The First People to See Jesus

Mark 16

            There is a scene in Mark 16 where three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome are all going to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, after he had died. There is a similar account in each of the other gospels, the books of Matthew, Luke and John. In the accounts from the other gospels, there are many different details mentioned, but one detail that remains the same through all of the accounts: women were the first to know Jesus was alive! The fact that women were the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection brings validity to scripture. Let me explain how.

            First, we need to understand the culture in which Jesus lived. During his time, women’s testimonies were not taken seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I think women and men are equally trustworthy and both should be taken seriously, but that wasn’t the view during the time of Jesus. There is a book called the Talmud which is an extra-biblical book that contains Jewish teaching and theology. Here is a quote from the Talmud which pointedly explains this view, “but let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their gender…since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” Once again, these are not my thoughts and I’m not agreeing with them, but this was a common belief during the time period. Understanding how women’s testimonies were viewed is important because it probably means this account wasn’t fabricated.

            You see, if someone wanted to make up a fake story about Jesus coming back to life during the first century, they probably would not have used women as the first on the scene and the first to report the news about Jesus’ resurrection. A made up story probably would have used the more trustworthy and reliable testimony of men to tell this story. Remember, this is how they thought back then. As a side note, Jesus didn’t think this way. He on multiple occasions showed favor to women. Taking into consideration the mainstream view in the first century, some historians, like Bart Ehrman, think that because women were recorded as the first people to learn of Jesus’ resurrection this is not a made up account. This means that there is more evidence pointing to the gospels being a true historical account instead of a made up story.

            To me, it is nice to hear little bits of information like this to boost my confidence in scripture. Not that I would disbelieve without this evidence, but it is reassuring to hear educated people talking about the Bible as if it is an accurate historical document, and not a made up story. These types of arguments are most common in apologetic circles. Apologetics simple means defending. People who spend their time defending the faith and the Bible are called apologists. So now, you are one nugget of information closer to becoming a great apologists for the Bible. And maybe your faith in the Bible has grown as well.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 37-38 and Mark 16

The Veil Torn

Mark 15

            God never does anything by accident, and what we read in Mark 15 is no exception. To me, one of the most incredible events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus is the temple veil being torn. This is what Mark 15:37-39 says about the event, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’”

            There is a great significance in the veil being torn. To understand how important this is, we first need to understand the temple layout. Moving from outside the temple in, the first thing upon entering is the outer court. This is where the altar was kept for offering sacrifices. After walking into the temple, is the holy place. This is where the showbread, incense altar and lamp stands would be. Only priests were allowed in this part of the temple. The next and most precious part of the temple is called the holy of holies. This was the innermost part of the temple and it was cut off from the rest of the temple by a giant veil. The veil would have been thirty feet long and thirty feet high. Talk about a big piece of cloth. The holy of holies was cut off from the rest of the temple because it was the place God dwelled. Only the high priest, once a year, was allowed to go into the holy of holies. This veil was the literal barrier keeping God separate from the tainted and sinful world. So when Jesus dies, why is this veil torn?

            The simple answer is this, when Jesus died he removed the barrier between God and man. God no longer needed to be separate from His people because Jesus covered that sin and washed it away. This means that those who put their faith in Jesus could now have access to the father like never before seen in history.  Look at what 1 Timothy 2:5 has to say, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. We no longer have to bring sacrifices to the temple because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice that paid for sin once and for all. We no longer need a high priest to enter the holy of holies for us because Jesus is now our high priest serving as a mediator between us and God. Thereby, giving us full access to the father. We no longer have to gaze from outside the temple wondering what it is like to be in the presence of God because now, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are being made into a spiritual temple where God resides in us. The church, which is us, is now where God dwells. Do you see now the significance of the veil being torn? It is a representation of one the biggest shifts in history. The veil being torn is a mile marker of a new age, the church age, where God is no longer is hidden in the holy of holies, but has poured His Spirit out upon the church.

