Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: 24 Hours That Changed the World
Scripture Reading: Mark 14:26-31, Mark 15:1-15
Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:12-15)
Monday February 20 — Mark 14:12-42
The final 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life began with a Passover meal. In a traditional Passover meal, someone asks the following question: Why is this night different from all other nights? Even though Jesus predicted his death three times, his disciples had no idea how different this Passover meal would be. They had no idea that the events of the evening would not only change their lives, they would change history. Which part of this reading speaks most powerfully to you? Which part of the disciples’ experience most closely matches your own? Can you relate to Jesus’ disciples in any way?
- Prayer: God of passion, help me to find myself in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Increase my understanding of your will for my life. Amen.
Tuesday February 21 — Mark 14:43-72
Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the mostly distinctly human stories in the Bible. Despite his brash protests, Peter—as predicted by Jesus—denied knowing Jesus three times before dawn. The Gospel writers suggest that both Jesus and Peter were on trial that night. Both were convicted, but only one of them was guilty. Keep Peter’s failure in mind while you read John 21:1-17. Jesus’ faithfulness under trial redeems Peter’s failure under trial. How does Jesus’ faithfulness redeem your failures under trial?
- Prayer: Faithful God, forgive my faults and failures. Redeem my life and use me as an instrument of your love and grace in the world that desperately needs to know you. Amen.
Wednesday February 22 — Mark 15:1-15
The name Barabbas means “son of the father.” When Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner they wanted him to release, he asked them to choose between two “sons of the father.” Barabbas was a rebel, a zealot who wanted to overthrow the Romans. This was the “son of the father” the people chose. In his own way, Barabbas wanted to save his people and lead to them freedom. This was the kind of savior the people chose. Can you understand why the crowd might have chosen Barabbas? Which “son of the father” would you choose?
- Prayer: Saving God, reveal to me today how much I need the saving grace that is only offered through Jesus. Help me resist the temptation to choose other “saviors.” Amen.
Thursday February 23 — Mark 15:16-39
There is great irony in the passion of Jesus Christ. Jesus was accused of blasphemy and treason because he claimed to be the Messiah and King. When the religious leaders and the soldiers mocked Jesus, everything they said was true: their taunts revealed God’s truth. The man dying on the cross was the Messiah and the King. By not saving himself, Jesus saved the world. The Gospel is consistent. Jesus is the Messiah, Savior, and King we need, not necessarily the Messiah, Savior, and King we want. Can you accept this? Can you accept a crucified King?
- Prayer: Crucified Savior, Thank you for saving me from the power of sin and death. I accept your love and grace. Today, I choose to serve and follow you. Amen.
Friday February 24 — Mark 15:40-16:8
Mark’s Gospel has multiple endings. The earliest manuscripts end at Mark 16:8. (It is believed that verses 9-20 were added at a later date.) This ending leaves the story hanging, unfinished. There seems to be some uncertainty about what happened next. Think back to the very first verse of Mark’s Gospel. Mark 1:1 says that the 16 chapters of the story are “the beginning of the good news.” This suggests that the Gospel story was still being written in the lives of the original disciples and in the lives of the disciples to whom Mark was writing. It is still being written in the life of everyone who follows Jesus today. How is the Gospel story being written in your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, continue to tell the Gospel story through my life. Use me as a witness to the transforming power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Saturday February 25 — Luke 23:33-35
According to the four Gospel writers, Jesus spoke seven phrases before he died on the cross. What the Gospel writers recorded as Jesus’ final words tell us a great deal about what the writers believed about Jesus. They tell us a great deal about the meaning of Jesus’ death. Luke tells us that Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him. What do these words of Jesus mean to you? Is forgiveness one of the primary meanings of Jesus’ death for you? What do you think about Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified him?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me of my sins. Help me follow Jesus’ example and forgive others. Transform my life so that I can serve you more fully every day. Amen.
