Eastertide — Week 5

Jesus’ final words that Matthew recorded for us include the directive to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). In this Fifth Week of Eastertide we’re looking at the life and calling of a disciple—first century disciples and twenty-first century disciples.

 

Monday, May 20

Read: Mark 1:9-15

Consider: Even though Mark’s gospel is the second one in the New Testament, it was the first one of the four gospels to be written. So, when we read Jesus’ words in Mark 1:15, we are seeing the first words of Jesus that were recorded and handed down to us. And that first statement speaks volumes. Jesus said, “The time has come.”

There are two words used for “time” in the original language of the New Testament. One is familiar to us—chronos. From it we get words like “chronology” and “chronometer.” The other Greek word for time is kairos, which has a very specific meaning. It speaks about an appointed time or an ordained time. The kairos is much different from the simple movement of the clock and the calendar—the chronological progression of time. The kairos speaks about the moment appointed by God.

John the Baptizer prepared the way. Jesus was baptized. He was led into the desert where he was tempted. And then he emerged, saying, “The kairos has come”—literally translated, “The time has been fulfilled.”

With that statement came the most massive shift of history. That shift was greater than anything that had happened in the Old Testament. In fact, the events of the Old Testament were preparation for it. And what is this great event that has happened at the appointed time? Jesus explained exactly what he meant. He said…

“The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.” (1:15)

This change was so huge that Jesus described it as a new kingdom—a new reign of God on earth. The empires of this world could not, and cannot, offer hope. But new life for each of us and for our world has come. And what accompanied Jesus’ announcement was the very call that John had proclaimed to prepare for the Christ. It was the call to change.

“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent…” (1:15).

The word—repent—literally means to change your mind. In first century parlance, the reference to the mind encompassed our thinking, our will, our spirit—our lives. In other words, the call to repent was a call for radical change.

As history reached the appointed time, Jesus called us to our appointed time—a time for a massive shift in our lives. He called us to change. This change prepares us to be part of the new kingdom that is advancing.  And Jesus called that “good news” (1:15).

Pray: Praise the Lord for his new kingdom. Praise him that the world now has hope. And thank him that he invited you to be part of the kairos—the time when he makes all things new. In our hopeless world, ask him to help you grasp and be captured by the “good news” in a new and different way.

 

Tuesday, May 21

Read: Mark 1:14-20

Consider: The kairos*—the appointed time that Jesus proclaimed—would become the appointed time for Simon, Andrew, James and John. The moment Jesus said, “Come, follow me” (1:17, 20), their lives, their futures, their destinies and their eternities changed. Nothing would ever be the same.

Of course, they had no idea of the changes in store. When Simon and Andrew left their fishing equipment, did they know they were leaving the family business for good? When James and John walked away from their father, were they aware that the course of their lives had been permanently altered?

Fast forward three years and these four men have seen and experienced things they never could have imagined. Their experiences shaped them into men they never knew they could be. Their understanding of God, the world, themselves and their purpose was transformed on this journey.

There is a common statement that we often hear and use — “If I only knew then what I know now…” Sometimes it’s followed by something like, “I never would have…” But other times it’s followed by, “I would have done it sooner!”

There is no way we can know where God will lead us and what he will make of us. There is no way to know how our lives will be transformed. We are just as naïve as four men who “At once…left their nets and followed him” (1:18). But our naïveté is seasoned with trust. We are willing to be led into the unknown because we believe in and have faith in what Jesus is up to in this new kingdom. So, we don’t wait to say, “If only.” Today we leave our nets at the water’s edge and follow him to the place that only he knows.

Pray: “Lord, give me a child-like trust in you. Thank you that you have a future for me that is beyond my comprehension. Please increase my faith and give me courage to follow wherever you lead. Help me to be attentive to your voice as you call me to follow.”

*See yesterday’s TAWG for the significance of kairos.

 

Wednesday, May 22

Read: Mark 8:31-37

Consider: When Jesus first called his disciples, they had no idea what was in store for them. They were stepping into a new kingdom with new priorities, new values and new realities. They certainly did not know what it would mean to follow Jesus. Still, they made the decision to embark on this journey.

At several points along the way, they saw that this was going to be a rewarding life but also a costly one. If fact, it would cost them everything. Jesus didn’t mince words about this or try to finesse the impact of the call. He said…

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (8:34).

Sometimes we hear people refer to the cross as a burden that must be shouldered. You’ve heard it said, “Well, this is my cross to bear.” But that really isn’t the meaning of a Roman cross. Yes, Jesus bore the cross from the city gates to Golgotha, but that was only the beginning. The cross was an instrument—and later a symbol—of torture and death. So, when Jesus calls us to the cross, he’s calling us to give up everything. He continued…

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (8:35)

When Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John, he was asking them for all that they had and all that they were. He was asking for their future. He was asking for their lives.

What does that mean for us today? How do I give up my life for Jesus and his good news? Unlike those first disciples, Jesus probably isn’t calling me to an itinerant ministry that takes me from town to town and village to village. Yet he still calls me to give him everything and to follow him to new places.

