Christianity 201

March 15, 2018

Preparing Like Jesus? Or Like the Religious Leaders?

by Clarke Dixon

What are you preparing for? You don’t need to tell us, we can tell by your actions. If you are buying a crib and setting up a nursery you are probably expecting the arrival of a baby. Likewise if I grab my motorcycle helmet and jacket I am likely expecting to go motorcycling. Our preparations show our expectations, what we believe to be next.

There is a lot of activity in Mark 14:1-42 which we can describe as preparations. In verses 1,2 the chief priests and scribes are preparing to eliminate Jesus.

The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; Mark 14:1

In verses 3-9 Jesus speaks of his body being prepared for burial.

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Mark 14:8

In verses 10-11 the preparations by the religious leaders to eliminate Jesus continue with the cooperation of Judas.

When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:11

In verses 12-25 preparations are made for the Passover which become preparations for Jesus becoming the Passover lamb. During this celebration Jesus prepares the disciples to expect his death (verses 22-25), and the New Covenant (verse 24). Later he prepares them to expect his resurrection (verse 28) and that they will be at their worst (verses 26-31).

And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mark 14:27

Finally, Jesus prepares himself for what is ahead through prayer (verses 32-42).

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36

There is an obvious contrast in the preparations between the religious leaders and Jesus. That contrast in preparations reflects a contrast in expectations. Since the religious leaders see Jesus as nothing but a troublemaker, they expect nothing but trouble. We learn more about this in the Gospel of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” John 11:47-50

Since the religious leaders expect Jesus to bring trouble they prepare to eliminate him. In contrast to this are the expectations of Jesus;

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for manyMark 14:24 (emphasis added)

Jesus expects God’s purposes of reconciling people to Himself will be fulfilled through him. Therefore, while the religious leaders prepare to take a life, Jesus prepares to give his life.

What are our expectations for the future? Specifically, we might ask what are our expectations when we die? How do we prepare?

Most religions are based on a sense of cosmic or divine judgement. If you expect to be reincarnated, you will prepare by working off bad karma. If you expect to stand before a God in divine judgement, you will prepare through striving to be good enough to be declared innocent. Most religions are based on the notion that you get what you deserve.

Or we can consider those who would deny, or be apathetic toward, any kind of divinity or afterlife. If you expect nothing at all when you die, you may prepare by striving after some sort of immortality through significance, fame, or children. Or you may prepare by trying to reconcile yourself to a universe that lacks meaning and purpose. On a purely  materialistic model not only will your life end, but so will all life eventually.

All these world-views are based either on getting exactly what you deserve, or there being nothing to deserve.

While many think that the Christian worldview is based on divine judgement, fact is, the Christian worldview is based on divine grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

This does not mean there are no preparations.

  • When we expect to enjoy the presence of God for eternity, we prepare by spending time in His presence now, through worship and prayer.
  • When we expect to experience God’s perfect justice in His Kingdom coming, we prepare by seeking justice now.
  • When we expect to enjoy forgiveness and reconciliation, we prepare by being a people of forgiveness and reconciliation now.
  • When we expect to experience God’s love, we prepare by leaning into love now.
  • When we expect God to surprise us with things that are currently mysteries to us, we prepare by trusting God with all that we cannot comprehend now.
  • When we expect to see the wonders of God’s re-Creation, we prepare by standing in awe of the Creator and enjoyment of creation now.

If we were found within this passage of Mark, where would we be? Would we stand with the religious leaders and Judas, making preparations to eliminate Jesus? Or would we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus actively preparing for God’s will to be done, His purposes to be accomplished, His promises to be kept?

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (33 minutes).


November 28, 2013

The Jesus Blueprint for Prayer

Today, we’re going to once again invite some of you to be contributors to C201, but first, today’s thoughts are from the blog Digging The Word where they appeared a few days ago under the title, Learning to Pray (click to read)

Luke 11:1Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Hebrews 5:7While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God.

