MISTAKEN (Naked Runner #20)


The Gathering Church  Pastor Barry: The Gospel of Mark (naked runner series) #20

In Error Mark 12:18-27

 The Sadducees were a sect or group of religious Jews that was active in Judea during the time of Jesus until after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. The Jewish people of the day held the teachings of the Sadducees in high esteem, however much of their teachings were in error. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, afterlife, or angels and demons, so when they confronted Jesus with a question about   marriage and the resurrection it was simply their way of mocking him before a crowd.  Jesus, however, showed both good humor and scriptural mastery in his answer.  He told them that they did not know the Scriptures (which they prided themselves on) or the power of God.  He matter-of-factly stated the reality of all the things that they did not believe and then used a line from Moses (which they were familiar with) to reveal the error of their disbelief in eternal life which was the basis of their mockery in the first place. The structure of verse: “I am the God of   Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” proved the point that God spoke of all of those men in the present, revealing himself as the God of the living.  A Sadducee was well studied in the law and its literal meaning.  How quiet they must have all become when Jesus shut down their years of doctrinal study with a one liner of truth.

What is one to do when confronted with a truth that shatters a held belief formulated through years of study?  One can either pursue that truth and follow it to its logical conclusion or utterly deny it. The Sadducees went on to join with their rivals, the Pharisees, and plot the death of Jesus.  How surprised they must have been to hear that he had risen from the dead!  Let us never forget it is “the truth” that sets us free (John 8:32).  Jesus proclaimed that he is “the Truth” (John 14:6).  He calls each of us to “seek to find”, to “knock for an opening” (Matthew 7:7-8), but Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

The Greatest Commandment Mark 12:28-34, John 13:34-35

While the mouths of the Sadducees were still shut in stunned silence, one of the teachers of the law (Scribe) asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus of course, as any Jew would, quoted the Jewish Shema (sha-ma): the command from Moses to the children of Israel who had been led out of the land of slavery and into the Promised Land (recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Jesus, however, added a line: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  The scribe concurred with Jesus. The logical conclusion to loving God with all of one’s Heart (emotions), Soul (body) and Strength (mind) is to submit in every way to His will.  Throughout the scriptures Jesus and his apostles clearly illustrate that the will of God is to love others as Christ has loved us. To love God and others in such a way requires death of one’s self.  The truest love for God is to Love Jesus until there is absolutely nothing left of self.

NOTE: The varied translations from Hebrew to Greek to English of the Shema create different words to describe emotion, body and mind; however, these three are the intent of the law.

The concept of “dying to self” is found throughout the New Testament. It expresses the true essence of the Christian life, in which we take up our cross and follow Christ. One cannot truly love others as Christ loves us without dying to self. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Where we once pursued selfish pleasures, we now pursue, with equal passion, that which pleases God.

When Jesus told the Scribe that he was “not far from the kingdom of God” In essence he was saying that the man understood God’s will. Remember how Jesus taught us to pray? “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. (Matthew 6:10).  “Thy will” not “my will”! 

“From then on no one dared ask him anymore questions”, says Mark.  Those people were shut up because they realized that their love for God was shallow…is yours?  The Apostle Paul said “to live is Christ to die is gain”(Philippians  1:21).  May we all Love Jesus until there is absolutely nothing left of self.

The Temple Courts and a Widow’s Mite Mark 12:35-40, 41-44

“Son of David, save us (Hosanna)!”, Remember, the people shouted that as Jesus entered The Beautiful Gate days earlier on a donkey in that parade.  “Son of David” was a common way to say Messiah (lit. the promised one who comes through the genealogical line of King David).  Now Jesus sat in that same court (the one that he chased the money changers out of) and asked those listening to him to understand that he was more than just the promised Messiah (“Son of David”) but King David’s Lord!

As he taught the teachers of the law walked about with flowing robes.  They along with the Pharisees and Sadducees loved the praises of men, took advantage of widow’s inheritances, and prided themselves on the respect they gained from other superficial men.  Jesus warned his listeners of their hypocrisy and the punishment from God that they would one day receive.

