Happy Easter! Today we celebrate Jesus' resurrection and its impact on us!
Let’s back up and review a bit, to Exodus, where we find Egypt, slavery, plagues, Pharaoh, Moses… Let me encourage you to be a reader of text. Exodus 1-12 has a mountain of things happening–so much good narrative, so many important foundations.
God had provided for the Israelites in a moment of famine by having them move to Egypt. There’s so much backstory just in that sentence. Joseph was hated by his brothers and was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. With many ups and downs, he rose to a place of leadership. Then when famine came, he was in a position to be able to provide for his family because of all the difficult things in his past and in his family’s past.
The Israelites settled in Egypt and did well for themselves. They grew in number, wealth, and power. And Pharaoh, in response, feared them, oppressed them, enslaved them, and killed their children.
Then Moses appears in the story. When he was born, he was put into a basket and floated in the river because he was going to be killed. He was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter and brought up in privilege. His ego to protect the Israelites caused him to kill a slave driver, and this violent act did not earn him any respect with the Israelite people–and it made him hated by Pharaoh. So Moses ran. He married and lived in the far ends of the wilderness.
One day Moses approached a bush that was burning but it was not being consumed (Exodus 3). God spoke to Moses there: I have seen and heard the struggles of my people. I am sending you to bring them out and to the promised land. Moses replied, Not me! I can’t! Why me? They won’t listen! Pharaoh won’t listen! I don’t communicate well!
God walked him through these resistant responses. Moses went back to Egypt and asked Pharaoh to let the people go. It didn’t go so well, and now the Israelites had to make the same number of bricks but without having the straw (an important ingredient) provided, which made the quota impossible.
Then the showdown of God versus Pharaoh (who saw himself as a god) commenced. Moses repeatedly asked for the Isrealites to be set free. Pharaoh repeatedly said no. God repeatedly sent plagues (Exodus 7-10).
Then a final plague came. God’s judgment was going to come to Egypt and the first-borns would die unless there was a sacrifice of a lamb, a specific celebration/commemoration. And if the blood of the lamb was placed on the door, God’s wrath would pass over that home and the first born would be spared.
And this complex, unimaginable, supernatural plague led to the people being set free from their slavery in Egypt. It wasn’t simple. The story was not over. The process was just beginning. But they were free.
And now on Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
When Jesus was born (Christmas) of Mary, He was (is) God with us.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)
And Jesus–God with us–came to set us free of our slavery. Not a slavery as in Egypt, but a slavery to things that separate us from God. There are so many things that separate us from God (sin–things that walk us away from relationship with God). Jesus said:
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
But He didn’t end there:
“Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35)
Jesus–the Son of God–God with us–sets us free.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says that Jesus is our Passover lamb:
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7b)
John the Baptist said this when he saw Jesus approaching:
John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
So we celebrate Easter–Jesus did it! And as we walk in this beautiful reality, we see connection and relationship with Jesus. I love this moment in Matthew 9:
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
This is it. This is our hope. This is for you and me–for all of us. We are all welcomed to the table to connect with Jesus. We celebrate today–Easter–Jesus’ sacrifice for us, for our freedom from things that separate us from Him. We are all welcomed to the table to connect with Jesus!!!
Let's process for a moment. As we celebrate Easter today:
What are some of the parameters to something becoming a cultural holiday or celebration?
Holidays. Here are some that are coming up: April 18 National High Five Day. April 26 Hug an Australian Day. May 4 Star Wars Day. May 6 National Tourist Appreciation Day. May 8 No Socks Day. May 14 Dance Like a Chicken Day. June 4 Hug Your Cat Day. June 22 National Chocolate Eclair Day. June 23 Take Your Dog to Work Day…
Apparently anything can be a holiday…? Apparently everything deserves a holiday… But something is lost when everything gets a holiday. What is most important? If everything is the most important, something is lost.
Today we walk into Mark 12 where what really matters is the refining focus.
Remember (as we have said repeatedly in this series) that Mark’s goal is that we would be walked in process of knowing Jesus. This isn’t simple or passive, and it’s never done. In that process, let’s discuss, not what is most important, but how that is determined.
How do you determine what is most important to you, your life, your processes, your relationship with God?
One more conversation before we go to the Mark 12 text:
What tends to be in the gap between knowing the things that matter and doing the things that matter?
Selfishness can cloud what really matters. (The Parable of the Tenants)
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. (Mark 12:1-12)
Seeking to be divisive can cloud what really matters. (Paying Taxes to Caesar)
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:13-17)
Eliminating God from the picture can cloud what really matters. (The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection)
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:18-27)
Being distracted from love can cloud what really matters. (The Great Commandment)
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34)
Pride can cloud what really matters. (Beware of the Scribes)
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)
Seeking to be impressive can cloud what really matters. (The Widow’s Offering)
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
As you get to know someone, as you have a relationship with them, what matters most to them starts to become predictable. And what matters most is not etched in stone. Also, what matters most is not done through memorizing a list–it is done by clearing our vision to see it.
Bringing all of this complexity to the table, we get to dive deep:
What matters most to Jesus?
As we celebrate Easter today, as we celebrate Jesus being our Passover Lamb, as we celebrate Jesus’ welcoming us all to the table, as we celebrate that we are invited to relationship with God… As we celebrate, let’s bring it all together.
In the process of relationship with Jesus, what are some “most importants” that are growing and/or shrinking in your life?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Mark 12:41-44.
- What are some common stereotypes of people that are rich? How have you seen those stereotypes broken?
- What are some common stereotypes of people that are poor? How have you seen those stereotypes broken?
- What did Jesus see in the rich people?
- What did Jesus see in the poor widow?
- What internally is happening in you when you are like the rich people?
- What internally is happening in you when you are like the poor widow?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, confused, and/or focused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
- Mark 12
- Matthew 21
- Matthew 22
- Luke 20John 13