Friday, September 29, 2006


“The multitude came together again,
so that they could not so much as eat bread.”
(Mark 3:20)

As we’ve seen, Mark is a vivid, fast paced and dynamic Gospel account. Mark even uses a phrase a couple of times to help us understand just how busy Jesus and the disciples were, as if the adverb immediately over forty times alone wasn’t enough. Mark says that on a number of occasions there were so many people coming together with needs that Jesus and the disciples “could not so much as eat bread” (3:20). They were so busy, Mark says, that they didn’t even have time to stop by Taco-Bell and get something to eat, much less time to eat a piece of bread. Think about it, there was at least thirteen of them, including Jesus, you’d think He could have easily sent one of the younger ones down to the Snack-Shack to pick up a little something to nibble on. If not something to eat, at least send someone on a coffee-run.

Amazing discoveries are made about an individual in the midst of busy, long days, weary bodies and hungry tummies. For instance, one’s patience tends to wear thin, attitudes are prone to becoming less than appealing, not to mention, we typically become somewhat less than sensitive both to God and fellow-humanity. This is one of the things that makes Mark’s portrait of Jesus so fascinating, he never loses His cool under pressure, is always in tune with the hearts of humanity and that of His Father. Mark’s transitions between scenes are often that where people enter and exit with great frequency and place-names pile upon place-names as we journey along with Jesus ‘on the way.’ Yet, even amidst the hurriedness, Jesus remains the sensitive and steady Servant of God. What an example of what it means to truly serve. What was the secret to such acute sensitivity to the Spirit and demonstration of power? What was Jesus’ Powerade?

Similarly, “we live in a hurried, harried world, as we rush about from task to task and place to place and person to person. We overlook how each task, place, and person contributes to the whole of our lives, to God’s whole story that is taking shape within us, around us, and even beyond us. It should be noted, then, as we make our way through this Gospel, that although it moves along rapidly, it is worth pausing at each point along the way to see what new thing we may discover about Jesus, about others, or about ourselves.”

Mark intends for us to notice everything, even the smallest of things, by tucking in a surprise detail here and there in the Gospel. What could we learn from this and how could it be implemented into our daily encounters?

Portraits of Jesus        

What was Jesus’ Powerade? Can you find the clues Mark has left for us in his Gospel?

Can you find the other verse in Mark that talks about the disciples not having enough time to eat? How does Mark illustrate their inner workings and attitudes when they get weary, spent, tired and hungry?

How does this illustration of the disciples compare to that which Mark paints of Jesus in the same situation?

How does Mark further illustrate the level of sensitivity to fellow humanity and to the Spirit’s workings in their midst?

What was the prescription (Powerade) that Jesus admonished them to partake? Did they take a gulp?

Don’t stop searching Mark until you find Mark’s insight to these questions, for in them is one of the most imperative truths of our service to God and our walk in the Way of Jesus!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

a look under the hood

Every summer, our church puts on a import car show for the region. At this event, over a thousand people will come out to check out the cars and listen to the battle of the bands competitors. It’s amazing the lengths a person will go to pimp-out their ride! Cadillac SUV’s with over twenty television screens placed everywhere, including the brake lights. Wheels so bright, shiny and clean my one-year-old could eat off of them. The paint, the sound, the interior, nothing is left untouched by these ardent importers. However, there is one dimension that sets the diehard from those merely trying to get a glance of admiration as they drive down the strip, and that’s what’s under the hood. What does their engine look like, is it equally tricked-out, and perhaps most importantly, CLEAN? You know the person is serious about their car, when you could eat not only off their wheels, but their radiator, when there’s no grease to be found, anywhere. If you hope to win big in the import car showing business, what’s under the hood matters!

Mark is an under-the-hood kind of guy. As we’ve seen thus far, Mark goes to great lengths to demonstrate Jesus first and foremost as the Servant, however it is imperative that we note that he goes to almost equal lengths to show the demeanor by which He did so. In other words, what’s under the hood of this Load-Bearing-Work-Ox? Service ceases to be service if it is self-seeking or ill motivated. The service of many is disqualified by their very motivation, attitude and expressions.

In the Gospel of Mark we are given many details, as to the demeanor, and postures, and looks, not found in any other Gospel. In the incident where the little children were brought to Him that He would touch them, in Mark alone do we read, that “He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (10:16). So it was with the little child, who became an object lesson for the disciples, “Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them” (9:36). Likewise, it is here that we are given the distinction of how He healed Peter’s wife’s mother when it says, He “took her by the hand and lifted her up. And she served them” (1:31). Once again, here only do we read, “He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town” (8:23). Finally, it is in Mark’s account alone that we read, of the little boy with the spirit of deafness, where it says, Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (9:27).