Sermon Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: The Enemies He Made
Scriptures: Mark 12:13-27, Mark 14:1-2, 10-11
Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
While the story of the cursing of the fig tree has long puzzled readers, the point that Mark wants to make is that through faith all things are truly possible, even when it seems impossible. What would your life look like if we followed the command of Jesus to bring everything to God in prayer. This week, you are encouraged to pray, even for things that seem difficult and impossible, trusting that God is truly the author of our lives.
“Who said you could do this? By what authority are you doing these things?” These are the questions that the religious leaders demanded of Jesus as he grew in influence. They felt threatened by Jesus so they questioned his authority, hoping to undermine him. What they didn’t realize was that the source of Jesus’ authority was like nothing the earth had seen before. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to trust in Christ’s authority above all other authorities. What would our world look like if we took seriously the authority of Jesus Christ above all other authorities?
The religious leaders wanted to “trap Jesus.” This is not unlike politics to today, one side trying to trap another to gain the upper hand. But Jesus refused to get dragged into partisan politics. Instead, he challenged his audience to a deeper understanding of the scriptures. In a very politically charged climate, we are quick to make accusations, point fingers, and take sides. Christ models for us a different and unexpected path. Can we trust Jesus enough to follow him to the cross in a posture of humility?
The most important commandment is to Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. These commandments set the foundation for all of the other laws we find in the scriptures. Are you living in a way that is faithful to these two commandments? If not, what can you do this week to honor these commandments?
Stay awake! This is the message Jesus has for us today. Jesus encourages us to stay spiritual awake, to be intentional about staying active in our spiritual lives, just as we would in our physical lives. This includes setting aside time for prayer, scripture reading, acts of mercy and justice. How can you set aside intentional time today to honor God, honor your family, honor your neighbors and honor yourself?
What is the most valuable gift you have ever received? What made it so valuable? How did you treasure this gift? In this passage, a woman comes with costly perfume and anoints Jesus on his head. While she is criticized by those who were with Jesus, Jesus praises her for her extraordinary gift, thanking her for her service and telling his companions that her act will be remembered. How can you share an extraordinary gift this week?
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: A Servant Leader
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:32-45
So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Monday February 6 — Mark 8:14-9:1
The blindness of Jesus’ disciples is one of the themes of Mark’s Gospel. Their inability to comprehend the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death—illustrated by Peter’s rebuke of Jesus in Mark 8:32—makes them just as blind as the man in Bethsaida. The disciples will need a second touch of Jesus’ healing hand before they will be able to see clearly. Everyone has some blind spots. Are you aware of any blind spots in your life? What part of the Gospel message is “fuzzy” for you? Where do you need Jesus to help you see more clearly?
- Prayer: God of Healing, grant me clarity of vision, so that I might see more clearly and understand more completely how to faithfully follow Jesus in my life. Amen.
Tuesday February 7 — Mark 9:2-29
The account of Jesus’ transfiguration on a “high mountain” serves as a turning point in the Gospel. Jesus is now moving toward Jerusalem, where the events he has foretold (Mark 8:31) will occur. On the mountain with three disciples, the identity of Jesus is affirmed, and the disciples are instructed by the heavenly voice, “listen to him!” The events surrounding the transfiguration show Jesus’ frustration with the disciples and their need to listen carefully and see clearly. What is stopping you from fully comprehending the truth of the Gospel? Are there parts of Jesus’ message that are hard for you to hear? Are you willing to acknowledge your need to learn?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive my lack of faith and hardened heart. Open my ears and heart to truly listen to Jesus and learn from him how to live a meaningful life. Amen.
Wednesday February 8 — Mark 9:30-49
Mark intentionally shows the contrast between Jesus, the suffering servant, and the disciples, who argue about which one of them is the greatest. Jesus insists that greatness in the Kingdom is not about being first, but is about being last, like children in the first-century world. He says that when his disciples welcome and serve the least and last, they serve Jesus himself. (See also Matthew 25:31-46.) These words of Jesus challenge our 21st century sensibilities. How do you feel about them? Are you willing to be last?
- Prayer: God of Sacrificial Love, show me today how to love and serve the same way Jesus loved and served. Help me seek the kind of greatness that Jesus describes. Amen.
