Notes On Mark’s Gospel (131)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Crucify Him! (Chapter 15 Verses 1-15)

The request for Barabbas to be released is probably the instrument used to incite the crowd (v11). Not a hard thing to do really. I mean people are so much like sheep, are they not (Isaiah 53.6)? But Christians do not follow the crowd they follow Jesus, or they forfeit the right to be called Christian. The baying of the crowd begs Pilate’s question (v12), what to do with Jesus? Did he underestimate the power of this religious lobby? Did he depend on some remnant of morality among the people to overturn the schemes of the Sanhedrin? But the people are given a choice. Jesus is placed alongside a known and common criminal, a murderer, which one will they choose? I guess that is the choice facing so many people today when the gospel is preached, whom will they serve, Jesus the life-giver (John 14.6), or Satan the life-taker (John 8.44)? The people answer with one accord, “crucify him” (v13). This is the same folk who welcomed Jesus just a short time ago into Jerusalem, with adulation and praise (Mark 11.1-11). This the crowd of people who gloried in his miracles, his raising Lazarus from the dead just a very short time ago (John 11.1ff). Who raised their hands and sang praise the Lord! But now they want his blood. Do you see the fickleness that is part of man’s depravity? I mean what other description could you use of fallen humankind? Dead, says the Bible (Romans 5.12). Bound in sin’s nature (2Timothy 2.25-26). Blind and deaf (Mark 4.11-12). Unteachable to a man and woman (1Corinthians 2.14). Naturally sinful from the mother’s womb (Psalm 51.5). Naturally sinful by practice (Genesis 6.5). I mean can he really save himself (Job 14.4; Jeremiah 13.23). Surely our race is helpless, hopeless and lost, unless someone greater, mightier than ourselves does something to help (Ephesians 2.1-8)?

Pilate’s words are lost in the wind of the people’s incited hatred (v14). Mob rule carries the day, “crucify him”. They catch the vibrations of Pilate’s indecisiveness, and drive him all the more, they are in control and they know it. One word of authoritative military command would have turned the situation round, brought it under control. But Pilate has no such moral courage (Matthew 27.24-25). Mark sums up the whole situation (v15). The Lord of glory is whipped and mocked, given over to the soldiers to be crucified. The people, the church, the state, Pilate, have made their choice. Have you made yours? About Jesus, I mean. What will you do with him?

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (45)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

More of His Fullness (Chapter 8 Verses 1-17)

The life we live is now dictated and energised by the Holy Spirit (v4). A dependence upon him. We are speaking here of a conduct of life that is governed by a relationship, that is of God, in the person of his Holy Spirit, now living within us, just as the Lord Jesus promised us (John 14.20), over and over again he has said it (John 14.16; v26; John 15.26; John 16.7). Now note in that last reference that the Holy Spirit is referred to as it and not him in the King James Version. This is very unfortunate, and not a good translation at this particular point. It, in fact, is bad theology, very bad theology. The Holy Spirit is personal, he is God, living in, and empowering the Christian believer to live this new-given life. Now how do we live this life, through belief in a right system of doctrine? Go to Church? Learn Bible verses? Obey certain rules? Pray? The short answer is, no. These are good things, proper in there place, even needful. But, to live a life pleasing to God, is accomplished by maintaining a right relationship with him, how? The same way you started, by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2.8-10). A right system of doctrine, going to Church, and so on never got you right with God in the first place, it was  pure grace, through faith (Ephesians 2.8-10), not works. That grace brought us into a relationship with God himself so continue as you begun, with relationship, not with works.

     The Holy Spirit’s intimate presence with us, guarantees his counsel (John 14.6), instruction that is, how to live, daily guidance from within, help, strength and comfort. As Jesus is our advocate above (1John 2.1), the Holy Spirit is our advocate within. There lies the vast difference between us and the Old Testament believers, Jesus brings us into a new dimension in terms of intimate relationship, the presence of God fully with us (2Corinthians 3.3, vv7-8). Now are you living in that relationship? You can read the Bible, say prayers, go to Church, all that and more, and yet the answer can be a definite no. Are you filled, and being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5.18)? Are you “walking the Spirit” (Galatians 5.25)? Are you living according to the Spirit (v4)? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, speaking of those who adamantly professed to have all of the Spirit, said, “If you have got it all, why are you so unlike New Testament Christians”? There is of course a sense in which that could be misleading. The Holy Spirit is a Person as we have already said, so if you have him, you have him, all of him, you cannot have half, or quarter of a person, you either have the person in his entirety or not at all. It is because we have this mentality of seeing ourselves as jugs that need topping up now and then. Look at the whole verse in Ephesians, the person filled with the Holy Spirit is likened to the person who is under the influence of wine, drunk that is. Except that the Christian, who is Spirit-filled, is under another influence, that of the Holy Spirit, and the more filled, the more he or she is controlled by him. Now none of us have the amount of influence of God’s Spirit that we should. We need to be initially sealed with the Spirit (Ephesians 1.13) and then to go on being filled (John 7.37). Does Paul’s wish for the Ephesians that they may know the fullness of the Spirit (Ephesians 3.19b), suggest that perhaps some them did not know that fullness? Do any of us? Do you or I?