There is another observation found in Mark’s Gospel, whereas the other Gospels, describing the exact same scene overlook this minute, yet significant insight into the heart of the Servant Jesus. This acute analysis revolves around the fact that Jesus took time to look. At first glance this may seem trivial, but not to Mark, not in the least. On one particular occasion, it was the Sabbath and Jesus entered the Synagogue. There happened to be a man there with a “withered hand.” All eyes were on Jesus, especially those of the religious leaders. They eyed him to see whether he would heal the man or not. Thus, we read, “when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’” (3:5). I can’t help but wonder, what must that look have been like? I imagine everything seemed to come to a crashing halt, frozen in time, suspended in space, silence filled the room, while Jesus engaged in the slow panoramic scanning of the eyes around the room, until He had locked eyes with each one, and locked eyes indeed long enough to peer deep into their hearts, allowing them to experience the piercing fury and fire of the Father. But then His eyes fell upon the man with the withered hand, and everything changed. The fury turned to compassion and the fire now released a love not known to humanity. An image no one would soon forget. For Mark, this is anything but an empty arbitrary insertion, it’s a snapshot, a photo, one that he wants to become etched deep into the heart and mind of his reader. Here alone do we see, And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!” (3:34). Then there’s the look never to be forgotten, which happened when He spoke of His cross, and Peter began to rebuke Him. Here alone do we read, “when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (8:33).

What about the Rich Young Ruler? We often get this image that Jesus scoffs at him as if he were some spoiled brat, unable to detach himself from his stuff. Though this may very well have been true to some extent, Mark inserts something that sheds light on the inner workings of Jesus regarding this young man. For starters, Mark doesn’t portray the posture of this young man as some lazy slouch, sauntering around the streets of Jerusalem, sucking down the proceeds from his sugar-daddy’s inheritance. Mark alone sets the stage by saying, as Jesus “was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’” This boy is a “Gette’r Done!” boy. He chases down the pack, pushes through the distractions of yuppie-hood, and kneels in humility before Jesus. There’s the question from Jesus and then the impressive answer from the young man. Then he gives us a snap-shot of Jesus and His demeanor towards the one kneeling before Him. Here alone do we read, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Then again, “he (the young man) was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful.” And finally, this particular scene shifts as “Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:17-23). The Gospel of Mark is loaded with the distinctive description of Jesus looking. Jesus understood that a single look often has the capacity to communicate on a level much deeper and fuller than mere words.

Portraits of Jesus        

Experts tell us that communication is composed of different methods: words, voice, tone and non-verbal clues. Of these, some are more effective in delivering a message than others. According to research, in a conversation or verbal exchange:
Words are 7% effectiveTone of voice is 38% effectiveNon-verbal clues are 55% effective.
There is a powerful message in the message behind the message, the message felt, the message seen, the message that often echoes far beyond the words spoken. To our detriment, we often only focus on the technicalities of the actual words that we spoke, without understanding the parameters of the other components of communication, that is, the other 93% of communication.

Reflect on the components of communication referenced above in light of the Gospel of Mark. As Mark walks us through the life and actions of Jesus, what’s the message-behind-the-message?

In your life, is the message-behind-the-message consistent with what you’ve said?

Begin attending to your message-behind-the-message (the tone of your voice and the non-verbals being released, which as we have seen, often weigh much more than the mere words we speak. To assist you in the process, the internal question has to move beyond, what I said (in regards to words), to what did they hear me say (which always encompasses the full message transmitted: words, tone, non-verbal, not to mention the spirit behind what’s being said).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


When I was in high school I was inspired by a movie I saw one Saturday afternoon. The setting of the movie was a maximum security prison, but the story was an unfolding drama of one man’s passion for running. To spare you all the details, he dedicated all of his time to pursuing one seemingly impossible dream, to run, to compete, and to set the world record for the fastest mile. Before long the inmates aptly nicknamed him nicety-split. I’m sure you can imagine how the movie ended… He trained endless hours with lots of sweat, and then got the unthinkable opportunity to leave the prison yard to compete in the big meet. Did I mention he won? As someone who was striving to break a few records in the mile myself, I sat on the edge of my seat, watching the dedication of nicety-split, taking mental notes of everything he did, and if I’m honest, fanaticizing myself blazing past the opponents at the all-state championships. I was immediately inspired by his dedication, determination and discipline. I wanted to be fast, faster than anybody else.

When we think of Jesus, we don’t typically think of exercise, much less running. Yet, have you ever wondered if Jesus ever got up early, laced His Nike-sandals and simply went out for a jog? How do you imagine He did in the foot races that boys typically partake in on their way home from school? Was He fast?

I’m not sure about Jesus’ aptitude for running, much less, at the speed by which He was able to sprint down the dusty streets of Nazareth. Nonetheless, for Mark, it’s a different story. He wants us to see Jesus in the light of a Man who is on the move, and moving fast at that. Integrated into the opening scene of Mark’s Gospel, is the fact that Jesus is a Man of intense motion. “The Gospel of Mark moves at a breathless pace as though in a hurry to get the whole story out.” (Sounds like some teaching-pastors I know.)