That’s our challenge. We need to walk close enough to Jesus, so that in an ever-increasing manner we understand his call on our lives.

Pray: “Lord, I don’t simply want to mouth words of commitment. I really want to give myself to you without reservation. Teach me what that looks like. Teach me how to live that commitment even today. And thank you for your patience. I haven’t got this all figured out, but I know you will walk with me and patiently guide me as I submit myself to you.”

 

Thursday, May 23

Read: John 14:15-17

Consider: What does it mean to be a Jesus follower? What does it mean to obey the commands of Christ? This is an important question, because in Jesus’ final hours with his disciples, he made them a promise that was linked to a command. As he addressed the days that were ahead, he told them that the promise of the Father would be fulfilled in them. But there was something they must do. He said…

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (14:15)

What commands? Where do we find the list? The scriptures the disciples knew (our Old Testament) are full of commands. Which ones are valid today? Which laws are still applicable to us as Christ followers?

Some Christians point to the Ten Commandments. Some look to instructions that Paul gave to the first century churches in the letters he wrote. Some take all the laws of the Bible and try to decipher which ones have meaning for us now that Christ has come, and which ones do not. But Jesus wasn’t speaking about those commands. He was referring to what he had said just moments earlier…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35)

This is what a disciple is. This is the definition of a Jesus follower. “By this” Jesus said, they would be recognized as true disciples of Christ.

Of course, Jesus wasn’t speaking about a concept of love that is based on emotional attachment or even a mystical experience. He was describing something much deeper when he called us to love “as I have loved you.” That’s a love beyond our capabilities. But it is not beyond what the Holy Spirit can do in us and through us.

So, we see a perfect circle. If we obey his command to love, he promised us “another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (14:16-17). And when we are filled with this Spirit, we are empowered to love as Christ loves.”

Pray: “Lord, I need you to teach me how to love and I need your Spirit to empower me to love. But I know that first I must make the choice to love. I choose to give myself to you so that, through me, your love may be a reality. I want to fulfill your command to love as you love. I hope that today people will see Christ in me.”

 

Friday, May 24

Read: John 14:18-21

Consider: Most of us are trying hard to do the right things. Very hard. Our minds are filled with so many things we want to do—along with the things we want to avoid—so that we may honor God with our lives. But sometimes we run into a major hurdle. We begin to see God as though he was keeping score. It’s like he’s carrying a clipboard with him all the time, checking off items and keeping notes as to whether we’re praying enough, saying the right things, having the right attitudes and avoiding all the bad stuff.

This is toxic, because we begin to see God as our judge rather than our Father. We begin to feel like living right is something we must accomplish with our own strength, with our own willpower. Even though we may never verbalize it in this way, we’re trying to keep the judge happy when we know it really isn’t possible.

That’s not what Jesus taught. As he was preparing to leave his disciples, he said…

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (14:18)

You’re not on your own. This isn’t a test you have to pass that the professor will grade at the end of the term. This is a journey together with the One who loves you more than you can comprehend—the Father who would never orphan you!

As a loving father takes a long walk with his daughter, he directs her, laughs with her, plays with her, wipes the dirt away after a fall, takes care of the wounds along the way, and, at times, carries her when she’s just too tired to take another step.

Jesus said that if sinful, frail humans act that way toward their children, how much more will our Father care for us (Matthew 7:11)!

Pray: “Lord, with the presence of your Spirit, I’m never alone. I don’t live as an abandoned one who is trying to earn my way back. I am a child of God, walking in the peace and joy that comes from your presence. Thank you for walking with me today. And, if things go bad, I know you’ll carry me.”

 

Saturday, May 25

Read: John 14:25-27

Consider: Translation is tricky. Sometimes one language will have a word with deep, rich meaning that is difficult to find in other languages. Our Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with a few chapters in Aramaic) and our New Testament was written in Greek. Over the centuries they have been translated into hundreds of languages. God has blessed the translation of his word, but it hasn’t been easy. Godly people have labored and prayed to make the Bible available to everyone. We believe the Holy Spirit has guided them. And yet, no translation is perfect because no human language is perfect.

So sometimes we find a word that needs to be translated by several words. Such is the case with the Greek word used in today’s reading to describe the Holy Spirit — parakletos. In the conversation we’re looking at, Jesus used that word four times (14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7).

Depending on the English version you read, you may see that word translated as “Comforter” or “Counselor” or “Advocate” or “Intercessor” or something similar. Which one is the right translation? They all are!

That term comes from two words: para — “beside,” and kaleo — “to speak.” The Holy Spirit stands beside us—and, as Jesus said, in us—speaking peace, comfort, guidance and counsel. And his Spirit speaks for us—advocates for us when we have no words—and intercedes for us to the Father.

I would encourage you today to take some time to dwell on this. Ask yourself which word is the most meaningful for you at this point in your journey. Do you need a comforter today or a counselor? Do you need an advocate or an intercessor? Let the aspect of the Holy Spirit that you need this hour become real to you.

Pray: Ask the Lord to help you see his Spirit in a new manner today. And don’t forget to express your gratitude for the One who stands beside you.