Sunday, February 27, 2011

Would You Betray Jesus? - Mark 14:27-31

Would You Betray Jesus? - Mark 14:27-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 27, 2011 AM

She took an autistic friend to a high school football game. While there her friend began to speak with anyone she came in contact with, which wasn’t so bad because most could tell she was autistic. Things changed however when the girl began to talk with some of the more “popular” kids. They began to make fun of her. The scene soon deteriorated, but she stood back embarrassed and did nothing. Have you ever been embarrassed enough of someone to leave them to fend for themselves?

Jesus told his disciples, during the Passover meal before his death that “a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32) The courage of his closest friends would fail him when they fled Jesus during his greatest trials. Peter one of Jesus’ closest friends denies him three times. Judas would betray him. At the cross only John and a few of the women were there during Jesus’ final moments. One of the greatest pains you can experience in life is rejection and being abandoned by those you love or those you call “friend.” Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus bluntly telling his disciples that they would indeed desert him. Let me ask you, “Would you betray Jesus?” Before you answer let’s consider a few things we can learn from Mark…

READ: Mark 14:27-31

Ambrose Bierce, the writer and satirist, wrote, “Friendship is a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.” Many have learned to their great disappointment that a person needs to be selective about their friends. Trust me there can be various wolves disguised in sheep's clothing if you are not particular enough to peer under the outfit. How disconcerting to discover that those you would depend upon most might desert your side at the first sign of opposition. The question remains: Would you betray Jesus? The wonderful truth is that…

I. Disloyalty cannot outdo God’s determination! (Vv. 27-28)

1. You may depend upon the Lord, but can he depend upon you? One of the greatest pains you can experience in life is that of rejection and being abandoned by those you love and those who had been close to you. Yet even in the time of greatest pain there is always one who sticks closer than a brother. He stays by your side come rain or come shine. It is said that a person will come to know their true friends in adversity. God is a friend who never leaves us nor deserts us. (Hebrews 13:5) A time of adversity is a time of testing for friendship. Some will pass this test and some will fail. Jesus tells his friends, “You will all fall away, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” Interestingly, the word translated “fall away” means to take offense at someone. We get our word “scandalized” from it. Here it meant to be so self-conscious or offended at knowing Jesus the disciples would turn away and fall into sin. In fact, Jesus predicted that all the disciples would take offense at His sufferings and death. To avoid the same treatment he suffered, they would be scandalized, “fall away,” denying any association with Him and jump ship. Their loyalty would temporarily collapse. Yet in the midst of disappointment and desertion Jesus reminds them and us that disloyalty cannot outdo God’s determination. Why would I say that? Notice that Jesus quickly tells them, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” What wonderful hope these words contain! While his friends would desert him, he has already provided a place whereby they can meet again and be renewed in their friendship! And in fact we find this to be true, especially with Peter who would need the extra encouragement after his denial of Jesus. Jesus would rise again and he would “go ahead” of them to Galilee! After all didn’t Jesus tell them, “You are my friends if you do what I command”? (John 15:14 NIV) Jesus always goes ahead of us, even after we desert him, he is willing to prepare a place where we can meet him and restore our relationship! Our disloyalty cannot outdo God’s determination!

EXAMPLE: Her mascara was smeared as her tears streamed down her face. She put her head in her hands and sobbed, “How could God still love me after all I have done?” Yet we assured her that Jesus did indeed love her. We shared with her Paul’s encouraging words: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV) Just as God had a plan for each of the disciples, he has a plan for us as well even when we sin! Does that mean it does not matter if we sin? God forbid! As Paul would also write, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV) It just proves that our disloyalty cannot outdo God’s determination!