There is the frequent use of words such as ‘And,’ And then,’ ‘Immediately,’ and ‘As soon as.’ Mark uses these words to describe the unfolding events and interactions of his account. He repeatedly uses the adverb “immediately” or as some translations have it “straightway, suddenly, forthwith, directly, presently, quickly, speedily.” One can’t even casually read through Mark’s Gospel without taking a mental note of the frequent usage of this word. Bible translators have been so perplexed by the amount of usage this word receives that they typically begin using other English phrases to prevent repetitiveness, however in doing so, many of us miss the point of what Mark was trying to communicate by using the same word over and over in the first place. It’s the word euthus and it translated several different ways in Scripture. Mark uses this word more than any other New Testament writer. In fact, in the New American Standard Bible, (which by many scholars is considered to be one of the more accurate translations) the word euthus is used 60 times in the New Testament, 42 of those times are in the Gospel of Mark. It is this frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense, that denotes to the reader the continuous action, and serves to move the narrative along at a rapid pace. The only exception, of course, is where he pauses, which then as a result carries it’s own power for emphasizing various dynamics at work within the greater narrative. (For the Matrix junkies or the old Saturday Night KungFu lovers, Mark uses the speed-pause technique like the multi-layered fight scenes with the super-human jumping and fighting abilities that are always at super-human speeds, yet the camera slows down the frames during the execution of the fifteen-foot back flip over four ninjas, or the super-limbo-contest-winning back bend as the bullet goes flying by. Jesus becomes before our very eyes the Master of the Art of Living.)

We will look at but one chapter to sample Mark’s emphatic use of this word to describe Jesus, His service, and the events surrounding His ministry. We’ll look at chapter one, and keep in mind that master writers like Mark, always insert key elements within the context of the opening paragraphs that serve to set the stage of the whole of their literary work.

At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark Jesus is baptized and “immediately coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending” (1:10). Then after the Heavenly voice speaks, He is “immediately drove by the Spirit into the wilderness” (1:12). As Jesus walked “by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea.” Jesus calls them to follow Him and Mark records that they “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (1:16-17). Walking a little farther along the Sea he spots James and John and “immediately He called them” (1:20). The scene quickly shifts to them entering into Capernaum and “immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught,” not to mention the casting out of a demonic spirit (1:21-27). What was the result of all this? Mark inserts a bit of commentary before He takes us straight to the next scene by saying, “immediately This fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee” (1:28). But, as stated, this is only commentary spoken by the stories narrator.

Mark quickly takes us back to the synagogue, which Jesus is now departing. “And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her immediately. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them” (1:29-31). The next day a man afflicted by leprosy came to Jesus imploring Him to heal him and “as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him.” And Jesus “sent him away immediately” (1:40-42). These examples are not isolated to the first chapter alone, rather it is a thread that runs through the whole of Mark’s Gospel, and his Gospel alone. Furthermore, when this thread is weaved together with the other peculiar expressions, such as “in the way,” “in the house,” “as He sat at,” or “as He walked in the temple,” we get “a glimpse of what is meant by ‘instant in season and out of season,’ and what is fitting of one who is called to be the Lord’s servant.”

Portraits of Jesus        

Reflect on how Mark uses particular words and phrases to describe Jesus, His responses and the events happening around Him. How do they influence the image of Jesus presented?

Mark paints Jesus as one who is always accessible, be it early in the morning, after a long and exhausting day, while He’s taking a nap, or even during the midst of a sermon being given to a packed house and the only way in is to break through the roof. For Mark, Jesus is never not accessible to the needs of the common people, for Jesus is the ultimate Servant.

Have you ever felt as if Jesus didn’t have enough time to take a break from engaging the world to attend to you, who you are, and your need? How does the Gospel of Mark challenge this presupposition?

If our greatest need had been information, 
God would have sent us an educator.

If your greatest need had been technology, 
God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money, 
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure, 
God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness, 
so God sent us a Savior. 
(Author Unknown)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blue Collar Gospel

“For even the Son of Man
did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life
a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45)

Much can be learned by what is not said. Therefore, one of the questions we must ask is, what things do not appear in Mark’s account that are apparent in the others. For, as we shall see, the elements that each of the Gospel writers emphasize or fail to mention are always consistent with the portrait they are displaying of Jesus. These often overlooked realities, is what makes the Gospels so fascinating!

As we look at the popular scene of Jesus on the Mount of Olives with His disciples, we find no Bridegroom, as in Matthew, receiving the wise and rejecting the foolish virgins. Here, we have no Lord judging between the faithful and unfaithful servants; no King, enthroned in glory, separating the nations to the right and left hand. On the contrary, in Mark alone do we read, “but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (13:32). These words, as noted, are exclusive to this Gospel, nonetheless are consistently characteristic of Mark’s account. For it is here that the Son is seen with His glory laid aside, clothed in the likeness of man, and in very action a true Servant. “And in this aspect,” as Andrew Jukes notes, “like other servants, He awaits another’s will, not knowing the lord’s secrets; for "the servant does not know what his master is doing" (John 15:15). And so as Servant He says, naming Himself with other blessed servants, the holy angels – ‘Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’ Nor does this touch the truth of His Person; for that is not the question here. But just as in St. Luke the words, ‘He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,’ speak of Him as Son of Adam, without in any way contradicting that He is also ‘the Word made flesh’; just as His death in one aspect is spoken of as ‘a sweet savor,’ man freely giving to God what is most sweet to Him, while in another aspect it is regarded as penal and a sin-offering, the due judgment for the sins of men; so in like manner what is true of Him as Servant does not deny His lordship, which is but another view of the same wondrous and blessed Lord.”

