Jesus once said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This statement confounded and upset the religious leaders of His day. Jesus was eating with sinners, ministering to sinners, forgiving sinners, healing sinners, and (worst of all) calling sinners to be His followers. In short—Jesus was getting into trouble…for all the right reasons!
So why were the religious leaders bothered with Jesus’ statement? They thought they were already righteous. They couldn’t compute in their self-righteous hearts how the Messiah would come for sinners, but not for them.
But what they had failed to see is that Jesus really had come for them too. But something needed to happen in their hearts first. They weren’t really righteous—they only thought they were.
Watch or listen to our study from the Gospel of Mark 2:1-17 and hear how Jesus comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.
One day, God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. With knife raised over his son, God stopped Abraham because He saw that Abraham did not withhold his only son from Him.
In the book of Hebrews, we read why Abraham was willing and ready to obey the Lord: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Abraham (the father) had faith God would raise Isaac (the son) from the dead. 2,000 years later, there was another Father and another Son. The two of them went together to the same hill. But this time, no one stopped the knife. Jesus, the Son, was crucified. This had to happen this—there was no other way to accomplish the purposes of God:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
God (the Father) gave His son (Jesus) so that you could enjoy life with Him—forever! Have you received this free gift He offers you? You can, right now. Ask God to forgive you & fill you with His Spirit. He is willing and wanting to save you!
"God will provide," the Patriarch said,
And faith gives every doubt away;
Fearless he climbs Moriah's mound,
And sees afar Christ Jesus' day:
Yes! God provides, and God accepts
His sacrifice, and his alone:
No blood of beasts, not Abraham's son,
Nor ought, save Christ, can ever atone.
We remember the details of what occurred between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, but we must recall the heart of it all: “God [the Father] loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
The Son and the Father—the two of them went together. Often, we look at this week called Passion only from the perspective of the Son and rarely from the perspective of the Father—and almost never from the perspective of both.
But don’t forget that the Son and the Father—the two of them—went together. This is the reason we turned to the book of Genesis on Resurrection Sunday. The scene in Genesis 22 vividly paints the picture of what God the Son and God the Father did together.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem on the day we now call Palm Sunday, He wept over the city. The Prince of Peace saw the city of peace and was overwhelmed with sorrow. Why? Because they did not have peace with God.
They did not recognize the specific day that God had come to them to give them peace. And sadly because of their rejection, destruction came when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem.
Have you recognized Jesus coming to you to seek and to save that which was lost? One day, we will all have to stand before God alone. He will inspect your heart to see if you have peace with God. Do you know the things that make for your peace?
If you don’t know and haven’t received Jesus, the coming destruction will be eternal—eternal separation from God. But it doesn’t have to be that way! This is why Jesus came—to save you from destruction.
You can ask Jesus today—right now—to forgive you of your sins, to fill you with His Spirit, and to make you a brand new creation in Christ. Cry out to Him and He will save you! Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
Palm Sunday is the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A day foretold by prophets, a day for celebration, and day for weeping. It was a day that Jesus was concerned—not for Himself, but about us. In this study, we considered what Jesus was doing and what was happening one week before His resurrection and a few days before His crucifixion.
Reconcile—it’s a big word with a beautiful meaning. In the Greek language Paul used to write this letter, it means to change—not just a minor change, but a thorough change. A complete change.
Because of sin, every one of us is estranged from God. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s best. Sin has left us at odds with God—there needs to be a change in our relationship to Him and our relationship with Him.
It is only in and through Christ that your relationship to God is reconciled, changed, restored. There can now be friendship with God in Jesus rather than hostility with God in sin.
Jesus made that possible on the cross when He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Are you reconciled to God? Or are you still at odds with Him because of your sin? We implore you on Christ’s behalf—be reconciled to God! Ask Him for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
When reading Paul’s epistles, there is often a lot going on that can touch on a number of different topics. We see that in 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul writes about the right motives for ministry. He wrote so well about this topic because his motives were often scrutinized.
You see, Paul had his number of critics in Corinth. Many tried to discredit him and his message. Now there were a number of ways Paul could have handled this situation, but he chose the most direct way—by addressing the criticism head on.
So in this portion of his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes in a way that helped this church—and us—see the right motives for life and ministry.
Watch or listen to our study as Pastor Allan Benson led our time in 2 Corinthians 5.
Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” —Mark 1:40
Leprosy made this man unclean—physically and spiritually unacceptable and unaccepted in society. Unclean was what he shouted to warn others of his condition. It’s no surprise that he desired more than physical healing—he wanted to be made clean.
