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Kingdom Greatness

On Sunday, May 8, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Mark 10:32–52 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “Kingdom Greatness.”

An excerpt:

What are some characteristics of Christ-like service, servant-greatness, slave-first-placeness?

  1. It doesn’t do this to get attention, and in doing it, doesn’t draw attention to itself.
  2. The consideration of the interests of others outranks the consideration of its own interest.
  3. The joy brought to others is counted worth the pain and loss that comes with the humiliation of service.
  4. There is a trust in God that motivates it, a belief in what God has promised that unplugs self-promotion and energizes the conviction that greatness comes from service.

Who do you want to imitate? Jesus or Donald Trump?

I see so much greatness at Kenwood Baptist Church. Do you know how much un-thanked, un-noticed, un-requested service happens at our church?

  • Someone prepares the elements for the Lord’s Supper every week.
  • There are people who come early every week to print and fold the bulletins.
  • There’s a couple that you’ll see sweeping the floor and wiping down the tables after pot-luck every week.
  • Someone cleans the bathrooms (I hope!).
  • Someone goes to the grocery story and buys the plates and forks and knives and all the stuff we need for pot-luck.
  • There are people who make the great food we eat every week.
  • Josh does a great job planning the music we’ll sing every week.
  • The others get here early to practice the music.
  • Faithful people prepare to teach Sunday School every week, for adults and for the kids.
  • There is someone behind the curtain organizing everything that needs to happen in the nursery, with the women’s ministry, and there are a whole lot of folks ministering to the Nepalis.
  • There are folks who prepare, sacrifice to be here, and miss the Bible Study and prayer meeting every Wednesday night so they can serve children.

There is greatness, Christ-like greatness, servant of all greatness, last but shall be first greatness all over the place at Kenwood Baptist Church, and I praise God for it. Members of Kenwood, thank you for showing me what it means to follow Christ, for being such good examples, such inspiring brothers and sisters. Thank you for living out the gospel.

Don’t you want more of this greatness? Don’t you want to be even more like Jesus, in even more areas of your life? What do we need in order to know how to come to Jesus, in order to embrace the greatness that comes from service? We need our eyes opened.

In Mark 6:52 we read that the disciples had hardened hearts. Then in 8:17 Jesus asked them If they perceived or understood—if their hearts were hardened, in 8:18 he asked if they had eyes but couldn’t see, ears but couldn’t hear. All of this is reminiscent of the quotation of Isaiah 6:9–10 in Mark 4:12 and Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6–7.

And this whole section of Mark 8–10 is surrounded by healings that symbolize in the physical realm what the disciples need done for them in the spiritual realm. In Mark 7:31–37 Jesus gives a man his hearing. In 8:22–26 he heals a blind man, and now again at the end of this “On the Way to Jerusalem” section of Mark 8–10, Jesus heals a blind man.

If you want to see that true greatness is to serve, not to be served, you need Jesus to give you sight.

If you want to be one who lives out the truth that you don’t come to Jesus to correct him, to get a list of things to do to inherit salvation, or to demand your place of privilege; if you want to be one who comes to Jesus to cry out for mercy because you trust him, if you want to live that out, you have to come to him like blind Bartimaeus does in Mark 10:46–52.

Click the blue words (or maybe they show up underlined–the ones between the quotation marks) to hear more about “Kingdom Greatness” from Mark 10:32–52.

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Does Jesus Really Want You to Hate Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Wife, and Children?

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26 ESV

Since a man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5), and since I don’t think Paul was setting out to contradict Jesus, I think we are forced to seek an understanding of the context of Luke 14 that helps us understand what Jesus means when he talks about hating our relatives.

In the first part of Luke 14, Jesus is dining in a hostile environment “at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees” (14:1). It seems that they’ve set him up to do something for which they can accuse him — heal on the Sabbath, which he does (14:1–4), and then when he makes his argument (14:5) he silences them (14:6). Then Jesus goes on the offensive against them. He first addresses the others invited to the feast (14:7–11) and then he addresses his host (14:12–14) before responding to a comment made by one of the guests (14:15–24).