Thursday February 9 — Mark 10:1-31
Jesus was unafraid to tackle difficult subjects like marriage and divorce and wealth. The fact that he often challenged the conventional wisdom of his day helps explain why he attracted a large following and created such strong opposition. The high expectations of Jesus’ teaching (see Matthew 5:20) leads to the conversation recorded in Mark 10:26-27. Read Mark 10:26-27 again. Reflect on the promise made by Jesus (in verse 27). Can you affirm this statement? Will you acknowledge your need for God’s saving grace?
- Prayer: Gracious God, please forgive the many ways that I fail to live up to your expectations for my life. I need your grace. Help me live according to your will. Amen.
Friday February 10 — Mark 10:32-46
Despite Jesus’ teaching and his repeated prediction of his suffering and death, the disciples are still blind to the truth about Jesus, about the Kingdom of God, and about Jesus’ expectations for their lives. The healing of Bartimaeus’ blindness ends this section of the Gospel. With it, Mark emphasizes the need for followers of Jesus to have their eyes opened, so that they can see clearly as they follow Jesus to the cross and beyond. Mark wants us to understand that Jesus is the Messiah we need, not necessarily the Messiah we want. Are you willing to follow Jesus to the cross and beyond?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Messiah I need. Despite my reluctance to journey with Jesus, today I choose to serve and follow him alone.
Saturday February 11 — Mark 11:1-11
When Jesus enters Jerusalem with his disciples, he is hailed as a King. The contrast between the events of Palm Sunday and Good Friday is intentional. Mark insists that Jesus is God’s King, but that he will be a crucified King. His crown will be made of thorns and his earthly throne will be a cross. Sadly, many people in Jesus’ day, and in ours, are unable to accept that Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s greatest display of divine power. Too many people prefer earthly, human power to the power of sacrificial love. Are you willing to trust the power of God’s love?
- Prayer: Almighty God, even though I struggle to understand what it means to serve a crucified King, I long to experience the life-changing power of your love and grace. Amen.
Sermon Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: A Man of Power
Scriptures: Mark 5:1-20, Mark 8: 22-26
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
What are the demons in our lives? While stories of exorcisms seem outdated, distasteful, or misunderstood, we have all experienced our own personal demons–regrets, failures, and fears that linger in our minds and hearts. These demons have great power in our lives and gone unchecked, can take over. This powerful story of healing reminds us that Jesus has the power to heal and overcome our demons if we are willing to submit to him.
“Your faith has made you well.” In this passage, Jesus heals a woman who had been suffering for many years and a young girl who had fallen very ill. While Jesus is the one that heals, he makes it clear that our faith is important in our healing process. Our willingness to be humble and to act in faith are powerful acts of discipleship that can cause true transformation and healing. How can you act in faith this week?
Being called as a disciple means being willing to go out and live the life Jesus taught. This is the mission Jesus intended for all his disciples! In this passage, Jesus sent out his disciples two by two to proclaim, heal, and overcome evil. Like the disciples, we are called not only to ministry of our own, but to go out in the name, spirit, and power of God to heal and to proclaim. How can you live out this calling this week?
In one of the most famous stories of the Bible, we read the story of how Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed more than 5000 that had gathered to hear and listen. The food that Jesus provides for us will always provide for us and will never run out, even when it doesn’t make mathematical sense. Read these stories this week as spiritual food, one that multiplies many times over.
What makes us good and righteous are not whether we follow the right rules or live the life expected of us, but whether we are pure of heart. Jesus cares less about whether we went to the right school, got the right job, or drive the right car, but asks instead, do we bear the fruits of the spirit in all we do–love, joy, peace, thankfulness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control? This is the true measure of our goodness. How can we live into these fruits this week?
Like the Pharisees in this passage, we are a cynical people. We demand proof and evidence, not realizing that we are blind to the truth and miracles Jesus has revealed to us. How can we open our hearts and ears this week so we can truly see and understand that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life?
