blameless King of the Jews is taking the punishment not just for one rebel, but for many.

Let this sink in for a minute. The enormity of what Jesus does in this story. What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours.

Wednesday 25th August

Mark 14:32-52 (NIV)

 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[(href=about:blank#fen-NIV-24791a)a] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him,52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

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While in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow and fell to the ground in prayer. It wasn’t just the knowledge of his approaching death that caused his deep distress but also the fact that in his death he (who was himself sinless) would take on the enormous weight of all our sins. In our place he faced the full force of God’s righteous anger at our sin. The ‘cup’ he is to drink is an Old Testament symbol of God’s wrath and Jesus cries out to the Father for relief from this dreadful burden if in any way this is possible. We often treat our sins too lightly and this passage is a reminder of just how serious sin really is. Ultimately, though, Jesus willingly submits to God’s will as there is no other way for our sin to be dealt with. Jesus, the Son of Man, came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (10:45).

He took his closest disciples with him, asking them to keep watch and pray but they were unable to stay awake. Their weakness (v38) contrasts with Jesus’ strength of character as he faces his betrayer. The hour has come (v41) and the Scriptures must be fulfilled (v49). This is God’s will. Just as he foretold in yesterday’s passage, Jesus is betrayed by his friend Judas and arrested by the Jewish authorities then deserted by his disciples. In his time of great distress, all his followers have fled, leaving Jesus to face his accusers alone.

 

Dear Father God

Thank you that through Jesus’ death you have made a way for us to be made clean in your sight forever. Most of the time we do not see how serious our sin is – we turn away from you, we disobey your commands, and we treat it all quite lightly – and yet the need for the innocent Jesus to suffer your wrath on our behalf in order that our sin can be dealt with shows us what great sinners we really are. Help us to comprehend what Jesus has done for us and to be thankful for that every day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Thursday 26th August

Mark 14:53-72 (NIV)

 53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by.67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

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Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, but it is really Peter and the religious leaders who are on trial in today’s passage.

Mark has clearly shown that the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law are strongly opposed to Jesus and want to get rid of him. Since early in the gospel (3:6), the Pharisees have been plotting to kill Jesus. They have already decided the outcome of these illegal trial proceedings and refuse to even consider the possibility that Jesus may be innocent, that he may in fact be from God, the promised Messiah, the heavenly Son of Man he proclaims himself to be.

Jesus doesn’t defend himself against the lies and false allegations made against him and patiently endures the spitting and beating. He knows this is all part of the suffering he must go through on our behalf.

Unlike Jesus, Peter fails the test he is put to. When Jesus is arrested, Peter follows but only at a distance. He doesn’t have the courage to be associated with him despite having sworn (v29) that he wouldn’t desert Jesus. He denies three times that he even knows him, just as Jesus had foretold that he would (v30). As with Peter and the other disciples’ failure to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane while Jesus prayed, Peter’s spirit may have been willing, but his body was weak. Peter is fearful and unable to stand by Jesus when put under pressure.

Are we prepared to stand by Jesus when the going gets tough?

 

Dear Father God

We think of Peter, the rock on which Jesus would build his church, yet at the moment when he is tested, Peter denies Jesus. We know how fearful of other people we too can be – we think of the countless occasions when we could have spoken up for Jesus but found reasons not to, and we are sorry for our weakness.

Thank you that Jesus doesn’t give up on us the way we sometimes give up on him.  Please help us to be stronger in our willingness to tell others about who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. Please give us more courage to speak about Jesus to our friends and families.

Please give me one opportunity today where I can serve you by speaking about Jesus to someone I know.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Monday 30th August

Mark 15:16-32 (ESV)

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him.

18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

 21 And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[d] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.

29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

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In these verses we see Jesus mocked by everyone. The Romans (v16-20), people passing by (v29), the chief priests and scribes (v31) and those who were crucified with him (v32).

It’s not a great surprise that Pilate’s soldiers mock Jesus as the Romans were feared by ordinary people for their cruelty. They abused all groups of people physically and emotionally, Jews were no exception, especially not Jesus. In fact, apparently when Titus entered Jerusalem to destroy the temple years later, so many Jews were crucified, they ran out of wood. They were brutal.

Jesus continues to be mocked while he is on the cross. Since the start of chapter 15 he has been called “the King of the Jews” five times and once (v32) “Christ, the King of Israel.” Incredibly the truth about Jesus is being proclaimed through mockery.

Mark is showing us clearly how Jesus was identifying himself and telling us Jesus is king. The question is; What kind? The original readers of this in Rome would have not expected any king to be treated in this way. Mark, however, is looking to show his readers that this seemingly defeated king IS their king, God’s chosen king, because he is fulfilling Old Testament prophecy (see Isaiah 53).