So Jesus walked into a trap, triggered the mechanism, but then the trap closed on those who set it, not on him. Having healed the man on the sabbath and then silenced their opposition to that (14:1–6), he begins to denounce these haughty Israelites who are trying to entrap their Messiah. He first calls them to humble themselves (14:7–11), and then he seems to address the way that this exclusive club of the Jewish leadership is not serving the nation but glad-handing one another (14:12–14). Notice that Jesus mentions friends, brothers, and relatives in 14:12.

Then in this hostile environment he starts giving examples of the kinds of excuses people are going to make as to why they won’t accept the invitation to come to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Jesus is basically listing out the reasons these people who are seeking to entrap him will give as to why they don’t want to come to his banquet. He mentions one person using the excuse of having just bought a new field (14:18), another new oxen (14:19), another having just married a wife (14:20), and in response to the ways that those who seem to be something in Israel have rejected him, the master sends the servant out to gather the things that are not in 14:21–the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. These are all the humble people who haven’t been invited to dine with this ruler of the Pharisees (14:1), and who don’t get glad-handed by these folks (14:12). Jesus told his host that he should have invited just these people in 14:13 (cf. 14:13 and 14:21).

It appears from 14:25 that Jesus has left the hostile banquet that was a trap, and yet what he says to the crowds in the verses that follow appear to have that banquet in view. So I would read this statement about hating father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even one’s own life as speaking directly to these elite members of this exclusive circle of Pharisees that has rejected him (cf. again 14:12). If one of those elite Pharisees follows Jesus, he is going to alienate everyone in his family. And Jesus is saying that he should do so in order to be his disciple. I would also read the comment about hating one’s wife in verse 26 in light of the fact that the new wife was just used as an excuse not to follow Jesus in 14:20.

There are some people for whom following Jesus will mean the repudiation of their whole lives–parents, wife, children, siblings. Maybe that’s the case for someone converting to Christianity out of Judaism today, or out of Islam, or maybe even out of some sectors of Roman Catholicism. For that person to be a disciple, he’s going to have to renounce “even his own life” (14:26). I’ve got a friend who left Christianity and married an orthodox Jewish wife. He has converted to Judaism. I hope he comes back to Christ. For him to be a disciple of Jesus, he’ll have to be willing to love Jesus in spite of the fact that it might well cost him his wife.

Some people will have that cross to bear (14:27), and so Jesus urges people to count the cost of following him (14:28–32). If an elite Pharisee is going to follow Jesus, he’s going to have to renounce all that he has to be a disciple of Jesus (14:33).

Jesus himself repudiated his family when they weren’t following him (cf. Luke 8:19–21), but then he made provision for his mother from the cross.

So I think this passage about hating your wife and your life and renouncing all you have has a specific application to some contexts where following Jesus means rejecting the views held by everyone else in your family and being rejected in turn by them.

Following Jesus does not mean that I need to hate my sweet wife, nor do I think it means that in comparison to the way I love Jesus my love for my wife is hate. No, I love Jesus by loving my wife. Same with the life God has given me. I don’t have a life that I need to renounce in order to follow Jesus. For me to renounce my life, in the life that I’ve been given, would be to renounce a life of trying to serve to Jesus.

What about losing your life to gain it? This means that I need to love my sweet wife by laying down my life for her–losing my life by loving her as Christ has loved the church. It would be foolish and disastrous for me to say to my wife that I have to be loving Jesus so I’m going to lose my life by not loving her or spending any time with her because I have to be loving and serving Jesus. That would be a good way to get myself disqualified from being an elder pretty quickly (1 Tim 3).

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Do Flowers Make You Feel Guilty?

Have you ever looked at a flower?

