The King We Need

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover week is one of the most iconic images in all his ministry. The picture presented to us in Scripture is rich with meaning and challenges our understanding of who Jesus is. It certainly was challenging for the Jews of Jesus’ day, especially as they followed their newly hailed king into the royal city and witnessed what he did next. 

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Do Not Hinder Them

Jesus loves the little children. His love and concern for even the littlest ones of society is demonstrated in the fact that people were eager to bring their children to him. It’s obvious that they saw Jesus, powerful a figure as he was, as someone who would receive babies and toddlers into his arms. And Jesus encouraged them to come. 

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A Glimpse of Glory

Immediately after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus began to teach the disciples about his coming death. This would have been a shock for the disciples whose understanding of the Messiah was one-sided – they focused on his kingship and the defeat of his enemies. After Jesus explained that he must be killed and then rise again after three days, Peter once again stood up and speaks first. Peter had the audacity, and foolishness, to rebuke Jesus for talking of his death. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter and revealed the Satanic forces vying for control over those closest to Jesus. 

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Who Do You Say I Am?

Mark begins his gospel by telling us exactly who Jesus is: Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. As Mark unfolds the story, the identity of Jesus remains a central focus. The pressing question throughout the book is: who will recognize Jesus for who he truly is? 

John the Baptist appears first on the scene and announces that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah who brings salvation for the people of God. John was given a special insight into who Jesus is, yet he did not see the whole picture and at one point even starts to have doubts that Jesus really is the Messiah. 

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Rules and Religion

The religions of the world have at least one thing in common – rules. Rules, laws, and regulations all provide a neat system of things we ought to do and things we ought to avoid. They help keep everybody on the same page and moving towards a shared goal. A common rule fosters unity. And when we speak of improving our lives and becoming better people, it is easiest to follow a set of rules. So often we want to boil it down to identifying exactly where the line is that we must not cross. When it comes to religion, rules are king. 

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The Testimony of John the Baptist

John the Baptist was a herald. He was designated to run ahead and proclaim the One who was coming. Most obviously, John accomplished his task by preaching about repentance and baptizing people. And when Jesus stepped onto the stage, John stepped up to the crowd, pointed to Jesus, and announced his presence. Yet, even in his death, John was a herald of the kind of death that Jesus would die. 

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Death in the Face of Life

When I was in my mid-teens I heard a sermon on the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes. I think I remember two or three sermons from that time in my life, so it is striking that this sermon stuck with me. I do not know exactly what it was about the sermon that made it so memorable, but I think it had something to do with the way it captured my imagination. If I am correct, the sermon was titled “D-Day at the Decapolis” and the preacher drew parallels between the Allied forces invading the beaches of Normandy and Jesus invading the beaches of the Decapolis. 

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The Parable of the Seed

We are familiar with the parable of the sower, which is in fact about the soil, but Jesus also told a parable about the seed. In Mark’s gospel we read:

 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
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At the Sinners Table

The teachers of the law couldn’t believe it. As they were passing by Levi’s house, they noticed a crowd had gathered inside and were sharing a meal together. It was a crowd of “those people” – tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes and the like. Habitual sinners who had abandoned loyalty to the nation of Israel and were ignorant of the religious laws. The teachers of the law shook their heads in disapproval and were about to continue on their way when they noticed some of Jesus’ disciples mixed in among those crowded around Levi’s table. When they did a double take, they caught sight of Jesus himself, sitting next to the tax collector. Their eyes grew as wide as dinner plates and they looked at one another in disbelief. What was Rabbi Jesus doing in the company of sinners? Didn’t he care about his reputation? Didn’t he realize these people were spiritually unclean?

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