After all the ridicule and torture from the Romans, it is the chief priests and scribes who finish the bullying by suggesting that he show them a miracle and come down from the cross.

We know that Jesus has performed many miraculous signs throughout the gospels and still the Jewish leaders did not believe. We have the evidence to show how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy perfectly. We know that over the next two days we’ll read about Jesus' resurrection and that won’t lead to the belief of the chief priest and scribes either. Unbelief is not convinced by signs. Seeing, in this case, is not believing.

Jesus is universally mocked in the passages here but God is not. His will prevails. The mocking doesn’t detract from what he is achieving. Jesus willingly stays to do the very thing they ridicule him for in verse 31, to save others.

Jesus doesn’t stay on the cross because he thinks ‘what's the point, you won’t believe me anyway.’ No, there is an irony here. He knows why he is there, the Father’s plan. He could have saved himself, but he doesn't. He sacrifices himself to save us. He loves us that much.

I hope that you can see, unlike those mocking him, what a wonderful gift this is. That Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. I hope it inspires you to praise God because of what you have just read.

Tuesday 31st August

Mark 15:33-47 (ESV)

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph[k] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

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It is difficult to overstate the mental and physical, emotional and spiritual trauma that must have been experienced by Jesus on the cross. As Mark comes to the climax of his Gospel, how does he do justice to this event?

The surprising answer is that he does not focus in on Jesus on the cross nearly as much as we might imagine. There are no gory details, no graphic descriptions. If you are not reading carefully, you might miss the point at which Jesus actually dies. What Mark gives us is a series of snapshots: the sky, the bystanders, the temple, the centurion, the women.

The central event is not all that unusual. A passer-by at that time may well have kept their head down and carried on walking. Just another crucifixion. Just another public demonstration of power and subjugation.

And yet Mark has been unashamedly explicit that his story is Good News about Jesus, the son of God. To see this we have to slow down and think about each of the snapshots he gives us. Just because they are brief does not mean they are not important.

We’ve just seen Jesus abandoned by his friends in chapter 14, abandoned by his enemies in the first half of chapter 15 and now he’s being abandoned by his heavenly father at the cross (v34).

He cries out in anguish, the sky goes dark for three hours (v33) presumably representing God’s judgement.

When Jesus breathed his last breath, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (v38). Meaning, it was not done by people, it signifies God’s action in Christ. We can now dwell with God. No more sin sacrifices are needed.

The plot twist? Look again and see who is first to enter the newly offered access to God. A gentile, not an observing Jew. An untrained (religiously speaking) and unbiased observer sees what many of the Jewish people did not. He says; “Truly, this man was the son of God”. That is great news for us! This centurion could see it and was allowed a relationship with God and so can we.

Lastly Mark tells about women, three of them by name. He tells us they ministered to Jesus. What a privilege that must have been to serve him though cooking, cleaning, mending and in other practical ways. As women and followers of Christ, we serve him in all of our work, whatever work that may be. It is a privilege to serve in a professional capacity through paid work and with our kitchen sink prayers.

Tomorrow we will see the Women more active. Not perfect, but taking a step forward. But for today we see them just standing. Identifying with their shamed, dying Lord. For today, it is enough to stand.

Tuesday 24th August

Mark 14:1-31 (NIV)

14 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.

‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’

20 ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. 25 ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

27 ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written:

'" I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered."


28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

29 Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’

30 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.

-------------

The time has come. Two days remain until the Passover (14:1) when all Israel would sacrifice an unblemished lamb, remembering it was the cost paid to rescue them from God’s judgment of death back in the Exodus.

And so the time is coming for the sacrificial death of Jesus, whose body and blood would be given and poured out for the rescue of many from God’s judgment (Mark 14:22-25).

And amongst these meals and preparations, Mark tells us the precious story of a woman who clearly loved Jesus (Mark 14:3-9). Such open, honest, expressive devotion.

Despite the disciples’ proud words, Jesus commends her to them: ‘she has done a beautiful thing to me’. (v6).

What has she done? What is so very significant about the perfume being poured over Jesus’ head?

‘She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.’ (v8) says Jesus.

The heart of this beautiful story and of the amazing respect and love Jesus shows this woman, is this:

Jesus is being prepared to die and be buried.

Throughout the Old Testament, the kings of Israel were coronated by oil being poured over their head. It was a picture of God’s choosing of them as king of His people.

Here God’s King is being anointed. But anointed for death.

