Monthly Archives: August 2020

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – GUILTY AS CHARGED!

GUILTY AS CHARGED!

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, 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 the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:13-17

The religious leaders were so intimidated by Jesus that they had fled the scene for fear of more exposure and more egg on their faces. Now they used their supporters and even supporters of their enemy (Herod) to do their dirty work for them. They were out to trap Jesus into incriminating Himself by His own words, but they should have known better. Not even their flattering prologue fooled Him. He knew exactly who they were and why they were questioning Him.

These men should have been warned before they ever posed their question. They were the ones who would be made to look like fools, but they ploughed on anyway. One wonders what their body language and tone of voice was like when they began their hypocritical and rehearsed speech. Their sarcastic words were actually bull’s-eye truth if they had only spoken them with sincerity. Was their little preamble intended to nail Him to an honest answer? They didn’t need to do that because there was no danger of Jesus ever being devious or deceitful.

Their question was loaded. Answering either way would have put him into a dangerous position. Pay taxes – He was siding with Rome and that would have angered the Jews. Don’t pay taxes – that was treasonable and would have got Rome’s attention. Once again Jesus was sharp and accurate – His spiritual vision 20/20. He used a Roman coin as a visual aid. The coin represented the inescapable world system in which they lived. As part of that system, they were obliged to participate in it and God Himself sanctioned that.

But there was also another kingdom which Jesus represented and, whether they liked it or not, everyone was also part of that kingdom, either willingly or living in rebellion. Everyone is subject to God’s rule and will eventually be judged by the way he/she responded to that rule. This was not an either/or situation but both/and. The very obedience in paying taxes to Caesar fell into the greater submission to the kingdom of God.

With His own return question which, by the way, was a clever way of making His opponents think, Jesus hit them right on the nose. Of course is was right to pay taxes to Caesar, There was no question about it and rebelling against it was, from God’s perspective, disobedience to His rule but… what about giving to God was belonged to Him? There was the glaring omission on the part of the religious leaders, and they were trapped. Guilty as charged!

However, no amount of truth would bring His opponents to their knees. Jesus was hammering the nails deeper and deeper into His own coffin…and He knew it!

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – PAYDAY IS COMING

PAYDAY IS COMING

1 Jesus 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 moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
fruit of the vineyard,9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders 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. Mark 12:1-12

Jesus began His ministry by teaching His disciples “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit because they will understand the way God’s kingdom works – through mercy, humility and generosity.”  Only those who are willing to abandon their own interpretation of God and expectations about Him and embrace the truth about the Father so that they can be reconnected to Him, will ever experience His life-changing power that transforms them into beloved sons.

This parable highlights the attitude of those whom Jesus called, “thieves and robbers”, the so-called “hireling” who has no love for the sheep. His only interest is the money he can make on the deal. When trouble or danger comes, he takes off because he has no connection with the sheep; so, also, the farmhands who were left in charge of the vineyard. They were in it for their own gain and had no connection with the landowner or his property.

The landowner was willing to share the grape harvest with the workers as long as they respected his right to his portion. It was an amicable arrangement as long as each honoured his part. Jesus was illustrating, among other things, what happens to people when they are ruled by the yetzer harah, the evil eye that looks inward and has no interest or concern for those around.

  1. They ignore what is right and set up their own rules.
  2. They have no interest in anyone else’s needs.
  3. They use force to acquire what they are not entitled to.
  4. Pride prevents them from admitting they are wrong and changing their ways.
  5. They have no connection with the heart of the Father.
  6. Compassion and morality are overruled by greed and wickedness.

The most terrible thing about the religious leaders was that they behaved like this under the cloak of religion and in the name of God. This is the power of deception. They thought it was okay but they did not realise that they were transparent before God and that payday was coming.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – THE PLOT THICKENS

CHAPTER 12

THE PLOT THICKENS

1 Jesus 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 moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders 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. Mark 12:1-12

Another parable but this time designed to reveal the plot, the story of the Bible in a nutshell. This time His story was very blunt. To the religious leaders, it was so clear that they immediately got the point. But instead of responding thoughtfully with the view to changing their attitude, they became even more murderous in their hearts. Jesus was slowly turning the tables on His tormentors. They had been hounding Him since the beginning of His ministry. Now He was exposing them and they didn’t like it. They couldn’t get away fast enough because the common people were always around and they, the religious leaders, were losing face by His exposure.

