#95 – Head and Heart Together


Mark 12:18-27; Matt. 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40


“Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God” – Jesus talking to the Sadducees in Mark 12:24 & Matthew 22:29


Have you ever written a sassy answer on a test when you didn’t know the answer (perhaps because you didn’t like the class in the first place)? Q: “List six animals that live in Antarctica.” A: “Four penguins and two seals.” Q: “8x + 9 = 27; find x” A: “It’s right there after the 8.” Or have you even asked a question that seemed to be unanswerable? Philosophy is full of them. For example, “What happens if an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” (My answer to that one: “One of the two will be proven to have had delusions of grandeur.”)

The Sadducees thought themselves pretty smart; Jesus essentially declares them a bunch of smarty-pants who are really disguising their ignorance. (Yeah… in the quote above, Jesus gives them quite the verbal slap, doesn’t he?)


#94 – Dress for Success


Matt. 22:1-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26


“For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Jesus in Matthew 22:14


“Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want.”

What does this proverb of modern business mean? It means that if the basic “dress code” of the job you have is jeans and a t-shirt, but the “dress code” of the next level of management is dress slacks with a dress shirt, then you should wear the dress slacks and shirt instead. It means wearing a tie or a dress even if it isn’t required for your current job. It means looking ahead to where you want to be instead of where you are. And with this in mind, you certainly wouldn’t wear ripped jeans and a dirty tank top if your job required you to wear a suit.

When Jesus was telling His parable of the Wedding Feast, He had this idea of dressing properly in mind. But this whole idea of “proper dress” has really taken a turn over the course of my lifetime and I’m afraid that this current generation will view this idea of “proper dress” as old and judgmental and miss the whole point. So, let’s explore this idea a bit.


#93 – Jesus the Cornerstone


Matt. 21:28-32; Mark 12:1-12; Matt. 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19


“Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’” – Jesus speaking to the Jewish leaders in Mark 12:10-1 & Matthew 21:42 (Luke 20:17 is mostly the same.)


So… what exactly is a cornerstone? Today, if you look at the most prominent corner of a significant public or business building (one of the two corners that face the road), you will likely see a block that is larger or a different color from the surrounding blocks, near, but not necessarily at the very bottom of the wall that has a date (and sometimes more information) engraved in it. Sometimes it will be made of a material that is better than the surrounding building material (granite, for instance, or maybe marble). These modern versions of a cornerstone are meant to commemorate the construction date (and perhaps the person who paid for all or much of the building). Sometimes they will even include a time capsule inside them with various items from the time the building was constructed. So… today a cornerstone is a decoration and sometimes a “cornerstone” isn’t even at the corner of the building, but somewhere near the main entrance!


#92 – Authority


Mark 11:19-33; Matt. 21:20-27; Luke 20:1-8


“By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
– Jewish leaders to Jesus in Mark 11:28; Matthew 21:23 and Luke 20:2


What are you doing? Who told you that you could do that?! Did you get permission?!

Young people are used to needing permission, am I right? From parents to teachers to employers and coaches, youth’s lives are pretty tightly monitored and policed. At school they need permission to go to the bathroom, for crying out loud!

For adults, things get a little better, but there are still people that most adults need to report to. Even if you are the owner of your own company and feel that you don’t need to ask anyone anything at work or at home, there are still laws that must be obeyed.

What we’re talking about here is authority.


#91 – Dead Seeds


John 12:20-50


“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” – Jesus in John 12:24


A mighty oak starts out as an acorn. What a wonderfully theological expression. Actually, for the most part, when people use this expression, they probably aren’t thinking about God; it’s used more often as pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of encouragement. When things look tough, remember that even the tallest tree once started out as a tiny acorn. You, little acorn, can become a mighty oak! Inspiring, isn’t it? Because of God’s amazing creation, the DNA of the oak tree is there inside the acorn, containing all the information needed to create all the parts of the oak tree. It really is amazing.

But wait… does the seed REALLY die? I’ve taken Biology 101. Surely Jesus is wrong about this, because if the seed were really dead, nothing would come out of it, right? A dead seed is… well… dead, without life. Like so many “contradictions” in the Bible, it depends on how literal you want to take the words. So… we need to look closely at what Jesus is talking about and (not again!!) go back to the Old Testament.


#90 – What is Your Home?


Mark 11:12-18; Matt. 21:18-19, 12-13; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22


“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.
– Jesus in Mark 11:17


Bunch of hypocrites! This is not only a fairly common accusation against churches today, but it is the very accusation Jesus makes against the Israelites in Jerusalem. And because Jesus quotes a pair of Old Testament prophets… surprise, surprise, I’m going to take us back to the Old Testament!

