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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1556: Monday 4th December 2017: Mark 14:6-9: ‘She did what she could.’

Mark 14:6-9: ‘She did what she could.’

“6 ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[a] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ ” NIV UK

The Lord doesn’t look at what we can’t do but what we can.  I heard this morning about a church in Los Angeles, where they recently held a baptismal service. I think around 9 people were scheduled to be baptised. But after the gospel was preached, more than a hundred were spontaneously baptised, because they indicated they wanted to place their faith in Jesus that very day. I confess that alongside the sense of gladness for such kingdom advance, I was also tempted to feel inferior. I have pastored a village church for 27 years, and we don’t get that number to a single service!

But the question I need to face is, ‘Am I doing what I can?’ That’s the issue. I may not have the gifts, or the context that would make such results more likely. God is in charge, after all, of who gets what in terms of spiritual gifts. But am I using to the full whatever has been entrusted to me?

Mary ‘’did what she could.’’ She may not have fully understood the significance of what she was doing (8), but Jesus did. What He prophesied about her has come true (9). This is why she is in our thoughts today.

PRAYER: Lord, when I hear about other Christians having big success in your work, I don’t always feel about it as I should. Please forgive me for wrong attitudes. Help me please to faithfully go about the business you have given me, doing what I can.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1555: Friday 1st December 2017: Mark 14:5 – 9: Blessing the poor

Mark 14:5 – 9: Blessing the poor

It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

It is right that the church should get on with the ministry of serving the poor. Our Lord, who was rich beyond compare, deliberately impoverished Himself in order to enrich us (2 Corinthians 8:9). Probably the disciples in the room that day did care about the poor. But Judas didn’t. He just pretended to. For him, it was a rod with which to beat Mary (see John 12:6). Jesus wasn’t having any of that, and He told all of them that they would always have opportunities to help the poor. Sadly, poverty will be an issue until the end of time. Jesus didn’t decry the importance of such giving. But whereas we should love our neighbour as ourselves, the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got. Mary showed such a heart, and Jesus esteemed her worship as ‘’beautiful’’.

Daily Bible thoughts 1554: Thursday 30th November 2017: Mark 14:4-9: Fire extinguishers!

Mark 14:4-9: Fire extinguishers!

“4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ ” NIV UK

You know the definition of a fanatic? Someone who loves Jesus more than I do!

I remember a girl joining a church. She was quite young; just a student at the time. But her love for the Lord was so evident, and her expression of praise so extravagant, that at times you almost couldn’t take your eyes off her. In worship services she was a kind of contemporary equivalent of Mary anointing Jesus, weeping, and wiping His feet with her hair. She was different to most people in church. I think, sadly, she attracted some criticism.

Some people are fire lighters while others are fire extinguishers. Mary had her critics. But Jesus saw her heart. He had a different viewpoint (6) to those who were spraying foam all over her worship (4,5). They criticised; He commended. He gladly received what she sincerely offered.

‘When we pour out our gifts, skills, and possessions for Jesus, people will also say that we are wasting our lives. What we do for Jesus the world considers wasted. But, in fact, nothing is ever wasted on Jesus. Let us also learn from this story never to criticise the expressions and works of love done by others.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.272.

Daily Bible thoughts 1553: Wednesday 29th November 2017: Mark 14:3: Reclining at the table.

Mark 14:3: Reclining at the table.

“3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” NIV UK

This is a wonderful picture, Jesus ‘’reclining at the table’’. It speaks of a number of things. Here are three:

  • Intimacy: In the East, in those times, the meal table was a place of close friendship. It expressed, and strengthened, bonds between people. Those at the meal would lie on couches around the table, and would be in fairly close contact with one another. Jesus wants to be known;
  • Availability: Jesus put Himself in a position where He was contactable by ordinary people. He was not protected by bodyguards; not shielded in the ways celebrities are. Mary could get to Him to express her love in the way she did. Jesus is accessible;
  • Vulnerability: Although Jesus ‘’did not come to be served, but to serve’’ (10:45), He was nevertheless willing to receive the service of others. He did not deny those who wanted to give to Him, the privilege of doing so. ‘’It is more blessed to give than to receive’’ (Acts 20:35). Jesus Himself said this. But it often feels like it takes more grace to receive than it does to give. However, let us learn from the Lord. Jesus is willing to be served.

Daily Bible thoughts 1552: Tuesday 28th November 2017: Mark 14:3: Brokenness.

Mark 14:3: Brokenness.

“3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

As long as the perfume was kept in the jar, it was of benefit to no-one else. But once it was broken and poured out ‘’…the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume’’ (John 12:3).  We are like ‘’jars of clay’’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). In fact, that is what we are. It is only when we are broken and poured out that the world can benefit from the contents God has put within us. It is His intention that people should be able to ‘smell’ Jesus on us (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). The fragrance gets released when the life is poured out.