So he went to Jesus and fell at His feet—sick, forgotten, and forsaken—full of leprosy…and full of faith.
Jesus knew all about this man—his struggle with the disease that alienated him from his community. This man knew about Jesus—how He was able to heal, yet he wondered whether or not Jesus was willing.
Like this man, you may be frightened of the disgusting effects of the spiritual leprosy of sin in your life. You may be afraid of Jesus getting too close and finding out just how rotten you are. You may question if Jesus is really willing to make you clean.
Oh, He is! He is not only able to heal you of the sickness of sin, He is willing to put His hand upon your your very soul and speak a word of power to cast out sin and it’s ugly hold over your life!
And when the power of sin is broken, you are not only healed spiritually—you are clean—completely and eternally.
Have you enjoyed this healing and cleansing from sin? Just ask Jesus! He is able and willing to cleanse you today!
Grace, authority, power. These are the qualities of Jesus we’ve observed so far in the Gospel of Mark. In Nazareth, people marveled at His gracious words. In Capernaum, people were astonished at how Jesus taught with authority. And He demonstrated His power when He healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
He is able to do everything with all power and authority. And He is also willing to do it with all grace. Not just for those in Nazareth and Capernaum. He is willing to heal YOU and cleanse YOU of the debilitating, disfiguring, and disgusting effects of sin.
All He has to do is say the word and you will be clean. And yet, as we see in our study, He is willing to do so much more.
When you know that you are loved by Jesus, you start asking Him for anything—big things, little things, impossible things—everything! As you start a life of asking, you’ll begin to notice that He is responding.
Often, His response is asking something of you. And when you obey Him, you realize just how awesome His is and notice what He is up to in the world.
That prompts you to love Him even more—and you realize how much He loves you, which prompts you to ask Him more, which prompts Him to ask of you more—and the cycle continues.
This rhythm is the life Jesus intends for His followers to live—a life of asking, obedience, and love.
The beginning to this life is easy—just ask!
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to hear Jesus teach and preach? Have you ever imagined what it would have been like to be in the same small synagogue with Him or on the Judaean hillsides while He would teach and proclaim God’s word with authenticity, authority, and simplicity?
Loud or soft; fast or slow—while we don’t know the volume or the tempo with which Jesus spoke, we do know the content and the style. Thankfully, we have many of Jesus’ sermons recorded in the Gospels—and His message was clear.
He would often teach about the kingdom. He would emphasize the need for a new start—a new birth—as the only way to enter into this kingdom. He would talk about holy living as the evidence that one had been born again and was a genuine citizen of this kingdom. And He would illustrate all of this in the simplest of ways using everyday life and everyday things like seeds and soil and farmers and flowers.
Most importantly, His message was always rooted in Scripture—not in someone’s opinion or oral tradition. His sermons were full of direct quotations from the Old Testament. He really believed what He was saying—and said it with awe and childlike wonder concerning His Father.
We would do well to follow in His footsteps. Remember—all believers are ambassadors are representatives of His kingdom. Like Jesus, you can proclaim God’s word with simplicity, rooted and grounded in the word, and saying it with awe and childlike wonder.
He has given you a message—proclaim it!
Initially, the earthy ministry of Jesus was supposed to be primarily preaching and teaching God’s word. In Mark 1:21-39, the people of Capernaum hear Jesus speak as He begins His earthly ministry of teaching and preaching in their synagogue. This must have been a startling experience for those gathered in that small synagogue. Here is Jesus—the Living Word—teaching, preaching, and proclaiming the written word!
Often, miracles followed the message—and we see that in this section of scripture. But ultimately, Jesus reinforces His primary purpose of preaching, teaching, and proclaiming God’s Message. He made that message simple: the kingdom has come; you must be born again to enter in; and right living is the evidence of your citizenship in this kingdom.
While we don’t know the volume or the tempo with which Jesus spoke, we do know the content and the style—He really believed what He was saying. Watch or listen to our study from this past Sunday and marvel at the simplicity with which Jesus taught and served.
Imagine that Jesus walked into your place of employment and simply said, “Follow Me.” What would you do? Would you follow Jesus physically? Would you leave your job? Would you leave your family? Would you leave your city instantly after only hearing two words from Jesus?
This is the scene that we studied this past Sunday, and is seemed as though that’s exactly what happened to Andrew, Simon, James, and John. But when you put the puzzle pieces together from the other Gospel accounts, there was much more going on here that what we could see on the surface.
Mark 1:16-20 was only one of the times that Jesus said, “Follow Me” to these men. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last time. Time after time, these men stutter-stepped and struggled in physically following Jesus—returning to their earthly identity again and again instead of walking fully in their kingdom calling.
