Mark 14:32-42 Follow Up December 28, 2018

This past Sunday, we finalized our miniseries, “Born for the Cross,” by looking at Mark’s account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, just prior to his betrayal and arrest (Mark 14:32-42). It’s an account filled with struggles:

  • The disciples struggled to stay awake.
  • Jesus struggled with the disciples over their inability to remain alert.
  • Later, Peter struggled with the mob that came to arrest Jesus.

It’s all part of the larger theme of struggle within the final week of Jesus’ life prior to his going to the cross, beginning with Jesus driving everyone out of the temple and continuing through Jesus’ foretelling of Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus after his arrest, and Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

But here in the garden, the greatest struggle seemed to be within Jesus himself. Just as Jacob had wrestled with the Lord in the Old Testament, Jesus wrestled with the weight of his mission. So, taking leave of his friends, Jesus headed off into solitude, as was his custom (Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16). But this was no customary prayer time. Jesus, the Son of God, was overwhelmed with sorrow as he faced what was before him. And there, in the garden of Gethsemane, we find him praying with a resolve to the Father’s mission that awaited him. After each prayer, he returned to the disciples only to find them asleep, raising two additional themes in the passion of Jesus Christ: (1) the theme of unfaithfulness to Jesus, and (2) the theme of Jesus being forsaken.

As Matt Chandler points out, “The one who would soon feel forsaken by the Father first tasted the bitterness of being forsaken by his friends.”

In light of these themes of struggle, unfaithfulness, and Jesus being forsaken, we see the Son of God remaining faithful to the Father’s mission for him, despite the weight of sorrow the mission came with. And so for us, we get a lesson from Jesus on remaining faithful to the Lord in the midst of trials and sorrow, whether it’s a great trial filled with intense suffering, or the day-to-day trial that simply tests our faithfulness to the Lord when we face temptation. And we learn two things to be committed to as we aim to remain faithful to the Lord during trials of our faith.

1. Submission and Obedience

Notice Jesus’ two-fold petition to the Father in verses 35-36:

  • That the “hour” might pass from him.
  • That the “cup” might be removed.

The two expressions are synonymous; both are metaphors for the redemptive passion of Jesus Christ. The “hour” that Jesus is referring to is the moment of his betrayal and arrest (see verse 41) along with the foreseeable consequences of his trial and execution (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). The course of events tied to the “hour” are further informed by the reference to the “cup,” which, in light of Isaiah 51:17 and Jeremiah 25:15-18, point to the cup of God’s wrath over sin.

However, as Jesus petitions for the removal of the hour and cup, he adds: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (verse 36), highlighting his faithful resolve to remain submissive and obedient to the Father’s will. Despite the sorrowful weight of the trial that was before him, he nonetheless approached his hour and took the cup of wrath in fulfillment of the Father’s mission for him.

My dear church: If we desire to walk in Christlikeness and remain faithful to God in our own trials and sufferings, we too must be committed to submission and obedience to God’s will for us. It’s a will that involves loving the Lord above all things—even our own comfort—and loving our neighbors, despite the sorrows and tests God might be allowing us to walk through. For the husband or wife walking through the trial of a less-than-perfect marriage, it’s a commitment to remain loving and faithful to one another rather than finding comfort in another’s arms. For the parent being tried by naturally rebellious children, it’s a commitment to remain gracious to one’s children. For the employee being tested by less-than-ideal circumstances, it’s a commitment to continue working faithfully as to the Lord. For the patient walking through the sufferings of poor health and disease, it’s a commitment to continue trusting in the one who’s given us the breath of life. In all things, it’s a commitment to remain submissive and obedient to the Lord and his will—as revealed through his Word—for Christian life and faith.

We’ll be tempted to seek after our own desires during those trials, but if we humble ourselves and submit to the Spirit of God within us, he will enable us to walk in faithfulness to him during the sufferings and trials we walk through.

2. Watchfulness and Prayer

Notice Jesus’ words in verse 38: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The reason we struggle with faithfulness to the Lord (and with the godly submission and obedience noted above) is that we’re still attached to our sinful flesh. We are weak creatures! When humans are overwhelmed by trying situations, their best intentions can be easily betrayed by their inability to resist temptations. In our overwhelming circumstances, we’re prone to fall to these invitations to be unfaithful to God. And this means we need help.

