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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1565: Friday 15th December 2017: Mark 14: 66-72: Missed chances

Mark 14: 66-72: Missed chances

“66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said.  68 But he denied it. ‘I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entrance.  69 When the servant-girl saw him there, she said again to those standing round them, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ 70 Again he denied it.  After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’  71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’  72 Immediately the cock crowed the second time.Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.” NIV UK

During this Christmas, you may find yourself in a situation where the ball is at your feet, as it were, and you have an open goal mouth in front of you. Don’t boot the ball over the bar! Don’t miss a ‘sitter.’ I say this as one who regrets missed opportunities in the past.

I can’t look on Peter with a superior and critical attitude. I know how fear can turn you into a person you hardly recognise; the kind of person you never intended to be; never thought you would be. Peter had shown bravery to follow Jesus as far as he did. But now he smelled danger close by if he came clean about being a Christ follower.

We have to read these words in conjunction with some others found in earlier verses (28-31). Pride does go before a fall. Peter had been full of self-confidence. But Jesus’ word always proves true. He knows us better than we know ourselves. It is so easy to utter fine sounding words about our relationship with Jesus; words that just crumble in the face of a test or a crisis.

The story of the walking on the water tells Peter’s life story in picture form: hearing Jesus’ call-following -sinking (nearly drowning) – restoration. Thank God for the restoration bit. It gives hope to us all.

Daily Bible thoughts 1564: Thursday 14th December 2017: Mark 14:55-65: ‘Worthy is the Lamb’

 Mark 14:55-65: ‘Worthy is the Lamb’

“55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.”’ 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ 62 ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ 63 The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. 64 ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.” NIV UK

‘There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.’

It is evident that there was no obvious reason to put Jesus to death (55-59). But the authorities had decided that they wanted Him out of the way. So they scraped around for something to charge Him with. However, it was all to no avail.

But when Jesus answered the question of (61b) in the affirmative (62), they knew they had Him. From His own lips Jesus had shown Himself to be a blasphemer. To say you are the Messiah when you are not the Messiah – well, that is blasphemy in the clearest terms. What more was needed? (63, 64a). They could get on with removing Him from the world.

However, Jesus was the Messiah. He is the Messiah. Therefore the use of the word ‘’worthy’’ in (64b) is ironic. Jesus was ‘’worthy’’ to die in ways they knew not. Only He, the perfect, spotless, Lamb of God is ‘’worthy’’ to take away ‘’the sin of the world’’ (John 1:29). He was certainly not ‘’worthy’’ of the treatment meted out on Him that day (65). Everyone else in that room deserved punishment from Him – for their sins. He did not deserve any punishment from them. He was sinless. But He was ‘’worthy’’ to bear their sins ‘’in his body on the tree’’ (1 Peter 2:24), and that is what He went on to do.

So we join in the song of heaven:

‘’You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you have purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’’ (Revelation 5:9 and 12).

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we want to say ‘thank you’ for what you went through for our sakes.

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1563: Wednesday 13th December 2017: Mark 14: 53, 54: Check your pulse.

Mark 14: 53, 54: Check your pulse.

“53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. ” NIV UK

There are a number of ways to take your spiritual pulse. Today’s short passage throws up a couple of vital pulse-reading question:

  • Are you following Jesus – but at a distance? Maybe, like Peter, you have gone further than other disciples you know. That notion may lull you into a false sense of confidence. You feel superior. You’ve done better (you think). But the real question is, Have you gone as far as you could? Or, are you keeping a safe distance between you and Jesus? You have shown bravery and courage in your following so far. Yet, still, you hang back from all the danger and risk involved in being very close to Jesus. You do count your life dear and you hold on to it.
  • Are you warming yourself at the world’s fire? Bible Study and prayer are not the great delight of your life (if they ever were). At times this stuff bores you, if you’re honest. You don’t find excitement and adventure in a daily walk with God. You can’t say that you burst into the day, eager to meet your Lord afresh and hear what He has to say to you. Instead you find your comfort, diversion, ‘warmth’ at a worldly fireside. That’s where your real interest lies. These are the flames which mesmerise you with their glow.

