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“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.  So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!” Mark 13:28-29

The other day I was driving to the home of a friend whom I had not gone to see for more than ten years and before that visit I had not been to their home for about the same length of time. But here’s the thing, at one time, during my early to mid twenties, I had traveled that route frequently. So I was very familiar with the route.

At first, as I made the once familiar trip, everything was as I remembered it but about half way through the drive my memory of the way began to be less specific and I began to feel that I must have missed my turn. But then I saw a familiar name on a road sign and my confidence returned.

As I got to a point where I knew I was nearly to my destination nothing looked familiar and it wasn’t because I was having a hard time remembering my friends neighborhood. It was because my friends neighborhood had completely changed. Where there had once been houses or fields there were strip malls and new high end housing developments. But I knew that I was one the right street all I needed was to remember what my friends house looked like. And suddenly there it was. The confusion was over. I was home.

Friends, when it comes to charting our course through life as we make our journey toward heaven it’s easy to be confused. We don’t have the advantage of a personal experience with the road ahead but we do have some very good descriptions of some of the landmarks we’ll encounter along the way.

What kept me from getting lost on my way to my friends home was knowing the landmarks. What will keep us confident on this often confusing road to heaven is growing our knowledge of the land marks as they’re described by Jesus in the scriptures. Study Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Study the books of Daniel and Revelation.

Chances are the life’s road will look different than you thought it would look. But the more familiar you are with the route Jesus has described the more confident you’ll be that you’re on the right track.

“And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.” Mark 13:10

One stereotype about men that’s commonly portrayed with comical results is the one where we don’t read instructions. You’ve seen the advertisements of the guy putting together the swing set, or the Christmas special of the father putting together the bicycle. A complete disaster.

The truth is, for some things to turn out right, certain things have to happen in a certain order. The only way to know what those things are requires that you understand the project and the only way to be certain that you understand the project is to either read or be told the instructions.

God, as he, according to his wisdom and sovereignty, works out his plan for the saving of the world from sin, moves his plan forward in an orderly way. In the salvation of each individual there are specific types of actions and processes that happen and they follow a predicable order. And when it comes to the global events, progressing toward the climax of the second coming of Christ, there is in the midst of the chaos a divinely appointed order. And one of those points of order is that before the final persecution of God’s people they will preach the gospel to all the nations of the world.

This is essential to God’s plan. After all, it’s called The Plan of Salvation, and the Gospel is the essential, informational component that tells us how we can individually receive the salvation God is providing.

So many times we get distracted by all the terrible things prophecy says that sinful men will do to the God fearing. But God didn’t tells us about them because he wants us to focus on them. God’s purpose in telling us about the great trials ahead was so that we won’t be distracted by them and in our fear and discouragement lose heart and lose our focus in being the proclaimers of the Gospel he’s appointed us to be.

When Jesus came as Savior to this world he knew how is earthly ministry would end; yet, with joy he faced each day and focused on the work God had given him for that day and let the Father take care of ordering the trials that would come. We need to pray for a heart like Jesus’. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us put first things first as we each do our part in preparing for Christ’s return.

“But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” Mark 13:7-8

The world is full of trouble and strife. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that. You’ve got the everyday, one on one, person to person trouble that all of us are familiar with and from that we progress through every imaginable horror till we get to full blown international engagements. Some would say that in the face of all this trouble Jesus was a bit crazy to say, “do not be troubled.”

But Jesus wasn’t telling his disciples to be untroubled by the strife in the world. Rather, he was telling them to not become anxious that these troubles were heralding the fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy. Troubles and trials of the type Jesus was talking about are going to be commonly present in this sinful world as long as this sinful world exists. They’re more reminders of where we are than they’re prophetic markers of when we are.

Now to another important question. Should Christians be troubled by the trouble and strife going on in the world?

