Apr 05 - Easter

Mark 16:1-8

Comments on the Text
The last verse is quite striking: (loose translation from the Greek:) “And they [the women] said nothing to nobody because they were scared out of their gourds.”  Whether you take these to be the last words of the Gospel of Mark or not (they certainly ARE), these words are the last words of the Gospel lesson for Easter Sunday, and they stick out like a sore thumb.  
This last verse doesn’t seem to fit with what we expect from our general knowledge of the Easter story.  I imagined our hearers might be struck by the apparent incongruity between the failure of the women and the celebration of the resurrection. How does this ending make sense in light of where we have been together as a congregation as we encountered the Gospel of Mark?  This problem for the hearers is the starting point for the rest of our work with the text.

Working with the Greek and with the help of a commentary, we can see the failure of the women to carry the Gospel message as just one in a long line of obstacles that needed to be overcome in this pericope.  The death of Jesus is an obvious one, and the question from the cross hangs in the air: has God abandoned this Jesus?  The young man in white proclaims that Jesus has not been abandoned, that His death has been overcome, but there are other obstacles as well.  Mark goes out of his way to remind us how large the stone was, and, whether the passive verb there is to be taken as indicating the intervention of God or not, it should be noted that one of the miracles that first Day of Resurrection is the removal of this impossibly large stone.  Also, Mark tells us the sun is already up as the women make their way to the tomb.  Especially since darkness played a significant role in our celebration of Black Friday, this Easter sunrise takes on at least the overtones of a Gospel reversal.

The fear and fleeing of the women is but one of several obstacles that were overcome by God on that first Easter morning.  Fear and fleeing connect the women to Jesus’ other disciples who earlier fled in fear.  The young man clothed in white stands in opposition to the young man who fled naked in the garden at Jesus’ arrest.  Although we don’t see it yet, the failure of the disciples signified by the naked young man’s flight has been reversed by the proclamation of the young man robed in white.  Even the failure of the women to carry the message will be overcome by God: the Gospel will get out.  On a Sunday where we can expected a significant representation of infrequent church attenders, picking up on the promise that God overcomes all obstacles, even lapses in discipleship, seemed like a good way to bring law and gospel to bear in the lives of the hearers.

The end result of God overcoming all the obstacles in this reading (like the darkness of Good Friday, the death of Jesus, or the failure of the disciples) is not seen in the Gospel of Mark, but it is implied.  The young man in white speaks the promise of Jesus who goes ahead of the failed disciples (including Peter and these women) to Galilee: “There you will see Him, just as He said.”  The end result of God’s action in Mark is this reunion: failed disciples are brought back into the presence of the vindicated and risen Jesus.  

The means God uses to accomplish this are also important.  Certainly his almighty power is implied in the reversal of darkness, the removal of the stone, and the raising Jesus from the dead.  But the express means in the text are words, promises, the promise of Jesus passed on by the proclamation of the young man. 

“Overcoming obstacles” is usually done for the benefit of the one doing the overcoming.  We need a way of talking about God actively defeating His enemies that implies more strongly the fact that this victory was accomplished for the sake of someone else. 

In our conventional way of understanding, when someone is “on a mission” there is a task that needs to be accomplished by someone (a spy, a soldier, doesn’t matter) for the benefit of someone else (a government, the whole world, whatever).   Being “on a mission” entails both overcoming obstacles and passing on a benefit to someone else. So the refrain for this sermon could be “God is on a mission—and nothing can stop him!”


Mar 15 - The Incredible Gospel of Mark

Date: March 15

Text: Mark 14:1-11

Goal: A woman anoints Jesus and Judas betrays Jesus.  Both speak to the heart of the matter, our faith.  For each of us, we ask the question, are we the woman or are we Judas. This is not easily answered.

