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Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, According to the Gospel of Mark

Today's Reading:
  • Mark 15:1 - 47
  • Psalm 54:1 - 7
Read Bible Passages Online

Mark 15:1 - 47
Jesus was brought before Pilate for permission to be executed.  Pilate could find no fault with Jesus -- Jesus was not a threat to the government, just to the Jewish leaders.  Pilate tried to get the people to release Jesus as the prisoner to be released for Passover, but the people were too riled up by the Jewish leaders to allow that.  Finally, Pilate ordered that Jesus be whipped and then crucified.

Jesus was flogged and mocked.  The guards dressed him in a purple robe and put a crown woven of thorns on top his head.  They pretended to bow to him while at the same time beating him.  Finally the time came for Jesus to be brought to the site of the crucifixion, but by then he was unable to carry his own cross, and a man named Simon was pulled from the crowd to carry it for Jesus.

The time for the crucifixion came.  Jesus was offered wine that was drugged with myrrh but denied it.  He was nailed to the cross at 9 in the morning. Two men, on on each side of Jesus, were crucified at the same time.  The crowd taunted Jesus as he hung there.  Worse, the men on each side of Jesus also taunted him.  It's hard to imagine a crowd around you taunting you as you were dying, how horrible that would feel.  But then to have two people, who were also being put to death in the exact same manner, taunt you also is even worse.  Even in death, those men mocked Jesus and thought they were better than he.

From noon until three darkness covered the entire land and Jesus uttered his last words and took his last breaths at 3:00 pm.  As he died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  The guard in charge of watching Jesus then declared that truly, Jesus was the son of God (15:39).

 In Matthew's account of the crucifixion, far more detail was given about what happened when Jesus died.  We were told not only about the curtain, but about the earth shaking, tombs being split apart, and how bodies of godly men and women were raised from the dead (Matthew 51:53).  I was hoping for more detail on those things but didn't get it in this account.  Regardless, for that guard to exclaim that Jesus truly was the son of God after seeing him die, something visible to him (such as earth shaking, etc) had to have happened.

So once again I read about the crucifixion of Jesus, and as I have said before, it pains me to even have to read about it, but the burden that Jesus Christ carried that day was far worse than my small discomfort.  I can't wait until my next reading in Mark -- the resurrection!  I am hoping there is more detail in the resurrection in this account than I got in Matthew's account.  And thank you, Jesus, for dying for MY sins, and for the sins of all, though you knew no sin.

Psalm 54:1 - 7
In this psalm, David's location has been betrayed to his enemies.  David cries out for justice against them, that their evil plans be used against them.  Then David turns to praise for the Lord in anticipation of the Lord's triumph over David's enemies (54:6 -7):
I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.  For you have rescued me from my troubles and helped me to triumph over my enemies.
What I love about those verses is the complete faith David had.  The Lord hadn't rescued him yet, but still, David had absolute faith that the Lord would rescue him, and praised the Lord in advance of his rescue.  David's faith is a beautiful thing, a perfect reminder that just because the Lord hasn't answered our prayers yet, it does not mean that He won't.  It doesn't mean He has forgotten or forsaken us.  So instead we should faith in the Lord in advance of the answer -- and praise Him accordingly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Korah Rebels Against Moses, Dathan and Abiram Are Swallowed Alive by the Earth

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 15:17 - 16:40
  • Proverbs 11:5 - 6
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 15:17 - 16:40
I finally get to read about Korah.  I remember wondering who the descendants of Korah were when I was reading Psalm 42 and Psalm 43.  I knew that these people were being punished, but I did not know why.  Were they being punished because Korah had sinned?  Were they being punished because they had sinned?

I still don't know those answers, but I do know now who Korah was.  Korah was apparently dissatisfied that the Moses and the priests were given consideration from God, when the Lord brought all the people out of Egypt, not just Moses and Aaron.

Korah was a Levite, so he already had special consideration from the Lord, for the Lord set aside the Levites as the people who would serve the priests and care for and move the Tabernacle.  The Levites got to work more closely with Lord than any other person in the camp who was not Moses or a priest.  If I had to guess, I would think that Korah was jealousy, angry and/or upset because they were taking orders from Moses and the priests each and every day. 

Korah gathered 250 people against Moses to challenge his leadership and his divine appointment by the Lord.  Korah conspired with two others -- Dathan and Abiram -- in bringing this rebellion before Moses.  Moses told Korah to bring his 250 to the Tabernacle, to let the Lord decide who was holy enough to be in his presence.