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: He Taught Them in Parables
Scripture Reading: Mark 4:1-12, Mark 4:13-20
“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:3-9)
Monday January 23 — Mark 2:15-3:6
Today’s reading contains three “controversy stories.” In each case, Jesus is confronted by Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who were trying to reform Judaism by enforcing high expectations of piety and morality. The conflict with the authorities foreshadows and anticipates Jesus’ passion and death (Mark 2:20, 3:6). In this section of the Gospel, it becomes clear that the values of the Kingdom of God conflict with the conventional wisdom of the religious leaders and others. Take some time for personal reflection and ask yourself if there is any conflict between the values of the Kingdom and the values you hold dear.
- Prayer: God of new creation, help me see clearly that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Help me follow him and trust him, even when his values contradict my own. Amen.
Tuesday January 24 — Mark 3:7-19a
Mark tells us more than once that Jesus’ ministry is drawing quite a crowd (Mark 1:33, 37, 2:15, 3:7). Out of the larger group of disciples, Jesus selects and appoints twelve to be apostles. By definition, an apostle is one who is sent out, and Mark describes how the apostles would be sent out by Jesus to expand his ministry in the world, fulfilling the promise he made in Mark 1:17. Even today, Jesus is calling and sending people into the world, to tell people about the Good News of God’s grace. Is it possible that Jesus has called, and is sending, you to share the Good News?
- Prayer: Calling God, speak clearly to me today. I’m willing to listen. I’m ready to hear your guidance for my life. With your help, I will go where you send me to serve. Amen.
Wednesday January 25 — Mark 3:19b-35
Even though Jesus is attracting a large crowd, his family is concerned about his behavior. Mark tells us that the controversy is continuing and that his family seeks to “restrain him.” At the end of today’s reading, Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom of God creates a new family—a family that is a higher priority for his followers than their human families. These words can be difficult to hear. Family is very important to us and we don’t want to choose between God’s family and our own. How do you prioritize: your family versus God’s family?
- Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the family of God. Help me make difficult decisions and prioritize my life so that my life will serve your purposes in the world. Amen.
Thursday January 26 — Mark 4:1-9
The parable of the sower is not the first parable in Mark’s Gospel (see Mark 3:23), but it is arguably the most significant. It says something about God (who sows seed that bears fruit) and describes the kinds of responses Jesus and the message of the Kingdom of God receive in the world. It also describes the kinds of responses to the Church’s ministry when it spreads the Good News. It challenges hearers to ask themselves what kind of soil God’s Word will find in their own lives. Which of the meanings described above speak most powerfully to you today? What kind of soil does God’s Word find in your own life?
- Prayer: God of hope, I want my life to be fertile soil so that the Good News abundantly bears fruit in my life and advances your Kingdom. Let your Word grow in me. Amen.
Friday January 27 — Mark 4:10-25
We find two general categories of people in the Gospel story: insiders and outsiders. The outsiders include Pharisees and Jesus’ family (see Mark 3:31). A defining characteristic of the insiders is their willingness and ability to understand the parables. The insiders understand these stories of Jesus as being relevant to their own lives. Outsiders do not. The parable of the sower invites us to find ourselves in the story and change our ways (repent). What steps do you need to take today to become “good soil”?
- Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for the hardness of my heart and for letting the cares of the world choke out your Word. Let your Word will take root in my life today.
Saturday January 28 — Mark 4:26-34
The entire passage from Mark 4:1 through Mark 4:34 is presented as a single speech or sermon. In the parables and the explanations, Jesus begins to describe the nature of the Kingdom of God and the ways his hearers can “repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). In the first four chapters of Mark’s Gospel, there are fifteen references to hearing or listening. According to Mark, Jesus says that how we hear and respond to the Good News will affect our whole life (Mark 4:23-24). How is your hearing? What can you do to hear more clearly?
- Prayer: Holy God, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Word made flesh. Give me ears to hear and a heart that is open to learning. Help me listen and grow in faith today. Amen.
