Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First and Second Samuel

“Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:5 (NLT)

The Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel tell about the beginning of the monarchy (kingship) in Israel. The authors of First and Second Samuel are unknown. However, 1 Samuel 10:25 reveals the prophet Samuel wrote portions of First Samuel and 1 Chronicles 29:29 indicates that the prophets Nathan and Gad also wrote about the events recorded in First and Second Samuel. First and Second Samuel are named after the prophet Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible, First Samuel and Second Samuel form a single book.

First and Second Samuel describe events of about 115 years and play a pivotal role in the Holy Bible for both historical and theological reasons. Historically, First and Second Samuel document the transition as the ancient Israelites moved from being a collection of 12 tribes with no national government to being a unified nation with a centralized government under the control of a king. First Samuel focuses on three main characters: Samuel, Saul, and David and Second Samuel centers exclusively on King David. Samuel was the last of the judges (1 Samuel 7:15-17; Acts 13:20) and the first of a new line of prophets after Moses (1 Samuel 3:19-20). Saul was Israel’s first king and God filled Saul with His Spirit (1 Samuel 9:15-17; 1 Samuel 10:1, 9-11), but Saul was later rejected by God due his disobedience and sins before God (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:10, 22-23; 1 Samuel 16:1). Saul’s successor was David, God’s choice for king (1 Samuel 16:12-14; see also Acts 13:21-22). After Saul’s rebellion and disobedience, God’s Spirit transferred from Saul to David (1 Samuel 16:14). Moreover, these two Old Testament books record the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25).

Leading up to the time of First and Second Samuel, God ruled His people through judges. Ideally, these judges spoke messages given to them by God, thereby making Israel a theocracy – ruled by God. However, most of the judges failed faithfully to speak and obey God’s Word. Eventually, Israel asked for a king, in part because the pagan nations around them all had kings and they wanted to be just like those nations (1 Samuel 8:4-5). Samuel, who served faithfully as a judge, felt rejected by the people, but God explained that Israel did not reject his leadership. Rather, the ancient Israelites rejected God as the true King (1 Samuel 8:7-9). Despite Israel’s rejection, God continued to work in His peoples’ lives. God is always in control!

Several Old Testament books predicted the rise of a kingship in Israel (e.g., see Genesis 17:16; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 36:31; Numbers 24:7, 17; Deuteronomy 17:14-20), particularly from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). First and Second Samuel lay the foundation for Jesus the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and everlasting King (Matthew 2:2). God promised David that He would establish the Kingdom of one of David's descendants (2 Samuel 7:12-13). The New Testament identified Jesus as the Son of God (2 Samuel 7:14; Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35) and the promised descendant of David (see Matthew 1:20; Matthew 21:9) who brought the Kingdom of God to humanity (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; Hebrews 1:8).

Further, First and Second Samuel provide examples that obedience to God brings blessings, while disobedience brings divine judgment. Sadly, divine disaster came to Eli and Saul because of their sins, but blessings came to Samuel and David as they faithfully followed God. Even more, the life of David further demonstrates the sobering truth that God judges sin and disobedience. David committed the acts of murder and adultery with Uriah and Bathsheba that lead to great consequences. While God is patient and merciful and answers the prayers of His people, He is also holy and just and punishes sin.

Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jesus the Messiah, Son of God, and King of the Jews

60 Then the high priest stood up before the others (Jewish scribes, religious elders, Sadducees, and Pharisees) and asked Jesus, “Well, are You not going to answer these charges? What do You have to say for Yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard His blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” 65 Then some of them began to spit at Him, and they blindfolded Him and beat Him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped Him as they took Him away. . . . 1 Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led Him away, and took Him to Pilate, the Roman governor. 2 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” 3 Then the leading priests kept accusing Him of many crimes, 4 and Pilate asked Him, “Are You not going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” 5 But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. Mark 14:60-65, Mark 15:1-5 (NLT)

After Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot came to the Garden with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus, and Judas identified Jesus with a kiss (Mark 14:42-43; see also Matthew 26:47-49; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-3). Jesus’ arrest occurred Thursday night. After His arrest, Jesus went through two trials – Jewish trial and Roman trial. Jesus’ Jewish trial occurred before the Sanhedrin and then Jesus’ Roman trial occurred before Pontius Pilate. During His trials, the Jewish and Roman authorities asked Jesus two important questions: “Are You the Messiah (Christ), Son of God?” and “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus affirmatively answered “Yes” and openly declared His divine identity as the Messiah (Christ), Son of the living God, and King of the Jews (Mark 14:61-62; Mark 15:2; see also Matthew 2:2; Matthew 26:63-64; Matthew 27:11; Mark 15: 12, 39; Luke 22:67-70; Luke 23:2-3; John 4:25-26; John 18:33-39).

