Pete Souza was attributed with saying: “Every great moment deserves a photograph!” and he knows a great moment. He is the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama; he is also the Director of the White House photo office. He is on an extended leave of absence from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication where he is an assistant professor of photojournalism. He has a lot of experience as a “finder of great moments” because he previously worked as an Official White House Photographer for President Reagan, a freelancer for National Geographic, and as the national photographer for the Chicago Tribune based in their Washington bureau.
The incredibly part of his job is that he is often standing there at the moment great things in America are happening. He has a very special and very technical view of the scene. He is also virtually silent on his feelings about the events he is a witnessing. I wonder what IMPRESSION he could give of some of the key people in government today from HIS PERSPECTIVE. Does Mrs. Obama get involved in policy? Do Vice President Biden and President Obama like really each other? How does the current President stack up (in his estimation) with President Reagan? Is the White House a lot different now? These are just a few of many things I would like to ask him at a lunch. He has certainly seen much!
If great moments deserve attention, probably no one has had a better view than Peter the Disciple, who was (according to the early Christian writers) the source of the accounts in much of the Gospel according to Mark. Mark seems to have a great view of many of the pivotal moments in Jesus’ earth ministry. He wasn’t a photographer, but he did offer short, clear verbal snapshots of the people and places that mean everything to our record of Jesus’ provision of redemption and forgiveness. In fact, Mark offered twelve small snapshots of the last hours before the arrest of Jesus.
In these twelve short snaps, we see can observe kinds of people that surrounded the event, and if we examine it more closely, we will observe the same three kinds are with us to this day. The three kinds of people are: 1) Religious but spiritually dead; 2) Obedient but seemingly unimportant; 3) Disobedient but loudly self righteous.
Key Principle: God uses people who are ready to commit to Him within, and anxious to live His truths without!
There are twelve snapshot scenes in Mark 14, each with one of three kinds of people:
Religious But LOST
The first kind are what I’d call the “Religious but lost” – they are physically in tune, spiritually dead. Last time we spent our study primarily looking at people that fit into this category, so we will only briefly mention them. There are four snapshots that offer examples.
Snapshot One: The Scribes seeking to kill Him (Mark 14:1-2): We saw the pious men in their elegant religious attire, conspiring to kill the Prince of Life. They had the trappings of godly men, but the hearts of ungodly ones! Do you recall: Mark 14:1 “… the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him.” Mark carefully showed the men knew what they wanted to do, but fear of the loss of control over the crowd shut them down – at least for the moment. In some ways, it appears they were afraid to lose STANDING in the eyes of the crowd. Remember, we made note that: “When we try to desperately hold on to the position or power that we have, we tip our hand to our real belief – that we EARNED the place we have.”
Snapshot Two: Judas, offering help to plotters (Mark 14:10-11): Our eyes drifted to the man under the cloak that was skirting the light on the edges of a dark forest. He had been in the meeting with Jesus, but heard the most painful thing Jesus ever shared about an individual. Do you recall? Jesus said of him: “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21). Judas went out broken, but Jesus didn’t say this until Judas had already promised to TRAP JESUS. God didn’t bring judgment on him until he decided he didn’t want Jesus. That is STILL the way it works.
Snapshot Three: Judas and his Temple mob (Mark 14:43-50). The next snapshot of him was in the Garden of Gethsemane kissing Jesus and betraying Him (Mark 14:42-46). Do you recall what we learned about the POWER trap Judas was in? He was disappointed because Jesus didn’t measure up to his lofty expectations…When we try to hold God to our standard, we forget who He really is, and who we really are. Certainly Judas was guilty of that… and some of us are as well.
Snapshot Four: Jesus in questionings (Mark 14:53-65). We didn’t get to this one last time…but we should not miss this snapshot. Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, and was led back across the Kidron Valley onto the upper hill to the west, a hill today called “modern Mt. Zion”. The hill offers a bird’s eye view of the most ancient part of Jerusalem, and follows the line of a stair like street that has been archaeologically uncovered in the twentieth century from the Pool of Siloam westward. Go up the steps with me as we read:
Mark 14:53 “They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together. 54 Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. 60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 “You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
By now, it should be an easy journey to see between LIES and FLAGRANT MISTREATMENT of God. Don’t just see these men and check them off the list of people who were wrong! Ask yourself this question: “How could they behave like this?” Then ask a more important question: “Could that be ME?” “No!” You object. I would not have treated Jesus with such disrespect! Really?
