A Prayer Prompted by Mark 15:22-41

Dear Lord Jesus,

You said during the time of your ministry, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Little did your disciples know at the time how that would happen or how it would look.

Now, having been accused, tried and sentenced, we see what you went through for us.  The humiliation, the pain and the suffering were all to pay the price for our sins.  You paid this ransom so that we could walk free.

You refused to come down from the cross.  You endured the abandonment of your disciples, which was tragic, but also of the very Father who sent you, at your greatest moment of need.  Such grief is thankfully beyond our experience. 

How fitting that those who passed by derided you, illustrating how badly we all needed the work your were completing at that moment.  How perfect also was the darkness that descended, dimming the view of the worst of your suffering from those present, and likewise from the rest of us who would read of it later,  And you died among thieves, like the worst of common criminals.

All of this you did for us.  We thank you for bearing our sin.  We thank you for paying the price for our salvation.  We thank you for the humility you expressed so that we might be glorified with you someday, and will know that glorified state for all eternity.

This is how we know what love is.

Thank you Jesus.

Amen.

The weight of sin – Mark 15:33-39

Last week we looked at Gethsemane.  Today we see Jesus die on the cross.  This is when he felt the weight of our sin upon him.  And it felt like being completely forsaken by God.  Let’s read about that hopeless, helpless moment.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Crucifixion was cruel, but it wasn’t unusual.  People died this way all the time.  The day Jesus died, there were two robbers executed with him, one on each side.  What made Christ’s death any different from theirs?

The weight of our sin.

We really cannot say what that felt like.  I have compared it with the feeling of guilt.  Guilt is worse than pain because it has a psychological and/or spiritual component that physical pain makes worse, but cannot compare to.  When physical pain is gone, guilt can continue.  It can sap a person’t energy and deplete a person’t life.  Guilt, even without physical suffering can push a person to end his own life.   

And Jesus publicly and shamefully bore the sin, the guilt, of the world.

If there was ever a place that was truly God-forsaken, it was Christ’s cross that day on Golgotha.  “The Father turned his face away,” says the hymn.  Jesus was alone as he died, even though there were bystanders all around him.  None of them could understand what he was enduring.  Numbing the pain would never alleviate the suffering of substitutionary atonement. 

As Christ died, the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom and the way was opened for us to come into the very presence of God.  Christ was separated from the Father so that we might be joined with them both inseparably and forever.  No one saw it or said it better than the centurion.

39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son  of God!”

 

Gethsemane – Mark 14:32-42

The battle Christ won on the cross was, in a way, first won in the garden.  It was there Christ obediently determined to follow through with his plan in complete submission to his Father’s will.  After Gethsemane there would be no turning back.

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Christ knew exactly what was coming.  Going to the cross would be horrible, but many had done this before.  Two others, in fact, were crucified the same day with Jesus.  What made Christ’s death any different?

The difference was in his carrying the weight of our sin. 

It is impossible to know what that is like, but we can imagine at least a little.  It might feel a lot like guilt.  For example, sometimes we get into trouble and, while our circumstances annoy us, the thing that truly tortures us is knowing that it is our own fault.  How much better would everything be if this had all been avoided?  Sometimes we do something wrong and have no one to blame but ourselves.  Knowing that the consequences are of our own making makes them worse.  

Now let’s think further.  It is bad enough dealing with the consequences of our own sin.  That much guilt is usually enough for any of us.  What if we had to bear the sins of the world on our shoulders while dying that slow, painful death?

By all available accounts, Christ’s time on the cross was less than many who died in that same manner.  Sometimes it took a few days for the crucified victim to expire.  Christ died in a matter of hours.  But no one before or since has had to bear more than their own sin.  The physical torture was bad enough, but the psychological and spiritual anguish was much, much worse.  Yet Christ was determined to walk it through to the end.  And he did that out of love for us.

It was there in Gethsemane that the prayer, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” was answered.  It was answered when the Father simply said no.  Jesus was okay with that.  He understood what was necessary for us to be saved.  He knew the cross was only the first step toward resurrection.  He knew that if he shared in our death, and shared in our sin, we would share in his life forever more.

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 10

Dear heavenly Father,

We acknowledge that we are sinful people who live in the midst of a sinful nation. Particularly in the areas of marriage and sexuality we have so distorted your desires for us that there is no way left for us to untie the knots.

Please forgive us, please transform us and please help us to make right whatever we can.

Help us to rely fully on the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us of our sin.

Help us to exercise a childlike faith and trust in you.

Like the blind beggar Bartimaeus, we really are helpless and have nothing at all to lose – except perhaps our sin and shame.

Therefore, we submit fully to Jesus as our Savior, Messiah and Lord.

In Christ,

Amen.

Mark 2 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark editedEarly in his ministry Jesus claims to have authority to forgive sin and calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath.  This sounds like blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.

Mark 2.pdf

Mark 2.mp3

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.