This week we went down to Bernheim Forest, and we saw this Quiet Garden full of Peonies. Have you ever thought about how delicate, transient, gratiuitous, and useless flowers are? God has lavished his creativity, resources, energy, mental ingenuity, and power on these things that serve no other purpose than to be beautiful.

Now think about the fact that there are deserts in the world where no flowers grow.

God has made some parts of the world gardens and other parts of the world deserts.

My point is not that those who enjoy gardens shouldn’t think about ways to irrigate deserts. We should.

My point is that those who live in gardens don’t need to feel guilty about the flowers.

We can apply this to God’s spiritual blessings just as well as we can to material ones: Some parts of the world have the word of God (incidentally, those also tend to be the parts of the world where it is possible to have clean water, good medicine, and funds that are safe from thugs and dictators who seize assets). Other parts of the world lack the Bible. Those who live in a land where the Bible is shouldn’t feel guilty about the mercy God has shown us. We should try to get the Bible and the gospel to other lands, but we shouldn’t feel guilty about the goodness God has given to us.

Why am I talking about flowers and deserts? Yesterday it was my privilege to preach the first part of Mark 10. I was going to do the whole chapter, but time ran out so I had to do a crash landing in the middle. Anyway, we were right there in that passage where Jesus tells the rich young ruler that he has to sell everything and give to the poor.

You can listen to the sermon here.

I bring up this thing about flowers because I think Jesus telling the rich young ruler to sell all and give to the poor has caused a lot of Christians to feel false guilt about about having possessions and putting money in savings. The point about flowers is picking up on what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6, where he tells rich people not to hope in wealth but in God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy – that is what 1 Timothy 6:17 says – go read it.

If God has given you something, he wants you to enjoy it, not feel guilty about it. Don’t reject God’s goodness and mercy to you by refusing to enjoy his gifts. Be generous to others. Preach the gospel. Lay your life down for them like Christ did for you (i.e., live the gospel). And enjoy God’s kindness.

But doesn’t the passage about the rich young ruler teach that we shouldn’t enjoy things (not even as God’s gifts) and that we shouldn’t save money?

No! A resounding NO!

Let me summarize a few points hermeneutical and observational:

1)    This rich guy is not a believer, so Mark isn’t giving this episode to show Jesus teaching his disciples. Mark is showing Jesus doing evangelism in this instance, not discipleship.

2)    Jesus isn’t giving this guy a ladder he can climb to get into heaven. The guy could do what Jesus tells him to and still go to hell–if he continued to trust in his ability to make more money and if he continued to worship Mammon. Jesus is exposing this guy’s idolatry, not giving a recipe to unbelievers. So if you’re not a believer, Jesus is calling you to trust in him, not your money. And he’s trying to help you recognize that you can’t redirect your trust on your own power. It’s a miracle that you need God to do for you. You need God to cause you to be born again. So if there’s something in your life that you don’t know how to overcome—maybe it has to do with the fact that you do love and trust money more than you love God and trust Jesus. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re living in adultery and you can’t overcome it. Jesus wants you to recognize your inability, and he wants you to cry out to him to help your unbelief.

3)    Mark 10:30 shows that the issue here is not having possessions, because Jesus says that those who follow him are going to get everything they give up back in this life (with persecutions). So Jesus doesn’t have something against possessions. He’s not advocating poverty or communism or socialism or homelessness. He is advocating the worship of God by faith in him.

So I submit that if you read this passage and come away thinking that you need to do something for Jesus in order to enter the kingdom of heaven or be his disciple, you’re missing the point.

Do I think Mark is teaching that followers of Jesus are called to sell all they have and give to the poor?

No.

Are we called to trust Jesus not Mammon?

Yes.

Are we called to steward what God has given us for the glory of God?

Yes.

Are we called to leverage all we have for the gospel?

Yes.

