Sermon Archive

Mark's gospel ends in controversy. Not only the controversy of the Resurrection, but a controversy regarding its original ending. Most Bibles set verses 9-20 in brackets noting that they are not included in the earliest copies of the Gospel of Mark. Let's open our Bibles to Mark 16.

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This morning we consider the three most important hours in human history. For it was in those three hours that the eternal destiny of millions was altered.

-The Darkest Hours (15:33-34)
-Elijah (15:34-36)
-Temple Curtain Torn (15:37-38)
-The Centurion (15:37-39)
-The Women  (15:40-41)
-Jesus’ Burial (15:42-47)

Direct download: 2016-0626_sent_to_serve_nelson.mp3
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In the early years of our marriage, Cathy and I did not own a television. That was our choice. Being in graduate school and working, our lives were busy. What free time we had we thought best to spend together talking or walking or reading.

At least twice in the first three years of our marriage we received televisions anonymously on our doorstep. All we can think is that in the course of conversation when it had been shared that we were without a television it had been interpreted as a complaint. I suppose it was and perhaps is, difficult for some people to imagine anyone not wanting a television. What these dear people thought was an unfortunate circumstance was, in fact, what we wanted.

Such was the case for our Lord Jesus. Thinking Jesus was an ordinary man, His enemies assumed that He would do anything necessary to escape the cross. But as we will see, such was not the case.

Our text picks up the story at the point that the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, ratified its verdict and delivered Jesus to Pilate.

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With Judas' help, the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel, accomplished its goal in Gethsemane, arresting Jesus for the purpose of killing Him (14:1-2, 43-50). Jesus was lead to the home of Joseph Caiaphas, high priest and head of the Sanhedrin.

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Have you ever wondered how you would hold up under persecution for being a Christian? We will never know for sure until we go through it; but I suspect that all of us would like to think we would stay faithful to Jesus. But the fact is that not all of us will. Even Jesus' disciples failed under persecution.

One of the reasons we know the Bible is reliable history is because of its honesty. Unlike myth or legend, the people in the Bible do not always win or even do the right thing. In fact, I believe that in Mark 14, John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, purposefully highlighted the failure of Jesus’ disciples in the hours just prior to His arrest.

Before we read verses 22-52, quickly scan verses 1-21 and notice the emphasis upon the conspiracy of the Jewish leaders (vv. 1-2); Judas' agreement to betray Jesus (vv. 10-11) and Jesus' announcement that He would be betrayed (v.18).

As we continue reading chapter 14:22-52 notice the amount of space Mark gives to the announcement that all the disciples will abandon Jesus (vv. 26-31); the failure of the disciples to watch and pray (vv. 32-42) and finally, the betrayal and abandonment of Jesus by His disciples (vv. 43-52).

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Jesus knew full well what awaited Him in Jerusalem. On three separate occasions Jesus foretold His rejection, murder and resurrection (8:31, 9:30-32,10:32-34). What's more, His death and resurrection were essential elements of God's redemption plan. Even as Jesus' enemies schemed to arrest and kill Him, Jesus was aware and took steps to protect His disciples.

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This year, Passover will be celebrated April 22-30 with another reenactment of the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. What I wanted us to see is that there is a committed movement to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and reestablish the worship prescribed in the Law of Moses. As we study the end-time prophecies revealed by our Lord, we should realize that we are a generation privileged to see that some of these prophecies have already been fulfilled (e.g. worldwide conflict) and that current events are shaping up for the fulfillment of prophecies yet future. The bottom line is that as we study these prophecies we should realize this is not theory or make believe, but the very course of human history. We are living in the time of the birth pains. Are we living for things eternal or temporal; are we living ready for Jesus' return at any moment?

In response to a disciple's admiring comment about the Temple, Jesus revealed its destruction such that one stone would not be left on another (13:1-2). History confirms this prophecy was fulfilled by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD.

Returning to Bethany for the evening, Jesus paused on the summit of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple complex. Peter, James, John and Andrew approached with questions about His prophecy. Their questions were not about the timing and sign of this thing, but of these things (vv.3-4). This indicates their assumption that the destruction of the Temple would correspond to the end of this age and the inauguration of the Messianic Age.

The destruction of the Temple however, is not the sign of the end of this age.

