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Mark 9-16

THE ACTION GOSPEL – JESUS AS SERVANT

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL OF
MARK

 

Jesus' forerunner John the Baptist (1:1-4)
Jesus' preparation for ministry (1:9-13)
Jesus' Galilean ministry (1:14-7:23)
Jesus' withdrawal from Galilee (7:24-9:29)
Jesus' final ministry in Galilee (9:30-50)
Jesus' ministry in Judea and Perea (10)
Jesus' last days (11-15)
Jesus' resurrection (16:1-8)
The disputed verses (16:9-20)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
Mark

1. The author: There is nothing in this Gospel that tells us the identity of the author.  Church tradition tells us that the author was John Mark.  "The earliest church fathers agree with one voice that Mark wrote his Gospel while he was a companion of Peter . . . " "The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. Copyright 2012 by InterVarsity Press."

2. John Mark:  We first learn of him in Acts 12:12:  "When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying."  Mark later accompanied the apostle Paul and his uncle Barnabas on a mission of mercy during a famine in Jerusalem. See Acts 11:27-30, 12:25  Mark also accompanied them on their first missionary journey, but he left them in the middle of the journey. See Acts 13:5, 13  Mark's desire to accompany them on their second missionary journey resulted in a division between Paul and Barnabas. See Acts 15:36-41  Mark, though, later became a valued servant of the Lord.  He was valued by both Paul and Peter.  "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11)  "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark." (1 Peter 5:13) See also Col. 4:10; Philem. 23-24

3. The date it was written:  If Matthew and Luke used the Gospel of Mark as source, then Mark is the oldest Gospel.  Then, its date would be somewhere from the 50s to the early 60s.  Others offer that it was written as late as AD 70.

4. The theme:  A common view on Mark is that it is the action Gospel that emphasizes Jesus' action and His service.  The word "immediately" in the KJV is found in 1:31,42, 2:8,12, 4:5,15,16,17,29, 5:30, 6:27,50, 10:52, 14:43.  See also 1:12,18,28 and 42 for other examples of actions and immediacy.

5. Omissions in Mark:  There is no genealogy, nothing on Jesus' birth and childhood, no Sermon on the Mount, and only a short denunciation of the Pharisees (see Matt. 23 where there is a long denunciation of the Pharisees).

 

THE MESSAGE OF MARK

As we begin the second half of the Gospel of Mark, we come to Jesus' final ministry in Galilee and Perea; and then we come to Jesus' last days. 

JESUS' FINAL MINISTRY IN GALILEE (9:30-50)

1. Jesus predicts His death. (9:30-32)
"They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.' But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that they were unable to really hear and understand what He was saying so clearly to them about His coming death and resurrection?

 

 

Jesus again states that he is going to die and "rise" from the dead.  But, the "disciples" "did not understand what he meant."  Denial is choosing not to believe what we do not want to believe.  They, at that time, could not "bear" (Jn. 16:12) to hear that their beloved teacher and leader was shortly going to die.

"Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples."  At the end of His ministry, Jesus focused on His closest followers.  It would not be long before He would be gone and they would need to carry on without His constant presence.  He would not leave them, though, as "orphans."  "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:16-18)

"But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it."  "It is easy to read that as though they were afraid that if they asked him he might rebuke them.  But the striking thing is that Jesus never once rebuked anybody for asking a question.  He rebuked his disciples often for not having much faith, for remaining unbelieving in spite of all that they had seen; but he never rebuked them for asking questions. . . . So it is clear that what held them back was the fear of knowing more about it.  When someone has brought up a subject that you do not like, have you ever said, "Well, let's not talk about it, or, if you were expected to ask questions, have you refused because you did not want to know any more about the subject?  We all tend to bury our heads in the sand at times to think that if we do not look at something, it will go away."  "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

2. Jesus' disciples argue about who is the greatest (9:33-37) See also Matt. 18:1-5; Lk. 9:46-48
"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.' He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.'"

Thought Question: According to the words of Jesus in these verses, how should we measure greatness today?

 

 

"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.'"  The disciples were embarrassed about what they "arguing about."  They were "arguing about" "who was the greatest."  They needed to talk about this subject away from Jesus, for they knew that He would not approve of them discussing it.

We are not told why they were "arguing" over "who was the greatest," but we can make an educated guess.  Only three of them went up on the mountain.  There may have been jealousy among those who were not selected to go up on that mountain. See 9:2-13  Peter had been singled out after identifying Jesus as the Messiah. See 8:27-30  He has also been strongly rebuked. See 8:31-33  It is not hard to see how the personal attention Peter and the three disciples received could have stirred up an argument over "who was the greatest."  And, we can also easily understand why it was not a subject they wanted to discuss in Jesus' presence.  Much of our inappropriate discussions will end if we remember that we are always in the presence of Jesus.

"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.'"  Jesus immediately reveals to them the difference between those whom men see as great and those whom God sees as great.  Man's idea of greatness is being able to outcompete others in such things as gaining a success in society; gaining wealth; and gaining power and authority over others.  Those who have been the greatest using this standard are men and women like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, and our modern business tycoons.  But, Jesus' model for success is much different than our model.  Jesus Himself is much different than Alexander the Great.  Alexander the Great took the lives of thousands to gain power over men.  Jesus gave His life for thousands, that He might give His power and life to men.  One represents the greatest selfishness and the Other represents the greatest selflessness and love.  The disciples were thinking that Jesus was about to become like Alexander the Great.  And, also, they believed that they were competing for positions of exaltation, pride, and power in His kingdom that would be like Alexander the Great's kingdom.  They had it wrong, just as we can have it wrong. See also Mk. 10:43-45; Matt. 23:8-12; Lk. 22:24-30

"He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.'"  Those who are great in Jesus' eyes are those who are like our children's Sunday School teachers.  The children's teacher is far from the most prestigious position in the church.  Often, it is just the opposite.  Normally, people are not offended that they are not asked to teach a children's Sunday School class.  Whereas, being an adult and college teacher is a prestigious position in a church, it is hard to get the people needed to teach children's Sunday School and children's church.  But, Jesus tells us here that teaching "children" is more likely to be done out of a heart of service to them.  For, teaching children is not a place of prestige or power in a church.  It is a place of service.  Other positions of more prestige can, of course, also be done out of a heart of service.

The truly great are those who live their lives seeking after what they can do for others; rather than seeking after what they can get from others.  Children, like orphans and widows, have little to offer us.  They mostly require that we give them our concentration, effort, and time; while receiving very little in return that we can see. See James 1:27

I worked for many years in a chemical dependency treatment program with incarcerated youths.  I often wondered how much of what they were taught, exposed to, and confronted with would stick and affect their futures.  Nevertheless, we believed that our work was important and needed to be done.  It was a type of service where we who worked in it received very little back, but it was important that it was done.

Barclay puts it like this:  "In effect Jesus here says that we ought to seek out not those who can do things for us, but those for whom we can do things, . . . This is another way of saying, 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:40)." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

3. Jesus corrects His disciples for being opposed to someone who was actually on His side. (9:38-40)
"'Teacher,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said. 'No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.'"

Thought Question: How does this teaching of Jesus apply to us today?

 

 

These words of "John" can easily be applied across the Christian world.  If someone does not think, believe, act exactly like we do; we can divide ourselves from them.  The ways we look on those who disagree with us, determines whether or not we have a loving or prideful spirit.  The Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 saw himself as superior in every way to the tax collector in the parable.  Yet, it was the tax collector that Jesus approved of, for he was humble before God.

We are to "contend for the faith" (Jude 3), for the truths in the Bible are always in danger of being altered or omitted.  But, we should not correct others in a prideful way.  We are to humbly and gently correct those who are in error.  "And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (II Timothy 2:24-26)

"for whoever is not against us is for us.'"  There are many in churches and denominations who outwardly look and sound different than us in their building architecture, music style, dress, Bible translation that is used, and the order of service; but, inwardly, the people desire what we desire.  We should delight in what we have in common and not despise them because they do not look and sound like we do.

On a recent sabbatical, my wife Shirley and I attended a different church each week.  What I noticed is that in many of the churches, because there was so little difference between them, you could have switched signs on the outside of the church buildings.  I also noticed that we can learn much from each other.  For, often, when one church is weak in some area, another church is strong.  Here are some ways some churches are strong where other churches are not as strong: in verse by verse teaching of the Bible, whole-hearted worship, strong discipleship ministry, missions of mercy, international missions' emphasis, chemical dependency recovery ministry, youth ministry, marriage enrichment, children's ministry, evangelistic outreach, strong core of mature Christians, a gracious and humble spirit, genuine care for each other, and more.  We can look at other churches and individuals and see only what they are doing that is different than the way that we do it; or, we can rejoice that they are also serving God.

James describes the proper attitude we should have toward our fellow Christians.  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)  We are to purify ourselves of "envy and selfish ambition." (James 3:16)  Then, we will not despise each other, but learn from each other.  And, we will enjoy all of those who are on the same team as us.  "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3)

4. Jesus gives His disciples warnings. (9:41-50) See also Matt. 18:6-9
"'I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”'"

Thought Question: When can we cause a little one "to sin"?

 

 

"'I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.'"  We can wonder about what rewards in the next life will be like and what we will be rewarded for.  Here, Jesus tells us that small kindnesses will both be remembered by God and be rewarded.  Especially, will we be rewarded for what is done for one of Jesus' children.  We who are parents notice a small act of kindness that is done for one of our children.  So, God notices a small act of kindness that is done toward one of His children. See also Matt. 10:42, 25:31-46

"'And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.'"  If someone leads our children into sin (the opposite of showing kindness to him or her); we see them as enticing our child on a destructive path.  That person will be remembered by us as a villain.  So, God sees those who lead His children into sin as being villains.

"'it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.'"  Jesus uses the strongest language to describe the seriousness of leading one of God's "little ones" astray.  To be cast "into the sea with a large millstone tied around" one's "neck," pictures a horror to his listeners—to be pulled down into the depths of the "sea" by a large stone that could only be moved by large animal like an ass or an ox.  It would be a terrifying death to face.  Jesus' point is that this type of death would be better than what will happen to those who "causes one of" God's "little ones" "to sin."  It is the strongest of warnings to those who were leading Israel away from God.  They now know the seriousness of their sin and the consequences of their sin—as they have died and are now in the presence of God.

"'If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,"'

"Verses 44, 46 are not found in important early manuscripts of the NT.  Verses 44, 46 are identical with v. 48." "NIV Study Bible note."

There are times when a "hand," "foot," or an "eye" need to be removed for the good of the person.  For example, a cancerous or a gangrenous "hand" or "foot" can need to be amputated so that the cancer or gangrene will not spread to the other parts of the body.  In these cases, one's life is at stake.  In Jesus' example, one's eternal state is in jeopardy.  There are sinful patterns in our lives that must be removed in order for us to follow Christ into eternal life.  Bitterness, for example, needs to be excised from our heart.  Bitterness cannot be taken with us on the narrow road to eternal life.  We need to choose to cut it out of our life.  Following Christ involves repentance from sins such as bitterness, lust, pride, greed, slander, and other sinful parts of our life.

"hell"  "The word for 'hell' is 'gehenna.'  Gehenna was the name of a valley outside Jerusalem.  It was a place where some of the kings had offered their children to the god Moloch to be burned with fire.  It was a defiled place, and it became the garbage dump of Jerusalem.  Fires smoldered there continuously; repulsive and ugly worms ate the garbage.  That becomes the symbol of the eternal waste of life." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books." See II Chron. 28:3, 33:6; II Kings 23:10

If anyone chooses sin over God, he or she has chosen a worthless life that is like the trash that is thrown into the garbage of gehenna.  Gehenna became a way to picture the fires of hell. See Isa. 66:24; Matt. 5:22, 29-30, 10:28, 18:9 23:33;  Lk. 12:5

"'Everyone will be salted with fire.'"  "For everyone will be salted with fire is a puzzling statement that occurs only in Mark, and many interpretations have been proposed:  (1) Against the background of Lev. 2:13, 'with all your offerings you shall offer salt' (see also Ezek. 42:24), some think Jesus means that believers themselves are now what is being offered to God (cf. Rom. 12:1), and the 'salt' that is in them is the purifying 'fire' of God's Spirit.  The cleansing and purifying properties of salt support this idea, but this is surely and obscure way to refer to the Holy Spirit, and the connection to the larger context of Mark 9:43-48 is unclear.  (2) A second interpretation also views believers as a sacrifice to God against that same OT background but understands the salt to represent purification by the 'fire' of suffering and hardship, which is related to the costliness of discipleship implied in the willingness to give up anything (vv. 43-48), and also to suffer for Christ's sake, for something costly and painful will come into everyone's life (v. 49).  But the 'salt' and the 'fire' also make the sacrifice pleasing to God and have a purifying effect on the believer.  And as salt does not destroy but preserves food, so suffering will not destroy the believer.  (3) Others think that 'everyone' means both believers and unbelievers, and thus the verse teaches that unbelievers will undergo the terrible fires of God's judgment (cf. vv. 47-48), but believers will not experience hell will still in this life undergo the purifying, cleansing fire of God that comes through hardship and suffering.  Interpretations (2) and (3) are similar, (2) being perhaps the best." ESV Study Bible note.

Both unbelievers and believers undergo purification.  Unbelievers are purified by hell's fires.  Believers are purified through trials and God's judgment of our lives.  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:3-7)  "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."   (I Corinthians 3:12-15)

"'“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”'" See Matt. 5:13; Lk.14:34-35  "Salt" represents purification from sin and selfishness—similar to cutting off the part of us that defiles us.  Salt, then, represents purity and  Christ-likeness.  If Christianity loses its Christ-likeness, what good is it?  We are to be Christ-like and to "be at peace with each other."  Within the context, we are to seek to remove sin and selfishness from us and to live "at peace with each other."  When this does not occur, our church communities do not represent our Lord and Savior as they were meant to. See James 3:13-4:10; Eph. 4:17-5:2; Col. 3:1-17

JESUS' MINISTRY IN JUDEA AND PEREA (10)

1. Jesus teaches about divorce. (10:1-12) See Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-12
"Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' 'What did Moses command you?' he replied. They said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.' 'It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,' Jesus replied. 'But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female.” “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.' When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, 'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.'"

Thought Question: How do these verses apply to divorce and remarriage today?

 

 

"Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them."  This verse covers a period of time in Jesus' ministry that is described in more detail in Luke 9:51-18:14 and John 7-11.  "One-third of Luke's Gospel comes in here." ." "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  This chapter describes Jesus' ministry just before He heads to Jerusalem for the last time.

"Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'"  This is still a major issue today among religious people, and it is even a major issue among evangelical Christians.  Some Christian teachers believe that divorce and remarriage are never permissible by God; whereas, other Christian teachers believe that divorce is permissible under certain circumstances.  Jesus, though, was not asked this question because these "Pharisees" wanted to know Jesus' answer—so it would help them come to their own conclusions about divorce.  Rather, it was meant to be a trap.  For, however He answered, He would alienate those on one side or the other of the controversy on this subject that was raging among religious leaders at that time. 

At the time that I am writing these words (March 2015), the race for the 2016 presidential race is heating up.  Reporters are doing just what the "Pharisees" did with Jesus.  They are asking pointed questions that they believe that the presidential candidates cannot answer without alienating one half of the voters.  For example, on presidential candidate who is a pastor's son was asked if he believed in evolution.

The controversy about "divorce" in Jesus' time was between two schools of "Pharisees"—those following Rabbi Shammai and those following Rabbi Hillel.  They differed over the meaning of "something indecent" in Deuteronomy 24:1.  In this verse, divorce was permitted if a wife did "something indecent."  Hillel believed that "something indecent" meant that a man could divorce his wife for just about anything; Shammai believed divorce was only allowed when there was adultery.  The "Pharisees" were attempting to draw Jesus into that controversy by getting Him to commit Himself to one side or the other; thus, alienating those who were on the other side of the controversy.  Of course, as we see with our   modern-day reporters, this type of thing still happens today.

"'What did Moses command you?' he replied. They said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.' 'It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,' Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female.” “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'"

We can see from Jesus' words that what was found in Deuteronomy 24—permitting "divorce" for "something indecent"—was "permitted," but it was not God's original intent for marriage.  The "certificate of divorce" was a means that God chose to use to slow down the number of divorces in the Jewish community.  For example, a man could not divorce his wife and marry another woman; and then, later, return to his former wife.  This was prohibited in Deuteronomy 24.  "then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:4) 

The "Pharisees" wanted to focus on the controversy; for their purpose was to cause some people to divide themselves from Jesus.  Jesus' focus was on God's original intention in marriage.  Its purpose was not to divide people, but to unite a man and women into "one."

"'“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”'"  "The word 'leave' (kataleipo) is a strong word.  The simple verb mean 'to leave' the prefixed preposition kata, being used to intensify the already existing idea in the verb.  The compound word means 'to leave behind, to depart from, to forsake.'  The word 'cleave' is proskollao 'to glue to, to join one's self to, to cleave closely, to stick to.'  The idea in the verb therefore includes the initial act of joining one's self to another and then remaining thus joined." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, 'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.'"  In Matthew 19:9, Matthew records an exception clause.  "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”" (Matthew 19:9)  Mark chooses not to record this statement of Jesus. See also Matt. 5:32

Jesus, by taking them back to God's original intention for marriage, made it clear that the "Pharisees" should not be looking for loopholes to justify "divorce"; but they should have been focused on preserving God's original intent for marriage—as we also should be seeking to preserve God's original intention for marriage.

A marriage is a lifetime bond.  If one of the marriage partner "divorces" his or her partner, he or she "commits adultery."   Why is this so?  It is because their legal divorce did not end their marriage in the eyes of God.

"'And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.'"  Matthew only mentions a man divorcing his wife.  That is because in the Jewish world that Matthew was writing to only men could "divorce."  In the Roman world that Mark was writing to, both men and women could "divorce."  "Greek and Roman law allowed the divorce of the husband by the wife though not provided for in Jewish law." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

2. Jesus teaches concerning little children. (10:13-16) See also  Matt. 19:13-15; Lk. 18:15-17
"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

Thought Question: How do these verses about children apply to how we treat children today?

 

 

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them,"  This is similar to the baby dedication time that takes place in some churches.

"Children" are greatly valued by some, but are seen as nuisances by others.  It appears that Jesus' "disciples" saw the "children" that were being brought to Jesus as "little" nuisances.  Jesus saw them much differently.  Jesus saw the "little children" as those who were most receptive to Him.

"Children" do the opposite of what prevents adults from being receptive to Jesus.  They are less like to pretend to be one thing while actually being something else.  If you are boring them, they are likely to tell you.  Adults may feign interest, while actually having no interest in what you are saying.  Children are more likely to be receptive to the simple truths of the Bible; whereas, adults may see it as all being irrelevant to their self-focused life.  One evening a week, my wife and I help little children memorize verses.  With the youngest children, I sit on the floor.  As they come to me, we either practice the verse until they can recite it from memory or, if they are ready, they recite it to me immediately.  I have not had adults come to me in this way.  It goes without saying that we must provide the opportunity for "little children" to get to know Jesus while they are still in such a receptive state.

"he was indignant."  It "is a strong word of deep emotion (from agan and achthomai, to feel pain)." "Robertson." 

Since our sinless Lord felt strong "indignation," it is appropriate for Christians, at times, to have this feeling.  We just need to be very careful that this "indignation" is felt at the appropriate times.  It is appropriate when we see others mistreated; but it can easily turn into something ugly when we believe that we are the one being mistreated.

"'anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'"  The "kingdom of God" is what we experience when Christ the Lord rules in our lives.  "Children" can be taught Jesus' rule in their lives more easily than adults.  "Children" are also more receptive when they see God ruling in the lives of adults.  They want to know how they are supposed to live.  When they see it in us, they think this is the way they are supposed to live also.

"'I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'"  Those who become Christians as adults often display a delightful childlikeness.  They are like "little children" as they ask their sincere questions.  Years ago, there was a new Christian in our church who attended the adult Sunday School class I taught.  I loved having her in the Sunday School class because of her sincere questions.  She found every topic that we discussed fascinating and new.  Each Sunday she kept the class lively with her thought-provoking questions.  Her faith was real and it has, over the years, been passed on to her extended family members.  Though that was the late 1970s, our friendship is still strong.

New Christians are also trusting as "little children" are trusting.  They are, therefore, to be protected from false teachers.  "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)  "I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him." (1 John 2:26-27) See also Ephesians 4:14-15

3. The rich young ruler (10:17-31) See also Matt. 19:16-30; Lk. 18:18-30
"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”' 'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.' Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.' Peter said to him, 'We have left everything to follow you!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'"

Thought Question #1: How does how Jesus responded to this rich young ruler apply to us today?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Does what Jesus said to this rich young man mean that we also are to sell all we have before we can follow Christ?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'"  We learn in 10:22 that this man "had great wealth."  We learn in Luke 18:18 that he was a "ruler."  We learn in Matthew 19:22 that he was a "young man."  So, if we put these verses together, we come up with the way that he is most commonly designated: "the rich young ruler."

So, if a rich young government official came to our church, would we treat him as Jesus treated this rich young man?  The first thing Jesus does is to rebuke him for calling Him "good."  What he called Jesus was correct, but the young "man" did not realize what he was saying.  By calling Jesus "good," he was calling Him God; for only God is "good."  The Bible is clear that none of us are "good."  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."  (Ecclesiastes 7:20) See also Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 2:16; James 2:10-11; Jer. 17:9; Isa. 6:5, 64:6  Though all mean are sinful, Jesus was without sin.  "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?" (John 8:46)

The young man is asking a question similar to the question the Philippian jailer asked in Acts 16:30:  " . . . 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'"  But, this man, different from the Philippian jailer, thought he could save himself.  But, the first step toward gaining salvation is to come to realize that no person can earn his or her own salvation.  "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

"'You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”' 'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.'"  This young "man" appears to have been sincere in his attempt to obey God's law.  Many do what this young man did.  They see God as grading on the curve.  And if we are doing better than the average law-keeper, we will be saved.  But the Bible teaches that there are two ways to get to heaven—Plan A and    Plan B.  Plan A requires us to perfectly obeying God's Law.  In Plan A, only those who are perfect are able to get to heaven.  Since no one but God is perfect, no one gets to heaven by Plan A.  Plan B is by grace.  It is by putting our dependence on what Jesus did on the cross for us—He died to pay the penalty for all of our sins.  This young "man" was, at this point, focused on trying to earn "eternal life." 

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."  Following Christ requires that we see Him as our greatest treasure.  "'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.'" (Matthew 13:44-46)

This rich, young ruler saw his wealth as being of greater value to him than having a relationship with God.  "He went away sad, because" he realized that he could not have both his riches and a relationship with God at the same time.  He could not serve two masters.  He chose his wealth as his master rather than the Lord as his Master.  He did what Demas did.  "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. . . ." (II Timothy 4:10)

If we choose to seek our happiness in a relationship with God, nothing can take that away from us—neither loss of health, loss of money, damage to our possessions and even relationship problems can prevent us from growing closer to God.  On the other hand, if we seek happiness through money, we can easily lose it—and with the loss of it, there goes our hope for happiness.

