Friday, April 6, 2012

Mark 15:1 – 41

By Amy Whiting

Good...if you look up that adjective in our dictionary it has 28 different meanings! 28 ways of describing what good is...yet on the surface none of them seem to fit the events of the day we call Good Friday. Why do we call it good?

“Friday is the day that:

He who was celebrated becomes despised

He who was innocent was punished like the guilty

He who was the Lion was slaughtered like a Lamb

A day of unexpected reversals:

Where the Pharisees thought they got away with premeditated murder

But actually it was a predestined sacrifice

They thought they were taking His life

But in fact He was surrendering it

Death was their goal,

Yet life was the outcome

How is this day good?

Because on this day God had other plans:

He made one day affect all of eternity

He turned the wounds of One into healing for many

He transformed our worst acts of hate into the greatest expression of love

How is this day good?

Because at the cross:

We can hand over our sin in exchange for righteousness

We can lay down our burdens and pick up freedom

We can come broken and yet leave restored

And though seemingly it was the end –

It was actually just the beginning

The enemy had it planned as a bad day...

And we now call it good.”*

We call it Good Friday because today we remember and celebrate afresh that we have the privilege of knowing and experiencing that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

*Text taken from the video clip “Good Friday” by Igniter Media

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mark 14:12-26

By Josh Taylor

Reading this passage is like being a fly on a wall at a very important occasion. The disciples gather to share a meal with Jesus. Why is this passover meal significant?

Here Jesus connects Israel’s past with his mission. He is the one who came to fulfill God’s plans for his world. So the meal that Jesus invites his followers to partake in is a meal that celebrates an ‘exodus’ of sorts (The passover meal celebrates God delivering his people from slavery in Egypt).This ‘exodus’ is a delivery from the slavery of sin and death that in Jesus’ death and resurrection is made possible. The meal that Jesus invites his disciples to take helps explain his death. Jesus breaks the bread saying “This is my body given for you”. Jesus takes the cup saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” So this meal that Jesus had with his disciples was all about God’s gift of grace to a broken world.

We celebrate this meal in church when we take communion. When we do this we are reminded that following Jesus is not about mental assent to an abstract theory or belief. Rather we follow Jesus together as a community and this is intimately entwined in everything we do: as we do such a down to earth real thing as eating together we are reminded that we participate in God's grace.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mark 14:53-65

By Josh Taylor

What struck me most about this passage were the opening lines. Jesus has been arrested and is being taken to see the high priest.

In verse 50 the "disciples cut and run" (as the Message puts it). Here in verse 54 we see that "Peter followed at a safe distance".

Remember that these are the people who are closest to Jesus. They have spent years with him, eating with him, praying with him and following him. But when it comes to the crunch, when things start to get risky they cut and run.

The challenge for me was this: how many of us "follow Jesus at a safe distance". This Lent we are reminded of the call to follow Jesus with our whole lives, to give over everything to him.

A prayer:
"Lord Jesus, help us not to be those who follow you at a safe distance. As we approach Easter we are reminded of your life given for us. May we learn to follow you even where it is risky and in doing so may we encounter your grace and love."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mark 14:32-52

A prayer by Walter Brueggemann from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.

This day of dread and betrayal and denial

cause a pause in our busyness

Who would of thought that you would take

the eighth son of Jesse

to become the pivot of hope in our ancient memory?

Who would have thought that you would take

this uncredentialed

Galilean rabbi

to become the pivot of newness in the world?

Who would have thought that you –

God of gods and Lord of lords –

would fasten on such small, innocuous agents

whom the world scorns

to turn creation toward your newness?

As we are dazzled,

give us the freedom to resituate our lives in modest,

uncredentialed, vulnerable places.

We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely

arranged patterns of security

into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go.

Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked. Amen.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mark 14-15:47

by Monique

Wow…. The more and more I look into this passage the more my heart is changed and I become more and more thankful for the beauty of the sacrifice of God’s love for us, but on the other hand I know I will never grasp the true extent of the selfless sacrifice that Jesus made when he came to Earth as one of us, I don’t think anyone could truly grasp how it would have been to endure the agony, suffering, betrayal and loneliness and the mocking chants of the crowds. Sometimes I neglect to remember that Jesus was divine yes, but he was also human, he was perfectly human.