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The Temple was a source of national pride for the Jews. It was one of the wonders of the Roman Empire.

As we will see in this passage, the disciples were proud of the Temple, but Jesus revealed that the beauty of the Temple would be short lived.

Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem celebrating Passover 33AD. They were staying in the village of Bethany east of Jerusalem on the far side of the Mount of Olives. After a day of teaching in the Temple, Jesus and His disciples left the Temple to make their way to Bethany for the evening.

Direct download: 2016-0410_sent_to_serve_nelson.mp3
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Scribes factor large in our study today so let's get some background on them. The origin of the scribes as a professional class began during the time of Exile following the Babylonian Conquest of 586BC. The Temple had been destroyed and the Jews scattered throughout the Babylonian empire. The scribes, who were responsible for copying and preserving the Scriptures, became, by virtue of their contact with the Scriptures, experts in the Law of Moses. They provided leadership and guidance during the Exile when there were many questions about how to obey the Law in the foreign countries where the Jews settled. The scribal profession continued after the Return and, in the days of Jesus, scribes were highly respected as experts and teachers of the Law. They were also referred to as "lawyers" because they were trained in applying the Law in judicial matters (Matt. 22:35). Unfortunately, the scribes opposed Jesus and collaborated with the chief priests and elders to have Him killed.

But among the scribes there was an exception.

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Many people in our culture believe that the universe and all that is in it is the result of natural forces acting over billions of years to produce life as we experience it today. One of the implications of evolution is that we are simply physical beings and when we die physically, we cease to exist. There is no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, no God. These beliefs don't surprise us; they are logical conclusions of evolution.

What may be surprising are the people we're going to meet in our study this morning. They were theists, they believed in the existence of God. They served in God's Temple and spiritually led the nation of Israel in the days of Jesus. But they, like evolutionists today, believed that when a person died physically, they ceased to exist. They did not believe in an afterlife and they certainly didn't believe in that which we are celebrating today - the resurrection.

Before we meet these people, let's put our passage in its historical context. Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover 33A.D. (11:1-11). Three times Jesus foretold that this journey would result in His rejection, murder and resurrection (8:31, 9:30-32, 10:32-34). He specifically predicted that the chief priests, elders and scribes of Israel would reject Him and hand Him over to the gentiles (Romans) to be executed (8:31, 10:33). Mark records three occasions on which the chief priests, elders and scribes or their representatives attempted to trap Jesus (11:27-33; 12:13-27). In this third attempt, they sent a delegation from the party of the Sadducees.

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Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover 33A.D. (11:1-11). In fulfilment of His prediction, the chief priests, elders and scribes went on the attack to find cause to accuse and execute Jesus (8:31). They attacked Jesus directly after the cleansing of the Temple (11:27-33). Having failed themselves, the chief priests, scribes and elders sent others to trap Jesus on this issue of paying the poll tax. It was a "trap" in the sense that it seemed impossible for Jesus to answer without alienating one side or the other. If He said they should pay the poll tax He would alienate devout and patriotic Jews who would see it as a pro-Roman answer. If He said they should not pay the poll tax it would give His enemies opportunity to denounce Him to the Roman authorities as a rebel (cf. Luke 20:20).

How did Jesus handle this trap?

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I've heard that no matter how hard you try and vet prospective tenants, you may still end up having problems. Even God had tenant problems! He sent Jesus to deal with them.

Following the cleansing of the Temple (11:15-19), the chief priests, scribes and elders went on the attack against Jesus. Earlier, Jesus foretold that these three groups would reject Him (8:31). Mark recorded several of their attempts to trap and discredit Jesus (11:27-12:28) all of which failed.

In the midst, Mark recorded a parable Jesus told against His enemies. The setting of the parable was a vineyard; a well known Old Testament image for Israel and her relation to God (e.g. Psalm 80:8–18; Isa. 27:2–6; Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ezek. 19:10–14; Hosea 10:1). Jesus may have had Isaiah 5:1-7 in mind when He composed His parable.

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Jesus has absolute authority, regardless of how we respond to it.

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The Jewish Temple was the heart and soul of Judaism. Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel in 520 B.C.; it was not nearly as grand as Solomon's. Then, in 20 B.C., Herod the Great began the work of expanding and remodeling the Temple mount and Temple proper. The scale of this project was such that it would not be completed until the early 60's A.D.

