March 11, 2012

Scripture and Commentary for Week of the Third Sunday in Lent

March 12, Day Seventeen
The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 68:1-19, Genesis 37, 1 Corinthians 9:15
Evening - Psalm 71, Jeremiah 7:1-15, Mark 10:17-31

Mark 10:17-31
17And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
27And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
28Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
30But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
31But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.


Commentary, Mark 10:17-31

The Gospel Reading for today turns to the Gospel of Mark, where we will continue for the next two weeks before returning to John. Often called, "the rich, young ruler" the reading for today tells of a man who comes to Jesus professing his own righteousness. He has obviously heard Christ teaching about eternal life, and has come to show that he deserves it through his keeping of the Law of God. "All these have I observed from my youth." But Jesus shows that his statement is false. The greatest commandment is to love God above all things, but this man loves his wealth and himself above God. Therefore, he is not a good man who deserves Heaven. He is a sinner, an idolater, and he is unworthy of the Heaven he claims to have earned.

Devotional Thoughts

Lent is no big mystery. It is simply a time of devotion to the serious practice of holiness. The heart of Lent is repentance. Before we can repent of sin we must find it in our lives, which is the process of self examination. After we find sin we confess it. That means we agree with God about our sin. But we have left something out, have we not? For how can we agree with God about sin, or find sin, or repent of sin if we do not first of all recognize sin? And so we begin our devotional today by asking the question, what is sin?

Sin is anything that is in any way less than 100% complete holiness. Any failure to be or do 100% good is sin. Sin is therefore, first of all a disposition of our being. Adam and Eve were righteous at the start. They became sinners when they chose to sin. Their natural righteousness was distorted. Their natural goodness was corrupted, and they became sinners in their beings as well as in their actions. Since then, all people are born with the same corrupted being. To return to the example of the castle and the throne, we are all born with ourselves on the throne. This translates into an inborn, natural inclination to sin. This inclination is itself sin. So we are sinners before we actually commit a sinful thought, word, or deed. We need God to both forgive our sinful deeds, and to incline our being towards righteousness.

March 13, Day Eighteen
The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 74, Genesis 40, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Evening - Psalm 73, Jeremiah 7:21-29, Mark 10:32-45

Mark 10:32-45
32And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,
33Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
34And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
35And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
36And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
37They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
38But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
39And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
40But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
41And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


Commentary, Mark 10:32-45

Again we see Christ's full knowledge of what awaits Him in Jerusalem. He is going there intentionally to face the cross. The disciples fear to go, but Christ faces the ordeal with calm assurance. He has come to give His life as the ransom for many. He will not turn away.

Devotional Thoughts

Our hearts are so deceitful. If we listen to them they will convince us that our sins are really virtues. They will lead us to spend our time on small issues and miss the major things in our lives. They will attempt to make us focus intensely on one sinful action, and miss the general ungodly direction of our whole life. We often spend too much time trying to remedy our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, without working on their source; without changing the sinfulness in our nature that causes the sinful actions. This is the cause of the failure of all human attempts to make the world a better place. We try to educate people to do better, we use social engineering to redistribute wealth and equalize status and opportunity, and we pass laws enforcing peace and tolerance, only to find that people continue in the same old ways of oppression, greed, and strife. Why? Because we have not changed their nature. We have not dealt with the one issue that is the root and cause of all the others. We have not made them righteous. Indeed, we cannot make them righteous. We cannot make ourselves righteous. Only the Spirit of God can change the hearts of sinful people and give us the desire to dethrone ourselves and enthrone God.

March 14, Day Nineteen
The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 75, Psalm 76, Genesis 41:1-24, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Evening - Psalm 77, Jeremiah 8:4-13, Mark 10:46

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.


Commentary, Mark 10:46

"And they came to Jericho" (Mk. 10:46) is a significant statement, for it marks Christ's progress toward Jerusalem. He has been dwelling in Perea, from whence He has made journeys into Judea, Galilee, and other areas. But this trip is different. He is now going to Jerusalem to be the sacrificial Lamb of God. On the way He demonstrates His authority yet again. The blind son of Timeus calls to Him and pleads for his sight. Bartimeus knows something about Jesus, for he calls Him, "Son of David," a name full of Messianic expectations. Jesus is the Messiah who goes into Jerusalem to ascend to His throne, but the cross is the way to the throne.