For it is in Jesus’ death we will truly see God’s King acting to save and deliver His people.  It is the road to his everlasting reign – Jesus, God’s King who dies for us.

Father God,

We are humbled by these final days of Jesus before the Cross.

Thank you for this amazing and beautiful picture of a woman’s humble, expressive devotion to Jesus.

Thank you most of all for Jesus, who is worthy of such love and devotion.

Thank you that Jesus prepared to die and be buried in order to save us His people.

In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

Monday 23rd August

Mark 13:1-37 (NIV)

13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’

‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’

Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.

‘You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

14 ‘When you see “the abomination that causes desolation” standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now – and never to be equalled again.

20 ‘If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything in advance.

24 ‘But in those days, following that distress,

"'the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken."


26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’

-----------

As Jesus approaches the time of his crucifixion, Jesus begins to teach his disciples about future events: in the first instance the judgment that will fall on Jerusalem for rejecting her king (this happened in AD 70 with the Roman sacking of Jerusalem and the temple). Then, mixed in with the AD 70 elements, Jesus speaks of the time of the growth of the church, when the disciples and the following generations of believers will be opposed. Ultimately Jesus speaks of His second coming: of His glorious return in judgement, when his elect people will be saved (v26-27).

Why does Jesus tell these things to his disciples and indeed to everyone (v37)?

Jesus’ answer is given in v32-26. Be alert! Keep watch! There is a day coming, a certain day, a sudden day, when King Jesus will return in great power and glory. And we must be ready.

What does it mean to be alert and to keep watch? It must mean that we expect Jesus to return – for his return to be in our minds and on our hearts each day. Even as we go about our ordinary day to day lives and circumstances. The truth is Jesus could return today.

And it must mean standing firm in faith to the very end (v13) – to keep repenting and believing in Jesus. To persevere in following Jesus even when we are opposed by others (including and especially family) who don’t believe and trust in Jesus.

It must mean too being involved in the gospel being preached to all nations (v10), that many others will be ready to meet King Jesus, before it’s too late.

Father God,

Thank you that Jesus is returning one day in great power and glory. Thank you that he will gather his chosen people to be together with him.

Please help me to be alert, ready and expectant – help me to think each day about Jesus’ return.

Help me to keep going as a Christian, even when friends and family oppose me because I follow Jesus.

Help me to share the gospel so that others will be ready to meet Jesus.

Thank you that the gospel is going out to all nations.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday 20th August

Mark 12:28-44 (NIV)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’

32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

"'The Lord said to my Lord:

'Sit at my right hand

until I put your enemies

under your feet.'"

37 David himself calls him "Lord". How then can he be his son?

The large crowd listened to him with delight.


38 As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’

---------

What is the greatest commandment that sums up God’s Word to His people? 

Jesus sums it up in v29-31. To love the Lord your God and to love your neighbour as yourself.

What is this love? It is a total, complete, perfect, sinless, obedient love to God as your God: ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’.

God’s Word,  God’s commands, are about loving relationship with Him.

It’s such an attractive description isn’t it? We would love this to be true of us.

But all through Mark’s gospel we have seen the reality of the human heart.  It is from the human heart that sin emerges (Mark 7:21).

Israel had not kept this greatest of commandments. Nor have we. No one has.

Except Jesus.

We have seen all through Mark’s gospel that Jesus loves the Lord with all his heart, and that he loves his neighbour. We have heard God himself call Jesus his beloved Son (1:11, 9:7).

The man Jesus talks to here seems to be close to understanding something of this (v34).

As we look at this greatest of commands, we are to see we can’t do it. We can’t keep it. We haven’t kept it.

But the One who has – Jesus – is on His way to the Cross to save us from our sin! Amen!

Dear Father God,

Thank you for your precious Word and commands that show us what it means to live in relationship with you. To be truly human is to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love others as we love ourselves.

I am sorry that I haven’t loved you or other people as I should have. Please forgive me.

Thank you for Jesus who loves you and has kept all your commands.

Thank you that Jesus has paid the price on the Cross for my disobedience to your Word. For my lack of love for you.

By your Spirit, please help me to grow in loving you with all my heart and in loving my neighbour.

For your glory, Amen.

Wednesday 4th August

Mark 6:1-29 (NIV)

Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

15 Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’

And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’

16 But when Herod heard this, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!’

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled[c]; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of] Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ 23 And he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’

24 She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’

‘The head of John the Baptist,’ she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: ‘I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a dish.’