"Jesus looked at him and loved him."  This statement is found in Mark alone.  Why did Jesus look at him in love?  Mark may simply be revealing here how Jesus looked at everyone.  He sees our need and He sees how our sinfulness is leading us down wrong paths as we seek to meet our needs.  This young "man" wanted to get right with God, but at that moment he valued money over what would have met his deepest need. 

Does this mean that we are all to "sell everything" and "give to the poor"?  What it means is that we are to give up all that we see as more valuable than our relationship with God and seek Him first of all.  If He is not the Ruler of all, He is not the Ruler at all.  Whatever is number one in our life above Him prevents Him from being number one in our life.  "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

"Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"  Why were the "disciples" "amazed" when He said, "'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God''?  Barclay gives us this explanation:  "The reason for their amazement was that Jesus was turning Jewish standards completely upside down.  Popular Jewish morality was simple.  It believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man.  If a man was rich, God must have honored and blessed him.  Wealth was proof of excellence of character and of favour with God. . . . No wonder the disciples were surprised!  They would have argued that the more prosperous a man was the more certain he was of entry into the Kingdom." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

The "disciples" thought that the rich could most easily enter Jesus' kingdom.  They did not understand that the very opposite was true.  "Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (James 2:5)  "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are," (I Corinthians 1:26-28) See also Matt. 5:3-6  And, so, from their perspective, if the "rich" had a "hard" time entering the "kingdom God," it would be even harder for the poor to "enter the kingdom of God.''

"'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"  Cole makes the following comment on how to interpret this verse:  "It is tempting to read in this vivid saying the like-sounding (in Koine Greek) word kamelos, 'rope', for kamelos, camel, but there is no good early MSS evidence for the change . . . There does not seem to be any good evidence that the phrase eye of a needle means a postern-gate in the city wall with a consequent need for the camel to kneel and be unloaded if it is to be pushed through.  The ninth century AD is the earliest reference that Schweitzer can find for this interpretation: it therefore reads like a pious late fabrication.  It is better to see the metaphor as one of sheer impossibility." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."

In short, the normal interpretation of Jesus' words is the proper interpretation of His words.  Jesus is comparing the impossibility of a humpy "camel" getting through a tiny "eye of a needle" with the impossibility of "a rich man" entering "the kingdom of God."

"The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'"  I recently asked a young man about whether or not his father was receptive to knowing God.  The father is very successful in business.  His son said he was not interested in knowing God because he does not feel that he needs anything.  How, then, can he be saved?  And that was what the "disciples" concluded:  "'Who then can be saved?'" 

Jesus' answer shows that what man cannot do, God can do: "'all things are possible with God.'"  Every "rich man" who has become "saved" is proof of what Jesus said at this time.  God can bring even the "rich man" or woman to see his or her poverty before God.  "But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower." (James 1:10)  "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.'" (Revelation 3:17-18)

"'Peter said to him, 'We have left everything to follow you!'"  "Peter's question was in effect, 'What reward will we get for having become poor for your sake?'" "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Peter, like us, was interested in what was going to be the reward of those who, unlike the rich young ruler, did choose to give up all and follow Jesus.

Our first thought might be that "Peter" was being brash and selfish by asking this question.  That is a possibility.  But another possibility is that he was very curious about what he and the other "disciples" were going to get as a result of their sacrifice for Him.  "Peter," I believe, often expresses what we also are thinking.  If we had been there; we, like the other disciples, might have thought what "Peter" said, but, like the disciples, might also not have said anything.  We can be thankful for "Peter" for saying what we are often thinking.  Now, we wait for Jesus' answer.

"'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.'" 

Jesus does not rebuke "Peter," but answers him by saying that those who make sacrifices in order to follow Him will gain much more, both in this life and "in the age to come."  Becoming an heir of God puts all of us who have chosen to follow Christ in a good position.  We are told that we will experience "persecutions" because of our faith. See Jn. 15:18-20  But, with the "persecutions," there will also be great gain.  God will guide us and provide for us.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)  We will gain a spiritual family. See Matt. 12:46-50  God's Spirit will enable us to experience God's type of life right now. See Rom. 8:9-11; Gal. 5:16-25  The Christ-follower is much richer than the richest of non-believers. See Eph. 1:3-14  Also, Christian parents who have Christian children experience great riches.

"But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'"  The religious leaders taught a works relationship with God.  They saw themselves as being the "first."  But they actually were "the last."  How does this apply to us?  If we see ourselves as "the last"—as those who are completely undeserving of any reward and as those who are fully dependent on God's grace both for salvation and for effectiveness in ministry—then, we are "the last" who become "first" in God's eyes.

"If then we are so conscious of our failures, and shortcomings, and transgressions, and if we have to cry for mercy even on our holy things, and to confess sin in them, how can we suppose that any reward that may be given can be otherwise than of grace, seeing that their whole service itself must be of grace." "Charles Spurgeon's message titled, 'The First Last and the Last First.'"

The parable following these verses in Matthew tells us that we must be rewarded graciously for no reward can be truly earned. See Matt. 20:1-16  "For both the service and the reward are of grace.  The service itself is given us of God, and God rewards the service which he himself has given . . . God gives us good works, and then rewards the works which he himself has given." "Spurgeon."  In short, those who are the most surprised to receive a reward are the "last" who are the "first."

This may have been a warning to Peter so that he would not see himself as deserving of a greater reward.  It also helps us to see that God's rewards are not earned, but graciously given. See Rom. 10:1-4

4. Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. (10:32-34) See also Matt. 20:17-19; Lk. 18:31-34
"They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 'We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.'"

Thought Question: The disciples were in denial about what was going to happen to Jesus.  Are there any realities that we Christians are in denial about today?

 

 

"They were on their way up to Jerusalem,"  They were heading "to Jerusalem" with Jesus for the last time.  Jesus, here, predicts what would happen to Him when they arrived there.

"while those who followed were afraid."  They probably realized the animosity that Jesus had stirred up against Himself, and they were fearful of what was ahead in "Jerusalem."

This is at least the third time that Jesus predicted His "death" to His "disciples." See Mk. 8:31; Matt. 17:22-23  Luke tells us that the "disciples" did not grasp what He said.  "The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."  (Luke 18:34)

The words of Jesus tell us how He would suffer: He would "be betrayed," mocked, "spit on," flogged, and murdered.  Certainly, this made no sense to the "disciples."  How could the innocent Messiah be treated so horribly; and even be murdered?  How could God allow that to happen?  Why would the people allow that to happen?

These disciples were in denial about anything in Jesus' life that did not conform to their dream of a glorious conquest that ended in them ruling with Him in His glorious kingdom.  Do we not have problems when things do not conform to our dream of how we believe things should go in our lives.  Sin is still present in our lives and the lives of others.  We are not in heaven yet.  As Paul said, as he was  "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God' . . ." (Acts 14:22)

Jesus shows us here that, during His earthly life, Jesus foreknew how His life would end.  We are protected from knowing how our lives will end.  He, though, knew all the details of how He would die.  That helps us know even more clearly how much He loved us and loves us now.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

 "and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him."  The Jewish Messiah comes to the Jewish people.  What do they do?  They hand Him over to the Romans—"the Gentiles"—to "mock him" "and kill him." 

It is easy to see why this seemed preposterous to these Jewish "disciples."  We are familiar with how Jesus died.  But to these Jewish "disciples," it was the most unlikely scenario that they could imagine.

"It is Mark's aim to show us the disciples, warts and all.  And Mark was right, because the Twelve were not a company of saints.  They were ordinary men.  It was with the people like ourselves Jesus set out to save the world—and did it." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

"'Three days later he will rise.'"  Again, we are familiar with what happened on the first Easter morning.  They could not believe that Jesus was shortly going to be murdered, so a resurrection was not seen by them as being necessary.  When Jesus died, as He predicted, they were devastated and forgot this prediction that He would "rise" in "three days." See Matt. 26:31,56; Zech. 13:7, Lk. 24:9-11

And, so, Jesus heads to "Jerusalem" in a sense alone.  No one on earth, with the possible exception of Martha' sister Mary, understood what was ahead for Him. See Jn. 12:3,7 for Mary's anointing of Jesus before His death.

5. James and John ask for a favored place in Jesus' kingdom. (10:35-45) See also Matt. 20:20-28
"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' 'What do you want me to do for you?' he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.' 'You don’t know what you are asking,' Jesus said. 'Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?' 'We can,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.' When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words who are the truly great ones?

 

 

"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' 'What do you want me to do for you?' he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'"  These two disciples were asking that they would have the two most prestigious places of honor in Jesus' kingdom.  What would that be like today?  It is like any of us secretly wanting to be honored above other people.  What "James and John" wanted was a very human desire, but it was also a very selfish and prideful desire.  Most, though, are not that open about their desire to have a more prestigious and powerful position in God's church than others.

"It is told that a court painter painted the portrait of Oliver Cromwell [a famous ruler in England].  Cromwell was afflicted with warts on the face.  Thinking to please him, the painter omitted the warts in the painting.  When Cromwell saw it, he said, 'Take it away! and paint me warts and all!" "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  Mark records this failing of "James and John," "warts and all."

In Matthew, it is the mother of "James and John" that makes the request.  So, all three were in on asking that "James and John" would be honored above all the other disciples.  They may have had the attitude that the first to ask was most likely to get these positions of honor and power.

"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do for us whatever we ask.'"  This request by "James and John" is like so many of our requests.  We want Jesus to do what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it.  It is like praying that our sports' team will win.  Which, of course, means that others' sport team will lose. 

"whatever we ask.'"  They were putting Jesus in the role of a genie who would give them "whatever" they asked.  These verses provide us with guidelines on how we are not to pray.  We are not to pray with a prideful and selfish desire that we will be exalted over others.  We are not to pray with a demanding spirit.  Jesus was about to give Himself selflessly to pay for our sins; "James and John" were selfishly seeking to grab the best for themselves.  As Martin Luther said, "the flesh ever seeks to be glorified before it is crucified."

"They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'"  In Matthew, we learn that Jesus did predict that they would sit on thrones in His kingdom.  "Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" (Matthew 19:28)  "James and John" were wrong, though, because they were not satisfied with sitting on thrones; they wanted the most prestigious thrones.

"'You don’t know what you are asking,' Jesus said. 'Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?'"  What does Jesus mean by "the cup""Cup" was a way of describing a person's destiny—what is destined to happen to them.  "So a cup is a figure of what life hands to you." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books." See Matt. 26:39  It can also be a nation's destiny.  Isaiah predicted that Israel's "cup" would be God's judgment.  "Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger." (Isaiah 51:17)

Jesus, here, explains to them that sitting on His "right" and "left" would require that they also go through what was about to happen to Him.  We know what Jesus meant by this.  We know about the mockery of a trial, the mocking, the brutal beatings, and the horrible death.  Did "James and John" want to be at His "right" and "left" through all of that?

"the baptism"  Did they want to be submerged with Him in all that was ahead of Him?  "The papyri offers instances of its use, as for instance, where a person is overwhelmed [immerged in] with calamities." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  They wanted to share His throne, prestige, and power.  Did they also want to share in the calamities that He was about to experience.  "James and John" did not realize at all that if they were going to share in Jesus' place of glory, they would also need to share in His sufferings.

"James" did share in Jesus' suffering.  "James" was the first of the Twelve to die as a martyr.  "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2)  "John" lived the longest of the Twelve, but he ended his life as a prisoner.  "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." (Revelation 1:9)

"'We can,' they answered."  "Whether their brief reply we are able (one word in Greek) represents a thoughtless self-confident spirit, or the quiet answer of a pair suddenly sobered by the words of Jesus, we have no means of telling.  Whichever it is, it brings the assurance from Jesus that this price they will in any case pay, for this is not the price of Christian greatness, but the price of following at all.  Those who follow Jesus cannot haggle at terms; there are not two levels of Christians discipleship, but only one." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."

"Jesus said to them, 'You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.'"  "Though Jesus is fully God, yet there are differences of authority with the Trinity . . . and the Son throughout Scripture is always subject to the authority and direction of the Father who will ultimately determine who exactly receive such positions of honor.  Jesus both defers authority to His heavenly Father and implies that he will himself be exalted." "ESV Study Bible note."

Also, Jesus states here that the Father has a plan for people, which includes trials and difficulties that prepare them (and us) for some role in the heavenly realm.  It is the Father's place to do this, and it is not His part to do it.  Also, it was not for Him to make that decision because "James and John" requested it.

"When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John."  "James and John" had been maneuvering to gain the highest two positions in Jesus' kingdom.  When the other disciples heard about it, they were understandably "indignant."  But, it is probably true that the only difference between "James and John" and the other "ten" is who proposed the request to Jesus first.

Jesus was "indignant" (10:14) because the children were prevented from coming to Him; "the ten" were "indignant" because two people had crowded in line in front of them.  Would we have done the same if we had been one of the "ten"?  Most of us would have to answer, "Yes."

"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"

Jesus goes right to the root cause of the division among them.  They were seeking after the wrong type of greatness.  They were seeking after the world's version of greatness.  The greatest in the world are the bullies—those who "lord it over" others.  But Jesus instructs His disciples that this is not the type of greatness that they will pursue if they want to be "great" in His kingdom.  Instead of gaining power over others until they become your servants; in God's kingdom, we are to voluntarily become servants of others.

When Christians are seeking greatness by seeking to become servants of each other, it eliminates the church politics that is so deadly and destructive in the church.  When we are striving to serve each other, we are not striving to gain power over others.  Each, then, is content with his or her role within the body of Christ.  Our only goal is to seek God's enabling to be a better and more effective "servant."

"Not so with you."  What takes place in so many places in our society should "not" be taking place in the church.  In business, in sports, and in government; the goal is to gain prominence over others.  Too often this spirit is brought into the church.  But, the church is Jesus' kingdom.  If we obey Him, we will be like Him and "serve" as He has served us.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"  Jesus did not come to get from us, but to give to us.  He came to do for us what we most need.  We need to be saved from the penalty of sin—eternal punishment—and we need to be saved from our enslavement to sin.  Before that could happen a "ransom" needed to be paid.  Jesus came to pay that "ransom."  It was paid when he took the penalty for our sin by dying in our place on the cross.

A "ransom" was the price that needed to be paid to free a slave from slavery.  It was also the price that needed to be paid to free us from the penalty for our sin and free us from our enslavement to sin.  Jesus took on Himself our sin and then took the penalty for it.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)  "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (I Peter 1:18-19)

What should we gain from this event and Jesus' teaching that followed it?  Paul gives us the answer as to how we should apply this teaching to our lives in the church and elsewhere.  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:3-8)

Ryle gives us this further application:  "Blessed is that man who sincerely and gladly rejoice when others are exalted, though he himself is overlooked and passed by!"  And he adds these words as well:  "Let them never forget that true greatness does not consist in being an admiral or a general—a statesman, or an artist.  It consists in devoting ourselves, body, and soul and spirit to the blessed work of making our fellow men more holy and more happy." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

6. Bartimaeus is healed of blindness. (10:46-52) See Matt. 20:29-34; Lk. 18:35-43
"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.' 'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."

Thought Question: What does the way this blind man effectively cried out to Jesus teach us about how we can effectively cry out to Jesus?

 

 

"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging."  These two verses immediately create two problems.  Mark, here, says that this event took place as they "were leaving the city" of "Jericho."  Matthew also says that this event occurred as they were "leaving Jericho." (Matt. 20:29)  But, Luke says the event occurred "as Jesus approached Jericho." (Lk. 18:35)  A. T. Robertson in his word studies on Matthew and Leon Morris in his commentary on Luke give the same solution to this problem.  I will quote Robertson's answer.  "It is probable that Mark and Matthew refer to the Old Jericho, the ruins of which have been discovered, while Luke alludes to the new Roman Jericho.  The two blind men were apparently between the two towns." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

The next problem is that Matthew speaks of two "blind" men and both Mark and Luke only speak of one "blind man."  It appears that there were two "blind" men, but Mark and Luke only focus on one of the "blind" men.  Only Mark gives us his name—"Bartimaeus."

"When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'"  "Bartimaeus" obviously had heard of "Jesus of Nazareth" and how He healed the "blind."  But, what chance in his dark world, where traveling great distances was not possible, would he have of ever being where Jesus is.  Then, he heard that Jesus was passing near!  It does not surprise us at all that he "began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 

"Son of David" This name declares that Jesus is the predicted Messiah.  It fulfills a prediction that the Messiah would be a descendent of "David."  "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

On Palm Sunday, Jesus will be welcomed as this King in the line of "David."  "Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, 'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!' 'Hosanna in the highest!'" (Mark 11:9-10)  This "blind man" saw who Jesus is, while those with eyes did not see who He is.

"Bartimaeus" could not have read the Old Testament and learned there about the Messiah.   But what he had heard about the Messiah that was taught in the Old Testament and what he had learned about Jesus convinced him that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  His heart was receptive to the truth, while the hearts of Jesus' religious leaders was hardened to the truth.

"Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"  The crowd was not sensitive at all to this "blind" man's need or about the prediction that the Messiah would heal the "blind." See Isa. 29:18, 35:5; Matt. 11:5  Though the crowd tried to shout this "blind man" down, he "shouted all the more." 

"Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus."  Jesus stopped what must have been a very large parade that was following Him to talk to "Bartimaeus."  And "Bartimaeus" jumped at the opportunity—at the only opportunity to have his "blind" eyes opened.  Should we not also respond as "Bartimaeus" responded?  Should we not jump at the opportunity to have our spiritual eyes opened?

"'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.'"  Jesus already knew what this "blind man" wanted, why did He ask what it was that he wanted?  The same holds true for us.  God already knows what we want, why does he want us to pray for it?  It appears that prayer helps us to grow in our relationship with Him.  We learn through this process what His ways are and what is best for us. See Matt. 6:9-13

"'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."  Whose face was the first face that "Bartimaeus" saw?  The first face that he saw was Jesus' face.  As a brand new Christian at San Jose State College, my roommate was blind.  Something had been put into eyes immediately after his birth that had blinded him.  He could not remember ever seeing.  He knew, though, that the first face he will see, like "Bartimaeus," will be the face of Jesus.

"'you faith has healed you.'"  This "blind man" revealed that he was a man of "faith" in a number of ways.  He believed that Jesus is the "Son of David"—he believed that Jesus is the Messiah.  He showed by his crying out and not giving up that he believed that Jesus was his only hope for healing.  We show our "faith" by obeying Jesus, crying out to Him in our need, and by not giving up.

"Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."  This is a picture of every new Christian—we receive our spiritual sight and begin to follow Jesus.

Have you, like "Bartimaeus," cried out to Jesus to have your blindness to God's truth removed?  If you have not, you can do it right now.  If your spiritual eyes have been opened, do what "Bartimaeus" did.  You can also follow Jesus.

JESUS' LAST DAYS (11-15)

1. The Triumphal Entry (11:1-11) See also Matt. 21:1-11; Lk. 19:28-38;  Jn. 12:12-19
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” tell him, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”' They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, 'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!' 'Hosanna in the highest!' Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve."

Thought Question: What do you believe was the attitude of the people who were shouting, "Hosanna!"?

 

 

"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” tell him, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”'"

Jesus nears "Jerusalem" for the last time.  We come now to what is called the Triumphal Entry.  It is the time when Jesus was greeted by Israel as their King.

"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,"  "Bethany" was on the east side of "Jerusalem."  We learn from the Gospel of John that "Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem," (John 11:18)

"Bethphage" "is traditionally located less than a mile east of Jerusalem on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives." "ESV Study Bible note on Matthew 21:1."  So, they were close to and on the east side of "Jerusalem."

"Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” tell him, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”'"

There are differences among Bible scholars as to why Jesus was able to predict, here, what would take place when his "two" "disciples" were just about to "enter" the "village ahead of" them.  Had Jesus prearranged that the "colt" would be there, as Ray Stedman and William Barclay taught; was Jesus exercising His omniscience either on His own or as the Holy Spirit revealed it to Him, so that He knew that the "colt" would be there; or did Jesus miraculously direct it to happen?  My choice is either one of the last two options.  But, since the Bible does not specifically tell us, we cannot be sure which of the possibilities is the correct explanation for what occurred on that day just before Jesus entered into "Jerusalem." See also Jn. 4:34, 5:19-21, 6:38 Mk. 14:13-16; I Sam. 10:1-6

" you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden."  And, so, the God-man who was without sin, was to ride "a colt" which "no one" had "ever ridden." See Numb. 19:2; Deut. 21:3; I Sam. 6:7

"colt" Both the Gospels Mark and Luke say that it will be a "colt," whereas Matthew says it will be a "donkey" "with her colt by her." (Matt. 21:2)  So, it was a donkey's "colt." See also Lk. 19:30-34

The Gospel of Matthew places a prediction in Zechariah at this point in the narrative.  "'Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”'" (Matthew 21:5) See also  Lk. 19:30-34

"They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go."  The "two" "disciples" went to the "village," and everything occurred just as Jesus predicted it would occur. See also Mk. 14:13-16; Matt. 17:27  The "people" referred to here may have known these "two" "disciples."  Also, they may have been familiar with Jesus.  "Bethany" and "Bethphage" were small villages close to each other.  Furthermore, Lazarus had been raised from the dead in "Bethany" just previous to this time; and there would have been no one in these two villages who had not heard about it.  So, when they said, "the Lord needs it," they would have known that they were speaking of Jesus.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it."  So, Jesus is ready for His royal ride into "Jerusalem,"  The "donkey" was "an animal symbolic of humility, peace, and Davidic royalty." NIV Study Bible note on Matt. 21:2."  In a note on Zechariah 9:9 the NIV Study Bible note says this: "a suitable choice, since the donkey was a lowly animal of peace (contrast the war horse of verse 10) as well as the princely mount (Jdg. 10:4, 12:14 2 Sa 16:2) before the horse came in common use."

Someone has said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a "donkey" has told us more than a thousand words could have told us.  His humble ride tells us that He came to serve; He came to bring peace; and He humbly came down to our level—no matter how low that level might be.  Also, He did not need to impress men—He knew who He was and men's impression of Him could not change that.

At this point, the people of "Jerusalem" and those who had come to "Jerusalem" for the Passover Feast welcomed Jesus.  They gave Him a king's welcome.  They "spread their cloaks on the road" before Him.  "Many people spread their cloaks on the road." This is how Israel welcomed king Jehu as their king.  "They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, 'Jehu is king!'" (II Kings 9:13)

"while others spread branches they had cut in the fields."  John 12:13 says that "they took Palm branches and went out to meet him."  There probably were other "branches" as well.

