John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [Is 53:1] 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [Is 6:10] 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
The Sovereign Lord has set guidelines to control what is seen, heard and believed by every heart. John records some of the most difficult Words in the Bible from Isaiah; that God will withhold Himself from those who’s heart’s desire would only lead them to abuse His Grace. God alone knows exactly who to reveal Himself to. He alone knows the hearts that have created a lord of their own ideas to give them what they want. Those hearts are not interested in wanting God who desires to give them what they need “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God sets the rules. His heart’s desire is to accept confession and heal but His perfect and timeless knowledge knows the reality of each heart.
What does it say about people?
It’s possible to know the reality of the Lord enough to know what His heart’s desires are, without understanding He knows the truth of what your heart wants and acts accordingly to preserve the integrity of His Grace.
Is there truth here for me?
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “wants versus needs.” Usually it’s been cherry-picking that phrase in relation to accumulating “stuff.” John and Isaiah have thrown Grace into that picture. Can I accept admitting my need for Jesus is part of the gift of Grace rather than a crutch or weakness? Can you? Now I think I see what Isaiah saw; when I confess my need for Jesus, the wants of my heart change and I experience the reality of “the glory that comes from God”…His Grace for my need…Jesus.
2 Samuel 9:7 So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” [NKJV]
2 Samuel is the work of [probably] more than one prophet speaking for God to a culture dominated by the struggle for power, senseless violence, emotional rebellion and constant conflict. That environment and the gruesome deaths of Saul and Jonathan are events that usher in this interchange between David and Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. I have struggled in earlier chapters of this book to see past the harsh realities it records to the connections that make 2 Samuel 9 a meaningful path to the New Testament and Christ. I understand Mephibosheth‘s caution. He knows only the fear he’s endured and it wasn’t good. Sometimes reading the Old Testament feels like endurance is the only connection because applications for finding faith in daily life are hard to come by.
This week as I gave my husband my synopsis of 2 Samuel 9 he asked me an important question: where’s Jesus? I couldn’t give an answer but I wanted one. David’s words, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father” probably seemed too good to be true to Mephibosheth but they sound very much like the words Jesus would speak. I found this commentary by Pastor David Guzik. [click to read]. Mephibosheth knew his security and safety were dependent on his need for the grace only the king could extend to him. Guzik finished his commentary with this.. “We are Mephibosheth…”
We are like Mephibosheth. We are dependent on recognizing our need for the grace of Jesus speaking those same words to us that David spoke “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father.” Recognizing need is where I found Jesus in 2 Samuel 9 this week.
James 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Mer·cy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Here’s my checklist from James so far: √ endurance and √ need. Next on the list is √ mercy. We learn what it means to endure when we become completely aware of our need for Jesus to work out within us what God has promised. Even before we “came to our senses” and spoke our own commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was at work revealing our need to do just that. Walking into the arms of Jesus wasn’t an act of our own making. Those words we spoke were the result of God’s mercy seeping into the cracks of a stony heart and triumphing over judgment, his and ours.
Mercy is the beginning of our own baptism into the Kingdom of God. Shared mercy has other benefits that are just as real. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Love, Jesus
2 Peter 3:1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
“We are so often in the position of men whose need is not so much to be taught as to be reminded of what we already know.” William Barclay
One of the snags of being devoted to reading the Word of truth over and over again and blogging about it is feeling you need to come up with something new. But you know what? When the time comes to hit “publish” and all your hours of thought, writing and rewriting don’t even make sense to you it’s time to hit “delete” first. The Word that remains is that stand-alone scripture of last Wednesday from Isaiah “so that you [I] may know and believe me [the Lord] and understand that I am he.” That’s the first lesson of faith.
That, my internet friends, has become part of what I call a custom designed object lesson. I share it because I know Christ lives in me. That one thing is so important that if I never learned anything else that would be enough for God. But…I need these daily reminders so I can live what I already know. Today that lesson is completed and confirmed by the Apostle and Barclay.
