Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Healing (message outline and questions only)


The Healing
Mark 15:1-38

1. Acknowledge your choice of other things over Jesus.
Mark 15:1–15 (ESV) And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him,“You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

2. See Jesus enduring your shame
Mark 15:15–32 (ESV) 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him.26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

3. See Jesus grieving the banishment you deserve
Mark 15:33–39 (ESV) 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Questions for individuals, groups, or families
Do you agree that the default setting of the human race is to hate God? Why or why not?
What evidence do you see of your own personal choices moving away from Jesus rather than toward him?
Do you see more emphasis on an attempt to shame Jesus or to inflict pain? What are the implications of your answer?
What does Jesus cry from the cross tell you about his experience on the cross?
Why do you think that darkness came over the land from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM?
What is the significance of the curtain in the temple being torn from the top to the bottom?
What do you think led the centurion to exclaim, “truly this man was the Son of God?” What do you think he “saw” that we miss through casual readings of the crucifixion story?

The Healing


At Bethany Place this Sunday, the message will focus on the crucifixion of Jesus. It will not be gory. As I have immersed myself in the text of Mark 15 this week, part of what impresses me is that the physical aspect of the cross seems, to me, understated. Part of the explanation for that may be that Mark’s first readers, many having personally witnessed a crucifixion, would have no need for details because they would never forget the spectacle. What is described in detail in the text is the way in which the principle characters surrounding the cross sought to shame Jesus. I believe that is significant and we will explore the reason for that on Sunday morning. 

I am excited about Easter Sunday. Wherever you worship, I encourage you to invite everyone that you can to attend with you that day. As you know, lots of people attend worship on Easter that don’t at any other time. Many years ago I heard a man say he found that irritating and that he did not attend on Easter because of the folks who only show up once a year. A far healthier attitude is to be grateful for the opportunity to bless those we \ see on Easter that we don’t see at other times. Any time someone hears the gospel they are in danger of being transformed by it! So please, no more jokes about people who only attend church once or twice a year. May God's people everywhere be grateful for the privilege to love and serve those and be fully prepared in every ministry of our churches to serve them well. Perhaps God will use us to draw them to himself.

You can see the scripture, sermon outline, and discussion questions for this Sunday’s service at Bethany Place below.

The Healing
Mark 15:1-38

1. Acknowledge your choice of other things over Jesus.
Mark 15:1–15 (ESV) And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

2. See Jesus enduring your shame
Mark 15:15–32 (ESV) 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

3. See Jesus grieving the banishment you deserve
Mark 15:33–39 (ESV) 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Questions for individuals, groups, or families
Do you agree that the default setting of the human race is to hate God? Why or why not?
What evidence do you see of your own personal choices moving away from Jesus rather than toward him?
Do you see more emphasis on an attempt to shame Jesus or to inflict pain? What are the implications of your answer?
What does Jesus cry from the cross tell you about his experience on the cross?
Why do you think that darkness came over the land from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM?
What is the significance of the curtain in the temple being torn from the top to the bottom?
What do you think led the centurion to exclaim, “truly this man was the Son of God?” What do you think he “saw” that we miss through casual readings of the crucifixion story?

Monday, March 26, 2012

True Power Audio

The audio for the the message True Power from this past Sunday has been posted on the Bethany Place website. You can see the online and the text for the message here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

True Power

When I was a boy I remember my mom telling me something like this: "Gene, it takes more courage to back down from a fight that it does to actually fight." I never believed her. It didn't make any sense to me. None of my friends thought that way. People who were tough, brave and strong where those who could stand up to everyone else. We valued outward strength more than the self control it would take to walk away from a challenge to fight.


I think that many of us still view power this way. Perhaps like me you got caught up a few years ago watching Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in the television drama 24. Of course, we all knew that no human being could withstand or accomplish all that he did in that show, but something about the sort of strength he portrayed appealed to us. It certainly did to me. Once I got hooked on it, about halfway through the series, I rarely missed an episode. 

This fascination with power makes me wonder if some of us secretly wonder if there is something weak about Jesus. In the story of his arrest and trial, on the surface he seems passive. Add to that the image that much art over the centuries seems to emphasize Jesus gentleness over other attributes. (Perhaps, that only reveals my ignorance of art) and that could result in an image of Jesus that is, well, wimpy. However, as I’ve looked deeply into these scenes of the arrest and the trial, though having read, studied, and taught them many times, the more a sense of awe wells up inside of me and my study notes on these texts end up peppered with exclamations of worship and adoration. Because in reality, in these scenes where it appears that Jesus is passive, he is demonstrating the glory and the power of God in a stunning way!

Getting this wrong is a serious issue because if we don't believe and know in our gut that Jesus is strong and that he is able to do all that he has promised, we will not be moved to worship him, not really, and we are certainly not likely to trust him, and we are not likely to be moved to follow him. I can’t wait to join with you on Sunday as we worship Jesus together for his indescribable gift!

You can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions for Sunday’s message at Bethany Place below.

Gene

True Power

Demonstrate the strength of Jesus through . . . 

1. Perseverance in the face of determined opposition

Mark 14:43–52 (ESV)
43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.
51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.


Demonstrate the strength of Jesus by

2. Refusing to retaliate in the face of lies and brutality

Mark 14:53–65 (ESV)
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

Questions for individuals, groups, or families

To what or whom are you so committed that no discouragement or opposition could persuade you to abandon it or them?

Do you think that our society views Jesus as strong or weak? How do common depictions of Jesus with long hair and soft features contribute to an image of weakness? Do you think Jesus' lack of retaliation throughout the experience of his trial leads anyone to believe he is weak? 

List movies that you can think of where the primary theme of the movie is revenge or retaliation. 