In this same court Jesus watched such men make show of their offerings to the Temple treasury. Scattered around the court area was at least thirteen trumpet shaped boxes for receiving monetary offerings from the people.  The rich threw in large amounts out of their accumulated wealth but Jesus was impressed with a widow who came and dropped in her last remaining coins.  She gave everything she had to live on, but she gave it because she truly loved God.  How do you give to the Lord’s work and why—or do you give anything at all?

Mistaken (Create in me a clean heart, O God) Psalm 51:10-13

We are mistaken when, like the Sadducees, we refuse to change when Jesus reveals the truth to us.  We are mistaken when we say we love God yet are consumed with our own selfishness.  We are mistaken when we neglect to see Jesus as anything less than Lord (Master). We are mistaken when we think that God is impressed with our gifts when they do not come from our deep love for him.  Let us not be content to live with such mistakes but die to love him all the more!

AUTHORITY (Naked Runner/ Lesson19)


The Gathering, Pastor Barry: Gospel of Mark (memoirs of a naked runner series) #19

An Unanswered Question Mark 11:27-33, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 12:1-2

 Once again Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem and walked into the temple courts where Jesus had driven out the money changers and animals the day before. There are two things are of interest here that might otherwise escape a readers notice. Firstly, no money changers or animals were in the temple courts this day or Jesus would have certainly driven them out again. Secondly, The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders were all there to meet him.  Remember…they were not there to “greet” him, but to meet him.  They feared him and were looking for a way to kill him (Mark 11:18). It was just a matter of how and when. That problem would be solved with the aid of the traitor Judas in just a couple of days. The question they asked him about his authority in verse 28 was directly related to the events of his cleansing of the temple the day before: “By what authority are you doing these things?” The religious leaders believed themselves to be superior to Jesus by their religious education and social standing alone.  Their question was accusatory.

People then and now put way too much importance on meeting man’s qualifications for spiritual authority rather than God’s. Many consider a modernist theologian who graduated from Harvard Divinity School as being more worth listening to than a fisherman who has studied and believed the Scriptures (remember Peter, James and John were of the later). Even worse still, our society places more value on an atheist with a doctorate degree or a mere celebrity than on a disciple of Christ who holds to the teachings of Jesus. We must not be so foolish; but rather let the Scriptures be our authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus is the founder of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) and we must follow his lead.

Jesus knew that the religious teachers had already made their minds up to kill him and were simply mocking him with such a question.  Turning things around Jesus ask the religious leaders a question that he knew they wouldn’t answer. In essence he asked “was John’s ministry from heaven or from his head?”  The crowd believed that John was the heaven sent prophet who announced the long awaited Messiah of whom the scriptures prophesied. The religious teachers did not believe this or they would have believed in Jesus who John introduced.  They were actually glad that king Herod had killed him. They believed that John’s ministry was in his head and that John was crazy, but they couldn’t say so or they would be discredited by the people. Like so many celebrity religious leaders and politicians today, it was not politically expedient for them to tell the truth so they refused to answer.  Jesus therefore refused to answer their question…or did he?

The Vineyard Owner and his Son Mark 12:1-12, Psalm 118:20-26, Hebrews 10:26-31, Acts 4:10-12    

Actually Jesus did explicitly answer the question about where his authority came from after what was likely a great pause following his refusal to answer the religious leaders. Jesus, being a masterful storyteller, engaged the whole crowd, but likely glared at the religious leaders when referring to the villainous farmers who represented them in the story. In short, Jesus had given the history of the Jewish nation (the vineyard) and their corrupt religious leaders who had put the prophets of the ages to death (Matthew 23:37) for bringing the message of repentance and judgment from God (the owner of the vineyard) to them. The son, whom the owner of the vineyard loved, was a picture of Jesus himself, who was sent by the Father to be respected.  The glare of Jesus must have intensified and his voice deepen as he revealed the plot of those religious leaders (tenants) to kill him.  “What then will the owner (God) of the vineyard do?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard (Israel) to others”, growled Jesus.  Jesus then abruptly asked the religious leaders a poignant question: “Haven’t you read this passage of scripture: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?”