Is that something that you struggle with—setting aside your earthly identity in order to walk fully in your kingdom calling? You may not be following Jesus physically on the dusty trails of Galilee, but the experience is just as real and the stakes are just as high.
Jesus is calling you. Jesus really does love you. Jesus really does want to be with you. And before you mutter all those reasons why your life doesn’t matter, Jesus is fully aware—and yet He still loves you and wants to be with you forever!
Starting right now, you could simply say, “Jesus, I’m tired of the stutter-step. I’m tired of the struggle. Please forgive me. Please help me. Please save me. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want to follow You. I want to be with You forever! Thank you for hearing my prayer and receiving me into your family. In Jesus name, Amen.”
“Follow Me.” Two simple words spoken by Jesus that proved to be difficult to obey for four fishermen. In Mark 1:16-20, we read of one of times Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last time Jesus called these men.
In fact, we considered at least four different times Jesus called these men to be His disciples. But why would Jesus have to say, "Follow Me," to them so many times? Why would they hesitate?
It's a question we asked and considered our own hesitations to follow Jesus. And yet, despite their hesitations and our own, Jesus continues to call.
Watch our listen to our study of Mark 1:16-20 and learn just how much Jesus wants to be with you.
At His baptism, Jesus’ call to ministry came with the heavens parting, the Spirit descending on Him like a dove, and God’s voice from heaven declaring His favor.
And immediately after that glorious moment…the Sprit sends Jesus into the wilderness. Life is like that—even for the Son of God. There’s an initial romance in the call to ministry followed by a time of severe testing.
While in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. The Gospel of Luke records three specific temptations (Luke 4:1-13), but there were most likely many more. This would have been a severe time of testing and suffering for Jesus—but it would prepare Him for the rest of His ministry.
Although Jesus emerged from this time of testing and temptation unstained by sin, He was changed by the human experience. Jesus was made perfect though suffering (Hebrews 2:10) and is our compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
At His most vulnerable and physically weakest, Jesus felt what we feel. He could sympathize with our times of testing. He could understand the temptations we face. His time of testing produced an empathy and compassion for the people He was to serve in His earthly ministry.
And God also leads us through seasons where our faith is tested. These trials refine and purify us so that God’s heart and character is ever more gloriously reflected in our lives.
As You with Satan did contend
And did the vict'ry win,
O give us strength in You to fight,
In You to conquer sin.
There is often an initial romance after God calls you and sends you. But after the romance of that initial calling, there is the reality of a time of testing. This testing may be so severe that it tempts you to question your calling and His love for you.
And yet, God is just as much in control in that time of testing as He was when He first called you. You don’t have to thrive during this time of testing—you just have to survive.
Even for God’s own Son, His initial calling into earthly ministry was immediately followed by the reality of ministry (see Mark 1:11-12). All of it was preparing Jesus for a more fruitful, impactful and compassionate ministry.
We considered this time of testing in Jesus’ ministry and how we can learn from it to prepare ourselves for times of testing in our own walk with the Lord during our study in the Gospel of Mark this past Sunday.
John the Baptist had a very unique call on his life. In order to fulfill that call, he needed to live the very unique life of a Nazirite. From the time he was born, he was to abstain from the fruit of the vine, to never cut his hair, and to never come near a dead body. Sound extreme? It was. The vow of the Nazirite was to express one's special desire to draw close to God and to separate one's self from the comforts and pleasures of this world.
This was done in obedience to God. John’s life was in preparation to be the preparation for Jesus. And if he was going to be effective in that preparation—in preparing the way and preaching repentance—he would need to be pure. So more than any man had ever done before, John pursued purity and God in the desert, living on wild honey and locusts.
Then one day, God told him it was time—the Messiah was here! John’s message was clear—are you ready? Is your heart ready? The King is coming!
That message if for you today as well: Is your heart ready for the King who will come again? Are you holding on to sin? Repent and let it go. Prepare your heart to receive what Jesus has to give!
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!
Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.
Centuries of significant prophecies are fulfilled in the first eleven verses of the Gospel of Mark. Two of the most influential men cross paths. Two influential ministries come to a crossroads. One man's ministry was ending. The other man's earthly ministry was just beginning. And to truly appreciate all that was happening in these few verses, we went back to the beginning—the the time when these two men were just babies in the womb.
Mark and Peter had failed, yet God called them and used their failure to form their future. He didn’t cause their failure or co-sign their failure, but He certainly used their failure for His glory—and our benefit!
