Category Archives: Easter Topic/Theme

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Four: Wednesday)

Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 6:1–5

O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your anger,

and do not discipline me in your wrath.

Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, because I am feeble.

Heal me, O Yahweh, for my bones are terrified.

My soul is also very terrified.

But you, O Yahweh, how long?

Turn, O Yahweh; deliver my life.

Save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

For there is no remembrance of you in death.

In Sheol, who will give thanks to you?

Reading: Mark 13:24–37

“But in those days, after that tribulation,

‘the sun will be darkened

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’

“And then they will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and will gather the elect together from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also you, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the door. Truly I say to you that this generation will never pass away until all these things take place! Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“But concerning that day or hour no one knows—not even the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father. Watch out! Be alert, because you do not know when the time is! It is like a man away on a journey, who left his house and gave his slaves authority—to each one his work—and to the doorkeeper he gave orders that he should be on the alert. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning—lest he arrive suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Be on the alert!”

Reflection

O may the Angel of the Lord come upon you, and the light shine into your prison! And may you feel the stroke of an almighty hand, raising you, with, “Get up quickly … gird yourself and put on your sandals … wrap your cloak about you and follow me” (Acts 12:7–8).

… Did not God create you for Himself? Then you cannot rest till you rest in Him. Return, you wanderer! Fly back to your ark; this is not your home. Do not think of building tabernacles here. You are but a stranger, a sojourner upon earth, a creature of a day—just launching out into an unchangeable state. Make haste. Eternity is at hand, and it depends on this moment. An eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery!

In what state is your soul? Was God, while I am yet speaking, to require it of you, are you ready to meet death and judgment? Can you stand in His sight, who is of “eyes too pure to see evil” (Hab 1:13)? Are you “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you for a share of the inheritance of the saints in light” (1 Col 1:12)? Have you “fought the good fight” and “kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7)? Have you secured the one thing needful? Have you recovered the image of God, even righteousness and true holiness? Have you put off the old man, and put on the new? Are you clothed upon with Christ?

Have you oil in your lamp? Grace in your heart? Do you “love the Lord your God from all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27)? Is that mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus? Are you a Christian indeed, that is, a new creature? Are old things passed away, and all things become new?

—John Wesley

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Response

How can you live a life of alertness, ready for Christ’s return? Reread the passage and John Wesley’s questions, and respond to them in the space below.[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Four: Tuesday)

Tuesday

Confession: Psalm 90:9–17

For all of our days dwindle away in your rage;

we complete our years like a sigh.

As for the days of our years, within them are seventy years

or if by strength eighty years, and their pride is trouble and disaster,

for it passes quickly and we fly away.

Who knows the strength of your anger,

and your rage consistent with the fear due you?

So teach us to number our days

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Yahweh. How long?

And have compassion on your servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with your loyal love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

for as many years as we have seen calamity.

Let your work be visible to your servants,

and your majesty to their children.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,

and establish for us the work of our hands,

yes, the work of our hands, establish it.

Reading: Mark 13:14–23

“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be” (let the one who reads understand), “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! The one who is on his housetop must not come down or go inside to take anything out of his house, and the one who is in the field must not turn back to pick up his cloak. And woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! But pray that it will not happen in winter. For in those days there will be tribulation of such a kind as has not happened from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will happen. And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has shortened the days.

“And at that time if anyone should say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ ‘Behold, there he is,’ do not believe him! For false messiahs and false prophets will appear, and will produce signs and wonders in order to mislead, if possible, the elect. But you, watch out! I have told you everything ahead of time!”

Reflection

But as the Lord Himself says, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray” (Matt 24:4–5 nrsv). But see how He has pointed out the judgment of the true Christ: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:27 nrsv).

When, therefore, the true Lord Jesus Christ shall come, He will sit and set up His throne of judgment. Also, the gospel says, “He shall separate the sheep from the goats” (Matt 25:32 [Paraphrase])—that is, the righteous from the unrighteous. As the apostle writes, “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10 nrsv). Moreover, the judgment will be not only for deeds, but for thoughts also, as the same apostle said, “Their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all” (Rom 2:15–16 nrsv).