Look at the short distance between lies and a cool disregard for God and His Word. Look at it carefully. We keep hearing that God wants us to give our hearts to Him. One day we decide that God doesn’t really have the right to a surrendered heart. He doesn’t really deserve my life, or my deliberate obedience. We swallow a LIE that we can run our own lives well enough. We postpone obedience and say, “God, someday I will think about really following You, but today I am too busy!” On and on it goes, and our hardness allows us to flagrantly mistreat God inside. Maybe your best friend or your spouse doesn’t see it, but YOU DO. You are NOT GOD’S PROPERTY. You may be religious, but you are not in a relationship with Jesus.
Is that really different than slapping Him in the face? Imagine the feeling of the soldier that returned after serving his country with distinction, only to be spat upon by someone in the airport and called “baby killer”! This is the feeling the rebellious, self willed believer evokes in the heart of a Father who has sent His Son to die when we decide to walk away on our own. A short distance from that hardness and we begin to become cynical about His Word. “Prophesy!” We yell, as we demand that God jump through our hoops because our self willed life isn’t working as well as we had planned…Those men BEGAN as followers of God, hoping to make a difference. By accepting lies and promoting SELF, they displaced a holy ambition and began to rail against the God they had earlier hoped to serve.
Let me very clear here. This first set of snapshots (above) were people who had decided to live for themselves and not for God – because they don’t know God. They may have had a tender moment that sparked a religious sentiment at one time earlier, but it was not a true and real surrender based relationship. They began RELIGIOUS life, but did not walk in RELATIONSHIP with God. God knows the difference. There are two kinds of people in this world – those who KNOW God personally and have a relationship, and those who DON’T but need to. The people we have seen, for the most part, were a part of the DON’T group.
Let’s switch gears to the ones who KNOW God. There are two kinds – those who are walking with God, and those who aren’t – but know they should be….and it is entirely up to them to choose which they will be. Let’s look quickly at both:
Obedient but EASILY MISSED
First, we see the “Obedient but seemingly unimportant” – lot of believers that seem more like set props – until you recognize that their surrender and obedience made a real difference in the way God told His story!
Snapshot One: Mary and the anointing (Mark 14:3, 6-9): This little snapshot is found in the earliest part of the chapter. We skipped over a woman (John 12 suggests it was Mary of Magdala) who was sacrificing to Jesus by pouring an expensive and cherished ointment on His feet, to allow her story to linger in our hearts as the final part of the teaching from Mark 14. Look briefly at her story: Mark 14:3 While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. Jesus was pleased with the sacrifice of a woman who FELT SMALL, but gave what she had to be used for His purposes! She BROKE the vase of what she had to offer, and gave every drop to His use. There can be no more complete snapshot of surrender. She is in this story what the woman with the last coin of her home was in the earlier study – one who gave all. I want to say more about how Jesus reacted to her, but let’s pick up the other snapshots that fit into this section first.
Snapshot Two: Peter and John preparing Passover (Mark 14:12-16): Another quick look, and we see two disciples responding to Jesus’ command to go set up a room. At first glance it doesn’t look that essential, but in restrospect, the setting would become one of the most important of any – with one third of the Gospel of John recalling the events of that evening, and many coming from inside that very prepared room! Mark 14:13 And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Not to beat the point, but let’s quickly recall that obedience creates a platform for God’s work to grow and expand. What God calls a man or woman to do may seem insignificant to them at the time– but that is only because we don’t know the whole plan!
Snapshot Three: The man with the water pot (Mark 14:13): When we read Mark 14:13 above we found a matching story in the account of the room preparation — another obedient man, who only gets the stage mention of “man with water pot”. We don’t know his name, or his family. We don’t know how God communicated to him to be there at the Siloam Pool at that specific time – we only know that he was there, and that the man was working in concert with the plan of God. Do you think the enemy didn’t work a bit to slow down that guy? Is it possible that he was fighting to be obedient in that hour to do what God called him to do. His most important moment in life may well have been this one – and I am willing to wager that it was not convenient, and that it felt hard to do – because I know the adversary of Jesus.