Polonius is a rather self-righteous character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. He is the King's counselor, and the father of Ophelia and Laertes. “To thine own self be true” is Polonius's last piece of advice to his son Laertes, who is in a hurry to get away from his long-winded father! Polonius was not concerned about “self-awareness.” Borrowing or loaning money, carousing with shady women and other excessive pursuits were “false” to Polonius’ interests. He had perfected the art of protecting them by pontificating his pretentious virtue to others! Polonius had done it so much, he even fooled himself! We can do the very same thing where sin is concerned. This is why I ask, “Would you betray Jesus?” Be careful before you answer, because I have discovered in life that…

II. Denial is more than a river in Egypt! (v. 29)

1. We are exposed not just by who we think we are, but by what actually we do! Sometimes because we know who we truly are and how we might really respond, we will fervently deny our betrayal of Jesus just as Peter does. Denying our sin does not mean it does not exist. The more we brazenly assert we do not have a problem, we will contentiously stick to our lie rather than confess it! We then try to deflect our sin problem by not focusing on the real mess. Notice in his denial, Peter focuses on the first part of Jesus’ prediction rather than on the second part. He vociferously asserts, “Even if all fall away, I will not!” Peter’s bold statement sounds very familiar. It closely echoes Judas’ when he vehemently tried to clear himself of any wrongdoing by asking, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” (Matthew 26:25 NIV) Matthew relates that Peter responds, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will!” (Matthew 26:33 NIV) “On account of you,” Peter states. Wow! In his wording Peter reveals the root of his problem. Peter knew he was quite capable of denying Jesus and tries to deflect his sin by saying it is “on account of” Jesus! Luke writes that Peter proudly declares, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33) How quick are Peter’s words. Before he can even think them through, impulsive Peter has already brashly made his own prideful appraisal. Like a gorilla beating his chest to feign prowess, Peter wanted the other disciples to hear that he would “never” betray Jesus and he would even face “death” for him. The others might flee, but not “the Man” Peter! My father used to say, “The more you beat your chest and deny something, the guiltier you probably are!” He was correct! If only Peter had remembered Jesus’ words when he said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”! (Mark 8:34 NIV) Peter would eventually learn the lesson, but it would take a few days of bitter disappointment and introspection. John said it best when he wrote that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 NIV) At that moment the truth was not in Peter. Denial is more than a river in Egypt!

EXAMPLE: Marvin Williams wrote for RBC Ministries that, “For many years, Lake Okeechobee hid its secrets in thick waters and layers of muck. But in 2007, drought shrank the Florida lake to its lowest level since officials began keeping records in 1932, unveiling hundreds of years of history. Raking through the bottom of the lake, archaeologists found artifacts, pottery, human bone fragments, and even boats.” After Peter boldly said he would never deny Jesus, he does. He has 40 days to think on his betrayal, but when he is finally confronted by Jesus, he readily confesses his sin and returns to Jesus. (John 21:14-22) Let’s be careful not to hide our sin. When we uncover our sins by confessing them to God, we are covered with His forgiveness. Peter would learn that denial is more than a river in Egypt.

The Irish used to declare: You may choke on another man’s blarney but the longer you chew your own cud, the easier it gets to swallow yourself! There is also an old limerick that relates, “At lying, the gentleman’s quite deft, Of honor, he's completely bereft. If he undergoes surgery, To excise his perjury, There just won't be anything left!” However, as we look into Mark’s gospel this morning, the question remains: Would you betray Jesus? The simple truth is…

III. Duplicity gets easier the more you do it! (Vv. 30-31)

1. A little lie gets heavier the farther it travels! There is an old saying, perhaps you know it, that states, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Some attribute this bit of acerbic wisdom to either President Abraham Lincoln and his wit or P. T. Barnum and his cynicism of the human condition. President George W. Bush put a new twist on it by quipping, “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” Peter may have agreed with his assessment. We all have tried to fool ourselves or others into thinking that what we say loud or long enough just might be true. However, Jesus brings Peter up short by bluntly telling him, “I tell you the truth, today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Peter may have fooled himself and he may have fooled the rest of the disciples but he could not fool Jesus. Mark relates, “Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’” Not to be left out or to have Jesus think they are any less steadfast, “all the others said the same”! In the heat of the moment Peter, joined by the rest of the disciples, had forgotten the wisdom of the Proverbist when he wrote that “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV) Lying to others and yourself gets easier the more vocally you do it! Peter felt justified in his vehemence and the others join in their own justification. It just proves that duplicity gets easier the more you do it!