But divesting yourself of all possessions and of all means is not necessarily good stewardship, nor does it necessarily give you leverage.

Bring all the Bible to bear on your thinking about money. Two passages:

Proverbs 6:6–8,

[6] Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. [7] Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, [8] she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

1 Timothy 6:17–19,

[17] As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. [18] They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, [19] thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

If you’d like to hear the sermon, it’s here: Mark 10:1–31, “Are We Commanded to Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”

Look at those beautiful flowers. Smell their fragrant aromas. And worship God who causes such beauty to continue in this world made ugly by sin.

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Mark 9: Motivation To Take Up The Cross

Going into Mark 9 from Mark 8, Jesus has just announced in Mark 8:34 that anyone who wants to come after him has to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him. Then in 8:35 he said that if you want to gain your life you have to lose it. The last words of Mark 8 begin to set up what we see in Mark 9. Having called people to come and die for his sake in 8:34–35, he begins to provide the motivation people need to be able to do that in 8:38, when he speaks of the Son of Man coming in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. More of that needed motivation – motivation to give your life for Jesus – is provided in Mark 9.

Mark gives his audience motivation to take up the cross and follow Jesus by showing him in transfigured glory (Mark 9:1–13), then he shows Jesus overcoming the failure of the disciples to cast out a demon (9:14–29), and he presents Jesus teaching on discipleship (9:30–50).

It was my privilege to preach Mark 9, “Motivation To Take Up the Cross,” on April 24, 2011 at Kenwood Baptist Church. It’s a great passage. My attempt to exposit it is here.

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The Hero Story (The Messiah in the Old Testament)

This essay appears in the spring 2011 issue of Southern Seminary magazine, The Tie. I am grateful to post it here by permission. Click through for a free subscription to The Tie.

Have you heard the ballad of the hoped for hero? Ancient prophecies foretell his coming. Not altogether clear, shrouded in mystery, but enough to kindle hopes and keep the flickering flame alive. Everything depends on his coming. In fact, if these prophecies aren’t realized, there is no final defense against evil. No ultimate hope. No redemption. No restoration. Curiously, some think that the veiled and wispy nature of the intimations that he will arise amount to nothing at all. If they are correct, is there any basis for the claims that the prophecies have in fact been fulfilled?

The sprawling, ramshackle narrative of the Old Testament is the one true hero story on which all the others are based. Oh sure, it may not always seem that the texts are concerned with the hoped for hero, but these books can only be understood in light of the back story that informs them. The hero is the driving force of that narrative undercurrent, so even when we are not reading prophecies about him or statements of hope that he will come, we nevertheless read authors who portray a world and a people whose future depends on the promised champion.

The true story of the world is the prototypical work of art that has been imitated by all myth-makers and storytellers. Did you read of Heracles slaying the Hydra? The mighty deliverer achieved expiation by smiting the snake. Then there’s Odysseus coming in wrath at the end of the Odyssey to rescue his bride. It’s positively apocalyptic. We could go on and on with such examples. If a myth is an archetypal story that explains the world and provides hope, this hero story is the world’s one true myth. Justin Martyr said that the demons had salted the world’s religions with tidbits of the true story to inoculate people against the world’s one cure. And in stories influenced by Christianity you have imitations and approximations of it: Beowulf slaying first the one who descends from Cain, Grendel, and then the dragon. St. George, too, kills a dragon. These are but reflections and refractions of the light of the world, the ancient hope for the prince of life who comes to crush the head of that ancient serpent, the dragon, who is the Devil and Satan.

When we consider the Messiah in the Old Testament, our minds are confronted with the answer to the world’s questions, the fulfillment of all yearnings, the satisfaction of the universal desire for beauty and joy and peace and, and well, everything. You could say it’s Hitchcock’s McGuffin—something everyone wants, needs, and looks for at all costs—but the McGuffin may not be profound enough to capture the weight of this, the real thing. Jesu joy of man’s desiring. Indeed. Jesus is the ultimate object of C. S. Lewis’s Sehnsucht—he is the one who fulfills the inconsolable longing for we know not what.