Check your pulse!

Daily Bible thoughts 1562: Tuesday 12th December 2017: Mark 14:43-52: I was there!

Mark 14:43-52: I was there!

“43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 ‘Am I leading a rebellion,’ said Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.’ 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled. 51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” NIV UK

It is thought that (51, 52) represent John Mark’s coyly reticent way of saying, ‘I was there.’ He was an eye-witness of the betrayal of Jesus in the garden. He saw all that happened; he heard what was said.

We can be suitably impressed by outward appearance. When Judas said, ‘’Rabbi’’ (45), he sounded good; and when he ‘’kissed’’ Jesus he looked good. But God saw His insides. He had the heart of a greedy betrayer.

I have often thought that we in the church can be ‘kissing’ Jesus with our lips, using the fine-sounding vocabulary of praise and worship. At the same moment, however, we may be betraying him with our lives. So we need to learn from Judas, and be warned by him.

Daily Bible thoughts 1561: Monday 11th December 2017: Mark 14:32-42: Dark night of the soul.

Mark 14:32-42: Dark night of the soul.

“32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’  35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’  37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.  41 Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’ ” NIV UK

 

We have previously noted, and sought to learn from, Jesus singing in the shadow of the Cross (22, 23 and 26). We surely also have much to learn from Him praying in the place of pain.  Jesus sets an example in prayer – both in doing it, and inviting others to join him. The Baptist pastor, William Still, gave a piece of advice to any young pastors taking on new charges. He said, when you go to a church, start a prayer meeting to pray for the ministry, and invite people to it. Announce that you and your wife will be there at that time, come what may, and just see what happens! See what God does with that.

Here are some lessons from Jesus:

Pray with faith, believing that ‘’everything is possible’’ for God (36a). Jesus was no coward. We do not believe it was pain or death that He shrank back from. It was the overwhelming reality of drinking the ‘’cup’’ of God’s wrath; of bearing the weight of His anger against sin.

Pray with submission to God’s will (36b). Yes, God can do anything. We must believe this. He regularly gives what we ask for in prayer. But not always. So we must want His will more than anything else.

Pray with others. Encourage others to pray. Sadly, the church is still regularly sleepy about prayer. May God forgive us. Many years later Peter, in his first letter, warned Christians that Satan was like a ‘’roaring lion’’ looking for someone to devour; therefore they must remain ‘’self-controlled and alert’’ (1 Peter 5:8). In the garden of Gethsemane Peter dozed off and soon after fell prey to Satan. ‘How often we are spiritually asleep, even though our bodies are awake! How many times each day do we pray? How often do we think of Jesus? In order to overcome Satan, we must watch and pray…Even Peter, James, and John -fishermen who had passed many sleepless nights on the Sea of Galilee – could not stay awake with Jesus.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.276.

PRAYER: Lord, we are weak, you are strong. Help us to stay alert; to be wide awake in your service.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1560: Friday 8th December 2017: Mark 14:27-31: Foot in mouth.

Mark 14:27-31: Foot in mouth.

“27 ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep will be scattered.”

28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’                                                     29 Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’                                                                        30 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’   31 But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.” NIV UK

Note four things here:

  1. The death of Jesus was prophesied: ‘’for it is written’’ (27a). It was not a simple tragedy. It was not an accident. It was planned in heaven before time began; before earth was made;
  2. The death of Jesus was the work of God the Father: ‘’I will strike the shepherd’’ (27b) See Zechariah 13:7. (The scattering of the ‘’sheep’’ is referred to in John 16:32);
  3. The death of Jesus led to a glorious resurrection and a whole new life (28). In every time of trial a Christian can assert, ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’ The Via Dolorosa – the Calvary Road – leads to Easter Sunday morning;
  4. The death of Jesus cleanses all our faults as we trust in Him. Like the disciples, we are frail. We fall and fail in many ways. Tom Hale says that Peter had a big mouth but little faith. It is so easy to make great claims; to utter fine sounding words in the emotion of a moment. Some people open their mouths only to change feet. They suffer from ‘foot in mouth’ disease. Peter did at times. I’m grateful that the story of his fall is found in a section about the death and resurrection of Jesus. For here is our hope: in a loving, merciful, forgiving Saviour.