EXAMPLE: In writing about duping ourselves about the love of another, the poet Ambrose Redmoon wrote that, “To be kissed by a fool is stupid; to be fooled by a kiss is worse.” We can be foolish about relationships, thinking that we can either change the other person or they will change on their own after being with us -- as if this would make any difference in the life of a liar. But then again, people usually attract those of like character. Does this make you shudder? It should. Mart Dehaan writes that “Lying seems to be a way of life for many people. Several years ago a survey found that 91 percent of those queried lie routinely about matters they consider trivial; 36 percent lie about important matters; 86 percent lie regularly to their parents; 75 percent lie to their friends; 73 percent lie to their siblings; 69 percent lie to their spouses. Speaking the truth should be one of the outstanding characteristics of a follower of Christ. According to Colossians 3:9, a believer should not lie, since he has 'put off the old man with his deeds.' Whenever we are deceitful, we are following Satan’s example and 'he is a liar and the father of lies'! (John 8:44) Lies are based on the false assumption that we can hide a wrong and protect ourselves from the truth by simply denying the facts. But lying merely compounds a problem. Honest confession, on the other hand, is the quickest way to forgiveness, and it puts us back under the wise counsel and care of God.” We have learned that duplicity gets easier the more you do it!

Conclusion:

We learned today that: Disloyalty cannot outdo God’s determination! Denial is more than a river in Egypt! Duplicity gets easier the more you do it!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Final Passover - Mark 14:12-26

The Final Passover - Mark 14:12-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 20, 2011 AM

Meals are important. More than just a means of nourishing a person, meals serve as a means for families to draw closer, talk, and as a means of getting together. Meals have been used to bring about peace between adversaries, nations, and to secure better relations. The preparation can be just as important as the meal itself. What food is served, why it is served, the way and how it is served can carry with each task very important implications. The Passover is such a meal.

The Passover meal is celebrated to commemorate the passing over of the angel of death during the time of Moses and the exodus of the Israelite slaves from their captivity in Egypt. God promised to spare the life of the firstborn of any household that had the blood of a lamb painted over the doorframe of the house. Every Hebrew was commanded by God to remember this incident each year with prayers, a sacrifice, and a meal. The meal was and still is one of the highlights of the celebration. Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus and his disciples sharing the Passover meal. It would be the final Passover they would share together and it would carry with it tremendous meaning. Let’s discover what occurs and why.

READ: Mark 14:12-26

As Thanksgiving draws closer for many American families, the preparation can become frenzied. The buying of food, making sure all of the favorite dishes are made, and getting everything ready, on time, and perfect. During the final Passover we find Jesus and his disciples making...

I. The preparations! (Vv. 12-16)

1. “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12) The Passover was one of the greatest feasts and celebrations of the Hebrew calendar. Jerusalem would have been packed with pilgrims who would celebrate there since the meal had to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. Places to eat quietly enjoy one another’s company and to be able to prepare a meal would have been scarce. So, we find that “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’” A decision needed to be made and since Jesus was their teacher, it would have been customary for him to make the decision where they would eat the Passover together. We know from Luke that it was Peter and John who are sent. (Luke 22:8) John related that “the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.” (John 11:57) So, perhaps the place where they would eat it was kept secret deliberately. Jesus therefore sends the two disciples, telling them, “Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The wording here indicates Jesus knew the person who would provide a place for them, and perhaps they had already been making the preparations. Some believe it was the home of John Mark, the writer of this gospel. Whoever it was, the preparations involved roasting the lamb, setting out the unleavened bread and wine, and preparing bitter herbs along with a sauce made of dried fruit moistened with vinegar and wine and combined with spices. The meal itself would be a time of preparation for Jesus’ followers as well. It is here we find him praying for himself, them, and future believers. Plus, Jesus gives the disciples detailed instructions and advice on what to do after his impending death. (John 13:1-18:1) Whatever the reason Jesus does what he does, we find “The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” During the final Passover, Jesus makes the preparations!

EXAMPLE: Special meals take special preparation. Most things in life that are worthwhile take preparation. This Passover would be special and Jesus wanted a place where he and his disciples could spend some time away from the crowds. The meal had to be just so, but Jesus was also thinking about the preparation he would have to share with the twelve. Like newborn babies they would shortly be thrust into uncharted territory. They would have to leave their old way of life behind. Far too many Christians in our day and age are ill prepared to live their Christian faith. Jesus had spent almost three and a half years preparing these adult men for a future without his presence. They would be the core of his body in the world doing his will -- his church. Would they be ready to be the body of Christ? Let me ask you today, are you prepared to be part of the body of Jesus in the world? While the preparation of this final Passover was important, so is the truth that Jesus’ followers be prepared to be his church. Let me ask, “What preparations have you made to serve him in his church?