Jesus will be greeted with Palm "branches" in heaven.  "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." (Revelation 7:9)

"Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, 'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!' 'Hosanna in the highest!'"Hosanna" is not a word we use.
It means "save us!"  "It is a simple transliteration of the Hebrew for Save now!It occurs in exactly the same form in 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26, where it is used by people seeking help and protection at the hands of the king.  When the people shouted Hosanna it was not a cry of praise to Jesus, which it often sounds like when we quote it.  It was a cry to God to break in and save his people now that the Messiah had come." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

The people's words were a quote from Psalm 118:25-26.  "O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you."

We call it the Triumphal Entry, but it was really the tearful entry, for Jesus knew what was ahead for Himself and Israel.  Ahead of Him was the cross and God's judgment on Israel for rejecting Him.  The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus' tears at this point.  "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.'" (Luke 19:41-44)

"Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve."  The next morning Jesus will say that the "temple" had become "a den of robbers." (11:17)  But, when Jesus entered the "temple" grounds it was "late," so He would deal with the corruption in the "temple" in the morning. See 11:15-17

"he went out to Bethany with the Twelve."  He spent Palm Sunday night with His disciples.  They stayed in the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  This is the same Lazarus whom Jesus had, on an earlier date, raised from the dead.  This return to "Bethany" after the Triumphal Entry is only found in the Gospel of Mark. See also Jn. 12:1-11 where it tells us that Jesus and the disciples visited "Bethany" before the Triumphal Entry.

2. The cleansing of the temple (11:12-19)

a. A fruitless fig tree pictures a fruitless Israel. (11:12-14) See also Matt. 21:18-22
"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard him say it."

Thought Question: What do you believe this "fig tree" symbolized?

 

 

"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs."  We cannot be sure why Jesus "was hungry."  He might have eaten early in the morning and was "hungry" again.  He, then, sees "a fig tree in leaf."  The commentators give different interpretations of this account, particularly relating to the "fruit" Jesus was expecting.  Here are some of them:  (1) "The tree was prematurely in leaf, growing in some sheltered spot, and it was reasonable to expect a premature crop of figs.  But the tree did not fulfill its promise.  The Lord condemned the tree, not only because of its fruitlessness, but because of its fruitlessness in the midst of a display [the tree had leaves, so it should have also had fruit] which promised fruit." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

(2) "Jesus was hoping for the small 'early ripe' figs, small protuberances that ripen with the leaves, before the main fig crop and are considered a great delicacy (Hos. 9:10)." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."  (3) Barclay said that "such unripe fruit was unpleasant and was never eaten." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  (4) Keener in his commentary on Matthew says "these early figs rarely were eaten; but someone too hungry to care about taste would eat them anyway, as some do today." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener on Matthew 21:17-22.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

(5) Ray Stedman even grew a fig tree so that he could better understand the process that a fig tree goes through.  Here is his description of what these early figs tasted like.  "And to my astonishment—I did not know this about a fig tree—little tiny figs appeared right along with the leaves.  I thought, 'Well, that's strange: the fruit comes right along with the leaf.  Fig trees must be very unusual that way!'  So I watched these little figs grow and turn from green to yellow, beginning to look like they were ripe.  One day I sampled one.  To my amazement, instead of being full of juice and pulp as a normal fig would be, it was dry and withered inside, with no juice at all.  I opened another and found the same thing. "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  Later,  Ray''s tree produced the actual figs."

Whether the tree Jesus looked at was without pre-figs or without actual "figs" is open to question.  But, it was fruitless.  Also, one thing is very clear, the fruitless "fig tree" is a picture of fruitless Israel.  They had all the signs of being God's nation—they had the Scriptures, the temple, the feasts, the priests, and more.  "The fig-tree, full of leaves, but barren of fruit, was a striking emblem of the Jewish church, when our Lord was upon earth.  The Jewish church had everything to make an outward show.  It had the temple, the priesthood, the daily service, the yearly feasts, the Old Testament Scriptures, the rituals of the Levites, the morning and evening sacrifice.  But beneath these goodly leaves, the Jewish church was utterly destitute of fruit.  It had no grace, no faith, no love, no humility, no spirituality, no real holiness, no willingness to receive its Messiah. (John 1:11)  And hence, like the fig tree, the Jewish church was soon to wither away.  It was to be stripped of all its outward ornaments, and its members scattered over the face of the earth.  Jerusalem was to be destroyed.  The temple was to be burned.  The daily sacrifice was to be taken." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels (Matthew 21:19-21) by J. C. Ryle."

It is obviously possible for a church to have all of the form of being a church, yet be without the fruit of God's life being expressed through it.  A genuine relationship with God will produce God's life.  I John is a book that describes what a genuine relationship with God will look like—it will produce love and righteousness.  John 15 describes the Christian's life as being like a branch of a grape vine that produces fruit.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)  Paul describes the fruit that comes from God's Spirit.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

b. Jesus cleanses the temple (11:15-19) See also Matt. 21:12-17;
Lk. 19:45-47; Jn. 2:13-17

"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it “a den of robbers.”' The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Jesus' anger here was not sinful?

 

 

"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts."

This account is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  A similar account is found in John 2:12-16, but it took place near the beginning of His ministry rather than near the end of His ministry.  It, then, is not the same event as what is recorded here.

The Jewish religious leaders had learned how to use God's instructions for the temple, the feasts, the temple tax, and the sacrifices to make themselves rich.  Sadly, there are those today who are using God's church to become wealthy.  In these verses, we see how Jesus felt about the corruption of His "Father's house." (Jn. 2:16)  How were the religious leaders, then, using God's laws about the festivals, sacrifices, temple tax, and the temple to make themselves rich? 

Because those who had traveled from a great distance could not bring animals with them, they needed to buy animals in Jerusalem so they could make the prescribed Passover sacrifices.  Also, those from other countries needed to have their money exchanged into local money so they could pay the annual temple tax.  Although the people from Israel were supposed to be able to bring their own sacrifices, often their sacrifices were not found acceptable and so they also needed to buy animals in Jerusalem.  Those who sold these animals and exchanged money overcharged for the animals and overcharged for the exchanging of money.  Luke tells us in Luke 19:46 that Jesus quoted Jeremiah 7:11 at this time: "Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 7:11) See Exodus 30:13  Also, all of this selling of animals and money changing was not taking place outside of the temple grounds, but inside the temple grounds.  Inside the temple area you could see greedy men fleecing poor people out of the last of their monies; you could hear the sounds of animals; there was the smell of a barnyard; and there was general chaos.  This is what greeted Jesus in His Father's house."The condition of the temple was a vivid indication of the spiritual condition of the nation.  Their religion was a dull routine presided over by worldly minded men whose main desire was to exercise authority and get rich." "Taken from Be Alive by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1988 by Victor Books." 

Here, we see a side of Jesus that is not often emphasized—the angry side.  Since He never sinned, how could Jesus have been this angry and still have not sinned?  First of all, anger against the sinful corruption of God's commands is not only the right thing to do, it is wrong when it is not done. See I Cor. 5  A large proportion of the messages of the prophetic books are an expression of God's anger and wrath against Israel's and other nations' sin.  Secondly, Jesus' anger was not out of control.  He strongly made His point, but it was not out of control anger.  If His wrath had gotten out of control, what could He have done?  Turning over "tables" is much less than what the God-man could have done! There is enough sin in this world that there is just cause that this world should be destroyed.  But, as Jesus controlled His anger that day at the temple, so God controls His wrath today.  But, Jesus did clearly show how much He hated what was going on at the temple at that time.

There is a place for anger.  In fact, it is this type of anger that motivated those that sought to free the slaves in our country.  Whenever we see people being wronged, we see hate winning over love.  Whenever we sin openly practiced, we see wrong winning over right.  And, whenever we see the helpless being terrorized by the strong; it is appropriate for there to be anger.  But, we should be angry and not sin.  "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27)  Our anger should be God-empowered and God-controlled anger, not Satan-empowered and uncontrolled anger.

"and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts."  This verse is found only in Mark.  Barclay believed that people were using the temple as a short-cut; and, so, they were carrying merchandise through the temple courts.  "In point of fact the temple court provided a short cut from the eastern part of the city to the Mount of Olives.  The Mishnah itself lays down down, 'A man may not enter into the temple mount with his staff or his sandal or his wallet, or with dust upon his feet, nor may he make of it a short by-path." . . . In his time the Jews thought so little of the sanctity of the outer court of the temple that they used it as a thoroughfare on their business errands." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

"And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it “a den of robbers.”' The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."  Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 where the emphasis was on the fact that God's temple is prophesied to one day become a place to worship God "for all nations."  "And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:6-7)

But, God's nation Israel had turned God's "house" into "a den of robbers." See also Jer. 7:11

"den of robbers" were places where "robbers" could feel secure in stealing from others.  They were sometimes caves on lonely roads where thieves could wait in safety until an unsuspecting traveler came along.  Then, from out of the safety of the cave, they could swoop down and steal from him or her.  The temple had become such a place.  Obedient Jews traveled to Jerusalem for the Jewish religious festivals ordained by God; there, their religious leaders could safely steal from them.

"The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."  Jesus throwing the crooks out of the temple area and calling it "a den of robbers" was too much for the religious leaders.  Plus, Jesus' popularity with the people had become more than they could put up with.  Jesus must be killed!  But, these leaders needed to be careful, or the crowd might turn on them.  Then, they would be the ones in danger.

"When evening came, they went out of the city."  We learn in Matthew that Jesus returned to Bethany.  "And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night." (Matthew 21:17)  "Apparently Jesus spent each night through Thursday of Passion Week in Bethany at the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus." "NIV Study Bible note on Mark 11:11." 

3. A withered fig tree and a lesson on faith. (11:20-25) See also
Matt. 21:19-22

"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!' 'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'"

Thought Question: What keys to having an effective prayer life do you find in these verses?

 

 

"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!'"  It appears that the message of this section is no longer about the fruitlessness of "the fig tree" and the fruitlessness of Israel.  Now the focus is on how amazing it is that "the fig tree" had withered so quickly.  Matthew puts it this way: "When the disciples saw this [the "withered" "fig tree"], they were amazed. 'How did the fig tree wither so quickly?' they asked." (Matthew 21:20)  Matthew condenses what Mark reveals happened in two days to help communicate the lesson that we can learn from the event.

Only Mark mentions that it was "Peter" who led in speaking to Jesus about the "withered" "fig tree." 

"'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.'"  Jesus uses the sudden death of "the fig tree" to give His disciples a lesson on "faith."

"this mountain,"  They were on or near the Mount of Olives, so it is likely that the "mountain" that He was speaking of was the Mount of Olives.

"'Have faith in God,'"  Hebrews 11:1 gives us a definition of "faith."  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  There is another dimension to life for we who are Christians.  We believe in an all-loving and all-powerful God who is always with us, even though we cannot see Him.  He is able to cause a "fig tree" to wither in a short time.  We are to live our lives believing and depending on this God.

"'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.'"  Children who know their parents well, know what they can ask from their parents that their parents will gladly give to them.  For example, a child knows that if he asks his father for ice cream right before dinner time, he or she will not get it.  Also, what we ask from God that we know is in within His will for us, we will also receive it.  Getting to know God and his ways is the key to answered prayer.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7)  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15)

We should, then, seek to get to know Him so well that we will come to know what He desires will happen in our world.  And we do this so that we can ask Him for what we know in faith and without doubt that He wants to do.

We know that God is able to move a "mountain."  If we also know that He wants to move that "mountain," then we have the evidence to believe that it is His will to move that "mountain."  Finally, we can then ask Him in faith to move that "mountain"; and it will be done.  Obviously, this is not up to us and what we want done.  Rather, it up to whether or not God wants to move a "mountain." 

Has God moved any mountain-sized problems in your life.  Many Christians have experienced  God moving a mountain-sized problem in their lives.  For me, it was the loss of a job at a time when unemployment was high.  After working many temporary jobs, God opened a door at a Boys' Home where I ended up receiving free college training so that I could become a chemical dependency counselor.  That training opened up a number of doors for ministry over the years.  God is still moving mountain-sized problems.

Has God moved some mountain-sized problems in your life?  Just now, I reflected on some other mountain-sized problems that God has removed in our lives.  I am not at liberty to share them as they involve other people, but they definitely were mountain-sized.  Mountains are huge to us, but they are small to God.

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  If we are confident that God desires to do it, then we can have the faith that it is done even before it is done.  I recently had a speaking opportunity.  I can remember sitting just prior to speaking, having the confidence that God was going to be with me and use me in what I was going to say.  Why was I so confident?  I really wanted God's will; I had prayed about my time of speaking, and now my opportunity to speak would occur in a matter of minutes.  We need to learn God's will and pray for it with confidence.

There are a large number of descriptions in the Bible of what is in God's will that we should pray for.  We are told not to worry about anything, but pray about everything. See Phil. 4:6-7; I Pet. 5:7; Ps. 55:22  We are to pray for our needs. See Matt. 6:11; Heb. 4:16  We are to pray to be delivered from the evil one. See Matt. 6:13  We are to pray that we can get to know God better. See Eph. 1:17  We are to pray for our leaders to bring about peace. See I Tim. 2:1-2; II Chron. 7:14  We are to pray for the salvation of the lost. See I Tim. 2:3-4; Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-4  We are to pray for more Christian laborers. See Matt. 9:37-38  We are to pray that Christians will not be defeated by Satan. See Eph. 6:18; Lk. 22:31-32  We are to pray for our enemies. See Matt. 5:44-45  We are to pray for wisdom. See James 1:5; Ps. 119:33-34  We are to pray for protection from temptation. See Ps. 119:133; Matt. 26:41

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'"  Holding a grudge against someone results in God not hearing our prayers.  Our relationship with God is based on Him forgiving us.  Someone in a non-church setting told me once that God did not answer one of his prayers, so he had stopped praying.  I asked him what he had asked God to do.  He said, "Get revenge for me" on someone.  A forgiving God expects us to be like Him and forgive those who sin against us. See Matt. 6:12, 14-15, 18:21-35

ll:26 is present only in some ancient manuscripts.  A copyist may have added it to Mark because it is similar to Matthew 6:15.  "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:15)  "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins." is the Mark 11:26 that is not included in the NIV because it "is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts." "NIV Study Bible note."

4. Jesus' authority questioned (11:27-33) See also Matt. 21:23-27; Lk. 20:1-8
"They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you authority to do this?' Jesus replied, 'I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!' They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men”....' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.' Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'"

Thought Question: What authority do we as Christians have to share the gospel and to make a stand for Christian truth?

 

 

"They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you authority to do this?'"

"the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders"  This was a contingent of the religious leaders—both conservative and liberals—united against Jesus.  They may have been chosen to officially confront Jesus.  "This was in reality a deputation from the Sanhedrin, of which these three groups formed the component parts." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

Having the proper "authority" to do something is a very important part of society.  Police cannot come into our homes any time they wish to.  They need for someone in "authority" to authorize them to do it.  We cannot speak for God unless God somehow authorizes us to do it.  Jesus gives us His "authority" to make disciples.  "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the Jewish society of Jesus' time, teachers based their teachings on the teaching of some famous Rabbi.  This type of thing is still practiced today by Christians.  In our past and in the present there are Christian scholars that are recognized for their scholarship, experience, and/or practical insights.  In my works, I often quote from them.  There is nothing wrong with doing that, unless these Bible scholars go from being helpful to us in understanding the Bible to becoming the final authority themselves.  That is what happened in Israel.  The Rabbis had become the final authority.  Jesus' teachings were not compared to the Bible, but they were compared to the teachings of the Rabbis.

So, these religious leaders felt by asking, "By what authority are you doing these things?" they were asking Him a question that He could not answer without weakening His popularity with the crowds.  If He had said that He was not basing His teaching on any Rabbi, He would be seen as an independent and rogue teacher with no authority.  If He named some Rabbi; then they, with their great knowledge of that Rabbi, could challenge everything He said based on that Rabbi's teaching.

"Jesus replied, 'I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!' They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men”....' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.' Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'"

They thought they were putting Jesus into a corner, but by this question that He asked them, they found themselves in a corner.  John the Baptist did not base his words or his "baptism" on some rabbinic "authority."  So, when Jesus asked where he got his "authority," they could not answer His question without getting themselves in trouble. 

"They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men”....' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)"  Any answer they gave would lower their prestige among the people.  If they said that "John" received his "authority" from God, then Jesus would say that He also got His authority from God.  Since "John" had declared that Jesus was greater than Him, He would be seen as having even greater "authority" than "John." See Matt. 3:11-12; Jn. 1:29-34  That certainly was not the goal these religious leaders were seeking after.

If they said that "John" was not a spokesman from God who was authorized by God, then they would have challenged the authority of a man that the people believed was a prophet of God.  So, Jesus' question put the religious leaders into a dilemma.  No matter how they answered, their answer would increase Jesus' popularity and make them look bad.

"Their greatest condemnation is that they do not seem to have considered this question as a moral probe, but purely as an intellectual trap.  Their query as they sought to reply was not 'true or false?' but 'safe or unsafe?'" "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."

So, how did they reply to Jesus' question?  "So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.'"  The great religious authorities and intellectuals of Israel did not know whether or not "John" the  Baptist received His authority from God.  The only answer that they could safely give also diminished their prestige among the people.

"Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'"  If they had been genuinely interested in where Jesus' "authority" came from, He would have explained it to them.  But, their purpose was to defame and eliminate Him from being an effective and authoritative teacher.  So, there was no reason for Him to continue speaking to them or for Him to answer their question.

5. The Parable of the Tenants (12:1-12) See also Matt. 21:33-46; Lk. 20:9-19
"He then began to speak to them in parables: 'A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this scripture: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?' Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away."

Thought Question: How does this parable apply to us today?

 

 

"He then began to speak to them in parables: 'A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.'"  This "parable" is about "a man" who had transformed a field into "vineyard."  He did all of the work that was needed to accomplish his goal.  First of all, "he put a wall around it."  Anyone who has ever built a fence or a wall knows how much work it is.  Then, he "dug a pit for the winepress."  "This is the vessel or trough under the winepress on the hillside to catch the juice when the grapes were trodden." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "In a vineyard was a winepress in which the grapes were trodden with the feet."  "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

He also "built a watchtower."  So, this man completed the work necessary to transform a field into a successful "vineyard."

This parable parallels Isaiah 5:1-7 where the "vineyard" is a picture of Israel, God's chosen nation.  "I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. 'Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.' The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress." See also Jer. 2:21; Ps. 80:8-13; Hos. 10:1

"'At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.'" 

The servants in the parable symbolize the prophets that God sent to Israel.  They were God's spokesmen, but Israel rejected them.  Israel's rejection of God's spokesmen is described both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  "The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy." (II Chronicles 36:15-16) "'You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—'" (Acts 7:51-52) See also Neh. 9:26; Jer. 7:25-26, 25:4;   Matt. 5:11-12

"'He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.'"  The "son" clearly points symbolically to Jesus Christ, God's Son.  Instead of Israel respecting God's Son, they saw His presence with them as an evil opportunity—for if they killed the Son, they would gain sole ownership of God's nation.  The religious leaders believed it was their religion and that they were ruling over it, not God. Jesus, therefore, was a threat to their ownership of their religion.  The solution was to remove the One who threatened them—to kill Jesus.

There are at least two applications of the parable up to this point in the parable:  (1) How does it apply to Israel?  (2) How does it apply to us?  First of all, how does it apply to Israel?  Israel is God's nation; yet, when God's Son came personally to take ownership of His nation, they rejected Him and killed Him.

Now, how does it apply to us?  We are also God's people, bought by the blood of God's Son.  He is also away right now.  Do we treat the church which God bought with the blood of His Son as if it belongs to us?  It is obvious that, if we do this, we are then doing what Israel did.  We should not be like the "tenants" in the parable.  Even though Jesus is not physically present with us, we need to remember that His church does not belong to us, but it belongs to Him.  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

"'What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.'"  The "owner" of the "vineyard," obviously, would not allow the "tenants" to kill his "son" without some severe action being taken against them.  He would "kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."  This verse predicts the end of Israel and the beginning of the church.  In AD 70, the Romans conquered Israel and Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948.

"'Haven’t you read this scripture: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?'"  What is the "capstone" that Jesus talks about here?  This is "either a capstone over a door (a large stone used as a lintel), or a large stone used to align the corner of a wall, or the keystone of an arch (see Zech. 4:7, 10:4)." "NIV Study Bible note on Psalm 118:22) 

Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23, which predicts that Israel would reject the One who was to be the foundation stone in the building of God's nation—God's Son.  They would try to build God's kingdom without the King—without Jesus Christ their Messiah. See also Isa. 28:16; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; I Pet. 2:6-7

"Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away."  Sometimes, we can feel like we are a successful speaker because the crowd responds to us positively.  If that is the case, then Jesus was an unsuccessful speaker, for the religious leaders of Israel totally rejected His message.  They not only did not like His message, they looked for a way to ensure that He would not speak to them and the crowds again.  If we try to please people, we will seek to give messages that we believe will be received well.  Then, we will also avoid giving messages that present unpleasant and unpopular truths about people.  Israel's hardened rejection of God's spokesmen and the soon rejection and murder of God's Son were not truths Israel wanted to hear.  But, He told them these truths anyway.  Are we people pleasers or are we willing to tell people truths, in love, even if they do not want to hear them? See also 11:18; Prov. 27:6

6. The Pharisees and the Herodians set a trap for Jesus. (12:13-17) See also Matt. 22:15-22; Lk. 20:20-26

a. The trap (12:13-15a)
"Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, 'Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?'"

Thought Question #1: According to what we see in these verses, why should we be careful when someone says glowing words about us?

 

 

Thought Question #2: What do you think united the "Pharisees" and the "Herodians" against Jesus?

 

 

Jesus had enemies at both extremes of the political world in Israel.  The "Pharisees" were the extreme nationalists who were zealously seeking after their nation's independence from Rome.  Their allegiance was with the God of Israel.  The "Herodians" were on the complete opposite side of Israel's politics.  They supported King Herod, who had been appointed by Rome to rule over Israel.  No two groups could have been more opposed to each other.  Yet, they both were united in their opposition to Jesus.  What was it that so united them?  Both the "Pharisees" and the "Herodians" were alike in one respect: they were both selfishly climbing up the ladder to social success in Israel.  The "Pharisees" were using religion to gain success, the "Herodians" were using secular politics to gain success.  Because they were both selfish social climbers, Jesus was a threat to both of them.  He taught that selfishness needed to be repented of, and that in His kingdom the greatest were those who were servants.  Also, there were many other teachings of Jesus Christ that were the opposite of what they were practicing and teaching. Matthew tells us that these "Pharisees" and "Herodians" "sent their disciples." (Matt. 22:16)

Today, Jesus' teachings are also in conflict with those who are on both extremes of the political world—when those in these political groups are primarily seeking success in a selfish and prideful way.  If we seek to follow Christ, we will also discover that those on both sides of the political spectrum will also be opposed to us.

