16) The Sword (Mark 14:43-52)

Quotes: “The pattern of the Cross means that the world’s glorification of power, might, and status (the sword) is exposed and defeated. On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down.” Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 2008, 196

"On the cross, Jesus is getting what we deserve so we can get what he deserves. When we see that this great reversal is for you...it changes you." (191) "Jesus is not a revolutionary you can stop with swords, because he's not about the sword at all." (188) Judas didn't get it. Neither did his own disciples (Mark 14:47).

"An ethical system based on honor is a self-regarding ethic, while one based in charity is an other-regarding ethic... With honor goes a concentration on pride rather than humility, dominance rather than service, courage rather than peaceableness, glory rather than modesty, loyalty rather than respect for all, generosity to one's friends rather than equality." C. John Summerville, professor emeritus of history (184).


15) The Cup (Mark 14:32-36)


"God is the source of all love, all life, all light, all coherence. Therefore (Jesus') exclusion from God (on the cross) is exclusion from the source of all light, all love, all coherence. Jesus began to experience the spiritual, cosmic, infinite disintegration (in the garden of Gethsemane) that would happen when he became separated from his Father on the cross. Jesus began to experience merely a foretaste of that, and he staggered." (176)

"As horrible as the cup (of suffering) is, (Jesus) knows that his immediate desire (to be spared) must bow before his ultimate desire (to spare us). (180)

"Instead of perpetually denying your desires or changing your circumstances, you'll be able to trust the Father in your suffering." (181)

Intro: Heroes in history were calm when they faced their death. But not Jesus (Mark 14:32-36). Just before his execution, Jesus opens his heart to God, to his disciples, to the readers of Mark's Gospel, laying bare his struggles, his agony, his fears about facing death.

Why Did Jesus Unravel/Become Undone in the Garden?

A Lamb Bound By His Four Feet


Are you wounded more than this lamb that is bound by his four feet?

We are wounded when we give in to the perpetual sinful desires raging in our own hearts. But our wounds are also inflicted by others: our parents, our family, our friends, and even by Christians in the church who believe in God and believe the Bible.

As frail and fallible humans, we have a terribly hard time truly forgiving others, or letting go of the hurts and wounds that are deeply embedded in us. In fact, I'm convinced that we can't do it by our own human strength.

I've spoken to so many young adults who were so brutally traumatized by their parent's divorce, which they experienced personally as a betrayal of the deepest cut. Surprisingly (but perhaps not so), I am also beginning to hear of those who were terribly wounded by Christians who believe in God and who believe in the Bible.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to figure out which wound is deeper: those inflicted by your own family, or by your church family.

This is one of our human dilemmas. We love our family, but we were terribly hurt by them. We love our church family, but we were also terribly hurt by them. What is the solution or the resolution?

I think the answer is in this picture of the lamb who was bound by his four feet.

When I thought of what would happen to the lamb after he was bound, I shuddered and broke down. After the butchers do to the lamb what they normally do would cause the lamb to no longer look so cute and so lovely. He would become an unrecognizable, disfigured, bloody mess.

Jesus is that lamb. Jesus is the kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and died (John 12:24). He wasn't forced to do so, but did so willingly (John 10:18). Why? Here are some answers:

  • He had to be cursed by God in our place (Gal 3:13).
  • He became our sin in the presence of God (2 Cor 5:21).
  • He bore our sins in his own body and was mortally wounded in our place (Isa 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24).
  • He had to suffer and be put to death for our sins (1 Pet 3:18).

We may never be fully free of the inflicted wounds in our soul this side of heaven. But there is only One who received a far deeper wound. And only by his wounds are we healed.

How have you been wounded? Do you find peace and healing in the Lamb?

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14) The Feast (Mark 14:12-26)


Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Why are you desperately seeking significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you have calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Are you at peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?
Chap 9: The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1): Why is forgiveness so hard?
Chap 10: The Mountain (Mark 9:2-29): What if you are filled with doubt?
Chap 11: The Trap (Mark 10:17-27): Is money just money to you?
Chap 12: The Ransom (Mark 10:45): Is Jesus all you want and need?
Chap 13: The Temple (Mark 11:1-18): Are you both a lion and a lamb?


"On the cross Jesus got what we deserved: the sin, guilt, and brokenness of the world fell upon him. He loved us so much he took divine justice on himself so that we could be passed over, forever." (168)

Intro: Being saved from the sword of divine justice during the Passover was not on the basis of being a Jew, but only on the basis of faith in a substitutionary sacrifice (lamb). But why in the world would the sacrifice of a woolly little quadruped exempt you from justice?