—Rufinus of Aquileia

A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed

Response

Paul says we must take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). It’s easy to focus on the external workings of faith, but what about our thoughts? Do you love Christ with your thoughts?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Four: Monday)

Monday

Confession: Psalm 90:1–8

O Lord, you have been our help in all generations.

Before the mountains were born

and you brought forth the earth and the world,

even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

You return man to the dust,

saying, “Return, O sons of man.”

For a thousand years in your eyes

are like yesterday when it passes,

or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away like a flood.

They fall asleep.

In the morning they are like grass that sprouts anew.

In the morning it blossoms and sprouts anew;

by evening it withers and dries up.

For we are brought to an end by your anger,

and we hasten off by your wrath.

You have put our iniquities before you,

our hidden sins into the light of your countenance.

Reading: Mark 13:9–13

“But you, watch out for yourselves! They will hand you over to councils and you will be beaten in the synagogues and will have to stand before governors and kings because of me, for a witness to them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations. And when they arrest you and hand you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you should say, but whatever is given to you at that hour, say this. For you are not the ones who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end—this one will be saved.”

Reflection

Learn the lessons of the evangelic conversation—of mastery over the body, a meek spirit, purity of mind, and destruction of pride. Pressed into the service, add to your gifts for the Lord’s sake; robbed, never go to law; hated, love; persecuted, endure; slandered, entreat. Be dead to sin; be crucified to God. Cast all your care upon the Lord, that you may be found where are tens of thousands of angels, assemblies of the firstborn, the thrones of prophets, sceptres of patriarchs, crowns of martyrs, and praises of righteous men. Earnestly desire to be numbered with those righteous men in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Basil of Caesarea

Admonition to the Young

Response

How are you being an effective witness of Jesus? On what occasions have you felt the Holy Spirit guiding your speech? Write down your prayer for the Spirit’s guidance as you tell others about Christ’s work in your life.[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Saturday)

Saturday

Confession: Psalm 143:7–11

Quickly answer me, O Yahweh;

my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me,

or I will become

like those descending to the pit.

Cause me to hear your loyal love in the morning,

for I trust you.

Cause me to know the way that I should go,

for I lift up my soul to you.

Deliver me from my enemies, O Yahweh.

I take refuge in you.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;

your Spirit is good.

Lead me onto level ground.

For your name’s sake, O Yahweh, preserve my life;

in your righteousness bring me out of trouble.

Reading: Mark 13:1–8

And as he was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What great stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another stone that will not be thrown down!”

And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” So Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you! Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. And when you hear about wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places. There will be famines. These things are the beginning of birth pains.”

Reflection

The great charge against Jesus—which His accusers brought forward—was that He said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days” (Matt 26:61 nrsv). But in so saying, He spoke of the temple of His body. They thought, not being able to understand the meaning of the speaker, that His reference was to the temple of stone. This temple was treated by the Jews with greater respect than He was who ought to have been honored as the true temple of God—the Word, the sisdom, and the truth.

And who can say that “Jesus attempted to make His escape by disgracefully concealing Himself”? Let any one point to an act deserving to be called disgraceful. And when he adds, “He was taken prisoner,” I would say that—if to be taken prisoner implies an act done against one’s will—then Jesus was not taken prisoner. For at the fitting time, He did not prevent Himself falling into the hands of men as the Lamb of God—that He might take away the sin of the world.

—Origen

Origen Against Celsus

Response

Reflect on the sins in your life and how Christ’s willing payment of your debts frees you to serve God with thankfulness. What is your response to His sacrifice? How does the hope of His resurrection transform your life right now?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Friday)

Friday

Confession: Psalm 143:1–6

O Yahweh, hear my prayer;

listen to my supplications.

In your faithfulness answer me,

and in your righteousness.

And do not enter into judgment with your servant,

because no one alive is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;

he has crushed my life to the ground.

He has made me dwell in dark places

like those long dead.

And so my spirit grows faint within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

I remember the days of long ago;

I meditate on all your doings.

I muse on the labor of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul longs for you like a dry land. Selah

Reading: Mark 12:38–44

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like walking around in long robes and greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets, who devour the houses of widows and pray lengthy prayers for the sake of appearance. These will receive more severe condemnation!”

