Mark 7:1-23

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Relationship Over Religion”. This post was derived from my personal reading of Mark 3 and the biggest takeaway for me could be summed up by the last sentence of the post, “May we refrain from religion, but rejoice in relationship with Jesus.” Meaning, may we seek to truly know and experience a relationship with Jesus, rather than following extrabiblical traditions, false teaching, man-made religious rules, and other things that do not come from God or seem ‘good’ but in reality lead us astray–much like how the Pharisees, Scribes, and other religious leaders lived.

Tonight’s reading was very similar. Tonight, as shown in the title, I read Mark. 7:1-23 and one of the verses that jumped out at me was vs. 13 when Jesus says to the religious leaders, “thus making void the word of God by your tradition…”.

Rather than writing a whole new post about a very similar concept to “Relationship Over Religion”, I would encourage you to get out your Bible, or maybe you have a Bible app on your phone or iPad or something, and read Mark 7:1-23 and take some notes, initial thoughts, mark things or verses that stick out to you. Then, compare them with my notes and please send me an email with what you learn! I do not have all of the answers and I am not saying that you must compare with my notes because I see and know everything, haha! I am curious as to what God teaches you and would love hearing about it! You can send me your notes, questions, or things God had taught you by using the “Contact” page!

Here are my notes:

Mark 7

  • Vs. 1-5= Again, the Pharisees and the Scribes are trying to catch Jesus and His disciples breaking the Law of Moses.
    • Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah, calling them hypocrites!
      • “Their actions are merely external and do not come from the heart” (vs. 6).
      • “Their teachings are not from God but reflect the tradition of men” (vs. 7-8).
    • Again, Jesus is able to point out that the religious leaders care more about their own laws and tradition than  obedience to God—their hearts have not been changed.
      • “Thus making void the word of God by your tradition” (vs. 13)— they lead themselves and others away from God.
  • Vs. 14-23= Jesus responds to their initial question concerning defilement and says that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a person— “the core problem with defilement is what resides in the heart.”
    • This goes beyond something ceremonial–something only the religious leaders cared about.
  • Although the disciples, many times (including this one), do not understand Jesus’ teaching or parables, they remain with Him and are “gradually learning”.
    • May I never give up on learning things from Jesus and His Word. Especially when I do not initially understand or end up frustrated.
    • They asked Jesus (vs. 17) when they did not understand Him. May this be my response also—going before Him and asking that He would reveal more of Himself and His Truth to me that I may properly apply it to my life.
    • They continued to walk beside Jesus, the Son of God, and the truth of His teaching, and “not walk according to the tradition of the elders” (vs. 5).

#GraceandTruth

Jesus, Our Good Shepherd.

I have once before written a blog about the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14. In that blog  post, I emphasized how Jesus made much of what little the disciples had to work with and how He empowered them to accomplish the task He assigned to them–feeding all those people.

In Mark 6, we will find the same miraculous feeding, and yet I find a different emphasis. It is more so on Jesus, rather than the miracle itself. In chapter 6 verse 34, we read, “and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”

I have an ESV Study Bible, and I find it so very helpful when studying the Scriptures because there is so much commentary that helps explain passages, cross-references with other passages, and more. In regards to verse 34 the commentary says:

“Despite his need for rest, Jesus has compassion: he sees the people as being like sheep without a shepherd. In Ezekiel 34:10-16, God promises to shepherd the people again directly, since Israel’s leaders have failed. Jesus continues to teach them, functioning as the good shepherd who calls for repentant submission to the messianic rule of God.”

Jesus saw that the people were helpless and starving and lacking in spiritual guidance–“like sheep without a shepherd” (vs. 34). As a result of His compassion towards them, Jesus feeds them. He feeds them first spiritually by immediately teaching them. Jesus always seems to care more about the spiritual needs of people, before their physical ones. He then would later feed them physically with only 5 loaves and 2 fish (remember this was more than 5,000 people)!

This miracle reveals so much about the reality of the divine nature of God. Again, my commentary excellently explains this miracle’s implications:

“As the true shepherd, he satisfies them. As God provided manna in the desert, so Jesus provides food in a deserted place (6:35). The focus is thus not on the miracle itself but on the one who worked it. Jesus is not merely a prophet; he acts as God acts.”