I believe that even a comparatively casual study of scripture tells us that God would have us to be deeply troubled by what goes on in the world. Not that he would have us live in fear. Christians should possess such a trust in the protecting, providing hand of God that they would have a profound sense of peace as they face this chaotic world. However, the state of pain and suffering in this world should drive anyone who names themselves with the name of Christ to their knees seeking for God’s will in what they should do. And then they should be driven into the streets to actually do something to make right the wrong and bring healing to wounds.

Not one of us should be looking around asking what we should be doing. Disaster, crime, disfunction and injustice are everywhere. Let’s do what we can to be agents to, where possible, change hearts and minds, and when strife leaves it’s painful mark, to comfort and mend the hearts, bodies, and communities that have been broken.

“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6

It seems incredible to me that anyone would believe a charlatan claiming to be Christ. Yet in just the short years of my lifetime there have been at least three or four people who have been able to gain a following by claiming that they were some kind of reincarnation of the messiah.

Jesus and his disciples were concerned about our vulnerability to this kind of deception. That’s why he took the time to warn his disciples and they took the time to include the warning when they wrote about his life and teachings.

So why do people find the claims of these false messiahs credible?

I believe the reason lies in the spiritual and biblical ignorance of many who claim to know God. God wants us to know him but we can’t get to know him on our own. So God himself gave us the Bible and he gave us the Holy Spirit. Through the study of the scriptures and the teaching of the Holy Spirit combined with our own personal experience in living a life connected with Christ we can come to know and understand God.

But people don’t study for themselves and many are quick to believe when others come teaching and preaching. It doesn’t even enter their minds that this person is intent on deception or that the person might be the victim of deception themselves. And failing to prayerfully study for themselves they are vulnerable to victimization.

Our only protection against this kind of deception is to become personally knowledgeable with God and his word. Daily spend time in prayer pursuing a direct personal connection with God till you, like Abraham of old, recognize the voice of God speaking to your heart. Daily spend time studying God’s word till scripture becomes a light to the path of your life and a sword to fight back the deceiver when he comes to tempt you.

A personal knowledge and a personal relationship with God through his Spirit and his word is the help we need. Christ has given us both. Let’s not neglect the great salvation heaven has provided.

“Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ ” Mark 13:1-2

A number of years ago I, together with two pastor friends, had the opportunity to spend a few days site seeing in Rome, Italy. There are scores of possible places for a tourist to go and it would take weeks to take them all in; so we had to be selective in our choices. One of the places we chose to go to was the Roman Pantheon.

This is a marvelous old building, constructed between 111 and 128 AD. There are many things I could comment on regarding the architecture and artistry of the building but the the thing I found most interesting was that this is the oldest building still standing and in active use in the city of Rome. This longevity can be attributed to the fact that in 609 AD, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church. Because it was a church in active use it was preserved rather than being abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.

Throughout the world there are very few structures, still standing intact, as old as the pantheon and even fewer that are older. Many men have sought to leave their mark on the world through the monuments they’ve built but generally their actions and investments have been efforts of futility.

Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of Herod’s temple was fulfilled just thirty years after he made the pronouncement. Many of those that heard him say the words were still living. How they must have marveled at the totality of their fulfillment.

The secret of the Pantheon’s longevity was its conversion from a pagan temple to a church for the worship of Christ. The scriptures tell is that one day everyone and everything on this earth will be cast down. Only those whose hearts have been converted to worship and serve Jesus and only Jesus will remain. Christ promises he will accept everyone that comes to him. He will heal us, he will restore us, he will sustain us for eternity.

“Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:43-44

It’s easy to honor a rich person. There’s something instinctual about it. We see the quality of the clothing they wear. We here the way they talk with the characteristic combination of education and self assurance. We see the reactions of those that know them and we just can’t help ourselves. Even if we don’t really like them we have to treat them with respect and consideration.

But with the poor it’s different. There’s within virtually all of us an internal governing attitude that tells us that it’s understandable, even acceptable, to treat the poor with carelessness and disrespect. It’s as if we believe that because someone has less that they must be worth less.

Jesus never extended any kind of preference toward the wealthy. Neither do I believe that he treated them with disrespect. Rich and poor were of equal worth to him.