Devotional Thoughts

Our natural unrighteousness is “sin,” but what is “a sin?” A sin is any thought, word, or deed that is inconsistent with the will and nature of God as revealed in Christ and recorded in the Holy Bible. Obviously, the Bible speaks clearly about some sins. The Ten Commandments and Moral Law of the Old Testament are the will of God for our lives, and any breach of their letter or spirit is sin. In other places, God gives principles of righteousness. The Bible cannot address every situation of every life, so God gives general principles of righteousness, which we are to employ in our daily lives and situations. The Bible will not tell you who you should marry, but it gives many principles for choosing an appropriate spouse and living the married life. The Bible does not tell you your calling in life. It does lay down clear principles of godly business conduct and industry, which you must apply to your career choices and practices. Failure to keep these laws and principles is sin. Thus, anything that goes against the letter or spirit of the Bible is sin.



March 15, Day Twenty

Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 85, Genesis 41:25-40, 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
Evening - Psalm 80, Jeremiah 9:2-16, Mark 11:12-26

And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Commentary, Mark 11:12-26

Again Scripture marks the progress of our Lord toward Jerusalem. Bethpage and Bethany are on the road that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives is on the east side of Jerusalem between Bethany and the city. From there Christ could view the Temple, symbol of His presence and sacrifice. To put the events in their proper sequence, Jesus travelled from Jericho through Bethphage to arrive in Bethany on the Friday before Passover, probably in the year 28. He remained in Bethany for the Sabbath and went into Jerusalem on Sunday in what has been called "The Triumphal Entry" which is recorded in Mark 11:1-11. The crowds who greeted Him with palm branches were the pilgrims traveling to or already in Jerusalem for Passover. The Triumphal Entry is a bold announcement that Jesus has come to Jerusalem. It is also a bold acceptance of the fate that awaits Him. He does not go in secret. He does not hide in fear. He goes into the city boldly, as a King to His Throne, and, at the same time, as a Lamb to the Slaughter. Having made His Triumphal Entry, Jesus returned to Bethany for the night.

The next day, Monday, Christ returned to Jerusalem. On this day He saw the fig tree in leaf but having no figs. This was an appropriate symbol of the decaying religion of the religious leaders of Israel. Like the fig tree, they were luxuriant in appearance, but barren in reality. They were great in the appearance of Godliness, with their traditions and ceremonies, but their hearts were far from God. The words of Christ withered the tree as the Gospel withers the pretence of faith in false believers. As He chased the moneychangers from the Temple He reminded them of the true purpose of their calling (Mk. 11:17). They were to lead the people of God into the very presence of God in worship. Instead they had turned the House of Prayer into a den of thieves who robbed people of the very thing they were called to provide.

Devotional Thoughts

We have been talking about Lent, and the things we do in this season of the Church Year. I pray we have seen that it has never been our objective to simply add another season to the calendar or to create a pretty ritual or ceremony. Our objective is to always to apply ourselves to holiness. So, in Lent, we intentionally put aside some of the things that normally claim our attention, and apply ourselves to seeking God. We turn aside from some of the pleasures of life. They may be good and lawful pleasures, but we lay them aside, not to say “I gave them up for Lent," but to spend the time we normally spend in those pleasures seeking God. Of course we also spend the Lenten season in turning away from the ungodly things we have allowed into our lives. For the first half of Lent we have talked about recognizing sin, confessing sin, and turning away from sin, and this is an essential part of holiness. I sincerely pray that we have all applied ourselves to this during this time of Lent. But holiness also means to embrace Godliness. Lent, then, is a time to apply ourselves to the positive actions and attitudes that are so much a part of holy living. One of the most important of these is prayer

March 16, Day Twenty-one

Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 79, Genesis 42:1-38, 1 Corinthians 11:17
Evening - Psalm 86, Jeremiah 9:17-24, Mark12:1-12

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.