The Temple mount was greatly expanded with much of the area dedicated to a paved court to which both Jews and Gentiles had access. It was named the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles surrounded the Temple proper.

A number of tunnel walkways and arched bridges connected the Temple complex to the city streets to the south, west and north. In the days of Jesus the majestic beauty of the Temple was the source of both national pride and spiritual security for many Jews. Here the priests offered the morning and evening sacrifices and facilitated the burnt offerings, sin offerings etc., of worshippers all through the year. At Passover, the national Passover Lamb was sacrificed here. On Yom Kippur the blood of a bull and goat were sprinkled on the Mercy Seat above the Ark of the Covenant for the sins of the High Priest and the nation. The Temple was the central focal point for the Jewish faith. The Temple and its ceremonies brought many in Israel a sense of security.

Jesus had something very different to say about the Temple.

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Before we take up the actual story, let's consider circumstances surrounding this event. First, Jesus was at the end of a long journey which had begun many months before zigzagging through Galilee, Samaria, Perea, and finally Judea.

During this final journey he had ministered, according to one Bible teacher, in at least thirty-five localities, timing the journey so he would end up in Jerusalem for Passover. In the course of this journey He had come to Bethany previously and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). News of this miracle spread and many believed in Him. But the Pharisees, chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin reacted by counseling together how they might kill Jesus (John 11:45-53; 12:9-11). After raising Lazarus, Jesus withdrew from the area until He returned in time to celebrate this Passover in AD33. So the tensions were already high between Jesus and the religious leaders before Passover AD33.

One estimate places the number of worshippers in Jerusalem to celebrate this Passover at 2.7 million. The Passover was only a few days away. People were wondering if Jesus would make some kind of move? And if He did, what would their leaders do?

As we discover, Jesus indeed made a move that was very calculated and clear in its meaning.

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One of the characteristics of true heroism is courage and determination in the face of certain danger. We have heroes in our church family; combat veterans of our armed forces, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and others who run towards danger.

For me, one of the most powerful moments in the movie Saving Private Ryan is the sound of German bullets pinging off the landing boats of the Allied soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy. Facing a wall of machine gun fire they pushed forward and won the day and war; every one a hero.

Jesus is a hero in the same way.

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Children are a living illustration to us of the essential attitude necessary for salvation - helpless dependence.

Self-sufficiency, the opposite of helpless dependence, is the attitude often engendered by wealth. This is why wealth is so often a barrier to salvation in the lives of the rich.

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Our culture aggressively promotes self-centeredness, but puts a shine on it by calling it "self-fulfillment". By elevating our happiness as the highest good we are reaping the storm particularly in the most basic of our relationships - our marriages. We need to get back to the basics of marriage as created by God.

A confrontation with a group of Pharisees provided an opportunity for Jesus to take His disciples back to the basics of God’s intent for marriage.

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When I was in 5th grade I begged my mom to let me go to school a half hour early to play basketball. Every morning the 6th graders would play full court basketball and they would pick a few 5th graders to play as well. I wanted to get picked in the worst way because getting picked by a 6th grader meant you were "in"; everybody else was "out". Whenever I was picked I felt great. Whenever I wasn't picked, I felt terrible.

We long to belong. It is our very nature and it begins at birth with our need to especially bond to our mothers. If there is failure to bond, if rejection happens in infancy, that person is scarred for life. Our need to belong and to be accepted runs deep and is undeniable. Rejection is devastating. It is the devastating hurt of rejection that is driving much of the racial violence in our country today. Rejection in the church is particularly damaging because there is a general expectation that the church is a place of love and acceptance.

When Jesus discovered that His disciples had excluded a man of genuine faith because he was not part of their group, Jesus sternly corrected them.

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Last Tuesday when we had the really heavy downpour and flash flood warnings, water washed around the pipe that serves as the bridge into our cul-de-sac. As a result it washed out about a 12 foot swath of crushed asphalt recently put down by our neighbor. Another neighbor discovered and removed a sheet of plywood that was blocking the pipe. Wednesday, when another downpour hit, with the blockage removed, the water stayed in the pipe and no further damage was done to the road.

