Day Twenty-Seven with Mark: Mark 7:1-23

The next few days we’ll dig a little deeper into Mark 7:1-23:

The Tradition of the Elders
7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.  5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

9 Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God — 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

traditionWhat I want to do the next two days is today talk a little bit about the notion of “tradition” and then on Friday talk about some of the specifics Jesus is talking about in this passage.

Today we see Jesus talking about the tradition of the elders.  We have talked about this before with the Pharisees but what is happening here is that after the Jews returned from the exile, their failure to keep the covenant was a primary motivation for them.  They were determined not to make the same the same mistakes of the past. So, they set up rules and laws that the people had to follow to ensure that they would not break the law.

These new, non-biblical rules became passed down as the traditions of the elders. They weren’t biblical like the law, but they became codified as that tradition.

So, because of passages like this, we have become very wary of tradition.  Some churches and people would not affirm historic documents like the Apostle’s Creed because they will not affirm “man made” doctrine or traditions like that.  For some believers, the notion of tradition is still something to be aware of.

However, for the tribe that I’m part of, the United Methodist Church, we affirm tradition as one of the ways that God affirms Himself and teaches us. So, how can we (and other) churches put validity into tradition while Jesus clearly condemns it here?

There at two types of tradition.  There is what I call “little t” tradition and what I call “big T” Tradition.  Little t tradition is normally tied to the things that happen that local community or church. They are individual and vary from place to place.  They may be good traditions, they may be bad traditions. But they are local to that place or region or time.

Big T Tradition is the faith handed down to us by our parents and grandparents.  The teachings of Wesley, of Calvin, of Luther, of Lewis, of Aquinas, of Francis.  This is the faith that has been passed down for thousands of years from the Apostles.  The teaching of the Christian church for over 2000 years.

This Tradition, it is very good.  It is not perfect, it is not scripture, it doesn’t carry the same weight or authority as scripture, but it has much to teach us about who God is and what we believe as Christians.

This tradition is very good.

So, when you hear talk about tradition, be clear on what the tradition is.  Is it “little t” or “big T?”  Tradition can teach us so very much.  May we have discerning hearts on this, and all things.

Friday we’ll look at Mark 7:1-23 some more.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day Fifteen with Mark: Mark 4:21-34

Today in Mark 4:21-34, we are going to look at three parables of Jesus.

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The Use of Parables
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples

First, we have the Lamp under a bushel basket.  Ok, a couple of things here.  With parables, you have to remember that this is not to be taken “literally.”  What I mean is this is an illustration or a story.  It’s true, and it illustrates truth, but Jesus is trying to communicate something deeper here.  So, for instance, in the Gospels, light is often seen as a symbol for truth or for Jesus Himself.

So, in this parable, we’ve been given truth.  And we can’t hide that truth.  Truth will come out. What is done is secret, God knows.  But this measure of what we’ve been given is talking about the truth we’ve been given.  The “light.”  So, the more we respond to the truth, the more we search the scriptures, the more we seek God, the more we desire Him, the more of Him we will we know and will receive.  Likewise, the less we seek, the less we search, the less of Him we will know.

Today, we’ve been shown light.  And keeping with the theme of the parables, our response to that light will determine how much more light we receive.

The second parable we hear today is the parable of the growing seed.  In this, the kingdom of God is the seed.  It is planted but notice, it doesn’t grow because of the work of man, but it grows because of the Will of God.  We look up and marvel at what God has done and wonder to ourselves, how did that happen?  And the answer is God.  It happened because God was the one that was at work.  It wasn’t our will or our efforts that made it happen, it was God’s.

Remember, that God is the one that does the work.  Never mistake our faithfulness for God’s work.  God is the one at work.  We along aside beside Him.  But He is the instigator, He is the sustainer, He is the one that makes it happen.  And we look out and wonder, how that happen?  God.  That’s how.

mustardseed_1And our last parable today is mustard seed.  This is the one that we are most familiar with of these three parables.  The kingdom of God is like that mustard seed.  It’s small.  But when it grows roots, it changes everything.  The Gospel is not complicated.  It’s just hard to understand.  I heard someone put it like this.  The love of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but some complicated the greatest theologian can’t fathom it.

All of these parables, what is the emphasis upon?  The Kingdom.  The work and will of God.  He plants it, He grows it, He sustains it, we marvel at it.  Our job is to be receptive.  To do our part.  To listen, to receive, to obey, and to fan the flame that God puts within us.

Let’s be faithful.  But let’s know that it is God that is work within us.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 4:35-41.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day Nine with Mark: Mark 3:7-11

Today in our daily readings with Mark, we look at Mark 3:7-11, entitled A Multitude at the Seaside and Jesus Appoints the Twelve:

A Multitude at the Seaside
7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8 hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 9 He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10 for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!”

slide-10-jesus-on-boatIn these this passage, we people drawn to Jesus.  And you know who they were?  Everyone?  All types of people were drawn to Jesus.  We see in the first section we see where people came to Jesus from.  Everywhere.  Judea, Jerusalem, across the Jordan, everywhere.  People came to hear Jesus from everywhere.