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: An Unlikely Bunch of Disciples
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:16-20, Mark 2:13-17
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20)
Monday January 16 — Mark 1:16-20
According to Mark, one of the first things Jesus did after beginning his ministry was to call some fishermen to follow him. There are two important lessons in this story. One, that even though they leave their nets, the fishermen don’t stop fishing. Now they will fish for people. Two, the fishermen immediately left their nets and their family to follow Jesus. The Gospel suggests that an encounter with Jesus calls for an immediate and complete response. What does that mean to you? Think about your own encounter with Jesus. How have you responded?
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus into my life. Give me the courage to follow him completely and help him to continue his fishing ministry. Amen.
Tuesday January 17 — Mark 1:21-28
Miracle stories recorded the Gospels often point beyond themselves to larger lessons about God. For instance, when Jesus heals blind people, we discover that God can heal (our) spiritual blindness, and not just cure physical blindness. When Jesus words have power over unclean spirits (as in Mark 1:25), we discover that Jesus’ words (his teaching) have power to transform our lives. We encounter Jesus’ words when we read and study the Gospels. How have Jesus’ words transformed your life? What miracle do you want Jesus to perform in your life today?
- Prayer: God of power, I long to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus today. Open my heart to receive your word. Prepare me to experience the miracle of your grace.
Wednesday January 18 — Mark 1:29-39
As Jesus’ fame began to spread (see Mark 1:28), many people come to him for healing. But Mark tells us that, as the crowd was searching for him, Jesus left to take his message and ministry to other towns. He took the message to the people instead of waiting for the people to come to him. In another important detail, Mark connects Jesus’ retreat into the wilderness for prayer with his clarity about his mission and purpose. How do you stay clear about your mission and purpose? How do you follow Jesus’ example and set aside time to be alone with God?
- Prayer: God of purpose and power, help me to understand your mission and your purpose for my life. Show me how—and to whom—you want me to be in ministry today. Amen.
Thursday January 19 — Mark 1:40-45
The healing of a leper was much more than simply the curing of Hanson’s Disease. A leper was an outcast from family, friends, and faith. So, when Jesus heals the leper in this story, he is able to return to his home, his family, and his worship. Since whoever touches a leper becomes unclean themselves, even the holiest people would not touch lepers. Jesus’ act (in Mark 1:42) was extraordinary and quite shocking. Who are the untouchables (like the lepers) in our society? Do you think Jesus would reach out to them? Do you think he wants you to reach out to them?
- Prayer: Healing God, heal me of my unwillingness to follow Jesus’ example and reach out to others. Help me to break down the barriers that keep us apart. Amen.
Friday January 20 — Mark 2:1-12
Not only is this story a lesson about the scope of Jesus’ power and authority and the healing power of forgiveness (which is available through Jesus), it is also a lesson in prayer. Like the people mentioned in Mark 2:2, when we pray for others, we bring them into the presence of the one who can help them: Jesus. For whom are you praying today? Do you know of anyone who needs the healing power of forgiveness? If so, take them (or yourself) to Jesus in prayer.
- Prayer: God of grace, I confess that I am often paralyzed by fear and doubt. Help me experience your forgiveness. Set me free to serve you more fully.
Saturday January 21 — Mark 2:13-17
When Jesus calls Levi to be one of his followers, he creates a controversy. Levi is a tax collector, a group of people who, in Jesus’ time, were considered sinners by Jewish society. Their association with the Romans made them unclean. Like touching a leper, eating with sinners was shocking to the sensibilities of the religious leaders. But Jesus says he has come to call sinners, not just the righteous. How do you feel about that? Might Jesus be calling you to be his follower today?
- Prayer: God of salvation, thank you for caring about sinners like me. I am ready to answer Jesus’ call today. I am ready to be his follower and his disciple Amen.
Series: Who Is This Man?
Sermon: Jesus: The Man and his Message
Scripture Reading: Psalm 29:1-11, Mark 1:9-15
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” … Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:9-11, 14-15)
Monday January 9 — Mark 1:1-8
During the next few weeks, the GPS will guide you through the entirety of The Gospel According to Mark. The Gospel does not identify Mark as the author; the tradition of the church has provided the title we use today. However, the Gospel does have a title sentence. Mark 1:1 serves as the title for the Gospel: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” If this verse is the title of the book, why does it say, “The beginning of the Good News”? Is it possible that the 16 chapters of Mark are just the beginning, and that Gospel is still being written in our lives today?