Sometimes during special occasions there are always those who create problems. You know what I mean. But here in Mark’s gospel we find not just some relative who embarrasses the family but rather we find someone who is intent on doing evil. During the final Passover we discover…

II. The treachery! (Vv. 17-21)

1. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him. (John 13:27) Jesus and the Twelve arrived in Jerusalem to eat the Passover meal which began after sunset and had to be finished by midnight. Mark’s rendition abbreviates the events of the meal. He focuses attention on two incidents instead: 1) Jesus’ announcement of His betrayal and 2) His new interpretation of the bread and wine. John’s gospel relates that after Jesus washes all of the disciple’s feet, he reclines at the table as he eats the meal. As he does he then tells his listeners something that disturbs them, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” Incredulous and “saddened,” Mark writes that “one by one” each of them asks Jesus, “Surely not I?” Could one of them be such a fiend that they would actually share an intimate sacred meal and betray Jesus? To eat with a person and then betray him was the height of treachery. Each one seeks to clear himself and even Judas, Matthew tells us asks, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus bluntly answers him, “Yes, it is you.” (Matthew 26:25) Mark, however, relates Jesus tells his fellow diners, “It is one of the Twelve, one who dips bread into the bowl with me.” Jesus’ betrayer actually is willing to break bread with him. His announcement emphasized the treachery of the betrayal but also gives the betrayer an opportunity to repent. Judas has no such intentions though. Jesus knows this to be true and remarks, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” After Jesus breaks the bread, John writes that, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly!’” (John 13:27 NIV) Judas was a traitor and his character was full of treachery.

EXAMPLE: Treachery is such an awful thing. We are all capable of it. How sad Jesus must have felt knowing there was one among his own disciples who harbored betrayal. Like many of us, he actually thought Jesus did not see his deceitfulness. Jesus had warned him time after time, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:21-24 NIV) He had warned him that only “the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33 NIV) But he did not want to hear Jesus’ words. Jesus had washed the traitor’s feet along with all the others. He had taught him, prayed with him, and even given him the power to cast out demons! Jesus reminded him, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70) Yet treachery turns a deaf ear to reason. It only hears the jealous whisper of self-deception. “Surely not I, Rabbi?” you brazenly ask and Jesus responds by saying, “Yes, it is you.” Oh child, here is your opportunity to return to your Master. The choice is yours today. Will you dash your duplicity on the Rock of Ages? I pray you will! How sad we find treachery during this final Passover, but how heartbreaking to have it revealed in us and not repent!

Some meals are more memorable than others. A dinner where a couple becomes engaged, a meal celebrating an achievement, or the intimate meal shared between friends. Here in Mark’s gospel we discover that the final Passover Jesus would share became a very special. Jesus establishes…

III. The meal! (Vv. 22-26)

1. “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) The history of the Passover is recorded in Exodus 12 and was the most sacred feast of the Hebrew calendar. It commemorated the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood of a lamb that was sprinkled on their doorposts. The lamb was then roasted and eaten with unleavened bread. God’s command was that throughout the generations to come the feast would be celebrated. Each part of the meal carried significance to the Jews. However, Jesus gave it new meaning. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’” The body, the nation of Israel became the church of the Messiah Jesus. He takes the matzos and shows what it now stands for. The matzos was broken into three equal parts and one part was wrapped and put away until it was brought out during the end of the meal to commemorate the coming Messiah. It was this piece Jesus gave new significance to. “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.” This was one of several cups that were drank during the meal to thank God for his covenant and care. However, Jesus again assigns new meaning to the cup when he tells them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” According to Luke, Jesus teaches that his followers were to do these things “in remembrance” of him and that this “cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20) When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he is indicating this would be a remembrance that must be celebrated. It indicated also that the Passover, which required the death of a lamb and looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, was fulfilled in Jesus’ sacrifice! The New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant when Jesus, the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), was sacrificed (Hebrews 8:8-13). The sacrificial system was no longer needed (Hebrews 9:25-28). The Lord’s Supper is therefore a beautiful reminder of what Jesus the Messiah did for us and is a celebratory meal of what we receive as a result of our faith in His sacrifice!