These omissions continue to the end. In the Garden of Gethsemane, there is no references to His authority to summon twelve legions of angels had he so desired. There’s no promise of Paradise to His dying companion on the cross. There’s no sightings of saints of old being resurrected from the dead. Though all these things, as we shall see in a later week are completely consistent with Mathew’s portrait, they are beyond the parameters of the Spirit’s intention for this Gospel, thus have no place.

Furthermore, the last scene is just as distinct as the first. Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples are framed peculiarly different than in other places. In the last scene we have the commissioning of the Apostles to go and preach. However, when this commission is compared to that of Matthew’s Gospel there’s a striking omission. In Matthew we read Jesus as saying, “All power is given to me in heaven and earth,” therefore go into all the world.” The emphasis is that of authority and the kingdom (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20). As true as this is, the emphasis of such would be inconsistent with that of the Servant. For Mark, Jesus “is not discipling as with authority, or commanding that ‘all things which He has commanded to be observed in all nations”; but rather, as knowing the path of service… Now His disciples are to take His place, and He will serve in them.”

Portraits of Jesus

Mark has been called the Blue Collar Gospel, because it portrays Jesus getting down and dirty, serving, working, toiling and suffering in submission to the Father. The prophet Isaiah said,

“The ox knows its master.”
(Isaiah 1:3)

And Mark quotes Jesus saying,

“For even the Son of Man
did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life
a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45)

Reflect of Jesus as the Blue Collar Servant. What does it mean for you to follow His example in this life?

The highest service may be prepared and done in the humblest surroundings. In silence, in waiting, in obscure, unnoticed offices, in years of uneventful, unrecorded duties, the Son of God grew and waxed strong.”
-Inscription in the Stanford University Chapel-

Monday, September 25, 2006

Down and Dirty

Down and Dirty
the second living creature was like an ox(Revelation 4:7)
As we open the pages to the Gospel of Mark, we notice something immediately. There is no Genealogy. No nativity narrative, no miraculous birth, no reference to Bethlehem, or adoration of the wise men, as in Matthews Gospel. There is no childhood appearance at the Temple in Jerusalem, no childhood at Nazareth, no subjection to His parents, no increase in wisdom and stature, as in Lukes Gospel. In fact, there seems to be absolutely no interest in Jesus pedigree or royal lineage. There is no reference to His pre-existence and Divine glory, as in Johns Gospel. No, none of these things are of primal interest to Mark. Mark has no time for lengthy discourse like that of Matthew or Luke, there is too much to be done, or rather too much to be written about what Jesus has done.
The Gospel of Mark is more like a shooting script, a graphic perspective of eyewitnesses: names, times, numbers, locations. It is the Gospel of vividness. Graphic, striking phrases occur frequently to allow the reader to form a mental picture of the scene described. It is the Gospel of action, moving rapidly from one scene to another. The Gospel of Mark is like a motion picture of the life of Jesus. Marks frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense, denoting continuous action, also moves the narrative at a rapid pace. It is believed that Mark wrote down the contents of this Gospel as it was dictated to him by Peter. Peter was a man of action, and as such, the portrait that we are presented with consistently and thoroughly throughout this Gospel is that of Jesus, a man of action, a man of service, a beast of burden, i.e. the ox.
As Mark puts his brush to the canvas, he begins by painting Jesus and the importunity of service. The scene opens on the riverbank of the Jordan, to capture the motivation of all that is about to be played out before us. As the lights come up on the stage, we hear the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It is the voice of John the Baptist, quoting the testimony that One was coming, who would baptize not only with water, but with the Holy Spirit. Theres no panoramic view of all those who had came out to the desert to be baptized, as is shown in the other Gospels. No tax collectors, no Sadducees, no soldiers, there stands only Jesus, the true servant of God.
Without further prologue, Mark passes directly to Jesus own ministry, in accordance with his opening line, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1). As Andrew Jukes points out, It is this "Gospel, this ministry or service, which St. Mark is about to draw; and, omitting what does not bear on this, he comes straight to the details of this ministry.