In the Jewish trial, Jesus was first taken before the Jewish high council – the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin consisted of Jewish scribes, religious elders, Sadducees, and Pharisees. Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was a mockery and dishonest. The testimony of the witnesses against Jesus was unreliable. In order to convict Jesus, the Jewish establishment tried to get Jesus to convict Himself by openly declaring that He was the Christ (Messiah). Jesus affirmed to the Sanhedrin that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62). The Sanhedrin considered Jesus’ self-declaration as the Messiah and the Son of God blasphemy under Jewish law, and He was condemned to death (Mark 14:64). However, the Sanhedrin had limited power from the Roman government. Thus to condemn Jesus to death, the Sanhedrin had to take Jesus before the Roman authorities to carry out the death sentence. Even more, the Jewish religious establishment was afraid of the people because Jesus was very popular amongst the common people (e.g. see Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 14:1; Mark 3:7-8; Luke 4:14; Luke 6:17-19). Thus, the Jewish religious establishment needed to blame Jesus’ death on the Rome.

At Mark 15, the Jewish religious establishment took Jesus before Pontus Pilate of Roman and requested Jesus’ death sentence. However, Pontus Pilate knew Jesus had done nothing, and His execution was unjust, not guilty, and no harm to Rome. However, the Sanhedrin threatened to expose Pontus Pilate to Caesar. In the end, Pontus Pilate yielded to the Sanhedrin’s request and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion (Mark 15:12-15; see also Matthew 27:19-25; Luke 23:4, 13-25; John 18:38; John 19:4-16).

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” 35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought He was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to Him on a reed stick so He could drink. “Wait!” He said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take Him down!” 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing Him saw how He had died, He exclaimed, “This Man truly was the Son of God!” Mark 15:33-39 (NLT)

Following Jesus’ death and the events surrounding His death, a Roman officer recognized Jesus’ divine nature at the foot of Calvary’s Cross and said, “This Man truly was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39; see also Mark 1:1, Mark 11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; Matthew 17:5; Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:47). This Roman officer had witnessed many crucifixions, and he knew Jesus’ death was different from the others. First, there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51, 54). Then at noon on Friday, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock (Mark 15:33; see also Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). Finally, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38; see also Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45). The veil had separated humanity from the living God, but now, through Jesus’ death, Jesus opened for the whole world a “new and living way” to God (Hebrews 10:12-22; also see John 14:6).

The religious establishment may have congratulated themselves on killing Jesus – except for what happened on Easter Sunday – THE RESURRECTION! Jesus’ death and resurrection affirmed that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of the living God (Romans 1:4; see also Acts 14-40; Acts 4:33).

The New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Jesus’ Final Days

22 As they (Jesus and His disciples) were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is My body.” 23 And He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them (His disciples), and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood, which confirms the (new) covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” 26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:22-26 (NLT)

The Last Supper occurred on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Thursday of Passion Week) when the Passover lamb was sacrificed (Mark 14:12; see also Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7). For the Jews, the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread celebrated their exodus and redemption from Egyptian slavery by God’s mighty hand (see Exodus 12). During the celebration, the Jewish people sacrificed an unblemished and spotless young lamb (see Exodus 12:3-6, 21; Deuteronomy 16:1-4). Unbeknownst to the people, Jesus was the final Passover Lamb sent by God to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36; see also John 3:16-17; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 2:2). God would sacrifice His Son Jesus on Calvary’s Cross and make Jesus the perfect, unblemished, and spotless Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7).Through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death, God brings a greater “exodus” by purchasing our redemption from sin and evil (see Luke 9:31; Romans 3:25).