Jesus is the good Shepherd (John 10:11) and He will always provide for His sheep. What God promised to His people concerning being their Shepherd in Ezekiel 34, He accomplished in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, we lack nothing that we need. It is in Him that we have our protection, our provision, and our guidance (both spiritually and physically).

Psalm 23:1-4 says,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Jesus, our good Shepherd, be treasured.

#GraceandTruth

 

 

Relationship Over Religion

In my reading through the book of Mark, yesterday I began chapter 3 where Jesus is asking about what is lawful on the Sabbath. He notices a man with a withered hand and the religious leaders watched Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath in order that they may accuse Him. However, Jesus is a step ahead of them. He asked the Pharisees (the religious leaders), “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”. However, the Pharisees were silent and had no response to Jesus’ question. He proceeded to heal the man with a withered hand and was angered by their hardness of heart.

The commentary in my Bible best describes what happened in verses 1-6:

“Jesus is not intimidated by His opponents; he makes the Sabbath healing an intentionally public incident. The silence of the opponents displays their hardness of heart and Jesus’ anger shows that his question, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…’ should have been answered; ‘to do good’. This would not violate the [Old Testament] law, but it would violate the opponent’s extrabiblical, mostly Pharisaic tradition. Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor.”

The part of that description from the commentary that drives home Jesus’ point is, “Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor”. In this passage, it is clear that the religious leaders would rather keep their own tradition, than to do good for someone on the Sabbath. However, they are perfectly fine with meeting and working together to figure out a way to destroy Jesus immediately after He preforms this miracle (vs. 6, pride will justify so many things). By trying to keep their own laws, they failed to be obedient to the point of God’s. They fail to exemplify their love for God, by not loving their neighbor.

When we try to do things our own way, we miss the point. When we are constantly watching for others to slip up in order to accuse them of ‘wrongdoing’, we are the only ones in the wrong. This is why religion is not the answer. Because even when trying and trying to do ‘good’ and being ‘good enough’ is the only motivation, there is no goodness of God in the heart.

Watchman Nee once said, “Evil is evil and good is evil, if it is not the goodness of God.” Likewise, he would also say that, “Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” This is where the Pharisees, and so many others today, get confused. Religion misses the point. Tradition misses the point. Extrabiblical law misses the point. None of these are genuinely connected with the goodness of God at all.

Christians, we must love God and love others; while rejoicing and being thankful for those who do. May we refrain from the mindset of the Pharisees, seeking only to point the finger and accuse others of when they do not do what we want or what we think is ‘right’ and ‘good’. May we refrain from religion, but rejoice in relationship with Jesus.

#GraceandTruth

Love God. Love Others.

“And [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

There are a lot of things in this world that I love. I love my family; I love watching Kobe highlights; I love swiss cake rolls; I love hot coffee; I love my job; I love listening to music; I love hanging out with friends; I love my girlfriend; I love driving at night; I love lake days… I think you get the picture.

However, it is crucial to understand that the love Jesus is talking about in Matthew 22 is quite different from the love that I hinted at above. Jesus desires that our love for Him be more than a feeling; more than just a word to express our gratitude or satisfaction with a specific thing; more than just an emotional experience. After all, Jesus said that we are to love God with all that we are and that we are to love others as we love ourselves (ouch…). So, as much as I love swiss cake rolls and watching Kobe highlights, Jesus is due a more honorable love– a love that is a lifestyle, a love that is an act of worship; and in response,  genuinely love others. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”.  If we are followers of Jesus, then the love of Jesus is something that has eternally impacted our lives; therefore, we can now practice what it means to love others.

On loving God and loving others, my Bible’s commentary excellently puts it this way: “The kingdom life that Jesus initiated–summarized in these two commandments– fulfills the deepest longings of human beings created in the image of God to display his glory.” Meaning, that if we are going to be followers of Jesus and truly seek to proclaim and display the glory of God, then we must be willing to love God and love others. This is the life that Jesus so willingly put on display. He humbled Himself to the will of God, demonstrating His love for the Father in obedience, while  unconditionally loving each and every person He came in contact with, ultimately showing the greatest form of love by giving up His life. He tells His followers in John 15:12-13, ” This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love as no one than this, that  someone lay down his life for his friends.”