            We now have the great pleasure of living a life of freedom and access because of what Jesus did that day. When the veil was torn, everything changed. The next time you’re in trouble, hurting or wanting to rejoice, remember that you have access to the Father. There is no veil separating you from God.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 35-36 and Mark 15

Finding Ourselves in Scripture

Mark 14

            Have you ever read scripture and thought to yourself, “That is definitely me”? I know I have, and every time I read Mark 14 I get that same feeling all over again. In Mark 14:32-42 we find the scene were Jesus takes his disciples to Gethsemane to pray before his arrest. Jesus sets a few of his disciples on watch while he goes away to pray. When Jesus returns, he finds them sleeping and says these piercing words in verse 37, “’Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?’” Ouch! How bad would you have felt if you were Peter right then? Well, I’ve felt almost exactly like this once.

            One night, while I was in high school, one of my best friends was doing a late night shift in a 24 hour prayer campaign. He had the duty of praying for an hour in the middle of the night. I can’t remember for certain, but it was something like 3am – 4 am. He asked me and one of our other best friends if we would be willing to stay up with him to help him pray and be alert during this shift. We both happily agreed! After all, how often does your best friend ask you to stay up and help him pray? This is something we could not turn down. So we are all hanging out, sitting on the couches in my living room, waiting for his shift to begin. The next thing I remember are my two friends walking inside after his prayer shift was over. In that moment, I felt a lot like Peter. I couldn’t even stay awake for one night to help my friend pray. To be honest, I was a little bit embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I can’t believe I had let my best friend down.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 33-34 and Mark 14

The Spirit Speaking Through Us

Mark 13

            There are a lot of things going on in Mark 13, but I want to focus on verses 9-11 which say, “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

            There are two things that really stick out to me in these verses. The first being the word testimony. In Greek, the word is marturion, and it simply means witness, testimony, evidence or proof. To me, this is very exciting. Why does this excite me? Because it means that we can become proof that Jesus really is the son of God! When we are questioned about our faith we get the opportunity to become living and breathing evidence for Jesus! That, to me, sounds like the best thing I could ever be. Wouldn’t you want a chance to prove that Jesus is real? As an interesting side note, the word marturion is also tied to the word martyr, someone who dies for their faith. When someone dies for their faith, it is the greatest act of proof that someone can give. There is no greater sacrifice someone can make to prove their belief is real. Remember, whether you are talking to a friend, speaking in front of people or sacrificing your life, you will have an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus at some point.

            The second thing that really sticks out to me in these verses is the mention of the Holy Spirit. I recently finished doing a study on the Spirit and it blew my mind in how many ways it works in our lives. Giving us words to speak and teaching us what to say is just one of its functions. The good news is, with the Spirit working in our lives, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or ability to speak because the Spirit will help us when the time comes. This may bring you some relief. It brings me peace knowing that I don’t have to rely on my limited abilities to tell someone about Jesus. I just have to be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit in my life. This should really take the pressure off us as Christians knowing that God, through the power of His Spirit, will help us get His work done.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 31-32 and Mark 13

God Doesn’t Change

Mark 12

            One of the things I love about God most, is His consistency. He doesn’t change based on His mood or a novel whim. He is consistent because He is utterly and entirely good, loving, and holy. He already knows what the best is and what the future holds, so why would there be a need to change? This unchanging consistency is something that we can see in the words of scripture. For example, Mark 12:28-31 says, “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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.” How does this show God’s consistency?

            God knew all the way back in the time of Moses what the most important things to Him are. It’s not like He discovered sometime between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus that He wanted people to love Him with everything they had and for people to love each other. These were foundational truths from the beginning because God was loving from the beginning. The proof that God doesn’t change is right here in Jesus’ words. If things had changed or if God wanted something new to be known, Jesus would have spoken it right then, but he didn’t. Jesus quoted what was already written.

            The truths concerning God’s nature and His desires were given to us from the beginning of scripture and repeated over and over again through the rest of the Bible. I think God used this method on purpose, because sometimes, it takes awhile for an idea to sink into our brains. God’s message doesn’t change, just the way it is delivered. The big take away from all of this is that God is trustworthy and reliable. When God promises something, we know He will follow through. When God says something, we know that He isn’t going to change His mind later down the road. This means our salvation, our hope for the future kingdom and the love that we’ve received are sure to stay that way. Let that thought live in your heart, encouraging you and lifting you up day by day.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 29-30 and Mark 12

