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Saturday, the day of waiting

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in Mark’s Gospel about what happened on Saturday, but we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting, and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard. For a couple of months, my family has been waiting to find out why my father had a spot on his lung that was discovered in January when he had another surgery. Finally, they ran the test on a Friday in late March and the doctor said the outside cells looked fine, but he could not tell if the cells on the inside were cancer, so he needed to send it to the lab and would have the results on Tuesday. On Tuesday, my parents called the clinic and they said they would have to call back, but the nurse never called back. All evening, my parents sat by the phone, and I kept calling to see if they had news. Mom said she was going crazy, sitting by the phone, waiting. They went to bed Tuesday, still not knowing if he had cancer. On Wednesday morning, the nurse called to say the doctor had been sick, but would try to read it that day and give her news. Later that day, the nurse called but got no answer because my parents’ phone wasn’t working. Finally, my mom drove to the clinic, and the nurse explained the good news: the doctor had studied the lab report, and dad had no cancer! Many of you can relate to that, because you have just about gone crazy waiting for something. Maybe you have waited and waited for that loan to come through; maybe you have waited for a test score to see if you passed your class or so you could get a job; maybe you have waited and waited for that guy you are dating to finally pop the question; maybe you have been passed over for a promotion but you’re waiting, hoping it will finally come; maybe you’ve waited and waited for your children to call you and come see you; maybe you waited for medical test results to come back. Waiting can be very, very hard. So you know how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. Maybe you waited but you didn’t get good news like my Dad got. Maybe you were turned down for the loan, failed the test, rejected by your boyfriend or boss or children. Maybe you got the bad news that it was cancer. The disciples who waited that Saturday were expecting bad news, too. They were expecting bad things to happen to them. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified. But you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine. So as you go through difficult times, remember that as a believer in Jesus, you can wait on the Lord, when you know that even though you may waiting right now like it is Saturday, don’t forget that Sunday is coming!

What Jesus suffered

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

If you think that God does not understand your suffering, then you have not studied what happened to Jesus Christ as he went to die on the cross. Think about what Christ endured, according to the Gospel of Mark:
The disciples deserted Him (Mark 14:50-52).
The high priest condemned Him (Mark 14:63-64).
The Sanhedrin spat on Him (Mark 14:65), blindfolded Him, struck Him with their fists, and mocked Him (14:65).
The Jewish guards beat Him (Mark 14:65).
Peter denied Him (Mark 14:66-72).
The crowd cried, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14).
The Roman soldiers flogged Him (Mark 15:15), put a crown of thorns on Him (15:17) and put a purple robe on Him and mocked Him as King of the Jews (15:17-18). Then the soldiers hit Him in the head with a staff, spat on Him, fell to their knees to mocked Him (15:19-20).
They led Him to Calvary, crucified Him, and gambled for His clothes (Mark 15:20, 24).
Passersby mocked Him (Mark 15:29-30), the Jewish leaders mocked Him (15:31-32), the criminals beside Him mocked Him (15:32).
The land turned dark, His Father forsook Him, and He died (Mark 15:33-34, 37).
Yes, if anybody ever suffered, Jesus did.

Good Friday, day of sacrifice

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was crucified for our sins. The crowd cried “Crucify Him!” and so Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did exactly that. They flogged Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. Mark records six times that Jesus was mocked: once by the Sanhedrin (14:65), twice by the Roman soldiers (15:18, 20), by those who passed by (15:29), by the religious leaders (15:31), and by the criminals crucified with Him (15:32). Six is the number of evil in the Bible. But Jesus overcame evil by his sacrifice on the cross. Luke records that Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, and one of the criminals was apparently so moved by Christ’s forgiveness that he became repentant (Luke 23:39-43). John records that as He died, Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Jesus paid the price for sin and won the victory over evil. When he saw how Jesus died, the Roman centurion declared, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
While Good Friday inspires us to live sacrificial lives, our primary response is one of faith. By sacrificing Himself for our sin, Jesus did what none of us can do for ourselves, and no religion can do for us. It’s no longer about religion; it’s about a relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. We can’t pay for our sins; we must trust in the payment already made by Jesus upon the cross.
British preacher Dick Lucas recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their rituals?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 45-46)
Friday, the day of sacrifice, teaches us to believe in Jesus to find forgiveness and eternal life.