"'Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity.'"  They say these flattering words to Jesus, while in their hearts they were opposed to Him and were trying to get Him in trouble with the people.  Here, they are saying that they know that Jesus will say the truth even if it gets Him in trouble—and they would be delighted if He did get Himself in trouble.

"You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are;"  Again, they were setting Jesus up for their trap.  They were saying that He was not political; so, He would answer according to what is true, not according to what is politically correct to the "Pharisees" or the "Heordians."  They were like our modern-day reporters who are trying to get a politician on the other side of them politically to look bad.

"but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth."  These words were absolutely true of Jesus, but they did not mean a word of it.  They thought by flattering Him, He would take down His guard and be susceptible to their trap.  Their goal was to try to get Him to say something that would enable them to bring legal charges against Him.  They were trying to get Him to incriminate Himself.

Can this type of thing happen today?  A Christian presidential candidate was asked if he believed in evolution.  If he had said "Yes," he would have alienated the evangelical Christians in our country.  If he said "No," he would have been reported by the liberal media to be primitive and unscientific.  He said that he believed in creation.  This is also the type of question that they asked Jesus.

"Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?'"  If Jesus said "No," then the "Herodians" could take this information to the Romans who would have charged Him with leading a revolt against paying taxes.  If He had said "Yes," then He would have been seen as siding with the Romans.  He, then, would have lost His popularity with the Jewish people who resented paying taxes to the Romans.  They had Him; or at least they thought they had Him.  The trap was set.  Soon, Jesus would no longer be problem for them.

b. Jesus evades their trap. (12:15b-17)
“But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. 'Why are you trying to trap me?' he asked. 'Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' They brought the coin, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then Jesus said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.' And they were amazed at him."

Thought Question: What are some trick questions that non-Christians seek to trap us with today?

 

 

"But Jesus knew their hypocrisy."  Jesus saw through their flattery.  He knew that they were not really interested in His answer—they were not seeking to know whether or not they should "pay taxes."  Rather, He knew that their goal was to destroy Him.

"'Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' They brought the coin, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then Jesus said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.'"  They asked Jesus a question that they thought would put Him in a trap.  Jesus asks them a question that takes Him out of the trap.  For Jesus' answer, first of all, gave the "Herodians" no basis for making a charge against Him.  He said that the Romans had the right to tax Israel, for they were the ones who had minted the money—a portrait of the emperor was on the coins.  Also, the "Pharisees" were unable to charge Him, for He said that they should give "to God what is God's."  Could the crowds be upset with that?  "In short, He bids the proud Pharisee not to refuse his dues to Caesar, and the worldly Herodian not to refuse his dues to God." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

Jesus' answer was not a trick one to win an argument or to get Himself out of a trap.  It actually is a principle that is still true today.  Jesus told Pilate that His "kingdom is not of this world." (Jn. 18:36)  We are still to obey earthly governments and pay taxes. See Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17  We are to obey both God and government.  When government commands us to do something that goes against what God commands us to do, we are to obey God and that government.  That is becoming a bigger issue as our U. S. government is moving ever farther away from the Bible's teaching. See Acts 5:27-32

"And they were amazed at him."  Jesus foiled their plot by escaping what they thought was an inescapable trap.  "They were amazed at him," because He had so easily eluded their trap.

What are some trick questions that opponents to Christianity seek to trap us with?  Here are some examples.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  What about those in some remote corner of the world who have never heard the gospel?  Do you believe that earth is only thousands of years old?  What about the ape men? 

7. The Sadducees set a trap for Jesus. (12:18-27) See also Matt. 22:23-33; Lk. 20:27-40

a. The trap (12:18-23)
"Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 'Teacher,' they said, 'Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?'"

Thought Question: How is this question applicable to today's world?

 

 

The "Sadducees" were the religious liberals of Israel.  They were also the priestly leaders at the temple.  They did not believe in miracles or life after death.  "(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)" (Acts 23:8)  "This is the only reference to the Sadducees in Mark's Gospel.  Matthew refers to them seven times,  Luke once and John not all." "The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. Copyright 2012 by InterVarsity Press."

It is true of just about every branch of religion and politics that they have their "talking points" which argues their case.  Part of the "talking points" for the point of view of the "Sadducees" that there is no resurrection is the question that the "Sadducees" asked Jesus at this time.

According to Deuteronomy 25:5-6, Jewish men were responsible to marry a brother's widow if she was childless.  "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel." (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)

"It is clear that the whole point of this law was to ensure two things—first, that the family name continued, and, second, that the property remained within the family." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

So, the Sadducee's case was as follows: if a man married a number of wives, who would he be married to in heaven?  They exaggerated their case, using seven wives, to pound their point home more effectively.  They felt that this argument proved that there was no resurrection life.  They felt sure that Jesus would see their flawless logic and side with them against the Pharisees who believed in miracles and life after death.

b. Jesus evades the trap. (12:24-27)
"Jesus replied, 'Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!'"

Thought Question: Why do Jesus words that God is "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" answer the Sadducees' question?  

 

 

"Jesus replied, 'Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?"  Jesus does not try to reason with them.  He knew that they wanted to argue with Him, not learn from Him.  So, He pointed out quickly that they were talking about something that they had no understanding about.  It would be senseless for me to argue with a person from China that China does not exist simply because I have not seen it.  He or she have lived there and I have not lived there.  So, Jesus had been to heaven and the "Sadducees" had not been there.  So, the "Sadducees" did not know what they were talking about.

"When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."  One of the things that the "Sadducees" did not know was that those who resurrect will not be like we are on earth.  For, we will not marry and bear children in heaven.  Rather, we "will be like the angels." 

The "Sadducees" were like many of our modern-day university professors who base everything on what they see, touch, or can test scientifically (empiricism).  Biblical faith is believing that what the Bible says is true, even if we cannot see, touch, or test it scientifically.  The "Sadducees" did not know of "the power of God" that can change us into something quite different from the people that we now are.

The "dead" who "rise" "will be like the angels in heaven."  "There are the same number of angels in existence today as when they were created.  They do not propagate their kind." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  We learn here that "in heaven" our bodies and our lives will be different in significant ways from what we experience here.  We will not die and we will not have children.  Here, in our present state, we do die and our children and their children will replace us after we are gone.  "In heaven," we will not die and will not need to have children to replace us. See I Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:20-21; I Cor. 2:9

"Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!'"  The "Sadducees" only believed that the first five books of Moses were Scripture—Genesis through Deuteronomy called the Torah.  Jesus quoted from their Scripture to refute their view that there was no resurrection. Jesus quotes from Exodus 3:6, in the Torah.  "Then he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. . . . " (Exodus 3:6)

At the time described in Exodus 3:6, "Abraham," "Isaac," and "Jacob" had been dead for many years; yet, God said that He was still their God.  As Jesus, says here: "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  "Swete says: 'In quoting that passage the Lord argues thus; In this place, God reveals Himself as standing in a real relationship to men who were long dead.  But the living God cannot be in relationship with any who have ceased to exist, therefore the patriarchs were still living in His sight at the time of the Exodus; dead to the visible world, they were alive unto God. . . . " "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

8. A teacher of the law asks Him a question. (12:28-34) See also Matt. 22:34-40

a. The question—what is the most important commandment? (12:28)
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'"

Thought Question: How would you have answered this question?

 

 

In Jesus' time there was a controversy over which of the "commandments" was "the most important."  In His time, there was a controversy over which of the commandments was greater than the others.  They had divided the commandments in the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—into 248 positive commands and 365 negative commands.  "The scribes declared there were 248 affirmative precepts, as many as the members of the human body; and 365 negative precepts, as many as the days of the year; the total being 613, the numbers of letters in the Decalogue." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors (on Matthew)."

There was disagreement among the Rabbinic schools over which of the Ten Commandments was the greatest.  For example, "there was a school of interpretation which thought that that the third commandment in Decalogue was the supreme commandment, and that all the rest were minor ones . . . . " "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

Here in Mark, we see that this teacher "in the law" was actually interested in how Jesus would answer this question.  In this case, it appears that he asked Jesus this question not to trap Him, but he was actually wondering how Jesus would answer the question.  As we will see in what follows in Mark, he actually liked Jesus' answer.

b. Jesus' answer (12:29-31)
"'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.'"

Thought Question: Why does loving God and loving others sum up all of the Ten Commandments?

 

 

Jesus' answer to the scribe's question can be found in the Old Testament.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5)  "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

Jesus' answer can be summed up in one word: love.  The first four commandments will be obeyed if we love God; and the last six commandments will be obeyed if we love people. See Exod. 20:1-17  See also Rom. 13:8-10

"'“with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”'"  Worship and love toward God can be a mere outward formality.  "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'" (Isaiah 29:13)  Jeremiah 29:13 says the very opposite: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)  Jesus says to the church at Laodicea that they are "lukewarm"; and that He would rather that they were "hot" or "cold."  (Rev. 3:15-16)  For our lives to revolve around what is truly central in life, our lives must revolve around a wholehearted love for God.  "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. . . . " (II Chronicles 16:9) 

"'“Love your neighbor as yourself.”'"  The law commands us to "love" our "neighbor" as we already "love" our self.  The law does not command us to "love" our self.  It is assumed that we already "love" our self.

Over my early years as a Christian, I read a number of popular Christian books that taught that we must first love our self before we can "love" others.  But, the truth is that we are already very good at loving our self.  If a group picture is taken and we are given the photograph, who is the first one in the picture that we look at?  What the psychologists are really speaking about is our need to believe that God loves us.  We are able to love others because God first loved us.  "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (I John 4:9-11)  "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (I John 4:19-21)

"'“Love your neighbor as yourself.”'"  We are very sensitive to our side of things.  But, how sensitive are we to what others are going through?  In a troubled marriage, both the husband and wife are very sensitive to their side of it, and very insensitive to their partner's side of it.  One side goes, "I will listen to you after you listen to me."  This is not just a problem in marriages, it is mankind's problem.  Children do not understand their parents' side of things and parents do not understand their children's side of things.  We live in self-enclosed bubbles, seeing only our side of things.

Loving others as we would want to be loved changes everything.  We want to be understood, but we also need to want to understand—even if we are never understood.  God loves us and understands us, even when we make little effort to understand Him.

Why does loving God and loving others sum up all of the Ten Commandments?  It is because we will not break the first four commandments if we love God (for example, we will not turn to idolatry if we love God) and we will not break the last commandments if we love others (for example, we not steal from those we love).

c. The teacher of the law agrees with Jesus' answer. (12:32-33)
"'Well said, teacher,' the man replied. 'You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'"

Thought Question: This "teacher of the law" was pleased that Jesus agreed with him.  What needed to change in his attitude?

 

 

This scribe felt good that Jesus had come to the same conclusion as he had come to.  In other words, Jesus was right because He agreed with him.  Rather, quite the opposite was true.  The scribe was right because he agreed with the Son of God.

As a young Christian, I examined the Bible to see if it agreed with my conclusions.  Later, that changed.  I learned that if I had come to a different conclusion than what the Bible taught, it was I, not the Bible, that needed to change.

"'is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'"  The Old Testament says the same.  "But Samuel replied: 'Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'" (I Samuel 15:22)  "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)  Ceremonies performed as mere formalities mean nothing; ceremonies that express a heart's devotion to God are full of meaning. 

d. Jesus compliments the scribe. (12:34)
"When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that this "teacher of the law" was "not far from the kingdom of God"?

 

 

This scribe showed by his answer that he was near the "kingdom of God."  If he later became part of the "kingdom of God," he would next need to understand that he had not obeyed the greatest commandment and that he, therefore, stood condemned before God—he would need to come to realize that he was in need of a Savior.  That Savior stood right in front of him.  We do not know, though, if he ever became part of the "kingdom of God."  But, some of the religious leaders did. See Acts 6:7

9. Jesus challenges the religious leaders (12:35-40) See also Matt. 22:41- 23:7; Lk. 20:41-47

a. Jesus' challenge (12:35-37)
"While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, 'How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” David himself calls him “Lord.” How then can he be his son?' The large crowd listened to him with delight."

Thought Question: What reality was Jesus forcing them to deal with?

 

 

They had asked their questions.  Now, it was time for Jesus to ask a question.  The question is, how can "the Christ" (the Messiah) be both the "son of David" and David's "Lord"?  Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1, where "David" spoke of the Messiah as the "Lord."

What is the answer?  There is only one answer, and that one answer is the identity of the One who asked the question.  He was born as a baby in the human line of "David."  Therefore, He was the "son of David."  But, He was also God who had preexisted "David."    Therefore, Jesus was the answer to His own question—He was both the "son of David" and He is David's "Lord." See Acts 2:34-35;  Heb. 1:3

"The large crowd listened to him with delight."  The "crowd" enjoyed seeing the pompous Pharisees being unable to answer Jesus' question.  Jesus' point was that they were not all-knowing.  They had some serious gaps in their knowledge.  The biggest gap is that they did not realize that the promised Messiah was standing right in front of them.

"the Christ is the son of David?"  The following verses predict that the Messiah would be a descendent of "David":  II Samuel 7:8-16; Psalm 89:3-4, 28-37;  Isaiah 9:1-7, 11:1-5, 10; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 33:15-18; Ezek 34:23-24, 37:24;   Hos. 3:5.  The genealogies in Matthew and Luke show that Jesus was a descendent of "David."

 "'“The Lord said to my Lord”'"  The first "Lord" is God the Father and the second "Lord" is God the Son.  This verse predicts Jesus' final victory, when all of God's enemies well have be defeated.  "'“‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’”'"

b. Jesus exposes the motives of Jesus' religious leaders. (12:38-40)
"As he taught, Jesus said, 'Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.'"

Thought Question: What can we learn from Jesus' words about what we should not be like as members of Jesus' church today?

 

 

"As he taught, Jesus said, 'Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.'"  The "teachers of the law" liked to have people see them as being superior to other men.  This is the very opposite of what the Scriptures should have taught them.  Paul, a former Pharisee, had this to say about himself:  "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:2-9)  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)

"flowing robes"  "A long robe which swept the ground was the sign of a notable.  It was the kind of robe in which no one could either hurry or work, and was the sign of a leisured man of honour." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

 "and be greeted in the marketplaces,"  "The very title Rabbi means 'my great one.'  To be so addressed was agreeable to their vanity." "Barclay."

"and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets."  "In the synagogues" the most "important" people sat in front, facing the congregation.  At feasts, the "most important" people sat to the right and left of the host.

"'They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.'"  The false religious leader is in it for the money.  Often, even today, there are religious leaders whose smooth talking results in widows giving money to them.  The false religious leaders get richer and the widows get poorer.

"'for a show make lengthy prayers.'"  These religious leaders did not pray long "prayers" for God to hear, but they prayed long "prayers" for people to hear.  Their goal was to perform before men, so people could see and hear their great piety.  "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. . . . And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:1,5) See also Lk. 18:9-14

10. The widow's tiny offering, and its value before God (12:41-44)
"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'"

Thought Question: What does Jesus' comments about this "widow" teach us about what Jesus values today?

 

 

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny."  Jesus had just exposed the false and pride-driven religion of Israel's religious leaders.  It was a getting religion rather than a giving religion—it got them places of prominence among the people and it got them rich off of the people.  Now, Jesus will reveal what is true religion.  It is a giving religion—it gives what is often not impressive and it is done in a private way.

"Our Lord's teaching in the court of the Gentiles had ceased, and He had passed within the low marble wall which fenced off the inner precinct of the Temple from the Gentiles.  He was now in the Court of the Women.  Here were thirteen chests placed at intervals around the walls, each marked with the purpose to which the offerings were to be devoted.  This colonnade under which these chests were placed was called the Treasury.  Here our Lord sat down looked with a discerning eye (theroreo) how the crowds threw in their money." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "In the Court of Women there were thirteen collecting boxes called 'The Trumpets,' because they were so shaped.  Each of them was for a special purpose, for instance to buy corn or wine or oil for the sacrifices." "Barclay."

"But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny."  "To be able to engage with the text we must realize just how miniscule the widow's coins were.  Mark identifies them as lepta, from the Greek word leptos for 'thin.'  These were the smallest denominations minted, containing 1.55 grams of copper.  If you were to place one in the open palm of your hand, you could blow it away like a feather." "The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card. Copyright 2012 by InterVarsity Press."

"Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'"  Here, we see that God's way of measuring service to Him and to others is much different than the way we measure it.  The rich gave a great amount, but what they gave did not change their lifestyle at all.  But, what the "widow" gave required that she make a great sacrifice—she would need to go without for a while.  It would be like the millionaire giving his only million dollars to help the poor.  We see that God's measurement of our giving is much different than our measurement of our giving.  Nevertheless, whatever we give, it will not be much compared to what He gave for us.

11. Jesus teaches on the end times (13:1-36)

a. Jesus predicts the end of Israel's temple. (13:1-2)
"As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!' 'Do you see all these great buildings?' replied Jesus. 'Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'"

Thought Question: The disciples saw the glorious temple; Jesus, though, saw the great sin of Israel that would lead to the fall of this glorious temple.  What else have men seen as glorious that has come down because of peoples' sin? 

 

 

Barclay gives the following description of the glory of the "temple": "In the Temple the pillars of the porches and of the cloisters were columns of white marble, forty feet high, each made of one single block of stone.  Of the ornaments, the most famous was the great vine made of solid gold, each of whose cloisters was as tall as a man.  The finest description of the Temple as it stood in the time of Jesus is in Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, book 5, section 5.  At one point, he writes, 'The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either man's mind or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays.  But the Temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceedingly white.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

So, we can see why the "disciples" were talking of the "temple" with such awe and wonder.  But, their wonder was suddenly changed to horror by Jesus' next words.

"'Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'"  The glory of the "temple" is absent from our world today.  What happened to it?  About 30 years after Jesus' words, in A.D. 70, it was destroyed.  "Fulfilled literally in A.D. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple building.  Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire . . . Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stone, toppled from the walls by the invaders." "Taken from NIV Study Bible note on Matt. 24:2."

Jesus and His disciples saw Jerusalem differently.  Jesus' "disciples" saw the glory of the temple; Jesus saw Israel's sin and the coming judgment of Israel.  The "disciples" saw the "massive stones"; Jesus saw the "massive" sin that in AD 70 would bring down the "massive stones."  The "magnificent buildings" would soon be no more!

b. The beginnings of birth pains (13:3-11)
"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 'Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?' Jesus said to them: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.'"

Thought Question: What prophecies of Jesus recorded in these verses have already taken place?

 

 

"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 'Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?'"  "Andrew," Peter's brother joins the three who were normally Jesus' inner circle—"Peter, James" and "John."  They ask two questions: (1) "when will these things happen?" (2) "what will be the sign that they are about to be fulfilled?"  These disciples did not know that Jesus would soon die, resurrect, and then no longer be present on earth for hundreds of years.  They probably thought that the destruction of the temple would be immediately followed by Jesus setting up His kingdom.  They did not expect the answer that Jesus was about to give them.  His, answer, though, does fit what has happened during the years between His time on earth and our present time.

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

What Jesus lists here are called "birth pains."  It is what will precede Jesus' second coming.  The destruction of the "temple" is only one of those "birth pains."

We will go through each of the "birth pains" that Jesus lists here.  (1) "Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many."  Jesus predicts, here, what has happened many times over the hundreds of years that have gone by since He uttered these words.  There have been many who have claimed that they were Him.  Some of those who have claimed to be Jesus that we may be familiar with are Sun Myung Moon, David Koresh, and Jim Jones.  But, there have been many more.

(2) "'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.'"  Since Jesus made this prediction, we have had many wars between countries; and there have even been worldwide wars.  We are in a worldwide war right now between a form of Islam and the rest of the world.  We have the United Nations, but we live in a very un-united world. 

(3) "'There will be earthquakes in various places,'"  Since Jesus' time on earth, there have been "earthquakes" all over the world.  Some of the cities and countries that have been hit by massive earthquakes are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chile (2010), Haiti (2010), Japan (2011) and many more.

(4) "'and famines.'"  Some parts of the world have suffered from a constant shortage of food.  There have also been times in parts of the world when there have been extreme shortages of food.  We have had "famines" in such places as Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, and in other parts of the world.  "Famines" are also the aftermath of "wars," "earthquakes," and other calamities.

"'These are the beginning of birth pains.'"  A mother's "birth pains" increase in intensity and frequency just before the child is born.  It appears that, by using "birth pains" to describe what will precede His return, He is predicting that the troubles that He is describing here will also increase in intensity and frequency just before He returns.  So, there will be more and more significant false Christs, "wars," "earthquakes," and "famines" in the last days just before Jesus' return.  Since the greatest false Christ is the antichrist and the greatest earthquake will be in the last days, it appears that Jesus did choose "birth pains" to teach that there will be an increase in these signs just previous to His return. See II Thess. 2:1-4, 7-12; Rev. 6:12, 16:18-19

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

One of the signs that the end is near is that there will be an increase in the persecution of Christians.  Persecution of Christians has happened throughout the history of the church.  This type of persecution happened in the early church. See Acts 5:17-42, 7:54-8:1, 9:1, 12:1-2  It happened throughout the history of the church.  Foxe's Book of Martyrs describes the deaths of many who died as Christian martyrs.  It, of course, still happens today; maybe in greater numbers than ever before.  In recent years, the persecution of the church has tragically increased in areas where Islamic terrorists have been in power.  In the last days, there will be a worldwide persecution that will exceed everything that has happened before it.  

"'On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.'"  Paul, who had been a persecutor of the church, as a Christian was forced to stand before government leaders like the Jewish Sanhedrin, governors Felix and Festus, king Agrippa, and even the Roman Caesar. See Acts 22:30-23:11, 23:23-26:32; II Tm 4:16-17  Throughout the years, Christians have stood before those in power and have refused to disown Jesus.  For many, it cost them their lives.
"'And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.'"  In spite of all the opposition to God, to Christians, and to "the gospel," Jesus promised here that "the gospel" will "be preached to all nations."  And that work is going on through missionaries who are living and ministering throughout the world; through the Bible being translated into new languages, through the internet that reaches every corner of the world; and through video, audio, and written mediums.  Never before has the gospel been available in such a world-wide way.

"'Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.'"  Jesus, here, is encouraging Christians of all ages to persevere in preaching the "gospel" message even during persecutions of every type.  For even when we are arrested for being a Christian, God will be with us and will empower us to continue to be bold and fearless.

Peter and John demonstrated this boldness when they were arrested for preaching the "gospel."  Here is their response to the government leaders who arrested them.  "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: 'Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:8-13)

These words, of course, are meant for every Christian that gets in trouble with government authorities because of his or her Christian beliefs.  May we "not worry before hand about what to say," but "say whatever is given" to us "at the time."

c. The abomination of desolation (13:12-19)
"'Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you see “the abomination that causes desolation” standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.'"

Thought Question: Why will this be a very difficult time to be a Christian?

