Devotions on Mark 8:27-9:8
February 1-7, 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016
“’Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist … Elijah … one of the prophets’” (Mark 8:27-28).
Jaylene and a couple of her friends were enjoying a cup of coffee together at the local coffee shop. The conversation had turned from the usual family, jobs and fashion to religion. Jaylene attended worship services at Christmas and Easter and wasn’t involved in a church beyond that. During the conversation, Jaylene stated her thought that Jesus was a great teacher. “When you read about Jesus in the Bible,” she stated, “you find out that Jesus had a lot of good ideas about how to live life and get along with each other.” One friend nodded in agreement, but the other one, who was a born again Christian shook her head and said, “I think Jesus was a little more than a teacher.”
A lot of people want to keep Jesus at bay. They do so by relegating him to the categories of either a great teacher or prophet. They admit that Jesus was a notable historical figure. They even agree that much of what he taught was good. They treat Jesus’ teachings, though, like a Dear Abby column or like Dr. Phil.
If the truth be told as disciples of Jesus we sometimes keep Jesus at a distance. Our cursory reading of the scripture gives us verses to inspire us and words to comfort us. Yet, there is so much more. Jesus revealed to us a God of love and reconciled us to that God. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus provided us with new, abundant lives. Jesus is not status quo, but rather transformational.
Come into our lives, come into our lives, come into our lives Lord Jesus. Amen.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
“’Who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah’” (Mark 8:29).
In the signs, wonders and words of Jesus Peter saw something. Peter realized that Jesus certainly wasn’t the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Nor was Jesus merely a teacher or a prophet. Jesus was more than that—Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus had come to save.
Peter misunderstood how Jesus was going to save and from what Jesus was going to save us. He thought that Jesus would lead a revolution, overthrow the Roman government and establish a theocracy centered in Jerusalem. Jesus did live and die to save us. He saved us to live lives in relationship to God our creator. Jesus saved us to live beyond ourselves and gave us a purpose in life of serving others. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus did live and die for a revolution. That revolution takes place in individual lives and the world is being transformed one life at a time.
Powerful Lord, overthrow the obstacles in our lives that hinder our relationship with you and our service for you. Amen.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering” (Mark 8:31).
Superheroes are popular in our culture today. We have the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Transformers along with Batman, Superman and Spiderman. They have foes to face and even some personal issues to address but they do so with superhuman powers. We long to be superheroes who are able to save the world and transform the world with little cost to themselves. This is why we get so uncomfortable when Jesus begins to talk about great suffering.
In reality, as appealing as superheroes are, they are figments of our imaginations. The people who impact the lives of others and change the world are those who take the risk and are willing to pay the price in order to achieve their goals. These people are the Mother Theresa’s, Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandalas. These people are the ones who tutor children struggling in school, feed the hungry through soup kitchens and food banks, protest injustices and stop to help a person in need. The Lord doesn’t call us to be superheroes. God calls us to be servants.
Loving God, we give you our hands and feet, mouths and ears—all of our lives. Use us to serve and to rescue. Amen.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
“You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mark 8:33).
Paul sensed that he was being called to be a pastor. As he thought about the idea he envisioned himself as the lead pastor of a mega-church. He imagined what it would be like to stand before thousands of people and preach a sermon and he could see himself in a plush office sitting behind a huge desk. Chizu saw a need for a free medical clinic to serve the health needs of the poor in her community. It took some effort to open the clinic, but was an immediate success. Chizu was kept busy using her medical training. Chizu realized after a few months, that the need was so great that another clinic or two could be opened. In the few free moments that she had she wondered what it would take to open more clinics and what it would be like to be the chief physician of such a practice.
We receive calls to serve in various ways. When we respond to our calling, we often do so with visions of what we think would be success. If we tutor children think about the look on their faces when the light turns on and they comprehend a concept. Pastors imagine congregational growth and physicians envision people healed quickly. As Jesus told Peter, we set our minds on human things and not divine. We are not called to be successful, but rather faithful. We are challenged to channel our thoughts away from what we can become and focus on what we can do. The needs of others are our main concern.
God of All Creation, forgive us when our thoughts stray from the divine to the human. Enable us to keep our thoughts on you and focus on faithfully following your guidance. Amen.
Friday, February 5, 2016
“If any want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
When much of the Bible was written it was commonly believed that righteous people were blessed by God with wealth. We don’t know Abraham’s net worth when God called him from Ur to follow God to the Promised Land. We do know that he became a very wealthy man while he lived in Canaan. David started out as a poor sheep herder for his father. He became a powerful and rich king. From these and other stories like them, some Christians have stressed the idea that God blesses God’s children with affluence and wealth and answers the prayers of our needs and our desires.
Jesus’ words contradict this teaching. Disciples of Jesus deny themselves and take up their cross. In answering God’s call to serve, we may deny ourselves of some time reading or a game of golf. We might financially support a ministry to the extent that we don’t purchase as nice and as new a car as we might have or go on as exotic a vacation as we would want. Following Jesus may involve changing vocations or taking steps of faith that lead us way beyond our comfort zone.
This is the nature of life as a disciple of Jesus. Our priorities change. Our desire for wealth takes second place to our desire to serve. Our self-centeredness changes to a life focused on the needs of others. Our goals change from success to faithful obedience.
Incarnate God, you did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied yourself and took on human form. Enable us to empty ourselves so that we can be present in the lives of others. Amen.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
“Those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
Luke records in his gospel a parable told by Jesus of the Foolish Farmer. The farmer was very successful and had such a good growing season that he wasn’t able to store all of the grain. The farmer could have given away his excess to feed the hungry, but he was selfish and self-centered. Instead of giving to charity he decided he would build larger grain bins and thus accumulate more wealth. There was just one problem with his plan. He died the night after he decided to build bigger. The farmer was so busy saving his life that he lost it.
In a society that is fueled by accumulation and the desire for more, we all know what it is like to try to save our lives. We seek to be in fashion in order to impress people. We seek one more item so that we may feel complete. Our craving for safety and security only imprisons us. Thankfully there is a different way to live and Jesus offers it to us.
“Lose your lives,” he says. “Stop focusing on all of your needs, worrying about all of our problems and fearing what might happen tomorrow.” Instead as disciples of Jesus we are encouraged to live for others and to consider their needs first. We can serve others rather than using our time, talents and treasures to serve ourselves. Losing our lives or giving them away is the way to have a life that is rich in relationships, purpose and a sense of fulfillment.
Holy God, you died that we might live. Responding to your great love, empower us to follow your example and lose our lives for others. Amen.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
“’This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him’” (Mark 9:7)!
The disciples thought they knew Jesus. They had followed him for almost three years. They had heard Jesus teach and the disciples had seen the miracles that Jesus had performed. While others were saying that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets, the disciples knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Still they didn’t really completely comprehend who Jesus was until they saw him transfigured before them on the mountain top. The disciples saw and heard that Jesus was God’s Son and that God was well pleased with Jesus. The voice of God even instructed the disciples to listen to him; to pay attention.
As we journey through life as disciples of Jesus there are times when we get comfortable and complacent. We think we’ve got things figured out and that we know Jesus. Thankfully, by God’s grace, there are times in our lives when God surprises us. We catch a glimpse of God’s power, presence, love and grace. In the Words of the prophet Isaiah, “We see the Lord high and lifted up and the hem of his rob filled the temple.” We might experience these epiphanies in acts of kindness, a healing miracle or in the quiet of our prayer room. These are times when we realize who we are and how great God is.
Almighty God, open our eyes that we might see your power and glory. Amen.