So, what is Jesus’ solution to our weakness to temptation in the midst of trials? Watchfulness and prayer.

Spiritual watchfulness is an alertness to the things that tempt us. As Peter would later write after his own fall to the temptation to deny Christ: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). With a similar note, Paul encourages us to “be watchful” and to “stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In order to remain faithful during trials, we are to be spiritually aware of the snares that are set before us.

We are also to be prayerful. As Paul instructs: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it” (Colossians 4:2). By definition, prayer admits one’s own weakness and reveals human dependence on God. No wonder why prayer and watchfulness are paired! To remain watchful, we need prayerful help from God! But there’s something further about prayer. Yes, we receive help from the Lord through prayer, but prayer in and of itself seems to enable us to be watchful and vigilant. Christians who have a tendency to “sleep” (and fall as a result) are probably the same Christians who struggle with prayer. Stated in the positive, Christians who have a tendency to remain alert (and with more frequency do not succumb to temptations) are probably the same Christians to lead a robust life of prayer, especially in trying circumstances.

As William Lane puts it, “Spiritual wakefulness and prayer in full dependence upon divine help provide the only adequate preparation for crisis.” So, if we desire to walk in Christlikeness and remain faithful to God in our own trials and sufferings, we—as Jesus—must also be committed to watchfulness and prayer. If Jesus in Gethsemane prepared for his own intense trial through vigilance and prayer, we too must be committed to vigilance and prayer for the proper resistance of temptation in trials. For just as the disciples were exposed to unfaithfulness to Jesus in Gethsemane, we too stand equally exposed to unfaithfulness to the Lord. We have a need to remain watchful in prayer.

Pointing Ourselves to Christ

My dear Lake Murray: Let’s remain faithful to our Lord when we’re tried, and let’s do so by being committed to submission and obedience to the Lord in the midst of trials, empowered by a commitment to watchfulness and prayer, as well. Left to our own resources, we’ll be prone to fail. But as we rely on the Spirit of God within us and among us—through prayer—we’ll be empowered to remain faithful. We cannot do it alone. We need our Lord.

In the garden of Eden, Adam—in his own testing of his faith—failed to resist Satan’s temptation and chose his way over God’s. But in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—the second Adam—submitted in full obedience to the Father’s purpose and plan through watchfulness and prayer. He did it to rescue us from the wrath of God. He did it, also, to empower us as we face temptation in our own trials. If you’re like me and you’ve struggled to remain faithful in the midst of trying situations, just look to Jesus, who remained faithful to the end.

For further meditation and/or group discussion, here is a copy of Sunday’s insert with the order of worship and sermon notes: Mark 14.32-42 Insert. You’ll find the follow-up questions at the end.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

With love in Christ,

Pastor Marttell

PS: We will be resuming our series on 2 Corinthians this upcoming Sunday. Looking forward!

Mark 14:22-25 Follow Up December 13, 2018

On Sunday, we looked at Mark’s account of Jesus’ last passover meal with his disciples and his institution of the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:22-25), and we made note of two things Christians are meant to do each time they participate in communion.

1. Remember

In verses 22-24, we noticed our need to remember Jesus’ covenantal sacrifice through the elements of the bread and the fruit of the vine. To better understand what Jesus did—and said—as he instituted the Lord’s Supper, we spend some time talking about the fixed liturgy that would have taken place during a Jewish family’s Passover meal.

After the meal was served, but before it was eaten, the platter of unleavened bread would have been lifted by the head of the family, saying the prescribed formula: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.”

Each of the other elements in the meal would have been introduced in similar fashion, all in the context of Israel’s experience in bondage to Egypt:

  • The bitter herbs served to remember the bitterness of slavery.
  • The stewed fruit, which had the consistency and color of clay, recalled the making of bricks as slaves.
  • The lamb evoked a reminder of God’s gracious “passing over” of Israel in the plague of death that came to Egypt.

The entire meal was for the purpose of God’s people remembering their great deliverance provided by God.

