In today’s reading, we focus on the major theme within this letter to the Thessalonians. When will the Lord return? Will it be today? Will it be tomorrow? What is going to happen? What will happen? How do we know? … Continue reading
There are certain biblical passages that I hold close to my heart because I hear them so often and know them so well. Psalm 23. John 3:16. John 14 (in my Fathers house there are many mansions….). One of today’s … Continue reading
I’ve always joked with my churches that I won’t teach Revelation until I’ve been there at least five years because I don’t understand much of it. I subscribe to United Methodist position on the second coming. You know what that … Continue reading
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26 April 16, 2017 is Easter. This is the great day in the life of the church. This is the great day in the history of the cosmos. On this … Continue reading
My friend and mentor Sam Morris always reminds those of us that he teaches that the most dramatic effect of sin is death. Everything in the Law comes back to atoning for death. Death the one great cloud that hangs … Continue reading
Yesterday we looked at the reason behind the way the way that the Gospel of Mark ends. Today we look at Mark 16:1-8:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The Shorter Ending of Mark
[[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]]
One of the things that we see when the women encounter the resurrection is fear. They are afraid. We see it illustrated in other Gospels, they think the body has been stolen or something awful has happened.
Jesus had told them that He would be raised, by they really didn’t get it. They really didn’t understand it. They (may) have known intellectually, but they really didn’t get it emotionally. They struggled to understand it.
For the Jewish mind, death was THE result of the fall. It is what happened because of the fall. The entire Levitical purity system was in many ways about removing the curse of death. If you touched anything dead, you were unclean. Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. The reason the priest and Levite passed by is because the man looked death. The law would not have allowed them to touch him; they would not have been able to do their religious duties.
The high priest must have been born on a house or place that was made of bedrock. Bedrock is pure rock, there is no dirt or soil beneath it, meaning that there was no way there could have been any bones beneath it, meaning that there was no way they could have been born on top of impurity.
(By the way, thinking along those lines, think about where Jesus was born. Most likely in a cave. Pure bedrock.)
This is why they really couldn’t grasp it. You didn’t overcome death. Death was the result of this life. Death is the curse. Death is the result of the fall, death is the result of sin. We all die. All of us. Death wins.
Until this moment. Death has been overcome. Death has been defeated. Death has been destroyed. Sin, death, and the grave are no more. They are vanquished. They are gone. They are no more.
Jesus defeated death. Forever.
We sort of get that and understand it. Sort of. Even we struggle to understand that. Even we are afraid of death like they are. But we know that Jesus has overcome.
The didn’t really get it until they saw Him and understood.
Today, sin, death, and the grave are defeated. They hold no power over you. They are no more. Do not be afraid. Do not worry. Do not fear. They are forever gone and destroyed.
Jesus has defeated them.
Do not fear.
Tomorrow we’ll finish up Mark by looking at Mark 16:9-20.
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Today in Mark 15: 33-41 we look at the death of Jesus:
33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
One of the things it’s easy to do, and frankly you want to do, is skip through this part and get to the good part. Get to the resurrection. We know it’s coming. We know it’s almost there. We know what happens.
I think because we know it, it’s easy for us to forget, they didn’t. I mean, yeah, Jesus told them He would rise from the dead, He told them that He must die and be raised again, so they “knew” but they didn’t get it.
Can you imagine being them? Can you imagine seeing Jesus breath His last before your very eyes, without really believing what is to come?
We see here so much. We see the curtain torn within the Temple. With that happening, no longer must you go to God through the priest, but now all of us, you, me, everyone, we have access to God. Through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, we all have access to the throne room of grace.
We see the fact that Roman centurion saw all that happened, and believed that Jesus was the Son of God. No one does what Jesus did. We all fight for our life, no one lays it down like Jesus did, to save the world. If you ever want to know what love looks like, this right here. If you ever doubt that you are loved, this right here. If you ever feel as though no one cares, this right here.
One other thing, that to me, is truly beautiful about Christianity. Look at who remained? John’s Gospel tells us that he was there as well, but look. It was the women. They stayed. When everyone else fled, they stayed. And look what else the text tells us, they followed and provided for Jesus.
They were part of the team. They were valued. They were important. In that culture, that just wasn’t so. That wasn’t the way that it worked. But in Jesus’ kingdom, that’s the way that it works. All are loved. All are valued. All have a place. Jesus died for all. He died for the world.
And we see that today.
Yes, I know in a few days we’ll read about Easter. But stay here for a while. Remember what He did for us. Remember what He endured for us. Remember.
And be thankful.
Friday we’ll look at Mark 15:42-47.
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I’m a believer in Christ. I am by no means perfect, but I accepted Jesus when I was a senior, I love Him; I believe, and I really do my best to follow every day. I’m a Christian. I fail probably 9 out of 10 times, but I really do try to be faithful.
Let’s say I’m driving down the Gandy Parkway here in Petal. Everyone knows I’m a terrible driver. While driving down the Gandy, I have an accident, and I die.
Let’s say the last words in my mouth on the earth are a string of terrible profanities. Words as a Christian, I shouldn’t think, much less say. Let’s say my last thought on the earth is a terrible thought. And then I die.
What happens? Well, the question I ask is this. Does my sinful last action upon the earth outweigh the faith that I have? Does that sinful last action outweigh my faith, my love of Jesus, and my desire to follow Him? I say no.
See we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are not saved (or condemned) by our actions. By our faith. So, if I have faith, but my last action on the earth is a sin, then what we are saying by saying that would send me to hell is that “that” action would outweigh my faith.