This is my Body, This is my Blood

The Passover meal had to be prepared in a certain way and had a distinct form. It included 4 points where the presider explained the feast's meaning. The 4 cups of wine represented the 4 promises made by God in Exo 6:6-7:

  • rescue from Egypt
  • freedom from slavery
  • redemption by God's divine power
  • renewed relationship with God
For the 3rd cup, the presider would use Deut 26:1-19 to bless the elements--the bread (representing their affliction - Deut 26:6), herbs, lamb--by explaining how they were symbolic reminders of their captivity and deliverance. Jesus was the presider at this Passover meal with the disciples who had prepared for it (Mark 14:12-16). But when blessing the elements and explaining their symbolism, Jesus departs from the script that has been reenacted by generation after generation (Mark 14:22-25), which likely astonished the disciples. He shows them the bread and says, "This is my body" (Mark 14:22). What does this mean? Jesus is saying, "This is the bread of my affliction, the bread of my suffering, because I'm going to lead the ultimate exodus and bring you the ultimate deliverance from bondage."

In ancient times, to say, "I will not drink...until..." (Mark 14:25) was to make an oath (Acts 23:14) that was taken very seriously and was literally marked with blood. It was a solemn relationship of obligation, like making a covenant, like signing a contract. But this covenant was established and sealed by killing an animal, cutting it in half, and walking between the pieces as you stated your oath (Gen 15:10,17). It's gory and repulsive. But it was a way of saying, "If I do not fulfill my promise, may my blood be spilled, may I be cut in half." This was akin to what Jesus said when he took the cup (Mark 14:23-25).

Jesus' words mean that as a result of his substitutionary sacrifice there is now a new covenant between God and us, the basis being his own blood (Mark 14:24). Jesus is promising to be unconditionally committed to bring us back to his kingdom (Matt 8:11), that we will be at this kingdom feast with him. With these simple words, "This is my body...this is my blood" (Mark 14:22,24), Jesus is saying that all the earlier deliverances, the earlier sacrifices, the lambs at Passover, were pointing to himself.

Jesus is the Main Course

All Passover meals had bread and wine, which Jesus blessed. But this last meal departed from the script in another way. Not one of the Gospels mentions a main course--there is no mention of a lamb at this Passover meal, which was not a vegetarian meal, but a meal celebrated with a lamb. Why was there no lamb? There was no lamb on the table because the Lamb of God was at the table. Jesus was the main course (John 1:29; Isa 53:6-7,12). In Mark 14:22,24, Jesus meant, "I'm the One that Isaiah and John spoke about. I am the Lamb of God to which all other lambs pointed, the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world." (168)

"All love, all real, life-changing love, is substitutionary sacrifice. You have never loved (anyone) except through substituionary sacrifice." (168) It will always cost you to love a broken person, a guilty person, a hurting person. To gather Jerusalem's children under his wings (Luke 13:34), Jesus had to be completely consumed. All real, life-changing love is costly, substitutionary sacrifice.

Jesus is the Last Course

Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). This practice is called "the Lord's Supper" (1 Cor 11:20), or "the Lord's table" (1 Cor 10:21), or communion, or "cup of thanksgiving" (1 Cor 10:16), and "the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42). This is to remind Christians of the sacrificial, substiturionary love of Jesus. Just as prior lambs had to be eaten at prior Passover meals, the Lord's Supper is a way of "taking in" the death of Jesus for ourselves and appropriating it personally. Jesus said, "Take it" (Mark 14:22). We have to take what he is doing for us. We have to receive it actively.

No one gets the benefit of food unless we take it in and digest it. To be nourished by a meal, we have to eat it. The only real food we need to take as Christians is Christ's unconditional commitment to me. The Lord's Supper is a reminder that no one can appropriate the benefits of Jesus' death unless he calls them into a personal relationship with him. To share a meal with someone--particularly in Jesus' place and time--is to have a relationship. Thus, the only way to have a personal relationship with Jesus is through his perfect, substitutionary, sacrificial suffering.