Swathed in cryptic hints and echoes from the distant past, hidden in shadows and faintly perceived from whispers subtly woven through the Old Testament. Soft impressions seen through a glass darkly, the trace of an outline, the kind of thing that almost has to be pointed out before you see it clearly, but then once you’ve seen it, you can’t see anything else. You don’t want to see anything else.

The promises of the coming seed of the woman all partake of a haunting, hopeful melody, to which the Old Testament’s composer returns again and again. The delay between these prophecies only increases the pathos, adds to the beauty so pure it’s painful. The next oracle almost sneaks up on us, and at points we only recognize it after it has passed us by. Suddenly the words ignite and we read and re-read the promise of a seed who is a lion who wields a scepter who will be a son to the Most High. Each hook and loop in the interweaving of prophecy and pattern comes like a familiar rhythm, or a restrained suggestion, hearkening us back to something earlier in the music. The artist who orchestrates the living production in real time threads the line of promise lightly—but thoroughly—through the whole symphonic poem of the Bible.

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are ravished by a beauty better than all else they might desire. They lean in close, straining to hear and see, longing, yearning, hoping, as they earnestly attend to past promise, and watch for what they hope will be reiterations and expositions of it. The shadows may be long and the clouds thick, but a conviction has seized them that the heavens will be rolled back when the star shines out of Judah.

Then come the “experts.” They huff and snort that there is no theme that has been resumed. They deny that this rhythm sounds like that one. They insist that when these notes in this melody are taken apart, they bear no relation to one another. They explain that this beat cannot possibly be related to that one, and that the meaning some heard in that first syncopation was never there in the first place.

But we’ve heard the music, and for all the seeming intelligence of their explanations, we know what the music does to us. Those notes may be nothing in isolation, but in aggregate they form a song more lovely than the lectures of learned scoffers. We know this melody is meant to evoke earlier ones, and as soon as we hear the music again, the denials of the little men behind the microphones lose all power to compel. The strains of hope and longing that we have heard awaken faith and conviction and boldness, even as the academics drone on in their boring refusal to enjoy the music.

The one who wrote the music and conducted the orchestra came, and still people refused to hear his song. They did not recognize the one who was foretold, whose pattern was prefigured, whose destiny it was to unlock the door to life, lay the foundation for faith, design the theater for God’s glory, and build the temple of the Holy Spirit, but the hoped for hero really has come. And he’s coming back. He came the first time as a man of sorrows to be acquainted with grief. When he comes again his robe will be sprinkled with the blood of his enemies who lie trampled beneath his feet. He will accomplish God’s purpose and fill the lands with God’s glory like water fills the seas.

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The Turn to Jerusalem

On Sunday, April 3, it was my privilege to preach Mark 8 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “The Turn to Jerusalem.” To this point in Mark Jesus has been ministering in Jerusalem (Mark 1–7), but after Peter’s confession here in Mark 8, he sets his face toward Jerusalem and teaches his disciples what it means to follow him through chapter 10. Then Jesus will be in Jerusalem throughout Mark 11–16.

Maybe you’re familiar with the way Peter responded when Jesus predicted his death, but can you put yourself in Peter’s shoes? Raised on the hope that the promises to David in the Old Testament would be realized, that a king would arise from the line of David, that God would give him the victory, that he would reign from the river to the ends of the earth, that Israel would be delivered, Jerusalem exalted, nations streaming to Zion to learn Yahweh’s law, desert blooming like Eden, justice for the downtrodden, protection for the orphan and widow, those filthy Romans driven out of the holy land, and that imposter Herod receiving his due. Then not only are hopes realized as the line of David is seen to be intact, with a credible heir arising, this credible heir is a prophet and more: he knows the Torah, he communes with the Lord, he teaches with authority, the unclean spirits obey and flee, the sick are healed, and on top of all that, he starts blowing categories: first he commands the elements and they obey, calming a storm by the power of his voice, then he raises a little girl from the dead, feeds a multitude, and of all things, walks on water. You know he’s from the line of David. You’ve seen the mighty works. You are forced to conclude that even though the establishment is rejecting him, he has to be the Messiah.