I wonder how he must’ve felt when he knew Peter would disown him, I bet Peter was shocked, he loved Jesus and he was deeply devoted to him (he definitely wasn’t just a fan). But when the time came for Peter to proclaim the name of Jesus and to declare his love for him to this woman, he failed, he denied it in a way that you couldn’t take as a misunderstanding but he clearly said “I don’t know what you are talking about” (14:68) Then the Rooster crowed as Jesus had spoken of earlier and our friend Peter broke down and wept. I wonder how Peter must have felt when he realised what he had done. To have so much determination to never let Jesus down and having been pre warned about it but to still deny him.

This raises up such a challenge in my life, my heart aches when I think of the many times I as a follower of Christ have denied him, when people have talked about me being religious I haven’t jumped up and said “ I am a follower of Christ” and continued to talk about my Jesus, I simply shrugged it off. So reading of the agony and suffering of Jesus on the cross I sit here and ponder about what it cost him so I could live. I think of the painful sacrifice he made for us, and I find it hard to wonder why I would ever not boast about my Jesus? Why I would not be excited to explain why I’m not simply religious, but a Follower of Christ, a follower of a divine human who loved us so deeply he gave his life on the Cross so we could be rescued, so the world could be rescued. For I know that although I deny him he will never relent, he will never give up on me, he is unconditional on all matters regarding the heart.

So I guess the challenge for myself and anyone else who’s the same is will we sacrifice popularity and what the world thinks of us “religious folks” and speak up when given the opportunity, speak of the Love God has for the people we encounter and try not to deny Gods voice but listen and respond in love as Jesus did? It seems a small sacrifice when I sit here and think about it and I suddenly realise it seems insane to not do it when compared to the sacrifice that was made for us the day the veil was torn.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mark 11:1-11

By Leigh Page

Did you notice all the ‘ones’? Five of them? Five, the number of grace … amazing grace. Here, in this passage we see an amazing out flowing of God’s grace at work … the revealing of God’s big picture of salvation established from the beginning, the fulfilment of prophecy, the nature of the character of God Himself … all coming together … if only the people had had the eyes and ears to receive it at the time.

As Eugene O’Neill noted, ‘The grace of God is glue.’ The glue of HisStory, the glue that mends the broken hearted, the glue that binds together communities … grace.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city that he had wept over, the city that ‘was to be the radiating heart of a world of completeness and wholeness’ … of peace … of grace …

Zechariah, the prophet, wrote these words some 480 years before the events unfolding before us …

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus, aware of all that is about to unfold in this week of His passion, comes in the grace and favour of God, fulfilling the Word of the Lord bought by the prophets generations before.

In a lowly manner, on a borrowed colt, over the people’s cloaks and on branches spread out on the road as they did when celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (the feast remembering God’s provision, the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt and the wandering in the desert).

Compare this approach with the earthly kings of the day who rode into cities upon horses with pomp and all the trappings of human power. Then come the cries of the people, “Hosanna” (“save now”), “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” they shout, welcoming his person. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” and “Hosanna in the highest! Here are prophetic words echoing loudly in the air, to the great consternation of the chief priest and scribes. Why? Because this greeting and prayer was to be reserved only for the coming of the Messiah, as declared on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. How could this Nazarene be the messiah we are expecting? ‘This makes the event of Jesus entering the city in what is called the ‘Triumphant Entry” (on Palm Sunday) come alive for us as we now better understand its significance.’

Jesus went through the city to the Temple, the ‘epitome of the aspirations of Israel and the symbol of its national hopes’ and looks around at everything … the Temple, designed to be the place of meeting …man with God …designated to be a house of prayer for all nations (all people groups) … What does He find? A place of peace where the rivers of life flow from the house of God to all nations?

What does He see? The corrupted fruit the outcome of religious rules, ritual and reckonings? What does He think? Grief for the people? Remember the zeal ( to earnestly desire something in a protective sense -- a fierce protectiveness.) for his Father’s house? But since it was already late … He went out to Bethany with the twelve. Bethany the home of Lazarus, the one Jesus raised from the dead just a few days ago, of Simon the leper, of Mary Magdalene and of Martha … Bethany, a centre for caring for the sick and aiding the destitute and pilgrims to Jerusalem …


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mark 13: 1-23

By Sam Wilkinson

This is a pasage sbout sacrifice, and prepardness in our faith. As much as Jesus shares on signs of end times we could easily miss the point due to the fascinating content.

Through the beginning of chapter 13 we are reminded of how fickle our material can be, a temple built to honour the Lord, celarly a magnificent structure in its day. Jesus warns of a fate for the whole city that as residents in Christchurch we probably have a genuinely unique perspective on. “not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down”.