 

 

"'Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.'"  What is described here is persecution of the worst type—when even family members turn on their Christian family members and even "have them put to death."  It describes a time of complete polarization of the world.  Right now, there is not a clear black and white different between Christians and those who are not Christians.  In a recent poll reported in the news (in 2016), eighty percent of Americans say they are Christians.  But, will that number stay the same if it begins to be more costly to be called a Christian?  At the time Jesus is describing here, it will be very clear who is and who is not a Christian.  And those who are not Christians will "put" Christians "to death"—even if they are their own family members.

Christians will show that they are Christians by persevering in their faith to the end of their lives.  In the Middle East, this type of persecution and killing of Christians is already taking place.  Christians are dying there rather than renounce their faith.  "Now, 'the end' he is talking about there is not the end of the tribulation; it is the end of the individual's life.  All Christians are called on to be faithful unto death." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  "But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." (Hebrews 3:6)  "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (Hebrews 3:14)  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess." (Hebrews 4:14)

Another possibility is that "the end" Jesus is referring to is "the end" of the persecution.  Then, the "saved" are those who will be rescued by Jesus when He returns.

"'When you see “the abomination that causes desolation” standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.'"  What is this "abomination that causes desolation" that Jesus speaks of here?  This "abomination" is predicted both before Jesus' time and after Jesus' time.  A similar event that foreshadows this final "abomination" of "desolation" actually took place between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times.  It occurred when a likeness of the future antichrist set up the worship of Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem.  He put up a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies of the temple in Jerusalem and required the people of Israel to sacrifice pigs to it.  It is called an "abomination" because it was the most blasphemous act that the Jews could imagine being part of.  This man's name was Antioches Epiphanes and what he did is predicted and described in Daniel 11:31:  "His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation." (Daniel 11:31) See also I Maccabees 1:54, 59; II Maccabees 6:1-5

It is predicted that another "abomination" of "desolation" will occur in the last days.  "He replied, 'Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.'" (Daniel 12:9-11)

This "abomination" is still in our future.  Though some believe that it happened when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in AD 70.  This future "abomination" is predicted in II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13:  "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God." (II Thessalonians 2:1-4)  "Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Revelation 13:11-17) See also Jn. 5:43

"'then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.'"  When the future antichrist "sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (II Thess. 2:4), all of God's people will need to "flee" immediately.  We who will be there at that time will be in such imminent danger that we will have no time to pack.  We will need to run away immediately; for this event will begin a horrible persecution of God's people like has never taken place before.

This time of persecution for God's people—both of the church and of Israel—was predicted even before Jesus' time.  "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered."  (Daniel 12:1)  "How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:7)

"'How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter,'"  It will be an unbearable time "of distress" if it occurs in normal circumstances; but if it occurs during the cold of "winter" or if a woman is "pregnant," it will be even worse.

"'because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.'"  Jesus is very clear, nothing this extreme has ever happened before.  Some say Jesus is describing what took place in AD 70 when Rome crushed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.  That was a horrible time.  But, was it worse than the holocaust. the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacre when Mao Tse Tung took over China, or the murders by ISIS in Iraq?  The future persecution will be "unequaled from the beginning" and it will "never" "be equaled again."

b. False Christs and false prophets (13:20-23)
"'If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.'"

Thought Question: Who are "the elect" in these verses? (the church, Israel, or those who become believers during the 7-year period theologians call the "the tribulation period"?

 

 

"'If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.'"  A key to understanding this verse is whom we identify as being the ones who are here called the "elect."  Normally, we would say that the "elect" is another way of naming those who are born-again members of the church—born-again Christians.  But there are many who hold the pretribulationist view of prophecy who believe that the "elect" here are not the church.  Why?  According to their view, the future time described here by Jesus is called the tribulation period, and those who hold this view believe the church will be raptured and gone before this time—hence, the name pretribulation."  So, for them, the "elect" here cannot be the church.

The period that has come to be called the "tribulation" is the seven-year period described in Daniel 9:27: "He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (Daniel 9:27)  The description of this "tribulation" period is found in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13.  Though it is called the "tribulation" by modern-day theologians, it is not given this title anywhere in the Bible.  Rather, the last 3 ½ years of this seven-year period is called a time of "great distress." (Lk. 21:23).  The book of Revelation calls this  3 ½ year period "the great tribulation." (Rev. 7:14)  Jesus also appears to be referring to this last 3 ½ years when He says in Luke that "the abomination that causes desolation" is followed by a time of “great distress." (Lk. 21:23)

What is meant by the "rapture"?  The word "rapture" or "raptured" comes from the Latin word for "caught up" in I Thessalonians 4:17.

"Now, back to 13:20.  The pretribulation view is that the "elect" here refers to those who have become believers during the tribulation period.  Another possibility, from their perspective, is that the "elect" refers to the nation of Israel.

But, if the rapture predicted in the Bible will not take place prior to the "abomination of desolation," then the "elect" will be the church.  The view I have come to hold is called the pre-wrath view.  It is the belief that the church will go through the persecution that will take place beginning with "the abomination that causes desolation," but it will be raptured before God's wrath is poured out after the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-17.  "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”" (Revelation 6:17)  We are not told that we will avoid the persecution of the antichrist, but we are told that we will not experience God's wrath.  "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Thessalonians 5:9)

It appears that this rapture in the midst of the great tribulation and just before God's wrath is described in Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-37; and Luke 21:27.  "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mark 13:26-27)  The rapture described in I Thessalonians 4:17, then, will take place during the time of great distress, not before it.  "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
(I Thessalonians 4:13-17)  "I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."  (I Corinthians 15:50-52)

Now, let us look at 13:20 once more.  "'If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them."  If the pre-wrath view is correct, the church will experience great persecution.  We will not know how long it will go on.  And, then in the middle of Satan's heartless time, Jesus will suddenly return and rescue His church.  We, of course, would much rather that Jesus would return before this time of great persecution.  But Satan's persecution of God's people has been predicted.  "As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom."  (Daniel 7:21-22)  "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation." (Revelation 13:5-7)

"'At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.'"  A sign that the end is near will be the increasing presence of religious deception.  Over the years, religious deception has increased.  Religious cults are masters of deceit.  Recently, there has been an expose of a major cult by one of their former leaders.  Millions are held captive today by false religions of every type.  Religious deceit, then, is not new to our time.  What will be new, will be the false "miracles" that will take place in the very last days.

There is a desire today for "miracles." This desire makes people susceptible to counterfeit "miracles."  Jesus, here, warns us that in the very last days, "false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect." 

Paul made the same prediction.  "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie." (II Thessalonians 2:9-11) See also Exod. 7:11-12; Deut. 13:1-3

"'signs and miracles'"  "'Signs' is semeion a miracle whose purpose is that of attesting the claims of the one performing the miracle to be true.  'Wonders' ["miracles"] is teras 'a miracle whose purpose it is to awaken amazement in the beholder.'  It is the same miracle regarded from different standpoints."  "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"'if that were possible.'"  John gives the following warning to Christians, so they will not be deceived by false teachers.  "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." (I John 4:1-6) See also I Jn. 2:26-27

Christians should not be fooled by "false" teachers.  But, can we be fooled?  "The words 'if it were possible' are ei dunaton which Swete translates 'if possible.'  He says that phrase leaves the possibility undetermined." "Wuest."  Is it possible for "the elect" to be fooled by "false" teachers?  Jesus leaves that question unanswered.  What, then, is our answer to that question?  The answer to that question is that no one is ultimately fooled.  We can choose to be deceived for some selfish reason.  But, deep down, we know the truth.

e. The sign before Jesus' return (13:24-25) See also Matt. 24:29
"'But in those days, following that distress, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”"

Thought Question:  Do you believe this darkness will precede the coming of Jesus to rapture the church?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Jesus tells us here that this unusual heavenly sign will precede His Second Coming.  This sign is predicted throughout the Bible.  Man has chosen moral darkness and spiritual darkness, so God's judgment in the last days will be preceded by physical darkness.  "See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless." (Isaiah 13:9-11)  "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Joel 2:31) See also Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 3:14-16; Amos 8:9; Zeph. 1:14-17

 This time of darkness is also predicted in the book of Revelation.  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red," (Revelation 6:12)  According to the book of Revelation, this darkness will be followed by God's wrath.  "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”" (Revelation 6:17)

The view on prophecy that I have been presenting places the rapture of the church immediately after the sun turning dark and immediately before the wrath of God begins.  And it appears that the next event here in Mark is Jesus' return.

f. Jesus' return (13:26-27)
"'At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that the coming of Christ described here will include the rapture of the church, or do you believe it describes a separate coming for a different group of the "elect" that are present on earth after the church has already been raptured?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

The pretribulation view believes that this coming of Jesus Christ will come some seven years after the rapture of the church.  They believe that the "elect" here are not the church, but those who believe in Christ after the church has been raptured or the "elect" here are Israel's, God's "elect" nation.

Walvoord, a pretribulationist, said the following about the identity of  "the elect" in Matthew 24:31, a parallel verse to Mark 13:27.  "Some believe that the context points to the limitation of the word elect to the living saints on the earth at the time of the Second Advent (cf. Matt. 24:22).  Others have regarded 'elect' in Matthew 24:31 as a reference to Israel as an elect nation." "Taken from The Rapture Question by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1979 by Zondervan Publishing House."

But, these words of Jesus appear to be describing the very same event that Paul describes in I Thessalonians 4:16-17.  Compare these two accounts:  "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mark 13:26-27)  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."  (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

We can see from Jesus' words, that His Second Coming will be an event that no one will be able to ignore.  God has been ignored for centuries by most of this planet that He created and inhabited with people made in His image.  But, there is a day coming when ignoring Him will come to an abrupt end.  All will see Him in "great power and glory."  At that time, He will "gather" His people."  And so we will be with the Lord forever." (I Thessalonians 4:17)

g. A less from the fig tree (13:28-31) See also Matt. 24:32-34; Lk. 21:29-31
"'Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.'"

Thought Question #1: Who do you believe the "fig tree" symbolizes?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Who do you believe is "the generation" that will "not pass away"?

 

 

"'Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.'"  What is "this lesson from the fig tree"?  As a young Christian, I heard from Hal Lindsay that the "fig tree" represented Israel and that the "fig tree" bearing leaves represented Israel becoming a nation in 1948.  Furthermore, if a generation is forty years as he taught, the Lord's return was to occur in 1988.  That interpretation of this "lesson from the fig tree" obviously was not correct.  Though, it does appear that "the fig tree" that withers in Mark 11:12-14, 21 does represent Israel.

Another interpretation is that "this generation" was "the generation" that
was living in Jesus' time.  Those who hold this view of the meaning of "this generation" believe that Jesus was saying that His "generation" would see all the events that He had just described to His disciples.  In other places in the Gospels, that is the meaning of "this generation."  "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:" (Matthew 11:16) See also Matt. 23:36; Mk. 8:12  Those who interpret "this generation" in this way believe that what was predicted by Jesus in this chapter was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans conquered Israel and destroyed the temple.  Also, an interpretation of those who hold this view is that Nero was the antichrist.

The proper interpretation, to me, is that the "leaves" on "the fig tree" mean that the signs Jesus has been given are all signs of His return.  When they are all present, especially the "abomination that causes desolation," the "generation" that is alive at that time will also see the Lord's return.

 "'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.'"  This is an emphatic way of stating that God's promises given here by Jesus can be fully trusted to take place. See also Matt. 5:18; Jer. 31:33-37, 33:20-26

h. The day and hour of Jesus' return are unknown (13:32-36)
"'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”'"

Thought Question: If Jesus is God and He is omniscient, why did He not know when He will return to earth?

 

 

"'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.'"  "In verse 32, the Lord Jesus, speaking in the capacity of the Son of man under the self-imposed limitations of the incarnation, says that even He Himself did not at that time know the hour of the second Advent, and of the time of the fulfillment of these other things grouped around that event." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Though Jesus did not know the timing of these events, men have been setting dates for Jesus' return ever since the time that Jesus said these words.  Here are some of the dates the men have set for Jesus' return: 650, 1000, 1033, 1044, 1065, 1186, 1420, 1843, 1911, 1968, 1984, 1988, 1990, 2000, 2012, and many more. The Date Setter's Diary is a source for some of these dates.

"'Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.'" This parable is also found in Matt. 24:42-51

What is the meaning of this parable?  It tells us the type of attitude and actions we should take while we wait for the Lord's return.  We are always to be awake and alert.  In this story, the servant at "the door" does "not know when the owner of the house" is going to return, so he needs to be awake and alert at all times.  For, the "owner" could return "in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn."  These four times are "the four watches of the night used by the Romans." "NIV Study Bible note." 

"'If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”'"  So, we are to be awake and alert, as we await the return of the Lord.  How are we to be awake and alert.  We are to be continually in God's Word and busy with His work right up until the time the Lord returns.  "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet."  (I Thessalonians 5:4-8)  "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." (II Thessalonians 2:15-17)

 

12. Jesus is anointed by Mary (14:1-11) (The woman's name is given in Jn. 12:3) See also Matt. 26:2-16; Jn. 12:1-8

a. Introduction (14:1-2)
"Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 'But not during the Feast,' they said, 'or the people may riot.'"

Thought Question: What can we learn here about the type of religious politics that should not be present in Christ's church?

 

 

Here, we have religious politics at its worst.  What can we learn from these religious leaders' actions about what should not be present in our churches?  Obviously, the types of religious politics that resulted in the murder of Jesus should not be present in our churches.  First of all, they were "looking" for a "way" to "kill" Jesus.  They were not seeking to do good to Jesus, but bad.  Any time one's goal is to harm someone rather than to do good to them, religion has become twisted in some way and for some evil purpose.  Secondly, these religious leaders were conspiring together to "kill" Him.  Whenever, religious people are getting together to carry out some evil plan, things have gotten evil and twisted.  Thirdly, they were strategizing and seeking after the best "way" to get rid of Jesus.  They were seeking a way to do it whereby they would get the least resistance from "the people."  They knew that Jesus was popular with "the people."  So, Jesus' arrest and murder needed to be done in such a "way" that "the people" would not question it as being improper or wrong.  They were devious and clever enough to pull it off without getting in trouble themselves.  Their original plan was to wait until the "Feast" was over and the crowds were gone.  We know that they, nevertheless, did it during the "Feast."

"the Passover"  The "Passover" actually was a prediction of Jesus' death for our sins.  Jesus the Lamb of God, when He was crucified, took the holy judgment that we deserve.  The original "Passover" is described in Exodus 12.  The blood of a lamb was placed "on the top and sides of the doorframe" of the houses of the Israelites.  Then, when "the destroyer" passed over the house, he did not kill their firstborn as he killed the firstborn of the Egyptians. (Exod. 12:23)

The blood of the "Passover" lamb pictured the blood of Jesus Christ that saves all of us who believe in Him from God's judgment.  Paul is clear that the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the "Passover" lamb pointed to our need to repent of our sins and trust in the death of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness for our sins.  "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (I Corinthians 5:7)

These religious leaders of Israel were planning to kill Jesus, God's "Passover" Lamb.  John the Baptist recognized who He was.  "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)

b. The anointing (14:3)
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head."

Thought Question: How can we express our love for Jesus in a similar way to the way Mary showed her love for Him?

 

 

"While he was in Bethany,"  Mark takes us back in time, when they were "in Bethany."  John tells us this took place "six days before the Passover." (Jn. 12:1)  It appears that Mark's purpose is to sandwich this account of one who loved Jesus between two accounts of those who hated Him—this account of Mary's love was placed between the account about the religious leaders and the account about Judas.

"While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head."  John tells us that the "woman" was Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus).  "Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:3)

"very expensive perfume, made of pure nard."  "Nard" "is an aromatic herb grown in the high pasture-land of the Himalayas, between Tibet and India.  In view of the fact that it had to be procured in a region so remote and carried on camel-back through miles and miles of mountain-passes, it was very high-priced." "Taken from New Testament Commentary on John 12 by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1953 by Baker Book House."

So, what Mary did was an extravagant expression of her love for Jesus.  Jesus understood what was in her heart and it certainly meant a great deal to Him; even though His disciples did not understand at all what she was doing.

c. The disciples' response to Mary's expression of love (14:4-5)
"Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Mary's anointing with this very expensive "perfume" was better than selling the "perfume" and giving "the money" "to the poor"?

 

 

The Gospel of John reveals that Judas was one of those who was indignant.  "But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 'Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.' He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it."  (John 12:4-6)  But, as we learn here in Mark, Judas was not alone in rebuking Mary.  "Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly." 

This account of this women's great love for Jesus shows how our love for God can be misunderstood, even by church people.  Mary had insight into what Jesus was going through that the others did not have.  Sometimes, others do not understand why we do what we do.

d. Jesus' response to Mary and the indignation of His followers. (14:6-9)
"'Leave her alone,' said Jesus. 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that Mary understood that Jesus was about to die?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Now, we see how Jesus looked upon Mary and her extravagant expression of love for Him.  There are times when giving to "the poor" is not as important as some other use of money.  At that moment, Mary's use of that perfume perfectly fit the circumstances.  Somehow, Mary seemed to understand that Jesus was about to die.  She may have been the only who did understand.  Jesus saw her act as a beautiful and touching expression of love toward Him when He most needed it.   There would always be the opportunity for Mary to give to "the poor," but she would not have always have this opportunity to show her love for Jesus at the perfect time.  He knew that there was one person who understood the sacrifice that He was about to make!

Jesus predicts here that Mary's expression of love would be told "throughout the world."  And it has, as it is being told right now as I write.

Thought Question:  In what way or ways is "Mary" an example of someone who does not seek the approval of men, but seeks only God's approval?

 

 

I recently viewed a pastor give a message from these verses.  His emphasis was on how often we do what we do to seek the approval of men.  Mary did not have the approval of men, but she did have the approval of Jesus.  May she be an example for us, so that we will also seek Jesus' approval; even when we do not have the approval of men.  The pastor's point in the message was that when we choose a life of obeying and serving our King, we discover that we have His approval

e. Judas offers to betray Jesus. (14:10-11)
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over."

Thought Question: Why do you believe the religious leaders were "delighted to hear" that Judas was going to betray Jesus? (What does that tell us about them?)

 

 

We are told in Luke that at this point "Satan entered Judas called Iscariot."  (Lk. 22:3)  The religious leaders "were delighted" that one of the Twelve was now on their side.  Now, within Jesus' closest followers was one who was in agreement and alignment with them—Jesus' enemies now had a mole among His followers.  Now, it was just not the religious leaders who were looking for an opportunity to arrest Him, "Judas" was also looking for a time when Jesus could most easily be arrested.  It would come early in the morning when Jesus was isolated from the crowds.  "He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present." (Luke 22:6)  "Judas" chose Satan as his lord and not Jesus as His Lord.  Eternally and sadly, it was the wrong choice for him.

14. The Lord's Supper (14:12-26)

a. Preparation for the Passover meal (14:12-16) See also Matt. 26:17-30; Lk. 22:7-23
"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?' So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, 'Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.' The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover."

Thought Question: Do you believe there was anything miraculous that happened in the preparation for the "Passover" meal?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?' So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, 'Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.'"

There is disagreement among Bible scholars over whether all of this was prearranged by Jesus with no miracle involved, or whether it was miraculously arranged by Jesus.  It seems unlikely that the "two" "disciples" could have walked into busy Jerusalem and easily run into the right "man carrying a jar of water," without Divine help.  Cole offers this possibility for what happened: "Jesus here shows a combination of supernatural knowledge and practical preparation, as in the events surrounding the triumphal entry.  In view of the fact that the upper room of verse 15 was ready for them, it suggests that Jesus had already made some prior arrangement to keep Passover at the home of this resident of Jerusalem.  This was apparently a common practice of country pilgrims.  But it needed supernatural foreknowledge, again of the kind manifested by Samuel and the other prophets (I Sam. 10:2-6) to tell his disciples of the signs that would lead them to the right house." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."  Cole also suggests that Jesus wanted to keep the exact location of the "Passover" meal secret, to protect His privacy and provide safety for this important last time with His "disciples."

This "Passover" meal may have taken place at Mark's mother's home.  It was in her home that the early church met when they prayed for the imprisoned Peter.  Peter met them there after he was miraculously rescued from this imprisonment.  "When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying." (Acts 12:12)

We learn in Luke 22:8 that the "disciples" that were sent were Peter and John.  "Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'"

"The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover."  What Jesus predicted happened exactly as Jesus predicted it would happen.

b. Jesus predicts that He will be betrayed. (14:17-21) See also Matt. 26:20-25
"When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.' They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, 'Surely not I?' 'It is one of the Twelve,' he replied, 'one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe the other disciples did not recognize it was Judas who was going to betray Jesus?

 

 

"When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.' They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, 'Surely not I?'"  Ray Stedman cautions us not to get our picture of the Last Supper from Leonardo Da Vinci's painting which pictures Jesus and His disciples sitting around a table.  Rather, "they were lying on couches around a low table in the Roman custom, which the Jews of this time also observed.  In that arrangement, the head of John the disciple lay close to the breast of Jesus.  But on the other side of Jesus, equally close to him, was Judas, so that the head of Jesus lay near the breast of Judas." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"'Surely not I?'"  Each of the disciples were fearful: "Could it be me!"  It shows their awareness of the evil in their own hearts.  But, one of them knew that it was him.

It is amazing that Judas had so fooled his fellow disciples that they did not know that he was the betrayer.  He was a good actor.  He played the role of the faithful follower of Jesus very well.  They did not know that he was actually on the side of Satan, Jesus' greatest enemy.

"'It is one of the Twelve,' he replied, 'one who dips bread into the bowl with me.'"  John tells us that John, who was on his right, asked who it was who was going to betray Him, and Jesus said it was Judas, who was on His right.  "One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, 'Ask him which one he means.' Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, 'Lord, who is it?' Jesus answered, 'It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.' Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon."  (John 13:23-26) See also Ps. 41:9

"The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'"  God allows us to make choices, even choices that determine our eternal destiny.  Here, Jesus warns Judas that his choice will lead to his eternal damnation.  But, as we know, Judas made that choice anyway.

"'The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.'"  Jesus allowed a man's evil plans to happen.  For, it was God's will that He should die as He did.  "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

c. The Lord's Supper (14:22-26)
"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' he said to them. 'I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.' When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Thought Question: There is a view that the bread becomes the actual body of Jesus when we take the Lord's Supper.  Do you believe this is true?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.'"  Jesus was using the "bread" to symbolize that He was about to give His "body" as a sacrificial payment for our sins—He was about to pay for all of mankind's sins.  Jesus was not saying that the "bread" was His "body," for He was in His body when He said these words. 

"The ceremony of the Lord's Supper has been a point of controversy in the history of the church.  Of the bread and the cup the Roman church holds to transubstantiation, that the elements actually are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.  The Lutheran church, historically, has held that while the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, it is actually invested with the character of the body and blood of Christ, and the partaking of one is the same as partaking of the other." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

"The true doctrine about our Lord's human nature forbids us to believe that bread in the Lord's Supper can be His body, or the wine His blood.  The natural body of Christ cannot be at one time in more places than one.  If our Lord's body could sit at the table, and at the same time be eaten by the disciples, it is perfectly clear that it was not a human body like our own. . . . The Lord's Supper was ordained for a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ's death, until He comes again. . . .  It was meant to help our poor weak faith have clearer fellowship with our crucified Savior." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29) by J. C. Ryle."