So often, this is much easier said than done. People can be hard to love sometimes. It’s even more difficult to love someone the way Jesus wants us to when we are not first loving God and seeking to make much of who He is.

My hope and prayer for myself, and for every other follower of Jesus, is that we would first genuinely and wholeheartedly love God with all that we are; and as a result, love people the way Jesus does. Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As much as we may love college football, making money, spending time with family and friends, going to the movies, shopping, (fill in anything), may we love Jesus all the more with a worship-filled love that becomes a part of who we are, not just an emotional feeling or experience.

Love God. Love others.

#GreaceandTruth

A Humble King

Whenever I think about kings and their kingdoms, or power in regards to kingship, my mind almost always thinks about Lord of the Rings. In these books and movies, you have multiple kingdoms, kings, lords, and castles, all of which are evoking the strongest of power, military force, and entitled royalty. This series presents very well how typical kings and kingdoms  are portrayed–and not to mention it’s very entertaining.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, Jesus was (and still is) seen as various things: a prophet, a good teacher, a good guy, someone who healed a lot of people, a blasphemer, the Son of God, a carpenter, someone who never actually existed, etc. However, one of His most deserving titles is King. Jesus is not just a king, but He is the King.

A humble king almost sounds like an oxymoron. For, whenever I think about kings I think of power through violence; someone who sits on a throne and demands anything and everything he wants to be given to him immediately; someone whose decision- making first seeks his own profit; someone who selfishly desires to be worshiped by their people; and someone who rules unjustly or does what is right in their own eyes.

But Jesus was not this type of king. Jesus was not born in royalty, but in a manger. Jesus did not possess slaves and servants, but only disciples. Jesus did not rule selfishly, but served selflessly. Jesus did not reign with violence, but reached out in love and forgiveness. Jesus was not your ordinary, traditional king. Nor was he the type of king that the people of His time were expecting to come and rule.

One of the greatest ways that Jesus is portrayed as the King is in Matthew 21. This passage is famously known as “The Triumphal Entry”. Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (definitely not how any traditional king would enter any city). However, this was a beautiful fulfillment of prophecy. Verse 4 says, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” My commentary in my Bible explains that this action of Jesus “is an open declaration that he is the righteous Davidic Messiah.” The King, the Messiah, the Promised One has come! Not on chariots, not escorted by security, not with a marching band and on a beautiful float, not arrogant and with a head held high, not with an entourage and photographers everywhere; but  humbly on a donkey.

Some of the people there watching Jesus enter into the city began to lay their cloaks on the ground before Jesus–symbolizing their submission to Jesus as king. They began cutting palm branches– symbolizing Jewish victory and nationalism– and placing them on the ground before Jesus. They began shouting, “Hosanna [which means “O Save”] to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”. The King has come and He deserves all of our praise and worship, allegiance, and honor!

If you are follower of Jesus, then you serve a humble King. You serve a King that came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). You serve a King that was willing to do the dirty work. You serve a King that loved His enemies. You serve a King that put other people’s interests above His own. You serve a King that gave up His own life for you and for me. You serve a King that is one day coming again.

May Jesus be the only person we see as King. Like the people in Matthew 21, may we recognize and submit to Him as the only true King, the Messiah, the only King that possess victory  and a status above every other principality, kingdom, president, etc. We serve a humble King. And He lovingly and graciously desires that we take part in His kingdom for eternity. May our hearts faithfully proclaim, “Hosanna in the highest!”.

#GraceandTruth

 

 

A Life of Serving

“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom form many” (Matthew 20:28).

Tonight as I was finishing Matthew 20, I was reminded of a very powerful truth: Jesus, the King, Almighty God Himself, did not come to be served, surrounding Himself servants to satisfy all of His needs; but rather, Jesus came to serve and to satisfy all of our needs.

Jesus is the epitome of servant-leadership. He is the prime example of what genuine, selfless service looks like.  In this chapter of Matthew Jesus says, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave…” (vs. 27). Jesus values humility.  Jesus is pleased when we love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Jesus is pleased when we treat others the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Jesus is pleased when we love God and love others above ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus values our humble, submissive obedience and a willingness to serve Him.