Then here is no Sermon on the Mount. The laws of the kingdom would be out of place, for the Servant, not the King, is here manifested. Here is no "Our Father," which, so full of character in St. Matthew and St. Luke, as illustrating the wants and relationships both of the Jew and Gentile, is here omitted as having no special bearing on the path of service. For the same reason we have here no lengthy discourses, and but few parables; for the service here is rather doing than teaching. There are both, but the mind of the Spirit seems to be occupied more with the former of these than with the latter. Doing, and toiling, and serving the needy is far humbler work than teaching.
As such, there are only four parables in this Gospel, each of which fits precisely with Marks emphasis on the servant, his actions, and his heart. Interestingly, though the amount of discourse, teaching and parables are significantly fewer compared with the corresponding chapters of the other Gospels, the details of service are given far more meticulously.
Mark portrays Jesus as a man of great action. Yet, in the midst of all the motion, Mark is very intentional to make sure that we dont miss the action-behind-the-action. It is of unprecedented importance to Mark, that we understand the motivation to and the power of the service rendered by Jesus. Therefore, before the first task is embarked upon, the first act of service in progress, he pauses for a snap-shot into the heart of the servant, his primary motivation for the actions that will follow. And acts of service to this multitude can only effectively be accomplished as one fully understands that it is not by service that we are made sons, but by sonship that we become servants. To this end, as mentioned, the opening line states, The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Notice, then the climax of the opening scene down by the river as Jesus demonstrates his dependence and surrender in baptism. Then a voice came from heaven, You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. For Jesus, it was the approbation, acceptance and the approval of the Father that was the central motivation and influencer of His acts of service. This is an essential principle for all of us to orient our lives from: My acceptance by the Father produces my action for the Father; rather than my actions for the Father produce my acceptance by the Father. Though this principle is the only sure footing for our works, actions, ministries, and service, it is a challenging one, because it is the exact opposite of most of the earthly models presented to us.
Deep inside, almost automatically it seems there is an intense desire and a secret longing to hear the words, This is my beloved son/daughter, in whom I well pleased. Yet, how many of us have strived at petty accomplishments to obtain the attention, approval and admiration of others? Many are they that strive and strive only to never hear or feel such qualities emanated from another. Even if acceptance is achieved through such measures, the energy expended to maintain it is that of keeping a house of cards standing during a sand storm. Few are they that escape the entrapment of this addiction to approval and praise of others. In fact, it sometimes seems, the more successful we become, the more susceptible to entrapment we become. Listen to what one of Americas most affluent, influential and popular voices confessed,
I discovered I felt worthless, and certainly not worthy of love, unless I was accomplishing something. I suddenly realized I have never felt I could be loved just for being.(Oprah Winfrey)
Or, perhaps what one of the most famous icons of the Twenty-First Century,
My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. Thats always been pushing me, pushing me. Because even though Ive become somebody, I still have to prove that Im SOMEBODY. My struggle has never ended, and it probably never will.(Madonna)
Jesus operated from a different paradigm. He didnt die on the cross to prove Himself the Son of God, He died because He was the Son of God. Jesus was able to endure the cross because He knew He was beloved of the Father. And, now His desire is to silence the subtle-unconscious voice that echoes deep within many people heads telling them that if only_______ people would love you and God would be pleased with you.

Portraits of Jesus        

Take a few moments and do the following exercise.

Circle the letter (A or B) to indicate which statement you believe to be true:
1. A. Justification is a single act of God for us.
B. Justification is an ongoing work of God in us.    ,
2. A. Justification means "to make righteous." B. Justification means "to decl

Down and Dirty

“the second living creature was like an ox”
(Revelation 4:7)

As we open the pages to the Gospel of Mark, we notice something immediately. There is no Genealogy. No nativity narrative, no miraculous birth, no reference to Bethlehem, or adoration of the wise men, as in Matthew’s Gospel. There is no childhood appearance at the Temple in Jerusalem, no childhood at Nazareth, no subjection to His parents, no increase in wisdom and stature, as in Luke’s Gospel. In fact, there seems to be absolutely no interest in Jesus’ pedigree or royal lineage. There is no reference to His pre-existence and Divine glory, as in John’s Gospel. No, none of these things are of primal interest to Mark. Mark has no time for lengthy discourse like that of Matthew or Luke, there is too much to be done, or rather too much to be written about what Jesus has done.
The Gospel of Mark is more like “a shooting script, a graphic perspective of eyewitnesses: names, times, numbers, locations.” It is the
Gospel of vividness. “Graphic, striking phrases occur frequently to allow the reader to form a mental picture of the scene described. It is the Gospel of action, moving rapidly from one scene to another. The Gospel of Mark is like a motion picture of the life of Jesus. Mark’s frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense, denoting continuous action, also moves the narrative at a rapid pace.” It is believed that Mark wrote down the contents of this Gospel as it was dictated to him by Peter. Peter was a man of action, and as such, the portrait that we are presented with consistently and thoroughly throughout this Gospel is that of Jesus, a man of action, a man of service, a beast of burden, i.e. the ox.

As Mark puts his brush to the canvas, he begins by painting Jesus and the importunity of service. The scene opens on the riverbank of the Jordan, to capture the motivation of all that is about to be played out before us. As the lights come up on the stage, we hear t

Friday, September 22, 2006

Distinctively Luke

There are a number of things that are distinctively apart of Luke’s Gospel that are worth noting. All of these distinctions are intricately consistent with angle Luke is presenting of Jesus and the audience he is addressing. Though there are many more distinctions that could be noted, we will only focus one aspect of them.

Luke is writing primarily to a Gentile audience, and as such he goes to great lengths to emphasis various features of this task. Here in Luke’s Gospel alone do we have allusion to “the times of the Gentiles;” here alone do we read of “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (21:24). Here alone, in the telling of the parable of the fig tree, is the fig-tree (Israel) seen with “all the trees” (21:29). Here alone is the place of crucifixion called by its Gentile name, “Calvary” (23:33), whereas in the other Gospels, its called Golgotha. Here alone is the dying criminal seen as saved by grace (23:39-43). Here alone, in the Garden, on the Mount of Olives, as He was in agony and prayer do we read of the angel who appeared “to Him from heaven, strengthening Him” (22:43). Luke is a master storyteller. So it is that as His narrative begins to turn the corner, reach the apex of tension, just before the climax and beyond does He reiterate that Jesus is truly Man, thus in need of receiving the angelic ministry. In the same vein, here alone do we read that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (23:44). Here alone does He say to the betrayer, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (23:48). Here alone does the Centurion (a Gentile military commander) say, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (23:47). Here alone on the cross does the Lord as a Man “commit His spirit” (23:46). And it was here, after His resurrection that He eats with the disciples, verifying His manhood by partaking of “a piece of broiled fish and some honey-comb” (24:42). All of these are consistent and illustrative of the distinct portrait of the Lord being presented to us by Luke.