How would you respond if he told you he was going to be killed.

You’ve seen the Romans kill people. It’s not the kind of thing people come back from. You’ve never seen anyone survive it. So yeah you heard him say he would rise from the dead, but do you have any precedent for that? Wouldn’t you be expecting triumph not defeat?

I know that you can put yourself in Peter’s shoes, because I know what we all expect to result from the gospel and our attempts to advance it. We expect people to understand that we’re bringing them good news. We expect people to see how reasonable the truth of what we believe is. We expect people to understand that we’re trying to do what’s good for them not what’s bad for them. We expect people to respond positively to us, and we expect success. We expect our churches to grow, our ministries to succeed, God’s name to be exalted in our lives, and people to be grateful for all the good that is coming about as a result of the gospel.

If you’d like to hear my attempt to exposit Mark 8, make these underlined words start talking.

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To the Jew First and Also the Gentile

On Sunday, March 20, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Mark 7:1–37, “To the Jew First and Also the Gentile,” at Kenwood Baptist Church.

At the exodus from Egypt Moses led Israel through the Red Sea into the wilderness where they immediately needed water and food. The Lord provided bread from heaven and water from the rock. Then they arrived at Sinai, where the Lord gave Israel his word through Moses. Then Moses taught the people how they were to live to preserve cleanliness and walk with the Lord.

In the new exodus Mark is depicting, John the Baptist has prepared the way, Jesus has calmed the sea and walked on it, he has provided bread in the desolate place, healing for the sick, and authoritative teaching. Now in Mark 7 Jesus will issue an authoritative declaration about all foods being clean.

Jesus conforms to his own standards and helps people on his own terms, and his standards and terms are holy, righteous, and good.

The Pharisees miss the point of the Old Testament and nitpick Jesus’ disciples about handwashings, then Jesus declares that it is what comes from the heart that defiles. After the scribes and Pharisees reject Jesus, he goes to Gentile territory, where Mark shows it’s better to be a dog who gets crumbs than a child who refuses to eat, and then a Gentile has his ears opened and his tongue loosed.

To hear more, click here.

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The Difference Between Jesus and Herod

On Sunday, March 13, it was my privilege to preach Mark 6:1–56, “The Difference Between Jesus and Herod,” at Kenwood Baptist Church. It was daylight savings time spring forward Sunday (a pox on the time change). The combination of the time change and my sister’s family being in town made for an exciting morning on which I forgot to put my sermon manuscript with my things! But the Lord stood by me, all glory to his name. He will never leave or forsake those who call on him and trust him.

Israel’s true king confronts sin, conquers demons, feeds the hungry, and walks on water, while the imposter won’t stand for righteousness against a girl.

The people of Nazareth are like the family of Jesus (Mark 3:20) and the people of the region of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1, 17). The true king is willing to do what is right even if it offends those closest to him (not that he’s being offensive about doing what is right). He loves them by doing and saying what is good for them (Mark 6:1–6).

Jesus offended the people of his hometown (Mark 6:1–6), but rather than keep those closest to him nearby for his own comfort and security, he sent them out to bless others (Mark 6:7–13). The disciples are told not to take money in their belts for the journey (Mark 6:8), but later in Jesus’ ministry they’ll be back with Jesus and they are traveling with money (John 12:6; 13:29). This shows that poverty and simplicity are not ends in themselves but only periodic situations embraced in service of the mission. The disciples are to seek first the Kingdom, whether that means they travel without money, as in Mark 6, or with it, as in John 11 and 13.