The Jews celebrated the Passover with their families. But Jesus pulled his disciples out of their families to have a Passover meal with them, to create a new family (Mark 3:35). This bond is so life-transforming that it creates a basis for unity as strong as if people had been raised together. "(Christians) are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake." D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places

The Lord's Supper does something more beautiful: It points toward our future with Jesus. At this meal Jesus is saying that this Passover meal makes the ultimate feast possible (Mark 14:25). Some stunning prophesies of the future kingdom concern trees and hills clapping and dancing (Ps 96:12-13; Isa 55:12). If trees and hills will be able to clap and dance in the future kingdom, picture what you and I will be able to do. The Lord's Supper gives us a small, but very real, foretaste of that future.

What would an Israelite say after their 1st Passover in Egypt? "I was a slave, under a sentence of death, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb and escaped from that bondage, and now God lives in our midst and escaped that bondage, and now God lives in our midst and we are following him to the Promised Land." (172)

Question: Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

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13) The Temple (Mark 11:1-18)


Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you resting in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?
Chap 9: The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1): Why is forgiveness so hard?
Chap 10: The Mountain (Mark 9:2-29): What if you are filled with doubt?
Chap 11: The Trap (Mark 10:17-27): What is money to you?
Chap 12: The Ransom (Mark 10:45): Is Jesus all you want and need?

Quotes: "In Jesus we find infinite majesty yet complete humility, perfect justice yet boundless grace, absolute sovereignty yet utter submission, all sufficiency in himself yet entire trust and dependence on God." (155)

"Jesus was King, but he didn't fit into the world's categories of kingship. He brought together majesty and meekness." (154)

Intro: Jesus didn't ride into Jerusalem like a king on a power war horse, but like a "nobody" on a colt, or a small donkey, fit for a child or a hobbit (Mark 11:1-10). In this way, Jesus let it be known that he was the One prophesied in Zech 9:9.

The Excellency of Christ (Jonathan Edwards, 1738, Rev 5:5,6)

John is told to look for a lion, but there in the midst of the throne is a lamb (Rev 5:5,6). Jesus' personality is a complete and beautiful whole. (above quote)

Jesus Opened the Temple to the Unclean Pagans

Jesus "went into/entered the temple courts" (Mark 11:11,15), the first area inside the temple door, which was the biggest section of the temple, and the only part where non-Jews were allowed. All the business operations were set up there. Thousands of people flooded into Jerusalem bringing and buying thousands of animals to be sacrificed. Josephus says that 255,000 lambs were bought, sold, and sacrificed in Passover week. And all tis was the place where the Gentiles were supposed to find God through quiet reflection and prayer. Jesus turned the place upside down (Mark 11:15-17). The whole crowd was amazed (Mark 11:18). Why?

It was popularly believed that when the Messiah came he would purge the temple of foreigners. Instead, Jesus cleared the temple for the Gentiles--acting as their advocate. This was so subversive to the religious elite, since Jesus was challenging the sacrificial system altogether and saying that the Gentiles--the pagan, unwashed Gentiles--could now go directly to God in prayer, which challenged their bigoted exclusivity.

The Temple Lost at Eden ... with No Way Back

The story of the temple starts in the Garden of Eden, a place where the presence of God dwelled. It was paradise. In the presence of God there is shalom, absolute flourishing, fulfillment, joy, and bliss. But when the first humans decided to build their lives on things besides God, to let other things besides God give them their ultimate meaning and significance, paradise was lost, being guarded by "a flaming sword flashing back and forth" (Genesis 3:24), which is the sword of eternal justice, and it will not fail to exact payment. "Nobody can get back into the presence of God unless they go under the sword, unless they pay for the wrong that has been done. But who could survive the sword? No one." (158) "Building our lives on other things--on power, status, acclaim, family, race, nationality--has caused conflicts, wars, violence, poverty, disease, and death. We're trampled one another; we're trampled on this earth." (157) There's no simple way back to paradise. If you're been badly wronged, some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.

A Provisional Solution, 1st, through the Tabernacle, then the Temple

In the middle of the temple was the holy of holies, covered by a thick veil to shield people from the shekinah presence of God, for God's immediate presence was fatal to human beings (Exo 33:20). "The tabernacle, the temple, and the whole sacrificial system--the only solution to the problem of the sword and the only access, however limited, to the presence of God--were only for the Israelites." (158) So when Jesus quoted Isa 56:7 to imply that the Gentiles could get access to the presence of God, the people were amazed.

Yet the prophets promised "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Hab 2:14)--in other words, the whole world would become a holy of holies. But how would they get past the sword?