Textual Exposition: 
Mark does a comparison/contrast of two stories. We have much detail on the woman anointing Jesus and two verses on Judas’ betrayal. 

vs. 1,  We have two different groups who are polar opposites trying to kill Jesus. Pharisees and the Chief Priests (Sadducees) did not get along. Yet, the text is clear both groups were out to destroy Jesus. Jesus was a threat.
vs. 1, We are about Tuesday of Holy Week. The Passover meal was on Thursday with the feast of Unleavened Bread immediately following for seen days.
Vs. 2,  The leaders understood that the crowds were drawn to Jesus. They wanted no public out cry.  Add to this the Romans hated riots and would respond violently.  With 250,000 pilgrims this could be catastrophic. Jews came from all over the empire for the Passover.  The dream for all the religious was to go to a major festival in Jerusalem. This resulted in strong nationalistic passion, a true threat to the Romans.
Vs. 3, Bethany is a suburb outside of Jerusalem.  The town was on the opposite 
Side of the Mount of Olives. Pilgrims crossed through Bethany, up to Mount of Olives, and then down into the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem. Pilgrims would
stay in Bethany and go to the Temple to worship.  
Vs. 3, We’re not really sure who Simon is. Matt. 26:6 simply says Simon was a 
Common name and he was likely known because Jesus healed him. Jesus
was at the dinner, sitting on a large pillow (reclining) at the table. 
Vs. 3, We know from John 12:3 that it was Mary, sister to Martha and Lazarus, 
Anointed Jesus. John also tells us that Lazarus was also reclining at the table. 
The perfume came from India and was extremely expensive.  Vs. 4 says that Perfume was worth more than a year’s wages. She pours this perfume on her head. John tells us the fragrance filled the room. This is one of the last acts of kindness offered to Jesus before his death.
Custom was to pour a few drops of perfume on the head of the person but the woman enters and pours the whole bottle of perfume over Jesus.  
Vs. 4-5, Mark tells us that “some of those present…” wanted to give the money of the perfume to the poor. John tells us the one who said this was Judas 
Iscariot.  The night before Passover it was common to give money to the poor. 
Vs. 6-9, Jesus is clear about his death and the role of this woman. She is preparing Him for his burial. Her action will never be forgotten. The custom was to bury the dead by first bathing the body and then anointing it with oil and so this is now done to Jesus.

Judas…no description necessary. He just gives the facts.

Vs. 10-11, Judas is clearly identified as one of the twelve and he approached the 
Chief Priests.  He initiated the conversation. They were “delighted” and 
Promised him money (Mt. 26:15, 30 pieces of silver).
Vs. 11, He looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Theological Reflection: The movement of generosity is motivated by the love given to her by Jesus.  Her motivation is done out of the love she received.

Hearer Depiction: 
It is the question of how we show generous love to those around us without expectation of return.  Our nature doesn’t offer love without condition so freely given love is simply so unusual it always catches the attention of people.

The fact is that the world is always looking for love but looking in all the wrong places.

Other texts for study or reflection: 
Matthew 26:6-13
John 12:1-8

Sermon Structure: 
Possible compare and contrast between the woman and Judas….

Mark shows us the generous love of an anointing in Bethany to the act of terrible treachery of Judas.  

The act of generosity is done in extreme detail. We know the name of the host, the woman entering the home and the detail of how she anointed in Mark and other gospels.  She will be remembered for this act of generosity.

The act of treachery is given with the clearest of language so there can be no confusion about the horrific act of Judas. It was cold, calculating and deliberate.

Other worship or preaching ideas:

For more on Sermon Structures, see: http://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/


Mar 08 - The Incredible Gospel of Mark

8 (Lent 3)

Stay Awake!

Text: Mark 13:1-13, 32-37

Goal: The call to watch, be ready, be prepared

Textual Exposition: 
In this reading the disciples comment to Jesus about the “massive stones” (vs. 1) that were the foundation of the massive buildings of the temple complex. I have pictures of these large stones that have been hauled into place and carved with the Herodian border so everyone knew it was Herod’s work. The foundation stones of the temple courts are massive. The NIV footnote from Josephus says, “they were white, and some of them were 37 feet long, 12 feet high and 18feet wide. I did see one of this magnitude and have a picture of it.)  It is no wonder the disciples would comment to Jesus about the buildings. They were an incredible sight to behold.