This parable was not difficult for them to understand. Since the Jews read (or heard) a story for identification, they easily identified the villains of the plot. There is also familiar symbolism in the parable. The Old Testament prophets used the vineyard as a symbol of Israel, e.g., Isaiah 5:1-7. In this story, the emphasis is not on the nature of the vineyard or the quality of the crops but rather on the ones responsible for caring for the vineyard and the landowner’s right to the harvest.

Although one does not necessarily interpret every detail in a parable, there are some details that are hints that bring a greater understanding of the kingdom, e.g., the landowner’s absence and his entrusting his vineyard to farmhands who would manage it for him. According to Genesis 1:26ff God has entrusted His creation to man to manage.

In this case, the farmhands would be the spiritual leaders who were entrusted with the care of God’s people – the vineyard. Instead of carrying out God’s instructions, they exploited the people for personal gain (see Mark 11:15-18). The servants sent to collect the farmer’s share of the profits would no doubt have been His prophets and the son obviously Jesus. The religious leaders immediately recognised their own identity in the story and rose up in anger against Him but, once again, they were afraid of the mob at this point. This was not the time to take action against Jesus. They would have to be subtle to win the people over.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – GOT THEM AGAIN!

GOT THEM AGAIN!

27 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. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Mark 11:27-33

Jesus’ action had thoroughly rattled the Pharisees and religious leaders. They knew they were losing ground with the people. They no longer had them in their power and they were deeply worried about where this was going. Although Jesus had never given any evidence of planning an uprising against Rome, they were not sure of His intentions. His talk about a kingdom was highly suspicious. They had to nail Him so that they could find a cause to eliminate Him.

They had not yet learned that they could never get the better of Him. Never challenge Jesus to a debate because of the environment of His experience. His thinking and His wisdom were in the eternal realm of the kingdom of God and no-one could get better than that. Since He was speaking and acting with authority, they demanded to know the source. He was speaking and acting outrageously, according to their understanding, and they needed to know who gave Him the right to do so.

Jesus was sharp. Once again, His counter-question was designed to expose their hypocrisy. In His question there was a subtle hint at the answer. Their response to His question about John’s authority would reveal their attitude towards Him.  Jesus knew that they had rejected John the Baptist’s ministry, although they knew in their hearts that John was a prophet of God. Since the source of John’s authority and the source of His authority were the same, if they acknowledged John, they would have to acknowledge Him. If they rejected John, they would lose the respect of the people because the people acknowledged John as a prophet.

The religious leaders were caught in a dilemma. To answer one way or the other would expose them. They had to back off because Jesus had them cornered. Checkmate! Jesus walked away smiling. Another nail in His coffin, for sure, but the truth would always prevail. As representatives of the false kingdom, they had to bow to truth even if they refused to embrace it. Jesus was slowly building a case for the truth so that, when He was executed as a lawbreaker, the entire superstructure of lies this worldly kingdom was built on, would collapse.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – BELIEVE AND FORGIVE

BELIEVE AND FORGIVE

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:20-25

Were the disciples surprised to find the fig tree dead after Jesus’ words the day before? Of course, they were! As usual, Peter was the first one to open his mouth. “Look, Rabbi,” he burst out, “the tree you cursed is dead.”  Jesus’ response is typical. “What did you expect, Peter? When I speak, stuff happens. Now you can anticipate the same. Your words have just as much power as mine if you have confidence in God.”

He touched on the nerve centre of His life of the kingdom – a God-awareness so strong that the whole of life is lived in a faith-union with Him. Absolutely everything must flow out of this God-awareness so that even our words are energised by the power that flows out of this union. That was the secret of Jesus’ life as the Son of God which He was painstakingly trying to build into His disciples

God-awareness links us with the overriding characteristic of God’s nature in dealing with human beings – His generosity. This quality is the outflow of God’s love and is manifested primarily in the way He treats us as sons. God-awareness opens us to all of His resources. He freely releases whatever we need as we set our hearts on valuing and appreciating who He is. These resources are released through the spoken word just as He released power to bring the visible universe into being out of the invisible through His word.

The second evidence of His generosity is the way He deals with our sin – He freely forgives because He can. Jesus Himself saw to that. He took on Himself our un-payable debt, paid it in full, released us from its penalty and power and said, “Now go and do the same.” Operating from the same principle and in the same power we, as God’s sons, can expect the same results. It all flows from a God-awareness that allows us to live in the environment of God’s presence, bringing everything His presence embodies in the heavenly realm down here into the very domain of the enemy, allowing His people to exhibit the disposition of our Messiah in occupied territory.