Jesus quoted King David from Psalm 118:20-26.  A messianic song that was written and sung when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of David (Jerusalem). The Ark was an Old Covenant symbol of God’s mercy to his people.  Just as Jesus is God’s mercy to sinners. It proclaimed the absolute authority (law, provision, and mercy) of God. It’s no wonder that Jesus ascribed this passage to himself.

The religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus had done with his story. He had proclaimed that his authority was from his father, God and that he was the foundation stone for the building up of all things good.  Jesus also proclaimed judgment upon all who would reject him.  In Hebrews 10:26-31 the Apostle Paul also proclaimed that same terrible judgment.

In Acts 3 & 4 Peter and John were arrested for the commotion caused when God healed a lame beggar.  After spending a night in jail they faced accusations from the chief priest and religious leaders who said “By what power or name did you do this?”  “Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified”, Peter answered.  He then also quoted this same passage in reference to Jesus (Acts 4:10-12). “Salvation is found in no one else”, proclaimed Peter.

“Give God What is God’s!” Mark 12:13-17, Psalm 24:1-6

After being totally offended and outwitted by Jesus the religious leaders sent for the “big guns” to trap Jesus into being arrested. The Pharisees were a religious party and the Herodians were a political party who’s allegiance was to king Herod and Rome. The next question they asked was to trap Jesus: “Should the Imperial tax be paid to Caesar or not?”

If Jesus was truly the Messiah he surely couldn’t agree with such an unfair tax put only on subject peoples and not on Roman citizens, however, if he was to tell people not to pay the tax he would be arrested and sentenced to death by Rome for usurping the government.  Jesus looked at a coin’s inscription of Caesar and said: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” Not only did Jesus skillfully avoid the trap set for him, but he also proclaimed his authority once again. In the Psalms King David proclaimed that everything is the Lord’s and only those who seek him will be vindicated (cleared of blame).


FRUITLESS (Naked Runner/Lesson18)


Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #18

Fruit-less        failing to achieve the desired results; unproductive or useless.

Look at the detail of the painting by Tom Dubois entitled Hosanna.  What words come to your mind as you look at the wonder of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Look at the jubilant faces, the colorful palm leaves, flowers and instruments. Can’t you just hear the singing, the praise and dancing?  What words come to your mind as you look– How about “Fruitless?”

The festivities that day proved fruitless in all that were present, for in one week’s time that scene would drastically change into one of Jesus carrying his cross before that same then mocking crowd. The people were well masked at that festive parade but the fruit of faith and allegiance was not produced in their hearts. You’ve heard the expression “all show and no go”.  That is exactly what was happening at that parade among the people except for in the heart of one–that sacrificial lamb riding on the beast of burden. Does Jesus produce any fruit in you?

“Hosanna!” Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:4-11, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 53:6-8

It was all part of the master’s plan.  Jesus arriving in Jerusalem as a king.  Mark, writing to a gentile audience, did a poor job writing about the event. Only a religious Jew could  appreciate the symbolism. So we will leave Mark’s gospel here and go to Matthew’s     account. Matthew tells us why Jesus came to Jerusalem in the way he did.  It was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah and to remind the Jews of God’s promise to King David. The Jewish Messiah (savior) was to “sit on David’s throne (Psalm 89:32-37, 132:11, Acts 2:29-36).  In other words, the  promised Jewish Messiah would come through the genealogical line of King David just as Jesus did and he will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15). 

Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Zion) on a donkey because that animal was once King David’s royal mount.  It proclaimed that the promised eternal king had come to bring salvation to his people. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses into war, but a donkey if they came in peace. First Kings 1:32-33 records King David’s order to mount his son Solomon on a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel. Jesus was honored as king in a parade that day as they all shouted “hosanna!” which meant “save us”, but what the Jews failed to see was that this forever king would first have to die as a sacrifice for sin to bring them salvation.  That too was prophesied (Isaiah 53:6-8). Like fans at a sporting event they cheered, but their hearts were hardened with sin.  They all needed a savior.  John the Baptist had introduced Jesus to the people three years before as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Now that promised lamb was coming into Jerusalem to offer himself as a sacrifice for mankind. Many other lambs also came through the gates that day to be inspected by the priests for family sacrifices for the upcoming Passover, but only the Lamb of God can forgive sin (John 1:12, 3:16-17).  