Jesus also had the ability to look beyond the external facts and see the true magnitude of the spiritual realities. That’s why he was unimpressed by the large offerings of the wealthy. They could come to the temple and give as much as one person would make in a year and then go home and sit down to a feast. Their gift had been no sacrifice at all.

But when the widow came, this was different situation for “she out of her poverty put in all that she had.” Her gift had been of such a magnitude that she would be compelled to fast, perhaps for days, till she had the means to afford to eat again.

Friends, only God can look on the heart. We can only make assumptions based on what we see on the outside. For this reason we need to be like Christ who treated everyone as the honored and loved child of God they are. It’s not about treating anyone as less. It’s about extending carefulness and respect to everyone.

“Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ ” Mark 12:34

A scribe has just asked Jesus which commandment is the greatest. Jesus answered him by saying that to love God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest and that to love your neighbor as yourself is the second.

To this answer the scribe responds, “Well said…”. And then, after basically repeating what Jesus said, adds that obeying these commands is better than all whole burnt offerings.

So Jesus, seeing that the man had responded to him wisely, answered by telling the scribe that he was “not far from the kingdom of God.”

But one may ask, “Why is he only not far from the kingdom? With an answer like that why isn’t he already in the kingdom?”

The answer to that question is this simple. The kingdom of God isn’t found in answers to questions. He kingdom of God is found in the obedient actions of the lives we live. Knowing what to do and say will only ever get you “not far from the kingdom of God.”

To get into the kingdom of God you have to actually love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. And you can’t do either of these on your own. The sinful heart simply won’t cooperate. Fortunately God doesn’t wait for you to love him for him to start loving and helping you. When it comes to obeying the greatest and second greatest commandments you have to reach out to God for help. And the good news is that if you ask for help God will always answer yes.

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?’ ” Mark 12:24

It’s a common reason presented as an excuse when we make mistakes, “I didn’t know.”

Sometimes we don’t know because we weren’t told. Sometimes we were told but we weren’t paying attention or the person who told us wasn’t paying close enough attention to ensure that we were aware that communication was being attempted. Sometimes we were told, and we heard but then we misunderstood what we were told so the effect was the same as if we’d never been told.

I could go on citing scenarios but I think you probably get what I’m saying; there are a lot of ways that a person can “not know” something.

In our focus text Jesus makes it’s very clear that the opportunity to know was available to the Sadducees. They had the scriptures and the power of God was continually present in their lives.

In the case of knowing scripture; it wasn’t that they weren’t studying it. The problem was that they were substituting their own meaning for the meaning God had intended. This is so easy to do if we’re not careful, when we study, to see all that God is saying and only what God saying. A good way to ensure that this happens is to clearly define what we think a passage of scripture means and then to ask ourselves: “Does the wording of this passage really support what I think?” and “Is my understanding of this passage too limited?”

But scripture wasn’t the only thing of which the Sadducees were ignorant. Jesus said they were also ignorant of the power of God.

Friends, everyday day is filled with needs and everyday God is present in your life to help you deal with those needs. Our Heavenly Father is active and available for you to reach out to and know intimately. In your own life you can know the power of God. God wants you to know him so well that to deny him and his power is to deny not just the truth of his word but also the reality of your own life experience.

Let’s not continue to do what the Sadducees were doing. Let’s study our Bibles and take advantage of every opportunity to experience the power of God.

“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at Him.” Mark 12:17

A while back a I was talking to one of my friends about the economy and how difficult it was for people to get and keep jobs. My friend was talking about how his grandfather and his father and uncles had worked for decades for the same companies but today workers change their jobs every few years and employers at times let hundreds or even thousands of employees go so they can maintain profit margins for investors and pay for bonuses for executives.

As our conversation continued, observed that what had changed was the mutual sense of responsibility and obligation that existed between employer and employees. In the past it seemed that employers understood that they had created, and encouraged the continuation of, a situation where workers and their families were dependent on them. These employers, and the corporations they ran, seem to understand that this dependent relationship they had created obligated them to maintain the stability of that situation over the long term. Employees also understood that to a lesser degree their employer was dependent upon them to be stable, productive workers and this obligated them to be stable, loyal employees.