And he sat down opposite the contribution box and was observing how the crowd was putting coins into the contribution box. And many rich people were putting in many coins. And one poor widow came and put in two small copper coins (that is, a penny). And summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow put in more than all those who put offerings into the contribution box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in everything she had, her whole means of subsistence.”

Reflection

An ungodly world may reckon the poor in spirit to be contemptible, but God writes them down among His peers and princes. His judgment is true and far more to be esteemed than the opinions of men or angels.

Only if we are poor in spirit do we have evidence that heaven is ours. But having that mark of blessedness, all things are ours—whether things present or things to come. To the poor in spirit belong all the security, honor, and happiness which the gospel kingdom is calculated to give upon earth; even here below they may eat of its dainties without question, and revel in its delights without fear.

Theirs also are the things not seen as yet, reserved for future revelation, theirs the second advent, theirs the glory, theirs the fifth great monarchy, theirs the resurrection, theirs the beatific vision, theirs the eternal ecstasy.

—Charles H. Spurgeon

The Beatitudes

Response

The Pharisees’ pride shows their self-sufficienct spirituality. Are there areas in your life where you feel like you do not need God’s intervention? Write those areas down and ask God for His help in becoming reliant on Him in all things.[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Thursday)

Thursday

Confession: Psalm 38:21–22

Do not forsake me, O Yahweh.

O my God, do not be far from me.

Hurry to help me,

O Lord, my salvation.

Reading: Mark 12:28–37

And one of the scribes came up and heard them debating. When he saw that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart and from your whole soul and from your whole mind and from your whole strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “That is true, Teacher. You have said correctly that he is one and there is no other except him. And to love him from your whole heart and from your whole understanding and from your whole strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And Jesus, when he saw that he had answered thoughtfully, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to put a question to him any longer.

And continuing, Jesus said while teaching in the temple courts, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is David’s son? David himself said by the Holy Spirit,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies

under your feet.” ’

David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ and how is he his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him gladly.

Reflection

Love for God is the first and greatest commandment and the next is love towards our neighbor. The Lord taught that the entire law and the prophets hang upon these two commandments. He did not Himself bring down [from heaven] any other commandment greater than this one, but renewed this very same one to His disciples when He enjoined them to love God with all their heart and others as themselves.

Paul, in like manner, declares that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom 13:10 nrsv) And [he declares] that when all other things have been destroyed, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13 nrsv). Apart from the love of God, knowledge avails nothing—nor the understanding of mysteries, nor faith, nor prophecy.… For we do never cease from loving God; but in proportion as we continue to contemplate Him, so much the more do we love Him.

—Irenaeus of Lyons

Irenaeus Against Heresies

Response

In Mark 12:28–37, Jesus references two commandments given to the Israelites immediately following the Ten Commandments of Deuteronomy 5. How does the commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart sum up the other Ten Commandments? Does your life demonstrate this love?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Wednesday)

Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 38:16–20

For I said, “Help, lest they rejoice over me,

lest they boast against me when my foot slips.”

For I am ready to stumble,

and my pain is before me continually.

For my iniquity I confess;

I am anxious because of my sin.

And my enemies without cause are numerous,

and those who hate me wrongfully are many.

And those who repay evil in return for good

accuse me in return for my pursuing good.

Reading: Mark 12:18–27

And Sadducees—who say there is no resurrection—came up to him and began to ask him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if someone’s brother dies and he leaves behind a wife and does not leave a child, that his brother should take the wife and father descendants for his brother. There were seven brothers, and the first took a wife. And when he died, he did not leave descendants. And the second took her, and he died without leaving descendants. And the third likewise. And the seven did not leave descendants. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” Jesus said to them, “Are you not deceived because of this, because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the dead, that they are raised, have you not read in the book of Moses in the passage about the bush how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken!”

Reflection

Christ’s loved ones are despised and hated, “of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about on deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground” (Heb 11:38). They have to put up with all kinds of contempt; that’s what Christ’s people have to endure here. And we’ll have to bless God for it all. It keeps us from linking ourselves with this world, from settling all our hopes and desires upon it.