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (130)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Justice? (Chapter 15 Verse 1-15)

The Gentiles now take over (v1; Mark 10.33), because only the Roman government can pass the death sentence which is the only consequence the Sanhedrin will countenance. Mark’s report is concise, brief even, for the fullness turn to John’s account (John 18.20-37). When Pilate questions Jesus about a kingship (v2), he is thinking politically of course, but Jesus makes it clear to him exactly what kind of a king he was (John 18.37). But why does Pilate subject Jesus to all this accusation yet again (vv3-4), when he himself had already found Jesus to be not guilty? Does not his, the Governor’s decision stand? Has he not got the bottle to stand on his own decision? The short answer is no. And a lengthier explanation causes us to understand the man’s cowardice, he is shifting his responsibilities which will enable him eventually, supposedly, to wash his hands of the death of Jesus (Matthew 27.24). But why is Pilate so amazed (v5), by Jesus’ silence? Because he knows this is no ordinary prisoner, this man Jesus is displaying no ordinary patience. This man is more than willing to suffer, even though it is unjust, Pilate knows the Jews only too well (v10), in vain he searches for an escape route (vv6-10).

Here are these Jews who hated the Romans, despised paying taxes to them, and here they are just using the Roman justice system for their own ends. Pilate knows only too well they are nothing but hypocrites. He knows Jesus is no rebel, and what he ought to do. God hates this injustice, it is a blot on his name and character when found in his own people (Deuteronomy 32.4; Isaiah 61.8). As a Christian learn from this whole fiasco, that God is a lover of righteousness, and that should be reflected in the Church’s life (Isaiah 5.16). That God is righteous means he is faithful, kind, merciful and loving, he is unshakeable in his covenant loyalty, his commitment to his people. But where is there even an hint of that here? Even if Jesus were guilty of the stated crimes, justice, righteousness should still be obviously fulfilled. But you see how far removed from God, and his righteousness these Jews have drifted (Hebrews 2.1). We need to be aware of our responsibility on the basis of a common created humanity (Proverbs 14.31), and even more so as his redeemed, to be a showcase of God’s righteousness. That is reflected in the way we treat everyone. You are accountable for your every vote (Genesis 4.9).

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (44)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

He Loved Me (Chapter 8 Verses 1-17)

The law in its impotence could never have given us such freedom (v3). It is passive, it has no power, no life in it, how could it have? Impossible! O yes it could produce death (v2b), but not life, only God can produce life, no other. The law can stir up our sinful nature (Romans 7.7b), giving power to sin (Romans 7.9), but no free, happy God-ward obedience. So what did God do? Something “without (apart from) the law” (Romans 3.21), in the fulfilment of his gracious covenant faithfulness he sent Jesus Christ, his Son (John 1.14), to write the law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31.33), in order that he should be our God, and we should be his people, demonstrated in our fulfilling his revealed will. In other words the gospel did what the law could never do. If ever you get to thinking God the Father does not love you, turn back to this verse. For it is he, we are told here, who devised this stupendous plan to effect your salvation, by placing the task in the hands of his own Son. Sending him whom he loves beyond anything we can comprehend and sending him to die for us who were rebels and God-haters, out of a heart of pure, sovereign love for us (Romans 5.6-8). O yes make no mistake about it Christian, he loves you (John 3.16). Do not, never, ever doubt it.

God did it by his Son (v3) that is by placing our condemnation (v1), upon him;

“Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood;
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! What a Saviour! (P. Bliss)

God made his Son sin for us (2Corinthians 5.21), he made him a curse for us (Galatians 3.13), thus granting us freedom (v1). It is this gospel that brings the transforming power into peoples lives (Romans 1.16), changing the human heart, providing us with a role-model for our new life, Jesus himself (Romans 8.29). Jesus is God, and in the dress of humanity he continued to behave like God, giving us a perfect model by which our lives now must be fashioned. The long-range forecast for your future is that God will succeed in bringing about his purpose in your life. He will not fail. He loved you, loves you, no matter what is going on now, he is one hundred per cent committed to you, and has been since eternity past. And guess what? He has not changed his mind since (Malachi 3.6; Hebrews 13.5).