I understand that in many ways working situations in the past were far from perfect These imperfections, however, don’t negate my point that because both employees and employers understood that they were both obligated and benefited by the arrangement it was able to persisted for decades.

Today people don’t have the same sense of obligation and this is part of the reason why the economy is the way it is.

Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” I believe that Jesus is here telling us to fulfill our obligations. Some of those are to God, some are to national leaders, some to employers, some to employees, and some are to family, friends and church.

We’ve all agreed to situations where people have trusted us enough to become dependent upon us. Let’s not betray that trust.

“Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark 12:10-11

My older brother was a carpenter for many years. He usually didn’t talk about the skills of his fellow workers. I believe that in general he thought that it was unprofessional to talk critically of someone else’s skills with anyone but but that person. One day, though he made an exception. I don’t know if it was because he thought it was funny and ought to be shared or if he was just so frustrated he needed to vent. He told about how he was working with another man, a relatively new worker, and they were correcting the line of a section of wall that as not set straight up and down. They couldn’t remove and rebuild the wall so they were cutting and attaching to each stud long sections of wood to correct the pitch of the wall.

My brother was measuring and cutting the pieces and the new guy was fastening them in place.

After a few pieces the new guy said that something was wrong. The pieces weren’t correcting the wall. My brother checked and it turned out the the new guy was fastening all the pieces on upside down. He thought that the piece were wrong because he hadn’t been able to see them right.

That’s what was happening to the Jewish leaders. They didn’t recognize Jesus because they couldn’t or wouldn’t see him right.

Sometimes we’re the same way when it comes to the truth of scripture. There’s so much for us to learn and we have so many blind spots and misconceptions that often when we see the truth we just don’t see it right. That’s why we need to keep coming back and taking another look. That’s why we need to listen when other people share what they’ve learned. Sometimes we’ll learn something new and sometimes what we learn will correct a misunderstanding we’ve had. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn that we were looking at something upside down.

“But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘this is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ ” Mark 12:7

Our focus text is not the first passage in which Jesus prophecies his death. Three times he’s already warned his disciples of his coming passion but this time is different in that the revelation is made not to his followers but to his enemies.

And the Jewish leaders clearly understand Jesus’ meaning and their response is to renew their efforts as they plan to take the life of Jesus.

This prophecy doesn’t merely reveal the homicidal intentions of the rabbis it also reveals their motivations.

“Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” These words spoken by the villainous vinedressers in the parable tell us that mere monetary gain is not the aim of the leadership. They want the inheritance of the Son of God.

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah ascribe a similar motivation to Lucifer when he waged his war against Son of God in heaven. The Genesis account of the fall of Adam and Eve records that Eve was deceived into adopting similar motivations for her disobedience, for her desire was to become like God.

Here in is the ultimate goal of every person that chooses a life of sin over submission to the claims of our Savior. We may deceive ourselves, as many do in this present age, that we’re just doing what we want to do and we don’t want to take anything from anyone else. Live and let live. But this is a lie. It may only be a lie you’re repeating. It may be a lie you sincerely believe. But it is still a lie. Sin is warfare against everything God is. It’s dark; he’s light. It’s life; he’s death. It’s slavery; he’s freedom.

In telling the parable Jesus warns his enemies, one more time, away from the path of destruction they’re following. Jesus would warn us all away from destruction. His desire is that we would live and not die.

“And they said to Him, ‘By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?’ ” Mark 11:28

For three years the scribes and pharisees had followed Jesus, provoking and testing him, striving to find a way to get the better of him in theological debate and through this diminish his standing before the people. At every turn, and in every scheme, Jesus had demonstrated that he was filled with the Spirit of God. In addition to this his teaching had been accompanied by a multitude of powerful miracles.