On the first day of the festival, Jesus’ disciples asked Him where He wanted to go to eat the traditional Passover supper (Mark 14:12; see also Matthew 26:17). However, Jesus had already planned an upper room for Him and His disciples to celebrate the Passover supper (Mark 14:13-16; see also Matthew 26:18-19; Luke 22:10-13). Jesus sent two of His disciples into Jerusalem to prepare the Passover supper (Mark 14:16). Luke’s Gospel names these two disciples as Peter and John (Luke 22:8).

In the evening, Jesus arrived with the other disciples into the upper room (Mark 14:17). Jesus and His Twelve disciples sat (or reclined) around the table eating (Mark 14:18; see also Matthew 26:20; Luke 22:14). Luke’s Gospel adds that Jesus said during the supper, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16, NIV; see also Revelation 19:9).

During the supper, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that one of you will betray Me, one of you who is here eating with Me” (Mark 14:18, TLB; see also Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:21; Luke 22:21; John 13:18, 21). A great sadness swept over Jesus’ disciples and one-by-one each disciple asked Jesus, “Am I the one?” (Mark 14:19, TLB; see also Matthew 26:22; Luke 22:23; John 13:22). Then, Jesus replied, “It is one of you Twelve eating with Me now” and acknowledged Judas as His killer (Mark 14:20; see also Matthew 26:23, 25; John 13:26-30). Then, Jesus said, “I must die, as the prophets declared long ago; but, oh, the misery ahead for the man by whom I am betrayed. Oh, that he had never been born!” (Mark 14:21, TLB; see also Matthew 26:24; Luke 22:22). John’s Gospel tells us that Judas Iscariot left the room after Jesus identified Him as the betrayer (John 13:26-30).

As Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover supper, Jesus took the bread and asked God’s blessings over the bread (Mark 14:22; see also Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). Then, Jesus broke the bread into pieces and gave the bread to His disciples and said, “Eat it — this is My body” (Mark 14:22; see also Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). Luke’s Gospel adds that Jesus said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me” (Luke 22:19, NLT). Then, Jesus took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for the wine and gave the wine to His disciples; and the disciples drank from the wine (Mark 14:23; see also Matthew 26:27; Luke 22:17). Then, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My blood, poured out for many, sealing the new agreement (covenant) between God and man” (Mark 14:24, TLB). Matthew’s Gospel adds that the wine became Jesus’ blood “poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many” (Matthew 26:28, NLT). Next, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that I shall never again taste wine until the day I drink a different kind in the Kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25, TLB; see also Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18). Luke’s Gospel adds that after supper, Jesus took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant (agreement) between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20, NLT). The New Testament, or new covenant, is God's new arrangement with humanity based on the death of Jesus.

Then, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives into a garden called Gethsemane (Mark 14:26; see also Matthew 26:30; Luke 22:39). The hymn song would have been a portion of Psalms 115-118, traditionally sung during the Passover supper.

Biblical scholars call Jesus’ last supper with His disciples the Last Supper, Lord's Supper, Communion, or Eucharist (thanksgiving). Many believers of Jesus continue to celebrate Jesus’ last supper with His disciples as Jesus instructed just before His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross (Luke 22:19; see also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). During His last supper, Jesus took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and the drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning as representations of His body and blood (see also 1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The supper became to symbolize a new covenant that God made with His people (Mark 14:24; see also Luke 22:20). This new covenant comes out of the old covenant celebrated by Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness (see Exodus 24). Jesus’ sacrificial death brings redemption and salvation to all people who believe and accept (Romans 3:25-26). Jesus’ sacrificial blood confirmed the new covenant between God and His people and His blood was poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many (Matthew 26:28; see also Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:5).

Luke’s Gospel adds that after the supper, Jesus’ disciples began to argue among themselves about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). Jesus told His disciples, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (Luke 22:25-26, NLT). Then, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves” (Luke 22:27, NLT; see also Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 13:13-16; Philippians 2:7). Jesus goes on to say to His disciples, “And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the Twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30, NLT).