- Prayer: God of Good News, open my mind and heart to learn what you would have me learn this week. Grant me wisdom to understand the meaning of the Gospel. Amen.
Tuesday January 10 — Mark 1:1-8
There are many possible reasons for John the Baptist’s popularity. One is that he was an interesting character, much like the prophets of earlier generations. Another reason is that his message was compelling and spoke to the needs of the people. Mark says he preached “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Is forgiveness a compelling message for you? Does it speak to needs in your life? Do you have a need to confess your sin and receive assurance of God’s forgiveness today?
- Prayer: God of mercy, hear my prayer of confession today. Remind me once again that, through your saving grace, you promise to forgive my sins. Assure me of your love. Amen.
Wednesday January 11 — Mark 1:9-11, Galatians 4:4-6
The baptism of Jesus is a significant event. It is so significant that each year, in January, the church calendar recognizes Baptism of the Lord Sunday. It reminds us to remember our own baptism and reflect on its meaning. As we consider the baptism of Jesus, we remember that our baptism is a sign of God’s love and our adoption as children of God. Do you know how much God loves you? Read Mark 1:9 again. Hear those words spoken to you. You are beloved child of God!
- Prayer: Loving God, thank you for my baptism and place in your church. Remind me how much I am loved. Use me to share your love with others in my life. Amen.
Thursday January 12 — Mark 1:10-13, Matthew 4:1-11
Even though Mark does not describe the specific ways Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Mark 1:12 provides an important insight into the event. It says that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus didn’t just happen to wander into the wilderness, nor was he lured into the wilderness by Satan. Mark says that the Spirit, which descended on Jesus at his baptism, is the “driving” force in Jesus’ life. Is the Spirit of God the driving force in your life? If so, where is the Spirit of God driving you today? Are you willing to go?
- Prayer: God of Spirit and truth, I want to go where you lead me. If it is your will, I am willing to go into the wilderness, to be tested and strengthened for ministry. Amen.
Friday January 13 — Mark 1:14-15
These two verses summarize Jesus’ ministry: he proclaimed the Good News of God, which was that God’s Kingdom has come near and is entered by repentance and faith. Of course, it takes the rest of the Gospel’s 16 chapters to fully grasp what Jesus means, but Mark insists that the story of Jesus is the story of God’s Kingdom, of faith, and of repentance. As you begin to read Mark’s Gospel, consider your personal definitions of kingdom, faith, and repentance. Are you willing to let God expand or change your definitions? Are you open to new understanding?
- Prayer: Gracious God, forgive me when I refuse to hear the Good News and change my ways. Help me turn my life in your direction and live a Kingdom life.
Saturday January 14 — Mark 1:14-15, Mark 6:7-13, Matthew 10:5-7
Conclude this week by considering that Jesus’ disciples share the message and ministry of Jesus. The Gospels tell us that Jesus called disciples to follow him, but he also sent them into the world, to expand and ultimately continue his ministry. Their message is the same. Their ministry is the same. Do you think of yourself as a disciple of Jesus? If so, in what ways are you participating in his ministry? How are you spreading his message of God’s Kingdom, faith, and repentance?
- Prayer: Sending God, forgive me when I keep your message to myself. Use me to share the Good News with others. Give me courage to do what you want me to do. Amen.
Sermon Series: Listen to the Angels
Sermon: “Get up… and Go!”
Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-15, Matthew 2:19-23
Now after they left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Matthew 2: 13-15
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
Matthew 2: 19-23
The command to “Get up and go!” is echoed throughout the Bible. God commanded Abraham to “go from your country to the land that I will show you.” He promised Abraham that he would bless him so that Abraham would go and bless others. As we know, Abraham went on to the father of the Israelite nation and he used his blessings to bless many generations to come. When we are willing to go to where God has called us, we too are blessed, and are called to bless others.