EXAMPLE: No doubt about it, this meal was special. It would be the last Passover supper Jesus would enjoy with his disciples. But with it came a new significance for all mankind. Jesus spoke of literal things such as the bread, the wine, his physical body and his blood — but the relationship between them was expressed figuratively. We know this to be true because when Jesus referred to himself as a door, gate, bread of life, and other things he was not saying he actually was a door, gate, or loaf of bread! Here, the verb “is” means “represents.” Jesus was physically present as He spoke these words, so the disciples did not literally eat His body or drink His blood, something absolutely abhorrent and heretical to Jews anyway. This shows the inappropriate view of the Catholic Eucharist (transubstantiation), whereby the bread and wine are magically changed into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Nor does it give credence to the Lutheran view whereby the bread and wine are mystically transformed (consubstantiation), where they represent Jesus’ body within them, and the participant receives a certain amount of grace in Communion. Because of the misinterpretation of the terminology often used by Catholics or Lutherans, Baptists usually do not use the terms “Eucharist”, meaning gratitude for Jesus’ continual sacrifice, or “Communion”, meaning the mystical fellowship one enjoys with Christ during the commemoration. We simply say it is an observance or remembrance of what Jesus did and the meal he gave new significance to.

Conclusion:

We have taken a look at the preparations, the treachery, and the meal involved in the Lord’s Supper. Each part played an important role in this final Passover. What preparations have you made, how have you betrayed Jesus, and what significance does this meal have for you? Do you know the One this final Passover commemorates? I pray you do!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Betrayal - Mark 14:1-2; 10-11

Betrayal - Mark 14:1-2; 10-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 13, 2011 AM

He had been a successful Army officer, capturing several enemy strongholds, and the decisive factor in the victories of several major battles. Yet, even though he was successful in battle Congress did not reward him as they had done others of lesser skill. After his wife died, suffering from war wounds, mounting indebtedness, and the care of several children the hero of so many battles turned betrayer to his nation. While he was able to capture enemy strongholds on the battlefield he could not conquer the enemy’s stronghold in his life. He fled after being discovered, and ended his remaining years living away from his native land. Benedict Arnold became synonymous with the moniker of betrayer.

What causes someone to betray another? Disappointment, not being appreciated, or perhaps a false sense of self-worth can contribute to someone betraying another. In the gospel narratives we find one person who is recognized as the ultimate betrayer, Judas Iscariot. For thousands of years people have speculated on why Judas did what he did to his friend, teacher, and mentor Jesus. In all of history there is no one else that garners as much animosity and anger as Judas. In fact, anyone who betrays another is known as a “Judas.” Why would anyone betray Jesus and yet we still find those who do even in our day and age. Today, let’s take a closer look at betrayal.

READ: Mark 14:1-2; 10-11

There are folks who go through life blaming others for everything bad that happens to them. They actually have fooled themselves into thinking that they are never to blame for what ultimately catches up to them for their bad choices in life. Just as we do not live in a vacuum where our decisions are concerned, we discover in Mark’s gospel that…

I. Betrayal does not happen in a vacuum!

1. “How can I excuse my behavior?” is the first question of betrayal! We discover that there was a concerted decision on each person’s part in the betrayal of Jesus. With “the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread” only “two days away,” we find “the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.” These men were already plotting to find a way by deceit, trickery, or craft to try and get Jesus arrested. How shocking and sad to discover that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were so frightened by what Jesus represented but also in what he did that they wanted to kill him. Even if it meant these pious men had to lie! Betrayal knows no bounds. It seeks to destroy the one it is focused on in any way it can but it does not happen in a vacuum. There is planning and cunning involved. In fact we find that these men had been planning this for a long time. Clear back when Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the grave, they had been plotting how to kill him. We discover that immediately afterward “the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’” (John 11:47-48 NIV) There it is, the real reason they feared Jesus. Their personal position of power as priests and the recognition that came with it was threatened. They held sway over the kingship of the Herods and so it was doubly important to their “bottom line” for the nation to survive as well. The people had begun to see Jesus as the promised Messiah. His leadership style and the way he presented new insights to the law the crowd liked. Jesus did not talk piety, he lived righteously. He did not just talk the talk, Jesus walked the walk and his example was in stark contrast to the worldly nature of those who were supposed to be spiritual leaders. They were threatened and began to look for some sly way to get Jesus. John tells us, “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (John 11:53 NIV) We do the very same thing when we plot and scheme out our excuses for not following the Lord as we should. Betrayal does not happen in a vacuum!