As Jesus and His disciples were heading to the Mount of Olives, Jesus said to His disciples, “All of you will desert Me” (Mark 14:27, TLB; see also Matthew 26:31). Then, Jesus quoted from Zechariah 13:7 and said “for God has declared through the prophets, ‘I will kill the Shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.’ But after I am raised to life again, I will go to Galilee and meet you there” (Mark 14:27-28, TLB; see also Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 16:7). Then Peter vigorously said to Jesus, “I will never desert You no matter what the others do!” (Mark 14:29, TLB; see also Matthew 26:33). However, Jesus already knew that Peter and the others would desert and deny Him. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to Me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, NLT). Then, Jesus said, “Peter, before the cock crows a second time tomorrow morning you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30, TLB; see also Matthew 26:34; Luke 22:34; John 13:38). However, Peter exploded and declared to Jesus, “No!” and declared, “Not even if I have to die with You! I will never deny You!” (Mark 14:31; see also Matthew 26:35; Luke 22:33; John 13:37). Along with Peter, all the other disciples declared their allegiance to Jesus (Mark 14:31; see also Matthew 26:35).  

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asked His disciples, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or extra clothing, did you need anything?” and the disciples all replied, “No” (Luke 22:34-35, NLT). Luke’s Gospel records Jesus reversing His earlier advice regarding how to travel (Luke 9:3; Luke 10:4). Now, Jesus instructed His disciples to now take your money, a traveler’s bag, and a sword on their journeys to preach the Good News (Luke 22:36-38). After Jesus returned to glory, Jesus predicted His disciples would face hatred and persecution and they needed to be prepared (Luke 22:35-38).

John’s Gospel adds that during the Passover supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, including Judas Iscariot’s feet, and provided a lesson on humility (see John 13:1-20). Moreover, John’s Gospel provided additional teaching, often called the “Upper Room Discourse” (see John chapters 13 through 16) and the Jesus’ prayer for His disciples (John 17). John 17 provides Jesus’ longest recorded prayer. Later that evening, Jesus’s disciples would argue over which of them was the greatest, so His lesson on humility and service towards others did not penetrate their hearts (see Luke 22:24-27).

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting Him might pass Him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” He cried out, “everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)

After the Passover supper and disciples’ declaration, Jesus and His disciples came to an olive grove called the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32; see also Matthew 26:36; Luke 22:39; John 18:1). Gethsemane was a garden on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Then, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray” (Mark 14:32, NLT; see also Matthew 26:36). Luke’s Gospel states that Jesus told all His disciples, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation” (Luke 22:40, NLT). In Mark and Matthew’s Gospels, Jesus took Peter, James, and John alone with Him to pray (Mark 14:33; see also Matthew 26:37). This was the third time Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John with Him. Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1) and in the home of Jairus where He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead (see Luke 8:49). Now, Peter, James, and John went with Jesus to watch and pray while in the Garden.

While praying, Jesus became deeply troubled and distressed (Mark 14:33; see also Matthew 26:37). Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death; stay here and watch with Me” (Mark 14:34, TLB; see also Matthew 26:38). Then, Jesus went on a little further, fell to the ground, and prayed to God the Father that if it were possible the awful hour awaiting Him might never come (Mark 14:35). Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father . . . everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36, NIV; see also Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him, and He struggled with His coming death (Hebrews 5:7-9). However, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to God’s will to bring salvation to all people (Luke 2:10-11).

Then, Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John and found them asleep (Mark 14:37; see also Matthew 26:40). Jesus specifically called out to Simon Peter and said, “Asleep? Could you not you watch with Me even one hour?” (Mark 14:37, TLB; see also Matthew 26:40). Jesus said to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38, NIV; see also Matthew 26:41). “Watch and pray” is a warning that is often repeated in the Holy Scriptures because evil temptations prowl to devour you (e.g., see Nehemiah 4:9; Mark 13:33; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 5:8). The way to overcome evil temptation is to keep watch and pray! Continual prayer is essential because God’s strength can shore up our spiritual defenses and defeat evil attacks and temptation (see Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Next, Jesus went away again and prayed for a second time, repeating His pleadings to God the Father (Mark 14:39; see also Matthew 26:42). Once again Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John and found them sleeping, for they were very tired and they did not know what to say to Jesus (Mark 14:40). Then the third time when Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John, Jesus said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes My betrayer!” (Mark 14:41-42, NIV). At that point, Judas Iscariot, along with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, came and arrested Jesus (Mark 14:42-43; see also Matthew 26:47-49; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2).