Portraits of Jesus

Hope of Freedom
Born in a stable 
His mother a virgin 
He was raised in a carpenter shop
His parents were poor
His people were slaves
His friends were a lowly lot
His chances in life are very slim
He’s expected to be a slave
But people in darkness
Saw light in Him and hope of freedom He gave.
Source Unknown

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just Call Me Jesus

“God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”
(Philippians 2:9)

Many of the names in the Bible,” writes Max Lucado “refer to our Lord are nothing less than palatial and august: Son of God, The Lamb of God, The Light of the World, The Resurrection and the Life, The Bright and Morning Star, He that Should Come, Alpha and Omega.” Lucado continues,

They are phrases that stretch the boundaries of human language in an effort to capture the uncapturable, the grandeur of God. And try as they might to draw as near as they may, they always fall short. Hearing them is somewhat like hearing a Salvation Army Christmas band on the street corner play Handel’s Messiah. Good try, but it doesn’t work The message is too majestic for the medium.

And such it is with language. The phrase “There are no words to express. . .“ is really the only one that can honestly be applied to God. No names do him justice.

But there is one name which recalls a quality of the Master that bewildered and compelled those who knew him. It reveals a side of him that, when recognized, is enough to make you fall on your face.

It is not too small, nor is it too grand. It is a name that fits like the shoe fit Cinderella’s foot.


In the gospels it’s his most common name— used almost six hundred times. And a common name it was. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, Jeshua, and Jehoshua— all familiar Old Testament names. There were at least five high priests known as Jesus. The writings of the historian Josephus refer to about twenty people called Jesus. The New Testament speaks of Jesus Justus, the friend of Paul, and the sorcerer of Paphos is called Bar-Jesus. Some manuscripts give Jesus as the first name of Barabbas. “Which would you like me to release to you—Jesus Barabbas or Jesus called the Messiah?”

What’s the point? Jesus could have been a “Joe.” If Jesus came today, his name might have been John or Bob or Jim. Were he here today, it is doubtful he would distance himself with a lofty name like Reverend Holiness Angelic Divinity III. No, when God chose the name his son would carry, he chose a human name. He chose a name so typical that it would appear two or three times on any given class roll.

“The Word became flesh,” John said, in other words.

He was touchable, approachable, reachable. And, what’s more, he was ordinary If he were here today you probably wouldn’t notice him as he walked through a shopping mall. He wouldn’t turn heads by the clothes he wore or the jewelry he flashed.

“Just call me Jesus,” you can almost hear him say. He was the kind of fellow you’d invite to watch the Rams-Giants game at your house. He’d wrestle on the floor with your
kids, doze on your couch, and cook steaks on your grill. He’d laugh at your jokes and tell a few of his own. And when you spoke, he’d listen to you as if he had all the time in eternity.

And one thing’s for sure, you’d invite him back.

It is worth noting that those who knew him best remembered him as Jesus. The titles Jesus Christ and Lord Jesus are seen only six times. Those who walked with him remembered him not with a title or designation, but with a name—Jesus.

Think about the implications. When God chose to reveal himself to mankind, what medium did he use? A book? No, that was secondary A church? No. That was consequential. A moral code? No. To limit God’s revelation to a cold list of do’s and don’ts is as tragic as looking at a Colorado road map and saying that you’d seen the Rockies.

When God chose to reveal himself, he did so (surprise of surprises) through a human body. The tongue that called forth the dead was a human one. The hand that touched the leper had dirt under its nails. The feet upon which the woman wept were callused and dusty. And his tears. . . oh, don’t miss the tears. . they came from a heart as broken as yours or mine ever has been.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.”

So, people came to him. My, how they came to him! They came at night; they touched him as he walked down the street; they followed him around the sea; they invited him into their homes and placed their children at his feet. Why? Because he refused to be a statue in a cathedral or a priest in an elevated pulpit. He chose instead to be Jesus.

There is not a hint of one person who was afraid to draw near him. There were those who mocked him. There were those who were envious of him. There were those who misunderstood him. There were those who revered him. But there was not one person who considered him too holy, too divine, or too celestial to touch. There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected.
Remember that.

Remember that the next time you find yourself amazed at your own failures. Or the next time acidic accusations bum holes in your soul. Or the next time you see a cold cathedral or hear a lifeless liturgy. Remember. It is man who creates the distance. It is Jesus who builds the bridge.

“Just call me Jesus.”

