Dear Church Family,
As we anticipate celebrating Easter together in 40 day, I pray that we will prepare our hearts first. The Lenten season is observed by different Christian traditions all across the world. It is meant to be a season of reflection, remembrance, and renewal. I hope that the next 40 days will be a journey for you as well. A journey of walking with Jesus through the book of Mark, but also a season of personal introspection and growth. This devotional is designed to be read slowly and thoughtfully each day. It is not meant to be a replacement of your current Bible reading plan, but should be an addition to it. Each day is a simple 300-500 word reflection by a member or regular attender actively involved in our church. May this devotional be a blessing to you and your family.
Student & Discipleship Pastor
Thank you to our wonderful devotional writers:
Wednesday, February 17, 2021 Mark 1:1-8
Welcome to day one of this Easter devotional that finds us walking with Jesus to the cross! Any journey takes preparation, whether you are planning for a long road trip, a weekend getaway, or in this case a journey for our hearts, minds, and souls in the book of Mark. This account starts with what we call a “prologue,” and this prologue gives us readers a chance to prepare for what we are going to be reading. Mark starts by quoting the prophet Isaiah, telling of a messenger who would prepare the way for Jesus. And then Mark says in verse 4, “And so John came...”
John was exactly the prophet Isaiah was referring to. John’s purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. How did he prepare the way? He started out by telling people that they needed to repent first. What does repent mean? It means to “turn the other direction and start walking the other way.” For example, if you are walking toward the north and you decide to repent, you turn the other direction and start walking south. Let’s make this more spiritual: if you are living in a life of sin that has you walking away from God, when you repent you turn the other direction, walking away from sin and towards God.
Repenting is hard, but if you are going to walk with Jesus to the cross, you have to turn from the way you are walking and start walking with Jesus. This is how we prepare for our journey: we have to walk where Jesus is walking. The great consequence (and I mean this in a good way) is that when you repent, you are walking in forgiveness. This means the old way you walked has no hold one you anymore! The hard work is worth it. So, repent – turn away from your sin – and start walking with Jesus on the road called forgiveness.
The prologue doesn’t stop there though. People confessed their sins, which means they admitted they were doing wrong, and then as a sign that they were clean from their sins they were dunked in water and baptized, and they came back like new! But to prepare us for something bigger, John also said in verse 8, “I baptize you with water, but he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Taking a bath will change you and prepare you for the day but being washed by Jesus will change you for life and prepare you for this journey.
What sins do you need to confess & be washed of? What does it look like for you to repent today? What other preparations do you need to make to walk with Jesus? Sit and think about these for a bit, and then make the decision. Once you’ve done this, let’s start walking…we are ready to walk with Jesus.
Thursday, February 18, 2021 Mark 1:14-20
In this passage we see Jesus begin His ministry and call His first disciples. As Jesus begins in Galilee, he starts with “The time has come!” What an exciting statement! The Kingdom of God has finally come near! Throughout most of the Old Testament, the people of Israel have been waiting on their promised Messiah. At long last, the Promised One has come to save His people, and he begins with a call to repent and believe. But what does it mean to repent and believe? We talked about repentance some yesterday, but we should cover it twice since it’s really important. Many people falsely believe that repenting is simply saying “I’m sorry” before going back to their normal lives. However, the repenting that Jesus is calling for is very different. The repenting that Jesus is suggesting is shown through the actions of Jesus’s first disciples in this passage.
In verses 19-20 we see James and John, the sons of Zebedee, follow Jesus without delay and leave their duties behind. James and John were professional fishermen working for their father in a generational family business. More than likely, ever since they were small children, they knew they would one day fish as their father fished. But now, Jesus was calling them for a higher purpose, to become fishers of men, and they were leaving their old lives of fishing behind. Can you imagine Zebedee’s reaction to his two sons leaving him alone in the boat without a moment’s notice? The original readers of the book of Mark would know the seriousness of this call. James and John were leaving their profession, their family, their entire lives to follow Jesus… and they did so without a moment of hesitation.
One of the biggest themes in the book of Mark is the idea of “following” Jesus. The calling of the first disciples show us what it truly means to follow Jesus. We also see what it means to repent. For us today, repenting and following Jesus go hand in hand. When we repent, we are leaving our old lives of sin behind. We are no longer slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness. We literally “turn away” from our old selves. Where we were once following our own selfish desires and earthly pleasures, we have now risen to new life and follow Jesus instead. The sacrament of Baptism illustrates this transformation. In the Baptist denomination, Baptism is a symbol of our old selves being buried with Christ, and then raised to new life as a follower of Jesus.
To follow Jesus isn’t an easy task, and the decision to follow Jesus isn’t one to be taken lightly. However, it’s the greatest decision you will ever make. So, have you ever repented and believed? Have you ever decided to fully follow Jesus? If not, then listen to the words of Jesus, “The time has come! The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Friday, February 19, 2021 Mark 2:1-12
The entire earthly ministry of Jesus can be seen from this small section of Mark. We see Jesus teaching and healing, the other “teachers of the law” accuse him of blasphemy, and then lastly, Jesus is vindicated. It is here in Mark 2 that Jesus first declares himself the “Son of Man,” which becomes an important theme of Mark. Jesus is clearly referring to a vision in Daniel 7 where a “son of man” will be given authority by God to pronounce judgment on all people. However, in Mark 2, we do not see Jesus use his authority to pronounce judgment. Instead, he uses his authority to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man.
I cannot think about this passage of Scripture without “power” coming to mind. Power is something that many people waste their entire lives trying to attain. Political parties are built on power. The truth is, the thirst for power brings the worst out of humanity, but then there is Jesus. Jesus has been given power and authority from God the Father, and yet he uses his power to forgive instead of judge. As followers of Jesus, and as members of the Body of Christ here on earth, it is now our turn to use our power, our influence, and our money to forgive instead of judge.
Before we end our devotional for the day, I don’t want us to miss the faith of the paralyzed man and his friends. They were willing to do whatever they needed to do to get to Jesus. While this man obviously has a devastating handicap, Jesus heals the most important part first. Jesus first heals the man’s sin well before his body. Jesus focuses on spiritual healing first with the paralyzed man, all it took was faith. While most of us do not have the physical needs that the man in this story has, we all have the same spiritual needs. We all need Jesus to forgive our sins. The truth is we all have much to learn from the paralyzed man and his friends. They were willing to do whatever was needed to get to Jesus for holistic (body, mind, and soul) healing. Are we as willing to come to Jesus as they were?
Saturday, February 20, 2021 Mark 2:13-17
Have you ever been associated with the “wrong crowd?” Maybe it was your friends in high school who were always getting into trouble? Maybe it was a fellow college student who always pressured you to skip class? Maybe it was a group of coworkers who always did the bare minimum in their work? I remember when I was in high school, my parents were always warning me to stay away from the “wrong crowd.” Rightfully so, they were worried that these other students would lead me down the wrong path, and that I wouldn’t become who God wanted me to be. However, when we look at Scripture and see God-in-flesh, he seems to always be hanging out with the wrong crowd.
In Mark 2:13-17, we see Jesus call a chief member of the “wrong crowd” to follow Him. Levi, the son of Alphaeus, was considered a thief among his people. While we don’t know the type of person Levi was before he followed Jesus, we do know that he was a hated tax collector. It was his job to take money away from his own people, his brothers, and to give that money to Rome. Not only were tax collectors considered thieves, but they were also considered sell-outs and backstabbers. The Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day wanted nothing to do with them! They stayed as far away as possible!
However, Jesus thought differently. That one night in Capernaum, the same day that Jesus called the tax collector Levi to follow him, he was eating with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees would never do this! So why would Jesus?
Because Jesus came to save sinners!
I don’t know about you, but I am so glad that Jesus came to save sinners! Every one of us has messed up royally. Every one of us has had moments of selfishness, pride, gluttony, and greed. The Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day thought they were righteous. They were foolish to think that they were better than the tax collectors and sinners, because they didn’t realize that they were also sinners. Every one of us is a sinner in need of a Savior. I am so thankful that Jesus came to save sinners and not the righteous!
Monday, February 22, 2021 Mark 2:23-28
“He might make it to heaven if he doesn’t overshoot it.” Some people excel in their holiness and self-righteousness to the point that even Jesus would feel uncomfortable around them. They follow all the rules and make up more rules on top of that. During the time of Jesus’ ministry, many of the religious leaders—especially the Pharisees and the “experts of the law”—fell into the category. They saw themselves as super holy and so righteous that they deserved God’s special favor. Jesus saw them as prideful and self-righteous, deserving God’s condemnation.
They had so many rules that the rules and regulations had become a burden to the people. The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest. Instead, the Pharisees had made it into a day of anxiety which held hundreds of prohibitions that could easily trip up the casual observer of the Sabbath. Instead of being able to relax, followers of God had to be constantly wary about breaking a prohibition that would cause them to “work” on the Sabbath and thereby break one of the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees had turned the purpose of the Sabbath on its head. With all the additional rules, the Sabbath had ironically become a day of burden during which people had to “work” to keep from breaking the Sabbath.