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a dish. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

-------------------

Rejection – such a painful word and such a painful experience. We fear rejection and do all we can to guard against it: avoid being vulnerable, put up walls, keep quiet… the list of strategies goes on. Though deep down we know they aren’t the solution. Only the gospel is. In the gospel we find security, love and acceptance from God - through the rejection Jesus endured on the Cross for us.

All through Jesus’ life, Jesus experienced rejection from others. In Mark 6:1-29 we see Jesus rejected and opposed by those he’d grown up with (6v1-6). Jesus then prepares his followers to face rejection (v6-13) as they share the gospel. And finally in v14-29 we learn of some of the reasons people reject Jesus and his followers. Herod didn’t like how the gospel exposed his sin (6:18), John’s preaching challenged his pride and threatened his relationships with his family and closest friends: what other people thought of him mattered more than recognising he was wrong.

As followers of Jesus today we can give thanks that Jesus endured rejection on the path to the Cross to save us. And we too are to expect rejection – specifically when we share the gospel. We aren’t to be surprised or think that the gospel has failed, or we’ve ‘messed up’. Instead, remember the parable of the sower (4:1-20) and ask for God’s strength to endure human rejection and keep sharing the gospel.

Dear Father

Thank you that Jesus endured rejection on the path to the Cross to save us.

Thank you that because of Jesus’ death on the Cross, you will never rejected us, and that we are secure in your steadfast love and acceptance.

Help us to keep sharing the gospel and not be shocked by or afraid of rejection.

Please may there be many who accept rather than reject the gospel.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday 5th August

Mark 6:30-56 (NIV)

30 The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’

37 But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’

They said to him, ‘That would take more than half a year’s wages]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’

38 ‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see.’

When they found out, they said, ‘Five – and two fish.’

39 Then Jesus told them to make all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognised Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried those who were ill on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went – into villages, towns or countryside – they placed those who were ill in the market-places. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

------------------------

Who is Jesus? This is Mark’s key question for us as we read the first half of his gospel. And in Mark 6:30-56 we see that Jesus’ teaching miracles reveal his identity. Especially Jesus’ divine nature as God’s king.

In v34, Jesus has compassion on the people of Israel: ‘they were like sheep without a shepherd’. They were without a godly caring leader. So what do they most need? Jesus teaching of the gospel: ‘So he began teaching them many things.’ Jesus’ teaches them God’s Word, and then miraculous provides them with bread just as God Himself did for the Exodus generation when He rescued them from Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness (Exodus 16:13-15). The bread is a picture of Jesus feeding the people with God’s Word.

Then we see Jesus ‘pass by’ (v48) his disciples and reveal a most amazing title for himself! Verse 50 ‘Take courage! It is I.’ ‘It is I’ literally translates from the Greek as ‘I AM’. This is the personal divine name of God Himself (again given in the Exodus – Exodus 3:14).  Jesus is God Himself! Jesus is the One who will lead God’s people in this new and better Exodus- this new and better redemption, rescue, salvation!

Jesus is fully human, as the son of David. And Jesus is also fully God, as the eternal Son of God!

But the disciples didn’t understand all this (52) – because of their sinful hearts. They need God to work in them to give them faith – to enable them to see Jesus for who He is.

Do we believe that Jesus is God’s King – fully human and fully God? Do we come to His Word to feed our soul as bread feeds the body?

Dear Father,

Thank you that Jesus is both fully human and fully God. Thank you that Jesus is the great I AM! And that with Jesus we need not fear.

Thank you that Jesus is the shepherd who feeds His people with your Word.

Please feed us with your Word.

Please soften our hearts and enable us to see who Jesus is and to trust and follow Him.

Please soften hard hearts that others would see and trust Jesus too.

Amen

Friday 23rd July

Mark 1:14-20 (ESV)

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

 -----------------------

In these verses we see the beginning of Jesus' ministry on earth. He has come proclaiming the gospel or ‘good news’ of God and from here he then invites his disciples to join him in spreading this good news. This would have been no small task. They were just ordinary people, like you and me, with normal jobs, going about their everyday lives. They left all their things behind, their jobs and their families in order to follow Jesus. In old testament times putting Jesus before family would be staggeringly radical. It was a big request, but they submitted to him,

As Christians we too are called to follow Jesus. We are fortunate that for most of us we don’t have to give up our comforts or families but that doesn’t mean that following him isn’t costly. In fact, it should be. It will cost us time and energy to come to church and be a part of bible study groups, toddler groups or serve in other ways. We may lose friends when we try to share the gospel. It costs us financially when we choose to give instead of spending that money on other things.

