Above is an Armenian portrait of Mary greeting Elizabeth in Luke 1.
The following sermon is to be delivered at Grace Church of Philly on December 5, 2010:
The big themes of our text today are joy and humility.
The two sections of text that we will study together in Luke 1 reveal the hearts of women who were genuinely excited and amazed at the character and works of God.
In these texts, it is clear for all to see that there is joy expressed that is beyond compare and without parallel.
In these texts, it is also clear for all to see that there is a very deep humility present in the hearts of these women that colors their joy in a very unique and interesting way.
Thus, the themes of joy and humility are woven together in a literary tapestry that forms one of the most famous and magnificent texts of the New Testament.
Before we undergo a more detailed look at these verses, I believe it is critical to note that the humble rejoicing of these two women is not necessarily centered upon their own personal circumstances, but instead upon the person and works of the mighty, saving God of Israel.
Let us be very careful not to miss this fact. The joy of these two pious and devout women rested and centered in God Himself. They rejoiced as they reflected upon the character of their mighty, saving God.
Too often we find ourselves rejoicing in things that are related to God, but not God Himself. Read more »
Mark 10:17-22 – A Hard Answer to A Serious Question
by Dr. John Davis
What must I do to inherit eternal life? This is a legitimate and important question, which can be rephrased in many different ways. How can I be sure of life after death? How can I as a sinner be ready to meet a holy God? What relationship is there between what I do now and where I will spend eternity?
Matthew tells us this man is young and Luke tells us that he is a ruler. Each of the synoptic gospels informs us that he is rich. Does it seem strange to you that a rich, young ruler is thinking about things that are profound, spiritual, and eternal? Do men like Donald Trump ever consider the state of their soul and the question of the afterlife? Read more »
Mark 9:1-13 - Asking the Right Questions About the End of the World
by Dr. Stephen Davis
The previous passage contrasted the honor one might obtain in human society by concealing one’s allegiance to Jesus and his teaching with the shame or repudiation seen in the light of our participation of God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus spoke about dying for the gospel, a real possibility for first-century Christians and for Christians in many parts of the world today. Although I have never faced imprisonment or threats of death for my faith in Christ I have had the opportunity to meet those who have. There can be no dying for the gospel if not living for and in the gospel.
Shame now, sacrifice now, losing your life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel, is a small price to pay for future honor and acknowledgment. You progressively and purposefully grow in what it means to lose your life (translated “soul” in Matt. & Luke, “life” in Mark) for Christ’s sake and for the “gospel” (only Mark). This involves the literal loss of earthly life which we are called to accept as a potential result of following Jesus. We can extend this to the loss of privilege, reputation, advantages, comfort and so forth yet we must not set aside the radical and primary focus of the text. Let us be clear – to cling to life according to that which humanity values most is the way to forfeit true life. The acceptance of the possibility of death, for the right reasons, is the way to real life. Jesus himself in his death and resurrection will be the supreme example of this new perspective, one which we must adopt but cannot without a new and deeper understanding of who Jesus is along with a fresh and ongoing experience of his grace.
The specific mention of the “gospel” in Mark is related to an active role in mission where Christians more often encounter persecution and death. And we will have to ask ourselves – “Living in a time and place where persecution and martyrdom are unlikely how should be lose our lives for Christ’s sake and the gospel?” You may never suffer real persecution or martyrdom for the gospel but if you adopt the attitude of sacrifice and the investment of your life for the gospel you will be prepared to live for Christ or to die for him. The gospel does not call us to ease, to the advancement of our purposes, and to the attaining of our comfort and material acquisitions. That is not the message we find in the Bible. It is not the message the message you will find in this church. It may be too radical for many but by God’s grace we will not lower the bar. We are not about buildings, about programs, about entertainment, about Christian consumerism or health and wealth prosperity, about meeting all our felt needs. We are about the gospel, about worship, about mission, about the glory of God.
Read more »
“The Disciples Plucking Grain on the Sabbath” by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)
Mark 2:23-28 (ESV) One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Read more »
Who Says That Jesus is Greater Than I Am? by Dr. John Davis
Mark 1:1 (ESV) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” 4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
[Painting is "St. John the Baptist" by Valentin De Boulogne (1628-30)] Read more »
Getting to Know Jesus Better!
Introduction to the Series by Dr. John Davis
In the coming weeks at Grace Church of Philly, we will be looking at the gospel of Mark so that we may get to know Jesus better. Mark 1:1 tells us at the beginning that his letter is about – The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark wants to share with his readers the good news about Jesus Christ that they may get to know him better and in some way act upon that knowledge.
Mark gives no genealogical record as do Matthew and Luke, or like John who traces Jesus before creation with His Father, but the absence of a genealogy isn’t necessarily a hindrance to getting to know and trust someone.
I confess out the outset that I do not merely want you to know him better, but I pray and hope that you will follow Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
We will follow multiple paths through the Gospel of Mark in getting to know Jesus better. We will move from path to path as we travel through the Gospel. On one path, we will listen to what others say about Jesus and probe our own hearts to see if we agree or disagree and want to follow this Jesus. On another path, we will look at what happens when Jesus encounters specific people and ask ourselves if this is the Jesus we want to follow. Then on a third path, we will listen to what Jesus says on a number of topics and ask ourselves if we are willing to follow this Jesus and live by His teaching.
So here is how we will attempt to get to know him better:
What do others say about Him? Do we agree with what they say?
What happens when others encounter Him? Do we like what happens?
What does He say? Are we willing to follow His teaching?