The Ultimate Solution: Jesus Had to Go Under the Sword

Most people didn't see the answer in Isa 53:8 which speaks of the Messiah: "For he was cut off from the land of the living." This explains why John saw a slaughtered lamb at the throne, the place of ultimate power in the universe (Rev 5:6). Indeed, the death of Jesus Christ--the Lamb of God--is the greatest royal triumph in the history of the cosmos. When Jesus went under the sword, it broke his body, but it also broke itself. This is what puritan John Owen famously called "the death of Death in the death of Christ." Jesus took the sword for you and me. That's why Jesus' death caused the veil that covered the holy of holies to be ripped from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). Now all have access to the presence of God. The flaming sword claimed its victim; the veil was parted; and the way back into the garden was permanently reopened. What shocked everyone was that Jesus was not just overturning the tables, but he was overturning the sacrificial system of the temple and opening the way into the presence of God for everyone.

Fruitless Fig Tree, Temple, and Churches, Though Outwardly Very Busy

Between Jesus' 2 visits to the temple (Mark 11:11,15), Mark records Jesus cursing a fig tree for being barren though it was not the season for figs (Mark 11:12-14). This looks quite bad for Jesus. But it was no fit of temper. Between Jesus' 2 visits to the temple, Jesus seized the opportunity to provide a private, memorable object lesson, a parable against hollow religiousity, with the fig tree as a visual aid.

What's the lesson about? The fig tree wasn't doing its appointed job. The tree became a perfect metaphor for Israel and beyond that, for those claiming to be God's people but who do not bear fruit for him. The temple was religiously very busy, just like most churches are. But the busyness contained no spirituality. Nobody was actually praying. There may be outward growth without real heart change, and without real compassionate involvement with others. Jesus would clear the temple of all that fruitless activity.

What a Christian Should Be: a Lion and a Lamb

Jesus wants more than busyness; he wants the kind of character change that only comes from realizing that you have been ransomed. Are you angry, anxious, impatient, unforgiving, full of fears and worries, being busy with much religious activities?

Jonathan Edwards says of the paradoxical character of Jesus that these same radically different traits that are normally never combined in any one person will be reproduced in you because you are in the presence of Jesus Christ. You're not just becoming nicer, or more disciplined, or more moral, for Jesus, who unites such apparent extremes of character into such an integrated and balanced whole, demands an extreme response from every one of us. He will force our hand at every turn. You'll be both a lamb but also a lion at the same time; both gentle and bold, both humble and aggressive, meek yet a conqueror.

Through Jesus, and only through Him, we become a more complete person, the person we were designed to be, the person we were ransomed to be. We acquire the life and character of Jesus--the King who rides gently on a donkey, then boldly storms into the temple.

Jesus is both the rest and the storm, both the victim and the wielder of the flaming sword, and you must accept him or reject him on the basis of both. Either you'll have to kill him or you'll have to crown him. The only thing you can't do is say, "What an interesting guy."

The teachers of the law who began plotting to kill him (Mark 11:18) may have been dead wrong about him, but their reaction makes perfect sense.

Keeping Jesus in the periphery of your life won't work. He can't remain there. Give yourself to Jesus--center your entire life on him--and let his power reproduce his character in you.

Question: Are you both a lion and lamb at the same time?

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12) The Ransom (Mark 10:45)


Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you resting in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?
Chap 9: The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1): Why is forgiveness so hard?
Chap 10: The Mountain (Mark 9:2-29): What if you are filled with doubt?
Chap 11: The Trap (Mark 10:17-27): What is money to you?

Quotes: "Influence gained through power and control doesn't really change society; it doesn't change hearts. [Real influence is] influence given to you by others, not taken by you from others." (149)

"If I lead an unselfish life primarily to make myself happy, then I'm not leading an unselfish life. I'm ultimately doing [acts of kindness for others] for myself. [Basically] we are [living] unselfish lives for selfish reasons." (150)

Intro: Jesus came to die. After Peter's confession (Mark 8:29), Jesus repeatedly predicted his death (Mark 8:31-32; 9:30-31; 10:32-34), 3 times in 3 chapters, each time with progressively more detail, indicating that death was not incidental to his mission, but absolutely central to both his identity and his purpose on earth. Then in Mark 10:45, Jesus tells us not only that he will die but why he will do so: "to give his life as a ransom for many."

