The Resurrection (Mark 16.1–8)

If you are reading the New International Version of Mark 16.1–8, you will find a note after verse 8 that says, “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20.” A note in the NIV Study Bible further explains: “Serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark. His Gospel probably ended at 16:8, or its original ending has been lost.” I mention this all this for … Continue reading The Resurrection (Mark 16.1–8)

Forsaken (Mark 15.21–47)

Mark 15.21–47 narrates the death and burial of Jesus Christ. It is a sparse, unsentimental narrative. The only theological comments are ironic. A sign placed on top of Jesus’ cross proclaimed, “The King of the Jews.” When Christ died, a Roman centurion exclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” A crucified king. A murdered deity. What little explicit theology Mark includes in his narrative undoes most of the theology we have learned. Martin Luther distinguished the “theology of glory” from the “theology of the cross.” The former emphasizes God’s greatness, power, and invincibility. The latter draws attention to … Continue reading Forsaken (Mark 15.21–47)

Four Failures (Mark 14.32–72)

Mark 14.32–72 narrates four events in the horrific hours leading up to Christ’s crucifixion: his agonizing prayer in Gethsemane, his arrest, his trial before the Sanhedrin, and Peter’s denial of him. Taken together, these four events reveal an interesting dynamic between Jesus and us. Let’s take a closer look. First, Christ’s agonizing prayer in Gethsemane: To the disciples, he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” As Christians we confess that Jesus is God incarnate, the deity in the flesh. But we also confess—and Jesus’ statement confirms—his total humanity. Facing … Continue reading Four Failures (Mark 14.32–72)

Poured Out for Many (Mark 14.12–31)

Food is biblical. Consider how often the Bible uses food to mark a spiritually significant event. Passover commemorates God leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12.1–20). The Lord’s Supper remembers Christ’s death on our behalf (1 Corinthians 11.23–26). We look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when Christ returns and raises us to eternal life (Revelation 19.6–9). In each of these cases—and in many more throughout Scripture—the salvation God provides is celebrated with food, and not skimpy hors d’oeuvres either, but a full feast. Why is that the case? It seems to me … Continue reading Poured Out for Many (Mark 14.12–31)

A Beautiful Thing for Me (Mark 14.1–11)

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”? It makes me sick. It’s full of the 1960s hippie sentimentality that I love to loathe. Unfortunately for my 1980s preppie cynicism, it’s biblical. Mark 14.1–11 describes a beautiful kindness that a woman performed for Jesus. While Jesus was dining at the home of 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.” Now I don’t know about you, but the woman’s act … Continue reading A Beautiful Thing for Me (Mark 14.1–11)

Live Like You Were Dying (Mark 13.1–37)

Several years ago, at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Tim McGraw won song of the year for “Live Like You Were Dying.” The song is about a man who discovers he is dying of cancer. His friend asks him, “How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news? / Man, what’d you do?” The man replies: I went sky diving I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying And he said someday I hope you … Continue reading Live Like You Were Dying (Mark 13.1–37)

Being Close to the Kingdom (Mark 12.13–44)

Today’s Scripture reading (Mark 12.13–44) is long. So, instead of trying to write about all of it, I want to write about only part of it. But that part is important, perhaps the most important thing we can learn from the Bible. Let’s take a closer look at verses 28–34. Beginning at verse 28, a teacher of the law engages in a conversation with Jesus, asking him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The teachers of the law—together with the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, and elders—have taken quite a shellacking at Jesus’ hands throughout Mark’s Gospel. But … Continue reading Being Close to the Kingdom (Mark 12.13–44)

Do We Respect God’s Son? (Mark 12.1–12)

The Jewish religious leadership often takes a shellacking from Jesus’ hand. Mark 12.1–12 is a good example. It is a parable about a landowner, his vineyard, and some tenant farmers who kill his son. The parable so angered “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders” (11.27) that they “looked for a way to arrest [Jesus] because they knew the parable was about them.” What made them so mad? Although Jesus’ parables are not usually allegories—in which each character symbolizes someone else—this one seems to be. The landowner is God; the farmers are the religious leaders; the … Continue reading Do We Respect God’s Son? (Mark 12.1–12)

The Demanding Jesus (Mark 11.1–33)

Several years ago, Phillip Yancey published a book entitled, The Jesus I Never Knew. Yancey cut through the fog of mistaken interpretations that so often floats around Jesus and reintroduced his readers to the Gospels’ portrait of him. In the Gospels, Jesus is simultaneously more gracious and more demanding than we are. We see the demanding Jesus on display in Mark 11.1–33. The first event Mark 11 narrates is Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (verses 1–11). Jesus tells his disciples to find a colt for him to ride into Jerusalem. If someone asks them why they are … Continue reading The Demanding Jesus (Mark 11.1–33)

Astonishment, Fear, Desire, and Trust (Mark 10.32–52)

How do you respond to Jesus at an emotional level? Mark 10.32–52 portrays four responses: astonishment, fear, desire, and trust. Take a closer look at each one. First, astonishment. “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished.” They had good reason to be astonished, of course. In their time with Jesus, they had witnessed him perform miracles great and small; seen him exorcise demons singly and in legions; heard him teach with authority, encouragement, and challenging words; and themselves performed miracles and exorcisms in his name. Jesus constantly astonished the … Continue reading Astonishment, Fear, Desire, and Trust (Mark 10.32–52)