The Third Option

Mark 11

            Have you ever been in a situation when you didn’t know what to do? Maybe you felt like you only had one or two options and you didn’t like either of them? We will all run into obstacles in our lives that we don’t know how to handle. With almost certainty, this will happen with your faith. You will probably at one time or another be questioned about your faith or pushed on what you believe. Jesus himself experienced multiple situations like this in his ministry. We read about one of those situations in Mark 11:27-33. In this passage, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders in the temple. They asked him by what authority is he doing and saying these things. If Jesus said that he was doing these thing by the authority of being the Messiah, the son of God, he probably would have been attacked. If he said that that we was doing it by his own authority, he might have lost credibility. Either way, answering this question, at this particular time, would have disrupted the plans God had made for Jesus. This isn’t the only time Jesus was seemingly trapped with a difficult question.

            In John 8:1-11, the Pharisees brought a women, caught in the act of adultery, to Jesus. They asked him if they should stone her according to the Law of Moses or let her go? This lands Jesus in another difficult to answer situation. If he says to stone her, then he is condemning this women. If he let her go, then the Pharisees’ trap would have worked and they could have accused Jesus of denying the authority of the Law. In both passages, what we read in Mark 11 and John 8, Jesus is in a tricky spot and seemingly only has a couple of options. However, Jesus, in the wisdom given to him by the Spirit, comes up with the third option. In Mark 11, he asks the religious leaders a question they can’t answer, effectively ending the conversation. In John 8, Jesus defuses the situation by saying, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). After that, everyone leaves. The point is, God provides us with other options.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible Reading – Exodus 27 & 28 and Mark 11

Missing Jesus by an Acre

            In the book of Mark, chapter 10, we read this story about a devoted Jew, who understands that Jesus is someone special. He comes to Jesus and asks a really good question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). We know, having the luxury of being able to look back on all of Jesus’ teachings, that following Jesus and devoting our lives to him is what gives us the right to become children of God and heirs to eternal life. This is exactly what Jesus wants this unnamed man to do.

            Jesus asks this man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow him. Imagine being this man. Imagine owning 1,000 acres of land, filled with livestock, fields, barns and equipment. All of which would be worth millions of dollars. I mean, this is everything you have, maybe you inherited it from your father and plan on passing it to your children. This could have been in the family for generations, and with what we know of inheritance of Jewish property in the time of Jesus, it most likely was. Then Jesus asks you to sell all of it and give the money to the poor! Imagine what you would have done in his situation? Better yet, imagine what you have to lose?

            I don’t want you to miss Jesus by an acre. By that I mean, I don’t want you to miss following Jesus because of something that you’re holding onto in your life. The sad and ironic things is, later in the chapter Jesus says these words, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). There is nothing this unnamed man could have given up that he wouldn’t have received multiplied back to him in kingdom. The same goes for us, anything this world can offer, anything we have, is not even worth being compared to the riches of the kingdom.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 25-26 and Mark 10

The Truth Will Set You Free

In Exodus 23 and 24 God continues to lay out the laws that will help provide a stable foundation for Israelite society, and there are a couple that really catch my eye.

Exodus 23

“You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand.

2 “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. 3 And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor.

I really think that this can speak to us today in a powerful way, and maybe convict many of us.  I have heard it said that we are living in a “post truth era”, a time when objective facts are not as impactful to people as appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.  Many times these emotional appeals are used to push a political agenda or the narrative of a social movement.  

Every day our society is making judgements on people, and these opinions can move at the speed of light on the internet, and it can be very easy to follow the crowd and help spread a narrative about a person, but we need to be very careful.  If we are passing on unresearched false claims, or choose to ignore facts because they do not fit with the narrative of a movement that we like then we are only spreading lies.  

Proverbs 12:22

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.

As followers of God we need to value the truth very highly, because God is the God of truth, and in the end it does not matter how society judges something because God is the great judge and  we will be judged by God.  It is important to remember that the ends do not justify the means, even if a group has a good message, if they spread it with lies and misrepresentations of events they completely undermine any impact their message would have had.

I have heard a lot of people saying things like “you have to go find the right facts”, and usually they say that because the facts do not match their opinion of how something should have gone, and they are searching for somebody who will confirm their feelings.  This is called confirmation bias when we look for information and interpret facts to all agree with what we already think.  Fundamentally this mindset assumes that we are right about everything and do not need to learn anything new.  We need to be humble and realize that we can easily be wrong about things and look forward to searching out the truth.  As a person who loves knowledge and being right I can tell you that it is not easy to learn that you are wrong about something, but I have had many mentors in my life that have told me many thousands of times that I am wrong about things, but at this point I am ok with that, because accepting that you are wrong is the first step to learning new things and growing.  

