Christmas 2018 – Day 19

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As part of my 25 for 25 (25 devotionals leading up to 25 December), here is Day # 19: Yesterday (12/18) marked exactly one week until Christmas! We’re finishing up our mini-series in Isaiah today by looking at Isaiah 40:3-5. It says,

 

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken
.’”

For those of us who have read the gospels, we know that this was prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptist (John 1:23) who preached the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But what does Isaiah mean when he talks about valleys being moved up and mountains made low? What about “crooked places shall be made straight”?

There are multiple levels to this: physical and spiritual representations. The physical one was that Rome had made roads that were flat and wide and good for traveling. This was the first time in history that interconnected highways had existed and Jesus was born into that time.

The spiritual side was that Jesus was the consistent and good road to heaven. He had broken down the barriers and revealed the “glory of the Lord.” When we consider that the people of Isaiah’s time would never have been able to imagine Roman roads or how exactly the Messiah could come and fulfill all these prophesies we must be humble enough to recognize that there are things that we can’t fully understand in God’s future timeline. And yet, God has given us knowledge and wisdom. I just self-published a book titled Biblical Knowledge, Understanding & Wisdom which talks about how much God wants to help us understand the Bible and help others understand it also. We must have faith in Jesus, the Lord of Christmas, that He will reveal to us what we should know, since He has made a perfect road to heaven!

Devotional # 36. Mark 14: 1-25

Devotional # 36. 6/3/13. Jesus is prepared and prepares.

This week’s Reading: Mark 14: 1-25.

Introduction. We spent the last two weeks (chapter 13) talking about end times. Now we continue the story of Jesus preparing to be crucified (death by hanging on a wooden “cross”).

vv. 1-2. Two days have passed and everyone is getting ready for Passover. This is important because people hoping to see the Messiah were crowding into Jerusalem (Matthew says “the city was moved” [Mt. 21:10]) and the Romans were on their toes, preparing for riots, etc. So the religious leaders are still looking at how they can get Jesus arrested (through “trickery”) but decide not to pursue Him during Passover, fearing the people and not fearing God. This is interesting because everything that happens is in Jesus’ control. As we’ll see He gives Judas the opportunity to betray Him and is arrested during the feast even though the religious leaders have said they don’t want to, they have to take advantage of the situation.

vv. 3-5. Here we see “a woman” (Mary of Bethany, according to John 12:3) who brings costly “spikenard”, which was a perfume, to Jesus. It was worth around a year’s worth of pay!! (Source 1). So “some” (specifically Judas instigating other disciples, according to John 12:4) yell at her for wasting it. In John 12:6 we see that Judas just wanted to steal it but pretended like he wanted to give it to the poor. Judas kept the money and stole from it, interesting Jesus knew this but still put Judas in charge of the money. That is the type of God He is, not caring about possessions or money but trusting people by giving them opportunities to do the right thing and clean up their act.

Usually this kind of perfume was an heirloom (something given to children by parents or grandparents) and given as inheritance, so Mary was letting go of both safety and a sentimental item. Mary breaks it open which was irreversible and pours it on Jesus’ feet (John 12:3) cleaning them with her hair. Feet were gross back then because sewers ran through the streets so people had all kinds of stuff on their feet. She serves Him, anointing “His head” showing He was a king. Mary was committed (irreversibly breaking the flask), took action instead of asking Martha to do it and didn’t care about how much it was worth because it was for the Lord, her King.

vv. 6-9. Jesus sticks up for her and points out that she did the right thing. She didn’t know it but she was preparing His body for burial. Jesus gives her a huge compliment that her story would be told throughout time. As proof of this we’re talking about her 2,000 years later!

vv. 10-16. So Judas goes out to turn Jesus over to the religious leaders. What makes me sick is that he looked for a “convenient” time to hand over innocent Jesus so he could greedily have a little money. So, much like in Mark 11: 1-7 when two disciples were sent to bring Him a colt, two disciples go to find a room for Him. Again, Jesus knows exactly who will be where and they get a place to celebrate Passover.

vv. 17-20. Jesus and all the disciples gather and He proves He knew about the betrayal. It didn’t take Him by surprise but it hurt Him emotionally although He continued eating with and loving His betrayer. We can learn a lot from Jesus. We don’t always have to vindicate ourselves, we can know someone has talked bad about us or stabbed us in the back but we don’t have to let them know. We should forgive them and pray for them. The mature Christian doesn’t have to be justified on earth because they know they have done the same thing to others and that God is the only Judge who can bring out the truth.

So the other disciples begin to ask if it’s them who are going to betray Him but all Jesus says is that it’s one of twelve. Can’t you picture how this would have divided the group? Each one looking condescending and distrusting at each other.

v. 21. When Jesus says “it is written” some of the places he is talking about are: Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53. These are prophesies of what had to happen according to God’s will. Then He says that it would be better if Judas hadn’t been born. This is scary because He is referring to the most horrific punishment in hell reserved for Judas and those like him (according to Hebrews 10:29, talked about in Source 2).

vv. 22-25. Jesus introduces communion (also known as taking sacraments, Lord’s Supper and Eucharist) by taking bread (as an example of His body) and wine (as an example of His blood). Jesus’ body and blood were more costly than anything ever has been and since humans are sensory it helps us to see, touch, taste, hear and smell this gift as a token. There is nothing special about the actual bread or wine but it is a command directly from Jesus that we take part in this holy reminder. Not as a ritual but as a time to thank God for saving us from our sins.

Conclusion. Much happened in the story of Jesus today. Although the beginning of Jesus’ passion week started when we discussed Him coming into Jerusalem this is the point where we start to gain speed heading towards the cross. Jesus has been prepared for burial, had Judas commit to betray Him and instituted communion. Take a few minutes to reflect on the things Jesus did for us and how He wants us to communicate this to a lost and dying world.

 

References:

Source 1: MacArthur, p. 1493.

Source 2: MacArthur, p. 1495.