Jesus reminded these religious leaders just as he reminds us as well that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. This “day of rest” provides an opportunity for us to stop for a time and worship God, realizing that the world can exist for a time without our busyness. This takes humility, not pride. It is a time for our body, mind, and spirit to recuperate and focus on God, to realize that God is our Creator and Sustainer and Savior. Aren’t we fortunate that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath instead of the Pharisees?!
Tuesday, February 23, 2021 Mark 3:20-35
In our reading today, we get just a glimpse of how Jesus was perceived in his ministry. The things he said in his ministry caused his own family to think he was completely out of his mind! Teachers of the law even thought that Jesus was possessed by demons! How could this be? Why were people so outraged by the actions of Jesus? Much of the outrage came from Jesus’ words and actions on the Sabbath (which we read about yesterday). Not only did Jesus claim to be Lord of the Sabbath, but he also healed a man on this sacred day.
What was Jesus thinking? In the eyes of the Pharisees, he was being unlawful on the Sabbath! The Promised Messiah wouldn’t be doing unlawful things on the Sabbath! The truth is that Jesus didn’t fit the Jews’ understanding of who they thought the Messiah would be. They were wanting a military warrior to overthrow the Roman occupiers from the land of Israel, but yet here was Jesus. He was healing on the Sabbath. He was eating with sinners. His messianic rule looked much more like ministry than the military. Yet Jesus claimed to be the “Son of Man,” and he said that the Kingdom of Heaven was drawing near. So, either Jesus was telling the truth, or he was a madman! There was no in between.
In our culture today, we see and hear many people who claim that Jesus was a good moral teacher, but also claim that he wasn’t the Messiah. Gandhi believed that Jesus was a great teacher, but he didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. However, when we put Jesus in his proper context, as a Jewish rabbi who claimed to be the Son of Man, there should be no middle ground. Either Jesus is exactly who he said he was, or he isn’t. Jesus was either a madman, or the Promised Messiah. Which one do you think he is?
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 Mark 4:1-20
It is easy to think that Jesus taught like teachers do today. Modern-day teachers are required to have lots of structure with lesson plans that are detailed and aligned with state-mandated learning expectations. These lesson plans are required to be turned in for approval far in advance. The younger the class, the more “learning activities” are needed to keep the attention of kids and also help reinforce the lesson of the day. To say that our teachers have a challenging job is an understatement.
Jesus, on the other hand, had one lesson to teach and he explained this lesson throughout his time on earth with illustrations and parables (more like “learning activities” of today). He was constantly teaching that the Kingdom of God is here and is coming. In this particular learning activity, Jesus used farming imagery, which would have made sense to most of this rural crowd that was so numerous that he had to get on a boat to teach them by the shore. He had “many things” to teach them by parables – or stories – that helped emphasize God’s Kingdom. So, he started with a farmer doing the menial task of tossing seed that would hopefully grow into a crop.
This story is disheartening. Of the four types of soil that the seed fell on, only one type would produce a crop. We cannot guarantee that each type of soil received twenty-five percent of the seed, because it is impossible to know for sure. But for now, let’s pretend that the four types of soil each received a quarter of the seed. If that’s the case, then the success rate is still low: a quarter was eaten up by birds, a quarter didn’t take root, a quarter was choked prematurely, and then a quarter successful. To see it another way, seventy-five percent of the seed the farmer tossed out resulted in nothing! Let that sink in.
Now, of the portion that landed on good soil, the produce was amazing, producing a crop of “thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” So, there is a little bit of positive news! But the disciples still wondered why Jesus would share this story. The secret is God’s Kingdom, and it is going to do amazing things, but at the same time many more will hear about this amazing secret and say “no” to letting God’s Kingdom take root in their lives. Take another look at verses 15-20. Have you ever responded like one of the seventy-five percent?
When it comes to walking with Jesus, we need to be ready to “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop” like verse 20 tells us. This is not necessarily easy, but it is not complicated either. What will it take for you to remove Satan’s influence, to keep from falling away, or to keep from being choked by life? Jesus let this story hang so that people could answer. What is your answer?
Thursday, February 25, 2021 Mark 4:21-25
Do you remember ever singing the childhood song This Little Light of Mine? Maybe you remember from your own childhood or from singing to children of your very own. Either way, remember the lyrics: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” This song prompts us to let our light shine and refrain from hiding it away.
Jesus often spoke in parables, which are short stories that have a meaning or a lesson. In this short parable, Jesus uses the illustration of a lamp for truth. Lamps are meant to shine bright and illuminate the darkness. Just like a lamp, God’s truth should be put on a stand and shine in the darkness, although some may try to keep this truth hidden. In verse 24, Jesus emphasizes that we should listen carefully to what we hear. If we pay close attention to God’s truth, then more will be given to us. However, if we hide that truth and do not give it an ear, then even what we have will be taken away.
God’s truth is a powerful thing in our world today. There are many that try to hide this truth. As Christians, it is our duty to bring what is hidden back to the light. We need to share God’s truth and spread it among others around us. When we embrace His truth, He will multiply it according to our efforts. In our search for truth, we can go to the Bible and to God through prayer. John 16:13 tells us that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Let us shine the truth of the gospel and the Scriptures everywhere we go and not let false truths smother the light of Jesus.
Pray this with me: Jesus, you do amazing things. Your gospel message brings light to the world. Help me let that light shine, and search for your truth every day.
Friday, February 26, 2021 Mark 4:35-41
Despite All of This, It is Well
“When peace, like a
river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
“Though Satan should
buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”
– It Is Well with My Soul, Horatio G. Spafford (1873)
Have we at times found ourselves facing trials and struggles which seem insurmountable? The disciples thought that they faced just such circumstances as they crossed the sea with Jesus. While he was sleeping, the wind and waves picked up. A storm was clearly brewing and soon its fury would be unleashed. When the storm’s fury reached its greatest level, and the disciples feared that they would die, and they called out to Jesus for salvation and security. Certainly, if the world has any lessons to teach us, it is that very few things are static. Our walk on this earth is filled with trials and tribulations. The disciples’ lives were essentially no different. They too faced trials and challenges. In fact, the storms of their lives looked just as enormous as the rumbling thunderheads and gigantic waves which threaten us today. Yet, just like the disciples, we have someone we can turn to in our times of trials.
Our God is not an impersonal creator. No, he came down in the very person of Christ and walked and lived among us. He experienced our challenges and trials. Even now, Jesus’ ear is bent to the groanings and sufferings of his people. Though we are not promised a life free of pain or suffering, we are also given the hope and promise of the presence of Christ alongside us in our walk wherever we might go. As we see through this passage, God is mighty even beyond what was considered the greatest powers in the biblical days.
Often, the forces of nature were understood as gods in themselves. But Christ proved without doubt that our God is indeed greater and that He cares for us. By rebuking the waves and their immediate response, Jesus proved the power of God far above and beyond the forces of the world. All of creation follows God’s commands. This power which God wields is not directed against us, His children. Instead, just as Christ indicates in the passage, God cares deeply for each of His children. In this promise we can rest despite the storms and trials which surround. Though we might fear that we are drowning under the weight of sorrow, or beset on all sides by adversity, through faith we can say, “It is well, it is well with my soul,” because the Father cares for us and protects our souls.
Saturday, February 27, 2021 Mark 5:1-20
In this story today, we see Jesus demonstrate his authority over the demons in this world. The imagery in this passage is incredible! The purity codes found in Leviticus are defiled by the presence of the demoniac, the setting among tombs, as well as the sounder of swine. This is a very unholy setting. The demon announces himself as “Legion,” because there are many demons possessing this man. Legion is a military term describing a regiment of 6000 Roman soldiers. 6000! However, notice how the demoniac responds to Jesus. The man possessed by 6000 demons runs to Jesus, falls to his knees, and pleads for mercy! Also notice what he calls Jesus, “Son of the Most High God.” Not only do these demons know who Jesus is, but they tremble in fear under his authority. While the disciples are still trying to figure out who Jesus is, the demons already know! And they bow in fear to the Son of God!
What about the demons in your life? I don’t mean literal demons possessing you like the man in this story, but the sins that you can’t seem to shake. The past mistakes that continue to haunt you. The childhood that scarred you. The failed marriage that made you feel worthless. The loss of a dear loved one. These demons can haunt us, scare us, shape us, and terrify us just as much as a physical demon can. But the moral of this story is that all demons cower in fear at the feet of the authority of Jesus. Jesus has authority over your demons! He can cast them from you, and he can make you brand new! We may still have to live with consequences of our past mistakes, and broken relationships can still hurt, but Jesus offers freedom from the demons in our lives! Will you trust Jesus today, and will you cast your cares, your anxieties, and your demons onto him?
Monday, March 1, 2021 Mark 5:21-43
While yesterday’s devotional demonstrates Jesus’ authority over the demons, today we see Jesus’ authority over sickness and death. The daughter of Jairus was way too young to die, and yet here she was, dying with her father powerless to stop it. When reading the words of Jairus you can almost feel the desperation in his voice. His daughter represents death in this story. Sickness is represented by the woman who bled for 12 years. This woman was desperate as well, much like Jairus. The text makes a point to say that she had suffered greatly under the care of doctors, lost all of her money in treatment, and her condition only grew worse.