If we are to serve Christ and to reach heaven, we must sail right against the world and its way. It’s an old saying that a dead fish always swims with the current, and we can always tell the living fish when we see it swimming against the current. In like manner, if you are dead, you will very likely be sailing smoothly enough with this world and very well satisfied with yourself. If you are alive in Jesus Christ, you will be struggling against the world, its sins, and its temptations. And you will be seeking to win souls for Christ, regardless of the world’s scoffs, sneers, and frowns.

—Dwight L. Moody

Life Words from Gospel Addresses

Response

It is tempting and often convenient to create a framework within the gospel that is not supported by Scripture, as the Sadduccees did in Mark 12:18–27. Have you taken the focus off what is truly important in any areas of doctrine? How can you center your focus back on Christ?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Tuesday)

Tuesday

Confession: Psalm 38:10–15

My heart throbs violently, my strength leaves me;

and the light of my eyes, that also is not with me.

My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,

and my relatives stand afar off.

Those who seek my life lay snares as well,

and those intent on my harm speak threats.

They also plot deceit all day.

But as for me, like the deaf I cannot hear,

and I am like the mute who cannot open his mouth.

And so I am like a man who hears not,

and in whose mouth there are no retorts.

Rather for you I wait, O Yahweh.

You will answer, O Lord my God.

Reading: Mark 12:13–17

And they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to him so that they could catch him unawares in a statement. And when they came, they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and you do not care what anyone thinks, because you do not regard the opinion of people but teach the way of God in truth. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” But because he knew their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius so that I can look at it!” So they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And they said to him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Reflection

See their craftiness. They do not say, “Tell us what is good, what is expedient, what is lawful?” but, “What do you think?” They looked to this one object: to betray Him and to set Him at enmity with the rulers. And Mark declaring this—and more plainly discovering their self-will and their murderous disposition—affirms them to have said, “Should we pay [Caesar], or should we not?” (Mark 12:15 nrsv) They were breathing anger and travailing with a plot against Him, yet they feigned respect.

What did He say? “Why are you putting me to the test?” (Matt 22:18 nrsv). He talks with them with more than usual severity. Because their wickedness was now complete and manifest, He cuts deeper. He confounds and silences them by publishing their secret thoughts and making their intent clear to all.

He did these things to repulse their wickedness so that they might not suffer hurt in attempting the same things again. And yet their words were full of respect, for they both called Him Master, and bore witness to His truth and said He was no respecter of persons. Jesus, being God, was not deceived by these things. They also ought to have realized that the rebuke was not the result of conjecture, but a sign of His knowing their secret thoughts.

—John Chrysostom

Homilies of St. John Chrysostom

Response

God knows all of your secret thoughts. What areas of your life do you need to give over to Him? How can you turn your worship back to Him in these areas?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Monday)

Monday

Confession: Psalm 38:6–9

I am bowed down; I am bent over greatly.

All the day I go about mourning.

For my loins are full of burning,

and there is no soundness in my flesh.

I am faint and crushed greatly;

I groan because of the roaring of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you,

and my sighing is not hidden from you.

Reading: Mark 12:1–12

And he began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, and put a fence around it, and dug a trough for the winepress, and built a watchtower, and leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey. And he sent a slave to the tenant farmers at the proper time, so that he could collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the tenant farmers. And they seized him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent to them another slave, and that one they struck on the head and dishonored. And he sent another, and that one they killed. And he sent many others, some of whom they beat and some of whom they killed. He had one more, a beloved son. Last of all he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenant farmers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!’ And they seized and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenant farmers and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,

this has become the cornerstone.

This came about from the Lord,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And they were seeking to arrest him, and they were afraid of the crowd, because they knew that he had told the parable with reference to them. And they left him and went away.

Reflection

The very medicine that we don’t like is the medicine that we ought to have, and the very truths that men object to, and that make them angry, are the truths that bring them to the cross of Christ. What we want is to preach Christ in season and out of season—

“Tell the old, old story

Of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and His glory,

Of Jesus and His love.”

Why, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The very stone that they would not have was the very stone that God chose, and upon this stone He is building His Church now—upon the Rock of Ages. It is Christ, yes, Christ that men want, and then they will get sure food for eternity.

—Dwight L. Moody

Medicine for the Soul

Response

Is there a time in your life when you found it convenient to reject Jesus? Perhaps you thought you could repent later. What brought you back to the gospel?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Two: Saturday)

Saturday

Confession: Psalm 38:1–5

O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your anger

or chastise me in your wrath.