Thursday, day of covenant

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Many things happened on Thursday of Holy Week. It is often called “Maundy Thursday” because John 13:1-17 records Him washing the disciples’ feet and giving them a command (Latin mandatum, French mande’) to follow His example. The other three Gospels, including Mark, tell how Jesus and His disciples observed the Passover, during which Jesus instituted the new ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Then they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus agonized in prayer over His coming cross. While in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and handed over the the Jewish temple police, who took Him before the Jewish Sanhedrin for an illegal night trial.
Many valuable lessons can be learned from Thursday, such as the example of humility and service in washing feet and the example of praying in God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. But let’s focus on the lesson about covenant and commitment.
In Mark 14:24 Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
We who follow Christ are called to enter into a covenant with Him. That means we make a commitment to follow Him. It is a divine transaction. Jesus pours out His blood; we receive Him by faith and commit ourselves to follow Him the rest of our lives.
While in college, Jim Denison was a summer missionary in East Malaysia. During one of the worship services, a teenage girl shared her testimony and was baptized in the simple bathtub baptistery of the church, which met in a warehouse. Denison noticed some worn-out luggage leaning against the wall, and asked a church member why it was there. The member pointed to the girl who was baptized and said, “Her father said that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again. So she brought her luggage.” (The Book of Acts, BaptistWay Bible Study for Texas, 2000, p. 46). Now that, my friends, is entering into a covenant with Christ.
Thursday, the day of covenant, teaches us to commit to Christ.

Wednesday, the day of rest and anointing

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

At first glance, it seems that nothing is recorded between Jesus’ day of confrontation on Tuesday, and Jesus’ celebration of the Passover on Thursday night. If so, it would mean that on the most important week of His life, Jesus took a day off! Jesus knew the importance of getting rest. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Do you have a regular time when you turn off the TV, cell phone and computer, and just spend time resting, praying, reading God’s Word, and listening to God?

While it is possible that Jesus rested on Wednesday, a closer look at the text indicates that a couple of things did happen that day. Mark 14:1 says it was “two days” before the Passover. Passover would begin at sundown on Thursday night, so this means the events in Mark 14:1-11 were between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. Perhaps these things took place on Tuesday night, and Jesus really did do nothing on Wednesday. Or perhaps the events took place on Wednesday.  Either way, what happened next foreshadowed the ominous death of Christ on the cross. Mark 14:1-2 says that the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, and then verses 10-11 say that one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, went to the religious leaders and agreed to betray Jesus. What happened in between shows that Jesus knew exactly what was coming, and that it was all in God’s purpose.

Mark 14:3-9 tells the touching story of how a woman (often thought to be Mary Magdalene), anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. To show how expensive it was, it was worth 300 denarii, and Mark 6:37 said that just 200 denarii would be enough to feed 5,000 people. Some of the people there expressed indignation that the perfume was “wasted,” but Jesus said to leave her alone. It was after this that Judas went to betray Jesus. But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. That’s why Jesus said, “She has anointed My body in advance for burial.”

This should remind us that nothing spent on Jesus is ever wasted. We can never give to Jesus more than He has given to us. Isaac Watts said it well in his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tuesday, day of confrontation