Only Luke’s Gospel tells us that an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Jesus while He prayed in the Garden (Luke 22:43). Moreover, Luke’s Gospel indicated that as Jesus prayed more passionately, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Finally, Luke’s Gospel states that after praying and just before His arrest Jesus returned to all the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief (Luke 22:45). Jesus instructed His disciples, “Get up and pray, so that you will not give into temptation” (Luke 22:46, NLT).

7 While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. 9 In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him. Hebrews 5:7-9 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Faith and Betrayal

3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over His head. 4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. 5 “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. 6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good (and beautiful) thing to Me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed My body for burial ahead of time. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News (Gospel) is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” Mark 14:3-9 (NLT)

Mark 14:1 through Mark 16:20, with parallel references at Matthew 26:1 through Matthew 28:20, Luke 22:1 through Luke 24:53 and John 13:1 through John 21:25 discuss in detail Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion, commonly known as the “Passion.” In particular, these final chapters details Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection as the perfect Man and Son of God to bring salvation to all humanity (see also Acts 5:30-32; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 13:38-39; Acts 26:18). Through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, we can peace with God, salvation, peace, and forgiveness of sins (e.g., see Luke 24:45-47; Romans 3:21-25; Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

This section opens with Jerusalem preparing for the annual Passover celebration and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mark 14:1; see also Luke 22:1). Thousands of Jews were in Jerusalem to celebrate their deliverance and exodus from Egyptian slavery by God’s mighty hand (see Exodus 12). Then, the Passover celebration was followed by a seven-day festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates when the ancient Israelites quickly escaped from Egypt when they did not have time to let their bread rise, so they baked it without yeast. During the Passover and the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Jerusalem population increased from approximately fifty thousand to several hundred thousand.

While the people were preparing for the celebration and festival, the chief priests, religious elders, and the teachers of the law (scribes) were meeting and scheming to find some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill Him (Mark 14:1; see also Matthew 26:3-4; Luke 22:2). However, the chief priests and the religious leaders feared the people during the Passover celebration and wanted to kill Jesus secretly to prevent the people from rioting (Mark 14:1-2; see also Matthew 26:5). During the celebration, many people were flocking to see Jesus and believing in Him (John 12:9, 11). However, Jesus knew His death and crucifixion was coming soon (see Matthew 26:2). Amazingly, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred during a Jewish national holiday when Jerusalem was filled with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

While the religious leaders were plotting and scheming in Jerusalem, Jesus was in Bethany a few miles from Jerusalem at the home of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3; see also Matthew 26:6; John 12:1). Bethany was also the home of Jesus’ friends, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and they were present at Simon’s dinner (John 11:1; John 12:1). During the dinner, a woman came in with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard and sacrificially poured the costly perfume over Jesus’ head (Mark 14:3; see also Matthew 26:7). John’s Gospel identifies the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:2; John 12:3). According to John’s Gospel, Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair (John 11:2; John 12:3). The dinner party was filled with the fragrance (John 12:3). Mary’s devotion to Jesus was costly and a model of faith.

However, some of those at the dinner party were outraged and said the woman’s action was wasteful (Mark 14:4; see also Matthew 26:8). Those that were outraged argued that the woman could have sold that expensive perfume for a fortune and given the money to the poor (Mark 14:5; also see Matthew 26:9). Matthew’s Gospel identifies the indignant as Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 26:8). However, John’s Gospel specifically noted Judas Iscariot’s resentment against Mary (John 12:4-5). Judas Iscariot argued that the perfume was worth a year’s wages and said that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor (John 12:4-5). However, Judas, the disciple who would soon betray Jesus, did not really care for the poor (John 12:4, 6). John’s Gospel noted that Judas was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole money for himself (John 12:6).