I have a good friend who once told me she would never want to be like me because being a Christian clearly means having a small house that isn’t done up, driving a small car and not having the cash and free time to do the things she does. Our husbands do very similar jobs and she thinks she has to downgrade her life. I won’t lie, it hurt when she said it. I want people to see what we live for, not what we live without. Some of our life choices are not Christian, they are personal, some are based on the fact that we don’t have a large income but the choice to give financially and to serve with our time are both because we have a passion for the gospel and St John’s church. Ultimately, she completely misses the point. It really doesn’t matter which car you drive or if you use the bus. It doesn’t matter if you live with your parents, in social housing, or in a spacious house with a gorgeous garden. That is the beauty of the gospel.  It’s not about what we do, it’s about what He has done. It requires a change of heart, not house.

This story here is not just news of something that happened in history. This is the good news about the kingdom of God. What is that good news? That God is willing to receive us and forgive us. These first disciples thought it was worth the cost.

 “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” v18

“Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with hired servants and followed him” V20

Shouldn’t we have this same desire to follow Jesus and be with him? It is tough and some days are easier than others. It’s definitely something that requires daily prayer for help, but note that the disciples weren’t alone. Jesus didn’t call them away from everything to do this task independently. He was with them and they had each other. So too he gives us community through our church and other Christians we may know from different walks of life, and he, of course, is always with us.  But he didn’t just call us to follow him. He calls us to repent AND believe. What does it mean if we do one and not the other?

As you go away today, think about the fact that Jesus called you to follow him right from where you are. To both trust in him AND continually repent. As you wake again in the night for the children, so exhausted you can’t think straight, as you go round in circles with housework, as you sit alone wishing you weren’t. Whatever your situation, they’ll all be different, we’re called to fully submit and sacrificially follow him. He demands a response of total commitment.

Further Thought:

●     What are some things Jesus expects you to be willing to leave for Him?

●     What purpose does Jesus give his disciples and therefore us, here?

●     What will it look like for you to put Jesus before family and/or career?

Monday 26th July

Mark 1:21-45 (ESV)

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

 29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

 ------------------------

Have you ever had days that are so busy you hop from one activity to the next? Maybe not very recently because of covid restrictions and the reduced number of social activities, but maybe that is starting to happen again? How do you prioritise your time when everyone needs you for something? They need a job doing, a snack making, a nappy changing, the car needs a service, work gives you more projects. The list is never ending. In this section, Mark tells us a bit more about who Jesus is and what his priorities are. He shows us that Jesus is someone who has authority over illnesses and demons by casting out those demons and curing many of their various ailments. He does not have the same to do list as us but he is clearly very busy doing good work.

We see in verse 35 that Jesus gets up super early, or as we might know it, still night time(!!), to pray. He’s got a busy schedule, people are always asking for him, he’s now famous for his miracles, he literally has to leave town and hide (v45). He is not playing down people’s needs. He shows so much compassion and love to those healed here and yet he understands the need to spend time with his heavenly father in prayer. If very early is the only time he can do it, then very early it will be so he doesn’t miss out on it. In the midst of all his demands, and busy ministry schedule, he prays. He isn’t spending all his time in prayer, but he is prioritising it. What an example to us. If Jesus, the son of God, thinks prayer is this important, then it should be important enough for us to make time in our day to pray too. Martin Luther is believed to have said, “I have so much to do I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He was living out Jesus’ example.

Time in prayer with his heavenly father didn’t stop him doing good works or from achieving his main purpose. He tells us in verse 38 that the reason he has come is to preach the gospel. So while he is compassionate to those in need, he doesn’t wish to be seen as a famous miracle worker but as a saviour. He’s so keen for everyone to know about the kingdom of God, he travels throughout Galilee and speaks in the synagogues where he would have had a healthy sized audience. He has his disciples in tow to help him. He wants people to repent and believe that the kingdom of God is here but he first commits it to prayer.

So what does this mean for us in Royal Tunbridge Wells in 2021? It means we need to be praying each day and whilst we should meet the needs of others where we can, it should not detract from sharing the gospel with those who don’t yet know Jesus. Good works and essential care for our families should not prevent us from reading even just one verse and praying. God knows our situations, our busyness and our exhaustion. He’s watched me fall asleep sitting up countless times over the last 5 years whilst attempting to listen, read and pray but he wants us to try anyway. It’s ok, uncomfortable, but ok to fall asleep in a chair because God is being gracious enough to bring rest to your soul and allow you to sleep in that moment. He sees you weary and in need, he hears your cries and he is there. Come to him each day, whatever time that might be and pray.

Further Thought:

●     Where can you find time to be with God each day?

●     What can you learn or be reminded of when you read a bible story with your children? Remember to pray with them too.