Herod does not understand Jesus and gloms onto a comfortable, preposterous explanation (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod has taken his brother’s wife and married her. He is not his brother’s keeper. When the adultery is exposed, rather than acknowledge what is right and repent, his adulteress holds a grudge against the Baptist. Herod, in verse 20, is troubled by John, but he has not the moral courage to do the right thing (Mark 6:17–20).

Herod makes a rash oath, and rather than break it he beheads John the Baptist, whom he knows to be holy and just (Mark 6:20–29). He commits the unjust atrocity of beheading the last old covenant prophet because he is concerned about losing face over a silly oath he swore to a girl at a dinner party! So to save face Herod shows his profile in all its reproachful ugliness.

Herod is an ignorant, immoral coward.

Praise God, there is a true king.

Do you want to serve a king who does not need your money so he will never impose taxes on you?

Do you want to serve a king who will do whatever it takes to meet your greatest need—even if it costs him his life?

Do you want to serve a king who will never perpetrate injustice against anyone?

Do you want to serve a king who deserves to be king? The rightful king?

Back in Mark 6:15 some were saying that Jesus might be one of the prophets. In 6:31–44, Mark shows us that Jesus is a new and better Moses.

Then Jesus walks on water in Mark 6:45–52.

Jesus plants his feet where no one else can. He treads paths no other feet trod. The elements do for him what they will do for none other. Particles that give way under the weight of all other humans, spread out, splash around, receive, and must be resisted lest the weightier object sink, now uphold Jesus; they do not separate, splash, and receive him, but, as if holding him with hands lifted high, they bear up the son of man, son of David, seed of the woman, new Adam.

The water now serves the one for whom the ages have waited, before whom the demons bow and flee, healer of the sick, teacher with authority, the man who has now shown himself bold even in his home town, willing to send out those closest to him to advance the cause: he is the multitude feeder and the wave walker.

This Jesus is the true King of Israel, heir to the world, servant of all and master of the universe. Could he be more different than Herod the immoral, ignorant coward?

If you would like to hear more about Jesus in Mark 6, I give you this link.

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Jesus Controls Nature, Demons, Disease, and Death

On March 6, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Mark 4:35–5:43 at Kenwood Baptist Church: “Jesus Controls Nature, Demons, Disease, and Death.”

To this point, Mark has announced that the time has come (Mark 1:1–13) and shown a day in the life of Jesus (1:14–45), which prompted five controversies (2:1–3:6). Then Mark summarized the ministry of Jesus (3:7–12), showed Jesus naming 12 Apostles (3:13–19), and presented two false conclusions about Jesus: his family thought he was out of his mind, and the Jerusalem scribes thought him demon possessed (3:20–35). Mark next presented Jesus answering the question raised by the controversies and false conclusions: if you’re the Messiah, why isn’t everyone celebrating you? Jesus answers that question in the parables of Mark 4:1–34.

Then to validate the claims of the parables and assert that Jesus really is the Messiah and everything Mark has shown him to be to this point, Mark shows Jesus exercising authority over nature, demons, disease, and death in Mark 4:35–5:43. In each of these episodes Jesus encounters people who are hopeless to the point of desperation:

Men who make their lives on the water who think they are in their last storm (Mark 4:35–41).

A man possessed of so many demons he can’t be bound (Mark 5:1–20).

A father whose little girl is dying (Mark 5:21–24, 35–43).

A woman who has spent all she has on doctors only to get worse (Mark 5:25–34).

—-

Out of deep darkness light did shine.
From the grave the Son did rise.
So hold to hope, and look to the east,
As lightning he’ll come for the marriage feast.

—-

To hear more about this hero nonpareil, make use of this link.

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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

On February 20, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching Mark 3:7–35 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.”

You must either submit yourself to the authorized teaching of the Apostles of Jesus (Mark 3:13–19) or reject him as either a maniac (cf. Mark 2:21) or one whose power comes from an unclean spirit (cf. Mark 2:22, 30).

