Matthew 2:1-23; Luke 2:41-52; Mark 1:2-8; Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-18; Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22
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Two days ago, we began the New Testament! I'll highlight each of the 4 Gospels overviews these first 4 days, with Mark today.
Date: A.D. 60-65
Content: John Mark was a companion of the apostle Paul. He finally settled in Rome where he wrote down the remembrances of the apostle Peter. Thus Mark’s Gospel reflects the words of an eyewitness of the events he describes. Mark’s purpose was to put together an expanded Gospel message. Hence it centers upon the acts of Jesus rather than his words and devotes a disproportionately large amount of material to the last week of Jesus’ life. Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ public ministry and preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Several explicit predictions of his coming death are made (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34, 45) and then Jesus goes to the cross to die for the sins of the world.
Theme: Mark depicts Jesus as the Servant of God who came to do God’s will. The miracles, healings, victory over demons, and personal power show the world that Jesus was no ordinary servant, but was truly the Son of God (Mark 15:39). Jesus’ resurrection authenticated all that he did, and now we await his return in glory from heaven. Mark also wrote to encourage the Roman Christians in a time of persecution. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pages 21-22) Excellent commentary on the Gospel of Mark is at this link.
You'll notice in Mark chapter 1 today that there is no nativity narrative - Mark and John's Gospels do not have the nativity narrative. Verse 1 (which we read 2 days ago) starts off powerfully with: "Here begins the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God." (Good News = Gospel. Gospel comes from the Old English word godspel, which means "good story" or "good tidings" or "good news" and accurately translates the original Greek word: evangelion.) And what is the Good News? It is that God has provided salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is very Good News indeed!
Matthew Chapter 2 verse 6 is very powerful in that the 2010 One Year Bible crew recently read about the prophet Micah's prophesying of Jesus being born in Bethlehem: "O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel." Here again you can see Matthew writing for his Jewish audience - quoting an Old Testament prophet and also focusing in on the town of "Bethlehem of Judah" - the City of David. This was to demonstrate again that Jesus was from the lineage of King David.
Matthew 2:10 is a brief verse showing us the reaction of the magi in being led to Jesus: "When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!" The magi were also Gentiles and likely astrologers - following a star might lead one to think this... :) But no matter where they were from and what they believed prior, they were filled with joy at being led to the Messiah, Jesus. And they gave him gifts and worshipped him. And for us today - are we filled with joy in reading about the birth of Jesus? Do we realize what this meant back then - and still means today? That Immanuel was born - that God came to be with us. (Note that some Biblical scholars say that contrary to popular tradition, it is believed that the magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth, as did the shepherds, but that the magi came months later and visited him as "child" in his "house" - see verse 11.)
In Matthew today we read about The Escape to Egypt. Two things stood out to me in Joseph's behavior in today's readings. In verse 13 an angel tells Joseph to "get up and flee to Egypt" - and Joseph responds by leaving THAT NIGHT with the family, as we see in verse 14. That's beautiful obedience. Then, in verse 21 we see Joseph respond similarly when he is told by an angel to return to Israel - he leaves with the family "immediately." I like this - Joseph is acting obediently to God's will in his life - and he is acting pronto! He's not sitting around worrying or fretting or thinking that he'll get to it tomorrow. He goes that night! He returns immediately! Can we learn from Joseph's amazing obedience in these readings? Is God calling you to do something in your life that you are hemming and hawing about? Is God calling you to forgive someone? To love someone? To serve someone? To encourage someone? Will you be like Joseph and obey God's call for your life immediately? Since we've turned the new year, I hope you don't mind if I post up my favorite image demonstrating obedience below... :) Do you have obedience like this when it comes to God's will for your life?
Today in Matthew chapter 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist! I don't know exactly what it is about John the Baptist - but I love reading about him and his life. He is just on fire for God and Jesus and he is encouraging others to get on fire too! I guess I like that in a person. :-) Another thing about John is that he is so focused on his mission to call others to repentance and to baptize them, that he really does not care about worldly things - like how he looks or what he wears or what he eats. None of that really matters to him. It is the message of the coming of Jesus that matters to him. Maybe it is verse 4 that really stands out to me about John: "John's clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey." I think this is really saying that John lived a simple life. He did not "major in minor things" - he "majored in the major thing" - Jesus! Is there something we can learn from John the Baptist in our lives today? Are you perhaps focusing too much on things of this world and not enough on God and Jesus? Are you truly loving God and loving people like John did? Or are you spending your life "majoring in minor things"? Will you instead "major on the major thing" that John is calling you to even today - complete passion and love for God: the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit; and other people?
Today's Matthew readings are incredible on so many levels. We begin by reading about John the Baptist scolding the Pharisees and Sadducees! John is not joking around here... I think one verse that really stood out to me was verse 8: "Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God." and verse 10: "Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire." I think what I hear John saying here is that we are called to truly repent and change our ways. Not just to say some nice words or just show up to church on Sundays - but to be transformed. Our lives should be visibly different from our past if we have really turned from our sins and turned to God. And this change will be evident by our lives producing "good fruit" - examples of which can certainly be seen in any of the Ten Commandments or loving our neighbor as ourselves and above all loving God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength. Our lives should look very different from our past. Do they? Does yours? Below is a stained glass image of John the Baptist used by permission and copyright held by cambridge2000.com/gallery:
Verses 16 & 17 are phenomenal as we see the three persons of the Trinity interacting with each other! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: "After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him."" Jesus' baptism is very significant because it is the act that opens up the public ministry phase of Jesus' life.
In Luke chapter 2 today we read about Jesus' wisdom at the young age of 12. How's this for a profound statement from Jesus to Mary & Joseph when they found him in the Temple in verse 49 - "But why did you need to search?" he asked. "You should have known that I would be in my Father's house." I like that! And I like that Jesus was paying such respect for the Temple as well - essentially calling it the house of God. I do believe this can be carried forward today to Jesus' love for his body, the church. I often think to myself, when I'm on my way to church, that "I'm going to the house of God." Do you believe that we can find Jesus today in his Father's house? Or are you searching elsewhere? I do believe of course Jesus can be found outside of church... but I also know that I oftentimes experience his presence so profoundly at church - and Communion in church clearly being one such a time & place where I cannot help but find Jesus in a profound way. Below is "Jesus in the Temple at Twelve" by Duccio di Buoninsegna from the early 14th century:
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Luke titled "The Day Jesus went AWOL" :) is at this link..
I always love reading about John the Baptizer! John is sometimes referred to as the "last Old Testament prohet." Jesus said this about John in Luke 16:16 - "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John." Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets, priests and kings. I find it very helpful to know Jesus is my Prophet, Priest and King. Prophets in the Old Testament typically preached repentance from sins, and John was no exception to this rule in our readings in Luke chapter 3 today. John preached repentance! Have you repented from your sins? Is your life showing the fruits of your repentance?
Commentary from Bible.org on Luke chapter 3's readings today titled "John the Baptizer" is at this link.
Worship God: Today's readings in Luke today reminded me of Josh Wilson's song "I Refuse:"
Do you refuse to settle for less in your life? Click here and settle no more!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "And the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3:22 NIV
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!