EXAMPLE: It has surprised me to learn throughout the years that Christians can plot and scheme on how they will betray Jesus. We do it when we know we should tithe, witness, or serve but make excuses as to why we do not. Believers are guilty of planning to betray Christ when we decide to follow our own selfish desires instead of joining Jesus in his will. Whether it is in justifying our selfishness, plotting to use our day of worship for our own agenda, or just deciding we will not tell someone about the gospel we can be guilty of betrayal. Sure, we can declare that we never betrayed Christ whereby he died on the cross because of our disloyalty, but the fact remains believers can be guilty of “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:6) One of the greatest barriers for nonbelievers coming to Christ is the hypocrisy of believers! I will never forget sitting across from a fellow Christian who wanted to know what I thought about someone who “held back part of his tithe and put it in a high yield savings account for other things in the church,” that he had decided the church needed! Step by step and scheme by scheme we plot out how we will betray Jesus. What excuse we will give. The Bible warns us that we will ultimately have to give an accounting of our betrayal. (Matthew 12:36) Betrayal does not happen in a vacuum!

Treachery is seen by society as one of the worst acts someone can do to another person or nation. There have been thousands of books, plays, and movies that have dealt with folk’s unfaithfulness. It mystifies those of us who would never consider doing so why anyone would ever betray their friends or countrymen. Many excuses have been offered, yet we discover here in Mark’s gospel that…

II. Betrayal is basically greedy!

1. “What’s in it for me?” is the motto of the betrayer! At its core betrayal is built on selfishness and greed. Not just financial, but in personal self-indulgence as well. We begin to think we deserve our station in life, we deserve our recognition, or that our every whim deserves to be catered to. Judas suffered from all of these. Only Judas was from an area or town known as Kerioth, and John designates him as “Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” (John 6:71) All the others were rebel zealots, tax collectors, or fishermen. Therefore some believe that while Judas, being from the district of Judah and the rest of the disciples being all Galileans, he was disappointed with the Messiah Jesus portrayed. Judas saw himself more sophisticated. Jesus willingly healed anyone. He often met with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the dregs of society. Perhaps Judas wanted more from the Messiah, a Messiah who would be not only a priest but a warrior-king who would defeat the Romans. Since Judas is identified with Simon the Zealot when he is listed in Matthew 10:4, was he also a rebel? Some think he could have even been part of the sicarii (dagger men). These were a cadre of paid assassins among Jewish rebels intent on driving the Romans out of Judea. However, some historians maintain these hit men did not arise until a decade after Judas’ death. Did Judas therefore commit his cowardly act of betrayal because he wanted to force the issue of Jesus taking on the mantle of Messiahship that he and the Zealots desired from Jesus? We are not told, but if so, we find selfishness at the center of his betrayal. John relates to us that “Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.” (John 6:64) This was part of Judas’ intrinsic character. He was the one who is identified by John that gripes about the nard being used by Mary to anoint Jesus, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6 NIV) John drives this point home when he reminds us later when Jesus is asked during the Passover meal which disciple would possibly betray him, Jesus tells Judas to go and quickly do what he is destined to do. “Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.” (John 13:29 NIV) Judas therefore saw money and power as motivating factors for his life. Betrayal is basically greedy!