The object of what I read is to…
* stimulate you [me] to wholesome thinking
* recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior
– be reminded of what I already know
31b “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
37b “You give them something to eat.”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
Mark sandwiches the grim story of the beheading of John the Baptist right in the middle of this chapter. The same story in Matthew 14 indicates the events of this chapter are recorded in chronological order and the timeline appears to be the same year as the feeding of the five thousand. I wonder why there are no red letter quotes from Jesus? That’s a mystery.
It makes sense that Jesus would recognize their need for rest and maybe even a time to grieve for John. That may have been his goal but neither of those things happened because of the pressing needs of the crowd. I love these disciples because they are just ordinary people. Their heart’s goal was to secure the future of the people around them with the truth that Jesus has taught them but…wait for it…the needs were so big and they had so little. Jesus is teaching THEM about the priority of need over goals.
It sounds like life today. In our goal-oriented society it still sounds impossible that the smallest effort might be enough to make a big difference. Goals are important but needs are the immediate pathway that gets you one step nearer to them. Jesus is trying to teach US about the priority of need over goals today and his solution is still the same…”Go and see.”
Mark 5:21 – 43 This may not be as familiar story as the others in Mark 5 but it’s a dramatic finale to a desperate story of need. Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake and from another large crowd one of the synagogue leaders came forward and fell at Jesus’s feet. He pleaded earnestly “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him but some from the house of Jairus said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus responded: •V36b. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Only Peter, James and John followed him to the home. Jesus’s response to the people crying and wailing was
V39b. “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him. He took only the child’s father and mother and the disciples in where the child was. Jesus took her hand and said to her,
•V41b. “Talitha koum!”…“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”
The 12-year old girl astonished them and stood up and began to walk around. Jesus gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
These stories of the people Mark writes about seem to have a common thread…they all have a great need. They don’t approach Jesus with any claims of faith at all. All they have is their need and a little bit of courage to act. Maybe “need” is the reality of faith.
I remember hearing faith was “OK if that was something you need” and being unable to respond. It felt as if need was a weakness and faith like some kind of treatment that could cure you of that. I was embarrassed by that idea. It turns out that statement was exactly true. It’s the courage of need that drives you to the great physician. You don’t get treatment you need unless you make the appointment and tell the doctor your symptoms.
That’s my growing edge; to let the courage of need become what Jesus builds my faith on.
Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity
•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”
What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.
That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.
There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.
Posted in Mark, Sunday, The Red Letter Version
Tagged Community, Essential, Heart, Jesus is there for You, Need, Ragtag, Rebuilt, Story, Unity
14 Follow me…
17 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners…
Could there be a more unlikely choice than Levi [Matthew] for Jesus to choose as his second object lesson to the crowd as they walked through Capernaum? They’d certainly heard that Jesus had power over physical illness but this was Levi the local tax collector. Levi had been given his power by the king to make his living by squeezing as much of their money from them as he could. What could he possibly deserve, or need, compared to some poor invalid?
This time Jesus sees something invisible in a man it’s likely no one else in that crowd would ever choose. He chooses Levi. Jesus simply said “follow me” and Levi got up and followed him. It was a different kind of miracle that revealed Jesus is a very different kind of King that has the power to make a visible change in the circumstances of a life forever.
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I thought I clearly understood the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. I repented, God forgave. That’s the model to follow, right? “They” repent, “I” forgive. Hmmm…I’m having to think a little deeper about that because seven times in a day seems like too much to ask.
Could it be that there’s critical heart-change element tied to forgiveness just as there is for repentance? If my words speak forgiveness while my heart does not, isn’t that just a “prettified” form of judgment? In that case, who is more in need of forgiveness…them or me? Does that mean the reality of forgiveness is yet another part of my own repentance?
Why did that verse have to begin with “So watch yourselves?” I’m sorry Lord, that I even have to ask these questions. I thought I understood. Forgive me.