Through the majority of his public ministry Christ had tried to keep his identity as the incarnate Son of God a secret knowing that this claim could be used by his enemies against him. So in humility he went about his work, making no claim for honors, striving only to serve the suffering, down trodden sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.

But while his lips made no proclamation regarding his deity his actions fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the Messiah and broadcast his true identity.

Seeing this the Jewish leaders sought a different strategy. If they could just get him to admit that truth he had been so reticent to acknowledge they could then denounce him. So they come to him questioning his authority believing that in doing so they will have trapped him.

But Jesus turns the tables by asking them to admit truth regarding John the Baptist that they had avoided acknowledging while he was alive. There was no way that they could answer his question and retain their dignity. Once again they were beaten.

How many times our pride gets us in trouble. It was only because Jesus had no sinful pride that he was able to time and time again meet temptation victoriously. Too often we fall because in a hasty attempt to defend our honor, or even God’s honor, we rush ahead of the Holy Spirit.

Christ was not in his life, and I believe he is not now, concerned with defending his honor. His only concern is saving his lost and dying children. And in the end, it’s his refusal to defend his honor so that he can save our souls that will earn for him even greater honor and praise.

If we will follow his leading… If we will walk in his foot steps…we will share in his glory as we cast our crowns at his feet.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:26-26

To the Jewish people, at the time of Christ, there were very few things more important than worship. This fact is exemplified by their attitudes toward the temple, the sabbath, and the presence of synagogues throughout the Jewish world.

The Jewish people were immensely proud of the grandeur and beauty of the temple complex and considered any word spoken against the temple as much an act of blasphemy as words spoken against God. Devout people living within a sabbath days journey of the temple would unfailingly make their way to the temple each sabbath. Many would go to the temple daily to pray and listen to the instruction of learned rabbis.

The sabbath was meticulously kept by the faithful with more than one hundred rules being stipulated regarding proper sabbath observance.

Because most of the Jewish people lived too far from the temple to attend each sabbath, and because instruction in God’s word was deemed necessary to discourage apostasy, synagogues were built to provide places for instruction, worship and prayer.

Unfortunately, devoutness to worship and pray don’t always lead to faithfulness in other equally important areas of life.

Worship and prayer are activities we do to deepen and grow our relationship with God both as individuals and as communities. And while we may be faithful in our observance of our devotions to God we can at times be negligent of those actions we need to do to maintain and grow our relationships with our fellow men.

Our focus text makes it clear that God considers our relationships with each other to be as important as our relationship with him. What other conclusion can we draw from the words, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

“Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Mark 11:22-23

Giving a child everything it wants and asks for is never good for the child, unless you by chance have a child that is of such a timid nature that it rarely, if ever, asks for anything. It’s been my observation that most children will, if encouraged, ask for far more than they need or even ought to have. If the child’s desires and requests are indulged they then develop expectations that people will always indulge them when they want something. What’s more, they will often develop the attitude that they, somehow, deserve everything they’re lavished with. The danger of this attitude becomes acute when they see that some of their peers are not as well provided for as they are and this leads to the conclusion that they are somehow better than they poorer peers.

It’s far better for a child to learn through denial that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that sometimes the hand of providence doesn’t provide all that we might want or think we need. This tunes expectations towards reality and strengthens the endurance of the moral fiber of the character.

Our Heavenly Father knows this. It was no accident that Jesus was born into a poor carpenters family. Mary and Joseph, and the circumstances of their household were chosen because they would encourage and ensure the development of a pure, godly character in our Savior.

There are some that would interpret our focus text, and others passages of a similar message, to make a lie of the truths I’ve just written. They would use them to teach that it’s God’s will that we should have every good thing and if we would just exercise faith wealth and prosperity would be ours.

But to say this is to misunderstand what faith is. Faith is knowledge that leads to action. And in the case of the things we ask for we need a knowledge of God’s will for us. Only when we know what God knows and our hearts are tuned to accept that and only that are we ready to ask in faith. And only then will we receive all that we ask for.

“Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Mark 11:17

Two times, the gospels record, Jesus cleared the money changers and sacrifice sellers from the temple. History records that only during a period of three or four years, coinciding with the ministry of Jesus, did the Jewish leadership permit the forming of a market place within the temple complex. Ordinarily this market was conducted on the hillside not far from the temple but it appears that the high priest and some others had found a way to increase their share of the profits by allowing the sellers to do their business in the temple itself.

But almost more significant to our understanding of Jesus rebuke is precisely where the market was located within the temple.

Herod’s temple had three courts for three categories of worshippers: the court of the men, for the Jewish men; the court of the women, for the Jewish women and children; and the court of the gentiles, for the non-Jewish worshippers.

When the market was brought into the temple the leaders, of course, did not put it in the court of the men or the court of the women. Oh no. It was put in the court of the gentiles making it impossible for those who knew the least about God and his ways to worship, pray, or learn about him.

Knowing this context the rebuke, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” carries a specific weight.

The houses of worship we dedicate to God ought to be places where all people will find a welcome and an encouragement to join in worship. Regardless of their place of birth. Regardless of the path their lives have traced prior to the day they enter the churches doors. Regardless of the clothes, or any other adornments, they wear, God’s house is the place where when they come they will find acceptance, welcome, and fellowship. It’s not for us for personal gain, or personal preference to rob them of the welcome God would give them.

“And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” Mark 11:13

Falsely raising expectations is one of the things con men do when they’re preparing their target for a fleecing. Whether it’s done face to face, over the phone, or through a phishing attack via email or the internet, it all begins with some kind of presentation the goal of which is to get you to think that you can trust them and that they will provide you with some service or product you desire or need.

These swindlers are, like the fig tree Jesus went to looking for figs, falsely advertising that they have something to offer when, in fact, they’re not worth the time it takes to cross the road.

It’s true that one can’t accuse a fig tree of having false intentions. As far as we can tell trees have no conscious thought processes. However, intentional or not, for a fig tree to produce leaves prior to the bearing of figs is to reverse the normal pattern of fig trees. Usually fig trees produce their fruit and then, when the fruit is ready, they produce their leaves.

One of the problems many people have with Christians is hypocrisy. This is basically the raising of expectations regarding character and conduct and then not fulfilling those expectations.

One of the ways Seventh-day Adventist christians raise these expectations is by our faithfulness in fulfilling the legal requirements set forth in scripture. Our faithfulness and obedience in keeping the sabbath, paying tithe, and matters of diet cause people to look to us to fulfill other expectations as well. Where their expectations are most often disappointed is when they look for a Christlike tenderness, attentiveness, and lovingkindness. Far to often, instead of these they find callousness, distractedness, and indifference.

Galatians 5:22-23 says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. If Jesus is living in our lives, through the Spirit, then people, approaching the tree of our lives, ought to be able to find this fruit in us.

“And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ ” Mark 11:8-10

There Jesus is. Riding on the colt of a donkey, led by one of the disciples through the streets of Jerusalem, in fulfillment of prophecy and the traditional entrance of royalty. It’s clear that the people immediately recognized what was going on because shortly after Jesus was seated on the back of the donkey the shout was raised and the people began to throng to give him praise and honor.

Never before had Jesus permitted this kind of display. He was deserving of this and more but it was not his purpose in coming to earth to receive honor and glory but to in humility take upon himself the pain of the penalty of sinful man.

So why this one significant departure from the consistent pattern to avoid display? Perhaps it was to draw from the people an acknowledgement of who he really was so that the full significance of what he would do, and what they would do to him, could be appreciated.

In the days to come one thing becomes clear, of those that spread their garments and laid out palm branches before him, of those that jubilantly shouted out his praises, few if any really knew why they were honoring the one they were giving a kings entrance.

Many times we’re like that crowd. Frequently we go through the motions of worship. Sometimes we’re even enthusiastic as we sing our praises to Jesus but do we really understand what he has done and what he is now doing for us? I fear that we do not. For if we did why then is it so easy for us to leave the house of worship and praise and forget his holy sabbath day and treat with so little care those whom he has created in his image?