●     Can you find a prayer partner to pray with and be accountable to/for?

Text each other, share prayer requests, meet up but commit each other to prayer!

●       Consider using a prayer model to help you.
Adoration - praise God for who he is
Confession - confess your sins, say sorry and ask for God's forgiveness.
Thanksgiving - What things in your life can you give thanks for?
Supplication - Ask God for his help with specific things. 

Thursday 12th August

Mark 9:30-50 (NIV)

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’

‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’

‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung round their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where

‘“the worms that eat them do not die,
    and the fire is not quenched.”

Everyone will be salted with fire.

‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’

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Jesus is giving his ‘learners’ a private lesson in what it looks like to be His. He knows their hearts, look at verses 34-35, you can see they don’t admit it but he knows!

He doesn’t offer a few tips or general ideas. He goes directly to their concerns and is blunt in verse 35: one … … last … servant . No half measures here. Of course this was the route Jesus Himself took, as He predicted in verse 31.

And He goes on to show the serious choices involved in belonging to Him. This is really belonging: life lived ‘in His name’, as His representative.

Jesus moves from these examples involving observing others, to challenge His hearers to look at themselves. To reach the end is going to involve an uncompromising attitude to my own sin. How often do I see sin in others and excuse my own? Do I convince myself a response or an attitude is justified in my exceptional circumstance? Do we help each other with both devotion to Jesus, and the uncompromising approach to sin needed to stay the distance and remain, like salt, effective?

Father God, thank you for your Son our Lord Jesus. Thank you for His devotion to your purpose to save, and his love for us. Please help us to learn from Him how to be effective followers, to the end. Amen

Friday 6th August

Mark 7:1-37 (NIV)

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the market-place they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’

He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

‘“These people honour me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.”

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’

And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

28 ‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’

29 Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spat and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means ‘Be opened!’). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosed and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’

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When we ‘mess up’ - say when we speak rash and sharp words, or when we oh-so-subtly misrepresent the truth - what is going on?.

When our default thought is to think that our view is right, and we’re quick to criticise (even silently in our head) - what is going on?

When it’s so easy to compare ourselves with others (whether we come out ‘on top’ or not in the comparison), and so easy to want what others have - what is going on?

When we find ourselves thinking lustfully about and fantasizing sexually about someone we are not married to, or when we make crude jokes - what is going on?

Have external circumstances, temptations, pressures and/or other peoples’ sin affected us - is that what is going on? Could very well be.

But at the very root,  Jesus would say that the human heart is 'what is going on'!

‘For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come - sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person’ (v21-23).

Defile means to be ‘impure’, to be ‘contaminated’ and ‘polluted’ in God’s Holy sight - like the dirty oily puddles we see at the side of the road.

And these evils come from within - out of our heart. (Not the physical organ that pumps blood around our body, but the ‘heart’ as the centre of ‘who we are’).

This is utterly humbling. Nothing we can do can take away such defilement - no external ‘soap’ (whether that of ‘religious’ activity, or a fresh commitment/determination to try and speak only kind words and be patient towards others) can wash our heart clean in God’s sight.

But when we see the deep rootedness of our sin, we see our utter need for Jesus to take all our defilement and sin upon himself and bear God’s holy judgment on the Cross in our place, that we would be forgiven by God. That God Himself would wash us clean on the inside - in the heart.

Pray:

Dear Father God,

I am sorry. I am sorry that my heart is naturally evil and defiled. I am sorry that I try to clean it myself, as though I could.

Because of Jesus, please forgive me.

Thank you that Jesus has taken all my defilement upon Himself on the Cross.

Thank you that by the Spirit I have been washed clean and have a new clean heart that loves you. Please may your Spirit grow me in godliness and help me fight against my old nature. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday 9th August

Mark 8:1-30 (NIV)

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’

His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’

‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

‘Seven,’ they replied.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.’ 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 ‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’

16 They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It is because we have no bread.’

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’

‘Twelve,’ they replied.

20 ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’

They answered, ‘Seven.’

21 He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spat on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’

24 He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’

28 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’

29 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

----------------

‘What about you? Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’. (v29).

Jesus asks this question of his disciples who have continued to see Jesus give great evidence for His identity. Jesus' disciples have struggled to see (v21) - they are like the blind man (v22-26) in that they need Jesus to open their eyes (their ‘spiritual eyesight’) to see who Jesus is. But like the blind man, they don’t see everything straight away.

And so, after Jesus asks them who other people think he is (v27), he brings the question much closer to home: ‘What about you? Jesus asked. Who do you say I am?