In this passage, God spoke to Jacob telling him to go to an unexpected place–Egypt, and Jacob took his family and moved to Egypt. In this new year, where is God telling us to go? It may be different from what we planned or expected, but God tells us to trust God and to obey. This week, you are invited to listen to where God is telling you to go.
While Christmas occurs at the end of the calendar year, it is the beginning of our Christian liturgical calendar, and it was the beginning of Jesus’ life. In this passage, we see the story of Jesus growing up, being presented in the temple. As Jesus’ story continues, our story continues as well! How can we continue to live our Christmas in this new year? What promises did you make at Christmas that you need to continue to fulfill in this new year?
When Jesus gets lost from his earthly parents, he is found in the temple, in his Father’s house. This passage reminds us that when we feel lost in our earthly realm, we can always find shelter, comfort, and rest in the church, in God’s home. As we start out the new year, when you feel like you are getting lost, find your way back in the church.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years to get up and walk. This story reminds us that Jesus has the power to heal and lead us in ways we cannot do on our own! Through these words, Jesus also tells us that the time to get up and go is now. Jesus comes and speaks to us, and we are called to respond.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” These are Jesus’ final words to his disciples, what we call “The Great Commission.” We too hear this commission and are called to get up and go to make disciples of all people. How can we live out the Great Commission in our lives this week? Can we make a commitment to fulfill this command throughout this year?
Monday December 26 — Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Jesus’ birth is God’s answer to Israel’s prayer for salvation. The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day of salvation, when God’s King would reign on earth and the “people who walked in darkness” would see “a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). In the poetry of Isaiah’s prophecy, we discover that—among other things—the coming child would be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When you think about the world today, how might Jesus be the Prince of Peace for you and for others?
- Prayer: Prince of Peace, we celebrate your presence in our world today. Heal the pain we experience and bring reconciliation to broken lives, communities, and nations. Amen.
Tuesday December 27 — Micah 5:2-5a
According to Micah, God’s Messiah would come from Bethlehem, a small town that is a few miles south of Jerusalem. It was King David’s birthplace and it would also be the birthplace of the ultimate King of Kings. Like David, God’s King would shepherd his people and feed his flock. As you celebrate Christmas, how do you worship a King who is also a humble shepherd? Based on what you know about Jesus, how does he serve as your King and your Shepherd? Are you a citizen of his Kingdom and a member of his flock?
- Prayer: Good Shepherd, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we accept you as our Shepherd and our King. Guide us and protect us. Keep us safe within your care. Amen.
Wednesday December 28 — Luke 1:26-38
In Luke’s account of the annunciation (the angel’s announcement to Mary of the coming birth of Jesus), Mary not only learns that her baby will be King in the lineage of David, but will truly be the Son of God. This is an extraordinary claim, that God would take human form. It is made even more extraordinary when we discover—as the Gospel account of Jesus’ life unfolds—that the Son of God would eventually be crucified on the cross. How has this gift of God’s love changed your life?
- Prayer: God of Love, we celebrate that Jesus is your Son and that he has come to show us the way to eternal and abundant life with you. Help us be his disciples. Amen.
Thursday December 29 — Luke 2:1-7
Luke’s introduction to the birth of Jesus helps us understand the kind of world into which Jesus was born. He was born to an ordinary Jewish family in a land that was governed by the Roman Empire. The circumstances of Jesus’ birth were humble. He was welcomed, not by kings and queens, but by night-shift shepherds and star-gazers (Magi) from a distant land (Luke 2:15-16, Matthew 2:7-11). What does Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth tell you about God? What difference does the Christmas story make in your life? How has the birth of Jesus changed your life?
- Prayer: Eternal God, through the Christmas story, we discover the paradox of your power: a tiny baby, born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, has changed the world. Amen.
Friday December 30 — Luke 2:8-20
When the angel visits the night-shift shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, the message is both simple and profound, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). The birth of Jesus is “Good News” for many reasons, but according to the angel, it is Good News because Jesus has come save us. Give thanks to God for the gift of salvation.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, into the world to save us from the power of sin and death and to offer us the gift of abundant life.