Commentary

Our Lord was no passive victim. He rode into Jerusalem as a King to His Throne, and He took the battle to His enemies. The parable of the vineyard is a direct confrontation and condemnation of the empty religion of the priests and Pharisees. They are the husbandmen and groundskeepers who tend the vineyard of the Lord, which is Israel. But they have assumed ownership of the vineyard. So when the Owner, which is God, sends servants, the prophets, to them to collect His due, they beat them and kill them. Finally the Owner sends His Son, Jesus. But rather than reverencing the Son, they kill Him and cast Him out of the vineyard. Christ also spoke of the stone rejected by the builders, which becomes the chief cornerstone. The religious leaders were building a building that was not of God. When the Son came to them they rejected Him, but He became the chief cornerstone of the new Temple, the Church. These parables refer to the crucifixion of Christ and show the determination and faith with which He embraced the cross, that we might be saved.


Devotional Thoughts

Lent is a time of prayer. And prayer is so essential to following Christ in holy living that we can say with certainty that to be a Christian is to be a person of prayer. Yet many do not understand prayer, and it is to our shame that most Christians see prayer as a time to ask God for blessings, and as a way to manipulate God. Actually prayer is much deeper than this. Prayer is nothing less than acknowledging the presence of God. It is, as The Homilies remind us, quoting St. Augustine, “a lifting up of the mind to God … a humble and lowly pouring out of the heart to God.” The same sermon, quoting Isidorus, calls prayer, “an affection of the heart and not a labor of the lips,” It is, “the inward groaning and crying of the heart to God” (The Homilies, p. 234). Real prayer is not so much seeking things from God, as it is seeking God Himself.

This understanding of prayer moves beyond the mechanical, I ask-God gives, view of prayer. It also answers the ancient question, “why pray?” Why pray? We might as well ask why talk to a loved one? How can we say we love someone, yet not want to converse with him? What kind of relationship is conducted without communication, without communion? Those who love God will long for Him, will enjoy pouring out their hearts to Him in prayer, will earnestly desire to acknowledge His presence. Indeed, if prayer were only asking for things, it would be an exercise in futility. God knows all things. He knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. But if prayer is anything like the descriptions above, we know why we pray.

March 17, Day Twenty-two

Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 89:1-19, Genesis 43: 1-34, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Evening - Psalm 103, Jeremiah 10:1-13, Mark 12:13-17

Mark 12:13-17

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Commentary

The priests and Pharisees would have gladly taken Jesus to the edge of the city and stoned Him. But the people who had come with Him into Jerusalem were convinced He was the Messiah, and would have freed Him by force. Thus, the religious leaders feared the people (12:12). So they sought to trick Him into saying something that would turn the people against Him. Divide and conquer. If Jesus was the Messiah, according to the current Jewish views, He was there to organize the Jews into an army to drive the Romans into the sea. It is certain that both Romans and Jews were present at this questioning, so any slip of the tongue would result in disaster for Christ. If He appeared to take a non-aggressive stance toward the Romans, the people would desert Him, leaving Him vulnerable to the attack of the Pharisees. If He appeared to condone rebellion against the Romans, He could be starting a war that would cost the lives of millions.

It is a decisive moment for Christ. One word from Him will bring the Jews to violent revolution. He could lead them. He could give them victory. He had that power. He could establish a worldly Kingdom without going to the cross. He could give them what they want, and save Himself all the agony of the garden, the cross, and the grave. We have to realise that Jesus knew all of this. Yet He turned not aside from His purpose. He considered the temptation no more here than He did in the wilderness during His forty days of fasting. He rejected the opportunity to be a worldly Messiah. He embraced the cross.

Devotional Thoughts

How do I pray? Pray the Bible. Does the Bible say we are to be holy as Christ is holy? Pray for holiness. Does the Bible say love others as Christ has loved us? Pray that God will help you love. Does the Bible invite people to come to Jesus? Pray that millions will come today. Pray for God’s glory to be known around the world. Pray that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Christ. Pray that souls will be saved and lives will be changed. Pray that transformed people living transformed lives will be as salt and light in their homes and communities. Pray that the Church of Christ may boldly proclaim His truth. Pray that its ranks will swell so that all the church buildings in all the earth cannot hold it. Pray for the clergy and the people, the young and the old the rich and the poor, for all people in all places.

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