The Lord was angry and was going to immediately smite everyone, but once Moses and Aaron intervened and asked the Lord only to destroy the ones who had sinned.  The other two conspirators to Korah -- Dathan and Abiram -- were literally swallowed up by the earth, along with their wives, their children, their households, their belongings and their tents.  The ground opened up, swallowed them, and closed again.  Then Korah and his 250 were killed in a fire that was blazed by the Lord. That must have been a scene of utter chaos.  I can't imagine the terror that must have jolted throughout the encampment as the ground literally swallowed people while others were killed instantly in fire. 

I still don't know the answer to my question about the descendants of Korah.  The reason I don't know is because it does not say what happened to the descendants of Korah within the passage that I read.  As far as I know, all the descendants of Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the ground, but Korah was standing among the 250 burned in the fire.  It doesn't say that his family or his home were swallowed.  And obviously Korah would have had surviving descendants somewhere, since there are psalms written by/about those descendants.

Perhaps the descendants were cursed for what Korah did, or perhaps the descendants continued to blatantly oppose the Lord themselves.  Once I find out, I'm sure I will write about it!

Proverbs 11:5 - 6
The godly are directly by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.
6  The godliness of good people rescues them, the ambition of treacherous people traps them.
 This is just more assurance that those who are godly people will eventually be rescued from their burdens.  The wicked will continue to sin, they will continue to do harm to others.  But they will eventually fall, be it in this life or after death. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jesus is Tried Against the High Council

Today's Reading:
  • Mark 14:53 - 72
  • Psalm 53:1 - 6
Read Bible Passages Online

Mark 14:53 - 72
Jesus was brought to the high priest's home and tried before the entire high council.  Once again, we were told that they were trying to find a reason to put him to death, but although many people testified, they were all contradicting each other.

This makes me wonder -- why was it so important to them that Jesus be put to death?  What had he done to them?  I know that he infuriated the leaders with his teachings, and that he had cleared out the temple after discovering that it was being used as a scheme to make money.  But does that really warrant trying to get someone killed?

The trial went on, and the people could find no reason to convict Jesus.  That is, until they asked Jesus if he was the Messiah.  Jesus replied (14:62):
"I AM.  And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power of God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven."
After Jesus said that, the council declared him guilty.

In today's world, if someone claimed to be the Messiah, 95% of the people would declare the person a lunatic, and the other 5% would follow.  But that wouldn't warrant death.  So I have to wonder, what is the difference in the world today.  Or at least, what's the difference in the country I live in -- the United States.  I don't know how other countries might handle the situation differently, so I can't account for the entire world.  But what about the United States, how is that different from this setting in biblical history?

I don't know a whole lot about the time it was in.  I know that the US was founded under God, but also under a segregation of church and state.  So I first have to wonder, what would it be like without that segregation?  Were people allowed different religions other than being Jewish in Jerusalem?  What offenses warranted death?  I know that I have seen that people were still being stoned to death for offenses such as adultery.  But what sin did claiming to be the Messiah fall under?  At the worst case this man was just disillusioned, so why did it irk them so badly?

Perhaps it was the thousands of followers he had gathered?  Maybe it was how he stepped on their toes and disgraced their teachings.  Was the love that is a major part of this religion just plain missing?  I know it was revolutionary that Jesus taught about love, loving God, loving one another.  Having lived almost two thousand years past when the last book of the bible was written, I am accustomed to the love and forgiveness that is Christianity now, that Jesus has provided for us.  I just can't fathom living in a world where that wasn't already there.

The bottom line is, these people put Jesus to death because that was God's plan for salvation.  It's still upsetting to me to see an innocent life -- any innocent life -- put to death.  The fact that the innocent life was that of Jesus Christ himself makes it that much more appalling.  

Psalm 53:1 - 6
53:4  Will those who do evil never learn?  They eat up my people like bread and wouldn't think of praying to God.
 I guess that as long as there are evil people in the world -- evil people who never know God, who always try to hurt others -- as long as those people exist, I will always have these questions in my heart about how people can simply be so evil.  People who only want to harm others, people who call for the death of innocent people.  The people who condemned the Savior to die.  I think of how much this pains me.  I can't even imagine how much it pains God.  It's impossible to imagine what the world will be like when all this suffering is gone.  It will be amazing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When God Slams the Door (The Lord Condemns the Israelites to Die in the Wilderness)

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 14:1 - 15:16
  • Proverbs 11:4
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 14:1 - 15:16
Moses and the Israelites got near the land the Lord had promised to them.  Twelve scouts were sent ahead to scope the land for 40 days.  When they returned, 10 of the scouts spread fear throughout the people.  The other 2 scouts were Joshua and Caleb, and they did their best to assure the people that the land was attainable with the glory of God.