These two healings are meant to be seen together. They are literally sandwiched together in the story. On one side we have “death,” the dying girl who was only twelve years old. On the other side is “sickness,” the woman who has been suffering for twelve years. Both women are healed by faith. The bleeding woman is healed by her own faith, and the little girl by her father’s faith. Yet the healing of these two are opposite of each other. The woman is healed by reaching out to Jesus, and the little girl is healed by Jesus reaching out to her.
These two stories are meant to show the authority of Jesus over sickness and death, but they also give us peace and perspective in our own times of sickness and death. Jesus is our great physician, so just like the bleeding woman, we should reach out to Jesus in our affliction! Jesus may heal you through the care of doctors, or he may heal you through a miracle. The bleeding woman teaches us to have faith in the midst of suffering. However, we all know people who have died from their illnesses. Death comes in many forms. It can be instant and unexpected, or death can be slow and painful. Death is a part of life, and everyone reading this devotional will die an earthly death. But Jesus has authority over death! In this story, people laugh at him when he says the little girl is only sleeping. Then Jesus reaches out to her, and she wakes up and is completely healed! By her father’s faith, she rises from the dead. Every one of us who have faith in Jesus will rise from the dead one day! We will be raised to walk in eternal life. The lesson of our passage today is that our earthly bodies are broken. We will get sick, and one day we will die. However, Jesus has authority over sickness and death, and sickness and death are temporary for his followers. Jesus is our great physician in sickness, and he is our salvation in death. Amen!
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 Mark 6:7-13
The people of Christ are a curious people. We are called to a ministry full of identifiable markers. We are supposed to be set apart, weird, even unique in the eyes of the world. The Christian should be as a lamp unto the world shining forth the light of Christ. As that light, we are called to be more than simply a stationary lamp post. Some of the most famous passages in the New Testament for Christians are the very passages where Christ sends forth the disciples to do his ministry. Here we can all surely point to Matthew 28 and the Great Commission. However, Christ was busy sending even before his crucifixion.
Often when Christians bring up language of sending and calling, we are referring to that of missionaries or pastors. We send groups to Del Rio, the Church sent Mother Teresa to Calcutta. We call pastors to a specific ministry within our congregations. However, this is not the only way that we should be familiar with the language of calling and sending. In fact, this passage illustrates that Jesus not only called but also sent the disciples out into the ministry field. We too, are called into the role of disciples of Christ and we too are sent forth to minister to the world.
The ministry to which we are called is not one of comfort and relaxation. Though we are called to be everyday evangelists, we are not called to be everyday armchair evangelists. Our ministry should carry expectations with it. First, we are called to ministry in community. While we minister to others, we ought not minister alone. Just look to the example of Paul and Barnabas. Paul’s ministry is filled with examples of companionship in ministry. Second, our ministry is expected to be both difficult and sacrificial. Jesus warns the disciples not to take anything excessive with them into the mission field. This illustrates their trust in God to provide for them on the mission field. Additionally, Jesus warns the disciples that they will not be accepted everywhere that they go.
We as Christians share in this calling as disciples of Christ. We are called to a sent and difficult ministry where trials will be many. However, we can be encouraged that we walk in the path which God has set before and provides for us. Finally, we have the joyful task of participating in the healing and restorative ministry which Christ began in His time on earth.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 Mark 6:30-44
I always like to view this story through the lens of the disciples. The disciples had been doing great work, and they were even teaching some of the people around them. They were so excited to come and tell Jesus all that they had been doing. The crowd was beginning to gather once again, but the disciples were tired and hungry. They just wanted to have alone time with Jesus! So, they go out on a boat to find some solitude, but the people see them! All the people from the surrounding towns run to where they are going to learn more from Jesus! The phrase Mark uses is “like sheep without a shepherd.” This phrase is used often in the Old Testament when the nation of Israel is without a leader or a king. The people were looking for leadership, and Jesus had compassion on them.
However, I assume the disciples were annoyed. So late in the day, they urge Jesus to send the people away to buy food (although they are selfishly wanting to be alone with Jesus). Jesus’ response catches the disciples off guard. How can we feed them? There are 5000 men here without even counting the women and children? What can we do about this? The disciples must have been incredibly confused.
Then Jesus performs a miracle. He takes the five loaves of bread and two fish and he feeds everyone! The disciples end up with more food after everyone eats! What a miracle! However, I think this story outlines what ministry looked like for the disciples, and even what ministry should look like for us today. In this story, Jesus is the one who does the miracle, and the disciples were the hands and feet to pass the miracle around to the people. You see, Jesus is still as active in our world today as he was when his physical body was walking the earth. Jesus is still doing great things in the world today. He is still performing miracles. It is now our job to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today, but Jesus is still the one performing the miracles. We just have to be ready to show the people.
If you are a follower of Jesus, it is our job to share the good news of Jesus to the world around us. Whether we are businessmen, students, stay-at-home moms, teachers, or retired, we are ministers to the world. We are members of the Body of Christ. Sometimes we can be afraid of this calling, because we don’t feel qualified. But the truth is, Jesus has already done the miracle. He has already been resurrected from the dead. He has already freed us from sin. He is the miracle. Now, it is our job to tell the story.
Thursday, March 4, 2021 Mark 6:45-52
This is a passage most of us have heard since grade school. We are taught how crazy it is that Jesus walked on the water, how only the Son of God could do that, and those things are true. It does sound crazy that Jesus would walk on the water. But let’s look at why he did this. Jesus sent the disciples on their way across the water, but he stayed back. Why? Because he needed time to pray. Have there been times in your life where you just needed a break from people? All the talking and helping and no time to rest? Jesus felt the same way. Jesus just miraculously fed 5,000 people, and he needed to rest. He needed to be renewed in the presence of God, even though he is God himself. No one is above needing time alone with God for rejuvenation.
When Jesus had been refreshed through prayer, he looked out and saw the disciples struggling to make it to the other side of the lake. Verse 48 says, “Shortly before dawn, he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them…” What? Jesus saw that his disciples were having a hard time and was just going to pass by them? He was going to brush them off and just walk straight to shore? Let’s take a closer look. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to people through theophanies (the word literally means a manifestation of God to humans). God “passed by” Moses on Mount Sinai to show Moses His glory. So, when it says that Jesus “was about to pass by them” he wasn’t trying to avoid them. Rather, he was choosing to show them his power, the very power that God gave him.
When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, they are obviously terrified. But how does Jesus respond? He says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” It is I…does this sound familiar? It is I…I AM…In Greek, this is the same way that God identifies himself to Moses in Exodus 3. It is I…I AM…The same God that revealed his name and himself to Moses in the book of Exodus is the same God revealing himself to the disciples on this stormy lake, through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus drew strength from God in prayer and is now trying to show the disciples the power of God.
But the disciples just don’t get it. While the disciples are completely amazed, they’re still completely confused. Verse 52 says that they were still trying to figure out how Jesus fed the 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Even though the disciples were confused, Jesus still reveals himself to them. And Jesus will do the same for us. Jesus still shows his power and reveals his name in the world today, and he will still be patient with us as we try to understand more and more of who he is.
Friday, March 5, 2021 Mark 7:1-23
It is the tradition of most people to always look their best. For example, when most of us go to church, we do our best to look good. We comb our hair, we iron our clothes, we spray some perfume or cologne, and we practice our smile in the mirror (just me?). We work so hard to present our best selves, because if we look good, then people will think we’re doing well. But sometimes trying to look good on the outside can become an idol for us. We work so hard to perfect our appearance that we forget that what we say reflects our spirituality much more.
The Pharisees in our reading today have fallen into this trap as well. They have become so legalistic in the way that they follow the rules that they forget why they follow the rules. It is the “why” where the Pharisees messed up. They did not wash their hands so that they could be clean before God, they washed their hands so that they could appear more holy to everyone else. They used the traditions they upheld as weapons against people instead of worship to God. So, when these Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples didn’t uphold the traditions of the elders, they were really asking, “Why are your disciples so lowly? Why don’t they follow our traditions as good as we do?”
Jesus sees right through their hypocrisy and calls them on the carpet. Jesus says that it isn’t what comes into your body that defiles you, but what comes out of it. Although the Pharisees were following the defilement laws perfectly, they were being defiled by their pride, arrogance, and their selfishness. Jesus’ point here is that what comes out of our mouth matters much more than what we eat. For us today, this translates to say how we act and what we say matter so much more than our traditions and appearances. So today, I hope we pay attention to what comes out of our mouths. Are we encouraging people instead of discouraging them? Are we being positive instead of negative? Are we speaking love instead of hate? Are we stopping gossip instead of spreading it? Are we praying for people instead of talking about people? Remember, it is what comes out of our mouths that defiles.