However, Jesus said to leave the woman alone and not scold her for doing a good and beautiful thing (Mark 14:6; see also Matthew 26:10; John 12:7). Then Jesus proclaimed to the listening crowd, “You always have the poor among you, and they badly need your help, and you can aid them whenever you want to; but I will not be here much longer” (Mark 14:7, TLB; see also Matthew 26:11; John 12:8). Jesus goes on to say, “She has done what she could and has anointed My body ahead of time for burial. And I tell you this in solemn truth, that wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and praised” (Mark 14:8-9, TLB; see also Matthew 26:12; John 12:7). In these verses, Jesus was not saying that we should neglect the poor and needy (see Deuteronomy 15:11; Matthew 6:2-4; Luke 4:18; Luke 6:20-21; Luke 14:13-14, 21; Luke 18:22; John 13:29). Instead, Jesus was praising Mary’s unselfish act of worship, love, and devotion to Him as her Lord and Savior (Mark 14:6-7).

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve disciples (apostles), went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Mark 14:10-11 (NLT)

In contrast to the woman’s love and devotion to Jesus, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, was greedy, thieving, selfish, hypocritical, and pure evil (see Luke 22:3; John 12:6; John 13:2, 27). Judas secretly went to the chief priests and religious leaders and arranged to betray Jesus to them in exchange for money (Mark 14:10; see also Matthew 26:14; Luke 22:3-4). When the chief priests and religious leaders heard why Judas had come, they were excited and happy and reward him with money (Mark 14:11; see also Matthew 26:15; Luke 22:5). Matthew’s Gospel noted that the religious leaders gave Judas thirty silver coins (Matthew 26:15). Thereafter, Judas began looking for the right time and place to betray Jesus when the crowds were not around (Mark 14:11; see also Matthew 26:16; Luke 22:6). Judas Iscariot’s betrayal warns God’s people that closeness to Jesus does not guarantee true faithfulness to Him (Mark 3:19; Mark 14:10-11, 43-46).

Matthew and Mark’s Gospel placed Jesus’ anointing for burial just before Jesus’ Last Supper (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9), while John’s Gospel placed Jesus’ anointing a week earlier, just before His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12:1-11). By placing Jesus’ anointing between the evil plots of the Jewish leaders and Judas Iscariot, Matthew and Mark’s Gospels contrast Mary’s love and loyalty for Jesus verses the Jewish leaders and Judas Iscariot’s unfaithfulness to the Savior of the world. The ugliness of the Jewish leaders and Judas’ sins makes the compassion and tenderness of Mary’s sacrifice even more meaningful. Mary gave her best to Jesus in faith and love while Judas gave his worst in unbelief and greed (Matthew 26:15).

Mary’s anointing and worship of Jesus must not be confused with a similar event recorded in Luke 7:36-50. The unnamed woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee was a converted harlot who expressed her love to Jesus because of His gracious forgiveness of her many sins. In the house of Simon the (healed) leper, Mary expressed her love, worship, and loyalty to Jesus because He was going to the Cross (see Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11).

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When Will Jesus Return?

5 Jesus replied, “Do not let anyone mislead you, 6 for many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 7 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but do not panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end will not follow immediately. 8 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Mark 13:5-8 (NLT)

Mark 13:1-37 with parallel references at Matthew 24:1-25:46 and Luke 21:5-36 are difficult and complex chapters in the Synoptic Gospels. Biblical scholars commonly call these chapters the “Synoptic Apocalypse” or the “Olivet Discourse.” In these chapters, Jesus provides His longest statements about the future, including the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, warnings against deceivers and false signs of the end, His second coming to earth, the end of the age, and encouragement to be watchful. Most notably, Jesus teaches that no one can predict the precise time of His coming!

As Jesus was leaving the Jerusalem Temple with His disciples during Passover week, one of Jesus’ disciples commented on the beauty, majesty, and splendor of the Temple (Mark 13:1; see also Matthew 24:1; Luke 21:5). However, Jesus warned His disciples that the Temple would be destroyed (Mark 13:2; see also Matthew 24:2; Luke 21:6). Jesus’ prediction of the Temple’s destruction was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple.