That Jesus came to die "sets him apart from the founder of every other major religion. Their purpose was to live and be an example; Jesus' purpose was to die and be a sacrifice." (140) Jesus came to be a substitutionary sacrifice.

The little preposition for in Greek is the word anti, which means "instead of," "in place of," "substitute." Ransom translates a Greek word, lutron, that meant "to buy the freedom of a slave or a prisoner." Jesus came to pay that kind of ransom. But since the slavery he is dealing with is of a cosmic kind--that is, cosmic evil--it required a cosmic payment, his death on the cross.

Why Must There be Suffering, Death and a Willing Sacrifice?

The cross is a hard Christian teaching, where some assume that it is like an appeasement of a bloodthirsty god. But not so. A common question is, "Why doesn't God just forgive everybody?" Why did Jesus have to go through suffering and death, and be a ransom?

A short answer as to why it had to be this way is because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice. For instance, it will cost you nothing to love someone who is all put together and has no major needs. But to love someone who has needs, who is emotionally wounded, or who is in trouble or hurting, is costly. You can't love them without taking a hit yourself. A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles, problems, wounds, transfer to you. It's grueling to be with such emotionally damaged persons. But the only way they're going to start filling up emotionally is if somebody loves them, and the only way to love them is to let yourself be emotionally drained. So if you hold on to your emotional comfort and avoid those people, they will sink. The only way to love them is through substitutionary sacrifice.

It's the same with parenting, for children are in a state of dependency. So, if parents won't sacrifice for their kids, they'll grow up physically, but remain children emotionally--needy, vulnerable, and dependent. It's them or you. Either you suffer temporarily and in a redemptive way, or they're going to suffer tragically, in a wasteful and destructive way. (The evil Lord Voldemort couldn't kill Harry Potter, because his mother died to save him, according to Dumbledore, his mentor.) We all know from experience that sacrifice is at the heart of real love.

Therefore, a God who is more loving than man, a God who comes into the world to deal with the ultimate evil, the ultimate sin, would have to make a substitutionary sacrifice. Even we flawed human beings know that you can't just overlook evil. It must be paid for, and dealing with it is costly.

The ancients understood the idea of justice and God's wrath, and the idea of a debt and a necessary punishment. But they had no idea that God would come and pay it himself. The cross is the self-substitution of God. No one could imagine this, not even Jesus' own disciples (even after he told them repeatedly).

The only way that Jesus could redeem us was to give his life as a ransom. For God to just forgive is simply not the way forgiveness works. "God created the world in an instant, and it was a beautiful process. He re-created the world on the cross--and it was a horrible process. That's how it works. Love that really changes things and redeems things is always a substitutionary sacrifice." (144)

Why couldn't the Disciples "Get It"?

Though Jesus repeatedly told his disciples about his suffering and death, they didn't "hear." James and John asked for the 2 best seats in the kingdom (Mark 10:35-37). At the actual moment of Jesus' greatest glory (the cross), there will be somebody on the right and left--crucified criminals. James and John had no idea what they were asking (Mark 10:37).

Nonetheless, Jesus spoke to them of the cup and the baptism (Mark 10:38); the cup being a metaphor for the just judgment of God against evil, and baptism is an overwhelming experience, an immersion. Jesus would take the just judgment on all human evil; he would take the overwhelming experience of being condemned so that we can be free from all condemnation. But they didn't get it.

Despite Jesus' elaborate explanation on substitutionary sacrifice (Mark 10:38-45), why couldn't the disciples get it? Instead of asking, "What's wrong with them?" we should examine our own hearts. When we see their repeated befuddled comical nonsensical response, "you realize how hard it is for anybody to take in the magnitude of what the cross really means, [then] you will be on your way to attaining the gift of humility. At some level, your normal assumptions, your pride and your egotistical way of thinking, are blinding you to the truth. One prime example of this is worry." (147)

Worry is rooted in arrogance, that I know better than God. "Real humility is to relax. Real humility means to laugh at yourself. Real humility means to be self-critical. The cross brings that kind of humility into our lives." (148)

The world is all about taking power and control, having the trump card and the veto (Mark 10:42). But God's people should be diametrically different (Mark 10:43-44). It's what God told his people Israel to do while in Babylonian captivity (Jer 29:7). The ultimate model of influence by giving up power and control is Jesus (Mark 10:45). "If at the very heart of your worldview is a man dying for his enemies, then the way you're going to win influence in society [or in church] is through service rather than power and control." (149) But it's more difficult than it looks.