And that simply is not what we believe as Christians. We are saved by grace through faith. We aren’t saved by our good actions, and we aren’t condemned by our sinful actions. We are saved or condemned by our faith in Jesus Christ.
We are not saved or condemned by anything we do. Whether it be now or whether it be our last act. We are saved by grace; we are saved by faith. Not by what we “do.”
So, to suicide, if someone is a believer in Christ. If they are Christian. If they have placed their entire faith in Him, and their last action is a mistake, even a major mistake like suicide, as grave as that is, I do not believe that mistake outweighs their faith.
And I know it doesn’t outweigh God’s grace.
I believe that if they are believer, then that final mistake does not outweigh God’s grace. They are with Him, and have their reward with Him. As a believer, they will spend eternity in heaven with God.
We can also talk long and hard about issues of disease like depression. Clinical depression is a disease, not a moral failing. Those with diabetes or high blood pressure, they are not morally weak; they just have a disease. So is it with clinical depression. And just like those diseases, depression can cause great harm (even death) to the person that is sick. And just like diabetes, if left untreated, depression can really harm a person and their relationships.
Let me say it again, clinical depression is not a moral failing. It is a disease that should be treated. We don’t judge those that have high blood pressure. Why should we judge those that have this disease.
But in short, not matter what our final act upon the earth is, I believe that if our whole faith is in Jesus Christ, we will be with Him in paradise.
Just my two cents.
Today was our last day in the Holy Land. It’s been a great trip. I’ve learned so much. So much of what I have learned and experienced is because of the great work of our leader, Dr. Sam Morris. Sam has been phenomenal and I can’t thank him enough for what he has taught me in this trip.
Today was one of the days where we really walked where Jesus walked. We spent the entire day in the Old City. We started the day off by entering in the city through the Dung Gate. From there we went on top of the Temple Mount, seeing the Al-Aqua Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Leaving there, we saw some steps at the bottom that literally go back to the first temple. Yep, the one that Solomon built. Cool, huh?
After that, we went to the Western Wall. This is the only wall left standing from Herod’s Temple after Rome destroyed the city and the temple. This is the holiest place in all of Judaism. We were able to go and pray there. It was pretty neat.
From there, we went to the teaching steps. This is where Jesus would have taught from, specifically the Seven Woes found in Matthew. So, standing here, we literally stood where Jesus stood. We know that we know that we know that we know Jesus stood here and taught. There is no doubt.
After that, we went to Bethesda where He healed the man on the Sabbath. And from there we walked down the Via Delarosa ending up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the actual site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Hear me, y’all. This is the actual site of these things.
We got to touch Mt. Calvary. We got to see the place where the earthquake spilt open the mountain. We got to touch where the cross was put in the ground. We got to see the place that Sam feels very confident in the actual tomb, we got to see what a tomb would have looked like, and we got to the traditional spot of the tomb.
And this is my take away from today, and really from the entire trip. As we were in a tomb that is next to the actual tomb, we read the story of the crucifixion and burial. We prayed. And then we sang together “Up From the Grave He Arose.” From next to the spot where He arose from.
It was amazing. I’m tearing up right now thinking about it. To sing of His death, and then to sing “Death could not keep its prey” is amazing.
And that’s my take away. As awesome as this place is (and you each need to come. Really. It will change your life and your faith) this is even more amazing. Up from the grave He arose!
Where oh death is your victory? Where oh death is your sting?
Sin, death, and the grave are defeated! Christ is victorious! Through Him, we have nothing to fear. We have won.
We are not a people of places or of churches. We are people of relationships. With each other. And with God.
I’ve been convicted of my sin this week by seeing the places where my Lord suffered from. I have felt that strong hand of conviction on my heart in this week. I have been reminded of what my sin cost my Lord.
Today, through, I was reminded of this – He is not dead. He is alive.
Death could not hold Him down. The grave could not keep Him.
My sin, your sin, it has been paid for. Jesus has paid the price. And the grave is empty. Death has been defeated!
We are not judged. We are not condemned. We are not forsaken.
We are loved. We are freed. We are given grace.
Today, I’ve seen the tomb. And hear me friends. It is empty! Life has won.
He is not in the ground. He is not here. He’s in us.
Up from the grave He arose! Wow! Yes! Praise Jesus!
Live forgiven. For you are. You are a forgiven child of God. Live in that grace today!
See you back in the good ole US of A.
I just got back from the Mississippi Annual Conference this past weekend. It’s the yearly gathering of pastors from all around the state. There are times of worship, times of business, times of reflection.
And in the state of the current United Methodist Church, times of sadness. We closed more churches in Mississippi last year than we started. We had more pastors retire than were commissioned for ministry. Our budget remains very, very tight, and we are only meeting 80% of it.
Not to mention all controversies that swirl around the national/international church.
But it’s not just the Methodists that struggle. Every denomination has plateaued. The largest growing religions group in our nation is “those not affiliated,” meaning they aren’t part of a church.
We see these things locally with many churches in our hometowns struggling to grow, to meet their financial obligations, to be relevant in their communities.
So, with all that in mind, listen to what Jesus says to Peter today in Matthew 16:17-18:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The gates of hell will not triumph against His church. God will win. Good will win. The Body of Christ will be victorious in the end.
The church is His body and His bride, and He will return for Her one day. So, yes, in 2012, it may look like things are bad, but, His word tells us that He will win.
Evil will not. Death will not. Pain will not.
Good will win. In life. In the church. In the universe.
In your life.
So, hold on, hold fast. Help is on the way. Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t forget.
God will win.
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