Saturday, March 6, 2021 Mark 7:31-37
By this time in Jesus’ ministry, he has performed many miracles and signs. As he is heading into an area known as Decapolis, or the Ten Cities, a group of people bring a man who is deaf and mute to Jesus. These people have heard of Jesus’ healing power and beg for him to place his hand on the man. Jesus takes the man aside, places his fingers in his ears and on his tongue and calls out, “Be opened!” The man is healed and can hear and speak clearly.
The actions of this miracle remind us that Jesus’ followers’ spiritual ears will be opened to the gospel. This miracle echoes Isaiah 35:5-6, “The ears of those who can’t hear will be unplugged...And those who can’t speak will shout for joy.” The good news of Jesus is for everyone! He will open ears so people will hear, and the gospel will cause those who hear to shout for joy. The gospel leads to joy, and Jesus provides the way.
Jesus requests the people do not tell anyone about what has happened but the more he tells them to stay quiet the more they go and talk about it. How amazing it must have been to be there that day and witness this healing! They were amazed at all Jesus has done and that he could even heal this man. They had heard of the power of Jesus, but it did not become real until they saw it for themselves. The power of Jesus and the message he brings is amazing and should lead us to proclaiming it.
Pray this with me: Thank you, Lord, for giving me ears to hear and a voice to speak. I pray that you will help me proclaim your good news to those who need to hear it today. Thank you for the joy that comes with knowing you.
Monday, March 8, 2021 Mark 8:27-33
All of Mark hinges on this passage. Up to this point, the disciples are trying to figure out who Jesus is. They have seen his miracles, his authority, and they have heard his teachings, but everything is put into proper perspective here when Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. They finally recognize Jesus as “The Anointed One,” the long-promised King of the people of Israel. What a revelation!
However, this passage is also a roller coaster ride for Peter. He is the first of the disciples to name Jesus as the Messiah, but then he is harshly rebuked by Jesus just a minute later. Although Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, he had a very limited understanding of what the Messiah would do. As stated in one of the first devotionals, the people of Israel thought the Messiah would be a warring king, someone who would free Israel from their Roman oppressors and bring the nation back to power and prominence. This is what Peter expected from the Messiah, but Jesus had other ideas.
I can see Peter’s confusion as Jesus is telling the disciples what will happen to the Son of Man. He must suffer? He must be rejected? He must be killed? What kind of Messiah is this? So, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying these things about the Messiah, and Jesus harshly rebukes him. The truth is that Peter was thinking too small about the Messiah. Peter was expecting an earthly king to lead an earthly nation. Peter couldn’t see the big picture. Jesus was a King from Heaven, not a king from earth. Jesus came to save the world, not just the nation of Israel. Jesus came to give people eternal life, not just a better earthly life.
In our fallen nature, we like Peter, can only see the work of God through our perspective. When God doesn’t do what we think He should do, we rebuke God. We blame God. Sometimes, when we are angry enough, we even curse God. However, God can see the full perspective whenever we can only see a limited version. The truth is that sometimes we don’t understand what God is doing in the world. We see hurt, pain, brokenness, hunger, war, and death, and sometimes we wonder why God won’t intervene. But just like Peter, we can’t see the full perspective. God is working in ways we can’t even fathom. Although God works differently than we expect sometimes, He is working on something even bigger than we could imagine! So, don’t be like the Peter who rebukes God for working differently than he expects. Be like the Peter who is amazed that the Messiah is at work!
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 Mark 8:34-9:1
Via Crucis which is Latin for “Way of the Cross,” has been formative in many ways for the Christian tradition. Walking in this Way of the Cross is not for the faint of heart. With this path come themes which ride heavily on the hearts and minds of the Christian imagination. These are the images of persecution, martyrdom and extreme suffering all in the name of one person we have given our eternal devotion. So, what does it really mean to follow Christ and walk in the Way of the Cross?
In the New Testament we are primed early on for the theme of our suffering as we pursue our Christian calling. Jesus notes this in the gospels, though most notably in John 15 (verses 18-25). We are called to a ministry which imitates Christ who walked before us. He also warns us to expect nothing less than the trials which He too went through. Paul reflects this in 2 Corinthians when he recounts his various trials and sufferings to the community at Corinth. However, our suffering is not without cause.
Christian history has always treasured its martyrs. These are the great heroes who sacrificed their lives for the faith. Often, this word calls to mind figures such as Polycarp who was put to death after refusing to deny Jesus, even at the pain of a very terrible death. As much as these martyrs set before us an example of how to live our lives as testaments to Christ, not everyone is called to face down death for the Gospel. In fact, the tradition of martyrdom and the Way of the Cross have a more important cause yet.
The tradition of martyrdom calls us beyond the vivid examples of dying, burned at the stake or tossed into the ring to face down wild animals. Even further, we are called to live lives which testify to the marvelous work and Gospel of Christ to the end. No matter what that end might be. The tradition of martyrdom literally refers to bearing witness to the end, whether in natural or unnatural death. So, we lay down our lives and give them over to Christ that we may be living, breathing testimonies to Him. In this way, every day that we live becomes a witness to Christ and we witness to Him, even unto the end, when He calls us home.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 Mark 9:2-13
On this mountain, the disciples see the revelation of God. Just in case Peter, James, and John still didn’t understand who Jesus was, this story seals the deal. Jesus is transfigured before their very eyes, glowing in dazzling white. That would definitely get their attention! And then, all of a sudden, two legendary prophets appear!
Just as Jesus walking on the water mirrored God showing himself to Moses in Exodus, this story also has many Old Testament ties. Early in this story, we hear that Moses and Elijah are present. Moses is the great prophet that God used to give the Israelites the Ten Commandments after leading the people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, on dry ground. Moses was a superstar of a prophet. We also have Elijah in this story. Elijah is the prophet who hid himself in a cave, fearing for his life, yet God came to him and spoke to him in a still, small voice. Elijah is also the prophet who never died. He is the one that God swept up into heaven in chariots of fire. In both the stories of Moses and Elijah, we see the revelation of God, hearing a booming voice and a quiet whisper.
As Peter is trying to figure out how to honor and welcome these legendary guests, God suddenly speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” These are the very words God spoke at Jesus’ baptism in chapter one. God is speaking identity and authority over Jesus in the presence of trusted people. Put yourselves in the shoes of Peter, James, and John. You’re on one of your regular, yet special, trips with Jesus, when you see Jesus literally change into a bright and shiny being. AND THEN Elijah and Moses, prophets you have heard stories of your entire life appear. AND THEN God speaks through a cloud! WHAT???
The purpose of this story, the purpose that Peter, James, and John couldn’t miss, is that Jesus is the ultimate prophet. Jesus is greater than the prophet that God used to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus is greater than Elijah, and his more recent counterpart John the Baptist. Jesus is greater, because Jesus is God’s beloved Son.
Thursday, March 11, 2021 Mark 9:30-37
We are about halfway through this devotional on walking with Jesus through Mark, and it is timely that we are arriving at a point where Jesus is teaching his disciples while literally walking with them through Galilee. In fact, this lesson is more of a private lesson because “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were.” This lesson is also a prophecy, which is telling what will happen. Most prophecies garner excitement and anticipation, but this prophecy was not necessarily uplifting. Jesus was telling them about his death and resurrection.
If Jesus were walking with you through the region, and he blurted out, “Hey. I’m going to be betrayed, killed, and then three days later I’ll be back!” How would you respond? Maybe you’d tell Jesus he is thinking crazy things, or perhaps he had a bit too much cilantro with his lunch. Today we live with the whole Bible in hindsight but remember that his disciples were in real time. They expected Jesus to live and rule forever, not die. So, they did not understand, but they were scared to ask him to say more.
It is hard to hear something you don’t understand, and then out of fear not ask the simple question, “What do you mean by that?” One could wish that the disciples would have taken some courage and just asked the obvious question: “Jesus, what do you mean by that?” However, they did not. To be honest, we need to learn something important from this passage. Always feel free to ask Jesus what he means, and then be patient and quiet for his answer. He is ready to reveal what he means. In this case, the disciples weren’t ready to hear it.
Instead, the disciples started arguing about what they thought they could control. They were having a contest to see who was tougher and greater. Jesus had just the right response. He looked to an unsuspecting child, held the child close and said that this little child (who was at the bottom of the social food chain) must be treated greater, because the first will be last. Jesus is teaching them to turn the social ladder upside down. Instead of focusing on who gets the best seat, serve the least of these.
Grant Osborne said it this way: “Seek to be servants and leave the greatness up to God.” Even Jesus predicting his death pointed out that he would die for everyone, even though he was greater than everyone he would die for, being God-in-flesh. Jesus sought to be a servant. Now his disciples needed to serve others, even little children and anyone “lower” than them. Does this sound difficult to you? Is it hard to serve and leave the greatness up to God? Talk to Jesus about it. Don’t be intimidated. He’s ready to show you what he means.