He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Mark and Peter were increasingly aware of the forgiveness of Jesus—and so they increasingly learned to love Jesus with their lives. They learned to let their love for Jesus overrule and override their fear of man. And they grew in the grace of Jesus! Failure? Yes. Sinner? Yes. Called by Jesus? YES! AND equipped by Him along the way.
Jesus is calling all failures and sinners, foolish and forgotten, into His service to tell the world the good news of His kingdom. He became one of us, served us and loved us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us—no matter what the world has to throw at us.
Do you want to tell the world about Jesus? Do you want to be in the service of THE good news? God is calling you!
We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.
Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.
The Gospel of Mark begins with one of the most subversive, controversial, influential, and important sentences written: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1)
It is difficult for us as 21st century Gentiles to fully grasp just how dangerous and revolutionary it would be to write these words. It's only when we consider the context of the culture that this was written that we can fully appreciate how subversive this sentence truly is.
Life for the 1st century Christian was full of government overreach, persecution, and financial uncertainty. It was a time when the world needed hope—hope from a leader other than Caesar. Hope from a servant-leader who was not of this world. Hope from someone who had every right to be Ruler, but who chose to be a servant.
He came. He led. He served. And He saved. His name is Jesus.
Earthly kings expect to be waited on hand and foot. Overlords take all that they can for themselves. But Jesus is different. This King of kings didn’t come to be served, but to serve. This Lord of lords didn’t come to take, but to give.
Service and sacrifice—that is what we see of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus gives His life in service (chapters 1-10) and in sacrifice (chapters 11-16). Why? Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
God has a radical adventure before you—full of heartache and pain; difficulty and wonder; glory and fellowship—with Him as you desire to be His servant. So as we study the Gospel of Mark, we pray that He would transform us with His word and by the Spirit so that we may see every second of our lives as a ministry opportunity. But most importantly—that we would see opportunities to fellowship with Him in service and sacrifice.
We thought You'd come with a crown of gold
A string of pearls and a cashmere robe
We thought You'd clinch an iron fist
And rain like fire on the politics.
But without a sword, no armored guard
But common born in mother's arms
The government now rests upon
The shoulders of this Baby Son.
–“Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan
The whole Gospel of Mark revolves around a singular verse: "For even the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). This Gospel shows us how Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to lay down His life to set people free.
As we study this book and look closely and carefully at Jesus, we will hopefully become more like Him. Not that we would die on a cross for anyone's sin, but that we would be willing to lay down our preferences and our pride so that others can be set free.
This past Sunday, we wondered how we will be changed as we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark. Watch or listen to our study as we asked the Lord to transform us through His word.
In the book of Acts, John (also called Mark) joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. As time went on, things got difficult and Mark left Barnabas and Paul for home. For their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to bring Mark, but Paul objected. Mark went with Barnabas, but Paul and Barnabas never served together again.
It probably took a while for Mark to get over his failure. He needed more than encouragement—he needed to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus—and God had just the man in mind.
Peter was familiar with failure—specifically the failure of running away in the face of fear. He was reminded of it every time the rooster crowed. Peter needed to know how to receive the grace of Jesus, how to live out the grace of Jesus, and how to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus.
The grace of Jesus changed Peter. So much so that Peter was able to share it with Mark, who was struggling with his own failure. He told Mark all about the grace of Jesus and showed Mark what it looks like to live in light of this amazing grace.
It’s a blessing to have to know people like Barnabas and Peter—fellow believers who encourage and teach you not only what it means to be strengthened by God’s amazing grace, but how to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and serve Jesus because of that grace.
Thankfully, through the ministry of Barnabas and Peter, Mark learned this. He learned how the grace of Jesus not only sustains us, but also gives us the ability to serve others—even and especially when we don’t feel like it. It prompted him to pick up his pen and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write a book about the amazing grace of Jesus—a book we call the Gospel according to Mark.
The Gospel according to Mark was written in a time of incredible political and societal upheaval. A time when people were concerned about their children’s future. A time when quitting and running away was a tempting prospect.
Mark wrote this book for a specific purpose. He didn’t just want people to know about Jesus—he wanted them to know the grace of Jesus. How the grace of Jesus is sufficient to sustain anyone though any difficulty. How this amazing grace floods a heart with the love of God and renders fear powerless. How this grace is only given to failures and sinners.
Mark knew about this grace so well because he had failed. He had endured struggle after struggle that made him cherish the grace of Jesus more and more. But how did Mark come to know of this grace and who strengthened him with the grace of Jesus that inspired Mark to write a book about it?
Watch a replay or listen to our study as we considered this man Mark and the influence that the grace of Jesus had on his life.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends