Not Far From the Kingdom

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34

This seemed to be one of the leaders who didn’t try to trap or trick Jesus. Hew knew Scriptures, and Jesus even complimented him on being so close to the kingdom.

Jesus had compassion on those true seekers. Fortunately, He could spot the false truth-seekers a mile off.

Unfortunately, we’re not as discerning as Jesus was despite our best attempts. We don’t have the luxury of answering accusations disguised as truth-seeking questions. We have no idea how close that person is to the kingdom of God, and it’s probably better that way.

The truth is, we don’t know how close anyone is to the kingdom of God, just as we do not know how close people are to Christ in their walks, so we pray accordingly.

We don’t assume much but we pray for wisdom. We pray for discernment. We pray for seeds to be planted and take root. We pray that God would use your words and actions to bring glory to God.

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Jesus Enraged in the Temple Courts

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:15-18

This is the second part of this 3-part passage. Recall the night before this passage, He went into the temple courts looked around, and left. He knew what He had to do when He returned.

Jesus clearly made a scene in the outer courts that the leaders didn’t take kindly to. They were already looking for ways to rid themselves of Him, but this probably was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. This passage says they feared Him but he also humiliated them. Why? Because they let the common practice of buying and selling sacrifices within the confines of the temple go on, albeit in the outer courts. Leadership no doubt encouraged the activity.

What makes this part of the passage so intriguing is that it showed an outbreak of emotion directed not at the vendors necessarily, but at the leadership for permitting it to continue. This is what the Son of God got angry at: liars and cheats and those who had wanton disrespect for the house of God.

Don’t forget Jesus was still preparing His disciples for ministry because they would be called upon to do some unpleasant things. They needed to know it would be okay to display righteous anger at the appropriate times.

We may be called to do the same. This was a seemingly rare occasion for Jesus. There were a number of times He could have been outraged at how others were being treated or even how He was being treated, so tread lightly. Not everything calls for righteous anger, but some things certainly do.

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Hitting Rock Bottom

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52

Word had spread far and wide about this Jesus. Even a blind man heard about it, so when He actually arrived in town and heard the commotion, Bartimaeus yelled for help. How long had he been yelling before someone close to Jesus took notice? I doubt the people heard him on the first call. Still, they tried to quiet the man.

Did they have a good reason to silence a man who wanted help? Did they think his shouting would disturbe Jesus’ concentration? On the contrary, it was the very reason He came this way in the first place.

The question Jesus asked has always intrigued me. What other answer could the blind man have given?

Money. Status. Clothes. Food. Drink.

But Bartimaeus’ most pressing need was to see.

So, Jesus healed him, and then he followed Jesus.

Here was a man who hadn’t seen in years, perhaps his entire life, now for the first time seeing. What did he do with his newfound eyesight? Bartimaeus followed the man who healed him.

How long did he follow Jesus along the road? We don’t know, but that’s not the point. He was given sight and he put it to good use, for the kingdom of God. No doubt he was a living breathing testimony to the man he was following.

But first Bartimaeus had to be brought to the end of himself. He was destitute and needed help that only Jesus could provide.

There will be people in your life who need to be in the proverbial gutter before they reach out for help. It’s painful to watch and let happen, but we know it’s the best way to see their way up. Our tendency is to try to fix their problems but they’re not ready. They have to be at the end of themselves before they realize they need help that only Jesus can provide.

I know some of you are watching that happen with friends and relatives. You may even be praying for that eventuality (for them to hit rock bottom), but it certainly isn’t easy to watch. You just need to be ready when they come to their senses, as the Prodigal Son story puts it.

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The Divorce Shackles

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:2-10

Divorce is always a difficult subject, and even more so for those in the midst of it. It’s draining, heart-wrenching, and full of emotional ups and downs. Despite its prevalence in our society, it comes at a great cost for those involved. People do and say things they regret doing when divorce is hanging over them.

Rather than pointing a finger, lecturing, or telling people what they already know, let’s pray for the people in your life who are in the midst of a separation or divorce.

Pray for any children involved as they are often confused and the hardest hit.

What do you pray for exactly? Peace, clarity, strength, protection, and God’s direction.

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The Salt Mandate

50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Mark 9:50

Recall yesterday that in Leviticus, God commanded that salt be used on grain offerings. It was a necessary part of the sacrifice,

Similarly, Christians are necessary in this world. We don’t take on a secondary role of being goodness in a dark world, but we are in face the light they desperately need.

Too often we don’t view our lives as vital to the kingdom of God, when in reality we most definitely are.

Like Abraham asked about Sodom, so should we, “Will you spare this world if there are 10 righteous people?” Without the preserving quality of Christians, this world would probably have been toast.

What shall we then do with this mandate?

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