Friday, March 12, 2021 Mark 9:42-50
When I was a child, I remember the consequences of my sins. Whenever I disobeyed, lied, cheated, or stole I was punished for it. I was taught that sins had consequences, and “if you did the crime, you gotta do the time.” However, whenever I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, for some reason my view of sin changed. For some reason I thought that since my sins were forgiven, there were no more consequences for my wrongdoings. I felt that since Jesus has forgiven all my sins, whether or not I actively sin doesn’t matter. However, Scripture absolutely disagrees with my childhood understanding of sin. In the passage today, we see Jesus teaching his disciples about the importance of fleeing from sin.
With a statement of hyperbole, Jesus illustrates the importance of refraining from sin. He says that it is better for you to cut off a limb than allow that limb to cause you to stumble. Even though Jesus is being hyperbolic, point taken! Sin is a big deal! How do we know that Jesus is using hyperbole here? Should we cut off body parts that cause us to stumble? We know that Jesus is using hyperbole here because he is teaching his disciples. One thing we know about the disciples is that they always messed up! They were always slow to figure things out! They were always stumbling. Especially Peter. However, we have no record of any of the disciples laming themselves to flee from sin. But Jesus’ point remains; it is our job as followers of Jesus to run as far away from sin as we can!
Although we are saved from our sin as followers of Jesus, our wrongdoings still have consequences. Plus, it is our job to continually draw closer to God each day and to reflect a Perfect Christ to the world around us. Sin still gets in the way. Sin can still harm our daily walk with Christ. Sin can make it harder for us to hear the Holy Spirit leading us. So, although we have assurance in our salvation, may we still repent of our sin. Do you have any sins you need to confess and repent for today? Let’s continue to turn to God, and to flee as far as we can from sin.
Saturday, March 13, 2021 Mark 10:17-31
According to the World Bank data, everyone who is reading this devotional likely falls into the “rich” category. If you have an annual income of $12,500 or more, you are classified among the “high income” earners of the world. We cannot compare ourselves to Bill Gates of Microsoft or Jeff Bezos of Amazon or any of the other billionaires and conclude that we are not financially wealthy. By global standards, we are quite wealthy. When Jesus talks about wealthy people, he is talking about us.
Here is the message of warning that Jesus sternly offers us: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). Indeed, if we look at the most affluent countries in the world, we see a clear trend: lower percentages of belief in and devotion to God. Western Europe is filled with wealthy people and empty churches. Average weekly worship attendance is around two percent in some of these countries. In the United States, we can attempt to claim that our increasing wealth has not impacted our devotion to God, but the statistics tell a different story. The percentage of Christians in the U.S. has been steadily declining over the past three decades, from about 86% of the population in 1990 to about 65% in 2019. The steepest drops of Christians have occurred in denominations whose members tend to have higher levels of wealth.
Should we therefore pray for material poverty in order to have spiritual wealth? Is it impossible for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom (Mark 10:26)? Here, Jesus offers us some consolation: “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). With God’s help, even rich people can be deeply devoted to God. We see several examples in the New Testament. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha have a level of material wealth, but they are deeply devoted followers of God; Barnabas is wealthy, and Lydia is a relatively wealthy business owner. It is possible to be both wealthy and a devoted Christian which means there is hope for all of us.
The common denominator for these devout and wealthy Christians is that they have the proper attitude toward financial wealth. The temptation for rich people is to place their faith in their financial portfolios, to believe that their money will take care of them and will meet all their needs, that they are self-sufficient. Wealthy Christians understand that money may prolong their physical lives by a few years, but money cannot prevent death’s ultimate arrival. Wealthy Christians also use their financial resources to generously give to others. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha use their resources to host Jesus and his disciples. Barnabas gives generously to those in need. Lydia provides support for both the local church and for Paul on his missionary journeys. Wealthy Christians keep physical wealth in proper perspective and use their wealth to further God’s Kingdom.
Monday, March 15, 2021 Mark 10:35-45
In this passage it is very clear that James and John have a misunderstanding about what Jesus came to earth to do. Jesus has just predicted his death for a third time, and now James and John want to be at his right hand? As Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem, they think he is going on a journey to glory, and they want to be right behind him! Little do they know that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem ends in death, with the Son of Man hanging on a tree. Jesus even tells them this! James and John are seeing Jesus’ kingship as an earthly kingship, with him reigning in strength and power. However, Jesus flips the power dynamic completely upside down. He teaches that he, the Son of Man, did not come to be served like an earthly king, but to serve and sacrifice himself for the world. James and John learn a very tough lesson, that to be the greatest among the disciples of Jesus, they must become a slave to all people. This call is much less glamorous than they were expecting.
When we answer the call to follow Jesus, we don’t follow him for our own earthly gain. To be completely honest, many famous television preachers and popular evangelists teach the gospel of James and John instead of the gospel of Jesus. They teach that following Jesus will make you rich, and that all your problems will go away through faith. However, to follow Jesus does not mean that he wants to make you rich, or that everyday should feel like a Friday. To follow Jesus means that we are called to be servants of those around us. We are called to give generously instead of take selfishly. We are called to be the first to serve. How will you answer the call to serve today? What can you do to show the sacrificial love of Jesus by lowering yourself today?
Tuesday, March 16, 2021 Mark 10:46-52
You’re going to want to re-read Mark 10:35-45 before diving into this story about Blind Bartimaeus. Mark wrote these two stories next to each other for a purpose because on one hand you have James and John who think they see clearly, and then you have this blind man in Jericho who actually saw things clearly (figuratively, of course). Also, since we are walking with Jesus to the cross, notice that Jericho is the last stop before Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly. Something significant is about to happen.
Do not miss that the path we walk with Jesus is a path of suffering. We do not like to suffer or even be mildly in pain. But there is no place closer to Jesus than to walk in his sufferings. We will find that suffering with Jesus leads to a full picture of discipleship. We could mistake the crowded road with noisy followers as the path to walk, but in reality, we should be more like the blind man: calling out for Jesus to have mercy on us.
What is mercy, and why do we need Jesus to have mercy on us? Mercy is similar to grace, but a bit different: mercy is when we do not get what we do deserve. If you deserve the speeding ticket that is coming your way, but the officer says, “I’m giving you a warning today,” congratulations! You just benefited from mercy! What mercy would a poor blind man need? He felt he did not deserve to have sight because he probably thought that he was blind because of his sin or his parents’ sin. He knew he deserved nothing, but still he cried out for Jesus to have mercy on him, to give him what he didn’t deserve.
Even though people tried to hush him, he cried out louder! He wanted mercy so bad he could taste it. His cry for mercy made Jesus stop in his tracks. No one else could slow down our Savior, but this cry for mercy did. Jesus cannot resist the cry of mercy from someone who knows they don’t deserve it. When Bartimaeus jumps up, he tosses aside his cloak that probably held the coins people tossed to him out of pity, and he came to Jesus.
“Rabbi, I want to see.” He knew what he wanted to ask Jesus for, and Jesus simply said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Well, we know that Jesus did the healing, but it is interesting to see how faith plays a helpful role in healing. How well are you using your faith in Jesus? Not only was he healed, but he immediately joined Jesus on the journey. That should be your response. Immediately start walking with Jesus and walk in the power of faith and mercy.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Mark 11:1-11
All of Jesus’ ministry has been a slow journey to Jerusalem. In our passage today, he has finally arrived! This arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem is called The Triumphal Entry, and it appears in all four gospels. We celebrate Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter. One aspect of this passage that is usually overlooked is the reason why the people of Jerusalem were celebrating. Also, how these people crying “Hosanna!” today will be shouting “Crucify him!” in just a few days. Looking at Zechariah 9:9-10, we see that the people were expecting a conquering king!
Zechariah 9:9-10 (NIV)
The Coming of Zion’s King
greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah is promising a victorious, humble king riding on a donkey. This king is to cut off the oppressors and fight against the injustices against Israel. However, instead of a conquering, warring king, they received Jesus. Jesus was a champion of peace, not war. Jesus taught that we should turn the other cheek, not fight back. Jesus taught that you should love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. The people wanted Jesus to be on their side, when in reality Jesus was calling people to follow him to something even better.
Who do you want Jesus to be? If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we want Jesus to be our problem solver. We want him to make all of our problems go away. We want him to support our agenda. We want him to endorse our political party. We want him to like our style of worship better. We want Jesus to be on our side. We want to create Jesus in our own image. However, it is our job as followers of Jesus to follow him! It is our job to let him mold us and make us new. So today, instead of pretending Jesus is on our side, let’s be on his side. May we follow Jesus for who he is, the peaceful Son of Man!
Thursday, March 18, 2021 Mark 11:12-25
Why does Mark group a story of the temple in between a story of a fig tree? Sounds pretty strange, doesn’t it? Well, Mark, the author of this gospel and its name sake, commonly used this “sandwich-ing” skill. In these “sandwiches,” the two stories grouped together have a similar meaning, so the “bread” of the “sandwich” is to help us understand the “meat.” In today’s passage, the story of the fig tree is the “bread,” and the story of the temple is the “meat.” The meaning of the fig tree is supposed to help us understand the meaning of the temple.
