Devotions on Mark 16:1-8
March 21-27, 2016
(Instead of focusing on Easter’s lesson of the day through Holy Week, I have chosen to reflect on what Jesus said and did each day of Holy Week. Many of my thoughts are drawn from Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book, “The Last Week”.)
Monday, March 21, 2016
“May no one ever see fruit from you again” (Mark 11:14)
Change was upon them. The Lord was going to carry out God’s justice on the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, his wife and daughters were fleeing Sodom; running for their lives. Their lives would never be the same. They, didn’t know what lay ahead, but they knew that they could never go back and on the angels instructions; they couldn’t even look back. Yet, for some reason Lot’s wife did look back and died.
On Monday of his last week, Jesus passes by a fruitless fig tree. It’s not the season for figs, yet Jesus curses the fig tree because of its lack of fruit. On the surface Jesus’ action appears to be petulant and petty. After Jesus cleanses the temple, the disciples pass by the fig tree and see that it is dead. We begin to understand that Jesus’ action was symbolic. The age of the temple was ending. Great change was taking place and things would never be the same.
As disciples of Jesus our lives are changing. Some of the changes are huge and some are small. We are not able to reverse any of the changes that occur in our lives. Even though we may not know all that lies ahead, we step forward in faith knowing that God’s Spirit is within us.
Steadfast Lord, you are the one constant in our lives. Through times of change, help us keep our eyes on you. Amen.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
“You have made it [the temple] a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).
The council meeting at St Mark’s Church ran late into the night. The council members were struggling to balance the budget and were attempting to come up with new ways to raise money. The congregation’s budget was usually the main topic of their monthly meetings. Time spent discussing the budget far surpassed the brief conversations on education and mission. Some of the council members sensed that things were not what they were supposed to be, but they didn’t know what to do.
The temple was the Lord’s point of communication with the people of Israel. It was meant to be a place of worship and prayer and a catalyst for change in the lives of the people. Over the centuries the temple had become a lifeless institution. Worship and prayer had become big business. Profit was the goal and not justice or kindness. A cleansing needed to take place.
As disciples of Jesus, we live to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and share God’s grace through our words and actions. We often get sidetracked, however. The allure of money, the desire for comfort and security and our natural selfishness turns our attention away from our true purpose in life. Like the temple we need at times to be cleansed, renewed and our attention brought back to what is important in life—to love God and to love our neighbor.
Loving Lord, forgive us when we get distracted and use our gifts and talents for ourselves rather than for others. As David prayed, “Renew a right spirit within us.” Amen.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
“She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head” (Mark 14:3).
Jesus had told the disciples three times that when he went to Jerusalem he would be arrested, tortured and executed. The disciples didn’t believe him. They were too wrapped up in arguing about who was the greatest and who would be given positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom. Breaking into the atmosphere of confusion, denial and faithlessness a woman breaks open a jar of costly ointment and pours it over Jesus’ head.
The woman’s act was a statement of faith. She had heard what Jesus said and she believed that Jesus was telling the truth when he said that he would be executed. In faith, the woman anointed Jesus beforehand for his burial. Her act of faith and love stood out midst the faithless arguments of the disciples.
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed that the time was fulfilled, the kingdom had come and people should repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15). Hearing what Jesus said, we respond in faith. As disciples of Jesus we live in God’s kingdom—a kingdom of love, justice and peace. In faith we use our talents and abilities to love both the lovely and the unlovable and to seek justice for everyone.
King of kings, as your subjects we ask you to use our talents and abilities to spread your kingdom through our words and actions of faith. Amen.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
“One who is dipping bread into the bowl with me” (Mark 14:18).
For many, Jesus’ last words on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” is Jesus’ greatest expression of love. It is, however, not Jesus’ only expression of love and forgiveness during his last days.
Thursday evening Jesus gathered with his disciples. All twelve disciples were with him that evening. While they were dining, Jesus makes a disturbing announcement that one of them, who was eating with Jesus, would betray him. Shortly after saying those words Jesus took bread and gave it to his disciples and then he took wine and shared it with them. “This is my body and blood,” he said. Jesus gave that bread and wine and said those words to Judas.
As disciples of Jesus we stumble and fall so many times. Yet Jesus never turns his back on us, he never excludes us from his love and grace. His body and blood were a gift to us, also, just like they were to Judas and the other disciples. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. We live each day in that truth.
Gracious God, we are in awe of your love and grace that you pour into our lives. May it overflow from us and may we share your love and grace with others. Amen.
Friday, March 25, 2016
“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
On Friday, the Roman’s crucified Jesus. They hung him on a cross while the Jewish religious authorities jeered, the crowd gawked and the women disciples stood by silently. By his love and obedience, Jesus changed the world.
For several centuries, the church has focused on the fact that Jesus was a ransom for our sins. He paid the price for our sinfulness and took our punishment so that we could live in a renewed relationship with God. This is not the only way to interpret the word, “ransom.” We can also say that Jesus’ ransom set us free so that we could participate in God’s kingdom and live lives of service. Our lives will imitate Jesus’ life.
Good Friday is a solemn time. We stand in awe of God’s love while we also deeply grieve his suffering and death. Like all Christian funerals, this day is a mixture of emotions—of grief and joy. Through his death, Jesus has set us free to participate in his kingdom and to live lives that are abundant.
Perhaps the words of Dr. Martin Luther King are appropriate for today. He said, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God we’re free at last!”
Wonderful Lord, help us to be steadfast in our freedom you have obtained for us and to use it to serve others. Amen.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
“Brought spices so they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16:1).
Their hearts were heavy as the women trudged to Jesus’ tomb on that Sunday morning. They had heard Jesus say that he would rise again, but they had no idea what Jesus meant. As the women made their way to the tomb, they expected only to see death. They were surprised by the open tomb and by the young man dressed in white. The empty tomb transformed their lives.
Living our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are often like those women on Sunday morning. We begin expecting only to encounter death. Instead of celebrating we are downcast and burdened. Jesus surprises us and our days change. We see Jesus’ presence in the actions of others. We are given opportunities to share God’s love and to use our talents to honor God. We remember that the tomb is empty and that has changed everything.
Precious Lord, surprise us with your presence and love, and help us celebrate that the tomb is empty. Amen.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
“They fled the tomb for terror and amazement had seized them” (Mark 6:8).
What a cliff hanger! We don’t know what the women will do and we wonder how the disciples will react. Like any good writer, Mark makes us want to turn the page and see what happens next.
Mark entitled his gospel, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The sixteen chapters that he wrote in which he recorded the words and actions of Jesus were only the first chapter of the book. The next chapters would be played out by the disciples and other followers of Jesus. The book, “The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” is still being written. We are now the main characters in this chapter.
We may not be sure how this chapter will end. We do know some things, though. We know that the tomb is empty and Jesus was raised from the dead. We know that God has promised to be with us and that nothing can separate us from God’s love. We know that we have been called to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. With these constants we step into a new day and begin to write the next page in the chapter.
Alleluia! Jesus lives! Empower us to celebrate this truth and live in this reality every day of our lives. Amen.