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Too Big To Fail

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Scripture:
Mark 13:1   As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Observation:
The disciples had been spending time with Jesus in the temple as he taught. Now, as they left they glanced over at the beauty and glory of the building. Josephus, a first and second-century Roman-Jewish historian described the temple: “Now the outward face of the temple … 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 this temple appeared … like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white” (Josephus, J.W. 5.5.6 §222). If you …

Teachers and Widows

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Scripture:
Mark 12:38   As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:41   He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Observation:
The group of disciples gathers tight around Jesus to continue to listen to his teaching. The world of the…

When We Only Have a Human Perspective

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Scripture:
Mark 12:35  While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ 37 David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
Observation:
These few verses are tucked into Mark’s gospel and may seem a bit confusing. We don’t find a question from the listeners, but rather from Jesus, himself and it refers to his identity as Messiah. Peter has already revealed his understanding of Jesus as Messiah, but it is still a faulty perspective. Peter sees Jesus as potentially, an earthly or political Messiah. This would help us understand the reference to David — a warrier and a king. However, Jesus poses a conundrum, for if Jesus is seen as a son of David, how can David also call him Lord? This would not be possible from an earthly perspe…

He asks for Everything

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Scripture:
Mark 12:28   One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared…

You’re Missing the Point

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Scripture:
“He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:27 NRSV)
Observation:
The Sadducees were posing questions to Jesus about the resurrection and marriage. The problem was that they were mistaken in their understanding and as a result, they revealed that they did not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Faith in the resurrection had everything to do with faith in the covenants and they missed this vital link. “In arguing an obscure point, the Sadducees lost sight of the power of God to raise the dead. Jesus’ own resurrection became final proof of his divine identity” (Tertullian)
Application:
It’s so easy to get hung up on arguing obscure points that we miss out on the big picture. This doesn’t mean that details don’t matter, but they cannot become all-consuming, to the point of missing out on what God has in store. 
When we begin to see what Jesus is saying here, it becomes a roadmap for living life. My dad is reaching the end of his earthly journe…

What’s Your Imprint?

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Scripture:
Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (Mark 12:17 NRSV)
Observation:
Hoping to trap Jesus, the religious leaders decide to ask him a question about taxation. Mark specifically places this story immediately following the parable of the vineyard. That parable is about robbing the Master. Therefore, this section is not so much about state - church separation or relationships, but that the religious leaders failed to realize the imprint of God was supposed to be stamped on their lives. 
The Greek word for image is eikon, so, when Jesus asks about the eikon on the coin their response is very clear: Caesar. Brower tells us, “The NT uses the expression positively to describe Christ as the visible expression of God (2 Cor 3:18; 4:4; Col 1:15; 3:10), to which believers are to be conformed. Strictly speaking, the image on the coin was blasphemous.” (NBBC) Tertullian put it thi…

Isn’t it Amazing?

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Scripture:
Mark 12:1  Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tena…

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…