We, like the people that day are too commonly mindless in our praise. We need to come to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us so that we can be mindful and worship Jesus from our hearts and not just our lips.

“And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” Mark 11:3

As a child I don’t think I ever worried about anything.

It never entered my mind to worry about what I was going to eat. I trusted that my parents, and the people into whose care they at times entrusted me, would take care of that need. And since that expectation was never disappointed I never learned to worry about it.

I never worried about clothing either. In fact it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really enough cared about my clothes at all. What ever my parents gave me was fine.

Housing, transportation, education, safety, all of these things fall into the same bucket because there was never a need to worry about them. Of course, as time passed, and l entered into my high school and later my college years, I did have experiences that did taught me how to worry. Usually these experiences involved the execution of some project in which resources were required that were out of my normal ability to supply. As a husband, father, and pastor I’ve added to these adolescent experiences because there are always projects and needs that are, on the surface, outside of the normal supply line and it’s easy to worry about how those needs will be supplied.

The experience of the disciples, in our focus text, is an example to us that Jesus has provided for all our needs and some of that provision comes to us in ways outside the usual. If we’re doing what Jesus has told us to do we need to trust that he has provided. And when we come to those times when it seems that Jesus may have forgotten part of what is needed we need to be alert and listen because the Holy Spirit may point us in a direction we don’t usually take.

If the disciples could requisition a donkey colt from strangers with the words, “The Lord has need of it.” what’s stopping us from claiming what ever other blessing God may wish to supply?

“Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.’ ” Mark 10:48-49

Mark calls the blind man, Bartimaeus, and he emphasizes that the man is the son of Timaeus. And that’s what Bartimaeus means; the son of Timaeus. Given this emphasis it’s entirely possible that we don’t actually know the blind man’s given name. It’s even possible that he wasn’t really ever given a name. People just called him the son of Timaeus.

Considering that he was a man that had been born blind and given the prevailing attitudes of people toward those who had been born blind, or deaf, or crippled, it’s understandable that, perhaps, his parents had decided to not make the investment of giving a name to him. Why give a name to someone who will always be just a blind nobody?

If you think about it, all of us, in the grand scheme of things, are really know better than blind nobodies. How much do we really see? How much do we really know? How significant are the things we accomplish in the short span of years or lives occupy? In a hundred years who will know our names?

But when you think about Jesus you realize that all of the questions I’ve just recorded are of even less significance. Jesus doesn’t grant his attention to us because of how important we are or because historians will remember our names; Jesus turns his ear to hear our cry and his eyes to see our needs because he loves us.

Cry out to Jesus. With persistence, cry out to Jesus.

Just as surely as Bartimaeus heard the words you’ll hear them, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”

“Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ ” Mark 10:42-45

“If I don’t look out for myself then who will?”

This question, or one of similar import, has been frequently asked by people over the ages. Usually it’s accompanied by the questioners efforts to secure happiness and prosperity for oneself and the cooperation of others to the same end. Some have been able to command this cooperation while others have had to negotiate or in some manner purchase it. Since most people have considered the accumulation of possessions and money necessary for securing happiness the preferred means of getting it has been to command it rather than purchase it.

The disciples, like most of us, if we’re honest with our selves, we’re of this prevailing attitude and believed that when Jesus ascended to his throne they would be elevated with him and they would be able to command their share of followers as they secured their happiness.

But where does happiness come from? Does it come from the accumulation of things?

If you look at the rates of suicide you’ll find that the highest rates of occurrence is among the wealthy and privileged. Countries where poverty is more the norm than the exception have very little incidence of suicide.

The reason why possessions don’t bring happiness is because God hasn’t made our hearts to need them. Our hearts were created to need God and the fellowship of those that God has created.

It’s the sin in our hearts that causes us to try and substitute a relationship with things for a relationship with God. And since sin only brings us death and destruction the pursuit of the accumulation things can never bring us true and lasting happiness.

But building relationships by serving God and others can and will bring joy into the heart.