A Cursed Tree Mark 11:11-14, Luke 13:6-9, Luke 19:41-44

Mark gives us a timeline for the next events.  After the “parade” Jesus looked around at everything (the fruitlessness) in the temple courts (Mark 11:11) and because it was late he went back to Bethany with his disciples and called it a day.  The following morning Jesus and his disciples headed back to Jerusalem.  They were hungry on the journey and saw a leafy fig tree in the distance. (Note: when a fig tree has leaves it should also have small knobs, called taqsh, an edible forerunner of figs which come later in season.  If the leaves appear unaccompanied by taqsh, there will be no figs that year.)  Jesus seeing no taqsh saw a fruitless tree and cursed it.  This was not merely an angry act of hunger and frustration by Jesus. It was an illustrated curse on Israel of which the fig tree is a symbol throughout the Bible.

In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus told a parable of a fig tree.  The parable was preceded by his words to those “living in Jerusalem”: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish”. The owner of the vineyard is the God of Israel (Isaiah 5:7). The caretaker is the Messiah, who, three years into his mission of “digging and fertilizing”, sought to bring the nation to bear fruit for God. At the time of the utterance of this parable, the mission of Christ was not complete. Our Lord still had half a year of ministry before him. The cursing of the fig tree recorded in Mark 11:12-14 and Matthew 21:18-20 is the finishing of this unfinished parable. Israel proved fruitless and therefore was cursed.  This judgment also coincides with Jesus’ prophecy about Israel as he overlooked Jerusalem on the way to his triumphal entry (Luke 19:41-44). His prophecy was fulfilled in 70AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.

A Cleansed Temple Mark 11:15-19, Galatians 5:19-23

As Jesus entered the Temple courts he saw the selfish businessmen.  They had turned a place where people were supposed to pray into a noisy marketplace. Any such business should have been set up outside of the Temple area.  No one was able to focus their attention on God so Jesus got their attention!  This was the second time that Jesus cleared out the Temple in this way (John 2:13-17). You might say that Jesus fertilized the Temple courts by clearing out the weeds and making such a stink there!  After he cleared out the Temple the gospel of Matthew says the blind and lame were healed and children praised his name (Matthew 21:14-16).  Meanwhile, the chief priests and teachers of the law looked for a way to kill him.  Prayer (Communion) with God, brings the fruit of the Spirit into our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  Are you a house of prayer or den of thieves? (Galatians 5:19-21).  Dear God, let us be a house a fruitful people and a house of prayer for you.

The Fruit of a Disciple Mark 11:20-26, 2 Corinthians 5:17

The next morning the disciples marveled over the withered fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before.  The dead tree symbolized God’s curse on Israel’s fruitlessness, but Jesus offered hope. Jesus cleansed the temple as he can cleanse the soul. He can make all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Jesus instructed his disciples to bear fruit.  Have faith in God, believe, pray and forgive.  This is the fruit of a disciple and it can only come through Jesus Christ.

MOTIVES (Naked Runner/ Lesson 17)


Ryan Bruce/ The Gathering Church: Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #17

Check Your Motives

In this lesson my son writes on selfish motives.  The struggle of man’s wicked heart desiring to elevate himself even in his Christian walk.  Selfishness and pride hide in many ways.  Sometimes we put a mask over our arrogance with family, a job, or religion.  Some even mask pride with “humility”!

Selfish Motives Mark 10:32-37, Matthew 20:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:10, James 4:3   We begin as Jesus speaks about his crucifixion for the third time to the     disciples.  “I will be condemned in a court, mocked, spit on, flogged and put to death…then I will come back to life”, said Jesus.  The disciples were AMAZED and FEARFUL. .

Let’s recall what Jesus just finished talking about to these disciples: He just blew all their minds with a heavy look at the law. He warned them of the dangers of sin and punishment of sin. He covered the value of following him and how to receive eternal life. He tells them that nothing is impossible with God and then confirms that they will suffer for his sake.  He also told them that he would be killed and then raised from the dead three days later.

