A Prayer Prompted by Mark 8:14-15

Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee.

14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Matthew 16:12 provides an explanation that Mark neglects.

Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

(By the way, there was a lot of overlap in the views of Herod or the Herodians as some manuscripts have it, and the Sadducees.  Rather than conflicting, these passages help explain one another.)

Jesus’s point is that the teaching of these groups was riddled with error, a problem that is common enough today.  Let’s ask for help in the face of that:

Heavenly Father,

Both the world and the church are filled with false teaching.  This is nothing new.  In the past there were many false prophets.  The church has continuously dealt with false teaching.  Then there are the views of the surrounding culture, which are very popular and very hard for us not to absorb.

Help us to keep our belief and doctrine pure.  Help us to not go astray as we seek to follow you.  Help us not to buy into the teaching of “another Jesus” as Paul so accurately puts it.  We want to keep ourselves from idols as John warns.

We need your Holy Spirit to teach us as we seek to learn from you.  As we open the Scriptures with a desire to obey, we need you to open the eyes of our understanding.  Help us not to seek teaching that scratches our itching ears.  Help us to desire the purest of spiritual milk.  Help us to long for the truth and keep us safe from the lies of the devil.

Finally, help us to be faithful when we know full well that we are often lacking in faith.

In Christ,

Amen

 

A Prayer Prompted by Matthew 28

Heavenly Father,

You are the Source of all life and the Creator of all things. And we understand that you gave your Son to suffer death in our place so that our sins would be forgiven.

We thank you for Jesus, who died, but was always planning to rise from the dead. He is now risen, just as he said.

He has conquered the grave and the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.

Though we may feel sinful, dirty and lost, we trust that our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.

Though we may feel forgotten and alone, we understand that he is Immanuel, God with us, and he has promised to be with us always.

Help us to constantly keep that in mind as we wait for his soon return.

Thank you in Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

Ultimate victory – Matthew 28

The resurrection turns the ultimate defeat into the ultimate victory.  Sin, death and Satan have now been dealt with forever because the Son of God has risen from the grave.  The consequences of humanity’s fall into sin are reversed, never to take control of us again.  

Just before issuing his Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  That means the sin, death and Satan combined have approximately zero authority.  

Since this deals once and for all with our biggest problem, lesser problems also come into a proper perspective.  All of the hurts, problems and defeats that I have experienced or that I have caused are reduced to times that my team and I have fallen behind in a winning game.  It may look bad for the moment but our final victory is ultimately assured.

There is never a reason big enough to give up hope.  Christ is risen and someday we too will be resurrected into a completely new life in him.

A Prayer Prompted by Matthew 27

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that out of love for us you sent your Son, who willingly died in our place. Thank you for allowing him to take the punishment that our sin deserved.

We thank you for having him endure the false accusations from his enemies, the abandonment of his friends and the pain and suffering that were naturally a part of the cross.

We also thank you for placing upon Jesus the unendurable grief caused by our sin. The guilt and the shame built up over the history of the human race was placed on his shoulders.

This tragic death is not a defeat, but the most wonderful victory ever won. And he did it because he loved us.

Thank you in Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

Jesus is mocked – Matthew 27:27-31

I recently read a blog post by a self-professed atheist in which the author mocked Jesus using a fair amount of vulgar language.  Looking back, I should have stopped halfway through, but for some reason kept going all the way to the end.  To save you the experience I will not link to it or invite you to read it yourself.  Sure, no problem.  You’re welcome.  Jesus is used to this sort of thing, I guess.  Consider this passage from Matthew 27.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him.28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Let’s keep in mind it only got worse after this.  Matthew goes from here to the crucifixion.  The Bible explains Christ’s motivation for his suffering as love.  One of several verses that point us in this direction is 1 John 3:16.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

It’s good to just keep this in mind.  If we ever need evidence of God’s love or Christ’s commitment to show it, we just need to look at the cross.  That was the punishment that we deserved and he took it on our behalf.  Being fully God and fully man, the price he paid was of infinite value, enough to easily pay for the sins of us all. 

Any sacrifice we make for others is nothing more than following his example and responding to his love.  Any criticism or demeaning comments from others we endure for our faith only draws us closer to his example.  Meditating on his love for us will make our potential sacrifice easier to bear.

Thank you Jesus!