Peter gives the most amazing answer! ‘You are the Messiah’ (v29). In other words, Jesus you are God’s promised King who will deliver God’s people from their enemies and who will reign forever, bringing blessing upon blessing on God’s people!

Peter is right - the evidence Jesus has given up to this point is overwhelming!

And yet - see verse 30.  It’s puzzling isn’t it - why wouldn’t Jesus want the disciples to tell people that Jesus is the Messiah? Well we will see in our next passage that a bigger shock is coming, that the disciples still need to ‘see’ more before they can share the news that Jesus is the Messiah. They will need to see that God’s promised King has a job, has a mission to do, that will offend, that will shock and that will be opposed…

For us today though, Jesus is asking us the same question. A question that we must be ready to answer, both to Jesus, and to others when they ask us about Him:

‘What about you?... Who do you say I am?’

Dear Father God,

Thank you that Jesus has demonstrated so clearly that He is your promised King. Thank you that Jesus is the One who fulfills all your promises to save, deliver and bless your people. Thank you that Jesus is King forever.

Please help us to see more clearly who Jesus is. To listen to His Words - to listen to the Bible - and trust Jesus is who He says He is.

Help us, now that Jesus has died and risen again, to share with others the amazing news that Jesus is God’s forever king.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Tuesday 10th August

Mark 8:31-9:2 (NIV)

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’

And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

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Jesus is the Messiah! Jesus is God’s promised King who will deliver God’s people from their enemies, whose reign will never end and who will bring great blessing on God’s people.

But how? How will Jesus accomplish this?

By suffering and dying, and then three days rising again (v31). (Son of Man is another title for Jesus, pointing back to Daniel 7).

Shock! God’s promised King would die?!!

Yes. It is God’s plan, and it is the only way: notice the repeated word ‘must’ in v31. Jesus is very clear on what he must do.

Those who say otherwise, who want to distract Jesus from the path to the Cross, are effectively speaking the words of Satan! (v33).

Do we see today that the way Jesus delivers and rescues us from God’s judgment, and from sin, death, and Satan, is through Jesus’ death and resurrection? That this is the only way - and Jesus has done it!

This is it. This is the heart of the gospel – of the good news we saw headlined right back in Mark 1v1 ‘The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.’

How then should we respond to Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection for us?

Look with me at 8:34-9:1. Jesus calls us to give up living our lives for ourselves and for this fleeting world, and instead to follow Jesus along the path of suffering and death (for many literally with martyrdom) for Him and His gospel: not being ashamed of Jesus and Jesus’ words. And it surely is worth it: after death comes resurrection!

Dear Father,

Thank you so much that King Jesus chose the path of suffering and death to save us. Thank you that  Jesus didn’t turn aside from your salvation plan. Thank you that Jesus trusted too that you would raise Him after 3 days – thank you that Jesus has been raised.

Please help me to listen carefully to and obey Jesus’ call to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Him. Help me to see what this looks like each day. Help me especially not to be ashamed of Jesus and Jesus’ words when I talk with others.

Thank you that following Jesus is the way to life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday 11th August

Mark 9:2-29 (NIV)

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.

11 And they asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’

12 Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.’

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’

19 ‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’

‘From childhood,’ he answered. 22 ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

23 ‘“If you can”?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’

29 He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.

-------------------------------

 

Yesterday we saw that following Jesus is costly (Mark 8:34-38). We are to live our lives not being ashamed of belonging to Jesus, of living for Jesus and of honouring his words in front of other people. This will mean dying to our own agenda for our lives – Jesus is our King, not us. If my life would look no different if I were not a Christian, how genuine is my faith?

This is massive.

And so we see today that Jesus reveals a glimpse of how truly splendid, awesome, powerful, holy, ‘out of this world’ He really is. Jesus is worth living for and dying for.

We see here, with the three closest disciples Peter, James and John, a stunning revelation of Jesus the Son of God:

‘Jesus was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.’ (v2-3)

Mark struggles to put into words what the transformed, transfigured, Jesus looks like – so much so that he can only begin to describe Jesus’ clothes. Whiter than white: purity, beauty, holiness, majesty… words fall short.

And Jesus is not to be taken lightly – Peter himself was so frightened (v6). Faced with a revelation of the reality of Jesus’ glory and holiness and divinity, Peter feels fear.

Jesus is not a figure to mock or despise, or to ignore as irrelevant, or to have as a mere ‘add on’ to one’s life. Jesus is truly glorious.

And Jesus is to be trusted. For God the Father calls out (v7): ‘This is my Son, whom I Iove. Listen to him!’

Jesus is the beloved, eternal Son of God. We must listen to Him!

