Mark 10: Don’t be a bouncer for Jesus

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People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  (Mark 10:13-14)

It was natural for Jewish parents to want their children to be blessed by a Rabbi, it was tradition that the child be blessed on or around their first birthday by a rabbi.  Here we have the parents trying to bring their babies to Jesus to be blessed, and the disciples trying to stop them.

The disciples were Jesus’ closest friends and helpers, we basically see them here acting as bouncers for Jesus.  They viewed the children as disruptive, and a distraction.

A theologian called George Macdonald once said that He doesn’t believe in a person’s Christianity if the children are never to be found playing in their churches.

The message for all of us is a simple one, there will always be people putting up obstacles, often it will be those inside the church like the disciples who think they are doing the right thing but are in fact just putting up obstacles, obstacles that will get in the way of children and people coming to Jesus, obstacles that make the church and Christianity look like a stern, serious and gloomy place rather than how Jesus wants His church to be.  Jesus wants His church to be open to all, obstruction free, a place where children can play games and be not be considered disruptive.

Jesus doesn’t need us to act as His bouncers, He wants everyone to come to Him unhindered.  Tear down the barriers that stop or slow people coming to Jesus.

John 6 – Eat my flesh

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Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35)

It is interesting that in John’s Gospel there is no account of the Last Supper itself.  John’s Gospel does talk about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, teaching and praying; but there is no mention of bread and wine in chapter 13.  But throughout John’s Gospel, the Eucharist is there in the many chapters that talk about Jesus as the bread of life and the true vine. About feeding on him and the importance of his blood.  It’s here very clearly in chapter 6:

‘For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.’ (John 6:55)

We need more than just physical food, Jesus is telling us that we must feed the souls.  When we feed on Jesus we feed our minds and our souls.  We need spiritual food not just physical food.

When we come to church we get that kind of nourishment, in the songs we sing, in the profound liturgy we say, in the prayers, in the bible readings, in the sermon. In the sharing of communion with our church family and in the fellowship afterward.

But it’s not just on Sundays at Church that we can get spiritual nourishment.  We can feed on the words of Jesus, by reading the Bible a little every day, by talking about our faith with others.  We can feed on Jesus through praying together or by ourselves. We should never stop learning about God’s love, we should never stop feeding on Jesus.

Mark 6 – The Power (part 1)

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And he could do no power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (The Gospel of Mark 6:5-6, my translation).

Haha. That’s funny. Most churches today would be ecstatic with joy if they witnessed a few healings! Evidently there is a difference between run of the mill healings and power healings (miraculous healings?). The Holy Gospel of Mark is a 1st century biography of Jesus in the Greek language. The Greek word used in Mark translated above as “power” is dunamis from which we get “dynamite”! In the language of Jesus, the Hebrew behind dunamis is ha-gevurah.

It must be significant that Jesus was limited by the level of faith in the crowd. I wonder if Jesus is still limited today by the level of faith in many churches! Conversely, The Holy Gospels also inform us that where there is faith in Jesus amongst the people then a connection is made and the dunamis is able to flow through Jesus from heaven to earth.

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Click here to read Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)

Mark 4 – Jesus jokes about a mustard seed

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“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

A mustard seed is tiny it’s about 1mm thick and from this tiny seed a mustard plant would grow often reaching well over 6ft in one year and would attract lots of birds who would come and perch in its branches and eat its seeds.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed?

The mustard seed – one of the smallest seeds that grow into ‘the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches.  The image should make us stop and think, perhaps Jesus is being slightly satirical.  I would think a more appropriate image would be a mighty oak tree growing from a small acorn.  Or perhaps a more biblical tree, like a mighty cedar tree, in fact in Ezekiel in the old testament it says:

God says ‘I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it … it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.  Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches’.

But here Jesus doesn’t compare the kingdom of God to the tallest and strongest of trees.  Jesus likens the kingdom of God, the church to something that sprouts up quite quickly from almost nothing and the develops into an ungainly spindly shrub.  This should make us smile, Jesus is giving us a humorous picture of the kingdom of God that contains a deep meaning.

Churches I think can take comfort from the lips of Jesus.  Like the mustard plant, a church can be an untidy sprawling shrub.  But Jesus is saying something quite profound about the church; It will be a bit a messy and jumbled but in the mess is real life, and perhaps it isn’t easy to find your place in neat and tidy systems.  But in Jesus’ church, that is a bit messy and tangled, there is a place and room for everyone (Martyn Percy).

2Corinthians 4 – Do not lose heart

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we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2Cor 4:14-18)

Paul is writing to vulnerable communities of faith who were on the edge of losing heart.  In this passage, he is unusually personal. He talks of wasting away outwardly. The struggles of life.  What are we to do when faced with the struggles of life? 

