If this story sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we heard it last October, only from Mark’s gospel instead of Luke’s. The two accounts are almost identical. They both describe the way wealth gets in between Jesus and us – not because money is an evil thing, but because it’s so easy to make money into an idol. The rich ruler didn’t have wealth, so much as wealth had him. His dependence on that wealth was all that stood between him and becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
So as we listen to Jesus, we have to ask ourselves “What am I letting stand between me and Jesus? What’s getting in the way, what’s preventing me from getting closer to Christ so I can listen to him more completely? Continue reading →
March 3, 2019 This message is based on an outline provided by J.D. Walt for the Listen to HimLenten study series.
A lot has happened since we left Jesus preaching on a level place last week. He has traveled all over Galilee, healing, casting out demons, preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God – and it seems that everywhere he goes, the Pharisees are on his trail. They question him and challenge him. They invite him to dinner, and then criticize him to the other guests. Those Pharisees…
By the time we get from chapter six – where we left off last week – to today’s reading in chapter 9, Jesus has even raised a young girl from the dead. He has fed 5000 people and calmed a storm in the middle of the lake. He has sent out his apostles on their first mission trip, and explained that whoever wants to follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for his sake will save it.
And then he tells them something really amazing. Jesus says, “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.” (9:27) He isn’t predicting that some of the disciples will live until the second coming. He’s telling them about an event that is just around the corner. Continue reading →
We are back with Jesus on the level place, right where we left off last week. He started out by describing the blessings we experience when our hearts are tuned to God and our attention is focused on God’s kingdom. But they didn’t sound like blessings to those people who gathered around Jesus to hear him teach.
It sounded like Jesus was getting it backward – you’re blessed when you’re poor or hungry and you’re doomed if you are rich or well fed. You’re blessed when you sorrow, and you’re doomed when you laugh. It just doesn’t make sense!
But that’s because we hear these blessings and woes through a worldly filter. If we listen carefully, we can hear a different message. It isn’t about food or money or social approval at all. It’s about what we give our attention to, what we place at the center of our lives. Continue reading →
Let’s review what’s happened in Luke’s gospel so far. Luke spent the first chapter introducing us to John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah. We met Mary and Joseph, and heard Mary and Zechariah sing praises to God for what God was about to do.
Luke 2 is all about the birth of Jesus, his presentation in the temple – where Anna and Simeon recognize him as Messiah – and what little we know about Jesus’ childhood. There’s that story of Jesus hanging out with the scribes and teachers while his parents head home to Nazareth, but that’s about all we know from Luke about the boy Jesus.
Then chapter three brings us back to John the Baptist, but now he and Jesus are grown men. John baptizes Jesus and moves into the background. He knows that it’s time for him to become less so Jesus can become more.
Chapter 4 has taken us into the wilderness of temptation, and back home to Nazareth to hear Jesus preach his first sermon in the synagogue there. It starts out well, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, but it ends up with the people of Nazareth trying to throw Jesus off a cliff. Jesus passes through their midst and gets away. He knows this isn’t the hill he’s supposed to die on. He still has work to do. Continue reading →
The story of Blind Bartimaeus acts as a bookend in Mark’s gospel. It closes out a long section that began back in chapter eight, when Jesus healed another blind man – only that time, Jesus had to spit twice before the man could see. This whole section has come to its climax here in chapter ten, where we’ve been walking with Jesus this month. The itinerary Jesus and his disciples have been following, as they travel from Galilee to Jerusalem, has been pretty … eventful. Continue reading →
I knew a guy once who worked really hard at appearing humble. In public, he was always putting himself down, always declining praise when he’d done something good. But in private, it was a different story. One time he told me of a particularly generous thing he’d done for someone we both knew. And then he said, “But of course, I don’t want anyone to know it was me. Jesus says to give alms in secret.” And I thought, “but you just told me.” Continue reading →
Have you ever held a garage sale? Somewhere in the process of getting all the items ready for the sale, did you ask yourself “How did I accumulate so much stuff?”
Our culture encourages consumerism – advertisers play on our emotions to convince us we really need something that, to be honest, we probably don’t need at all. Mary Hunt, who writes a newspaper column called “The Everyday Cheapskate,” has a saying that many of us could put on our bathroom mirrors to read as we brush our teeth every morning: Continue reading →