Happiness 101 (NY Times Magazine, Jan 7, 2007)

The researcher's goal was to show that "there are ways of living that (research shows) lead to better outcomes," such as "close relationships and love," "well-being," and "meaning and purpose of life." He pointed out that when you are leading an unselfish life of service to other people, it gives you a sense of meaning, of being useful and valuable, of having a life of significance. Thus, we should live this way to achieve "better outcomes," that is, "live a selfless life because it will make you happy--not because you ought to, or because it is moral to do so." Thus, we are living unselfishly for selfish reasons.

Can we then do good for moral reasons? What if I sacrifice and serve others in order to go to heaven? Isn't this primarily selfish? Basically, I want to be unselfish and moral because there are benefits for me--in this case eternal benefits. Again, if we try to live an unselfish or moral life for selfish reasons, it doesn't work.

The Nature of True Virtue (Jonathan Edwards)

To Edwards, if you don't believe the gospel of grace, you functionally believe you're saved by your good works. Then you're never done anything for the love of others or for the sheer beauty of it; you're done it for yourself. If you haven't helped the proverbial old lady cross the street just for her sake, or for God's sake, then you're done it to feel good about yourself, and to go to heaven someday because you're done good. "It's all selfish; it will become drudgery, yet you'll believe yourself superior to others." (151)

How can we escape this self-referential trap and truly become unselfish? Secularism, psychology, and relativism on the one hand, and religion and moralism on the other doesn't really give us what we need to be unselfish. Then what does? We need to look somewhere else. We need to look at Jesus. We need to experience in a very real way that:

  • I am worth everything to Jesus
  • I have everything I need in Jesus
  • Jesus paid for all my sins
  • Jesus is my substitutionary sacrifice
  • all of the above is a free gift of grace to me
If not, then everything I do, even as a Bible believing Christian, is the insecure feeble attempt of my skittish little heart to connect to God, or to get something from God, or to feel better about myself. What a meager and pathetic upgrade to my self-image that my "good deeds" would bring me! How can this ever compare to understanding why Jesus died for me, and how much Jesus loves me.

"If you really understand the cross, you are blasted out into the world in joyful humility. Now you do not need to help people, but you want to help them, to resemble the One who did so much for you, to bring him delight. Whether you think they are worthy of your service doesn't come into it. Only the gospel gives you a motivation for unselfish living that doesn't rob you of the benefits of unselfishness even as you enact it." (151)

Question: Is Jesus all you want, and is Jesus all you need?

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11) The Trap (Mark 10:17-27)

Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you trying to rest in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?
Chap 9: The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1): What’s your identity based on?
Chap 10: The Mountain (Mark 9:2-29): What if you are filled with doubt?

Quotes: "The heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring out resources, and serving." (124)

"When Christianity is in a place of power and wealth for a long period, the radical message of sin and grace and the cross can become muted or even lost. Then Christianity starts to transmute into a nice, safe religion, one that's for respectable people who try to be good." (124)

"Anyone who counts on what they are doing to get eternal life will find that, in spite of everything they've accomplished, there's an emptiness, an insecurity, a doubt." (129)

"It's one thing to have God as a boss, an example, a mentor; but if you want God to be your Savior, you have to replace what you're already looking to as a savior. Everybody's got something. What is it for you?" (132)

"Christians ... know that their Christianity is impossible, a miracle--there's nothing natural about it, it flies in the face of all one's merits. Everybody has to recognize that we have been resting our hopes on some form of personal merit. And it's our personal merit, our moral worth, that keeps us from understanding the cross." (133)

Intro: In the account of the rich young ruler who couldn't follow Jesus because of his wealth (Mark 10:17-27), Jesus lamented at the difficulty for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23). He uttered a famous hard saying: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25), which "shocked" the disciples (Mark 10:24,26), and they asked, "Who then can be saved?"

The disciples came from a culture that did not see wealth as evil, but rather as the reward for moral behavior. The was the worldview of Job's friends. They assumed that material prosperity (or poverty) meant you were living a good life and God was pleased (or displeased). But Jesus' response shows he doesn't subscribe to these simplistic views--neither is great wealth necessarily exploitative, nor is it always a sign of virtue and God's favor.