Let’s look first at the story of the fig tree. Jesus sees a fig tree from a distance and is excited because he’s hungry. However, upon getting closer to the fig tree, he sees that the tree has no fruit on it. Jesus curses the fig tree, saying it will never bear fruit again, and the disciples hear Jesus say this. Then, towards the end of today’s reading, we pick back up on the story of the fig tree. The disciples walk past the fig tree again and notice that it is withered from the roots. In typical Peter fashion, he tells Jesus what has happened. In typical Jesus fashion, Jesus explains how the fig tree has been cursed and subsequently withered to show the power of God. The fig tree wasn’t bearing the fruit it was supposed to, so it was destroyed.
Now let’s look at the story of the temple. The temple was supposed to be a place of prayer for all nations. It was supposed to be a place where people could come and worship God. However, that’s not what Jesus found. Jesus found people buying and selling items, taking the focus away from God and onto the money and people trying to gain power. Jesus spoke and acted against this corruption, then left the temple.
So back to our beginning question: Why does Mark group a story of the temple in between a story of a fig tree? He does this to communicate an important message, a message of destruction. Just as the fig tree failed to bear fruit and was destroyed, the same will be with the temple. Since the temple is no longer a place of worship, it will be destroyed. And we know that in a few days from this story, Jesus will be crucified and resurrected, creating a new way for us to worship God.
Friday, March 19, 2021 Mark 12:1-12
This parable that Jesus tells is very pointed. As Americans reading this passage in 2021, it is easy for us to miss the message and warning in this parable. However, in Mark 12, everyone knew what Jesus was trying to say. Even the disciples, who usually need Jesus to pull them aside and explain his parables, grasped Jesus’ intent. In this passage, Jesus is referencing Isaiah 5, where Israel is the vineyard, and God is the vineyard maker. However, Jesus completes the story. The tenants of the vineyard are the chief priests and the religious leaders who have turned away from God in their arrogance. The servants that are sent to the vineyard, are some of the Old Testament prophets that God sends to bring the people back to where they belong, a right relationship with God. Finally, the son of the owner is sent to the tenants. Surely they would treat him well and respect him! They end up killing the heir and throwing him out of the vineyard. This is Jesus foreshadowing his own death to these religious leaders. This is Jesus teaching these men how far from God they have fallen. His message is heard loud and clear.
In this parable we see all the history of Israel in one story. It is a story of all the Hebrews continually doing right in their own eyes and obeying God only when it is convenient for them. However, isn’t that our human nature? Don’t we all naturally try to be our own gods until we have no other choice than to turn back to the real God? Has there ever been a time in your own personal faith journey when you only prayed to God when you needed Him? Faith in Jesus is meant to be lived daily. It is a continual journey. It is a faith where we recognize that God is God, and we are His servants. What about your faith? Does it look like a daily journey, or do you only talk to God when you have no other option?
Saturday, March 20, 2021 Mark 12:13-17
As far back as history is recorded, taxes have always been a source of contention. Unfair taxes from oppressive governments never end well. On December 16, 1773, the American colonists dumped 342 chests of tea in the harbor of Boston, Massachusetts in the first major act of defiance against British rule. This Boston Tea Party was a direct result of unfair taxes. The Tea Act of 1773 gave the British East India Company a monopoly on tea in the colonies and angered Americans who felt it was “taxation without representation.”
The people of Israel also felt unfairly taxed during the time of Jesus. They were forced to pay a tax to Rome, a tax to Herod, and even a Temple tax to worship. Paying taxes at all to the Roman government was a hard pill to swallow. They were supposed to be the free people of God! The nation of Israel was meant to be God’s chosen, free people. Not only that, but the Roman coins had the face of Caesar Tiberius. This was also offensive to the Jews. The Jews were forbidden to make carved images by their Law, and now they had to use a coin with a carved image of Caesar! The Pharisees and the Herodians came to Jesus with the question in our passage today as a trap. They thought there was no right answer. If Jesus would say that the Jews should pay their taxes willingly, then Jesus would lose the crowd. However, if he said that Jews shouldn’t pay their taxes, then Jesus would be arrested for inciting a revolt. But Jesus’ response is brilliant. By saying “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” Jesus is still saying the Jews should pay taxes, but he isn’t saying that the Romans were their masters. N.T. Wright says that Jesus is saying “send his blasphemous image back where it came from!”
The big question is what does Jesus mean by “Give to God what is God’s?” We are worth much more than our “net worth.” Our money may define us by the world’s standards, but we are so much more to God. And when we follow Jesus, we are giving our whole selves to follow God. So, when Jesus says, “Give to God what is God’s,” he is telling the people that they belong to God. Our whole selves belong to God. The truth is sometimes we get this backwards. Tithing is an important sacrifice for followers of Jesus. Of course we should use our money for the furthering of God’s Kingdom. However, that is just a small part of what we are meant to give God. With our whole selves belonging to God, we are meant to give Him our time, talent, and treasure, not just our money. So, what about you? Are you giving God what is His? Are you giving God all of yourself, or are you just giving Him your money?
Monday, March 22, 2021 Mark 12:28-34
Have you ever approached God like this before? You know that God has all of the answers to life. You know that God’s Word is really long and complicated, so why not just ask for a bite-sized number of commandments to follow? That would be way easier anyway, right? Well…maybe not. The teacher of the law in this story sees Jesus as a good teacher. So, from one teacher of the Scriptures to another, the man asks Jesus to rank the commandments of God. Jesus responds that the most important commandment is the Shema, the passage in Deuteronomy 6 that the people of Israel would repeat to one another. It’s a commandment that everyone knew by heart.
But as we know today, it’s a lot easier to believe something and know it by heart than it is to live it out. It’s easy to say that we love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength. But what does this really look like? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I love God with all of my heart? Do I love him with all of my passions and desires, seeking God to order my desires after his own?
- Do I love God with all of my soul? Do I love him with all of my very being, the very center of who I am, with all of my spiritual self?
- Do I love God with all of my mind? Do I love God with all of my thoughts and knowledge? Am I using my mind to the fullest potential that God wants me to?
- Do I love God with all of my strength? Do I love God with all of the ways I eat and exercise?
Answering these questions isn’t easy. It’s something I am regularly challenged with, but something I never want to quit striving for. I want to love God with my whole self, and I believe that you do as well.
Similar to the first answer Jesus gives, the second great commandment isn’t much easier: “Love your neighbor as yourself…” We are to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves and our own families. We are to love the neighbors who always play their music too loud, who don’t pick up after their dogs when they visit your yard, and who always want to stop to chat when you’re in a hurry…We are to love the neighbors who look and act like we do, and those that couldn’t be more different than us. And why? Because God loves them. He wants our love for our neighbors to show God’s love to them also.
So, go forth today, in the love and strength of God, to love God with your full self, and to love your neighbors the way God loves them.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 Mark 12:41-44
Day 30: Mark 12:41-44, “The Widow’s Offering”
This story of a nameless widow is mentioned in other accounts in the New Testament, and each of them are meant to stir emotions for the reader. Why is it that this overlooked lady catches our attention, so much so that we remember her better than other people in the Bible? We remember her more than people who are named and people with more than four verses dedicated to them. Perhaps we wish we could be as giving as she was, or maybe we feel sympathy since she was in poverty and had nothing left to live on. No matter how you respond, know this: she caught Jesus’ attention.
In the temple court there were multiple receptacles for people to publicly give their offerings. This receptacle was likely the farthest women could go in the complex. Jesus took a seat after teaching his disciples. He watches the crowd of people – all types of people – coming in to put their money in the coffers. Rich people chunk their change so people could hear the sound and applaud their generosity. After all, more money adds up to more money.
But people probably overlooked this poor widow whose two little coins did not make a sound as she tossed them in. “Nothing to see here,” people probably thought. Even Jesus’ disciples were probably distracted by how amazing the temple complex was, and by how much money some people gave. It took Jesus redirecting them when he says, “Look at this poor widow!” They probably shrugged and thought, “What widow? Forget her. Look at that guy!” Jesus went further by saying, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”
Keep in mind that Jesus’s economy is never about quantity. It is all about sacrifice. The rich people who dumped in large bags of money still had plenty in their checking account to live a life of abundance. But this widow went home with nothing in her account, and definitely no cash in her mattress. She gave out of her poverty and gave all the money she possessed. The rich people still relied on their riches, but she relied on God to provide for her.
The lesson here is not to flamboyantly give away everything. The lesson is to be so devoted to God and trust that he will provide for you, even when you have nothing. When you give your last pennies to God’s work, know that his storehouse has not run out. You can trust him with your little and you can trust him with your nothing. Jesus made a poor, nameless widow the example we should follow, and Jesus warns us not to follow the example of people who flaunt their stuff to give themselves glory. How can this widow be your example to follow today?
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 Mark 13:32-37
The End Times have been a fascination for the American church for a long time. With countless fiction novels about the rapture, the tribulation, and the Anti-Christ we want to know exactly when and where it will all happen! But the truth is, we can only speculate about what the End Times will look like, and we have no idea if Jesus will return this year or in another 2,000 years.