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Tuesday of the final week of Christ was a long and active day of Jesus teaching in the temple. On that day he had constant confrontations with the Jewish religious leaders. Everything recorded from Mark 11:20 through Mark 14:11 happened on Tuesday: the fig tree that Jesus cursed is found withered, the Jewish religious leaders demand to know what authority Jesus has to cleanse the temple and do all that he does, Jesus tells a parable about tenants in a vineyard that implies that the Jewish religious leaders have rejected God’s Son, making them so angry they wanted to arrest Him. They try to trap Him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar and about marriage in the resurrection. Jesus turns the questions around on them, and then proclaims to the disciples that every stone in the temple will be thrown down and warns them to be on guard against persecution, false prophets and false Messiahs. Do you notice a pattern here? Jesus and the religious leaders are in constant confrontation. Finally, at the end of the day, we read that as the religious leaders were continuing to look for a way to arrest Jesus and kill Him, a woman anointed Jesus’ body with a very expensive perfume. Jesus knew where this was all heading, which is why He said that she was anointing His body for burial.
What an exhausting day of confrontation Tuesday was! From the beginning to the end of the day, it was full of conflict. Mark 11:28 records at the beginning of Tuesday the confrontational question of the religious leaders who were enraged by Jesus cleansing the temple: “By what authority are you doing these things?… And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 14:10-11 records at the end of Tuesday how enraged Judas Iscariot was, who apparently was so disappointed in Jesus for being a humble, peaceful, sacrificial Messiah, that Judas went to the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them.
The problem they all had, from the beginning to the end of the day, was an unwillingness to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. We may not like to think of ourselves as in conflict with Christ, but whenever we say to Him, ‘No, Lord,” we aren’t really making Him Lord. Are we willing to submit ourselves to Him, or do we continue to argue with Him?
Tuesday, the day of confrontation, teaches us to make Christ Lord of our lives.

Monday, the day of cleansing

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Mark 11:12-19 says that Jesus returned to the temple on Monday of Holy Week, and when he found the money changers and people selling animals in the temple complex, he overturned their tables, and ran them out, cleansing the temple.
When you read Matthew and Luke’s gospel, it sounds like the temple cleansing happened on Palm Sunday, since those gospels simply tell about the triumphal entry and then say that Jesus cleansed the temple. However, Mark seems to be more precise about the time, while Matthew and Luke are not as concerned to give that detail. However, the way Jesus cleansed the temple is more important than the day He cleansed the temple. He does it with authority, demanding that the house of prayer should not be turned into a hiding place for thieves. All of this buying and selling was going on in the court of the Gentiles, the only place that Gentiles were allowed to worship near the temple. So their merchandise was a distraction from others being able to pray.
Just as Jesus cleansed the temple that day, He wants to cleanse our lives today.
Psalm 24:3 asks, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” The answer comes in the next verse: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol, or swear by what is false.”
Do my actions prevent others from worshiping God? Am I a distraction? Then I must repent and change my ways.
Monday, the day of cleansing, teaches us to cleanse our lives.

Palm Sunday, day of worship

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

In ancient times, a victorious king would ride into a city on horseback. But Jesus was a different kind of king; He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The horse was a symbol of war. The donkey was a symbol of peace.

Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The people spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him, and waved branches. John’s gospel says they were palm branches (John 12:13). Mark 11:9-10 records their words of praise and worship as Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us.” They were quoting Psalm 118 as they called on Jesus as Savior. They were worshiping with their whole hearts.

Unfortunately, a lot of people come to worship at church and act as if it is a Mardi Gras parade. In New Orleans, people line the streets during Mardi Gras, with bags open and umbrellas turned upside down to catch the trinkets and candy thrown from each float. They shout, “Throw me something, mister!” Do we come to worship for what we can get out of it, or do we come to give our whole hearts to a worthy God? Isn’t our God worthy of our worship, even if we receive absolutely nothing in return? As Jesus paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, the crowds didn’t cry “Throw me something,” they shouted “Hosanna.” Do we come to worship with the same attitude?

Palm Sunday, the day of triumph, teaches us to worship.

The Holy Ways of the Holy Days

The Gospel of Mark spends six chapters, one–third of the entire book, describing what happened in just one week. The fact that the gospel gives so much attention to the final week of Christ should tell us how very important that Holy Week was. There must be important lessons for us to learn from these days. So let’s review the entire week, and learn from God the holy ways from the holy days of Holy Week. Each day, starting with tonight’s post on Palm Sunday, I will share some thoughts on lessons we can learn from the events of Holy Week, from the Gospel of Mark.