EXAMPLE: Judas and the others were greedy. Like many of us today they wanted to control Jesus. They wanted him to do what they desired. When we procrastinate, when we lie, lust or are lazy, when we continually surrender the spiritual strongholds in our lives that we face each day we are desiring that Jesus become in our life that which he cannot. Either Jesus is both Savior and Lord or he is not. The answer is not to take the coward’s way out as Judas ultimately does, but to be more like Peter who also betrays Jesus through his denial but ultimately is restored to Jesus. We are given hope as Paul would cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV) The wonderful good news is that the answer is found in the one we are betraying! As Paul would answer his own distress, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Dear child of God if today you struggle with the strongholds of sin in your life John reminds us of a beautiful truth that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV) You may weep, “But what if I return to my sin?” John tells us, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” We betray Jesus, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) We must daily moment by moment confess our betrayal and thereby conquer the stronghold of sin in our life. If we do not, we betray Jesus because we greedily want him to acquiesce to our sinfulness. And betrayal is basically greedy!

Conclusion:
We have learned the startling truth that betrayal exists within each of us moment by moment. That betrayal does not happen in a vacuum and that it is basically greedy. Now, let me ask you, “How will you deal with your betrayal today?”
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Wonderful Witness - Mark 14:3-9

A Wonderful Witness - Mark 14:3-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 6, 2011 AM

What kind of impact does our Christianity have on those around us? If we were suddenly taken ill, would those we come into contact with on a daily basis miss us because of the witness we portray? We believe that faith in Jesus changes people, do we not? Yet, has our faith changed us to the point whereby we make any kind of spiritual impact on those around us because of it? I am not talking about being a good worker, showing up on time, being kind or being studious because even very ungodly people can do these things quite well. Do people actually see and hear Jesus in our attitude and actions, and as Paul told the Corinthians that “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:13 NIV) Would others say that we are a wonderful witness for the Lord?

There are some stories in the Bible that grab a hold of your heart and just won’t let go. The widow Elisha helps, the friendship of David and Jonathan, the good-bye of Paul to the Ephesians, when Jesus washes his disciple’s feet, Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, his death burial and resurrection, and here in Mark the simple story of a young woman who anoints Jesus with nard perfume. Every time I read it, I am moved because of the selfless act of the woman involved compared to those reclining at the table with Jesus. There is no denying that her act is a wonderful witness. Mark’s gospel gives us insight into the last few days Jesus had remaining with his disciples. We find them at a dinner hosted for Jesus and his friends. During the meal one woman does something so beautiful that her wonderful witness has been remembered for all time. Let’s find out this morning what she did and how it has been remembered.

READ: Mark 14:3-9

Jesus would soon sacrifice himself for our sins. He would become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And here in a captured moment of time we discover someone who is so gracious and lovely in her witness that it makes us pause. Would others that day see her actions as a wonderful witness? Sadly, no, because…

I. We often fail to see or be a wonderful witness! (Vv. 3-5)

1. One’s perfume can either turn heads or stomachs! We learn in John’s account of this incident that it was Mary, Lazarus and Martha’s sister. They evidently had been invited to Simon the Leper’s house as well. Perhaps they knew him and had introduced him to Jesus. More than likely he had been cured by Jesus because even though Jesus was adept at ignoring social norms in favor of witnessing to folks, we do not find him going here to heal Simon, but rather to eat with him. This, none of the disciples, Mary, Martha or Lazarus would have done if he had still been infected with leprosy. We find them in a perfect setting of friends sharing a meal together. And we find that impetuous woman Mary doing what she always did best – being with her Master. While others were reclining at the table we find that she comes in “with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.” Nard was made from a plant found in the East Indies, with a small, slender stalk, and a heavy, thick root. The best perfume was obtained from the root. “She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” While others were feeding themselves, Mary was getting ready to anoint her Master, while others sat and enjoyed each other’s company, Mary thought only of giving the one she loved a beautiful gift. Yet not everyone shared her enthusiasm and could only be indignant in their comments, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.” Where Mary succeeded the others failed. They actually rebuke her "harshly" for her wonderful witness! Why is it we often fail to see or be a wonderful witness? Perhaps it is because we fill ours lives up with what does not truly may not matter and we miss that which truly does. The disciples did that day. The woman Mary focused on glorifying God, they were only concerned for the cost involved. I am reminded of what Paul told the elders of the church from Ephesus concerning this, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.” (Acts 20:24) Paul did not want them to fail in their witness for the Lord. And there is the problem that we face: We often fail to see or be a wonderful witness!