Paul answers us in v16:

‘we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away’

And why because our hope is on what is unseen, we are to fix our eyes on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.  Our hope, and christian resilience is built upon the fact that God raised Jesus christ from the dead. Our hope in the face of adversity and pain is not rooted in any human capacity for optimism or natural strength of character.  It is based upon something God has done.

By God’s gift and choosing, we find ourselves part of a bigger story, God’s story.  And so we see throughout history communities of Christians, spreading the good news, and the hope they have in Jesus, even though they are struggling, and under persecution.

For Paul he knows he is part of God’s story, something so big and wonderful, something so amazing as being part of the family of God, because Jesus died and rose again, that he can describe his present sufferings as a slight momentary afflictions by comparison.  That hope he has in the God of love shown in Jesus’ life death and resurrection gives him the strength to face the struggles that he now faces. We to are part of that bigger story and are part of the body of Christ, our hope is found in Him, Jesus is our sure foundation.

Genesis 14 – Melchizedek the first priest

 

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Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek – by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–1467

‘Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

Creator of heaven and earth.

And praise be to God Most High,

Who delivered your enemies into your hand”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.’ (Genesis 14:18-20).

We are told Melchizedek was king of Salem and also a priest.  Melchizedek is the first priest to be mentioned in the Bible. He is called priest of El-Elyon, El-Elyon is one of the titles for God that is used by Abram and the patriarchs.  Melchizedek is a priest before the Levitical priesthood was set up. We see Melchizedek bless Abram which is the first blessing since the promises made in 12:1-3 (that Abram would be a great nation and that God will bless those who bless him, ie Melchizedek).  The reason I wanted to focus on Melchizedek here is that he is a very important figure in Hebrews. Hebrews says:

[Jesus] was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 5:10)

and then goes on (in Heb 7) to use these verses from Genesis to show that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood because Abram gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20).  

‘Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him’ (Heb 7:9-10).

So the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical one because in essence Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek. What is more, Hebrews says,

It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior (Heb 7:7).

So because Melchizedek blessed Abram that shows him to be superior to him and therefore his offspring.  This Genesis passage is part of the foundation of why we hold Jesus to be our High Priest even though he was not from the Levitical line and therefore could not be a priest under the law. Jesus is a superior High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Acts 8 – The Outsider and the Good News

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God tells Philip to travel along a certain road and so Philip sets off and he meets an Ethiopian eunuch in a chariot reading a piece of scripture aloud and Phillip feels that he must go and speak to this stranger, and he asks if he understands what he is reading, the guy says he doesn’t and so Philip explains the gospel message and the stranger understands and believes, he sees some water asks to be baptised, and so Philip baptised him.  We are told that they never see each other again. (Acts 8:26-end)

The Ethiopian eunuch has been in Jerusalem, he was in effect an international diplomat for the royal court of the region we call Ethiopia.  He would have been made a eunuch so that he could advise the Queen in private without any restrictions. We can see that he is a God-fearing man because he is reading the Jewish scriptures, the old testament and had been to Jerusalem to worship God.  The trouble was being a eunuch he was forbidden from taking part in the any Temple rituals (lev 21:20) and was not allowed to convert to Judaism and join the community of Israel

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deut 23:1).

Someone who believed in God and yet was kept right on the fringe and so was worshipping God as an outsider.  We are told the Eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah chapter 53:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

   and like a lamb silent before its shearer,

       so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

   Who can describe his generation?

       For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Acts 8:32-33, Isaiah 53:7-8)

Which we say points to Jesus.  But the really interesting thing is why the Ethiopian eunuch reading this passage.  I suspect it is a passage he has read time and time again one that he would keep coming back to.  And that’s because of what happens after Isaiah talks of this lamb being led to the slaughter. We see what eunuch is looking forward to 3 chapters later in Isaiah 56 where it says:

For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,

   who choose what pleases me

   and hold fast to my covenant—

 to them I will give within my temple and its walls

   a memorial and a name

   better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

   that will endure forever. (Isaiah 56:4-5)

Here is a time when the eunuch would not be kept on the outside when outsiders would gain the most prominent position.  This is what the Gospel message is all about, good news for the outsider, good news to those whom society rejects. And so Phillip shows the Ethiopian eunuch that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  That through Jesus’ death and resurrection those whom society rejects, those on the outside are brought into the family of God, and in God’s eyes sit right in the centre.

So Ethiopian eunuch immediately wants to be baptised, he has heard the good news, the time Isaiah look forward to has arrived, he is an outsider no longer.