In fact, eschatology (the study of the End Times) can easily become a distraction for followers of Jesus. In the early nineteenth century, a rural Baptist pastor in New York claimed that Jesus’ return was imminent! He even knew the year that Jesus would return, 1844. This pastor, William Miller, lead the Millerite movement from 1831 – 1844 and gathered thousands of followers who believed that the End Times were here. However, 1844 came and went, and the rapture did not happen. Many of his followers were shaken, and some of them lost their faith entirely. While American history is full of two Great Awakenings where the gospel spread across the country, 1844-1845 became known as the Great Disappointment.
In Mark 13, Jesus is not trying to teach exactly what the End Times will look like. He doesn’t even know when it will happen! His message to Peter, James, John, and Andrew was to simply be ready! Be “on guard” for the day and the hour is unknown. Don’t be caught sleeping but be doing all we can to prepare for Jesus’ return.
It’s easy to look at our world today and feel like the End Times are near. We see poverty, inequality, loss of morality, and world-wide pandemics. We see depression, record-high suicide rates, and loneliness. Many of us feel that our world is slowly getting worse. All we can do is be ready! What about you? Are you ready for Jesus to return? If he came back right now, would he tell you “Well done, my good and faithful servant”? There is no time like the present to be ready, and to share the good news of Jesus to everyone you meet.
Thursday, March 25, 2021 Mark 14:3-9
Let’s set the scene of today’s passage. It’s two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and scribes are trying to figure out how they can arrest Jesus and kill him. Jesus and his disciples are in a town called Bethany, in the home of a man named Simon the Leper. If Simon is called “the leper” then he probably didn’t have many friends. Lepers were outcastes in society because of their contagious skin disease. They weren’t the ones who normally hosted dinners, especially one where the Son of God was present. But Simon is the host, nonetheless. A woman comes in and anoints Jesus’s head with expensive perfume. The disciples scoff at her, but Jesus stands up for her. But why?
When the disciples scoff at the actions of the woman, they are focused on the wrong thing. The disciples are thinking about how much money the perfume cost, but Jesus redirects their thoughts to the deeper meaning of the act. The woman wasn’t trying to waste something she had purchased with her hard-earned money. She was anointing Jesus before his death and burial. The disciples wanted the woman to give all the money she had spent on the perfume to the poor, which is a valid reason. Aren’t we supposed to care for the poor and needy? To give of our abundance to those in need? Yes, of course. And Jesus’s doesn’t say otherwise. However, Jesus and the woman are both aware of the present moment. They are aware that Jesus will soon die. But the disciples do not see it.
Jesus had already told his disciples three times that he would soon die, but they still didn’t understand. The disciples could only imagine life continuing the way it was, with poor people needing help, and with God’s people called to help the poor. Jesus breaks into their perspective and says, “But you will not always have me” (v. 7). Jesus honors the woman and her awareness of the present moment and calls the disciples in to do the same. Immediately after this, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests to discuss how to betray Jesus.
But what does this story mean for us today? Why is this story in the Bible? Well, Jesus says that, because the woman was aware of the present moment and acted faithfully within it, her story will be told across the world. Her story will be told as part of the gospel message, since she prepared Jesus for his coming death and burial. So, what about you? Are you aware of the present moment of God in your midst? Or are you more focused other things?
Friday, March 26, 2021 Mark 14:12-26
The Last Supper was the final meal the disciples had with Jesus. They did not know that Judas was going to betray Jesus, and they still didn’t believe that Jesus was going to die. They were trying to remember Passover, when Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. This realization must have been a terrifying revelation that their time spent with Jesus was coming to an end. But before they head out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus will be arrested that very night, Jesus teaches his disciples why we must die. With this Supper, Jesus says that his body will be broken. He says that his blood will be spilled as the start of a new covenant for many.
Christians all across the world remember the Lord’s Supper in different ways. It is a very special time of worship where the entire congregation comes together and remembers Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It is called different things in other Christian traditions; the Eucharist, Communion, Lord’s Supper, etc. In some traditions, they even believe that when we take the bread and the wine (or grape juice), it literally transforms into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Here at FBC Lorena, we believe that the Lord’s Supper is just a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, taking of the Lord’s Supper is a big deal for us! In our Baptist church we only have two sacraments (or ordinances) that we observe: baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper. We take the Lord’s Supper every other month (six times a year), and we practice what we call an “open table.” It doesn’t matter what Christians tradition you belong to. It doesn’t matter if you are a member of our church. The only prerequisite for taking the Lord’s Supper with us is that you are a follower of Jesus.
When we take part in this time of remembrance, I hope that your heart is ready. I hope that you take part in our moment of corporate remembrance, and truly remember Christ’s sacrifice and new covenant with you! But may we also remember Jesus’ sacrifice every day, including today! How will you remember Jesus today?
Saturday, March 27, 2021 Mark 14:32-42
In The King’s Speech, the new King of England broke down in unflattering sobs at the bedside of his deceased father (the until-recently King of England), and everyone in the room looks on uncomfortably. Kings do not do that. They do not break down and sob in front of everyone because they walk in dignity above their emotions. This may be the case for human monarchy, but we should be grateful that Jesus does not mind showing us his humanity, even if it is uncomfortable for us to watch.
No matter how uncomfortable it is for you to read this, or to even watch it in your mind as you imagine it, keep reading and keep watching. Jesus is totally GOD and totally HUMAN. He is the “God-Man,” which means he never sets aside one or the other. This also means there are times when we see more of one than the other. Here we see more humanity. He wrestled with the suffering and death that was coming, and he called to God from that place. He also tried to get his disciples to join him, but they were overcome by other things.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” and “Father, everything is possible for you.” Do you hear Jesus’s cry as he prayed? Have you ever prayed in such anguish to God, asking him to relieve your burden and just spare you from what is coming? Jesus did not pray once; he prayed multiple times. He would not let the subject drop. He persisted in prayer, which is something that you and I should remember when we pray from dark and tough places. God will show you his will and plan as you persist in prayer.
In verse 36 we get this tagline to that particular prayer from Jesus: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” I don’t know about you, but I do not like praying those words. My reason for praying to God is that I want Him to hear my plan and let my plan happen. Even if His plan is better and best, it is hard for me to submit my plan for His plan. It is one thing to say we are putting God’s plan over our plan, but it is a whole other thing to walk it. Yet that is exactly what Jesus does here. He trusts God’s plan, and finally says, “Enough.”
Is it time for you to feel uncomfortable and human? Are you willing to lay your case before God in anguish, and tell God that you’ll trust His plan? Are you ready to pray and pray and then finally say, “Enough…it is time to go”? Let Jesus see your humanity; he has shown his humanity to you. Lay it all out on the table. Pray the scary prayer, and then keep walking with Jesus in spite of how uncomfortable it is.
Monday, March 29, 2021 Mark 14:66-72
Picture this, Jesus has just stood before the Sanhedrin, and they felt he was worthy of death. The group has blindfolded Jesus, spit on him, and beaten him. Peter witnesses these events and follows the mob, and he begins to be confronted by a woman who claims he is one of Jesus’ disciples. Fear arose in Peter. He does not want to suffer the same punishment as Jesus. He denies knowing Jesus or anything about him, and in the background, you can hear the first rooster crow. The woman begins to stir up the crowd, and he denies Jesus a second time. Then, Peter’s Galilean accent begins to give him away. At this point Peter’s fear is overwhelming so he begins to curse and swear he does not know what the people are talking about. Right at this moment the second rooster crows, and a realization sets in for Peter. Jesus foretold of this event and Peter betrayed him.
Two people betray Jesus that night, Judas (vs. 43-46) and now Peter. Judas later chooses to take the route of suicide, but Peter thankfully takes a different path. Even though both men betray Jesus, the Messiah offers forgiveness. At the very end of this passage, we read that Peter “broke down and wept”. When the second rooster crows Peter remembers the words Jesus spoke and realizes what he has done. He felt a deep remorse for his betrayal.
Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As people, we all make mistakes. We all “betray” Jesus one way or another like Peter. However, we can have hope because Jesus offers us forgiveness and a chance to repent and turn back from our wrong doings. We have the opportunity to choose to follow Jesus. Without him our lives lead to death. Let us choose forgiveness, choose Jesus, and choose life!
Pray this with me: Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving me when I mess up. Today, I ask for your forgiveness of my sin. I am sorry for when I choose my way over your way. Please guide me to make choices that glorify you.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 Mark 15:1-15
It’s amazing how quickly circumstances change. Just a week before, the crowds were chanting “Hosanna!” as Jesus came into Jerusalem. Now they cheer “Crucify him!” and they wish for Barabbas to be released. Pilate had a difficult decision to make. He knew that Jesus was innocent and that he didn’t deserve to die, but Pilate was also afraid the people would riot if Jesus was acquitted. He was too afraid to anger the crowd, and he cowered to their demands. He let the guilty man go free, and he sent the innocent one to the cross.
The crowds had no excuse for their behavior either. Sure, they were being rallied by the chief priests, but they knew what each man stood for. They knew that Jesus was a man of peace and non-violence. They also knew that Barabbas was an insurrectionist and a murderer. The people clearly wanted revolt. They wanted an insurrection, and Barabbas was their man for the job.