Typical to Jesus’ manner of teaching, he makes this a teaching moment. Jesus (vs. 2) tells them all of this will be destroyed which did happen in 70 A.D., 40 years after Jesus’ resurrection. 

The basic picture is Jesus and the disciples walking through the city streets looking up at the large buildings. They walk through the city gate and down into the Kidron valley and up the Mount of Olives. I have pictures of the city from the Mount of Olives. There among the olive trees they pause to rest. Jesus is now approached by four disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, John) privately. Here looking over the panorama of the city Jesus tells them about the end to come.  We have both the immediate destruction as well as the reality of the end of all time.

I don’t want us to get caught in describing the warnings Jesus gives us of the end, “wars and rumor of wars” or “false Christs” spoken to in vs. 5. This would be a distraction to the message that Jesus gives them – watch. Be Alert. (vs. 5, 33, 35, 37) In Greek (to model President Maier) they are all the same word. The issue is always to be aware. We will observe the evidence of wars and rumor of wars, etc. These are the signals of Jesus’ return.  

Along with “watch” Jesus says, “be on your guard” in vs. 9 and vs. 33. It is the issue of preparation. Protect yourself. Be ready. Be constantly attentive (watch) and prepare for the day when all things come to an end.

Theological Reflection: 
The issue of watching and preparing is a lifelong venture. It doesn’t just start or end but is a constant for us who believe. Jesus’ call is not be indifferent or apathetic but continuously prepare, train, for the day when all comes to a culmination.

We tend to avoid that which is difficult and we can be sloppy in our preparation and avoid dealing with the seriousness of what Jesus prophesied.  

Law/Gospel Proclamation: 
We do live in a world that seeks for war and rumors of war. We do live in a world that seeks after false christ’s and false prophets. We believers get distracted into the very things Jesus calls us to avoid and then we don’t prepare for the ongoing messages we see of the destruction to come.

Gracefully, Jesus speaks into the lives of the disciples as he speaks into our own lives. He is preparing his followers so that one day we can be in His presence in the New Jerusalem.

Other texts for study or reflection: 
2 Timothy 4:1-5

Sermon Structure: 
  1. Storm watching. In fact, having a video of someone chasing tornados would speak to watching. Here are people who watch for a storm and then follow it. They spend considerable time preparing for the storms they know will come.
  2. Jesus’s disciples are awed by Jerusalem. To them, Jerusalem is an eternal city, the most holy city, that carried the very presence of God. Spend a minute or two describing the extraordinary look of Jerusalem in the first century. The builds were large and massive and white washed so when the sun it the brightness was revealed to all those watching.
This holy city will be destroyed.
  1. As Jesus teaches he points his followers to a bigger message. There will be a day when all will be destroyed and the believers will enter into God’s presence. Everything the disciples held sacred would be destroyed.
  2. Jesus doesn’t say, “come back and rebuild Jerusalem.” In fact, just the opposite, he points to something bigger, the day when God would return in all His glory.
  3. So, we too, are to be watching. Just like the guard on the city wall in the ancient world. The guard watched always prepared to sound the alarm. 
  4. And we are to be prepared. What weapons do we carry that will protect us when those times come?
  1. Word
  2. Worship, community
  3. Prayer
Those spiritual disciplines are exercised for the time when those “rumors of war” happen and the persecution does happen.  
  1. It is what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:2 “…be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”
  2. We are in the time of watching and preparation.
  3. Jesus loved His followers and so instructed them. Be ready. Watch. He speaks that same message to you and me, be ready. Watch.
Other worship or preaching ideas:
  • Storm watcher video.  