After presenting the platter of unleavened bread, the head of the household would have then taken the cake of unleavened bread and recited the prescribed blessing: “Praised be Thou, O Lord, Sovereign of the world, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.” The family-head would have then broken for each person present a piece of the unleavened bread and passed each piece from hand-to-hand until everyone at the meal had their piece.

This distribution of unleavened bread would have taken place in silence. But contrary to custom, Jesus broke the silence by offering his own interpretation of the significance of the bread: “Take, this is my body” (v. 22). In similar fashion, he then took a cup, gave thanks, and directed his disciples to drink from it (v. 23).

There were four cups in a Passover meal. After the meal, the head of the household would have risen from his reclining position, and with his right hand he would have taken the third of four cups—called the cup of blessing or the cup of redemption—and he would have pronounced the prayer of thanksgiving, which concluded with these words: “May the all-merciful One make us worthy of the days of the Messiah and of the life of the world to come. He brings the salvation of his King. He shows covenant-faithfulness to his Anointed, to David and to his seed forever. He makes peace in his heavenly places. May he secure peace for us and for all Israel.”

But here, Jesus once again adds his own interpretation: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (v. 24).

The reference to the covenant established in Jesus’ blood alludes to Exodus 24:6-8, where the old covenant at Mount Sinai was ratified by the sprinkling of sacrificial blood. It also raises Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 11:17-20; 36:22-32 into view, where God promises to establish a new covenant with his people. The old covenant made with Israel was constantly broken because of Israel’s sin. So, God promised a New Covenant:

  • To forgive his people’s sin.
  • To give his people new hearts and make them new.
  • To put his Spirit within his people.
  • To be their God forever.

Jesus’ actions and words, therefore, serve to fulfill the New Covenant in himself. Ultimately, Jesus reinterpreted two of the elements from the Passover meal—which faithful Jews had been celebrating since the days of the Exodus—to point forward to his imminent death and the fulfillment of the New Covenant in his body and blood, which were given “for many” (v. 24), just as Isaiah 53:12 foretold: “He bore the sin of many.”

For us looking back, we can see how the Passover—celebrated since the Exodus—had served to not just recall Israel’s deliverance by the mighty hand of God, but also to foreshadow the deliverance of all of God’s people by the covenantal sacrifice made by the Son of God. So today, we continue coming to his table to be reminded of his covenantal sacrifice on behalf of the many—all who will belong to God.

We are to remember! Whenever we celebrate communion. we are meant to to allow the elements of the bread and the fruit of the vine to remind us of Jesus’ covenant-faithfulness to us

Why are we meant to remember? We are a people who are weak, and in our weakness, we sometimes face doubt, anxiety, and worry in the midst of afflictions and everyday life. The Lord’s Supper, therefore, serves to strengthen our faith as we remember what the Lord has done for us. So no matter what you’re facing, allow the Lord’s table to encourage your weary soul, remembering that Jesus has given himself so that you could be his, forever.

2. Anticipate

In verse 25, we noticed the anticipation in Jesus’ words: “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (emphasis mine).

Here, we spent some time talking about the fourth of four cups in a Passover meal, each correlating to the fourfold promises found in Exodus 6:6-7:

  • I will bring you out…
  • I will deliver you from slavery…
  • I will redeem you…
  • I will take you to be my people…

The third cup, already noted above, served to remind faithful Jews of God’s redemptive work throughout the Exodus. It’s the cup Jesus tied to the fulfillment of God’s New Covenant redemption in himself. But regarding the fourth cup, it is said Jesus abstained from the final cup in his last Passover meal prior to the cross, waiting to drink it together with us when we are finally brought into the fullness of God’s heavenly kingdom. It’s a cup that anticipates the day when all of God’s people will dwell with him forever in heaven. But whether Jesus actually abstained from it or not, the connection is clear: Jesus is anticipating, with deep desire, they day when he will finally drink again of the fruit of the vine with all who belong to him in the fullness of God’s kingdom.

In short, Jesus is anticipating the day when we will finally live with him forever as his people. When that day arrives, he will once again feast with us. And what joyfully glorious day that will be! Notice John’s words in Revelation 19:6-7 as he gets a glimpse of that feast: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come.'”