Many of our parents told us it takes more courage not to retaliate than to do so? Do you believe that? Why or why not? 

Examine what Jesus does say and does not say in the midst of his trial? What provokes him to speak? About what does he remain silent? 

How much of your talking is for the purpose of defending yourself or explaining yourself?

Why do you think that the four gospels spend so much time telling the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion relative to the other incidents of Jesus' life?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Audio for message Altered Perspective

You can listen to or download the audio for the message Altered Perspective, concerning Jesus experience in the Garden of Gethsemane from Mark 14:32-42 here

Friday, March 16, 2012

The need for a perspective adjustment


Tim Keller makes the case in King's Cross that there is nothing like the incident of Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in either history or literature. The scene is familiar to many. That familiarity may make it easy to miss the stunning vision of the one through whom the worlds were made crumpled in grief and crying out to God the Father in that Garden. Looking closely at Jesus in that garden as he ponders the prospect of going to the cross has the power to show us something of the real seriousness of our own sin and why the good news of Jesus is really good news!

Here is the outline for this Sunday's message at Bethany Place. You can listen to or download the audio of the message here.

Altered Perspective
Mark 14:32-42

Experiencing Jesus’ agonizing prayer is the key to unlocking for you why the cross was necessary for you and for me.

See that Jesus’ grief reveals the seriousness of your sin
Mark 14:32–35 (ESV) 32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

See that Jesus’ prayer shows he understands your pain (and how to deal with it)
Mark 14:35–36 (ESV) 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

See that Jesus’ determination provides for your greatest need
Mark 14:37–42 (ESV)
37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Questions for individuals, groups, or families
How do you explain that Jesus had always known just what to say and do, yet in this scene he seems undone?
What stories do you know of how Christian martyr's faced their deaths? How do those stories compare with Jesus' response? 
What do you see are the implications of Jesus' grief?
What do you think Jesus means by watch and pray? What does it mean to enter into temptation? 
Discuss what we should learn and follow from Jesus example and teaching about prayer in this instance? 
How would you describe the change in Jesus' tone from the beginning of this scene to the end? What accounts for this change?
About what grief in your life do you need to wrestle with God in prayer?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pride, Fear, and Humility


This is a preview of my message this Sunday morning at Bethany Place

It’s disturbing to find yourself emotionally numb in situations where you know that you really ought to be feeling something. It’s possible that the sheer amount of news, entertainment, and information to which we are exposed has a way of desensitizing us to all but the most outrageous incidents. Combine that with a hectic life and a long to do list and you can find yourself not feeling much of anything.

Whether we think about this or not, I believe most of us understand that we are supposed to not only know who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross but we are to also feel, and feel deeply. Somehow we know that praying, or picking up our bibles to read, or attending a worship service should be occasions where we experience real love, or are moved to compassion, or confession, or genuine adoration. But that doesn’t happen automatically for me, I’m guessing that it does not for you either.

I mention these things because I am finding that this lingering look that I am taking through the final incidents in Jesus’ life is provoking in me new love for Jesus and new desire to honor him with my life. I have the luxury of the deadline of knowing that many will come Sunday praying, perhaps even desperately hoping to hear a word from God. This knowledge, along with the tremendous responsibility I have been given by God, drives me to long hours alone with these texts. I pray that you will join me Sunday as we inch closer to examining the greatest act of love and sacrifice ever. You can see Sunday’s scripture text, sermon title and outline below.

God bless you,

Gene

Pride, Fear, and Humility
Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Mark 14:26–31 (ESV)
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Mark 14:66–72 (ESV)
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Questions for further reflection for individuals, groups, or families
Why do think Jesus chose to warn the disciples in advance that they would all fall away?
How would remembering that Jesus knows about your failures in advance help you cooperate more with what God is saying to you now through his word, through other people, and through circumstances?
Why do you think Peter was so insistent that he would be loyal to Jesus even if no one else would?
How would you describe the difference in Peter’s denial, the disciple’s abandonment, and Judas betrayal of Jesus?
Contrast the difference in Jesus’ and Peter’s composure under pressure throughout the incidents recorded in Mark 14:26-72.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Limping toward Maturity


I wish that I were further along than I am in spiritual maturity. After having been a Christian for 43 years, and having been in the ministry for 30 years this fall. I wish I were further along. I discover that even though the scriptures says that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather of love and sound mind, I sometimes experience fear that I can’t shake. God’s word instructs us to be generous, but I find myself tempted to keep my stuff to myself. I know that Jesus demonstrated compassion but sometimes I am very callous. God’s word is clear that I am to rejoice always and yet sometimes I choose to complain and sulk.

I’m certain that I’m not the only one that this bothers and that many of you are disturbed by similar inconsistencies in your life. Reportedly the Indian leader Ghandi made this statement, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” This Sunday at Bethany Place we will explore a text that carries the potential to shatter our understanding of how a person grows to become more like Jesus and to show us the path to real spiritual progress for the sake of the glory of God. You can see the text and discussion questions below. I’m withholding the outline, not because it isn’t ready, it is, but because it’s a bit tough to be honest and I want to have the opportunity to explain it. So I hope to have the privilege to worship God with you this Sunday or hopefully I will be able to post a link to the service here within a couple of days. 

Mark 12:28–34 (ESV)
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Questions for further reflection for individuals, families, or groups:
  • Do you feel that your theology (what you believe about God) is important to your relationship with God? Why or why not?
  • If someone asked you, what does it mean to love God, what would you say?
  • Would you say that it is easy to love people or difficult? Why?
  • How does 1 John 4:20-21 affect your understanding of Mark 12:28-34? 1John 4:20–21 (ESV) 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.