Mark 16:11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Did you like looking for Easter eggs as a child? There is something wonderful in finding an object, even a colored egg, in a place where it normally wouldn’t be. The older I get the more I value “sameness.” Keep me in my routines. Let my mechanical devices perform as they always have with no glitches. Keep my world running smoothly. The seasons and rhythms of life are beautiful and comforting. But they are never enough by themselves. We want Easter eggs. We want there to be hidden treasures out there that let us know that there is more than just the repetitive. Even when, like the disciples in the above verse, we find it hard to believe it is possible, we still want more… more possibilities, more life, more love. We want resurrection. We long for it in the deepest recesses of our being. And God gives it to us! The great surprise, which the women embraced more readily than the twelve, that Jesus had not fallen victim to the way of all flesh but had done what, by our meager minds, could not be done, fills a place in our hearts, minds and imaginations that so desperately needs filled.
Mark 11:8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
You may have seen awards shows on TV where they have a “red carpet.” Celebrates parade down them often waving to fans in bleacher seats erected for the occasion. There is generally a station where interviews are conducted and we hear all about the dress or outfit the star is wearing that evening. The crowd along the route from the Mt. of Olives to the Temple in Jerusalem which Jesus rode down on Palm Sunday didn’t have a red carpet. So, they improvised. I can just imagine some mother complaining to her child when they returned home that evening, “What happened to your brand-new cloak! It looks like a donkey walked all over it!” There was a lot going on during this two-mile trek to the Temple, but one aspect was the excitement of the crowd. Here was someone special. They wanted to be part of it all so they spread their clothes and whatever branch they had in their hands. They gave what they had to greet this most important person. What do you have to give in celebration this year? What about Jesus excites you?
John 12:27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
This is Jesus speaking to his followers after Palm Sunday, the beginning of that last week of his earthly life. He is portrayed as a man who sees the signs of rejection and death looming ahead and part of his humanity understands a desire to avoid it all. But, as we have followed the picture of Jesus during Lent, we have seen right from the beginning in the wilderness, his conviction to live out his destiny faithfully to the end as a display of God’s love. How many good ideas or deep convictions have you had late at night that didn’t seem quite the same in the light of day or when it came to actually act on them? Humans can be very lofty in thought but unable or unwilling to come through when action is required. Not so with Jesus. He was willing to do what was required even to the extent of laying down his life. He knew what he was about and saw it through to the end. What is your life about? What is the reason God has put you here in this time and place?
Numbers 21:7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you.”
What is the difference between guilt and shame? I heard a psychologist on a video explain it this way. Guilt means I did something bad. Shame means I am bad (https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&ei=UTF-8&p=guilt+shame+brene+brown+ted+talk&type=E211US105G0#id=2&vid=1954513f042de117e9bf66b4a46f2f62&action=view). We don’t lose our dignity when we admit guilt, we affirm it. To say we are wrong to God affirms that God made us to be better than that. To say we are wrong to God affirms that by God’s grace we can be forgiven. To say we are wrong to God is the act of faith that believes God’s love is stronger than our rebellious hearts. We can be who we really are before God and with God’s people because God’s love gives us dignity, dignity worth the death on the cross.
Exodus 20:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
This is the introductory statement to the Ten Commandments. We are so focused on individuality and self-determination in our culture that commandments seem like unjust impositions to most people. “I’ll do what I want” is the rallying cry today. But these commandments were given by the God who had just set the people free. As Kris Kristofferson wrote and Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” We want to believe we are a solid and will keep our shape no matter what. The truth is, we are a liquid and without a container, something setting our limits and conditions, we will flow, shapeless and undefined. The commandments are given to us to show us who we can become and how we can get there. They are more of a gift than a responsibility. May you use them as such this Lent.
Mark 8:34 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” (The Message Bible)
Jesus has just had a confrontation with Peter which ended with Jesus telling him, “Get behind me, Satan!” Pretty powerful stuff. It is hard for us to wrap our minds around Jesus’ talking about “anyone who intends to come with me.” Or is it? Have you ever had to relocate for a job? I have. It becomes a far-reaching commitment. Your life is no longer what it was. A new house. New grocery stores. Perhaps new schools and new friends and new colleagues. It is indeed the decision that drives the rest of life. We may do this for our careers and incomes. Would we consider doing something similar for Jesus? That is what he was asking of those who “intend to come with me.” These were not words for the select twelve disciples alone. He had called the “crowd” to hear this. Lent is a time to realize how little we let Jesus lead us and turn to follow. How are you letting him in the “driver’s seat?
Mark 1:13 he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
This is Mark’s version of what happened to Jesus after his baptism. The verse before this says that the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness. I have always thought of the “wild animals” as a bad thing. I even thought of them symbolically as the emotional and psychic beasts that plague our inner world. But one author I read proposed that this is a reference to one of the Advent texts from Isaiah. In chapter 11:6-9 we find “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Was Jesus experiencing this fulfillment of the coming of God’s kingdom through the wild animals in the wilderness? It is worth a thought. When his time in the wilderness was finished, he was ready to proclaim that the time had arrived and the kingdom of God was at hand. Maybe this Lent we can see the “wild animals” of our world through the lens of God’s kingdom?
Mark 9:7 Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.” (The Message Bible)
Things happen quickly in general in the Gospel of Mark. It is the shortest of the four New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life, only 16 chapters compared with Matthew’s 28, Luke’s24 and John’s 21. But in the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 things really speed up. In chapter 8 Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah and then Jesus goes on to redefine what the Messiah is and what the Messiah will do. Now in chapter nine Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a Mountain and they see him glow radiantly and talk with Moses and Elijah. While Peter babbles about building shelters for them all, the above verse takes place. They are covered by a cloud and hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.” If you go back and read the end of chapter eight you will find Jesus talking all about his own execution and the need for his followers to take up their own cross, the symbol of execution. They didn’t want to hear such talk and neither do we. Maybe that was one reason they needed this emphatic command to listen to Jesus. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this Wednesday. How will you listen to Jesus this Lent?
1 Corinthians 9:23 I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! (The Message Bible)
The pew Bibles in our congregation (NIV) render this verse “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” The Message Bible is less word for word accurate than the pew Bibles but I like the nuance it highlights. We have become a world of viewers. We have hundreds of channels on our cable TVs not to mention Netflix and other streaming options. Millions upon millions sat around watching the football game last night and critiquing the commercials. Screens are everywhere, from the cellphones in our pockets to displays in the grocery check out lines. We are constantly watching others do things. We can be that way about faith. Our beliefs can become removed from us, over there, what other people are involved in. Paul wanted to be in on the action. It cost him a lot but he seemed to think it was well worth it. What does it mean to be, in the Message Bible’s terms, “in on it,” part of what God is doing in the world, in history, in and around you? Lord, give us eyes to see what you are doing and hearts that long to be in on it
1 Corinthians 8:6 For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
There are some Bible scholars who like to emphasize the differences between the authors in the New Testament. In our church we spent a lot of time in the Gospel of John starting with Easter. Now that we are in 1 Corinthians, I find that this passage above sounds an awful lot like the beginning of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (1:1-4). Yes, the Trinity and the relationship between Jesus and the Father are somewhat mysterious and hard to put into words. But when the folks in the New Testament do, they seem to have more in common than they are different. One God but, here, a Father and a Son, both involved in creation and both deserving of our worship and service. What is the God like that you worship?