In Exodus and Mark we have seen God at work in a mighty way to change his people from the broken people they used to be into his followers. Moses brought them out of Egypt where they turned from God and worshiped the gods of Egypt, and gave them the law of God that would define their society and customs around a worship of God alone.  Jesus broke the Israelites out of their wooden and heartless following of the laws of Moses and taught them to change their hearts and love the way God loves.  We need that message just as much today since we live in a very broken world, and lots of people are pointing out those issues and trying to tackle them, but these social movements will not bring ultimate peace, they may improve some things, but they can also be deeply flawed and do not have an emphasis on truth that God values and we should value as well.

If we wish to remain in a peaceful and stable society, then we need to put truth first and be quick to listen and slow to judge.  We need to learn to see people the way God sees them and humbly submit ourselves to his judgement and not worry about how the world will judge us.  

Thank you for reading along with me this week.  I hope that these scriptures spoke to you and I hope you will stick around for the rest of the year in this series, because if you do there is a ton you can learn.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 23-24 and Mark 9

Making Breakthroughs

In Exodus 21 and 22 God lays down many laws for the Israelites to follow in order to try and establish them as a functioning and stable nation.  There is a lot in there about how to judge between two people when somebody is injured, or commandments to respect parents and authorities, or punishments for thieves.  Some of the laws, like the ones about how to deal with slaves, are quite outdated, but I think some of them can be very beneficial to us even today.

Exodus 22

21 “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

I think this is a good message today for how to treat foreigners and to help us realize that every person is a child of God and has value in his eyes, and that Jesus died for them as well.  But I think it also can apply to us when we look at unsaved people, because at some point in our lives we were all wandering away from God, and so we really cannot judge others who are currently living outside of God’s will too harshly, we need to humbly chase after them with love in hopes of helping them to find the grace of God that we have, not hit them over the head with a Bible so that we can let them know how wrong they are.

Meanwhile during Jesus’ ministry he is healing people and miraculously feeding thousands of people and is starting to get through to his disciples.  

Mark 8

15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

Even after he had produced food out of nothing they were still thinking about physical food, not the deeper meanings of Jesus’ messages, but just a few verses later we see a breakthrough with Peter.

Mark 8

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

I can imagine the relief that Jesus must have felt knowing that finally these think-headed, hard-hearted, best friends of his were starting to understand that he was doing something much deeper than just feeding people.  He was changing their hard hearts to love others the way he loved them.  He feels that same joy when we spend time studying his word and spending time with other believers and start to understand and reflect him more.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 21-22 and Mark 8

Writing the Law on our Hearts

After being taken out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, grumbling their way through the Desert of Sin and failing many tests, the people of Israel have made it to Mount Sinai where God is going to meet with them and establish the rules for them.

Exodus 19

3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

Then, after Moses runs up and down the mountain several times, God gives the ten commandments to the people, and it was completely overwhelming.

Exodus 20

18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” 20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”  

21 As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

When the Israelites saw the pure raw power of God displayed before them they were terrified and realized that they had been disobeying and testing the one true God.  But this encounter was very impactful and the Israelites stuck to the ten commandments and the rest of the law until the time of Jesus, but we do see that their teachers had really perverted the commandments by then.  

In today’s New Testament chapter (Mark 7) Jesus is talking to some of the religious leaders, and they are mad because his disciples are not washing their hands before a meal, which is an old religious tradition from the time of Moses.  Jesus is disgusted with them because of the cleanliness of their hands contrasted with the perversion in their hearts.

Mark 7

9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.

We have talked a bit about remembering what God has done for us, and having it in as obvious of a place as possible to remind us so that we do not forget about what God did for us, and this often leads to traditions, which can be very good to remind us.  For instance we have Christmas as a time to remind us to celebrate and thank God for sending Jesus, but it has turned mostly into a celebration of consumerism and credit card debt.  In all of this we need to remember that it is what comes out of our heart that is the most important.

-Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading Exodus 19-20 and Mark 7