If we read in Isaiah 56, we see that the prophet Isaiah was welcoming those outside Israel (mostly in verses 1-8) and condemning the leaders of the Israelites (mostly in verses 9-12). This prophecy is saying that God will draw Gentiles (non-Jews) to Jerusalem and bring them into His Temple, and it will be a house of prayer for all nations (that includes us!)
Then, if we look to Jeremiah 7, (mostly verses 1-11) we see the second half of Jesus’ quote and what Jeremiah (and also Jesus) was railing about; the Israelites thought that just because they had the Temple they would be “safe.” Essentially they thought they could go out into the world, act horribly, but because they were Israelites who had access to God’s Temple, they could come back there and through some ritual become right with God. In Jeremiah, God says, (I’m paraphrasing) “fat chance!”


#89 – Hosanna


Mark 11:1-11; Matt. 21:1-11, 14-19; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
– The crowds about Jesus, Mark 11:9-10


All four of our Gospels in today’s reading tell of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. If you want to read all four to compare, please do, but if you don’t have time for all four, any one or two will give you the event.


Did you know that Jesus was a political protester? At least that’s what some people believe what has become known as the “Palm Sunday” event was: a political protest, and it bears all the hallmarks of a great political theatre.

You see… it’s entirely possible that while Jesus was riding into Jerusalem across palm branches and coats, Pontius Pilate (yes, the guy who will go down as presiding over Jesus’ death) was riding into Jerusalem as a part of a great Roman military parade. So, while the Romans displayed their military strength and the Gospel (yes… the Romans used that word!) of Caesar (whom they considered to be God), Jesus was displaying His humility. The Romans believed in the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome), which was being spread through military power and violence. The peace that Jesus was proclaiming was a peace that goes beyond all understanding. The Roman Kingdom was about self-aggrandizement. The Kingdom of God was about sacrifice.

So when Jesus entered Jerusalem, what are these things that were shouted at Him?


#88 – Who wants $38,000?


Luke 19:1-27; John 11:55-12:1, 9-11


“The Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” – Jesus in Luke 19:10


In today’s readings, Jesus once again turns his attention to money and in two surprising and divergent ways.

In the first half of our reading, Jesus meets Zacchaeus (yes, the “wee little man” of the ol’ Sunday School song). But more than that, he would have been despised by most Jews of his day. Why? He was a tax collector, which means he was two things: working with the Romans and cheating people. Being a tool of the Romans (a Jew that the Romans used to inflict their stringent taxes) would have been bad enough, but he also (apparently, by his later admission to give back money) would do what most tax collectors at the time did – cheat people by forcing them to pay more than they actually owed.


#87 – Too Much Stuff


Mark 10:46-52; Matt. 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43


“What do you want me to do for you?” – Jesus in Mark 10:51, Matthew 20:32 and Luke 18:41


So… Mark and Luke talk about 1 man being blind and Matthew talks about 2. So… what’s up? (This is one of those earth-shattering “contradictions” people talk about.) Suffice it to say that there is not great consensus on why this happened. Some people suggest that Mark and Luke only mention one for simplicity’s sake and others (not my view) that Matthew is just doubling things up for dramatic or literary effect. Some suggest they are two separate events. We just don’t know for sure. But, to get hung up on 1 or 2 people being healed misses the greater point that Jesus is the Great Healer.


Have you ever seen someone trying to carry too much stuff? Bags hanging off each shoulder, arms loaded up with boxes to the point they can hardly see and additional stuff hanging off their forearm? Perhaps you’ve seen someone unloading a car of groceries with what seems like 20 plastic bags loaded up each arm. And have you ever asked if you could give them a hand only to have them say, “that’s OK, I got it”?

I’ve been on both sides of this situation. When I offer to help people carry some of what is obviously too large a load and get rebuffed, I shake my head. Why can’t you accept a little help? But then I remember those times when I was trying to carry too much and someone offered to help me. (Have you been on that side, too?) Why do we do that?


#86 – Boanerges!


Mark 10:32-45; Matt. 20:17-28; Luke 18:31-34


“the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Jesus in Mark 10:45 & Matthew 20:28


Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Young people are often very anxious to grow up. They can’t wait to be old enough to drive, to date, to vote, to go to college, to get a job… and on down the line. They desperately want to be an adult. Then, in the blink of an eye you are driving to your job and back, with all the benefits of adulthood… and all the responsibility. And that is why so many adults caution children to not be in such a hurry to grow up.

It is with that eye of caution that Jesus responds to the request that James and John get a position of authority in the Kingdom. Are you sure that’s what you want?


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