Jesus wants His love to flow freely in His church, but like that piece of plywood, ego and status consciousness can block the flow. Jesus confronted this problem in His disciples as they returned from their ministry tour in Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum.

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Hanging in the Vatican is a painting by Italian artist Raphael titled, The Transfiguration. In the uppermost part of the picture is Jesus transfigured and flanked by Moses and Elijah. On the next level are Peter, James and John shielding their eyes from Jesus' blinding radiance. On the ground below is a demon possessed boy, eyes rolled back into his head, mouth gaping in wild raving. Holding the boy is his father looking desperately to the nine disciples to deliver his son. Some of the disciples are pointing upward to Christ Who is the boy's only hope. Raphael has captured something of the overwhelming contrast between the awesome glory of the Mount of Transfiguration and the troubled world waiting below.

This is the contrast before us in Mark 9:14-29.

When Jesus, Peter, James and John returned from the mountain and rejoined the other nine disciples, they found their companions embroiled in an argument with Jewish scribes.

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Today we come to one of the most dramatic events in Scripture- the transfiguration of Jesus. This event followed Jesus' announcement of His suffering, rejection, death and resurrection (8:31) and the cost to those who would follow Him to the cross (8:34).

Jesus made it clear that the Cross (Isa. 53) had to come before the Crown (Dan. 7:13-14). But God graciously gave the transfiguration to encourage the disciples that the Crown will most certainly follow the Cross. It is evident Jesus knew the transfiguration was coming. He announced it at least six full days before it happened. I believe the transfiguration took place on Mount Hermon in the area near Caesarea Philippi where Jesus and the disciples had come after the healing of the blind man (8:27). Mount Hermon is 9,000 feet in elevation and fits the description of being a "high mountain".

Verse one of Mark 9 actually belongs with the previous passage where Jesus emphasized both the cost and blessing of following Him to the cross.

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No Pain, No Gain is a reality we encounter in many different areas of our lives. Whether it be fitness, athletics, education, business or work projects around the house it often requires a certain amount of pain to achieve the desired gain. We constantly think in these terms to decide what we are and are not going to do. "Is the gain worth the pain?" The "gains" that we decide are worth the "pains" are what we value. In this passage the disciples are confronted with this same question, "Is the gain worth the pain?"

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Mark 8:1-26 highlights two things: 1) the intensifying conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and 2) the disciples’ continuing difficulty in grasping Jesus’ true nature.

There are three preliminary issues that are key to understanding this passage:
1. The O.T. concept of "a sign".
2. Jewish messianic expectation.
3. Framing.

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God's Family Welcomes All Who Have Faith in Christ

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In order to understand this passage we need first to understand a thing called the Oral Law (also referred to as the tradition of the elders). The Oral Law was a commentary on the Written Law (the Law of Moses) explaining how its 613 commandments were to be carried out. Certain Jews believe that at the same time that the Written Law was given from Mount Sinai, the Oral Law, too, was delivered to Moses. The Oral Law was then handed down orally to certain Jewish leaders/rabbis through each successive generation until these teaching were collected in a book called the Mishnah. The Mishnah is a compilation of the teachings of these Jewish leaders/rabbis to whom the Oral Law was committed tracing clear back to Moses.

The teachings of these Jewish rabbis was in the process of being collected in the days of our Lord. The Mishnah was completed about 250 A.D.; over 200 years after Jesus' ascension. The Mishnah is the tradition of the elders in written form. For orthodox Jews the Mishnah is their second most important book; the Torah (Written Law) being the first.

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We discovered in the previous passage that Herod Antipas misunderstood Jesus because of his guilt (6:14-29). In the passages before us in this study we discover that the disciples missed a major revelation about Jesus because of resentment.

After being rejected in His hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6) Jesus sent His disciples out (6:7-13). John Mark "sandwiches" in Herod Antipas' response to Jesus (6:14-29) then picks up the disciples' ministry trip again (6:30-31). The disciples returned to Jesus in Capernaum and reported the amazing things they had done and taught in His name.

Do you remember how crazy it was in Capernaum when His family came to take Him away? John Mark tells us there were so many people Jesus and His disciples couldn't even eat (3:21). As we can see the ministry load hadn't let up; Jesus and His disciples still couldn't find space to eat. So Jesus directed they get away to a remote place to rest.