This man was morally upright (Mark 10:19,20), and that he became rich ethically. Still Jesus lamented at the difficulty of the rich to enter God's kingdom (Mark 10:23,25). By this Jesus didn't mean that it's a sin to be rich, or that the rich are bad, and the poor are good. Nor was Jesus warning caution about wealth and greed. No. Jesus was saying that there is something radically wrong with all of us--but money has particular power to blind us to it. Money can deceive us of our true spiritual state that we need a gracious, miraculous intervention from God to see it. It's impossible without a miracle, without grace.

What was Lacking in this "Good" Moral Ethical Young Man?

The young man thought he was pretty good, yet he felt that something was lacking, that he was missing something? Why? If you depend on what you're doing to be right with God, how can you know how good or how much is good enough? Jesus questioned his use of the word "good" (Mark 10:18), addressed the need for ethics and morality (Mark 10:19), and then said, "One thing you lack" (Mark 10:21). It meant that if you just repent of doing bad things, all it will do is make you a religious person. But if you want eternal life, intimacy with God, you have to also repent of how you use your good things. How do we use our good things?

  • We may turn material wealth into a spiritual treasure to deal with that inner sense of poverty.
  • We may try to turn physical beauty into spiritual beauty to deal with that inner sense of deformity.
  • We may use our good things to feel superior to others.
  • We may point to our good things (achievements, attainments) as our merit before God: "Look at how good I've been. Now you owe me a good wife, a good life."
The young man went away "sad" or grieved (Mark 10:22). This same Greek word was used to apply to Jesus at Gethsemane where he was grieved in deep distress. Why? He was about to experience the ultimate dislocation, the ultimate disorientation. He was about to lose the joy of his life, the core of his identity--his Father, his spiritual center, his very self. To this man, money was his center, his identity, his very self. He was about to lose himself--to lose what little sense he had of having covered the stain of inconsequentiality.

This young man's problem is not his financial worth; it's his moral worth. It's his sense that he doesn't need the grace of God. He has depended on his moral goodness and his money to "save himself." What happens to him is analogous to another encounter with a teacher of the law (Mark 12:28-34).

What's Your Attitude Toward Money? (How do you Know that Money isn't just Money to You?)

"For every one time Jesus warns about building our lives on sex and romance, he warns 10 times about money. Money has always been one of the most common saviors." (135) What's the evidence that money is more important to you than you care to admit?

  • You can't give large amounts of it away.
  • You get scared if you might have less than you're accustomed to having.
  • You see people who are doing better than you, even if you might have worked harder or might be a better person, and it gets under your skin.
Money is then no longer a tool; it's the scorecard. It's your essence, your identity. Though money is not intrinsically evil, it has some incredible power to keep you from God.

Jesus wasn't despising him for his sick attachment to his money. Rather, "Jesus looked at him and loved him" (Mark 10:21). Did Jesus love him for his leadership potential? Not likely.

Jesus identified with him. They might be close to the same age. Jesus is far richer than this man can imagine. Jesus has lived in the incomprehensible glory, wealth, love and joy of the Trinity from all eternity. He has already left that wealth behind him, becoming poor for our sakes (2 Cor 8:9). And Jesus is going into a poverty deeper than anyone has ever known. Jesus is the ultimate Rich Young Ruler who has given away the ultimate wealth to get you. Can you give away yours to get Jesus?

If we understand that Jesus is the true Rich Young Ruler, it will change our attitude toward money. You won't try to figure out how much you have to give away; you'll try to figure out how much you can give away. The real standard for how generous you will be is the cross. Only the cross can drain money of its importance for you. Human status becomes just human status. Approval becomes just approval.

Jesus says, "My power is always moving away from people who love power and money. My power is always moving toward people who are giving it away, as I did."

Question: Does it move you to think of what Jesus did for you?

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10) The Mountain (Mark 9:2-29)

Chap 1: The Dance (Trinity) (Mark 1:9-11): Do you expect others to dance around you?
Chap 2: The Gospel, The Call (Mark 1:14-20): Is your gospel good news or good advice?
Chap 3: The Healing (Mark 2:1-5): Are your sins against God or people (Ps 51:4)?
Chap 4: The Rest (Mark 2:23-3:6): Are you trying to rest in your efforts for significance?
Chap 5: The Power (Mark 4:35-41): Do you enjoy goodness and calm in a storm?
Chap 6: The Waiting (Mark 5:21-43): Do you have peace when God delays?
Chap 7: The Stain (Mark 7:1-23): Do you feel unclean, insignificant?
Chap 8: The Approach (Mark 7:24-37): Do you know you’re a dog, yet loved?
Chap 9: The Turn (Mark 8:27-9:1): Why is forgiveness so hard?