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (129)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Cock-a-Doodle-Do (Chapter 14 Verses 66-72)

The account John gives us in his gospel indicates to us it was the young girl who physically let Peter into the courtyard, who actually exposed him (vv66-67). How did Peter feel as the young woman fixed her gaze upon him? And her accusing words, “you were with Jesus”. I think he probably felt the whole world was gazing at him, and no doubt many in that courtyard did turn their attention on him. Panic sets in immediately (v68). And the only way out Peter can find is to lie. With what great ease the devil is able to knock the proud, arrogant boasters off their feet. I mean this was not some great Roman centurion, or the high priest’s police force, it was a young maid. And with her simple question she is able to turn the courageous protester, who will most assuredly die for Jesus (Mark 14.31), into a crumbling shameless coward, cringing with lies and curses. Who claims that he not only does not know Jesus but does not even understand what she is talking about. What if he had stood firm and openly professed his faith? Would he have been safe? Probably! He startles at nothing (Leviticus 26.36). But then Jesus’ prophetic word had to be fulfilled (Mark 14.27-30).

The more Peter talks, the more he condemns himself, because they eventually catch his accent, he is a Galilean (v70), so he must be one of Jesus’ disciples. The fact that one of his accusers was a relative of Malchus (John 18.26), just adds to Peter’s terror, he is in deadly danger now. And so for the third time, with curses and oaths, Peter denies his Lord, and the cock crows again. Only one man in the whole courtyard heard that cock crowing, Peter! Luke adds the helpful information that Jesus looked at Peter, just at that moment (Luke 22.61). You add both together and they make up the means of bringing this fraught, sincere, but O so over-confident disciple of Jesus to the edge of a very deep repentance (v72b). He is a broken man. But it is the brokenness of contrition, which includes the realisation that he has fallen seriously, and attendant with genuine and deep sorrow for having done so. There are two vital lessons here for us, one, the prophecy of Jesus concerning Peter is fulfilled with deadly accuracy. Two, Peter a leading and great Apostle is able to fall heavily into sin, but finds repentance and restoration. To both his position as a disciple and preacher of God’s word. It points us again to the pardon, the forgiveness and gracious cleansing Jesus has purchased for us (1John 1.7).

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (43)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Life, Life and more Life (Chapter 8 Verses 1-17)

With “for” (v2 KJV), Paul now explains to us the behind-the-scenes operations which brought about our spiritual freedom. Now through Jesus Christ we live in the dynamic of another law, not that of sin and death which dehumanised, robbed us of all that life should be, but the law of the life in the Spirit. It began with our justification (v1), and its effect is that of new and unending life (v2), created by and sustained within us by God the Holy Spirit. The law of sin and death have been driven out, overthrown, they no longer have any power with us, because of the indestructible life of God within us (1John 4.4). A person can have a form of religion without having the Holy Spirit living in and empowering them, like having a motor car without an engine in it, no spark, no power, no life (2Timothy 3.5). Now the truth of the matter is, we either have the Spirit of life in us, or we do not, there is nothing in between (Matthew 12.30). If the Christian is free, the non-Christian is enslaved. If the Christian is justified, the non-Christian is condemned. If the Christian has life, the non-Christian is dead. If the Christian is reconciled to God, the non-Christian is alienated, an enemy. If the Christian is an heir to the glory of heaven, then the non-Christian is an heir to hell. You are either one or the other.

     It is to a life that God calls people through his Son Jesus, and because it is a life there must be the process of growth, a growing transformation (2Corinthians 3.18). There are different stages in that growth, there are difficulties, crises, all which work together for good (Romans 8.28), bringing about more and more development and conformity to the image of God’s Son, which is the final goal, our destination (Romans 8.29). This life needs to be fed, nourished, first with milk and then on to solids (1Corinthians 3.2; Hebrews 5.12-13; 1Peter 2.2). But even those who have been on the road as Christians a long time, are still growing (2Corinthians 3.18; Philippians 3.12-15; Colossians 1.10). It is a process which is completed only in heaven, there and then we shall be like Jesus (1John 3.2). That life begins with our profession of faith in Christ (Colossians 2.6), that is the foundation that we start to build the super-structure upon (Colossians 2.7) always going higher and higher, reaching for heaven, for perfection (Matthew 5.48; 1Corinthians 13.10). But it is all possible because of the life of the Spirit within us, the fullness of God filling us (Colossians 2.9-10). And the more you are yielded to him, the more life you have. It just gets better and better.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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