My dear Lake Murray: This is what we are meant to anticipate whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Why are we to anticipate God’s heavenly kingdom? Just as with our remembrance of Jesus’ covenantal sacrifice, anticipating the fullness of God’s kingdom bolsters our faith and helps us persevere in this world. One day, we will finally live with him as his people without the hindrance of the curses of sin. In the meantime, let’s allow the Lord’s Supper to encourage us in our faith while we wait with great anticipation to be with him in heaven.

Let’s remember…

And let’s anticipate…

For small group discussion, here is a PDF copy of Sunday’s insert with discussion questions: Mark 14.22-25 Insert.

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:23-24).

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Marttell

Mark 14:3-11 Follow Up December 4, 2018

This week, in Mark 14:3-11, we saw an anonymous woman anoint Jesus with some very expensive, aromatic ointment, all as a beatiful act of adoration. We also saw two reactions from those who witnessed the woman’s adoration of Jesus. As we saw the entire story unfold, we made note of two things for Christians to be on guard against as we aim to adore Christ.

1. Outright Betrayal:

In verses 10-11, we saw Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matt 26:15), roughly the equivalent of $7,500 in modern times. Obviously, this is not a monumental sum of money, but it was significant enough for Judas to betray Jesus for. For us today, we might not have a group of chief priests tempting us with 30 pieces of silver, but we’re certainly tempted to betray Jesus with other things:

  • A shady business deal.
  • A moment of pleasure with someone who is not our spouse.
  • Cheating on a test.
  • Plagiarizing a term paper.
  • Presenting falsehood on taxes.

Anytime we’re talking about outright sin, we’re talking about betraying Jesus, just as Judas did. It might be difficult for us to identify ourselves with Judas, but it’s good for us to recognize the temptations that might lead us to an outright betrayal of Christ. As we identify those temptations, we must also guard ourselves from them by pointing ourselves to the gospel, reminding ourselves that Christ has been unashamedly faithful to us in taking on the human nature and the cross (Phil 2:5-11; Heb 12:2) to pay for the shame of our sin. It’s a truth that encourages and motivates us to live for him and his glory—to despise the momentary and selfish pleasure that comes at the expense of betraying Jesus.

But there’s a subtler form of disloyalty we also need to guard our hearts from…

2. Subtle Unfaithfulness:

In verses 3-9, we saw the anonymous woman use all of her ointment—worth about a year’s salary—in her adoration of Jesus. We noticed how the dinner guests became indignant over the seeming waste. After all, the ointment could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor—a very good and noble motive. But Jesus tells the dinner guests to leave the woman alone, (1) because her act was beautiful (good; excellent; honorable), and (2) because her act was a timely preparation for his upcoming burial.

We learned: There will always be individuals to help, but at that time, the priority was to adore Christ. This might seem a bit odd to us. We know we’re commanded to help the needy (Lev 19:9-10; Prov 14:31; Matt 5:42), and we know that good works are a way to adore Christ (Rom 12:1; Eph 2:10). But the Bible also suggests there is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1-8), and so at that time, the priority for the woman was to adore Jesus.

Have you ever been tempted to think there might be better, nobler, benevolent things we could do with our time and resources on a Sunday morning than to adore Christ, together?

  • Evangelism.
  • Feeding the homeless.
  • Helping a friend move into a new apartment.

These are all good, altruistic things we could be doing. But, again, our story encourages us: There will always be people to help; sometimes, adoration of Jesus should be our priority. Here’s the thing: It will always be worth it to adore him! So let’s guard our hearts from this subtler form of unfaithfulness to Christ, and let’s do so by pointing ourselves—once more—to the gospel, reminding ourselves that Jesus, the innocent one, made us, the guilty ones, his priority (1 Pet 3:18), that we would be encouraged to make him our priority in all that we do. Sometimes, our adoration will take on the form of good works. But at other times, like on Sunday mornings, we set even good things aside to adore Christ.

So let’s guard our hearts from both outright betrayal and subtle unfaithfulness, and let’s continue to joyfully adore Jesus every Sunday morning, together! For further discussion, here is the order of worship insert with the small group questions: Mark 14.3-11 Insert.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abindantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Marttell