Describe your prayer life using one word. You may think of words like exciting, strenuous, frustrating, boring, confusing, intermittent, difficult, struggle. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to have a prayer time?

Jesus’ last prayer time was in the garden just before he was arrested. He knew that his time had come and that he would be tortured and crucified very soon. Of course he had a stressful agonizing time in prayer but I wonder how his other prayer times were. I looked at that verse in Hebrews that said that Jesus “offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears” and I wondered if that prayer in the garden was the only time that he cried out with such intensity in his prayer time.

Jesus agonized in prayer while his disciples calmly fell asleep. But when the test came, Jesus walked through the trials and went all the way to the cross with courage, he never showed any signs of stress but where were his friends that had skipped their prayer time? They proved that they didn’t have the same courage that Jesus had. We often see prayer time as preparation for the battle but for Jesus prayer was the battle ground.

In Luke 11, after Jesus had spent time praying, one of His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Some things are worth noting from this verse. John the Baptist’s taught his followers to pray and we need to be taught how to pray. Nobody expects us to know how to pray without any instructions on how to do it. The disciples had been with Jesus for over 2 years. They had total access when He taught and preached. They witnessed His miracles. Yet, as far as we know, they never took Him aside and asked, “Lord, teach us to preach,” or “Lord, show us how to minister.” They did come and request, “Teach us to pray.”

Prayer 101

✔ Jesus prayed for others. Matthew 19:13-14, John 17:9
✔ Jesus prayed with others. Luke 9:28,
✔ Jesus prayed alone. Luke 5:16
✔ Jesus prayed regularly. Luke 5:16
✔ Jesus prayed in nature. Luke 6:12
✔ Jesus prayed all night. Luke 6:12
✔ Jesus prayed with passion. Luke 22:39-44
✔ Jesus taught persistence in prayer. Luke 18:1

These basic guidelines show us how, when and where to pray by following Jesus example.

Christianity 201 is part of a blog aggregator called Faithful Bloggers. (Click the icon in the right margin or below to link.) Recently Courtney, the moderator of Faithful Bloggers, wrote a piece guiding writers how to carefully craft a devotional piece. Is it a coincidence that I was holding this article for several days and today’s topic was prayer?

I’m reproducing it here to encourage some of you to consider taking a verse of scripture which is percolating in your hearts, and writing thoughts the rest of us might appreciate. Send it to the address on the submissions page.  To read Courtney’s article at source, click How To Write a Devotional Piece: Be Prayerful.

Writing on a regular basis isn’t always easy.  Coming up with the words you want to use to convey your message isn’t always easy.  Sharing God’s Word and His message of salvation and love isn’t always easy.  When you put writing and sharing God’s message together through devotions, it isn’t always easy.Writing devotions is a very precious and important task.  Anyone who reads your devotional should be able to find the love of Christ of in it and reading your devotional might be the only time they see an example of that kind of love.  That is why we must be prayerful when writing devotions!

Before you put pen to paper, or rather, start typing, pray. Ask God to tell you what He would have you to write about. What message does He want you to impart? Be mindful of what comes to mind as you are praying. Does a particular person come to mind with a specific issue? Does a specific verse pop into your head?

Listen. He will tell you what to write.

Praying before you start writing a devotion will make it so much easier to actual write the devotion.  But that is not where you stop praying.

You need to be prayerful throughout the entire process – before you write, while your write, during the editing and proofreading stage, throughout marketing, etc…

Remember that once you publish your devotion, whether it is on your blog, as an ebook on Kindle or in PDF format, or as a physical book, your job isn’t done.

Be prayerful for your readers.  Pray that your readers will receive the comfort, love, and encourage that you intended when you wrote the devotion.  Be prayerful that your devotion will touch at least one life for the glory of God.

Being prayerful is something so simple that is it often the one step that is forgotten.  Next time you decide write a devotion, don’t forget!