EXAMPLE: Now let me ask you, “Do you turn heads or stomachs?” Are you a spiritual glutton at God’s banquet table? We can get so caught up in satisfying our own selfish selves, gaining pride in our own accomplishments, and focusing on feeding ourselves, that we do not think about what would truly please Jesus. We feast while others starve right before our eyes. Why? We believe that if it pleases us or goes along with what we desire in life, then it must certainly be God’s will. Nothing could be further from the truth! We may have sold ourselves an empty plate for a life of dirty dishes. Few Christians today sacrifice anything in order to glorify the Lord. We have gorged ourselves with too many things thinking that by giving God a few scraps of our time once in awhile, if it does not interfere with anything we want to do, that we have somehow glorified him in some way. Our job, our school, our families, our friends, our time, our talent, or our treasure are not ours to do with as we see fit. We forget that God has graciously given each of them to us. We are too content at God’s table, too laidback and willing to rebuke another’s wonderful witness instead. In doing so, we often fail to see or be a wonderful witness ourselves! We would do well to remember this woman’s wonderful witness. Paul wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7 NIV) What have you lost for the Lord? Have you failed to see or be a wonderful witness for the Lord?

Without a word or without any announcement, a young woman begins to minister to Jesus. All the others that day were only interested in the fare provided, the witty conversation, or a moment to relax. She was motivated by her gracious heart to do something special for one she loved. And because of what she does and how she does it, we learn of…

II. A wonderful witness that will always be remembered! (Vv. 6-9)

1. Smelly Christians really stink for the Lord! Let me explain: Jesus reminds his fellow countrymen what truly mattered here. He bluntly tells them, “Leave her alone!” and then asks them, “Why are you bothering her?” I do not believe her detractors were really interested in the poor at all. She had “done a beautiful thing to” Jesus, but had they? No. Jesus immediately reveals their selfishness. He tells them that “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” Jesus was not giving his disciples or future believers an excuse to ignore the poor around them; rather he was putting their arrogant argument into proper perspective. If they had truly wanted to help the poor they could have done so at any time and they could still do so at any time. “But you will not always have me,” he tells them. What Mary did that day was show her faith, her devotion, her love and honor for Jesus. They all should have applauded her selflessness and her witness of servanthood. Her act sprung from a real and sincere love for Jesus, and was designed for his honor and glory; and so had the aroma of something quite wonderful. John relates to us that it was Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, who voiced his concern for the cost of her gift. In hindsight John relates that Judas “did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6) However, the other gospel writers do not mention it was just Judas who voiced their false concern, but that it was all of them. And John curiously leaves out what the other writers include, namely that Jesus tell them, “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” His meaning is clear, they had done nothing. She may not have understood what she did at the time, but Jesus did. He faced betrayal by one of his own, and the others would either do a brash act of defiance that could have gotten them all killed or simply run away as they all ultimately do. Only one, ahead of time, had the sensitivity of the Spirit to perform something so wonderful that it deeply touched Jesus. Today we will remember Jesus through the celebration and remembrance of the Lord’s Supper, but when Mary “poured [the nard] on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair,” her wonderful witness would always be remembered. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus solemnly tells them, that “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Today, we discover the smell of a wonderful witness that will always be remembered.

EXAMPLE: Now let me ask, “How do we stink for the Lord?” What wonderful witness for the Lord of ours will be remembered by others? Sadly, there are far too few Christians who are remembered in this way when in fact it should be the majority of believers. I fear we have bought into the lie that anything we do as a believer, including getting up in the morning, witnesses as long as we think it does. It does not. Little of what we do in life actually witnesses. How can I say such a bold thing? I am not talking about spiritual neutrality here. Whereby, as long as we think good thoughts, are pleasant, or treat others decently we are being a witness for the Lord. Do we actually “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God [because of our selfless and Christ-like actions and attitudes] on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV) Being a witness allows others to smell the aroma of Christ in our lives. It is a life of sacrifice as Paul related, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) Is our life lived this way? If not, our witness will not be remembered as honoring to the Lord. We are to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV) Let's not stink in our witness, but rather become a fragrant offering. A perfume of sacrifice, the fragrant nard poured out on the lives of others and we will be a wonderful witness that will always be remembered!

Conclusion:
1) We often fail to see or be a wonderful witness and we need to become 2) a wonderful witness that will always be remembered!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.