They were amazed by the promises and wisdom Jesus had for them. However, they were terrified of what was to come: death, suffering, and persecutions. So what is the response of John and James that follows all of this? Well, they wanted Jesus to do for them whatever they asked. They wanted Jesus to allow them to sit at his right and left hand in glory!

“Sons of Thunder” James and John were nick named by Jesus as “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). The brothers were full of zeal! We read of these guys in Luke 9:53-56, when the disciples were dealing with some prejudiced crowds and they called out, “Jesus, do want us to call down thunder from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus promptly rebuked them! These guys were zealous, and at times over zealous. In this particular case, they were zealous with wrong motives. Their zeal was for their own pride and selfishness.

Good Ol’ Mom!  We find the same story in Matthew 20:20-21 and we see that James’ and John’s mother was also with them making this request on their behalf.

Culture of the day We must understand the culture and time to understand the   request that was being made. In ancient Jewish culture the most distinguished person would sit at the right hand and the second most important on the direct left at the head of the table.  The mother of James and John, as well as the two brothers, didn’t want to be ordinary people but distinguished persons in heaven; they desired special attention, authority, and notoriety. They desired to be elevated among all the others.

 Pride hides itself in many ways. We have all been guilty of it at one point or another, but how do we deal with it? Here we see the obvious selfish desire of the two brothers, and the prideful zeal that led them to approach Jesus with an attitude of entitlement.  “We want you to do anything we ask!” This attitude is far from the humility of “Lord if you are willing” that Jesus responds to in the gospels. James and John had forgotten they were chosen by Jesus through grace, they were not deserving of him. None of us are       (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Sometimes, after a long walk with the Lord we lose sight of what he has done and focus on “our” work and success. This attitude will quickly turn into desire for elevation and status as it did for James and John.  Example:  After a job promotion we are above the lowly work we once did before.  We deserve children or parents who are the best and we settle for nothing less. We deserve top-notch things and respect because we are so awesome!  The reality is that same pride, if not kept in check, will make its way into our spiritual life as well.

What are your prayer life motives? Do you consider your request, by asking first “Lord if you are willing?” How often do you ask God to search your heart?  Do you humbly look at your situation with the eyes of eternal purpose? We read in James 4:3 about selfish motives in our prayer life and the results of them.

Christ’s Reaction Mark 10:38-40, 2 Timothy 3:12

“Can you drink the cup I drink?” said Jesus. These guys couldn’t even grasp the “cup” that Jesus spoke of.  Jesus then prophesied about how James would be the first to lose his life for the sake of the gospel at the hand of Herod (Acts 12:1-2), and John would be delivered into the hands of his enemies. They would later understand what that cup meant.

2 Timothy 3:12   Humility should be the trait of a follower of Christ. Humility comes with trials and pride is humbled by persecution. Our desire should be to lift up Christ and others and to decrease self. The disciples, however, became more selfish and proud as Jesus’ time drew near.  It is interesting how they worried more for themselves than for Jesus. We can be like this too. So often when a loved one passes it is we who are angry, thinking of ourselves more than the one who is ill or gone home.

 Pride Mark 10:41-45, Proverbs 13:10, Acts 2:44-47

Pride causes division and bitterness.  Mark 10:41 – It caused division and anger among the disciples.  It was a sin for John and James to make such a proud request, however the     disciples were angered for their own pride. “Who do they think they are!” attitude.  Jesus addressed them all on humility and their desires for glory.  We must realize that we may not be the zealous proud type but we can still be proudly quiet or spiteful just the same.  Mark 10:42-45   We, as Christ illustrates, should be motivated by grace, humility, and service.  We should look for opportunities to serve, not be served. “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” It is humility that brings growth and unity – Acts 2: 44-47   When the church serves one another in humility, the Lord enables growth.

Jesus heals the humble believer  Mark 10: 46-52

In contrast to the disciples the blind man Bartimaeus cried out “Jesus! Have mercy on me!” Let us approach Jesus with humility, realizing that any good thing comes by the grace of God. Let us seek his mercy so that we too can serve, heal, teach, and love the way he did.  Lord, make us a unified church of humble servants called to your purpose. Amen