Saturday December 31 — John 1:1-14
The Gospel of John does not describe the details of Jesus’ birth. Instead, John tells us that Jesus is the eternal Word of God in the flesh and that he is the Light that shines in the darkness of the world. Jesus makes God known to the world, illuminating the darkness of ignorance and sin and death. How has the birth of Jesus brought light to the world? How has the birth of Jesus brought light into your life? How are you reflecting God’s light in world around you?
- Prayer: Light of the World, shine brightly in our lives today. Remove the shadows all around us and be a light to our paths. Guide us in the way of grace and truth. Amen.
Series: Listen to the Angels
Sermon: “Do Not Be Afraid”
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 41:8-10, Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)
Monday December 19 — Genesis 15:1-6
An encounter with the living God is a life-changing event. It can be frightening and scary. It produces anxiety and is quite often a threat to the status quo. This is why many encounters with God begin with some version of, “do not be afraid.” Abram’s encounter with God in Genesis 15 is one example. What God asks of Abram is definitely life changing and requires Abram to trust in God’s faithfulness. Have you ever been afraid to do something that God has asked you to do? What has helped you learn to trust God in these kinds of situations?
- Prayer: Covenant God, grant me the courage I need to believe you and trust in your faithfulness. Grant me the gift of faith so that I will serve you with confidence. Amen.
Tuesday December 20 — Exodus 14:10-14
As the Israelites prepared to cross the Red Sea, they saw the Egyptian army advancing and complained to Moses. They were afraid to move forward and preferred the security of their slavery because their future (in the wilderness) seemed so uncertain. Moses’ response served as both a word of challenge and word of comfort. His message was simple: “do not be afraid” because God is on your side. What is fear preventing you from doing today? What will help you move forward?
- Prayer: God of Grace, too often I would rather look back than move forward in faith. Forgive me for not trusting that you will be with me during every step of my journey. Amen.
Wednesday December 21 — Isaiah 41:8-10
The prophet, Isaiah, echoes the words of God to Abram (Genesis 15:1) and the words of Moses to the Israelites (Exodus 14:13). The people of God have been called to be God’s servant, to be a blessing to the world. But serving God in the world is not easy. God has high expectations. Fear is a natural, human response to God’s call. If you are afraid to answer God’s call and serve God today, recite and remember these words: “do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).
- Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for calling me to be your servant. Too often, however, I let fear keep me from going where you send me. Fill me with your confidence today. Amen.
Thursday December 22 — Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew’s Gospel describes the angel Gabriel’s encounter with Joseph in a dream. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, he planned to quietly dismiss her; but Gabriel appeared to him and told him about God’s plan for salvation through Mary’s baby. Joseph needed Gabriel’s encouragement to follow-through with his plan to take Mary as his wife. If Gabriel visited you today, how might he complete this sentence for you: “do not be afraid to __________”?
- Prayer: God of Salvation, thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior. Prepare my heart to welcome him. Grant me faith to trust him and courage to follow him. Amen.
Friday December 23 — Jeremiah 1:1-8
Like most humans who are called by God, Jeremiah did not believe that he was worthy of or capable of doing what God asked of him. He believed he was too young to be God’s servant and spokesman. But God dismissed Jeremiah’s fears of youth and inadequacy with these words: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8). What are your favorite excuses for not answering God’s call? What do you think God wants to say to you today?
- Prayer: Merciful God, I have many excuses for not answering your call. I have many doubts and fears; but you call me anyway. I will go where you send me.
Saturday December 24 — Luke 2:1-20, Luke 5:1-11
Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth includes the familiar words of the angel, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). In order for us to understand why Jesus’ birth is Good News, we need to know the whole story of Jesus’ life, including his death and resurrection. To truly experience the Good News of salvation, we need to be Jesus’ disciples. As you celebrate Jesus’ birth today, welcome the Savior of the world into your heart, let go of your fear, and answer Jesus’ call to follow him—wherever he leads you.
- Prayer: God of Wonders, thank you for the gift of Jesus. Thank you for coming into the world to save the world. Thank you for coming into my life. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.