“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 32: AUGUST 23
MARK 7 – LUKE 8:56
Much of Matthew’s gospel is reflected in Mark’s gospel (and vice-versa), but Luke’s gospel introduces some new stories about Jesus, so I’ll be highlighting those today. I’ll also continue to bang some people over the head about the importance of giving everything you’ve got to God, and by extension to Jesus in being his follower. I doubt that you would have read this far in the reflections if you aren’t already giving it everything you’ve got, by your own estimation. But there still might be a few things you’re holding back. Scripture says that God is the jealous type and wants us all to himself. If we expect him to protect us and provide for us and strengthen us, we need to do our part and give ourselves only to him.
- I left off yesterday’s reflection with Jesus giving the religious ptb an earful (not that they heard anything other than that they were being disrespected). One thing I didn’t mention was how Jesus cautioned his disciples and the people he healed (and the demons he cast out) not to tell anyone about him. It was like he wanted to move through the world anonymously. Why was that? The main reason was that the more his name and accomplishments became known to the Jewish and Roman ptb, the more of a target he was to them, as they were afraid he’d mess with their status quo and disrupt their plans. Jesus needed to keep a low profile as long as possible so that he could move from district to district, preaching and teaching the Word. We need to learn from that.
- False prophets love to have their names and deeds broadcast as far and wide as possible. They don’t have to worry about catching the attention of the ptb, because liars know liars as one of their own, so they’re in no danger from the world. We, on the other hand, need to keep our heads down over the next months and years, because like Jesus, we’re going to be targets. The less we comply with the dictates of mainstream society, the more outlaw we become and therefore the more targeted and vulnerable.
- God puts us on his rock, as David says, so that we can better see what’s around us and what’s coming, not so that we can make a spectacle of ourselves. God doesn’t support grandstanding. Jesus never grandstanded. He did everything low-profile, other than for the incident in the temple (which was a long time coming and well-deserved) and his triumphal entry to Jerusalem. Both of these needed to be done to fulfill scripture.
- So keep your eyes and ears open and your head down. God has put you on his rock so that you have the advantage of seeing and knowing. Use that advantage to your benefit, not your hurt. Let people know you’re a follower of Jesus, but don’t blare it. Shine it. Let them know not by an advertising campaign, but by your everyday words and deeds, like Jesus.
- The description of the end-times in Mark is much like the one in Matthew. But what’s important in the description is not that this follows that or this has to be done before that is done, but that we continue to do what we do as followers of Jesus. Nothing should change in how we interact with the world, whether it’s tribulation time or not. We still put God first in everything, we still keep the Commandments (ALL OF THEM), we still treat others as we want to be treated, and we still love our enemies. None of that changes. We aren’t suddenly given permission to kill people because it’s the tribulation. No. When Jesus says to get a weapon, we get a weapon, we use it as a deterrent, not as a tool to hurt or kill people. The Commandments still stand, regardless of the times we’re in.
- As followers of Jesus, we’re always to live with “loins girded”, that means, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. God will likely give you more than a moment’s notice, but maybe not. Maybe like Jesus says, you’ll be out somewhere away from wherever it is you’re living, and you’ll get the signal to leave without going back for so much as your jacket. Jesus doesn’t say this stuff to hear himself speak. God spoke directly through him, so when Jesus says to leave with just the clothes on your back, you leave with just the clothes on your back, because that’s God giving you orders. If you defy God (and you have the option to do that), things won’t go well for you.
- Many Christians now are focusing on preparing to survive the tribulation times. Many are also in panic mode. Jesus never panicked. He told us always to watch for the signs of the times and always to have our loins girded, ready to leave at a moment’s notice, but other than that it should be business as usual for us. We don’t stop putting God first in everything just because it’s the tribulation. We don’t stop keeping ALL the Commandments or stop treating others as we want to be treated. We don’t even stop loving our enemies. We maintain the Christian status quo, even in tribulation times. I don’t see Jesus changing anything, not at his arrest and not even at his crucifixion. I see him still putting God first in everything, still following the Commandments, still treating others as he wants to be treated, and still loving his enemies. None of those things should change as long as we’re on this Earth, tribulation or no tribulation. This is what it means to endure to the end.
