Monthly Archives: July 2013

Son of Man

Devotional text: Daniel 7:13

There’s story of a man who noticed a very small flock of birds huddled near his garage door as a violent storm approached.  His thought was that if he could somehow get them into his garage they’d be protected and safe.  Of course, his every attempt to move, coerce and influence the movement of those birds was futile.  They only scattered and fled with every approach.  “If they just knew I was trying to help them” he thought.  Finally he resigned himself to the notion that the only way he could possibly lead those vulnerable creatures to safety is if he were somehow to become a bird like them.  Then they could know and then he could save them.

Jesus became a man, just like us, to lead us to the safety of the Father.  He became one of us.  He became like us.  He suffered temptation in every point like us—yet without sin—so that He might be a faithful High Priest.  He leads us.  He is the initiator and the pioneer of our faith (Php. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:10, 17; 4:14-15; 12:2).

Jesus chose the title “Son of Man” to refer to Himself above all other names.  Might it be that this is because He sees becoming one of us one of His most important achievements?  His love is so great that even in designating Himself He chose the name that connects with us.

–David Deffenbaugh

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July 31 Bible Reading: Ezekiel 21; Daniel 7:1-14

Of the many titles and references used for Jesus, “Son of Man” is the most frequent.  It is also the only one used by Jesus in referring to Himself and He’s the only one to use it.    Though it appears in all four Gospels, it is occurs most frequently in Matthew.  The reference is of Old Testament origin.  It’s found some 90 times in Ezekiel, although these are all references by God of the prophet.  The only use of it in reference to the coming Messiah is found in Daniel.

Today’s reading from Ezekiel is as a sample of the frequent use of the term in that book and in Daniel of the Messianic passage that is the origin for the term used by Jesus.

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July 30 Bible Reading: Mark 15-16

Jesus is arrested, tried, crucified and raised from the dead.

This Gospel ends with a text that is somewhat controversial.  Mark 16:9-20 is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts and some indication of that fact is given in many translations.  For instance, in the English Standard Version  there is a break in the body of the text with this notation in brackets: “Some of the earliest manuscripts to not include 16:9-20.”  Nothing about what we believe or practice is dependent on these verses.  Everything taught in them is also taught in many other passages of Scripture.  From that standpoint the question of whether or not these verses were originally in Mark’s Gospel is immaterial.

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Being There

Devotional text: Mark 15:40-41

When Jesus chose twelve disciples for a very special relationship with Him and to be trained for a very special task—we call them apostles—He chose twelve men.

When the multitudes Jesus fed were numbered, the men were counted.  Much more so than today, the culture and climate of the first century middle east was a “man’s world.”

Yet, in Jesus darkest, painful, and lonely hour none of His men were there.  The apostles had run in fear at the time of His arrest.  John and Peter dared come around during the trial and John does make an appearance at the crucifixion (John 12:26), but otherwise they are hiding in fear.

But not the women.  They were there.

“There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41).

The men were hiding; the women were there.

Say what we will about the biblical principle of male spiritual leadership; wrestle as we might about appropriate roles for women in the church.  The fact remains that the Bible clearly acknowledges the steadfast faithfulness of women.  As we work to reflect the Bible’s teaching about women’s place in our faith and practice, may we also be sure to reflect the Bible admiration and respect for their praiseworthy courage and faith.

–David Deffenbaugh

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Not Going Anywhere

Devotional text: Mark 13:31

I remember as a youngster in the 1970’s a huge push given to “ecology.”  Efforts to curb pollution were given major emphasis.  The message to youngsters like me, from the animated spokes-animal Woodsy Owl was “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”

Obviously, caring for the planet on which God has placed us is part of our responsibility as stewards of His gifts.  Like anything, even that approach to caring can be taken too far.  To suggest that humanity should take nothing from or use anything from the earth is a mistaken notion.  Not to mention the thought that somehow the earth itself and everything in it is deity.  Wrong.  The earth was created by God for our use and our benefit and our care.

Something else, though, that we need to remember—especially in light of all that is being said today about man’s impact on the planet—is that Jesus affirms that the world will not last forever and was never intended to do so.   “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Mark 13:31).

As such, it must be counted among “temporal” things, that is, temporary.  By virtue of that fact there are some things that are infinitely more important.  Eternal trumps temporal every time.

As Jesus’ own statement continues after affirming the non-eternal nature of heaven and earth, “but My words will not pass away.”  Would to God that the same concern, interest and effort devoted to keeping this earth were given to keeping God’s word!