We are to listen to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves and follow him, no matter the cost. And we can do this because of who Jesus is: Jesus is truly splendid, awesome, powerful, holy, and trustworthy.

Jesus is our glorious Saviour and King. Let’s keep reminding ourselves of who Jesus really is, every day.

Father God, thank you for this amazing glimpse of Jesus as your eternal glorious son whom you love. Thank you that Jesus your Son, humbly came to earth to save us from our sin. Thank you so much.

Help me to keep listening to Jesus’ words, and living for Jesus, no matter how costly it is. Thank you that one day we will see Jesus in His full revelation of glory – wow! In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Thursday 19th August

Mark 12:1-27 (NIV)

12 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

‘He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.”

‘But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

‘“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvellous in our eyes”?’

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?’

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked. ‘Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’

And they were amazed at him.

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’

24 Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising – have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’

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Jesus has come into Jerusalem as God’s King, the Son of David (Mark 11:1-11).

The tension is rising. The opposition is fierce. The religious leaders continue to question, accuse and oppose Jesus.

Shockingly we see in Mark that the religious leaders will do more than viciously oppose – if that weren’t enough. No indeed, we see today that Jesus tells them, through parable, that they will kill him! (Just as he has already predicted three times to his disciples earlier in Mark’s gospel)

Looking at verses 1-12, we learn that the owner of the vineyard represents God. The vineyard represents God’s people (this was a way of describing Israel in the Old Testament – see Isaiah 5). The tenants are those whom God has entrusted to lead and look after His people. Over the years, God has sent his servants (his prophets) to call the leaders of Israel to listen to God’s Word. But the story of Israel is one of her rejecting the prophets God sent to her.

Finally God sends his very own son: ‘He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.”’ (v6).

God has sent His precious Son Jesus to the leaders of Israel. Will they listen to Him?

No… they will kill him (v7-8).

Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him, and He tells this to his killers.

But the parable does not end there. There are consequences.

For God Himself will judge Israel’s leaders for rejecting Jesus (v9-10). Jesus is the one who is the ‘cornerstone’ (v10-11 fulfils Psalm 118:22-23) – the precious foundation of God’s salvation plan.

And the leaders know Jesus is talking about them (v12). Sadly they do not heed Jesus’ warning, but as we see they continue to oppose and attack God’s King.

But we can be reassured, that despite the opposition to Jesus, Jesus was still in complete control. He knew what was going to happen to him but he came to Jerusalem on purpose. He continued to face traps and accusations, but no one could cause him to trip.

This is our King. Praise God.

Dear Father God

Thank you that Jesus endured such opposition even from the leaders of Israel, from those who had so much of your Word and knew your promises of a Messiah.

Thank you that Jesus determined to go to the Cross to save us.

Thank you that Jesus is the ‘cornerstone’ – the one who is the foundation of all you are doing to save a people for yourself.

Thank you that you have done it, and it is marvellous in your eyes.

Praise you! In Jesus name, Amen

Wednesday 1st September

Mark 16:1-8 (ESV)

 

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and

Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the

first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were

saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the

tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very

large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed

in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You

seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place

where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to

Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from

the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to

anyone, for they were afraid.

 

Mark’s gospel ends rather abruptly. It's like reading a good book and then you think

what?!? I need the sequel! It finishes with the stunned silence of women. The women

went and bought spice and headed to the tomb to embalm Jesus’ dead body. Why?

Because they loved him and were not expecting him to be alive. With this as their

known expectation there is no reason to believe they would make up the

resurrection.

 

This is also an example of faith. The women had to have faith in what they were told

by the young man (v5-6). They must have faith to walk where the Lord had gone

(back to Galilee). They must have faith to believe Jesus would be there. So must we

have the same faith. Faith in what we have been told in the last month as we’ve read

Mark’s gospel, faith to walk where the Lord has gone before us (metaphorically, not

walk to Galilee, unless you really want to get your Fitbit step count up) and faith to

believe that if we look for Him, we will find our Lord there. It needs to be exercised

daily. This is the kind of discipleship Jesus requires from us.

 

Let’s not forget that these early Christians were still fragile humans like us. They did

not have a stronger faith than us because they lived with Jesus. The women ran

away trembling and said nothing. The men weren’t even there. Faith and discipleship

were not any easier for them but they carried on and spread the message (at some

point when they talked again!) and that message has been faithfully shared until it

has reached us. Sometimes this world seems to promise more than the garden of

 

Eden. Then it will carelessly leave you. Don’t fall for it. Let's keep going. Keep walking

in faith. Keep sharing Jesus. Keep going lovely ladies, keep going.

Contact us

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