The people (once again) began to whine and complain.  They stayed up the entire night, crying about how they were going to die in battle; their wives and children carried off in plunder.   They once again cried that it would be better to die in Egypt.  In fact, it would be better to die in the wilderness.  (Wasn't their previous complaint how it would be better to die in Egypt than the wilderness?)

The Lord had finally had enough. (He sure is patient, isn't He?  I lost my patience with those people long ago!).  The Lord declared that He would destroy them all, but Moses begged the Lord otherwise.  The Lord listened to Moses and did not destroy the people, but he did condemn them to die in the desert.

The Lord told Moses that not a single person, aged 20 or older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua ) would enter that land.  Each and every single one of those people would die in the wilderness, just as they had bemoaned the entire journey up to that point. 

The people, when they heard that, decided (once again) to rebel.  They said they had sinned, but were now ready to enter the land.  So they tried to do it themselves, but they failed without the Lord by their sides.  God had shut that door to them.

God is insanely patient to have put up with what He did up to that point.  But at some point, enough was enough.  The Lord was upset because He had sent sign after sign after sign to these people.  He had lived in their camp, led them, and guided them all along.  Yet the entire way they moaned and cried and threw fits. 

I really don't have anything else to say about this.  People are fickle, and for many, you can show them all the signs in the world, but they still won't believe.  I also learned today that sometimes God slams the door in your face and locks it for good.  I can't think of anything I've done that has caused God to slam a door in my face, but I can see it does happen.  Don't bemoan the Lord.  He is here for you always, even when you aren't there for Him. 

Proverbs 11:4
Riches won't help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death.
Here we are told that riches won't help us out when it's judgment time.  Note it doesn't say riches are evil -- I have yet to the bible say that -- but simply that it won't help you.

Right living can save you from death.   Obviously we are each condemned to die, it is a sure thing, save for a lucky few (when compared to the billions who have already died) who are still alive when Jesus returns.  So are we talking about eternal death?  Are we talking about early death?  Are we talking about both?

I have seen how sins -- especially adultery -- lead to the grave.  I've seen it occur both figuratively and literally in the bible.  It can spell the end of everything you have accomplished in life, in one fell swoop.  I have read other passages that talk about our sins as ropes that hold us captive.

In the end only our salvation in Jesus Christ can save us.  But walking the right path while we are here on earth will help us to avoid pain, keep us closer to the Lord, and ensure an easier time for us on judgement day.  I'd best make sure these feet of mine are walking in the right direction!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (The Lord's Will Be Done)

Today's Reading:
  • Mark 14:22 - 52
  • Psalm 52:1 - 9
Read Bible Passages Online

Mark 14:22 - 52
The Passover meal ended, and Jesus took his disciples to Gethsemane garden at the Mount of Olives.  There Jesus prayed in anguish to his father, begging him to take the cup of suffering away from him.  I read this same story in Matthew and was struck by it then.  Before then I didn't know that Jesus had prayed to avoid the terrible crucifixion.  Even though he prayed in anguish, he did pray that the Lord's will be done, not his. 

This passage reminds me that Jesus was a man.  Of course I know he was a man, but overall I was focused on the divinity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus being the son of God did not in any way diminish his suffering on that terrible day, and Jesus was anguished knowing that it was soon to pass.  In the end, Jesus valued one thing above all -- the Lord's will. 

Sometimes the Lord's plan from us is so far from what we want that it causes us great distress.  But when we follow the Lord's plan, something far greater than what we want comes out of it.  The death of Jesus, however horrible it was (and it truly saddens me just to get close to reading about it again), was the ultimate example of how the will of the Lord always works out for the better, no matter what our flesh wants.  Thank you, Jesus for following the Lord's will to the grave, bearing that terrible price, and earning salvation for each and every single one of us. 

When I read the name of the gardens, I decided to do a little research to see if the place exists today.  It does!  I love it when you can find places and things referenced in the bible in today's time.  Below is a picture of the Garden in Gethsemane: