The Audacity of Jesus
March 2/3 – Partying with Sinners
In the opinion of the religious leaders, Jesus was always running with the wrong crowd. He is often criticized for the company he keeps (e.g., Zacchaeus – All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Luke 19:7). The religious leaders tried to use this as a way to discredit Jesus; Jesus turns it around and uses it to show the true nature of his role as Messiah. The key phrase in this passage is “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” While Jesus never condoned immoral behavior, he did have a way of making all people feel comfortable in his presence. As followers of Jesus, we must be comfortable to seek out and spend time with people who are considered outsiders by our religious culture.
March 9/10 – Life on the Other Side
This story highlights the tension between a human response and the response of faith. Jesus had already instructed his disciples that they were going to the other side of the lake. In the meantime, a “furious squall” hits the boat, causing the disciples to panic (which is the normal human response). We face the same situation when we live in the space between receiving God’s promises and experiencing the fulfillment of those promises. In that in-between space there is often challenges and discouragement. Jesus is able to remain calm – asleep – because he knows that he is in control. Do we have more confidence in the natural or supernatural?
March 16/17 – Not in My Town
Perhaps because they were too familiar with Jesus as a child and adolescent, the people of Nazareth had a hard time believing in his divine nature. To them, Jesus was still the ordinary son of Joseph the carpenter and his wife, Mary. Perhaps they still remembered some of the rumors that had surrounded his conception and birth. Jesus acknowledged the tendency to overlook what becomes too familiar (“a prophet is not without honor except in his own town”) and is unable to do any miracles in Nazareth. Would Jesus be amazed at our lack of faith today? Not a lack of intellectual belief – but a willingness to trust him for healing, provision, and supernatural assistance.
March 23/24 – Was Jesus Non-Religious?
Many of the religious leaders who opposed Jesus had a very external – or performance-based – view of religion. To them, maintaining the appearance of being spiritual was as important as actually being spiritual; in some cases, it was even more important. Jesus understood that much of this behavior was based on human traditions, not the commands of God. Jesus redefined a healthy spiritual life as preceding from the inside out, rather than from the outside in (“What comes out of a person is what defiles them … All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”). Jesus was not anti-religious but was against an external-only way of relating to God. Our challenge is to never let the rules become more important than the Ruler.
March 30/31 – Compassion Acts
When Jesus expressed concern over the crowd’s lack of food, his disciples responded with an answer based on human reasoning: it would be impossible to feed that many people! They had correctly identified the problem but had failed to see a potential solution. Jesus prefaced his comments with “I have compassion for these people” – which reflected his motivation for wanting to help. For Jesus, this was more than a logistical problem – it was a human problem. As Christ-followers, we need to see people’s needs the way Jesus saw them – as people to be helped, not as logistical problems to be solved.
April 6/7 – When Jesus Makes You Sad
Unlike the religious leaders who typically tried to trap Jesus with a trick question, the man who approached Jesus in Mark 10 was seemingly devout and sincere. He wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. In answering his question, Jesus refers to the ten commandments – which the man admitted to keeping. Then Jesus offers him a challenge: sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow me. Mark tells us that the man went away sad, because he had great wealth. Today, many people believe that Jesus exists to simply make them happy. While the promise of his joy is real, we shouldn’t believe this to mean that following Jesus will always be easy. There will be times when Jesus challenges us to live according to a higher standard. It may be difficult; it might even make us sad.
April 13/14 – The Power of Faith-Filled Prayer
In Mark 11, Jesus is returning to Jerusalem and this chapter contains several miracles that often go unnoticed. Two examples are: the disciples finding the colt for Jesus’ triumphal entry just as he predicted and when Jesus curses the fig tree. Through each of these stories, the authority of Jesus is on display. This is authority is also reflected in verses 22-25 when Jesus teaches about faith-filled prayer. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, we are able to pray with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). The size of our prayers is a direct reflection of the size of our faith.
April 20/21 – Rolling Stones Away
Given the Jewish gender bias, it is significant that women are the first people to discover the empty tomb of Jesus. This simple fact is actually a great apologetic for the truth of the resurrection. If the resurrection hadn’t happened and was only a fictitious story, the New Testament writers would have been better served to have a man discover the empty tomb. What the women find is a tomb with the stone rolled away. This is a great image of how the resurrection of Jesus removes obstacles and clears the path between us and God. God is still rolling away stones today.