–David Deffenbaugh

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July 29 Bible Reading: Mark 13-14

One of Jesus’ great discourses (sometimes called the Olivet Discourse) is located in chapter 13.  This one is not delivered to an assembled multitude, but privately to Peter, Andrew, James and John.  It is given in response to their question about when the destruction of the temple—which they could see clearly from their vantage point on the Mount of Olives—would take place.

Chapter 14 sets in motion the plot to kill Jesus and the events leading up to the fateful event.

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July Week 5 Bible Reading Introduction

July Week 5: Supplemental Reading
July 29-31

We will use the first two days of July’s supplemental reading days to complete our reading of Mark’s Gospel.  The final day will investigate the Old Testament background of Jesus’ favorite self-identifying ph

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What a Foolish Young Man

Devotional text: Mark 14:51-52

Evidence points convincingly to John Mark as the author of the Gospel of Mark.  If so, this is man is the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), a companion of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey who then also deserted them at Perga (Acts 13:13).  This act left a sour taste in Paul’s mouth as he refused him as a companion on the second journey, leading to Paul and Barnabas parting ways (Acts 15:36-39).  Later, though, Paul’s opinion changed and he desired Mark’s companionship and service (2 Tim. 4:11).

Many believe John Mark to be the young man, wrapped only in a linen sheet, in the garden at Jesus’ arrest who escapes apprehension only by leaving the sheet behind and fleeing naked (Mark 14:51-52).  Further speculation has Jesus and the apostles having met in an upper room of Mark’s parent’s home and when Judas led the mob to where he last left Jesus—the house of the upper room—curious Mark followed them to the place Jesus was found.

Yes, that’s quite a bit of speculation.

What is not speculation is that this young man grew to make a lasting contribution to the kingdom in service with Paul and as author of this Gospel.  It was not a smooth path from the sometimes foolish and rash acts of a young man to that of mature and useful ministry.

This should remind the older to be patient with the younger, for the younger to be patient with themselves, and for all of us to know that our past does not have to define our future.  We’re forever indebted to the work of a formally immature and impetuous young disciple.

–David Deffenbaugh

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July 28 Bible Reading: Catch Up Day

Today is the regularly scheduled “Catch Up” day for the fourth week of July.  If needed use it to go back and cover some readings where you may have fallen behind—it happens.  Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration from this week’s readings.

1. Mark leaves no question about where he is headed with this Gospel.  Though the climax is reached at Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Christ in 8:29, he begins by stating that He is the  Christ, the Son of God (1:1).  With that fact boldly stated, he sets out to establish that truth through the presentation of teaching, miracles, and other events of Jesus’ ministry.  Compare this approach to John’s who at the end of his Gospel says, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

2. Mark gives great emphasis to the last week of Jesus’ life as evidenced by the fact that six of the sixteen chapters of this book are devoted to this one week of Jesus’ three-year ministry.

3. There appears to be a special bond between Mark, the author, and Peter.  Peter refers to Mark as “my son” (1 Pet. 5:13).  Many believe that Mark relied heavily on Peter as a source while writing his Gospel.  One early church writer even referred to the Gospel of Mark as the “memoirs of Peter.”

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Praise of Men

Devotional text: Mark 11:9

Jesus knew His final trip to Jerusalem would fill with conflicting emotions of praise and hatred, and would finally, not end well.  He’d been warning them about His rejection and death and saying it “plainly” (Mark 8:31-32).

That must have been the furthest thought from their minds as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt saddled with loving disciple’s garments and the way strewn with more garments and leafy branches.  Voices shouted praise, using terminology understood to apply only to God’s promised Messiah, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9).

What was said and done to and for Jesus as He entered Jerusalem was wholly appropriate.  About no one else could these things be said.  Yet He was also aware of the animosity already present and to be further stirred as the next few days unfolded.  Sure enough, the authorities were seeking for ways to arrest Him and destroy Him (11:18; 12:12).

The crowds showered Him with praise during His “Triumphal Entry.”   Crowds would also shout—less than a week later—“Crucify Him” (15:13-14).  No wonder Jesus put such little stock in men’s praise.

So why do we clamor for it?  Why do we choose what we say, how we act, what we do, how we think, what we wear, what we drive, and so on just to gain the approval of men?

Jesus had only one agenda: please God and do His will.  Period.

How different would my life be if mine were the same?

–David Deffenbaugh

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