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Truth or Victory

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Scripture:
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Mark 11:27–33 NRSV)
Observation:
Jesus’ teaching within the temple had been powerful. He was drawing crowds and this made the religious leaders angry and filled with jealousy. They were the religious authorities and h…

Asking in Prayer

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Scripture:
Mark 11:20   In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
 25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
Observation:
A new day and Jesus is again heading into Jerusalem. He and his disciples pass by the fig tree again, and now it has changed entirely, withering all the way down to its roots. The tree will never again bear fruit for it is rotten to the core. This represents Jewish religious leade…

For All the Nations

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Scripture:
He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17 NRSV)
Observation:
This is Mark’s account of Jesus entering the temple and overturning the tables of the money changers. The story would not have been lost on the Gentile readers in Rome, for Jesus was making his way through the courtyard that was to have been the space for Gentiles to pray. This space had now become occupied with those who were changing money and selling sacrificial animals. That business actually needed to be done, but it was where they were doing the work that was a problem. By using the space for the Gentiles they had, in essence, said that the Gentiles would not be allowed to come and pray. God had always anticipated that the Jewish faith would be an evangelistic faith. The business of the temple had turned it into a den of robbers, a place where they were robbing the Gentiles from becoming a …

Looks can be Deceiving

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Scripture:
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:12–14 NRSV)
Observation:
This story is placed here, not so much to speak about Jesus’ own hunger, but for the disciples to hear what he has to say. From far away Jesus could see leaves on the fig tree. This should have meant that the tree was already in the process of developing figs, even if they weren’t yet ripe. The problem was that while the tree looked good from a distance, on close inspection, it was not going to bear any fruit. This fig tree was symbolic of the religious leaders who looked good from a distance, but would not bear fruit. As he entered Jerusalem, Jesus was rejecting the Jewish leaders for they would soon lose …

Did You Notice Him?

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Scripture:
Mark 11:11   Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Observation:
Jesus had just made his entry into the city of Jerusalem. It all fit the scene of Zechariah 9:9 so beautifully, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NIV) He had ridden the colt, people were singing songs of praise and branches had been laid at his feet — and yet, by the time he made it to the temple, things seemed to have quieted down. Who was it that had noticed him? Was it the group of pilgrims who had been traveling with him? The deeper he went into the city, the more the crowd probably trailed off. He wasn’t arriving as a mighty warrior on a handsome steed to overthrow the government. He was a pilgrim on a donkey.
Mark makes it seem as if the fanfar…

Have Mercy on Me!

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Scripture:
Mark 10:46   They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Observation:
This is the second blind man to be healed in Mark’s gospel. Each of the blind men depicts the disciples — or the pathway for disciplesh…

Lobbying for a Place of Power

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Scripture:
Mark 10:35   James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Mark 10:41   When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and th…