Devotional #30 (4/22/13). Hardness of Heart: unforgiveness and love of power.
This is Devotional 30! Thank you for reading and I pray these have blessed you as much as they have me!
Intro: Last week we saw Jesus enter the temple and curse a fig tree. This week we’ll see what He does in the temple and how all of us have hard hearts. Maybe we love power or maybe we cant forgive someone for what they did to us. Both separate us from Jesus.
This Week’s Reading: Mark 11:15-33.
vv. 15-17. Last week I mentioned that Mark left out Jesus driving the businessmen out of the temple (under verse 11) but now Mark goes back in time and tells us this story. Here Jesus is angered that the religious leaders are practicing extortion (stealing) from the church and church members. He throws them all out since the temple was to be a place to worship God and not to do business. He quotes both from Isaiah 56:7 (“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”) and Jeremiah 7:11 (“But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’”). Note that Jesus always stands on the foundation of the Bible, the thing that the religious leaders pretended to follow, the thing that the regular people should have been following and the thing that we are commanded to follow today. Jesus wanted His house (the temple) to be for rest and talking to God not for a busy shopping experience. Jesus had done this three years earlier (John 2:14-16) but obviously it had gotten worse and needed to be cleaned again (Source 1).
vv. 18-19. A heart that hears God speak to them and tries only to kill God is a hard heart. Around this point Jesus stops speaking plainly to the religious leaders because of their hard hearts. We’ll see this later in this chapter as Jesus controls the questioning as they try and trap him yet again.
vv. 20-21. This story is referencing back to the section we read last week (Mark 12:12-14) where Jesus saw a fig tree “claiming” to offer fruit but really being “hypocritical” so He cursed it. Here we see that Peter is amazed that the fig tree is still withered. Maybe Peter thought Jesus was practicing some temporary magic and was surprised that the fig tree was really dead. But when something (or rather, someone) has been given the chance to confess Jesus and they don’t do it, then they will be cursed and there is no coming back from that condemnation. We will talk more about condemnation in Mark 12:40.
vv. 22-24. Jesus calls out Peter on his faithlessness but applies it to all of His followers (including us). Jesus says that if we have faith that a prayer will be answered then it will be. It’s funny how people who have barely read the Bible think this means they have a genie to grant them whatever selfish wish they want. But when you have let the words of the Scriptures sink in then you have learned that we are to pray for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10) since it for our own good (Romans 8:28) even if He wills us to suffer for His sake (1 Peter 3:17, 4:19, among many others). And yes, praying that God doesn’t take a Christian home to be with Him in heaven is selfish even if we’re not ready to see them leave. So when our heart has been joined with Christ’s we don’t ask for things that don’t further His kingdom but we ask in faith and it is granted to us because it was the Father’s will in the first place!
vv. 25-26. Here Jesus continues His point about prayer by telling us what our heart must be like before we can be heard by God. If we haven’t forgiven someone for something they did to us then God won’t hear our prayer. This is because we need to come to God humbly which requires us to recognize that Jesus (who never sinned) died for our sins and forgives us. This makes sense if we think about not forgiving someone when we are at fault but it also applies when we are right! So if a person steals your wallet or purse and you are angered that you lost cash, have to cancel credit cards and have to apply for a new drivers license and you can’t let it go and forgive the person then God will not forgive you for all the bad stuff you’ve done. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair but when viewed like that it is more than fair!
vv. 27-30. Jesus is again walking through the temple and all the religious leaders (“chief priests, the scribes, and the elders”) confronted Him. After asking multiple times for a sign that He was sent by God now they ask who He thinks He is doing these signs. They ask ‘what right do you have to challenge our leadership?’ (i.e. “by what authority”). As I mentioned above Jesus is done answering the leaders questions with straightforward answers since it is very clear that they just want to trap Him in order to murder Him. So Jesus actually answers them with something many of them had seen and all of them had heard about. He asks, ‘do you remember when John the Baptist called me the Messiah and then the audible voice of God the Father called Me His Son and then the Holy Spirit came down on Me in the form of a dove? Who did that?’ But they don’t answer as we’ll see in the next verses.
vv. 31-33. The religious leaders don’t answer, not because they think they are wrong but because they are afraid of what the people will do to them. If the leaders had really be convicted by God they should not have worried about what men thought but stood up for what was right. Instead they wanted to keep their positions of power while trying to undermine Jesus. Jesus is amazing because He answers their question that He is in fact God by not answering their question and showing the regular people what foolishness it was for the leaders to spend all their time trying to trip up their Creator!
Conclusion: Jesus is not concerned with the games that men try and play. Whether the game is the person who has not forgiven their rapist or the religious leader who thinks they have power when all power on heaven and earth has been given to Jesus alone. While on earth you who have been hurt will always have a scar (whether it is physical, mental or spiritual) but it doesn’t have to be an open wound. Not forgiving the person who wronged you will eat away at you and instead of healing you will continue to be in pain. Jesus wants to heal you from that pain, let it go. For the person of power who has a hard heart, it is not too late to accept Jesus. It isn’t an illogical step. All you have to do is read the Bible and see if Jesus was who He said He is. If not, it should be very obvious and easy to prove wrong. But let me warn you many people have tried over the millennia and after bloodying their hands pounding away they found that they were just knocking on a door that was opened by Jesus who gave them the truth and relief they had been looking for.
Source 1: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1485.