Snapshot Four: The owner of the upper room (Mark 14:14-16): Barely a “blip” on the radar screen of history, this man knew what Jesus wanted, and had it furnished and ready. The Gospel offers only this: Mark 14:14 “and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 15“And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” I am certain the man had no idea how important his obedience was to Jesus’ plan – believers HARDLY EVER see that.
Each of these snapshots are obedient people that could almost be skipped in the passage. They are almost wall flowers – but God used their obedience dramatically. They offer us critical truths that we should not ignore or glance over…Go back to Mark 14:4 and look at the woman with the ointment. In that aromatic room you will see God’s truths:
Mark 14:4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 “For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her.6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
First, there is a truth that is expressed in the Bible many times – even those one the team don’t always get what you are doing when you surrender and sacrifice at God’s command. Some well meaning believers were SCOLDING her, when she was being supremely obedient to the call of Christ. Truth: Measure life by God’s approval, not everyone else’s. They don’t always get it right.
Second, note that Jesus rebuffed those who criticized her action for their own cloaked motives and self righteousness, protecting her with His words. “Let her alone” (6a). Truth: Let God be your defense when you know you are walking in surrender to Him. Self justification isn’t necessary – God is big enough to protect you while you work out His call on your life.
Third, Jesus noted that her sacrifice was “a good deed” to His standard (6b)! Judas complained because it looked like a waste. Even some believing Disciples joined the chorus of complaints. Truth, nothing given to Jesus in surrender is a waste. Your boss may simply shake his head when you leave a lucrative position to go work in the third world – but nothing truly given in response to God’s call is a waste – no matter who believes it is.
Fourth, Jesus identified her insights and priorities as the CORRECT ones (14:7). Jesus alone is the judge. Truth: the court of public opinion is often at odds with the court of ETERNITY. Don’t get caught deeming something ok because of the popular sentiment. It is only RIGHT if Jesus says it is right.
Fifth, Jesus again showed the size of the sacrifice was the true gauge of her heart (14:8a). You can see this in every one of the four snapshots. The individual acts of our life may seem utterly tiny against the backdrop of history. Truth, obedience – like disobedience – has enormous consequence.
Sixth, Jesus carefully identified that her work fit with God’s plan (14:8b). Truth: our best moment is the one we are doing to advance God’s plan – no matter what it looks like at that moment. You share Christ with a neighbor who seems to pay little heed to your words, but you do not know that a year later in a coma, that testimony is the one they recall before meeting Jesus. When you get to Heaven, you’ll realize the importance of that day – not today.
Seventh, Jesus promised that her act would be ever recalled by followers of Jesus in times to come (14:9). Truth: Nothing given in sacrifice to Jesus is forgotten by Him. More people see what you sacrifice than you know. Angels are watching the children of God! Other young believers are watching the children of God.
Mary came to Jesus out of a broken heart and a failed life. His words set her free. His love unlocked the deep pain of her heart, and empowered her to serve by surrender and sacrifice. She understood the meekness Jesus called for – because her only hope of eternal life was found in His grace. She saw no goodness in herself. She had little, but she was unwilling to keep any of it for herself! When we recognize our own deep sinfulness, we are ready to thankfully surrender to the One who gave all for us! This is the SURRENDER KEY– the key that opens us to be used of God for powerful tasks that last for the ages to come! The SURRENDER KEY allows Jesus access to all that we have, and all that we hope to accomplish. It is the gift God most wants. It smells of perfume, but is really not about the physical world – it is a spiritually open heart.
It seems like we could end our study there, but we would miss the third group that needs little more than a mention to be totally understood. They are the believers that have decided to walk without obedience to God.
Disobedient but NOISY
Last, we see the “Disobedient but loudly self righteous” – a bunch ready to preach truth to the lost world, but not ready to live truth when it comes to their own choices.
- Snapshot One: The disciples in the upper room with Jesus (Mk. 14:17-26): Can’t you hear them shouting to Jesus: “Surely it is not I that will betray You!”
- Snapshot Two: The sleepy disciples at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42): Can’t you hear the snoring in the midst of the prayer meeting Jesus called in the minutes before His arrest?
- Snapshot Three: Peter declaring allegiance to Jesus (Mark 14:27-31; 66-72): You surely grasp the whole scene of Peter making grand gestures that he would DIE before DENY! Yeah, right.
- Snapshot Four: The young man who ran away uncovered (Mark 14:51-52): John Mark (traditionally) is so desperate to stand until death with his Lord, he fled into the night immodestly.