God has given each Christian spiritual gifts and natural talents. He has given us possessions. He has given us a life. ‘If we keep these for ourselves, they do not benefit anyone. In the end, they do not even benefit us, because we cannot take them with us when we die. Only when we pour out all our gifts, skills, and possessions at Jesus’ feet can He take them and use them for God’s glory and for the benefit of others.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.272.  This is true. Who would seriously question it in principle? But the difficulty is in the doing. It hurts to be broken and it costs to be poured out.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that everything you have put into me will be poured out for the blessing of others and the glory of your Name.

Daily Bible thoughts 1551: Monday 27th November 2017: Mark 14:1-3: Perfume.

Mark 14:1-3: Perfume.

“Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’ While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” NIV

If this is the same anointing described in John 12:1-8, it was Mary who did this. The perfume was ‘’very expensive’’. It may have been kept in the family from generation to generation, the way people keep gold. It probably represented financial security for them. It may have represented all their savings According to (5) it was worth ‘’more than a year’s wages’’. But Mary ‘’broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.’’ According to John 12:3. She also poured it on His feet and wiped His feet with her hair.

It is true that ‘Christianity which costs nothing accomplishes nothing.’ There is sacrifice lying at the heart of discipleship; an abandonment; an extravagance of worship. We pour out all that we have and are on Jesus. He may well still let us hold it on His behalf, but it is His, and is to be used for His glory. It takes faith to live like this. We give what we may feel we cannot afford, only to discover that god is no man’s debtor.

Daily Bible thoughts 1550: Friday 24th November 2017: Mark 14: 1,2;10, 11: The great divide.

Mark 14: 1,2;10, 11: The great divide.

14 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief  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

‘Mary’s act of worship brought joy to the heart of Jesus and malice to the heart of Judas…’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.684.

What a contrast we find here between those who hated Jesus and wanted Him out of the way (1,2; 10,11), and one who loved Him dearly. We are going to spend a few days savouring the aroma of Mary’s ‘worship’. We will linger in this perfumed room. But note that this dividing line runs through the human race. On one side are those who are for Jesus, and on the other side those who are against. On which side of the line are you?

During Passover/Unleavened Bread, Jerusalem’s normal population of 50,000 could swell to 250,000, with pilgrims arriving from all over. The religious authorities knew there would be quite a few of Jesus’ supporters in that number, and they didn’t want a riot. Then the Romans would move in a heavy handed way and everyone (themselves included!!) would suffer the consequences. So they thought it best to bide their time.

On the day following Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began (Exodus 12:15-20; Deuteronomy 16:1-8). Tom Hale says that sometimes Passover was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12), although it was, in fact, a separate day. At Passover, the Jews celebrated the deliverance of the people from slavery in Egypt, through shed blood. Through the hostility of Jesus’ enemies, all that the Passover stood for was about to come to complete fulfilment. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

Mark 13:32-37: Stay on the job.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[a]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’NIV

How do you prepare for Christ’s second coming? Well, stick to your ‘’assigned task’’ (34). Stay awake on the job, and keep doing what you’ve been given to do. Don’t get into wild speculation and theological flights of fancy. Keep your feet on the ground and get on with the job in hand. That responsibility has been given to you by ‘’the owner of the house’’ and He will ‘’come back’’ (35), but you don’t know when. So, keep at it.

‘Many Christians spend time trying to predict when Christ will come again. This is folly. They’d be better off spending their time doing the work Christ has given them to do instead of wondering when He is going to come again…Let us not say to ourselves: ‘’He will not come soon.I have time to get ready. I’ll sleep a little longer. I’ll witness to that person another time. I’ll do that good deed some other day. I’ll give up that sin tomorrow’’…We need to test ourselves by asking ourselves this question: If an angel from heaven were to tell us today that Christ was going to come next week, or next month, would we live our lives any differently? If the answer is ‘’Yes,’’ then we are not watching, we are not ready.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied New Testament Commentary’, p.271.

PRAYER: Lord, I want to live in such a way that I will not be ashamed at your coming. Please help me.

Daily Bible thoughts 1548: Wednesday 22nd November 2017: Mark 13:28-31: Enduring words.

Mark 13:28-31: Enduring words.

“28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. ” NIV UK

Jesus gave the disciples signs to look out for before the destruction of Jerusalem. They were like the new leaves on a fig tree that indicate the arrival of Summer. Jesus knew that His ‘’generation’’ of Jews would not die out before these things happened. The words of Jesus are utterly true and trustworthy. The very universe will disappear (certainly in its present form) but the words of the Lord will abide. They are powerful words; indestructible words. In fact, the entire universe is upheld by Christ’s ‘’powerful word’’ (Hebrews 1:4).

This surely means, then, that disciples of Jesus should immerse themselves in the gospels.

‘The content of the Gospels should be explained and brought to life in such a way that the Gospels become a permanent presence and possession of the mind of the disciple.’ Dallas Willard: ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, p.366.

PRAYER: Help me, dear Lord, to live deeply in your Word, and may it continually change my life.

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