Read: Mark 6:21-29 & Matthew 14:1-12
When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:29 ESV)
Herod married his sister in law. That’s pretty weird. But he did. And John the Baptizer called him out about it. Which promptly landed John in prison. It eventually cost him his life. Herod had John beheaded in the prison at the behest of his niece-turned-stepdaughter.
When John’s disciples found out they collected the body (minus the head) and buried him in a tomb. John was the greatest man to ever live, but he was just a man. He would stay dead. He would stay in his tomb.
Jesus was understandably sad about the death of his cousin, friend, and colleage. Ultimately he would face a similar fate for his continued stance against the Pharisees and their damnable corruption. However, Jesus’ tomb was only borrowed, and that for just a few days. Because as the sun came up that first Easter Sunday morning the Son of Man came out of the tomb.
It’s rare in America for believers to face the threat of death for taking a hard stand for the truth. However, a day may come when we do. If whether, at home, or abroad we sometime find ourselves facing death for the truth of the Gospel, we may wind up in another tomb. But Jesus holds the keys to death, hell, and the grave. He holds the keys to our future and our foundation. We can rest well and easy in him.
Read: Mark 6:14-20
When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (Mark 6:20b ESV)
Herod just didn’t get it. He didn’t know how to take John, didn’t know who he was, what he was up to, or why he was so perplexed. Ultimately he threw John in prison for his preaching against Herod’s sinful lifestyle. Yet even after that he regarded John as a holy man.
The cool thing about John is that he modeled exactly what Jesus wanted out of the disciples. John went before Jesus preparing people for the Kingdom of God, just as the disciples were charged to do when they were sent out, and just as we are charged to do today. John did it with great gusto.
Even today we can share the truth of the Gospel in a way that is perplexing to people. In fact, I completely believe that when we actually commit ourselves to lovingly sharing the fullness of the Good News it will perplex people. It will cause them to begin to question things in their lives that are out of order, and that separate them from God’s truth.
Unfortunately Herod did not ultimately respond to the Gospel in a positive way, but that didn’t keep John the Baptizer from sharing the fullness of truth. As you share your faith with those around you may not be met with positive response either. You might meet some gladly perplexed people too. Press on. Keep sharing. It is worth it.
Read: Luke 10:38-42
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. (Luke 10:39 ESV)
Martha welcomed Jesus into her home and began to serve his needs and offer hospitality. Her sister Mary was captivated by Jesus and sat at his feet listening to his teaching. Martha didn’t like it at all. In her opinion Mary had left her to do all the work. Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha’s complaining speaks volumes. Martha was blessed by her service to The Lord, but Mary was more blessed by sitting at his feet to enjoy his presence.
This brief story sheds light on a big question among some Christians today. What is more important: serving Jesus through your actions, or serving him through abiding in his presence? The answers are as varied as the lives of those who ask the question.
Truthfully, there isn’t a blanket answer that fits the life of every believer and every scenario. The story of Mary and Martha shows us that in this specific example Jesus was very pleased with Mary’s decision to simply enjoy his presence. However, it is also clear that at other points Scripture is very clear about the need for us to actually doing something.
The big idea found here I believe is that we cannot assume that the way we connect to Jesus or serve him is how everyone else must do it. Let me be clear, I believe everyone must connect to Jesus. He is after all the “way, the truth, and the life”. But let us not assume that the good portion is the same for everyone. Where Jesus calls one to instruction and abiding, he may call someone else to action and serving.
Read: Luke 10: 29-37
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 ESV)
As Jesus conversed with the lawyer the inquisitive fellow sought to refine his opinion. Jesus had just offered him gentle correction and the laywer was interested in justifying his position. The issue in question was the notion of loving people, or as Jesus had just told everyone loving your neighbor as yourself.
As thinkers are often prone to do the unnamed questioner got hung up on one word. “Who is my neighbor?” He asked. Jesus response came in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus told the story in language and terms the common people listening would have well understood. He painted an accurate picture of the times as he explained the way the religious leadership abandoned the felt needs of the ransacked traveller. I imagine that the listeners found the story either scandalously truthful and full of conviction, or mocking and hardened their hearts.
Jesus answer to the question of neighborhood was perfect. A neighbor is not just someone who lives nearby as we are sometimes inclined to believe. A neighbor is anyone. Someone in proximity to us. Someone in need. Someone society has rejected.
Jesus’ definition of neighbor is challenging. It calls us to abandon our small-minded love to embrace and pursue a bigger kind of love that ministers to anyone and everyone in need. His words show us that we do not have the right to minister only to those we find acceptable or similar. Loving our neighbor as ourself is so much bigger than we so often want to realize.
Read: Luke 10:25-28
He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26 ESV)
A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test. This was a guy who’s sole job was to know the Law of Moses inside and out. He was out to find a loophole or other kind of weakness in Jesus’s theology by asking him how to attain eternal life. Jesus’ response was great, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
Jesus was about to share a big truth with the lawyer, but first he wanted to hear the self-appointed inquisitor’s own worldview. Jesus wanted to give the guy a chance to lay out his own presuppositions. I can almost hear Jesus’ sarcasm as he looked at the man and basically said, “You’re the expert. Why don’t you tell me?”
A big question we all face in our Spiritual growth is How do we read it? Because we should all be reading the Bible. We should want to spend time in His book in some form. But how are we doing that? Do we only read it when we have a point to prove? Do we only go looking for scripture that will back up our particular line of reasoning? Or, do we do the healthy thing, the right thing, do we read the Holy Scriptures and allow them to change our thoughts and habits? How we read it matters. How do you read it?
Read: Luke 10:21-24
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” (Luke 10:23 ESV)
I am a really fortunate guy. Unlike many people in my life I have never had to worry about wearing any kind of corrective lenses. I have perfect natural vision. The rarity of this does not escape me. I am really really grateful for it.
Spiritual awareness is another kind of sight. Jesus often spoke very candidly in terms of seeing and hearing truth. Those who perceived and accepted his truth he proclaimed as blessed. Those who did not were not only already cursed because of the hardness of their hearts, but he warned that they would eventually face the eternal consequences of their curse in Hell.
I have known many people who were blind to truth. Some of them were unbelievers who eventually came to faith in Christ by repenting and believing in him. I have also known many who professed to be followers of Jesus, but were in actuality blind to the truth of what he cares most about. They did not follow him through repentance or believing.
My wife and I make it a regular practice in our marriage to openly discuss the things we believe. My constant prayer is that this prayerful openness would always help us to keep our eyes open to the truths that Jesus leads us to. That we would continually look only to him. And that by putting our focus where it belongs we might resist the distractions around us that would blind us.
Read: Luke 10:17-20
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20 ESV)
They returned triumphant. They felt victorious. Inspite of some of the rejection and hard heartedness of men, the disciples had done a great work. People had been healed, demons had been cast out, and the gospel message had went forth in preparation for Jesus.
I imagine that this group, mostly comprised of men marginalized by the religious establishment, felt pretty good about themselves. Jesus’ words to them don’t ring out as a form of correction but as cuationary concern. Of course he wanted them to heal and cast out demons. He was the one that empowered them to do it. The real matter to be rejoiced over was salvation.
In ministry it is really easy to get caught up in the wins. When things are going extremely well you start to ride a wave of success that feels awesome. Knowing God has empowered you to succeed and seeing it happen creates an opportunity to led pride sneak in. Whether you’re in vocational ministry or not it is easy to let this kind of thing happen during successful seasons of life.
We must celebrate success, often. We must share stories of life change and the miraculous as they happen. But let us never forget that for each one of us the biggest cause for rejoicing in our life is the salvation of our souls.