"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' he said to them. 'I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.'"  It was predicted in the Old Testament that there would be a New Covenant.  "'The time is coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'" (Jeremiah 31:31-34)  "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

This new covenant could only be made with us after there had been a satisfactory and just payment for the penalty for our sins.  Jesus' blood made that payment.  When we drink "the cup," we remember and celebrate the fact that it represents Jesus' blood that puts us in a New Covenant relationship with God. See I Cor. 11:25; Heb. 7:22, 8:6,13, 9:15

"'I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.'"  "Jesus would eat no more Passover meals until the coming of the future kingdom. . . . Finally the fellowship will be consummated in the great Messianic 'wedding supper of the Lamb' to come (Rev. 19:9)." "NIV Study Bible note on Luke 22:16."

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."  "The Passover fellowship was concluded with the second half of the Hallel Psalms (Ps. 115-118)." "NIV Study Bible note on Matthew 26:30."

 "they went out to the Mount of Olives."  They did not go back to Bethany.  Of course, it would be at Gethsemane on "the Mount of Olives" where Jesus would pray and afterwards be arrested.

15. Jesus predicts Peter's denials. (14:27-31) See also Matt. 26:31-35

a. Jesus points to a place in the Old Testament where it predicts that His disciples would abandon Him. (14:27)
"'You will all fall away,' Jesus told them, 'for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”'"

Thought Question: If you had been one of His disciples at that time, would you have done what the rest of the disciples did?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Jesus knew from the beginning that His closest followers would abandon Him when He was struck for them and for us.  It is predicted in Zechariah 13:7:  "'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!' declares the Lord Almighty. 'Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.'" (Zechariah 13:7)  The "sword" of God's judgment was to come down on the Messiah because our sins were placed on Him.

Jesus' closest disciples would soon panic and run.  This happened when Jesus was arrested.  "At that time Jesus said to the crowd, 'Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.' Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." (Matthew 26:55-56)

"It is a tremendous thing about Jesus that there was nothing for which he was not prepared.  The opposition, the misunderstanding, the enmity of the orthodox religious people, the betrayal by one of his own inner circle, the pain and the agony of the Cross—he was prepared for them all.  But perhaps what hurt him most was the failure of his friends.  It is when a man is up against it that he needs his friends most, and that was exactly where Jesus' friends left him all alone and let him down." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

b. Jesus predicts His resurrection (14:28)
"'But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'"

Jesus follows up His prediction of His and their darkest time with a prediction of their brightest time—He predicts that He will rise from the dead.
"I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'"  An angel reminded a group of women of this promise of Jesus on resurrection Sunday.  "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" (Mark 16:7)

c. Jesus predicts Peter's denials (14:29-31)
"Peter declared, 'Even if all fall away, I will not.' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.' But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the others said the same."

Thought Question: Would you have responded in a way similar to the way that "Peter" responded?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Peter declared, 'Even if all fall away, I will not.'"  "Peter," like all of us, had a higher opinion of himself than what was actually true of him.  Paul warned us not to have too high an opinion of ourselves.  "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3)

Humility is gained as we learn and accept the truth about our failings and weaknesses.  "Peter" learns here, first by Jesus' words and then by his own actions, how fallible, weak, and needy he was.  Our lives, also, are peppered with our proud statements, our high estimations of ourselves, and our many failures.  We can all identify with "Peter."

"'Even if all fall away, I will not.'"  "Peter" believed that even if "all" fell "away," he would not.  "Peter" not only did not see his own weaknesses; he saw others' weaknesses, but did not see that he was just like everyone else.  Certainly, that is a universal malady!  We see others' weaknesses, but do not see our own weaknesses.  We see their need for God's grace, but we do not see our own need for God's grace.  But their needs for God's grace are also my needs and our needs for God's grace.

Chemical dependency treatment calls this "terminal uniqueness"—what applies to others does not apply to me, for I am different.  This results in the alcoholic and/or addict thinking that he or she will be able to continue to use drugs and alcohol and it will have a different outcome for him or her than it has had for others.  But, we are not different.  We also need God's grace and we also need His help.

"'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.'"  Jesus tells "Peter" that what "Peter" said was not the "truth," the "truth" is what Jesus is about to say. See 8:12, 9:1,41, 10:15,29, 11:23, 12:43, 13:30, 14:9,18,25,30 for other times when Jesus begins statements with these words.

The "truth" is that "Peter" would "disown" Him "three times" "before the rooster crows twice."  Matthew says "before the rooster crows." (Matt. 26:34)

"But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the others said the same."  Jesus said that they would all fail; they were sure they would not fail.  "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" (I Corinthians 10:12)

"'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.'"  In his own strength, "Peter" would soon fail; but later, relying on Jesus' strength, he would not fail.  Peter later boldly stood up against the same group of religious leaders that Jesus stood up against. See Acts 4:8-12, 5:27-31  Tradition tells us that Peter continued to be bold before leaders, even though it resulted in him being crucified upside down (he did not want to be crucified like his Lord).

b. Gethsemane (14:32-42) See also Matt.26:36-46; Lk. 22:39-46
"They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.' Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.' Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Simon,' he said to Peter, 'are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.' Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'"

Thought Question #1: What do we learn about ourselves from the "disciples"?

 

 

Thought Question #2: what do learn about Jesus from these verses?

 

 

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

"Gethsemane" was "A garden or orchard on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, one of Jesus' favorite places (see Lk 22:39; Jn 18:2).  The name is Hebrew and means 'oil press,' i.e., a place for squeezing the oil from olives." "NIV Study Bible note." See also Lk. 21:37.

This was the first time that Jesus was in great need.  He faced the darkest time in His life (in His eternal life) and He faced the darkest time in human history.  It was not just the cruel mocking, the travesty of a trial, the merciless beatings, and the cross; He faced taking upon Himself the punishment for all of the sins of mankind.  He became sin for us.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)  Would His three closest disciples be there for Him in His darkest hour?

"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"  What did Jesus mean by "Take this cup from me"?  The "cup" is what is poured into one's life—what a person must drink.  What was about to poured into Jesus' life was the punishment for all of mankind's sins—which, of course, includes my sins and your sins.  Jesus prays here that if there is some other way that He could accomplish the Father's will apart from the cross, then "take this cup from me." 

"So, in 15:32 the priests will challenge Jesus to come down from the cross, if he is the Christ.  But, if had come down from the cross, he could not have been the Christ for the Christ, by definition, must suffer." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."
Nevertheless, He was willing to do whatever the Father's "will" was for Him; and while He went through this great anguish, we learn that His disciples were sleeping. See Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:7-9

"Abba"  It is Aramaic for Father.  It is an affectionate term, describing the close intimate relationship between the Father and the Son. See Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6

"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Simon,' he said to Peter, 'are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?"  "Peter" had "insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.'"  Yet, he could not keep awake when Jesus needed him most.  It was as if Jesus was asking "Peter," "Where is your zeal and devotion now?"    

"'Simon,' he said to Peter, 'are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?"  Jesus uses Peter's old name.  Right then, he was not "Peter" the rock, but he was the very human "Simon."

Jesus had just given them this task.  "It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 'Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”'" (Mark 13:34-37)  And they had already failed; for instead of watching alertly, they were all sleeping.
 
Nevertheless, Jesus does not fall into self-pity.  Instead, He focused on their need.  "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'"

"Peter" and the two others show how susceptible we all are to falling "asleep" when we should be alert.  Jesus' gives us here the solution.  We need to ever "watch and pray."  We are ever in enemy territory.  We should ever be on the alert.  Also, because we wage war against a superior enemy, we must continually seek to be dressed in Christ's armor and be fighting with God's weapons.  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13)  "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (II Corinthians 10:3-4)

"'The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'"  Jesus was not harsh and critical as we can be with each other.  Jesus knew they wanted to do the right thing, but they did not have the strength to do it.  These three are a picture of all of us without God's strength.  We do not have the strength to do God's will apart from the power of God's Spirit.  "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)

God's strength through the indwelling Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit enables us to live the Christian life and serve others.  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)  "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

"Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him."  We learn about prayer from what is described here.  Certainly, Jesus' prayer was about what He prayed for in verse 35-36:  "Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"  As I write these words, an incident has occurred that has brought pain to a number of families.  Daily, I pray about the same prayer for those involved.  Jesus' prayers were focused on what was about to happen to Him.

Our prayers are also often focused day after day upon similar concerns.  We pray day after day for the salvation of individuals, the need for revival in our country, God's help for His servants, for God to raise up workers for the harvest, and many concerns in our personal lives. In all of this, we follow the pattern of our Lord and Savior.  We pray for the needs of others and our needs just as He prayed during His time of great need.

Also, Jesus' time of prayer enabled Him to obey the Father's will.  Sometimes, it is during our time of prayer that we gain the strength to obey the Father at a time when it is difficult to obey Him.

"Returning the third time, he said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'"  The time of prayer is over, for the betrayer and those who are with him are just about upon them.  So, the three "disciples" rise from their slumber and go with Jesus to an event the slumberers never suspected would happen to them.

These watchmen were not awake and ready for the enemy.  We are to be awake and engaged in prayer and in the battle as we await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." (I Thessalonians 5:4-8)

17. Jesus is arrested. (14:43-53) See also Matt. 26:47-56; Lk. 22:47-53
"Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 'Am I leading a rebellion,' said Jesus, 'that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.' Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."

Thought Question: Why do you believe they needed such a large armed group to arrest Jesus?

 

 

"Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders."  "John (18:3) indicates that at least some of the Roman cohort of soldiers were in the arrest group, along with officers of the temple guard.  The fact that some carried clubs suggests that they were conscripted at the last moment." "NIV Study Bible note."

Why did they come to arrest Jesus at this morning hour with such a large "armed" "crowd"?  It appears that they knew that they were not arresting just a man, but a God-man.  We see their fear in John 18: "Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?' 'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'I am he,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground." (John 18:4-6)

Another reason there was such a "large crowd" (Matt. 26:47) is that they might have been concerned that Jesus' followers might resist them with force.  Only Peter did that.  "Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)" (John 18:10) See also Lk. 22:49-51; Matt. 26:51-54

"Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him." 

So, Judas, backed by the large "armed" "crowd," carries out his betrayal of Jesus with a "kiss."  "The verb 'kissed' is kataphileo, not the simple verb, but with a prefixed preposition which lends intensity to already existing meaning of the verb.  It was an affectionate, fervent kiss the traitor gave our Lord, of course, hypocritical." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (Proverbs 27:6)

"Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear."  We are told in John 18, that it was Peter that "struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear." See Jn. 18:10  It appears that since the Gospel of John was the last Gospel written, it had become safe for Peter's name to be given.

Peter panicked.  All of us have panicked and lopped off an ear or ears.  The solution is to trust that God's will is being accomplished even when our will is not being accomplished.  That was certainly the case here.  Peter thought all would be lost if Jesus was not rescued from this "armed" mob.  The truth is that all would have been lost if Jesus had been rescued.  So, Jesus stepped in and prevented Peter from losing his life.

"'Am I leading a rebellion,' said Jesus, 'that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.'"  Jesus, here, quickly puts everything that was happening that early morning into the light.  Jesus had been "teaching" out in the open.  He had not been "leading" a secret "rebellion."  If He had been doing something wrong, they could have arrested Him at any time.  So, He asked them, "Why have you come out in the early hours to an isolated place to arrest me?"  There was no good answer, for they were all participating in treachery, and not pursuing a righteous legal action against a wrong-doer.

"Then everyone deserted him and fled."  Though everything that was happening was under God's control and "fulfilled" the "Scriptures," it appeared to the disciples that all was lost.  And, so, they "deserted" Jesus "and fled"; just as Jesus had predicted.  "'You will all fall away,' Jesus told them, 'for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”'" (Mark 14:27) See also Isa. 53 and Ps. 22 for predictions in the Old Testament of Jesus' death to pay the penalty for our sins..  See also Acts 2:23

"A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."  Why does Mark mention, in such an uncomplimentary way, this "young man."  Mark may have been humbly referring to himself.  It would, then be a vivid memory that he had of what happened to him when Jesus was arrested.  For he, like the disciples, also "fled."  That it was Mark is supported by the fact that this incident is only found in Mark.
Barclay gives a possible reason that Mark may have been there that morning.  "When we read Acts we find that the meeting place and head-quarters of the Jerusalem church was apparently in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12).  If that be so, it is at least probable that the upper room in which the Last Supper was eaten was at the same house.  There could be no more natural place than that to be the centre of the church. . . . It may be that Mark was actually present at the Last Supper.  He was young, just a boy, maybe no one really noticed him.  But he was fascinated with Jesus and when the company went out into the dark, he slipped out after them when he ought to have been in bed, with only the linen sheet over his naked body.  It may be that all the time Mark was there in the shadows listening and watching." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

It is fairly certain that it was Mark, for who else would even know about this "young man" fleeing into the dark?  Who else would have found a reason to enter it into one of the Gospels?

18. Jesus is tried before the Sanhedrin. (14:53-65)

a. They could not find evidence to convict Him. (14:53-59) See also Matt. 26:57-68; Jn. 18:12-13
"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 'We heard him say, “I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.”' Yet even then their testimony did not agree."

Thought Question: Find as many ways that this trial was unfair and unjust as you are able to find.

 

 

"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together."  The Gospel of John tells us that a trial before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, preceded this trial before the Sanhedrin.

Matthew tells us this part of the trial was before "the whole Sanhedrin." (Matthew 26:59)  "The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews and was composed of seventy-one members.  Within its membership there were Sadducees—the priestly class were all Sadducees—Pharisees and Scribes, who were experts in the law, and respected men who were elders . . . The High Priest presided over the court." "Barclay."

The Sanhedrin was breaking many of its own rules in trying Jesus in this way.  First of all, they were meeting at night.  "Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspended at night (Sanhedrin 4,1)." "Taken from The Gospel of John by James Boice.  copyright 1985 by Zondervan Publishing House."  Secondly, "no court could lawfully meet on a Sabbath or other feast day, nor one day preceding a Sabbath or feast." "Boice."  Thirdly, this trial was supposed to take place at "the official meeting of the Sanhedrin . . . the Hall of Hewn Stone which was within the temple precincts . . . the decisions of the Sanhedrin were not valid unless reached at a meeting held in that place." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  It would be like our Supreme Court meeting at the home of the chief justice in the middle of the night without any public knowledge of it.

"Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire."  The other disciples were gone, but "Peter followed" "at a distance."  Like all of us, "Peter" was a mixture of courage and cowardice.  Here, he showed his courage by following the arrested Jesus.  Since he had cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, he was putting himself at high risk of also being arrested.  If someone in the "courtyard of the high priest" had recognized him as the one who had assaulted one of them, he would have been arrested.  He will, though, show his cowardly side when he denies Christ.

"The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any."  This trial was the very definition of an unjust trial.  The judges were not seeking after justice, but they "were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death."  They had decided earlier to "put him to death."  Now, they were seeking to find a legal way to do it. See Mk. 3:6, 11:18  Finding a way to convict an innocent man is no easy task.  They were seeking for a judicially-sanctioned way to murder Jesus.

"Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree."  They were able to obtain witnesses against Jesus, but it was too obvious that they were false witnesses because their stories conflicted with each other.

"Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 'We heard him say, “I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.”' Yet even then their testimony did not agree."  Some "false" witnesses testified that He said He was going to destroy the "temple."  "Yet even then their testimony did not agree."

Years ago, someone made a charge against me that under my leadership the church's finances were going down.  The church treasurer very kindly pointed out that actually the giving was increasing, but our church's giving to missionaries had increased.  The one making the charges ignored this comment and went on as if his initial statement was true.

These religious leaders were not interested in what Jesus meant by what He said, they were looking for any evidence against Him they could find—even if it was "false" evidence. See Jn. 2:19

b. The high priest compels Jesus to incriminate Himself. 
(14:60-61a)
"Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that Jesus "remained silent"?

 

 

Robertson says that "the high priest" "stood up" to look more imposing and to "make up by bluster" the fact that the "evidence" was weak." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Sometimes, those who have a weak argument seek to win the argument by getting louder.

Here, the "high priest" was taking a role that went against the role the Sanhedrin was supposed to have in trials.  The "high priest" and the Sanhedrin were not to act as a prosecuting attorney and the accused was not be asked to incriminate himself.  "The Sanhedrin did not and could not originate charges.  It only investigated those brought before it. "Taken from The Six Trials of Christ (p. 73) by John Lawrence quoting Alfred Edersheim. Copyright 1977."

"But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer."  There are times when we know that those that are making a charge against us are not interested in the truth.  Their goal is to find something against us—whether it be true or not true.  Nothing we say will change that.  Nothing Jesus could have said would have been heard by these arrogant and self-serving judges.  So, He "remained silent and gave no answer."  Isaiah predicted that Jesus the Messiah would respond in this way.  "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

c. Jesus declares that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Son of man. (14:61b-62)
"Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"

Thought Question: Sometimes, people ask questions about our faith.  Those questions can be motivated by a sincere desire to get an answer to their questions.  At other times, the questions are asked to try to trap us.  What motivated the "high priest" when he asked this question.  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'"  The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the "high priest" put Jesus under solemn oath which, according to Levitical law, required Jesus to answer.  " . . . The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'" (Matthew 26:63)  "If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible." (Leviticus 5:1)

But, the "high priest" again was going against the code of the Sanhedrin which forbade him from forcing Jesus to incriminate Himself.  It was like our fifth amendment. 

"'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"  Some say that Jesus never said that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  But, here Jesus was asked under oath whether or not He is "the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"  In Matthew it says, " . . . Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."   (Matthew 26:63)  What is Jesus' answer to this question?  There is no longer any need to hide His identity from anyone.  He answers, "I am."  "I am" is the name for God. See Exod. 3:14; Jn. 8:58
"'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"  Jesus gave more of an answer than Caiaphas the "high priest" wanted to hear.  Jesus told him, in effect, you are now judging me; one day, I will be judging you.  On that day, Jesus will be "sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One."  "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books." (Revelation 20:11-12)

"'and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"  Jesus' return is predicted throughout the Bible, and "clouds" are often associated with His return.  "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence." (Daniel 7:13)  "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:9-11)  "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." (Revelation 1:7)  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

d. The high priest proclaims his verdict by tearing his clothes. (14:63-64)
"The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as worthy of death."

Thought Question: If the high priest's heart was right, how would he have responded to Jesus' answer to his question?

 

 

The judgment of the Sanhedrin was supposed to begin with the junior judges, so that they would not be influenced by the senior judges.  Here, the high priest himself is the first to give his verdict.  He gives his verdict by performing a totally forbidden act; he ripped "his clothes" to shreds.  "The rending of the garments is designed to be a sign of intense sorrow or anguish, in this case because the High Priest heard blasphemy.  By tearing his garments, he was saying to the other judges, 'I mourn because my ears have had to listen to the greatest possible blasphemy they could hear!'  But you who sit in Moses' seat and judge according to the Law, do you hear the Law?  Leviticus 21:10 reads: 'And he that is high priest among his brethren, upon whose head anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. pp. 79-80.  Copyright 1977." See also Levit. 10:6  With this act, all appearance of dignity and all the phony piety disappeared, and we see what was in their hearts all along.

Here, we see that the people at that mockery of a trial had no fear of God at all.  He had just predicted a time in the future when they would see Him in all the glory of the Son of God, and at that time He would sit in judgment on them.  What did they do?  They all condemned Him to "death."

e. Jesus is beaten. (14:65)
"Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, 'Prophesy!' And the guards took him and beat him."

Imagine a trial in our country that ended like this.  The judge rips his robe off and the jury beats up and spits on the one on trial.  Now, imagine that the one on trial is completely innocent.

What could motivate such an atrocity and such a complete miscarriage of justice?  The answer is that Jesus was not on trial, but mankind was on trial.  And the verdict for mankind is "guilty!"  Fallen man hates God and His Son.  We want to be able to do what we want to do when we want to do it.  And we want to do it without anyone saying that we did anything wrong.  At that trial, Jesus exposed their evil and He revealed His innocence. See Isa. 52:14

19. Peter denies Jesus three times. (14:66-72)

a. Denial #1 (14:66-68) See also Matt. 26:69-75; Lk. 22:54-62; Jn. 18:15-18, 25-27
"While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. 'You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,' she said. But he denied it. 'I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,' he said, and went out into the entryway."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Peter who had shortly before this time been courageous before an army (see Mk. 14:47), cowers before a servant girl?

 

 

Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times that night.  "''I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.'" (Mark 14:30) See also Matt. 26:34; Lk. 22:34; Jn. 13:38

Jesus did not predict that Peter would deny him exactly three times before the cock crows or before it crowed twice, but He predicted that Peter would not be able to make it through that night and until the cock crowed without denying Him at least three times.  Peter did not make it.  In fact, there are recorded possibly as many as eight denials.

Each of the Gospels records but three of these denials.  "Each Gospel is content to record just three denials out of the many that took place.  It took only three to fulfill the prediction of Christ, and to record more than this would be only adding insult to an already pathetic situation.  What appears to happen is this:  Peter was so sure of himself and so vehement about it that the Lord just had him stumble all over the place by multiplying his denials." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. p. 87.  Copyright 1977."

The following is a possible list of Peter's denials: #1 John 18:17 (trial before Annas and to a woman—not found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke); #2 John 18:25 (standing by the fire at Caiaphas' home); #3 Matthew 26:69-70; Mark 14:66-68; Luke 22:55-57 (sitting by the fire at Caiaphas' home to a servant girl); #4 Mark 14:69-70 (to the same woman)  #5 Matthew 26:70-71 (another women and with an oath); #6 Luke 22:58 (to a man); #7 John 18:26 (to a servant of the high priest and a relative of Malchus whose ear Peter cut off; and #8 Matthew 26:73-75; Mark 14:70-72; Luke 22:59-62 (before all and with curses).

Peter had followed John to Annas' home.  It was because John knew Annas that he and Peter were able to gain entrance in the courtyard that was located in the center of Annas' home. See Jn. 18:12-18  It took courage for John and Peter to follow the bound Jesus and the soldiers into Annas' home.  It was clearly not the place for them to be.  This was especially true for Peter, who had just attacked one of the high priest's servant.  But within this enclosure, Peter's human courage would fail and He would be ashamed and too fearful to acknowledge Christ before men. See Matt. 10:32-33

"While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. 'You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,' she said. But he denied it. 'I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,' he said, and went out into the entryway."

It appears that John records two denials before this denial recorded here by Mark. See Jn. 18:17,25

Shortly before what is described here, "Peter" had fearlessly pulled out his sword to take on a mob of  armed men. See 14:47  Now, he cowers before a "servant" girl who appears to be curious to know if he was a follower of Jesus.  "Peter" appears to cower because he sees Jesus seeming to be powerless to resist His arrest and capture.  Peter's leader appears to be helpless; so "Peter" feels helpless as well.  He feels so helpless that he cowers before a servant girl.