For more on Sermon Structures, see: http://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/


Mar 01 - The Incredible Gospel of Mark

1 (Lent 2)

Parable of the Tenants
Mark 12:1-12

Date: 3.1.2015 (Lent 2) – Jesus – The Cornerstone of Life

Texts: Mark 12:1-12; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Isaiah 5:1-7

Goal: That the hearer will trust that Jesus does not reject them in their sin but is rejected for them so that they might become alive in him and filled with purpose to point people to the cornerstone of life, especially in this journey of Lent.

Law: Jesus makes clear that those who persist in rejecting the Word, God the Father’s invitation, the activity of His reign, and his promises in Jesus will lose the kingdom and be rejected (destroyed).

Gospel: While the parable is a parable of judgment, Jesus follows it with a hidden word of good news from Psalm 118. Jesus will be killed and cast outside the vineyard, rejected so that we would not be rejected for our sin but be given a new existence built on Jesus as our cornerstone of life. 

Textual Exposition:
Mark 12:1-12 occurs just a few days after Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Between Palm Sunday and this parable Jesus has cursed the fig tree, cleansed the temple, and responded to the challenge of the chief priests and the scribes over his authority to cleanse the temple. Chapter 11 ends with Jesus saying, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

As chapter 12 opens Mark tells us, “Jesus then began to speak to them in parables.” He is speaking to the same group, the chief priests and the scribes, and in response to their refusal to acknowledge the source of John’s baptism. He will now speak by means of a parable of judgment on the house and leaders of Israel.

Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard echoes Isaiah chapter 5. There Yahweh plants a vineyard and expects good grapes to be grown but ends up with wild grapes. This was a poem of judgment on Israel who had gone bad like the vineyard. In judgment the owner of Isaiah’s vineyard breaks down the vineyard and allows wild animals to come take it over. 

Jesus’ parable is similar but also unique. God is still the vineyard owner. Israel is still the vineyard. But in Jesus’ parable there are workers. These are the chief priest and religious leaders who were charged with tending Yahweh’s vineyard and preparing it to welcome its owner. The messengers were God’s means of addressing his people, especially the leaders of his people, and they rejected these messengers (the prophets) in varying degree including killing them. Finally, the owner’s son is, of all things, the owner’s son – Jesus. In the parable the workers kill the son and cast him out of the vineyard.

This story, employing a common scene that would have been understandable to all who heard it, communicated a deeper and veiled reality of what God was up to in the person of Jesus. However, this parable was hardly veiled and the religious leaders know he is speaking it against them as judgment.

As the parable draws to conclusion Jesus asks a question that he quickly answers. What will the owner do to the workers? He will kill them and give the vineyard to others. This is a different outcome from Isaiah 5 and foreshadows the beginning of the church. 

And Jesus communicates that this change would be centered on him. Quoting Psalm 118, Jesus identifies himself as the stone that the builders rejected, which would become the capstone/cornerstone. Jesus will be rejected by the leaders of Israel and killed. He will rise and become the foundation stone of the church. Peter speaks of this in 1 Peter 2 when he calls Jesus the living stone into which believers will be built, as living stones, into a spiritual house. 

Theological Reflection
In the telling of this parable Mark differs from both Matthew (21:44) and Luke (Luke 20:18) in leaving out the phrase, And the one (Everyone) who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” While it would be helpful to have these pieces in the text, Mark leaves them out and it would be helpful for us to leave them out of Mark’s account, too
(don’t import from Matthew or Luke). However, Mark’s inclusion of Jesus’ Psalm 118 reference leads to a strong connection with 1 Peter 2 which unpacks our life and existence in light of the crucifixion and rejection of Jesus. So, 1 Peter 2 ends up unfolding the Gospel and its implications for life in a way that Matthew and Luke are limited in as they talk of crushing and stumbling. Go figure, it helps to stay in Mark and follow his trail!