Portraits of Jesus

“There was not one person _who considered him too holy,_ too divine, or too celestial to touch._ There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected.”_
Max Lucado, God Came Near

For what reasons did people approach Jesus? What were people’s reactions to him?

How Christ-like and approachable are you? to your children? your mate? your co-workers? strangers that you meet daily? those less fortunate than you? those who are “lower on the social ladder”? What could you do to make yourself more approachable?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sympathizing Savior

“For we do not have a High Priest 
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, 
but was in all points tempted as we are, 
yet without sin.” 
(Hebrews 4:15)

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read "Puppies For Sale." Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared under the store owner's sign.

"How much are you going to sell the puppies for?" he asked.

The store owner replied, "Anywhere from $30 to $50."

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. "I have $2.37," he said. "Can I please look at them?"

The store owner smiled and whistled and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, "What's wrong with that little dog?"

The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn't have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame.

The little boy became excited. "That is the little puppy that I want to buy."

The store owner said, "No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll just give him to you."

The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner's eyes, pointing his finger, and said, "I don't want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In fact, I'll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for."

The store owner countered, "You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies."

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, "Well, I don't run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!"

In addition to the examples we’ve seen the last couple of days, Luke is very intentional in his recording of circumstances that are particularly illustrative of the human sympathies of Jesus, not given in the other Gospels. The following are a few instances of such sympathies:

There is the scene with the widow of Nain (7:11-16), which is particular to Luke’s Gospel. In this transaction, Luke “notes some particulars which would naturally affect a tender human heart,” writes Andrew Jukes. “The young man who had died was ‘the only son of his mother,’ and ‘she was a widow;” for human sorrows and affections here are all noted. Then when Jesus saw her, ‘He had compassion on her;’ and when He had raised the youth, ‘He delivered him to his mother,’ as One, who having known a mother’s love, could truly feel with her.”

There are a number of instances that appear in Luke’s Gospel as well as in the other Gospels. However, Luke often inserts just a word or two of difference, and by doing so touches a human cord. All of which, is consistent to Luke’s overall motivation of presenting to us Jesus as a man. For example, the incident with Jarius’ daughter. Luke alone pulls the reader deep into the emotion of the father by letting us know that she was his “only” child (8:42). In another place, a father comes to Jesus and only Luke records the following words spoken by the father, “he is my only child” (9:38).

Jesus isn’t some spiritual guru, who feel out of the sky in a space capsule. He’s a man, born of a woman, in an obscure village, during underprivileged times, among a discriminated group of people. He was a baby, who became a boy, who increased in wisdom, strength and stature, not to mention favor with God and men. He became a man, fully acquainted with human tendency’s and temptations, yet without sin. He isn’t a High Priest hiding away somewhere until the next religious ritual needs to be fulfilled, rather He is a walking, talking, interacting with feelings kind of human, who can “sympathize with our weakness.”

Become a Dog?
Lying at your feet is your dog. Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress. Some of us love dogs very much. If it would help all the dogs in the world to become like men, would you be willing to become a dog? Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved, the poor substitute of looking into the beloved’s face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak? Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father.              --C. S. Lewis

Portraits of Jesus    

Can you think of some other ways in which Jesus sympathized with humanity?

Reflect on where Jesus was born, how he was born, the incidents that surrounded His birth, the city He grew up in, His physical appearance, and so forth.

Reflectively read and pray through the following passage. As you do, ask God to make you aware of how He knows exactly who you are, where you’re at, and what you need.

“For we do not have a High Priest 
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, 
but was in all points tempted as we are, 
yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly 
to the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy and find grace 
to help in time of need.” 
(Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJ)

“Now that we know what we have – Jesus, 
the great High Priest with ready access to God – 
let’s not let it slip through our fingers. 
We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, 
experienced it all – all but the sin.
So let’s walk right up to him and 
get what he is so ready to give. 
Take the mercy, accept the help.”
(Hebrews 4:15-16 Message)

The Son of God,
became the Son of Man;

So the Sons of Men,
could become Sons of God.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Man of Interactive Dependence

A Man of Interactive Dependence

“Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Again and again there is a phrase that shows up in Luke’s Gospel that doesn’t appear in Matthew, Mark or John to the degree that they do in Luke’s. In scenes common to the other Gospels, and where they say nothing of prayer, Luke repeatedly inserts that “He was praying.” One of the reasons is because, prayer adds to the comprehensiveness of the picture of Jesus as a Man. Thus the Evangelist would show how “the Man Christ Jesus” continually exercised this grace of true dependence. It is here in Luke’s Gospel that only do we read, that at His baptism He “was praying,” (3:21). Here only do we read that when he had cleansed the leper, “He withdrew Himself, and prayed” (5:16). So again, here only are we told that His choice of the twelve followed a night of ceaseless prayer, “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (6:12).

Moreover, here in Luke’s Gospel alone are we told that the Transfiguration happed as He prayed, “Now it came to pass…He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening” (9:28-29). It was it is in Luke’s Gospel the Lord’s prayer was given, in response to a request from His disciples, who, “as He was praying, when He ceased said, Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). Peter’s famous confession happened as the disciples approached Jesus, “as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him” (9:18). Lastly, it is only in this Gospel that we have Jesus’ words to Peter, “I have prayed for you” (22:32).