The same can happen to us.  At times, God, for some reason unknown to us, chooses not act and allows evil people to be successful in some wicked plot.  It appears that God is powerless to do anything, and so we also feel powerless.  Yet, God's plans are not thwarted because of these evil men.  Jesus' death on the cross was God's plan all along.  And, so, what God allows to happen also accomplishes God's goal.  Even the death of God's people has accomplished God's goals.  But, in those times when evil seems to be winning, it is also very human for God's people to respond as Peter did.

b. Denial #2 (14:69-70a)
"When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, 'This fellow is one of them.' Again he denied it."  The second denial in Matthew differs slightly from this account.  "Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, 'This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.' He denied it again, with an oath: 'I don’t know the man!'" (Matthew 26:71-72)  Here in Mark, it says it was the same "servant girl" who asked him again, and in Matthew it says it was "another girl."  They appear to be recording two different events that took place at the "entryway." (14:68)

c. Denial #3 (14:70b-72)
"After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, 'Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.' He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, 'I don’t know this man you’re talking about.' Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.' And he broke down and wept."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Peter got stronger and probably louder in his denial, even calling "down curses on himself"?

 

 

"'Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.'"  Peter's "Galilean" accent gave him away.  "The Galileans had difficulty with the gutterals." "Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew 26:73 by A.T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "Gutterals" are sounds that come from the throat.  Even though they were certain that "Peter" was one of Jesus' followers, he denies it even more strongly.  He even calls "down curses on himself" if he is lying to them.

Luke tells us that this denial occurred one hour later than the earlier denials.  "About an hour later another asserted, 'Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.'" (Luke 22:59)

Sometimes a tactic that we humans use when we are losing an argument is to get louder, thinking that the higher volume will win the argument for us.  "Peter" may have done something like this.  His accent gave it away that he was a follower of Jesus.  So, he got even stronger and probably louder in his denial.  Hoping that getting louder would overcome what the on-lookers were sure of.

"Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.' And he broke down and wept."  Luke gives us additional information about what took place at this moment.  "Peter replied, 'Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!' Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:60-62)

At this moment, "Peter" recognized that Jesus knew much more about him than he knew about himself.  He was not "Peter" the rock, but "Peter" the frail and weak.  He would come to be "Peter" the rock when he learned to depend on Jesus' rock-like strength.  But, certainly at this moment when he saw his human weakness like never before, it helped him to more fully see his need for God's strength.

"'Before the rooster crows twice'"  "Some early manuscripts do not have twice." "NIV note."  The first rooster crow may have been at midnight.  The second crowing would been the rooster's early morning crowing.

"And he broke down and wept."  This is true repentance.  This is the godly sorrow described in II Corinthians 7:  "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter." (II Corinthians 7:10-11)

Ray Stedman has the following to say about Peter's tears:  "To me, the most hopeful note here is the tears of Peter.  The priests didn't weep, and there is no record that Judas wept, though he did display a degree of remorse and despair.  But Peter, when he denied his Lord, threw himself down and wept . . . Peter's tears speak of another day that is yet to come when the Lord will deliver him and restore him, having learned a very sobering and salutary lesson." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

20. Jesus before Pilate (15:1-14)

a. Jesus taken to Pilate (15:1-2)
"Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. 'Are you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate. 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."

Thought Question: What would it have felt like to be bound and taken away on a false charge?

 

 

This is the second trial before the Sanhedrin.  The first trial was illegal because it was held at night.  To make it legal, the Sanhedrin needed to repeat the trial in the day.  This second trial is given in detail in    Luke 22:66-71.  There, we find that the Sanhedrin once more requires Jesus to incriminate Himself.

"They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate."  The verdict was that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, so He must die.  But, the Romans would not allow them to carry out the death penalty which was the punishment for blasphemy.  Also, the Romans would not allow them to carry out the death penalty because someone broke one of their religious laws.  As we see in the Gospel of Luke, they needed to change the charge against Jesus so that it was a crime that warranted the death penalty in a Roman court of law.  "Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.'" (Luke 23:1-2)

Barclay gives us this information about Pilate.  "He must have been at least 27 years of age, for that was the minimum age for entering on the office of procurator.  He must have been a man of considerable experience, for there was a ladder of offices, including military command, up which a man must climb until he qualified to become a governor.  Pilate must have been a tried and tested soldier and administrator. . . . He began with trouble. . . . The Romans standards were not flags; they were poles with the Roman eagle, or the image of the reigning emperor, on top.  In deference to the Jewish hatred of graven images, every previous governor had removed the eagle and the images from the standards before he marched into Jerusalem on his state visits.  Pilate refused to do so.  The result was such bitter opposition and such intransigence that Pilate in the end was forced to yield, for it is not possible either to arrest or to slaughter a whole nation. . . . The Jews, Philo tells us had threatened to exercise their right to report Pilate to the Emperor for his misdeeds.  This threat 'exasperated Pilate to the greatest possible degree, as he feared lest they might go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government—his corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.' . . In the end he was recalled to Rome on account of his savagery in an incident in Samaria." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  He quotes Philo.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

In Luke, we learned that it was because of the Jews' charge that He was a "king" that "Pilate" asked Him if He was "the king of the Jews."

"'Are you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate. 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."  In the Gospel of John we learn that this question came after "Pilate" took Jesus inside the palace.  "Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'" (John 18:33)

Also in John, we see a more detailed interaction between "Pilate" and Jesus at this time, resulting in "Pilate" finding Him innocent.  "Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?' Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.' 'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.' 'What is truth?' Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no basis for a charge against him.'" (John 18:33-38)

b. Jesus' responds to Pilate with silence. (15:3-5)
"The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.'   But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that "Pilate was amazed"?

 

 

"The chief priests accused him of many things."  The Jewish leaders "let loose their venom against Jesus." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"The trial proper begins (as we can see from the other gospels) with a confused mass of general accusations (many things or many charges, 3 and 4), designed to paint Jesus in black light." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP." 

"So again Pilate asked him, Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.'   But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed."  Jesus once again is silent as He was before Caiaphas. See Matthew 26:62-63  There was nothing gained by saying anything.  It would not have changed the Jews' determination to kill Him, nor would it have changed what Pilate would do.  Most of all, His death was God's loving plan for mankind.  And so, Jesus had accepted that the murder in the heart of the Jews would lead to His death.  Jesus' silence actually was His willingness to lay down His life for us.  So, He was silent.  "Pilate" was amazed at the composure of Jesus in the presence of the hate of these Jewish leaders and how He was not at all intimidated as He stood before the power of Rome that was under his (Pilate's) control. See Isa. 53:7

c. The Jews choose to release Barabbas over releasing Jesus. (15:6-14) See also Matt. 27:15-26; Lk 23:13-25; Jn. 18:39-19:16
"Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. 'Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. 'What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?' Pilate asked them. 'Crucify him!' they shouted. 'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe the crowd chose to free the guilty Barabbas over the innocent Jesus?

 

 

"Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested."  "Of which nothing is known outside the Gospels." "NIV Study Bible note on Matthew 27:15."

"A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. 'Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate,"  The people of Israel had the opportunity to free the innocent Jesus or free the guilty "Barabbas."  The irony is that "Barabbas" was guilty of what the religious leaders were charging Jesus with.  Compare Lk. 23:2 and Mk. 15:7  They wanted the one who was leading a rebellion against the Romans freed and the one who was innocent of this charge to be killed.  "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

"knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him."  There may have been enough of human decency in "Pilate" that it troubled him to cave into political pressure and to be a pawn of these Jewish leaders in the murder of an innocent man.  Or, it might have been that it was out of hatred of the Jewish leaders that he tried to free a man that he knew was innocent of anything worthy of the death penalty.  Only God knows what Pilate's motives were on that day.  But he knew for certain that these Jewish leaders hated Jesus because they were jealous of Him.

"But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead." See also Matt. 27:20  Why did the crowd chose the guilty "Barabbas" over the innocent Jesus?  One of the reasons is that the Jewish religious leaders were able to stir up a mob mentality against Jesus.  I watched anti-war protestors stir up this type of mob mentality in the late 1960s at San Jose State College in northern California.  It created an almost mindless mob motivated by hate.  That is what Jesus faced on that day.

J. C. Ryle gives us another reason:  "Men imagine that if they saw a perfect person, they would love and admire him.  They flatter themselves that it is the inconsistency of professing Christians which they dislike, and not their religion.  They forget that when a really perfect person was on earth in the person of the Son of God, he was hated and put to death.  That single fact goes far to prove the truth of Edward's remark—'unconverted men would kill God, if they could get at Him!'" "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels on Matthew by J. C. Ryle." See  I Jn. 3:11-15; Jn. 15:18-25

"'What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?' Pilate asked them. 'Crucify him!' they shouted. 'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!'"  It appears that "Pilate" does not want to be a pawn in the hands of the religious leaders.  In this case, he did not want to be an accomplice in the murder of an innocent man, whose only crime was that the Jewish leaders were envious of His popularity with the people.

But they cry on "Crucify him!"  The Jewish people had become a bloodthirsty mob united in one goal: to see Jesus hanging on a cross dying a horrible death.
Did every person in that crowd agree with what the mob shouted?  Matthew does say in 27:22 that "they all answered, 'Crucify him!'"  There are times, though, when the majority is so loud and so forceful that the minority realizes that their voice will be drowned out.  They say nothing because they realize that speaking out against the majority is futile.  Jesus' mother and other true followers of Jesus were there, but their voices were either not heard or were silent.  Luke 23 tells us of those who mourned what was happening to Jesus.  "A large number of people
followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!”'" (Luke 23:27-29)  Throughout history there have been those who watched helplessly as a mob's loud voice drowned out their objections—objections that were either uttered or not uttered. 

We are left with a question: Why did the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem about a week prior to this time shouting "Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11:9); then, as we learn here, a week later they are shouting "Crucify!"?  Are these two completely different groups of people or is it one group of people that went from loving Jesus to hating Him?  It appears that it is much like it is today, and as it has been throughout the years.  There were those in that crowd that did not agree with what was happening to Jesus. See Lk. 23:27-29  The supporters of Jesus watched helplessly because they were greatly outnumbered on this day.

There were certainly also some in that crowd that were opposed to Jesus at the Triumphal Entry.  As, at that time, Jesus was too popular to oppose publicly. 

But, there certainly also were those who thoughtlessly did what the majority did in both occasions.  There were certainly those who were fickle and sided with the majority and praised Him when it was the popular thing to do; and, then, sided with the majority and yelled "Crucify" when it was the popular thing to do.

Some, though, believe that the reason that one crowd praised Jesus and one crowd wanted Him to be crucified is that they were two totally different crowds.  It is possible that it was the believers who went out to greet Him at the Triumphal Entry, and it was mainly those who were unbelievers who were at the trial and wanted Him crucified.  It still, to me, seems likely that there were a large number of people who were at both events and were drawn into what the crowd did on both occasions.  "Some of the voices beyond a doubt had joined in the hallelujahs to the Son of David in the triumphal entry." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

We need to be careful to make our decisions on what is right, rather than be those who follow what the crowd does.  The following words show how susceptible we are to whatever the crowd does: fads, riots, protests, fans, crazes, idols, stars, and more.  It appears to me that the crowd was with Him when they thought He was the conquering King.  But, when He was arrested as a criminal, they turned against Him.  Even today, people can become disappointed with God and turn on Him.  Most know someone who turned on God when some type of personal tragedy or discouragement occurred.

21. Pilate had the innocent Jesus flogged. (15:15-20)
"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him."

Thought Question #1: What do these verses tell you about what kind of man Pilate was?

 

 

Thought Question #2: What can we learn about God from what Jesus endured from the soldiers?

 

 

"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."  Matthew tells us what "Pilate" did at this point.  "When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I am innocent of this man’s blood,' he said. 'It is your responsibility!' (Matthew 27:24)  Then, Matthew tells us what the people did.  "All the people answered, 'Let his blood be on us and on our children!'" (Matthew 27:25)

Nothing in the history of man shows the ugliness that is inside of us more clearly than these verses.  "Pilate" reveals what a sniveling coward he was.  He chose to have a man beaten that he knew was innocent, in an attempt to please a mob.  He could have put his whole life, job, and success on the line for an innocent man by releasing Jesus.  It is what he should have done!  Instead, he became one of history's most disrespected men and had an innocent man beaten."

"The scourge consists of a handle to which several leather thongs were affixed.  These were weighed on the ends with jagged pieces of bone or metal.  This would help tear the flesh and make the blow more effective. . . . The punishment by scourging was so severe that the victim usually fainted,. and not rarely died." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. p. 186.  Copyright 1977."

"The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him." See also Matt. 27:27-31; Jn. 19:1-6

"The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium)"  The "Praetorium" is "the palace in which the Roman provincial governor resided." "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "The soldiers led Jesus away" from the Jewish people and led Him into the Roman headquarters.  It was like taking someone today into the embassy of a foreign country.  There, they could do to him whatever they desired to do.  And what they desired to do was to mock Him.  And they "called together the whole company of soldiers" so that all could join in their evil fun.

"They put a purple robe on him,"  We can wonder at times as to why God allows some evil to happen.  Here, we can wonder why Jesus, the Almighty Ruler of the universe, allowed Himself to be mocked in this way.  "They put a purple robe on him," the robe of a king, to mock His claim to be a king.  But, He was and He is the King!

"then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him."   "They put on His head a crown of thorns, composed of twigs broken off some thorny plant which grew on waste ground near by, the thorns of which are long, sharp, recurved, and which often create a festering wound." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

"Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him."  We need to remember that Jesus had already been savagely scourged; He had endured a number of unjust trials; and He had been up all night.  He had already endured beyond what most men and maybe all men could have endured.  But, because He is the Almighty Son of God, He was being mocked by men He could have easily subdued.  Yet, He endured it all: "by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:7)

"'Hail, king of the Jews!'"  "A mocking salutation that corresponded to 'Hail Caesar!'" "NIV Study Bible note."

"And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him."  When their evil game was finished, Jesus was "led" "out" to be crucified.  What Jesus had already endured was probably more than the wicked have ever endured for their crimes.  But, Jesus was completely innocent.  What can we learn about God from what Jesus endured from these soldiers without once striking back?  God's love is infinite.  He will pay any price to draw us to Himself and to His love.  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

22. Jesus' death and burial (15:21-47)

a. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross. (15:21) See also Matt. 27:32; Lk 23:26
"A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross."

It appears that the tortures that Jesus had endured had taken the last of His energy so that He was unable to carry His cross.  So, the Roman soldiers seized "Simon" "from Cyrene" and made him "carry" it.

He was from "Cyrene," a part of what is now Libya.  He was an African, possibly a black man.  Some believe, though, that he was a Jew. See Acts 2:10-11, 6:9

Here in Mark, we learn that he had two children who appear to have been well-known to Christians by the time he wrote his Gospel.  "Rufus" may have been mentioned by Paul in Rom 16:13.  "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too." (Romans 16:13)  "Simon" May have become a believer on that walk to the cross; and that may have led to the conversion of his family. See Luke 23:26-34 for a description of that walk.  See also Acts 13:1

b. Events that took place while Jesus was on the cross just before His death (15:22-32)
"They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!' In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.' Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him."

Thought Question: In these verses there are those who did not understand why Jesus was hanging on the cross.  How can we be those who fully understand why He was hanging there?

 

 

"They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)."  Vincent explains something to us about this place of crucifixion that is not often understood:  "The word Calvary comes through the Latin calvaria, meaning skull and used in the Vulgate [Latin translation of the Bible]." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

"Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it."  Matthew 27:34 has "gall" and not "myrrh."  Robertson explains the effect of both the "gall" and the "myrrh" in his comments on Matthew 27:34.  "Mark (15:23) has myrrh instead of gall.  The myrrh gave the sour wine a better flavour and like the bitter gall had a narcotic and stupefying effect.  Both elements may have been in the drink which Jesus tasted and refused to drink.  Women provided the drink to deaden the sense of pain and the soldiers may have added the gall to make it disagreeable." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Jesus chose not to have His sensed dulled when He suffered for us on the cross. See Ps. 69:21; Jn. 18:11

"And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get."  We see here how cold-hearted man can get.  Above them, an innocent man is dying the most horrible and shameful death the ancient world could devise; below, men are thinking about what they could get out of Him.

The same type of thing can happen when a relative is dying.  His family can be coldly thinking about dividing the inheritance rather than about the person dying.  It can also happen when people go on with their lives without thinking about why Jesus was hanging on that cross.  It can also happen to us when we sing our Christian songs about the cross and think little of what they mean.  It can also happen when we take the Lord's Supper without deeply remembering what it means.  We should all seek to not be like these soldiers.  We should look away from only thinking of ourselves and look up to the cross and at the One who was there suffering for us. 

Barclay describes the clothes that Jesus wore as follows;  "Every Jew wore five articles of apparel—his shoes, his turban, his girdle, his tunic, and his outer robe.  There were four soldiers and there were five articles.  They diced for them, each had his pick and the inner tunic was left.  it was seamless, woven all in one piece." "Taken from The Gospel of John by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press." 

John says that these soldiers gambling for His clothes was predicted in Psalm  22:18. "This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, 'They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.'" (John 18:24)  Psalm 22, then, is a Messianic Psalm—a Psalm predicting the Messiah and what would take place in His life.  Much of the Psalm predicted what it would be like for Jesus —from His perspective—while He was dying on the cross.  In fact, it is the only place where the agony He felt when he was on the cross is described; and it was described 1000 years before Jesus was born.

"It was the third hour when they crucified him."  "The third hour, (Jewish time) was nine o'clock in the morning." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  At noon, "darkness came over the whole land" until 3 PM.  "It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two." (Luke 23:44-45)

"The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS."  In John, we are told that this charge against Jesus was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  Also, in Jn. 19:19, we learn that this sign was put on the cross.  "Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS." (John 19:19)  The presence of this sign argues strongly that the cross was not shaped like a "T" or an "X," as some crosses were structured, but in the traditional shape of a "t," which would have provided a place to put the sign.  "There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." (Luke 23:38) 

Why did Pilate have this sign put over Jesus' head?  It probably was put there because of Pilate's hatred for the Jews.  He was saying "This is how you treat your king."  Little did he know that his words were exactly what was taking place.  The Jews were murdering their King.  One day in the future, the living Jewish people of that time will see this.  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." (Zechariah 12:10)

A sign was typically put above the head of the criminal who was being crucified, stating what he was dying for.  "Pilate" mocked "the Jews" by stating that Jesus was dying for claiming that He was their king.  Also, this sign mocked the Jews for killing their own king.  The truth is that is exactly who He was and who He is.  The Old Testament predicted that a King would come to Israel from the line of David who would reign over Israel forever.  "You said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, “I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.”'" (Psalm 89:3-4)  "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)  "But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'" (Luke 1:30-33) See also Acts 2:29-30, 13:22-23; Revelation 5:5, 22:16

"and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek." (John 19:20) "Aramaic.  One of the languages of the Jewish people at the time (along with Hebrew)." "NIV Study Bible note on John 19:20."  Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire.  Greek was an international language that had been spread throughout the world by Alexander the Great." 

The New Testament Transline note explains why some translations have "Hebrew" instead of "Aramaic."  "That, the language of the Hebrews at the time, which modern linguists call Aramaic." "Taken from Transline by Make Magill.  Copyright 2002 by Zondervan Publishing."

These three languages assured that everyone who could read, no matter what his background, was able to read that Jesus was dying because He was "King of the Jews."  For all time, it declares that Jesus died as the promised "King of the Jews." "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:10-12)

"The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, 'Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.' Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'" (John 19:21)  The religious leaders were incensed at the idea that the sign stated that they were killing their leader.

"Pilate's" sign, though, was accurate.  They were guilty; not the innocent Jesus.  We are guilty, not Jesus.  The Innocent One died for all of us who are guilty.  He died in our place.  "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

"It is one of the paradoxical things in life that we can be stubborn about things which do not matter and weak about things of supreme importance.  If Pilate had only withstood the blackmailing tactics of the Jews and had refused to be coerced into giving them their will with Jesus, he might have gone down in history as one of its great, strong men.  But because he yielded on the important thing and stood firm on the unimportant, his name is a name of shame." "Taken from The Gospel of John by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

 "They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left."  We learn in 15:32 that these "two robbers" "heaped insults on him."  But, we also learn In Luke 23:39-43 that one of these "two" men repented and was forgiven.  "One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don’t you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'"

"Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!'"  What is described in these verses is a fulfillment of what was predicted in Psalm 22.  Psalm 22 predicts what it was like from Jesus' perspective while He hung on the cross.  "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'" (Psalm 22:6-8)  "Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:12-16)

These verses in Mark show that the people watching Jesus die on the cross were cold-hearted like beasts, rather than warm-hearted and empathetic.  They enjoyed Jesus' suffering.

15:28  "Some manuscripts left.  28 and the scripture was fulfilled which says. 'He was count with the lawless ones" (Isaiah 53:12) "NIV note."

"In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.' Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him."

The religious leaders lowered themselves by taking part in a mob's ranting.  Behind their words were certainly these thoughts:  "You thought that you were pretty big stuff in our society, with all of your high claims.  How are you thinking about yourself now?"

"'come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.'"  These religious leaders, more than anyone throughout all time, did not get it.  They took Jesus continuing to hang on the cross as meaning that He was helpless.  Instead, it was His strength and love for us that kept Him on that cross. See Lamentations 2:15-16

Certainly, this taunt was a very strong temptation to Jesus.  Why should He continue to hang there for these thankless people?  Yet, He did!  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

"Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him."  The pattern at crucifixions was for those being crucified to curse at the spectators.  But, these two who were "crucified with" Jesus directed their curses at Jesus.  As was mentioned earlier, one of them later repented. See Lk. 23:39-43

c. Jesus' death (15:33-41)See also Matt. 27:45-56; Lk. 23:44-49;  Jn. 19:28-30
"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' When some of those standing near heard this, they said, 'Listen, he’s calling Elijah.' One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 'Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,' he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!' Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there."

Thought Question: In what ways do the events at Jesus' death help us to see the significance of what was taking place when Jesus died for us?