And here’s the thing about that, coming to Galilee to hear Jesus was not an easy thing to do. It wasn’t easy to get there, people had responsibilities and jobs to do and there weren’t just able to take off and go off to hear Him.  And above all that, who wants to go up to Galilee?  People were used to going to Jerusalem to the Temple. They were used to and accustomed to that.

But to Galilee?  That’s beneath so many of them. Nope.  No reason I’d do that.  Not gonna happen.

Except there was a reason.  And that reason was Jesus.  They needed healing and life. And Jesus had that.  And they were willing to go wherever they needed to go to find that healing and life.  They were attracted to Jesus.

And I think there are two major things we need to be aware of in this.

First, are we drawn to Him in that same way?  They knew that Jesus was the hope that they need for their life. And so they came to Him, from near and far, seeking that hope, seeking that life.  What about us in our lives?  Do we know, do we truly know, that Jesus is that hope in our lives?  And are we willing to do what we must to be in relationship with Him?

Now, for us, that may not mean traveling across America.  It may mean waking up a little early to pray.  It may mean inconveniencing ourselves in some way to seek Him.  It may me changing some things in our lives to know Him better.  The people in the text came from near and far and went through much to know Jesus.  How about us?

And second, see how people are always attracted to Jesus.  That’s one of the things that I always notice in scripture, people that don’t know Jesus are attracted to Jesus.  Are others drawn to Him through us?  As His Body, here on the earth, as those that have indwelling of the Holy Spirit, are people wanting to meet Jesus because of us.

That doesn’t mean that we are perfect, it means that we are different.

Today, do we desire to truly know Jesus?  And do others desire to know Jesus because of us?

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 3:13-19.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day Three with Mark: Mark 1:16-28

Today in our journey through Mark, we will be looking at Mark 1:16-28.  These sections are entitled Jesus Calls the First Disciples and The Man with an Unclean Spirit:

Jesus Calls the First Disciples
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

In our first section, we see Jesus calling His first disciples. There are a couple of interesting things that we see in this passage. First, notice a word that you will see over and over again in the Gospel of Mark – immediately.  Jesus calls them and they immediately leave and follow behind.  In Mark, Jesus is a man of action.  He is always moving, always going, always calling, always teaching.  He moves with purpose. And He calls us to do the same.  He comes, and immediately, people follow Him.  As Christians, we are called to be like Him, to be active, to go, to serve, to take that “Good News” with us!

We see who he calls – fisherman.  Common, ordinary, uneducated, fishermen.  He didn’t go to the expected places to call His disciples.  He went to places where they were willing to follow.  He calls all of us to follow; likewise there is no one that He doesn’t call.  Just because you aren’t perfect or powerful or a preacher doesn’t mean that He hasn’t called you.  That also means that there may be someone who you wouldn’t think to call, that God has called.

When he calls them, they leave behind their family. That doesn’t sound like a big deal in our culture, almost all of us leave home and make our way in the world. That didn’t happen in their world. That wasn’t the way that it worked.  You didn’t leave home.  You didn’t depart from  your family, especially to follow a preacher that you just met.  But they did.  Immediately.  Why?  Well the next section tells us.

20060904-xt-in-synagogueWe see in verses 21-28 that Jesus teaches with authority.  He is different from the religious leaders of the day.  He taught differently.  He was different. And that is THE thing we see in these two passages.  The disciples, they realize He is different.  The people in the synagogue, they realize He is different.  Even the unclean spirit, he knows that He is different.  He has authority.

Jesus is the king of kings.  The Lord of Lords.  He is God Himself.  He loves us, but He is not just a common ordinary person.  He is God in the flesh.  He is King.  He is savior.

And He demands our worship.  Our obedience.  Our devotion.  He is a lot of things.  But is not common.

He calls us to attention.

Today, does Jesus Christ have our attention?  Or is just background noise?  Is He the Lord or our lives?

Jesus demands that we pay attention.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 1:29-45.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Tuesday of Holy Week 2012

On Tuesday of Holy Week, we see Jesus do a lot of teaching. On this day, Jesus spends time teaching.

He teaches the disciples. He teaches the crowd. He teaches even the scribes and the teachers of the law. He knew that His time was drawing short. He knew what awaited Him. And He knew that in these last few days He needed to leave the people with core and the truth of His teaching.

So, on this Tuesday, He teaches on a variety of things. But listen to He really stresses today in Mark 12:28-31:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Someone asks Him what is the most important of all the commandments. That’s a big question, there are a lot of commandments. But this is what He says in response.

Love. Love of God. Love of neighbor. That’s what the Christian life is supposed to look like. Love.

We are to love God with all that we are. Chase after Him. Seek to know Him better through study, through prayer, though worship. We are to seek to love God with every fiber of our being.

And then we are to take that love that we feel from God, and love each other in the same manner. Love each other, serve each other, forgive each other.

Love of God. Love of neighbor. That sums of the Christian life. The sums up the 10 Commandments. That sums it all up.

Today, may we take this teaching and apply it to our lives. May we love. May we love God. May we love our neighbor. And in doing that we find life, and may we live the way that our Lord intends!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.