On this passage, John MacArthur says, “In this rich text, the Lord teaches the disciples that the style of greatness and leadership for believers is different. The Gentile leaders dominate in dictatorial fashion, using carnal power and authority. Believers are to do the opposite–they lead by being servants and giving themselves away for others, as Jesus did.”

Jesus values our humility. Jesus values our servant-leadership. So, unlike James, John, and their mother (Mark 10:37, Matthew 20:21), we should never be more concerned with our selfish gaining than we are with our selfless giving. Jesus modeled to His followers the exact life He wanted them to live–one that is completely dedicated to humble service to the Father. The same is true for those who follow Jesus today.

Jesus loved the lepers. Jesus served the sinners. Jesus forgave the forsaken. Jesus died for the desperate. Jesus gave up everything and dedicated His whole life (every single act- John 5:19) to humbly serve the Father–oh that this would be our heart’s desire in our pursuit of Him!

Just as Jesus did, may we humble ourselves to the calling God has on our lives and serve Him. May our lives reflect that of John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. I encourage you to get in the Word and learn from Jesus what it means to be a servant-leader and how to live a selfless life. He is honored in this! He desires a life of serving!

Love Jesus. Love others.

#GraceandTruth

Jesus, be treasured.

Several weeks ago, one of my brothers, Stephen, began texting members of our family every so often with words of encouragement, prayers, and Bible lessons he may have learned in his own study. After almost every message, he concludes by saying, “Jesus, be treasured.” This phrase has really stuck with me, as it really is the call for every follower of Jesus–to treasure Him above all else.

In my current study of Matthew 20, treasuring Jesus becomes one of the key concepts towards the end of the chapter when a rich young man approaches Jesus and asks Him, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (vs. 16). In summary, Jesus basically responds by saying that simply doing good deeds, conforming to and keeping the law, and earthly possessions will not get a person into heaven (vs. 18-21, 23). The commentary in my Bible says, “Jesus’ strategy (bringing up the law, telling the rich young man to sell all his possessions, and to give to the poor) is to turn this man from focusing on external conformity to the law to examining his heart, revealing his ruling god.”

Jesus’ final words in explaining how the rich young man can have eternal life are, “come, follow me” (vs. 21). Don’t these words sound familiar? Jesus said these exact words to His disciples, and they stopped whatever it was they were doing and they followed Jesus. However, the rich young man’s response was quite different. Verse 22 says, “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

It is so easy to lose sight of what truly is important. Jesus is really good at exposing what our hearts are genuinely loyal to, who the God (or god) of our heart really is. Money in itself is not sin. Having lots of money in itself is not sin. However, sin is committed when we place money as the treasure of our hearts, and not Jesus. Sin is committed when we choose to willingly serve money over God Himself (Matthew 6:24).

Again, my Bible commentary explains it so well by saying, “Wealth [can be] both deceptive and intoxicating: it [sometimes] fools a person into thinking that he or she is self-sufficient apart from God; and the rich person wants so desperately to hold on to that supposed self-sufficiency.”

It can be so easy to allow the necessity of money to control our habits, levels of happiness or contentment, and even how we serve God and serve others. May Jesus be treasured. May Jesus be treasured so that when our bank accounts aren’t where we want them, we still have joy. May Jesus be treasured so that when unexpected bills and expenses come up, we still have joy. May Jesus be treasured so that when we give financially, we can do it with a cheerful heart. In every way, may Jesus be treasured over our finances.

Money is not eternal. Your bank account does not carry over to eternity. So, why do we stress over them? Why put faith in them? Why place them as a higher priority over our relationship with Jesus?

Jesus’ desire was that this rich young man forsake his wealth, and his religious, legalistic good deeds, and, instead, humbly follow Jesus. In a world where money, status, and being a “good person” is so prevalent, may followers of Jesus never exchange the call of Jesus for the comfort of money; eternity without it is better than this world with it. Jesus is better.

So, as my brother Stephen puts it: Jesus, be treasured.

#GraceandTruth