Prophecies of war, famine, and disasters follow. I am struck by the most improbable section as being the nucleus of what the passage is about, there is certain prophecy that Jesus tells us to pray does not happen in the winter, why? Because he does not know exacly how this end of days will play out. Attempting to disect a time line over these uncertain events is the most challenging puzzle you could ever face, and some love it. But is it the main point to this scripture?

I remember sitting in class in year 6, terrified listening to these prophecies, convinced they began tomorrow. Why I am not sure but I missed the point back then, doesn't surprise me know I think about it, it seemed like a Christian baseball bat keeping me in line through fear.

However the many different ways you study or hear this and other end times passages, it is important to remember this, if you study out of devotion and not human imposed fear and you will find the content encouraging.

We are to remember that our Lord requires not the magnificence of buildings and other material, he requires the magnificence of Christ dwelling in us to spread his goodness. If we sacrifice the material and are prepared for all eventualities in our faith, a specific time frame is irrelevant, the journey will be difficult but the outcome will be stunning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mark 12:18-27

By Josh Taylor

The Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection of the body, so they want to make a point of how ridiculous they think it is. They give the example of a woman who marries seven men whom all die. Whose wife will she be at the resurrection of the dead?

Jesus quickly shows them that they are on an adventure of missing the point. His critique of them is harsh. Jesus essentially tells them that they don't know the Scriptures or the power of God!

Resurrection is at the heart of Christian faith. Sometimes we end up on adventures in missing the point when it comes to life after death. Our western Christian tradition has often emphasized going to heaven, a picture that conjures up images of harps, angels and fluffy clouds. However, biblically the picture of resurrection is at the heart of what it means for God to restore his creation, when we miss this its often because we also don't get the Scriptures or the power of God!

On this passage Tom Wright says this:

"Jesus, like the Pharisees in this respect, taught a two-stage 'life after death': first, a time of being 'with God', alive in his presence but not yet re-embodied, and then, after that, the newly embodied life of resurrection itself."
-Tom Wright, Lent for Everyone, Year B, Mark (London, SPCK, 2012), 126.

You may be thinking what on earth? If you are, it just goes to show how much we have been on an adventure of missing the point on this one. If you want to read more about the centrality of resurrection for Christian faith check out these chapters in the Bible:

-Ezekiel 37
-John 5
-Acts 17
-Romans 6
-Romans 8
-1 Corinthians 15
-Revelation 20

Another great resource to read is a book called "Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright. You can check it out here

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mark 12:1-12

By Joanna de Vocht

I think it could be easy to read this passage as a Christian and make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t really apply to US because we haven’t rejected Christ we have invited him to be king of our lives. Right?

But if we look wider than the more obvious message of this passage, the rejection of Christ, and look at the underlying motive for the rejection, this passage speaks to a topic quite different and quite applicable to all Christians – power.

Jesus didn’t fit within the Pharisees’ ideals of power, he threatened rather than confirmed or raised their authority. There wasn’t a place for their type of authority in his kingdom. He could warn them with messengers like John the Baptist but they would not submit because he wasn’t the Messiah they were looking for. He elevated the wrong people.

If we look at our own lives, who are the people that threaten our sense power and how do we treat them? We are probably less likely to commit overt violence like the Pharisees did, but we all feel tempted to fight for our ‘right’ to power over our territory at work or at home.

Recently, when complaining to a friend about someone who I felt was encroaching on my territory of leadership, she told me that I needed to give up my spiritual ‘right’ to lead that project - because God (not group politics) raises and lowers anyway. She was dead right and as soon as I gave up my right to power the whole situation turned around.

Who will you submit to for the glory of God? Maybe it is someone worse than you, someone stupider and less well spoken than you (that was certainly not true in my case) - but truly following Christ means giving up our own power and glorifying His.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mark 11:12-25

By Josh Taylor

In the prophet Isaiah we find these words:
"...these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."
(Isaiah 56:7)

Jesus comes and declares judgement on the temple because it has turned inward, serving the needs of those who benefit most from religious observance.

God is a missional God, a God who reaches out. In Genesis 12 we see where God calls Abraham and makes a promise to bless him. But the blessing is so that Abraham my in turn be a blessing. This is the call of God's people: blessed to be a blessing. The problem we encounter in Mark 11:12-25 is that the people of God: a people called to be a blessing to all the nations have held back on their end of the deal. This temple of all places was to be a place where God's holiness and love were on display, instead Jesus finds what he describes as a den of robbers.