For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has pressed down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation.

There is no health in my bones because of my sin.

For my iniquities have passed over my head;

like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

My wounds start to stink; they rot

because of my foolishness.

Reading: Mark 11:27–33

And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came up to him and said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority that you do these things?” So Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer me and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer me!” And they began to discuss this with one another, saying, “What should we say? If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ ”—they were afraid of the crowd, because they all looked upon John as truly a prophet. And they replied to Jesus saying, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Reflection

Jesus, for the sake of men, desired to have Himself revealed by a lamp to the faith of those who believed, that by means of the same lamp His enemies might be confounded.… And the Lord, because they shut the door against themselves by professing ignorance of what they know, did not open to them because they did not knock. For it is said, “Knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matt 7:7 nrsv). Not only did these not knock that it might be opened to them, but, by denying that they knew, they barred that door against themselves. And the Lord says to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Matt 21:27 nrsv). And they were confounded by means of John; and in them were the words fulfilled, “I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame.”

—Augustine of Hippo

Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John

Response

The exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus in Mark 11:26–33 shows both the Pharisees’ unwillingness to believe in Jesus and their unwillingness to state their beliefs publicly (because of their fear of the crowds). Is there a time in your life when you responded to the gospel in the same way?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Two: Friday)

Friday

Confession: Psalm 32:8–11

I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go.

I will advise you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or like a mule, without understanding;

that needs his tackle—bridle and rein—for restraint

or he would not come near you.

Many are the pains of the wicked,

but for the one who trusts Yahweh

loyal love surrounds him.

Be glad in Yahweh and rejoice, you righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright of heart.

Reading: Mark 11:20–25

And as they passed by early in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered!” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God! Truly I say to you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be done for you. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your sins.”

Reflection

He showed His power to take vengeance. Wherefore not in any other, but in the moistest of all planted things did He work the miracle, so that hence also the miracle appeared greater.

And that you might learn, that for the disciples’ sakes this was done, that He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He said afterwards. “You also shall do greater things, if you are willing to believe and to be confident in prayer” (John 1:50; Matt 21:22 [paraphrases]). All is done for their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them? For this reason He said this a second time also, to make them cleave to prayer and faith. “For not this only shall you do, but also shall remove mountains; and many more things shall you do, being confident in faith and prayer” (Matt 21:21–22 [paraphrase]).

—John Chrysostom

Homilies of St. John Chrysostom

Response

Do you feel confident in prayer and faith? Do you trust that God is at work in your life? He hears your requests. Today, pray in this confidence.[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Two: Thursday)

Thursday

Confession: Psalm 32:6–7

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you

at the time for finding you.

Surely at the flood of many waters they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place;

from trouble you preserve me.

With cries of deliverance you surround me. Selah

Reading: Mark 11:12–19

And on the next day as they were departing from Bethany, he was hungry. And when he saw from a distance a fig tree that had leaves, he went to see if perhaps he would find anything on it. And when he came up to it he found nothing except leaves, because it was not the season for figs. And he responded and said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you any more forever!” And his disciples heard it.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered into the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple courts, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling doves. And he did not permit anyone to carry objects through the temple courts. And he began to teach and was saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations,’ but you have made it a cave of robbers!” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it, and began considering how they could destroy him. For they were afraid of him because the whole crowd was astounded by his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

Reflection

We see in the beginning of this passage one of the many proofs that our Lord Jesus Christ was really man. We read that “he was hungry” (Mark 11:12). He had a nature and bodily constitution, like our own in all things, sin only excepted. He could weep and rejoice and suffer pain. He could be weary and need rest. He could be thirsty and need drink. He could be hungry and need food.

Expressions like this should teach us the condescension of Christ. How wonderful they are when we reflect upon them! He who is the eternal God—He who made the world and all that it contains—He from whose hand the fruits of the earth, the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, all had their beginning—He, even He was pleased to suffer hunger when He came into the world to save sinners.

—J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on Mark

Response

The book of Hebrews tells us that we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. How is it an encouragement to know that Jesus experienced weakness and temptation just as we do?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.