- How we prepare for our daily needs also doesn’t change. I’ve written before about it, but it bears going over again. As followers of Jesus, the only prepping we need to do is stocking up on the Word of God and deepening our relationship with God and Jesus. That’s it, unless God tells us specifically to do something else. The thousands who came to hear Jesus teach were fed both spiritually and physically by God, through miracles. David and his men ate the showbread at the altar, even though it was meant for the priests only. God gave Jesus and his disciples permission to harvest and eat corn, even though it was a Sabbath. If you put God first in everything and follow Jesus, God will provide. Prepping not only shows weak faith but also lack of knowledge of God’s Word. That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this read-through now – to remind ourselves of how Jesus lived his life, because that’s how we should be living ours, and Jesus prepped only with prayer. Prepping of food and other supplies says to God: “I don’t trust that you’ll provide for me, so I’m stocking up as a Plan B. I’m also planting a garden as a Plan C.” Jesus never planted a garden and wasn’t in one place long enough to tend it, and yet God always provided for him, one way or another. We need to stop taking our cues from the world and from those who say they’re Christians but by their actions show they’re not. Followers of Jesus live as Jesus lived, and he never had a six-month stock of toilet paper. ‘Nuff said.
- Luke’s gospel goes into greater detail about John the Baptist than either Matthew or Mark, so we get more of the background story and also learn about the blood connection between John and Jesus. They were cousins on their mothers’ side. We don’t know how much time they spent together as children or teenagers, but we do know that John the Baptist knew that Jesus was very special and considered him to be a far greater prophet than he. Whether he truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah is up for debate. Had he believed, he wouldn’t have sent his followers to Jesus to ask if he was the Messiah. It’s possible that John’s blood ties with Jesus kept him from seeing Jesus as anything but his cousin who also happened to be an up and coming great prophet. Jesus’ mother was also limited to seeing him as the same – a prophet, but not the Messiah. Jesus stated that a prophet is not without honor except in his own home and country, and he was living proof.
- What does John the Baptist’s doubt in Jesus’ messiahship have to do with our relationship with Jesus? And how does it affect us in the months and years to come? First of all, Jesus was absolutely clear that his cousin was the prophesied prophet who would preach in the spirit of Elijah (Elias, in most translations). John the Baptist was the prophesied messenger. That meant that Jesus had to be the Messiah. Secondly, John was partially spiritually blinded by his relationship to Jesus and also by not being born-again. No-one had been born-again at that point; Jesus was born with the Spirit, but John was like the OT prophets – it was with him sometimes, but not all of the time. That’s why Jesus referred to John as being of a woman born rather than of God born – when you undergo spiritual rebirth, you’re born of God.
- These two points – John’s doubt in Jesus’ messiahship and John not being born-again – are not things that should hamper us in following Jesus. We should know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is the Messiah because we are genuinely born-again. If you have doubts about Jesus’ messiahship or about whether or not you’re actually reborn, you need to take it up with God in prayer right now, because if you’re not reborn, you won’t make it through what’s coming. You will falter and you will fall and you will stay down for the count. And none of those who stay down for the count will make it home.
- John the Baptist, of course, made it home, along with all the other heralds of Jesus (OT prophets). Spiritual rebirth was not granted at that time, so it wasn’t a requirement. But ever since the resurrection of Jesus, rebirth is a requirement. No rebirth = no ability to endure to the end = no Heaven as a reward.
I’ve purposely not gone over the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus yet. We’ll look at those chapters tomorrow, for all three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). I hate reading about how Jesus had to suffer, but we need to see how he handled it and learn from it, because suffering will definitely be on the menu for us in the months and years to come.
The PDF of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule is directly below.