All of the above accounts are exclusive to Luke. There are characteristic of Jesus as fully Man and they are extremely instructive examples of what is available to us as sons of men, as we approach every aspect of our lives with interactive dependence and communion with God in prayer.

Portraits of Jesus        

Think through some of the passages noted. How does the example of Jesus taking making the most of every occasion and opportunity to interacted with the Father in prayer challenge you in your daily interactions?

What are some elements of your work, relationships, family and life that you need to exhibit more interactive dependence on the Father in communion and prayer?

Meditate on the following passage:

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth 
with the Holy Spirit and with power, 
who went about doing good 
and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, 
for God was with Him.”
(Acts 10:38)

Luke attributes the miracle working power of Jesus to release healing power and freeing the oppressed by the devil to the anointing that came from God, not Jesus’ divinity. Furthermore, he sets the stage for this verse by stating, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth. The emphasis is on God doing the anointing of the Man, Jesus the human from the small city of Nazareth.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Son of Adam - Son of Man

Son of Adam – Son of Man

“The third living creature had a face like a Man.” 
( Revelation 4:7)

Luke, as a master storyteller, is always looking for ways to pull his readers into the narrative of the life of the man Jesus. His gospel is the most complete narrative. It records over twenty miracles, seven of which are unique to Luke. Twenty-three parables are recorded and eighteen of them are also unique to Luke.

Luke was a Gentile and a physician, and he wrote more about Jesus’ healing ministry than Matthew and Mark put together. “He used more medical terms than Hippocrates, ‘the Father of Medicine,’ and included the obstetrical details of the nativity.”

Luke throughout his Gospel, writes broadly and plainly the memoir of the Son of Man. He goes to great length to show forth the Lord as very Man, One who is not so much supporting and propagating a particular kingdom, but rather as one linked to all the Sons of Adam. Luke presents Jesus to us as fully human, the Second Adam, the One who sympathizes as a Man intimately linked to the children of Adam.

Luke’s very Preface is distinctive and characteristic of his account, as he begins with an address to his friend Theophilus (See Luke 1:1-4). The narrative begins by addressing a friend with human affection, and then pulling that friend, along with all the other readers into a greater narrative regarding another human whom Luke had been an eyewitness, human companion. Luke begins by referring to his own personal knowledge of his subject, “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first.” By stating such, Luke brings something human into his written account, this humanness is the very emphasis this Gospel presents to us.

Once Luke has made an intimate and human connection, the narrative begins, like a simple tale touching the hearts of the sons of men. “There was in the days of Herod the king a certain priest…” (Luke 1:5). “As it proceeds,” writes Andrew Jukes, “we are introduced to human sympathies and relationships, in a way perfectly unlike anything we get in the other Gospels; with all the circumstances of the birth and infancy of the Holy child, and of him who was sent as His forerunner. Here too, and here only, do we find the three inspired Songs, which, as speaking of mercy to Gentile as well as Jew, have for ages been the chosen utterance of the Church taken from among all nations.”

Time and time again throughout this narrative, Jesus is portrayed not so much as the One who has claims to rule, rather He is portrayed as One who is coming down perfectly on that ground which man as man then occupied. A slow and acute reading through this Gospel cannot help but to notice how continuously and meticulously Luke weaves this reality through and through his account. Luke doesn’t present to us the baby Jesus as the One “who is born King,” as Matthew does, rather He is shown to be the “Savior…the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (a smelly feeding trough for the animals).” The detail of the baby Jesus being wrapped in cloths and in a barn is a one that Luke repeats three times in a few short sentences (See Luke 2:7-16). Do you think he’s trying to get our attention to something? Jesus is real! He’s human! Moreover, His human experience is more-human than most of ours – he’s a baby, wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger. Luke desperately wants his readers to see everything that’s about to unfold in his chronicles of the Savior through the lens of the real, the living, the breathing, the crying, the dependent baby lying in a manger. Luke wants us to see, hear, touch and feel the humanness of the One who can come – the Person and Man Jesus.

After we get the story of the infancy of “the Child,” we see how “the Child grew;” how “the grace of God was on Him;” how “when He was twelve years old, He went up with His parents to Jerusalem to the feast;” how “the child lingered behind, and His mother did not know it;” how “she said, Son, why have you done this to us?;” how “He went down and was subject to them;” how “He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man;” – “these and points like these, as they are peculiar to this Gospel, distinctly mark our Lord as Man, personally entering man’s lot, and Himself fully tasting it; joining Himself to us, in birth, in childhood, and in youth, that, being very Man, He might in His own blessed Person bring humanity near to God.”

“The mystery of the humanity of Christ, 
that He sunk Himself into our flesh, 
is beyond all human understanding.” 
Martin Luther

Portraits of Jesus

As you read through Luke’s Gospel pay careful attention to:

The subtle descriptions used to describe Jesus that serve to emphasis His humanity.

The frequent use of the phrases there was “a certain man,” “what man…,” “what woman…,” “all flesh…,” “all people” and phrases like these are distinctive to Luke’s narrative and are frequently and consistently employed to emphasize the kingdom of Heaven being expressed here on earth through flesh and blood.