Then as Jesus sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to Jesus and asked Jesus about His predictions of the Temple’s destruction (Mark 13:3-4; see also Matthew 24:3; Luke 21:7). Jesus’ disciples thought the destruction of the Temple would be the events that ushered in the end of times. Jesus launched into an extended teaching about the future and the importance of being watchful of deception (Mark 13:5; see also Matthew 24:4; Luke 21:8). In His teaching, Jesus warned His disciples about false prophets and false teachers and their deceptions (Mark 13:5; see also Matthew 24:4-5, 14; Luke 21:8). Jesus warned that many deceivers will claim to be the Messiah (Christ) and will lead many astray after He returned to heaven (Mark 13:6; see also Matthew 24:5; Luke 21:8). Then, Jesus warned that wars will break out near and far, nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, there will be earthquakes and famines, His followers will be persecuted and mistreated, families will feud, there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Mark 13:7-9, 12; see also Matthew 24:6-7, 9-10; Luke 21:9-12, 16-17, 25). Jesus taught that these events are only the first of the birth pains, with more pains to come (Mark 13:8; see also Matthew 24:8; Luke 21:9).

During these turbulent times, Jesus encouraged His disciples to live courageously and proclaim His Good News (Gospel) faithfully to every nation (Mark 13:10; see also Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 21:13). The Good News about Jesus must first be made known to every nation before the end-time finally comes (Matthew 24:14). Then, Jesus encouraged His disciples to stay faithful to Him during the coming turbulent times because everyone who remains faithful and loyal to Him will be saved and gain life (Mark 13:13; see also Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:10, 13; Luke 21:18-19; Hebrews 10:36-39). Although persecution and destruction may come, God the Father is fully in control and the outcome will be a victory for those who persevere and remain faithful to Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15:57; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).

Jesus:  21 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time! Mark 13:21-23 (NLT)

For a second time, Jesus warned His disciples that during the coming turbulent times, many false prophets and false teachers will say the Messiah has arrived (Mark 13:21; see also Matthew 24:11, 23). Jesus taught His disciples not to pay attention if any one says, “This is the Messiah,” or “That one is the Messiah” (Mark 13:21; see also Matthew 24:26). Just before His second coming, Jesus warned that these false messiahs, prophets, and teachers will increase, and many deceivers will perform wonderful miracles and wonders to deceive and trick God’s people (Mark 13:22; see also Matthew 24:24). Jesus warned God’s people to be on guard, trust the living God, and faithfully obey His Word because God and His Word will never fail (Mark 13:23, 31; see also Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33).

Jesus: 26 “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And He will send out His angels to gather His chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. . . . 32 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you do not know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! Mark 13:26-27, 32-33 (NLT)

As the true Messiah, Jesus taught His disciples that all the earth will see Him coming in the clouds with great power, glory, and redemption (Mark 13:26; see also Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:27, 30; Luke 21:27-28; Revelation 1:7). In other words, Jesus’ second coming will be visible to all people (Luke 17:24)! Jesus said that after His second coming, He will send out the angels to gather God’s people together from all over the world—from the farthest bounds of earth and heaven (Mark 13:27; see also Matthew 24:31). Finally, Jesus taught His disciples that no one, not even the angels in heaven, nor Himself knows the day or hour when He will return to earth again because only God the Father knows this exact time (Mark 13:32-33; see also Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:6-7). Jesus warned His disciples not to set dates about this coming turbulent time and His second arrival because no one knows when He will return a second time (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Jesus’ second coming and the end are fully in God’s hands! Since no one knows, Jesus warned that God’s people must stay faithful, alert, prayerful, wise, righteous, good, and watchful because the righteous ones will received their eternal reward from God (Mark 13:33, 35-37; see also Matthew 24:42-43, 46; Matthew 25:46; Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:6). Moreover, Jesus warned not to let our hearts be dulled by carousing, drunkenness, wickedness, sin, and by the worries of this life (Matthew 24:49; Luke 21:34; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11). Jesus said His second coming will be sudden, unannounced, and without warning (Mark 13:35; see also Matthew 24:44, 50; Matthew 25:13; Luke 21:35). Keep alert at all times, remain totally committed to Jesus, and be ready (Mark 13:37; see also Matthew 25:10, 29; Luke 21:36; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 5:6)!

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015).