For the past few months, I’ve been watching the last season of Downton Abbey. The show has completely captivated the world because it shows the upstairs life of the elite family, the Granthams, along with the downstairs life of their servants. As the times and lifestyles change on the show, one of the big issues on the show is the necessity of the servants.
Wealth, according to the world’s standards, has always been about how many people are under your authority. But in this chapter, Jesus turns that around to say that greatness in God’s kingdom is not about who is serving you but whom you are serving.
We’re not born with a natural inclination to serve others. Often, we want someone else to serve us. Instead of submission, we seek control. The life of Jesus shows us that to serve means we give ourselves to the mercy of another. Serving others humbles us and stops us from being slaves to our own earthly desires. Yet, He offers comfort when our flesh dislikes putting someone else’s needs above our own. Greatness comes when we freely love others.
How are you serving those around you?
Do you ever feel yourself wanting to be the best at what you do rather than using that to serve others?
Have you ever wondered what the Israelites did while they were in the wilderness? I always thought they walked around in circles seeing the same sites over and over again. But in today’s reading, the opposite is true. They were not lost. God knew exactly where they were going.
It’s human nature to want to go from Point A to Point B in the shortest amount of time. We can even set our GPS to find the shortest route. But the Israelites walked a vast wilderness for four decades due to their unbelief and disobedience. Instead of the promised milk and honey, they lived – and many died – in the scorching heat of the desert.
Today, after reading where the Israelites camped, those names may not mean anything to you. But I’m sure while you’ve wandered your own spiritual wilderness; you’ve dwelled in places like Hopelessness, Despair, Pain, Testing, and Doubt. God’s grace to the Israelites not only promised them relief after the forty years were over, but it guided them every single day they were there. When we follow God, even in our times of being pressed down, (2 Corinthians 4:7-10), we’ll learn that God is still in the midst of us and very much in control. He is the cloud (providing cool shade) by day and the pillar of fire (giving warmth and light) by night.
Have you ever gone through a wilderness season?
How has reading today’s chapters changed your perspective on wandering in the wilderness and God?
I am sure most of you have heard the phrase before: He must become greater, I must become less. This is exactly what our passage in Mark today is talking about. The disciples were furiously arguing over which of them is the greatest. We still do the same thing today. We interrupt each other in Bible studies to let others know how on fire we are for Christ, we gossip (under the guise of prayer) about our friends, we post pictures of our Bibles on Instagram with verses highlighted so that people know we’re in the Word. All for what? To prove to the world that we are great Christians?
Great Christians, don’t ask for attention; they point others to Christ through their actions and words. It is by our lives that people can see God’s great love. On the other hand, we are not pointing to Him when we are doing these seemingly good works in hopes that we will be noticed.
Here though, Jesus talks about doing things in His name: not for applause or because the law says so, but because you see Jesus in every face and in response, your heart aches to serve and love on others. Because when we see Jesus in others and act accordingly, that shows God’s glory to the world around us and points them to Christ.
Today, I encourage you to be really honest about your Christian intentions and help God to reign in your competitive nature. Let your actions speak louder than your words.
What ways can you show that you are a Christian without bragging?
What areas of your life usually bring you pride?
It is amazing to think of Numbers 28 and 29 in light of the New Testament. Before Jesus, the ceremonial laws requiring sacrifices were long and complicated. But our Savior lovingly laid down His life as the perfect sacrifice!
One of my favorite verses is John 1:29:
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,’Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'”
This is such a succinct statement of who Jesus is and what He came to Earth to do. We’ve talked a lot about this in our study of the Old Testament thus far, but this verse always reminds me of the sacrificial nature of the cross, and why Jesus’s blood had to be shed for our sins. Because sometimes in the day-to-day, we forget the pain, shame, and anguish that Jesus suffered through in His last days. Yet, He saw it through to the end, knowing that the very people He was dying for were standing there yelling to crucify Him and that for generations later, the people He was a sacrifice for would turn away from Him into the world.
Mark 9:1-29 also portrays Jesus’ power in incredible ways. The combination of the stories of the transfiguration and the casting out of the demon are very interesting. We see in these stories Jesus’ power over all things, natural and supernatural alike. How wonderful is it to know that Jesus has control over all things! Not only is He the spotless Lamb, He is also the all powerful King. We carry His name before us into the battle of everyday life. Let us lean on Him at all times.
What verse do you think clearly sums up the Gospel and why?
How have you seen God at work in your life this week?
In Numbers 26-27, we see that God left an inheritance for Israel. Moses was delegated with managing the inheritance laws. Unfortunately, there were five women who were cut from this because their father did not bear sons. But they wanted to partake in what God had to offer them, as daughters of the tribe. So they fought for it, and the Lord rewarded their efforts.
In the same way, we must fight for our inheritance. God freely gave us Jesus and Eternal Life along with Him. But Mark 8 informs us that we have a duty to uphold; we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This requires sacrifice and obedience. And it requires a voice; just like the daughters of Zelophehad (including Tirzah!).
So are you going to fight to follow Christ? Or are you going to live according to your own means? I pray that you would rest in the promises of the Father, and trust that His inheritance is good; that it is something worth fighting for. The five daughters believed this. Do you?
I love reading accounts of Jesus’s generosity with His power. He lavished those around Him with expressions of His mastery of the physical world, often in ways that gloriously met needs and allayed fears. Mark 8:1-10 describes how Jesus provided food for thousands of people. In this particular narrative, consider the crowd’s attention to Jesus and what they would have noticed in Him.
This story unfolds in a desolate place with scarce resources on hand. Going by appearances, the people that day weren’t going to eat. They had followed this intriguing teacher to the wilderness, not having planned ahead but simply having acted on absorption. The people with Jesus were totally preoccupied with Him. The captivation value of Jesus is not any different from what it was then. He is worth every moment of beholding that we commit!
In their attention to Jesus that day, the thousands of people saw Him demonstrate gratitude. He takes the food and says “Thank you” to his Father (v. 6). He expanded the food into abundance and met the needs of His followers. He is still doing that to this day!
List out the ways God has showered you with abundance and provided for your needs.
When we were reading the book of Matthew, I noticed this line from Jesus: “Because of increased lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12). So, on the inverse, does increased lawfulness lead to a warmer love? That got me started thinking about God’s law really is and the effect it ought to have on us.
Loving God is important. It is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36) and we know that a loveless relationship is bleak and joyless. Sometimes, though, knowing how exactly to love God seems impossible.
But, the Bible gives us guidelines. As we read the New Testament, look at how Jesus lays out ways to express love for God and others: love your enemies (Matthew 5:44-45), deny yourself (Luke 9:23-24), ask in faith (Mark 11:24) . . . these imperatives are sprinkled throughout the narratives about Jesus’ times on earth.
Compare these to the “tradition of the elders” that the Pharisees were criticizing Jesus about (Mark 7:5). Tradition and ritual are important (and often beautiful) parts of culture. The Pharisees excelled at upholding them, and Jesus was not necessarily bashing them; He exposed the heart of the matter, by quoting the prophecy in Isaiah 29:13. Instead of loving God, according to tradition (v. 8), the Pharisees were adhering to the tradition of men: seeking a sense of having saved themselves (self-righteousness).
The laws God offers are ways of expressing love for Him, instead of ways for us to try to save ourselves. Each aspect of all of this merits its own study and meditation! In the meantime, may we stay open and diligent in accepting God’s grace and executing the Scriptures He left for us to obey.