PRAYER: Lord, how much I need your on-going cleansing. Please wash me in your blood today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1559: Thursday 7th December 2017: Mark 14:17-26: Singing in the dark.

Mark 14:17-26: Singing in the dark.

“17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’ 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’  20 ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me.21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’  22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’  23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 ‘This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. 25 ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’  26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” NIV UK

There is an interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility to note in (21):  ‘’The son of Man will go just as it was written about him’’ – Divine Sovereignty.      ‘’But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!’’ – Human responsibility.

That was something which hit me as I read this passage. But there was something else that caught me attention. It’s the two references to thanksgiving (22, 23), and the one reference to hymn-singing. This all took place under the shadow of the cross. It was singing in the dark; ‘singing in the pain’.

When Jesus ‘’gave thanks’’ for the bread and broke it, He knew full well what it represented: His own body to be crushed in crucifixion. When He ‘’gave thanks’’ for the cup, He knew what it was all about. He was going to die a terribly bloody death. But He gave thanks. It was the way to establish the New Covenant.

You will never face a day so dark as Jesus did. Yet on our dark days, it is good that we should learn to rejoice in the Lord.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for your example. Thank you for your life in me, helping me to walk as you walked. Otherwise I could never sing in the dark.

Daily Bible thoughts 1558: Wednesday 6th December 2017: Mark 14:12-16: The word of integrity.

Mark 14:12-16: The word of integrity.

“12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ 13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ 16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” NIV UK

Jesus came into the world, not primarily to celebrate the Passover, but to be the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Nevertheless, before He went to the cross to fulfil all the Passover had stood for through the centuries, He made arrangements to eat it with His disciples. Celebrating Passover was something all good Jews would do.

It seems clear that Jesus had made preparations for this final meal with His followers in advance (14, 15). By the way, it would be most unusual in that culture to see ‘’a man carrying a jar of water’’ (13). It was definitely regarded as a woman’s work. So this was a clear, and unusual sign. As we follow Christ, we regularly find that He has prepared in advance, and made arrangements we knew nothing about. (I think I once heard that ‘providence’ means to ‘see before’, or to ‘see to it before’). Of course, as we move forward into the future He is preparing for us, we can ask Him for guidance (12b) and expect to receive it. This is a little picture of what it means to work together with God. He has the big picture. He works before we know about it; even before we get there. But He graciously gives us parts to play in the great unfolding drama of salvation.

Like the first disciples, we will always find Jesus to be as good as His word (16). He speaks words of integrity. They are totally reliable because He is.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in a shaky world where so much seems uncertain and unstable, thank you that I can count on your word because I can count on you

Daily Bible thoughts 1557: Tuesday 5th December 2017: Mark 14: 10, 11: Covert activity.

Mark 14: 10-11: Covert activity.

“10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. ” NIV UK

As we come to the end of our brief sojourn in this passage, two quotes from Warren Wiersbe seem pertinent:

‘The importance of what you do isn’t measured by media interviews or press releases. As far as we know, only fifteen people in Bethany saw Mary’s act of worship when she anointed the feet of Jesus – and twelve of them criticised her for it! – but Jesus said that the message of what Mary did would travel around the world!’                                           ‘How do you ‘’conveniently’’ betray the Son of God? Is it not a costly endeavour in every way?’

I remember a pastor pointing out that Judas helped Jesus fulfil His mission more than any other earthly follower. He wasn’t advocating treachery. No one in their right mind would want to go through that. But he was emphasising that in the worst of times for a leader, God will be mightily at work. Even if we have to go through a crucifixion type of experience, it is the pathway to Easter Day.

 

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