We, the church are called together in God's name as God's people. We indeed are blessed. But, we are blessed to be a blessing. Would Jesus come in to our midst and praise the way holiness and love is displayed in our local community through our witness, or would he find that we are turned inward?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

John 12:20-33

By Amy Whiting

Following Jesus is often counter-cultural and counter-intuitive.

The truth is that if we want a full, satisfying, worthwhile life – a life whose influence lives on well beyond us – one that leaves a legacy and inspires others. If we want to be honoured by our heavenly Father (vs 26)...If we want to be that person we must...die, serve and follow.

I guess the thing that most captured me in this verse was this – “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains all by itself.” All by itself. Lonely. Isolated. Maybe by our wordly measuring stick successful, but in reality alone.

I wonder if this is something we have missed – that dying, serving and following ensures that we will be fruitful...and not all by ourselves...both in this world and in the age to come.

This promise of not being alone is echoed again in( vs 26) With this promise – if anyone serves me, they must follow me. Where I am, my servant will be too. In dying, serving and following we are found right with Him.

It goes against everything our world, our intuition, our common sense screams at us – but my prayer is that I could grasp this fully – in choosing to serve & follow, to die to myself...there I am found fruitful & at the side of the One who’s opinion matters in this life, and the one to come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mark 10:46-52

By Josh Taylor

A prayer for the faith of Bartimaeus

Lord, give us the faith of Bartimaeus:
Who threw off his cloak
Who yelled out to you without restraint
"Take pity on me!"

Take pity on us
Who are so scared to trust in you
Who hold back timidly
Lord, give us the boldness of Bartimaeus.

We are broken, just like Bartimaeus
We need healing, just like Bartimaeus
We need hope, just like Bartimaeus.
So we pray: make us new, just like Bartimaeus.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mark 10:35-45

By Kees Aitken

As I read this it makes me chuckle and cringe at the same time.

The first thing that came to my mind was “are James and John taking the mickey?” In verse 35 straight off the bat they ask, “Teacher, we want You to grant us whatever we ask.” Do they not know Who they are speaking to?

But Jesus, rather than laughing at them and walking away like most of us would, turns around and asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (verse 36).

They ask, at verse 37, “Grant us that when You are there in all Your glory, one of us will sit at Your right, and the other at Your left”!! The cheek of them!

But at verse 38 Jesus replies, “You don’t understand what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I must drink? And can you be baptized with the same kind of baptism that I must go through?” And, at verse 39, they answered, “Yes, we can.”

It seems to me that their ignorance comes off as arrogance. But, ever humble and gracious, Jesus does not put them down or reprimand them. He is gentle in His correction. I love this about Him. What I think James and John didn’t understand is that, while they were referring to a place of Glory after death, Jesus knew what lay ahead and those who would accompany Him to the Cross.

When the ten heard about this they became indignant with James and John. You can’t really blame them but yet again Jesus responds with wisdom and grace, and then teaches them what I think is one of the most important lessons in scripture:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10 vs 42-45).

“So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13 vs 4-5).” This is one of the many hundreds of reasons why Jesus is the most amazing King of Kings; any other King would have had slaves, servants, maids, and butlers etc but Jesus came to serve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mark 10:17-31

By Josh Taylor

We all have our own proudest possessions, the part of our lives that we are not willing to give away in order to truly follow Jesus. When Jesus calls us to become his disciples, to follow him, there is a cost involved.

The challenge that struck me as I was thinking about this passage was what is this cost in my life? What is it that holds me back when Jesus calls me? There is always something that fights for our allegiance.

It’s like we all constantly face a big game of tug of war. On one side Jesus calls us to obey him and follow him whole heartedly and on the other side there are the tempting offers and habits that hold us back from fully committing.

But the fact is that the choice has to be made. We either follow Jesus or we don’t. There isn’t some pleasant negotiable middle. That is why Jesus says it is so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. It is because they are held back from giving their loyalty fully to Jesus; instead they trust in their wealth.

The story of the rich young ruler finishes with an interesting question. The disciples ask Jesus, who then can be saved? Jesus says “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The point here is that we don’t just try to make our own lives better somehow and prove to God that we’re not so bad after all, because that is impossible. The point is that relationship is the key element. It is with God that all things are possible.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a german theologian who was martyred in WWII said this:

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death-we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to otherwise godfearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time-in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pg89, 90

The journey of Lent is one where we remind ourselves of our call to obey Christ above all else.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mark 10:1-12

By Josh Taylor

The Pharisees try and catch Jesus out by asking him a hard question about divorce. Jesus turns it around and goes even deeper by getting back to God's intent:

"male and female he made them, and that's why
the man must leave his father and his mother
and cleave unto his wife; so that the two
become one flesh."