One thing I don’t want us to miss in this story is that Jesus took Barabbas’s place on the cross. Barabbas was guilty of murder. He was the definition of a sinner, and Jesus died in his place. The beauty of this story is that although Jesus died in the place of Barabbas, he also died in our place. While hopefully none of us are murderers, each one of us reading this devotional have sinned. Since we have sinned, we are separated from God and our punishment is death. However, Jesus was our sacrificial lamb. He died in our place. Our sins our atoned for by the perfect sacrifice that was the perfect Son of Man. So, the truth is that we are Barabbas in this story. We deserve death because of our sin, and Jesus silently takes our place. He could have easily defended himself. He could have easily sent a multitude of heavenly angels to set him free, but instead he chose to die in place of Barabbas. He chose to die in our place. That is a sacrifice we need to reflect on today.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 Mark 15:21-32
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
The Old Rugged Cross, George Bennard (1913)
No matter which gospel text I read, the accounts of Christ’s sufferings on the Cross always have the ability to make me stop and consider what His actions and suffering means for me. The Passion narrative is given with slightly different highlights in each Gospel account. Mark draws our attention in this passage to the scorn and the suffering which Christ endured. As hard as these accounts are to read, they show just how real the love of God is for His people and to what extent he is willing to go to maintain relationship with us. Christ’s suffering on the cross was not for his own sake. He had no sins for which to pay. Instead, Christ’s passion upon the cross stands as a sign of the depth of God’s love for us.
There is nothing more serious than the weight of sin upon the world. All of creation groans under its weight. Without grace we have no hope. There is no merit which we can gain for ourselves which leads to salvation. Instead, it is through God’s great and sacrificial love that we find our salvation. The shame, the pain, and the suffering of the Cross speak loudly and clearly of God’s love for us. He who is God himself came down to earth, walked among us, shared in our daily sufferings, and eventually died upon the cross in an extremely painful death. All of this was for the purpose of bringing us, the children of God, back into complete relationship with Him.
When we see Christ suffering upon the Cross, our hearts should be convicted of the great weight and responsibility of sin. Our posture should naturally bend in prayers of thanksgiving and repentance. Yet, our hearts should be warmed by the immense love which God has for us. However, the cross is not a purely a contemplative sign for the Christian, it is also an active call. We, as the children of God, have been called to live our lives as testimonies to the Gospel, even unto the very end. We personally may not face the gallows or the hill at Golgotha, but we should not expect our walk and ministry to be easy. Immediately after inviting the disciples into ministry alongside him, Christ warns them in John 15 that they too will face suffering, scorn and wrath. Living a counter-cultural life which testifies to the goodness of Christ, his sacrifice, and our higher calling will bring upon us suffering as well. But we can take heart, our Savior has already trodden the path before us, and walks alongside us.
Thursday, April 1, 2021 Mark 15:33-41
Today is April 1, commonly known as “April Fool’s Day.” It is also a day we call “Maundy Thursday,” which is when Jesus introduced what we call the Lords Supper in the upper room with his disciples. We read about this last week in our devotional. But as we prepare for Easter Sunday, we have arrived at the cross, and now it is time to watch Jesus die. Does this sound morbid? Definitely. But Jesus did not call us to walk a comfortable path where everything is easy or simple. Do not turn your eyes away. Jesus is calling you to watch him die today.
Have you ever watched someone die? Literally breathe their final breaths in front of you? If you have not, you might feel grateful you have not. If you have, you know that it is the most unreal and also the most real thing to experience. Expiration seems almost unnatural, even though death is a natural part of life. In the spring we celebrate new life, but in winter everything in nature appears mostly dead. Sometimes we would rather fast forward through winter to get to spring.
We know Sunday’s coming, so please do not fast forward, and do not skip the rest of this reading. Just linger a bit. Listen for Jesus’s voice, broken and in pain saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The same God who earlier said that Jesus was his Son has now turned his face away from his suffering child. Why? For Jesus to die in our place and for our sin, he had to experience the rejection of God for the sin (our sin) that was placed on him on the cross. The loneliest place one could ever be is away from the presence of God. How dreadful beyond words this must be for Jesus.
But listen. Did you hear that cry? It’s impossible to make out what Jesus is saying or doing, but he is letting out a loud cry. Watch! Wait.
Jesus has stopped breathing. The taunts of other people are loud, and what they are saying goes all the way back to Psalms 22 and 69, as well as Isaiah 52-53. Prophecy is coming to life as Jesus’ life has ended. Keep listening. I just heard a centurion in front of Jesus say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Boy is he late to the party. He should have intervened sooner and maybe Jesus would still be alive. But was Jesus supposed to stay alive on the cross?
The death of Jesus was supposed to happen. It was always part of God’s plan, to show us that he loves us so much, that he would reject his own Son after putting all our sin on him on a cruel cross. Our only discomfort is to watch Jesus die and realize that our sin kept him on the cross. Don’t rush past this. Linger in the discomfort, because it can only get better from here. How will you carry Jesus’s death with you today?
Friday, April 2, 2021 Mark 15:42-47
In the current day our schedules are more often marked by hurry, stress, and overbooking than by peace and waiting. However, the Passion narrative is punctuated by a pregnant pause which births the most glorious of news.
Sometimes, when we are writing we use what is called an “ellipsis”, we all know these better as “…”. We can use these three dots to say that we have left out information, or to say that we have cherry-picked which words of a quote we would like to repeat. However, these three small dots can also tell the audience that there is a pause, or a transition from one topic to another. The burial of Christ is like an essential ellipsis in the Gospel narrative. Without His genuine death, actual burial, and physical resurrection, the grace which we have been given would be nonexistent. However, His burial marks a transition in the story of the Gospel’s progression.
But wait! Imagine being one of the disciples. Christ, who had just promised the coming kingdom of God has been violently put to death as the lowest of criminals. It would seem that all hope is gone. But we know that this is not the end. Hope is not gone. We know that Christ’s death was just the end of the beginning of the story of God’s love for all of humanity. As David Phelps sings,
“He was born of a
virgin one holy night. In the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered round him underneath the stars. Singing praises to the great I Am.
He walked on the water, healed the lame and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though he never ever did a single thing wrong
The angry crowd chose
him. And then he walked down the road
And died on the cross and that was the end of the beginning.
"The end of the
beginning, " he said with a smile. "What more could there be? He's
You said they hung him, put nails in His hands. And a crown of thorns on His head."
I said, "I'll read it again but this time there's more,
And I believe that this is true.
His death wasn't the end, the beginning of life
That's completed in you.
Don't you see he did all this for you!"
Let us all spend these few days left before Easter in quiet consideration of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, and what He is calling us to do with the time which we have been given on His earth. Use this ellipsis from Good Friday to Easter morning to draw closer to God and dwell in His presence with thanksgiving for the sacrifice he made for us and preparing to go forth to sow seeds of love in his name wherever he might call you.
Saturday, April 3, 2021 Mark 16:1-8
Before we talk about our passage for today, let’s first thank God for this 40-day journey we have been on together as a church! To walk with Jesus through the gospel of Mark, and to walk alongside him to the cross and now to the tomb, we have lived and learned a lot from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The goal has been to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for Easter. This goal can be continuous: we can keep on walking with Jesus beyond Easter. So, let’s walk this day together before dawn breaks on Easter Sunday.
In the wee hours of the morning, several close followers of Jesus wanted to show one more act of honor to their beloved Rabbi. They got up early to go to the garden tomb and anoint his body. But as they were walking, according to verse 3, they asked a very practical question: “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Maybe as they walked in faith and caution with the spices in hand, they realized something they should have thought about sooner. Were they not prepared? Had they not thought this through?
The interesting thing for followers of Jesus is we do not always know how God will take care of what he calls us to do. God has solved greater problems than a heavy stone that covered Jesus’s tomb. However, it appears that as soon as they asked this question, they looked up towards the tomb and they saw that this very large stone was rolled away! A miracle! But was that the only miracle? Oh, no. A greater miracle was shown when they entered the tomb: nothing and no one was inside. Well, except for a young man dressed in white (not Jesus).
One of the most favorite opportunities for a child is the chance to do “Show and Tell” at school. Nothing fills a kid with more pride than to bring something from home that he or she is proud of, and then for a few minutes have everyone’s attention to share that something from home. Here, the young man told these followers to come over and see where they laid Jesus’ body that was no longer there…and then “Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” These followers had the opportunity to talk about what they saw and what they heard. “Jesus is going ahead of us. Let’s go to Galilee and we will see him just like he said!”
We see this as an exciting and jubilant scene. But notice how verse 8 reveals this as a trembling and bewildered scene. There was still fear. They were speechless. Thankfully if you read verses 9-20, you’ll see that the good news was told! A miracle greater than a stone being moved…a miracle greater than the blind or lame being healed…a miracle greater than feeding thousands…a miracle as potent as Jesus saying, “Child, your sins are forgiven” came to full reality. We still celebrate that miracle. Keep walking in that miracle. Jesus has risen!