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I hope by this time in our study of the Gospel of Mark we are realizing that Jesus and His 3 1/2 years of public ministry were extremely controversial. Many were looking for the promised Messiah; but that Messiah was completely human. Jesus' claim to be deity - to be a God-Man - was outrageous, blasphemous.

The leaders of Judaism spread the idea that Jesus was demon possessed and was performing miracles by the power of Satan (3:22). His family believed Him insane (3:20-21). The people of His hometown Nazareth insisted He was nothing more than a commoner (6:1-6).

There were three additional explanations about Jesus that were popularly believed.

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In this study we discover that Jesus traveled to His hometown of Nazareth, a tiny village in the hills west of the Sea of Galilee. This was His second ministry trip. Luke recorded the first - it did not go well (Luke 4:16-30). His boyhood friends, the neighbors He grew up with and worked for as a carpenter, the elders of the synagogue were so infuriated by His teaching they attempted to murder Him by throwing Him off a cliff!

Perhaps the rejection of His people in Nazareth contributed to Jesus' decision to set up His base of operations on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum. While in Capernaum we discovered that Jesus' own family came from Nazareth determined to take control of Him because they were convinced He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21, 31-34).

Perhaps a year after His first ministry visit, Jesus returned a second time to try and reach His people.

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The Gospel of Mark reveals that Jesus treats adults as ... well ... adults. That is, Jesus holds people accountable for their actions. To those who come to Him with an open heart and mind, Jesus responded with grace and healing and compassion. But to those who were unreceptive and close minded Jesus responded with correction and rebuke. In this passage we see both as Jesus ministered to a desperate father and a desperate woman.

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Having calmed the squall (4:39) Jesus and His disciples reached the east side of the Sea of Galilee and went ashore in the country of the Gerasenes inhabited primarily by Gentiles (non-Jews). Soon after debarking they were accosted by a wild man described in verses 2-5.

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Jesus came preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand (1:15). He claimed the authority of God to forgive sins and to govern the Sabbath (2:1-12; 23-27). The Kingdom of God was at hand because Jesus was both the promised Messiah and the Son of God possessing the authority and power of God to establish the Kingdom. Jesus came offering the promised Messianic Kingdom to His people, Israel, but their response was mixed.

The crowd viewed Him as a healer, His family thought Him insane, the leaders of Judaism accused Him of being demon possessed (3:7-30). Only a few were open to His claims - those He appointed apostles and a few from the crowd whom Jesus likened to "good soil" (3:13-19; 4:20).

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Jesus is the Master Teacher. Often He is praised for His vivid and memorable parables. But what we discover is that Jesus taught in parables to actually hide truth. Parables were a rebuke against spiritual disinterest and opposition.

Let's put Mark 4 in context. John Mark recorded Jesus' claims to deity in chapter two and then in chapter three recorded four responses to those claims. The first response,the response of the crowds, was one of spiritual indifference. The crowd came from all over Israel to be healed and delivered. Jesus' claims and teaching were less important to them than His power to heal and deliver.

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In our previous study of Mark 2:1-3:6 we discovered that Jesus said and did some outrageous things. Jesus claimed authority to forgive sins and then validated His claim by healing a paralyzed man (2:1-12). What makes His claim outrageous is that only God has authority to forgive sins so without question Jesus was claiming to be deity.

He recruited to His team and enjoyed table fellowship with a Jewish tax collector, the lowest of the low in Jewish society (2:13-17). He disregarded conventional rules of piety (2:18-22) and He claimed authority over the Law of Moses and its Sabbath law (2:23-3:6). These things were radical then and they’re radical now because if they were true about Jesus then, then they’re true about Jesus now.

How did the people at that time respond to Jesus’ claims and actions? The peoples response is exactly what John Mark is showing us in Mark 3:7-35. First, he reports the response of the crowd who poured into Capernaum from all over Israel.

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As Jesus' ministry expanded, so did His claims which set Him on a deadly collision course with the Pharisees and the Jewish religious establishment. In the course of healing a paralytic, Jesus claimed authority to forgive sins.

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The Gospel of Mark starts with Jesus' public ministry, not His birth. Since John Mark was writing to gentiles, not Jews, there was less need to prove Jesus' lineage as legal heir to the Davidic Throne.

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