Hearer Depiction:
We stumble over Jesus’ words and actions in this world. When he feels far away, when his word challenges us, when he confronts sin in our lives through the word of a brother or sister, when our conscience just won’t let us have peace, when we don’t understand why, etc. we stumble over him. Yet the parable in all its horror and judgment is a warning that leads us back to his reliable word. What is absent from the reading regarding Psalm 118 is made plain by one who undoubtedly heard this parable in person and who stumbled and fell away himself: Peter. Like Peter, the hearer is asked to take comfort in the sure word of Jesus who is the cornerstone upon which our lives are built and shaped. Our old life of sin is done away with and we are built into something new in Him.

Sermon Structure:
Lowery Loop 

Because Peter likely worked with Mark on the construction of Mark’s Gospel, I’m suggesting a strong tie to 1 Peter 2 as commentary and perspective on Mark 12:1-12. Retell the parable of the workers in the vineyard from the perspective of Peter looking back at this beginning of Jesus’ last week of life before death on the cross. He would have heard this parable as a note of judgment on the religious authorities who should have known (oops). And he will experience what it means to reject the son and the stone later in the week (Mark 14:50) as he did when he rebuked Jesus earlier in the Gospel (Mark 8). If all Peter had was this parable of judgment his future was hopeless and bound for destruction (Ugh). But the twist at the end of the parable becomes the clue that not all is lost and that this rejected stone will be the beginning of something life infusing (Ahh). Peter unpacks this in his first letter and discloses the good news for us, that Jesus came to be rejected so that he might become the cornerstone of a new temple, a new creation, a new body. And for all who trust that cornerstone they too become like living stones, part of something new and life infusing (Whee). And the implications are that life becomes, well, alive and full of purpose. It is a life that flows out of the rejected stone that has become a stone of ultimate purpose – to give life. And Peter says this new creation, this new temple, this new body is make of royal priests that proclaim the excellencies of Jesus who calls us out of the darkness of rejection and unbelief (Yeah). 

  1. Oops – This parable is spoken to those who are questioning Jesus’ authority over the temple after he drove out the money changers and others. The parable is essentially another passion prediction with a twist. He has come for the purpose of causing these leaders to stumble in their sin and unbelief. Retell the parable and explain its judgment on religious leaders, that they will be rejected in their rejection of The Stone. Their persistent unbelief will result in their judgment. The parable is harsh in its outcome.
  2. Ugh – Even the disciples fall (stumble) on the stone (Jesus) and are dashed to pieces. Jesus has been and will still be a stone of offense (1 Peter 2:8). They don’t know it yet but all will fall away, Peter will deny Jesus. In our sin we also stumble over Jesus. Peter says that once we were not a people! We were in darkness (1 Peter 2)
  3. Aha – Jesus speaks of his future. He will be rejected and cast aside. However, Jesus is not just a stone of judgment but the foundation stone of something new for those who repent and believe. Life comes through the rejection of the son. A new building of life comes from rejecting The Building Stone.
  4. Whee – We are not destroyed by sin and unbelief. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.””
  5. Yeah – We are living stones with a purpose: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 


Jan - Apr 2015 The Gospel of Mark

March          Theme Reading
1   (Lent 2) Parable of the Tenants Mark 12:1-12
8   (Lent 3) Stay Awake!                  Mark 13:1-13, 32-37
15 (Lent 4) Passover Celebration Mark 14:1-25
22 (Lent 5) Jesus Prays in the Garden Mark 14: (26-31) 32-42
29 (Passion Sunday) The Arrest          Passion Sunday, Mark 14:42-15:41

5   (Easter) Easter                      Mark 16:1-8
12 (Easter 2) Post-Resurrection 1
19 (Easter 3) Post-Resurrection 2
26 (Easter 4) Post-Resurrection 3

3 (Easter 5) Confirmation confirmation texts
10 (Easter 6) ??? ???
17 (Easter 7) ??? ???
24 (Memorial Weekend) Pentecost Acts 2:1-21
31 (Trinity) Trinity John 3:1-17/Is. 6:1-8


Lent Midweek
2/18 (Ash Wednesday) Ash Wednesday

4/2 (Maundy Thursday)
4/3 (Good Friday) Crucifixion Mark 14:53-15:47