"Jesus is the temple and tabernacle to end all temples and tabernacles, because he is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the ultimate priest to point the way for all priests." (114)

"Through Jesus we don't need perfect righteousness, just repentant helplessness, to access the presence of God." (121)

Intro: When Moses saw God's glory (his "back") on Mount Sinai (Exo 33:18-23), his face shone with the reflected glory of God. Now, centuries later, on top of another mountain, there's glory again--with a difference (Mark 9:2-8). Moses had reflected the glory of God as the moon reflects the light of the sun. But Jesus produces the unsurpassable glory of God; it emanates from him. Jesus does not point to the glory of God, as every prophet has done; Jesus is the glory of God in human form (Heb 1:3).

Why Didn't The Disciples Die in God's Presence?

Something else happened on this mountain that was different: Peter, James, and John are in the presence of God and yet they do not die. On Mount Sinai, God came down as a cloud. It was called "the shekinah glory," meaning the "very presence of God," and is related to the word "dwell," or "dwelling." God told Moses, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live" (Exo 33:20). No one can endure the presence of God's holiness and live. That's why Jesus when Jesus was transfigured, Peter was scared, and suggested building shelters (Greek word for tabernacle.). Why?

Most religions recognize that there's a wide gap of some kind between deity and humanity. This explains why many religions have temples (tabernacles) with priests and sacrifices and rituals to mediate the gap and to protect humans from the very presence of God. Peter suggested to build shelters (a tabernacle) to do likewise. But a cloud enveloped them. God (a voice from heaven) speaks of his love for his Son, just as he did when Jesus was baptized at the beginning of his ministry (Mark 1:11; 9:7). Then all was gone except Jesus (Mark 9:8), for Jesus is the gap between deity and humanity that Moses and Elijah could not bridge. In this way, Peter, James and John experienced worship.

What is Worship?

Worship is not just believing. Before ascending the mountain, they already believed in God. Peter already confessed, "You are the Christ" (NIV, 84), or "You are the Messiah" (NIV, 2010) (Mark 8:29). But now they have sensed it. The presence of God enveloped them. They had a foretaste that all of us are longing for: the very face and embrace of God.

No one can just intellectually know in their head that God loves them, and be satisfied. They must feel and experience that God loves them. Similarly, no one is satisfied by being told that the honey is sweet, unless he tastes the honey and the sweetness for himself. No one is content to know that a restaurant serves really good food until he goes and eats there. Through the transfiguration, the 3 disciples felt/experienced in a state of electrified wonder the very presence of shekinah glory. But true worship is never possible without the death of glory. Thus, as they descended the mountain, Jesus pointed to his death ... again (Mark 9:9-13); Jesus addressed his resurrection (Mark 9:9,10), and his death (Mark 9:12), yet again, not to confound them, but to prepare them to face that such transcendent glory is not possible without great cost to Jesus.

How do we make our way into God's Presence?

When they came down the mountain, they encountered a situation where the other disciples were unable to drive out an evil spirit from a boy (Mark 9:14-18). Jesus said it was because they have been trying to exorcise it without praying (Mark 9:29). The religious elite too were there and probably criticizing. Only the father acknowledges his weakness, admitting that he does not have what it takes to handle the suffering and evil that he faces.

When he pleads for his son, Jesus says, "Believe" (Mark 9:23), which means "I can do it if you can believe." He responds, "I'm trying but I'm full of doubts" (Mark 9:24). Then Jesus heals his son. This is very good news. Jesus could have said, "First, purify your heart, confess your sins, get rid of your doubts, repent of your double-mindedness. Then I'll heal your son."

The boy's father basically says, "I'm not faithful. I'm full of doubts. I can't meet my moral and spiritual challenges. But help me." That's saving faith--faith in Jesus instead of in oneself.

What Jesus had to Lose

Jesus had lived for endless ages in the glory with the Father. On the mountain Jesus was surrounded by God; on the cross he will be forsaken. On the mountain we see the life he has always led--embraced and clothed with the love and light of God--but on the cross he will be naked in the dark. Why? For us. Paul says that evil is unmasked and defeated on our behalf at the cross (Col 2:15). Only because Jesus lost glory, are we able to find glory.

Grace: Jesus accepts my flawed, imperfect faith, only because of his perfect obedience on the Cross.

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