Jesus is good at this. They know that he will probably give them a conservative answer, an answer that would get him in trouble politically with Herod who was himself divorced. But Jesus knows better than to fall into their trap, he quickly unveils their hearts. What is this law about? It is about God's intention for marriage.

Divorce is a topic that comes up in Scripture a few times, so let's take a quick tour of this issue in other places in Scripture...(this is a topic deeply personal to my own journey and hence there are fair amount of words to follow!)

In Ephesians 5:22-33 we find Paul’s picture of marriage. This picture is a positive one that affirms mutuality, equality and love. Genesis 2 affirms the relational bond that God created between men and women. Stanley Grenz writes on human relationships and insists that human relationships can reflect God’s triune nature, he says:

Personhood, then, is bound up with relationality, and the fullness of relationality lies ultimately in relationship with the triune God. Creating this relational fullness is the work of the Spirit, who places humans “in Christ” and thereby effects human participation in the dynamic of the divine life.[1]

Humans are made for relationship with one another. The marriage bond that displays mutuality of love which is beautifully expressed in the act of sex (as described in 1 Corinthians 7) can reflect the nature of God. Marriage is affirmed in the Bible, that man and woman are made as equals and called to exist as one flesh.

Divorce is a sad reality that Scripture teaches on in various places. Jesus teaches on adultery and divorce in Matthew 5:27-32. Jesus’ words in 5:31-32 are of particular relevance here.

A Covenant theology reading offers much insight into Jesus’ words on marriage and divorce. Stassen and Gushee in their book “Kingdom Ethics” explore Matthew 5:31-32 from a Covenant theology reading. They highlight that marriage is a covenant and that there is significance in the covenant language of marriage.[2] This covenant requires faithfulness, trust and honesty. Too often it seems that the question that one asks when facing Matthew 5:31-32 misses the point. It seems odd to ask the question of when is it possible for a couple to get divorced. The issue should not be questions of how to wriggle free from a covenant relationship. The truly important theological question that arises is what does God intend for marriage? Christians are to be new creations in Christ. The whole created order groans for restoration. Part of this restoration is the creational intent for marriage being restored. The Bible speaks of marriage and in the Genesis account speaks of man and woman united as one flesh.[3]

The reason the divorce teaching itself exists is not to give people the room to get out of a marriage that they do not like. The reason Jesus teaches on divorce is because people’s hearts are so hard and sinful that divorce is in fact a reality.[4] People’s marriages break down for various reasons. Jesus sets the boundary for what was acceptable in his 1st century Jewish context, however that does not mean that Matthew 5:30-32 gives us prescriptive rules for today. The central theological message that one can take from Jesus’ teachings on divorce is that broken marriages are not the ideal. What God intended for his creation were faithful marriages.

Divorce is a major issue for pastoral practice. It is important that the Church affirms that divorce is not God’s intention. Every option ought to be explored before divorce is considered. Falling out of love or drifting apart is not a good reason to get a divorce. Perhaps an understanding of love such as the self sacrificial and giving picture found in 1 Corinthians 13 is important in terms of this issue. On the other hand, divorce is a reality and in some cases proves to be the only way to resolve a situation. It is important that the Church does not adopt a ‘one size fits all’ legalistic approach to divorce. Just as Paul applied Jesus’ teaching to his context, the Church today is to do the same.

The Church ought to be a redemptive place that encourages healing of relationships and hurt from broken relationships.[5] Imagine if we at Cashmere could be such a redemptive place: a place of healing and love that displays and supports God's intention for marriage. Maybe then if we were asked tough questions about this issue, we would have a ready answer at hand displayed in the love of our community.

[1] Stanley J. Grenz “The Social God and the Relational Self: Toward a Theology of theImago Dei in the Postmodern Context” in Personal Identity in Theological Perspective, ed. Richard Lints, Michael S. Horton and Mark R. Talbot (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 92.

[2]Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 276.

[3] Genesis 2:24.

[4]David P. Scaer. The Sermon on the Mount: The Church’s First Statement of the Gospel (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia, 2000), 119.

[5] Stanley Grenz, Sexual Ethics, 141-142.