 

 

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour."  So, "darkness came over the whole land" from noon until 3 PM.  What did this "darkness" mean?  At some point, Jesus endured our hell for us.  How long did He experience that hell and that darkness?  It could be that this three hours of "darkness" was a physical expression of the "darkness" of separation from the Father that Jesus experienced.  In II Corinthians, we learn that Jesus became sin   for us.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)  Jesus' cry at the end of this three hours supports this explanation of the three hours of "darkness."  "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34)

Also, this period of "darkness" certainly caught the total attention of those who had participated in the crucifixion.  Dark men had done a dark deed and were judged with total "darkness."  What did Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate think about during this time of "darkness"?  God showed them and everyone there that He was aware of the dark deed they were doing and He was angry with them for murdering His Son. See Exod. 10:21-23; Isa. 13:9-10; Amos 5:18,20;   Zeph. 1:14-15; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12-13, 8:12

"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"  Psalm 22 gives us the only description given in the Bible of what Jesus was experiencing while He hung on the cross.  This cry of Jesus from the cross is found in the first verse of that Psalm.  Here, the truest and deepest suffering of Jesus is revealed—the darkness of His separation from God the Father.  This is the second death of those who reject God—total separation from God!  Jesus experienced the second death for us, so that we will not have to experience it.  The infinite Son of God and Son of Man absorbed the full wrath of God for all of our sins.  And when He was experiencing the wrath and separation from God that we deserve to receive, He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)

Surely, no one has experienced darkness like Jesus experienced it at that moment.  But, all who do not put their faith in Him for salvation will also experience this darkness, and they will experience it eternally.  "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (II Thessalonians 1:8-9)  "But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”" (Matthew 8:12)  See also Matt. 22:13, 25:30; II Pet. 2:17

Barclay describes another aspect of the meaning of Jesus' cry.  "Up to this moment Jesus had gone through every experience of life except one—he had never known the consequence of sin.  Now if there is one thing sin does, it separates us from God. . . . That was one human experience through which Jesus never passed, because he was without sin. . . . And this experience must have been doubly agonizing for Jesus, because he had never known what it was to be separated by this barrier from God." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

"When some of those standing near heard this, they said, 'Listen, he’s calling Elijah.'"  The Aramaic words that Jesus said sounded like "Elijah"—"'Eloi, Eloi'."  "It was commonly believed that Elijah would come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous." "NIV Study Bible note."

In Jesus' most painful moment, those who could hear Him express His great agony did not even understand the words that He was saying.

"One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 'Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,' he said." See Ps. 69:21  "His motive was to offer our Lord the liquid in an effort to prolong His life, so that Elijah would have an opportunity to work an effectual deliverance by taking Him down from the cross." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 15:36) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."

We see more details on this in John.  "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (Jn.19:28-29) See also Ps. 69:29  The Roman soldiers allowed this to take place, but earlier they used His thirst as an opportunity to mock Him.  "The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar." (Luke 23:36)

"It looks as though he is trying to relieve his suffering by offering him some relief.  But if you look at Mark's account carefully, that is not his motive at all.  His motive is to see if something exciting will happen.  He is not moved by compassion, but by curiosity." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,' he said."  They were not those who had compassion for the suffering Jesus, but they were those who were thrill seekers.  Stedman describes how they represent the ugliness in man's heart.  "Sometimes you read in the papers about a man who has crawled out on a ledge over a city street and is about to commit suicide.  A crowd gathers below to watch him.  Perhaps he will sit there in indecision for moments, even hours; but the crowd keeps waiting to see when he will jump.  As he delays, they become impatient and some of them yell up at him, 'Jump, what' the matter?'" "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  I believe that Stedman is correct in concluding that the crowd that was watching Jesus was like the crowd in his modern-day example.

"With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last."  Luke adds this description of what took place at this moment.  "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last."  (Luke 23:46)  John records Jesus' words just before He breathed His last.  "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:30)

"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom."  "The rending of the veil proclaimed the termination and passing away of the ceremonial law.  It was a sign that the old dispensation of sacrifices and ordinances was no longer needed.  Its work was done.  Its occupation was gone, from the moment that Christ died.  There was no more need of an earthly high priest, and mercy seat, and a sprinkling of blood, and an offering up of incense, and a day of atonement.  The true High Priest had at length appeared.  The true lamb of God had been slain.  The true mercy seat was at length revealed.  The figures and shadows [pictures and models] were no longer needed." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels (Matthew 27:51) by J. C. Ryle."

"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!'"  A "centurion" was a ruler over a hundred.  Only experienced soldiers were able to gain this rank.  So, even this weathered soldier was humbled by the events of that day.  Even this man who was probably unfamiliar with the Bible, recognized that Jesus "was the Son of God."  "Although he had witnessed many executions, there never before had been one like this." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

"This centurion, perhaps used to appearing in the presence of royalty, suddenly becomes aware of the true character of Jesus." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  The "centurion and those with him" recognized that they were in the presence of heavenly royalty.

Will we see them in heaven?  They were not ashamed to identify Jesus publicly as "the Son of God."  I believe that we will see them in heaven.  But, we will not know for sure until we get there.  I would love it if when I get there, this "centurion" would put out his hand and greet me there and say, "You were right, my faith in Jesus did save me."

"Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there."

"Mary the mother of James and Joses" is possibly the "Mary the wife of Clopas" of John 19:25. See also Mk. 15:47  The "mother of Zebedee's sons" is probably the "Salome" of Mark 15:40.  There were "many women" there, but Matthew and Mark only singled out three and John singled out four.  Matthew does not mention Jesus' mother Mary.  She may have already been taken away by the apostle John. See Jn. 19:27  Due to the different names used for these women, it takes a comparing of the Gospel accounts to come to a conclusion about the identity of these women.

"It is a beautiful picture.  Hopeless, disappointed, bereaved, heart broken; but the love He had created in those hearts for Himself could not be quenched, even by His dying; could not be overcome, even though they were disappointed; could not be extinguished, even though the light of hope had gone out, and over the sea of their sorrow there was no sighing wind that told of the dawn." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company." See also Matt. 4:21-22, 27:56, 28:1; Mk. 15:47, 16:1, 5-8

"Isn't it a strange thing that around the cross of Jesus gathered this crowd of women?  Where were the men?  Where were James and John—and Peter with all his bluster—at this hour?  John's Gospel tells us John had been there; he had been there with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and they stood at the foot of the cross.  In those first three hours Jesus had found time in the midst of His own suffering to commit his mother to the care of the disciple John.  But evidently John was gone now.  He had led Mary away, and only the women were left around the cross.  Women —they were to the first to love Jesus, and they were the last to stop loving him.  That says something beautiful that I think is truly characteristic of women." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books." See also Lk. 8:1-3

d. Jesus' burial (15:42-47) See also Matt. 27:57-61; Lk. 23:50-56; Jn. 19:38-42 
"It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid."

Thought Question: Why was Joseph of Arimathea's asking for Jesus' body a noble act and why was it important?

 

 

"It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath)."  "Preparation Day.  Friday.  Since it was now late in the afternoon [3 PM], there was an urgency to get Jesus' body down before sundown, when the Sabbath began." "NIV Study Bible note."  The book of Deuteronomy explains the reason for the urgency.  "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)
"So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body."  From the parallel sections in the other Gospels, we learn the following about "Joseph of Arimathea":  ". . . Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. . . ." (John 19:38)
He was "a rich man" (Matthew 27:57)  He was "a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. . . " (Luke 23:50-51)  Here in Mark, we learn that he "went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body." 

"Arimathea"  "A village in the hill country of Ephraim, about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem." "NIV Study Bible note on Matt. 27:57."

"Joseph of Arimathea" was not bold in his opposition to Jesus' wrongful conviction, but he was bold in seeking to have Jesus' body buried in his tomb.  This fulfilled a prediction about the Messiah that is found in Isaiah 53.  "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (Isaiah 53:9)

Cole observes that "it showed real courage, for a man of his position to confess an association with a leader already fallen and thus apparently incapable of benefitting him further." "Taken from Mark by R. Alan Cole.  Copyright 1989 by IVP."

Manford Gutzke asks this pertinent question:  "Why is it so hard to speak up on behalf of a person, when all the important people are against him?  When all the leaders agreed to condemn and abuse Jesus of Nazareth, what could have been in Joseph's mind and heart when he came to bury Jesus?  How is the action of Joseph like that of a college student who protests in class against the unfair handling of the Christian message?" "The Go Gospel by Manford Gutzke.  Copyright 1968 by G/L Publications."  This question is even more relevant today then it was when Manford asked it in 1968.

Normally, the bodies of the crucified were "thrown into a shallow grave or even on a refuse heap." "Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  "Joseph" saved Jesus' body from being treated in such a degrading way.  "In fact it has been suggested that Golgotha may have been called the place of a skull because it was littered with skulls from previous crucifixions." "The Gospel of Mark by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

We learn in John's Gospel that "Joseph" was accompanied by Nicodemus.  "He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds." (John 19:39) See also Jn. 3:1-15, 7:50-52

"Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph."  "It often happened that criminals hung for days on their crosses before they died, and Pilate was amazed that Jesus was dead only six hours after he had been crucified.  But when he had checked the fact with the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph." "Barclay."

"So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  The Gospel of John gives us the following additional information about what took place at the burial of Jesus.  "He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs." (John 19:39-40) 

Tenney describes the burial process that "Joseph of Arimathea" and "Nicodemus" followed.  "The Jews did not embalm as the Egyptians did, by removing the soft organs of the body, and by drying muscular tissues with preservatives.  The corpse was washed (Acts 9:37) and swathed in bandage-like wrappings from arm-pits to feet, in the folds of which spices were placed (Matt. 27:59, Luke 23:53), and a cloth was wound around the head." "Taken from John the Gospel of Belief by Merrill Tenney.  Copyright 1948 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

 "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid."  Luke adds the following information about the women who were at the tomb.  "The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment." (Luke 23:55-56)  It appears that the burial procedures were not completed due to the fact that the Sabbath was so near. See also Mk. 15:40-41

JESUS' RESURRECTION (16:1-8)

1. The women go to the grave. (16:1-3)
"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'"

Thought Question: What do we learn about the women from what they did and from how early they did it?

 

 

"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body."  These same women were also there when Jesus was on the cross.  "Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Jesus, and Salome." (Mark 15:40)  They saw where Jesus' body was buried.  "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he was laid." (Mark 15:47)  Now, when the "Sabbath" was over on Sunday morning, they came to Jesus' tomb "to anoint Jesus’ body."

"Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb"  The Gospel of John says that "Mary Magdalene" left "while it was still dark." (John 20:1)  It appears that "Mary Magdalene: and the other women mentioned in Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; and Luke 24:10 began when it was dark, but the sun rose on the "way to the tomb." 

"Mary Magdalene"  Many believe that "Mary Magdalene" was a prostitute, but the Bible never says that.  All we know about her is that Jesus cast "seven demons" out of her. (Luke 8:2) We are not told that she was the sinful woman of Luke 7. See Luke 7:36-39

"and they asked each other, 'Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'"  One person could not have moved the very large "stone" that covered the entrance to Jesus' tomb.  "The rock hewn tombs in Palestine were usually closed by a circular stone, weighing several tons, and set in a slanting groove so that when the stone was released, it would by its own weight, roll into place over the door.  Very little strength would be required to close the door, but the united effort of several men would be necessary to open it.  Since the stone was found rolled away, it must have been moved by some powerful force and for a definite purpose." "Taken from John the Gospel of Belief by Merrill Tenney.  Copyright 1948 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

2. The women saw an angel. (16:4-8)
"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”' Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."

Thought Question: Describe a time when God did something for you that was too good to be true.

 

 

"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away."  Matthew tells us how it was moved away.  "There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men." (Matthew 28:2-4)

"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed."  Matthew tells us that the "young man dressed in a white robe" was "an angel."  (Matthew 28:2)  It appears that this "angel" who had been sitting on the stone somehow moved inside the tomb.  Luke says that there were two angels.  "While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them." (Luke 24:4)  It appears that Mark focuses on only one of them. See also Lk. 24:22-24

"'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.'"  The angel tells the women what they did not know and what they could not have figured out on their own.  Sometimes, God does something that is too good to be true.  Our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins fits that category.  Here, Jesus rose from the dead as He predicted; but, the women undoubtedly thought something sinister had happened to Jesus' body—such as, someone had stolen the body.

"Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified."  The angel clearly indentified Jesus as the One missing from the tomb.  And he explains that He was missing from the tomb because He had "risen" from the dead.  The women did not go to the wrong tomb that morning.  It was the very same tomb where they had seen the corpse of Jesus taken to on Friday.  But, there was no longer a dead body there.

"'But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”' Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."  It appears that "Mary Magdalene" hurried off and left the other women.  This is recorded in the Gospel of John.  "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'" (John 20:1-2)  It also appears that Jesus appeared to the other women after "Mary Magdalene" left them.  "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'" (Matthew 28:8-10)

"'“He is going ahead of you into Galilee.”'"  Jesus appeared to His disciples in Judea before He appeared to them in "Galilee."  See Lk. 24:13-49; Jn. 20:10-25, 26-31  But He also appeared to them in "Galilee" after He resurrected. See Jn. 21:1-23  And it was in "Galilee" that He gave to them what has been called the Great Commission. See Matt. 28:16-20

Once more, Matthew tells us that Jesus predicted He would appear to His disciples in Galilee."  "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'" (Matthew 28:8-10)

"And Peter"  "That is a wonder touch.  What a gentle, tender word that is!  The last time we saw Peter in this Gospel account, he was weeping bitterly in the darkness of the night after denying his Lord three times.  What a tender thing it is for the angel to say to these women, 'Go and tell the disciples and Peter.'"  "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

THE DISPUTED VERSES (16:9-20)
This is one of the two large sections of the New Testament where it is in dispute as to whether or not it was in the original New Testament text.  The other section of verses that is in dispute is John 7:53-8:11

Here, very simply, are the arguments for and against Mark 16:9-20 being part of Mark's original Gospel.  First of all, here are the arguments that these verses were in the original Gospel account:  (1) It seems odd that Mark's Gospel would end so abruptly at "they were afraid."  "It would moreover be strange to find a Gospel, a book of good news, ending on a note of fear." "New Testament Introduction p. 74 by Donald Guthrie.  Copyright 9165 by Inter-Varsity Press."  (2) Although some of the earliest manuscripts do not contain this section, the majority of manuscripts do contain it.  "The overwhelming majority of texts contain the full twenty verses." "Guthrie, p. 72."  (3) Irenaeus, an early church leader "regarded the verses as part of Mark." "Guthrie, p.75"  (4) Without verses 9-20, it would mean that there were no appearances of the resurrected Jesus in Mark.

Here are some of the arguments that Mark 6:9-20 was not part of Mark's original Gospel:  (1) "The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." "NIV note."  (2) "There is a difference in Greek style between xvi 9-20 and the rest of the Gospel." "Guthrie, p.73."  (3) Some of what is contained in Mark 16:9-20 appears to be unusual.  In 16:14, Jesus scolds His disciples for their lack of faith.  The other Gospels do not record Jesus scolding His disciples at this time.  In 16:17-18, it appears that believers will perform miraculous signs.  This, however, could be a prediction referring to what will happen in general rather that what will happen to each person who believes.

So, what can we conclude?  Guthrie's conclusions make sense to me: "The larger ending must have been attached to the Gospel at a very early period in history. . . . The shorter ending is not well attested and must have been added in an attempt to fill a gap. "Guthrie, pp.72-73."

So, it appears that some early Christians added to Mark's Gospel what they thought he left out.  We cannot be sure of this, but I will complete my notes on Mark with this view of these verses in mind.  "While it cannot be regarded as a part of Mark's Gospel, it nevertheless represents an authentic account of the resurrection appearances." "Guthrie, p.75"

Thought Question:  Based on the arguments given above and any other information available to you, do you believe that Mark 6:9-20 was part of the original Gospel of Mark?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

1. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. (16:9-11)
"When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it."

Thought Question: What do you believe is the reason that the disciples did not believe "Mary Magdalene"?

 

 

"When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping."

This resurrection appearance of Jesus to "Mary Magdalene" appears to be the same as the one described in John 20:1-18.  After discovering that the tomb was empty, she ran "to Simon Peter and the other disciple." [John]  These two disciples also discovered that the tomb was empty.  They go "back to their homes," but "Mary" stayed.  She then "saw two angels in white."  "She turned around and saw Jesus standing there," but she does "not realize" it is Jesus.  Again, this account in Mark appears to be describing this event.

It is after this that the resurrected Jesus appears to the group of women "Mary Magdalene" had just been with.  "Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'" (Matthew 28:9-10)

It appears that this group of women did not go and tell the disciples at first, out of fear; whereas "Mary Magdalene" did tell them.  "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." (Mark 16:8)

"out of whom he had driven seven demons."  "This description of Mary Magdalene is like that in Luke 8:2 and seems strange in Mark at this point, described as a new character here though mentioned by Mark three times just before (15:40, 47, 16:1)."  "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Robertson's observation supports the view that Mark 16:9-20 was added after Mark's Gospel was completed.

"he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,"  This fits the order of events presented earlier: Jesus appeared "first to Mary Magdalene" and appeared next to the group of women.

"She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it."  This corresponds to what is found in John 20:17-18:  "Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”' Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!' And she told them that he had said these things to her."

But John does not say what is said here in Mark.  It does not say that the disciples "did not believe" what "Mary" told them—that she had seen the resurrected Jesus.  But their unbelief that Jesus was to resurrect is described later in Mark.  "Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen." (Mark 16:14) See also Jn. 20:24-29

2. Jesus appears to two disciples walking in the country. (16:12-13)
"Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either."

Thought Question: Though He "appeared in a different form," what can we determine about what His "form" was like?

 

 

"Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country."  This account corresponds to Luke 24:13-35.  Mark's description of this event is very much abbreviated.  These "two" men who were on their way "to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem."  They were talking about Jesus and the reports of the empty tomb, when He walked up to them.  Later, their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was Jesus.

"appeared in a different form"  Though He "appeared in a different form," He still "appeared" to them to be another traveler on this road.  Also, we learn from John that Mary thought "he was the gardener." (Jn. 20:15)  So, Jesus was not in His fully glorified state. See Rev. 1:12-18  But, also, He was not at first recognized as being Jesus by these "two" men on the road to Emmaus. "As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him." (Luke 24:15-16)  Later, they did recognize Him.  "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:30-32)  Furthermore, in Luke we learn that Jesus' body had "flesh and bones." (Lk. 24:39)  Also, the nail holes were present in His hands and feet, and He ate with them. See Lk. 24:40-43

"different form"  "The Greek word 'form' is the same as that used in the account of the Transfiguration, but Swete says there was clearly nothing in the Lord's appearance to distinguish Him from any other wayfaring man." "Wuest's Word Studies—Volume One by Kenneth Wuest.   Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.""  Luke says nothing about the disciples not believing these "two" men's report of seeing the resurrected Jesus.  "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, 'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.' Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread." (Luke 24:33-35)

3. Jesus appears to the Eleven. (16:14)
"Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen."  This report of Jesus rebuking His disciples is found only in this verse.

They were no longer the Twelve, for Judas had left them.  Later, they would choose Matthias to replace Judas. See Acts 1:12-26  But, at this time they were still the "Eleven." 

The "Eleven" appears to be a name that described Jesus closest followers, even if all eleven were not present.   For at this time Thomas was not with them. See John 20:19-31

This resurrection appearance to "the Eleven" corresponds to John 20:19-23.

4. Jesus commissioned them to preach the gospel. (16:15-16)
"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"

Thought Question: What is the "good news" that is to be preached to the whole world?

 

 

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."  This commissioning of the early disciples by Jesus corresponds the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.  According to Matthew this commissioning took place in Galilee.  "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go." (Matthew 28:16)  Jesus said similar words in Judea.  "and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:47-49)

What is the "good news"?  Paul sums it up in I Corinthians 15: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel ["good news"] I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." (I Corinthians 15:1-5)  The "good news" is not that Jesus died, but that He "died for our sins."  And the "good news" is that "he was raised on the third day according to" what the "the Scriptures" predicted would happen.  His appearances to people after He rose from the dead were proofs that He had risen from the dead—He has risen indeed!

Further, the "good news" is that those who believe in Him will be forgiven and will be raised from the dead as Jesus was.  Our responsibility is to tell our fellow humans this "good news." See also Acts 1:3-8

"'Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"  Do Jesus' words in this section of verses that are probably an addendum to Mark teach that baptism is needed for salvation?  The following words by Robertson give us a helpful answer to this question:  "The omission of baptized with 'disbelieveth' ["does not believe"] would seem to show that Jesus does not make baptism essential to salvation." "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." See also Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-38

"will be saved"  Ray Stedman observed that people can be uncomfortable with the word "saved."  "For somebody to rush up to me, grab me by the lapels and say, 'Brother, are you saved?' always turns me off.  It is not so much the term as the way it is used that turns people off.  But I think it is clear that those who struggle with this word have never really understood the hopelessness of humanity.  Once you begin to see how absolutely helpless you are to change your pattern of life, to be acceptable to God apart from the work of Jesus Christ, you will understand what 'saved' means.  Then you will know that this is the only possible word that could have been used—that mankind indeed is like a drowning man, hopeless and helpless, unless somebody rescues him." "The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman. Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

7. The signs that will accompany those who believe (16:17-18)
"'And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.'"

Thought Question: Do these verses teach that every single person who believes will exhibit all of these signs?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Will all these "signs" accompany every single person who believes?  Stedman gives the following answer to that question:  "It is easy to read this as though Jesus means that these signs will accompany everyone who believes and preaches the gospel.  Unfortunately, the text makes it appear this way, and this is how this passage has been understood by many.  As you go about preaching the gospel, these signs will immediately confirm that the faith of those who believe is genuine.  But the amazing fact is that for twenty centuries millions of people have been converted and have believed the gospel and none of these signs have appeared. . . . I think that there is a rather simple solution to the problem." "Stedman."  He believed the "signs" would be manifested by those who propagated the gospel to authenticate their ministries as coming from God.  These "signs" were manifested by the early apostles, including Paul the apostle. See  Acts 2:1-4, 3:1-10, 5:12, 16:16-18, 28:3-6

The author of Hebrews said the following:  "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (Hebrews 2:3-4)

So, these miracles were present in the early church as "signs" to authenticate the early apostles as messengers sent from God.  It took place frequently at that time.  We now have the completed message from God in the New Testament, so there is not the same need today for these miracles.  We are told though that there will be another period of miracles in the future. See Rev. 11:1-14  See also II Cor. 12:12; Lk. 10:19

6. Jesus is taken up to heaven. (16:19)
"After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God."  This corresponds to the accounts of Jesus' ascension into heaven found in Lk. 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11.  "When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven." (Luke 24:50-51)  "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:9-11)

Why is the ascension important to us?  It gives us the reason why there is no grave with Jesus' body in it.  Jesus is alive today, and one day He will return!

"and he sat at the right hand of God."  Jesus predicted this in Mark 14:62.  "'I am,' [the Son of God] said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'" See also Acts 7:56; Eph. 1:19-23, 2:4-6

7. The beginning of the church summarized (16:20)
"Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."

This verse summarizes what is described in the whole book of Acts.  Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension had prepared His "disciples" for their mission—to tell others what they had experienced.  They did not do it apart from Jesus, for He "worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."  And, so, we can conclude the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus accomplished His purpose; now we are to accomplish His purpose for us, as these disciples did.  We also are to proclaim the good news of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®,   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Mark