"Crucifixion" painting by Kim Young Gil

Today: Psalms 22:12-21; Mark 1:29-45; Mark 2:1-17; Exodus 19-20

Psalms 22

Psalms 22:12-21 includes an amazing prophecy of Jesus’ death on the cross. Meditate on this passage for a profound glimpse into Jesus’ final thoughts before his death. David also gives specific details about the crucifixion: “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” (v.16); “They divide my garments among them, and they cast lots for my clothing.” (v.18) God gives us these unmistakable details to confirm that this passage is indeed a prophecy of Christ.

"Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray" (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier) painting by James Tissot

Mark 1

“And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time.” Mark 1:35

How beautiful that Jesus regularly steals Himself away from the crowds to be alone with His Father. It is a mystery we’ll never completely grasp in this lifetime, but Jesus was really fully God AND fully man simultaneously. We see God in Jesus’ healings, His easy manipulation of matter and weather. Only God could do these things, and Jesus could accomplish these things at will. Yet at other times He seems to set aside His divinity and be so completely human, such as when he breaks away seeking solitude to pray. I find this duality in Jesus so fascinating to ponder.

Jesus tells His disciples, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also preach there; for this is why I came.” (v.38 – italics/bold mine) This is WHY Jesus came – to preach. I think He healed people because He had compassion for them. But His reason for coming wasn’t the physical healings, which were all temporary anyway. He constantly told people not to tell anyone that he healed them. He didn’t want his presence to turn into a carnival show. He didn’t want the big spectacle. He wanted to preach His message.

His true MISSION was the MESSAGE. He came to tell people the good news, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, that salvation had come.

"Dancing Man" painting by Monica Strandberg

Mark 2 – Jesus Heals the Paralyzed Man

I think this is one of the most important passages in the gospels because Jesus clearly explains who He is. He first tells the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus knew the eavesdropping scribes would think this was blasphemy. We get a glimpse into their judging hearts, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” (v.7)

EXACTLY!

This was the perfect segue Jesus was waiting for. “Which is easier,” he asked them, “to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and puck up your pallet and walk’?” They have no answer for him. And he deftly delivers the knockout punch…

“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ — He said to the paralyzed man, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet, and go home.'” (v.8-11). And he did!

Jesus has told us exactly who He is and why he healed people. The healings were a physical sign for us to understand His spiritual identity. It was never about the healings. It was always about His message of salvation.

"Moses Receiving the Tablets of Law" painting by Marc Chagall

Exodus 19-20

Wow, does God put on a crazy show for the Israelites! Earthquakes rocked, thunder crashed, and the mountain was engulfed in fire and smoke. The Israelites were terrified. This was important and God wanted to make sure they knew it.

He made a deal with them that “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (v.19:5-6)

The Israelites agreed to this and so God delivered the terms of the agreement… the ten commandments. Ten things. This was not a very complicated contract. They only had to remember ten things. They could count them on their fingers. They didn’t even need to get their toes involved in the counting. Ten things were all they had to do to keep their covenant with God.

And then Jesus condenses it down to just TWO: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.

Can we abide by TWO? Can we keep this covenant with God? How do we do that? It’s super simple… only TWO. But maybe it isn’t so easy.

Let’s start with #1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

If you don’t already feel love for God, what do you do? I don’t know about you, but I’m not easily able to will myself to love somebody. I either have that lovin’ feelin’ or I don’t. I don’t always have much control over that… UNLESS I make a conscious effort to get to know that person, invest more time in that person. You can’t love somebody you don’t know. Granted some people get harder to love the better you know them, but I promise you, God isn’t like that! The more you know God, the more you love Him. It just happens! Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Pray. Meditate about Him. Read about Him in the Bible. Ask Him to help you know Him better. He ALWAYS answers that request.

The second command is much more difficult. #2. Love your neighbor as yourself. God is perfect. But people aren’t. You may need God’s help for this one. I sure do. Some people are easy to love. But for the ones who aren’t, pray for them and ask God to help you love them. Sometimes you have to keep asking over and over. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes you get there and then they do something awful and you have to start all over again. All I can tell you is keep at it. Unforgiveness, lack of love, is a bitter root that can destroy your soul if you let it dig too deep.

Keeping God’s covenant is for OUR benefit, not God’s. And if we do, if we even just try, God promises us the keys to His glorious kingdom.