Jesus is the bond-breaker, the sick-healer,
The bane of unclean spirits and the binder of the strong man.
He is the truth-speaker, the world’s-ruler,
The King of Israel and her humble servant.
He is the sin-bearer, the hope-giver,
The bridegroom and the lover of our souls.

And they defiled his name
By mentioning it in the same breath with Beelzebul’s.
They attributed the life-giving, rest-bringing, leper-cleansing, bondage-breaking power Jesus exercised
To the prince of demons.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I’ll give you the best answer I’ve got.

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The Controversial Jesus

It was my privilege to preach Mark 2:1–3:6 on February 6, 2011 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “The Controversial Jesus.”

He came in humility and obscurity. Born of a peasant girl. Having always existed in heaven with the Father, where he was worshiped and served by the heavenly hosts with all power at his disposal, he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant.

The hosts of heaven sang at his birth. Shepherds gathered to see the good news. Magi came from the east bearing gifts, and Herod sought to have him killed. The one born of heaven lived in obedience and perfection, submitting to his parents and obeying them.

The one known by the hosts in heaven was an unknown carpenter.
The one who made the world entered the world he made.
The one who sought the good of others had others seeking his death.
The image of the invisible God had his image bearers rising up to end his life.
The one with power to heal was rejected.
The one with authority to command demons was rebelled against.
The one who was the perfect embodiment of love was received with perfect hatred.

The one who supremely deserved to be accepted was rejected.

For my attempt to exposit this passage so rife with controversy, push your little button over these here words.

 

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A Day in the Life of Jesus

On January 30, 2011 I had the privilege of preaching Mark 1:14–45 at Kenwood Baptist Church, “A Day in the Life of Jesus.”

In Mark 1:15 Jesus claims that the time is fulfilled (perhaps interpreting Daniel 9:24–27?) and that the kingdom of God is at hand. It’s a bold man who claims that his coming marks the fulfillment of the time and the arrival of God’s kingdom.

These are deadly serious claims. Mark presents Jesus claiming that the culmination of all that has preceded has finally arrived. The whole history of the world has been building, Jesus claims, to this moment.

Do you see this audacity? Do you see this boldness? This is no gentle Jesus, meek and mild. This is a Jesus who comes declaring that the moment has arrived. This is a Jesus who has gone into action with decision and firmness and resolve. This is a Jesus who has come as a peasant but who nevertheless talks like he is the world’s true King.

Do you know this Jesus? No, I mean do you know him? He will not be domesticated. You cannot tame him. His sails will not be trimmed and his rough edges cannot be sanded away. He confronts us as he is. Do you know him?

To know him is to bow. To know him is to be awed by his magnificence. To know him is to be owned by him. To know him is to feel in the depths of your being that he made you, that he sustains you, and that he can therefore command you to storm the very gates of hell and expect to be obeyed.

If you think you can have him as you want him, you don’t know him.
If you think you can line him up next to the other authorities in your life, you don’t know him.
If you think you can decide which aspects of his character you like and which you’ll disregard, you don’t know him.
If you think that he’s weak, let me assure you, you do not know him.
If you think he is optional. You certainly don’t know him.

Let’s get this straight, shall we?

Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of the Universe.

You are either a loyal subject of the world’s true King, or you are a rebel who will be crushed.

If you’d like to hear more about Mark’s presentation of “A Day in the Life of Jesus” from Mark 1:14–45, this link’s for you.

 

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The Time Is Fulfilled (Mark 1:15)

Long the world waited for him to come,
At last, at last, Anointed Son.
So hear the bold words and see the great deeds,
Teaching with power and meeting needs.

Is he your Lord? Did you answer his call?
If not, friend, you have nothing at all.
But if he is yours, and you are his,
Sing now the gladness of his bliss.

 

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