The Story that Changed the World
By Jeff Curtis
Almost thirty years of the Savior’s earthly life passed quietly in the little town of Nazareth. These years could be labeled “Years of Preparation for Jesus’ Earthly Ministry.” The ministry of Jesus was going to be so powerful that the world of that day could not endure it for more than three years. In fact, the second year dovetailed into hostility that finally ended in His crucifixion at the end of the third year. The absolute truth that Jesus brought would shine with such brilliance that the sinful world would reject it and crucify the One who embodied truth.
In one beginning sentence, the Gospel of Mark braces us to receive the world-changing story. This story isn’t about a philosophy, a collection of supreme laws, or a listing of the finest social ethics. It is about the greatest Person who ever walked upon this earth. How did Mark prepare us for this story?
- He began by implying that his story is credible. This story he gave us presents the facts of history concerning Jesus. This narrative he gave us presents the facts of history concerning Jesus. It exhibits integrity from the beginning to end. The text begins with three words: “The beginning of.” The earthly ministry of Jesus is historical, actual and factual. Jesus really came, He really lived among us, and He really brought us the opportunity for eternal life.
- Mark continued by implying that his story is understandable. His intent was to provide us with “the gospel of Christ,” or the good news of Jesus Christ. His life, ministry, death and resurrection compose the “gospel,” a message of hope and redemption for a world that had gone astray from God.
The Gospel account is readable, comprehensible, and digestible. Our loving Father gave us this record so that we could understand it, cherish it, follow it, and be saved by it. The good news would not be good news if it could not be understood by those who receive it.
- Mark also implied that this story he was writing is salvation. He identified it as “…the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He used four words that should be considered among the four greatest words of the English language: “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Son,” and “God.” “Jesus” means “Savior”; “Christ” denotes “Messiah”; “Son,” with its capital “S,” depicts His deity; and the name “God” declares Jesus to be the second member of the Godhead.
In these four words, we see the story of redemption. The story has a Savior in it, and it features the Messiah sent from God. Really, it contains the eternal purpose of God, because it shows us that the eternal Son of God came to be one of us. Who is this One who story is being told? He is Jesus, the Man; He is Christ, the Messiah; He is the Son of God, Deity, God in the flesh. He is just as much human as if He were not Deity at all, and He is just as much Deity as if He were not human at all.
Conclusion. The story written by Mark isn’t just a gospel. No, it is the gospel, the only means of our salvation. This good news is the highest news. What message could be greater than this? It includes all that is good, meaningful, purposeful, righteous, and holy. Further, it is the most crucial news anyone can receive, the news that one simply cannot do without. So, it is the most glorious and most wonderful news that world has ever received. With the coming of this message, the world has changed forever.
Sacrifices Then and Now
By Jeff Curtis
In Exodus 27 God gave Moses directions for building the altar of burnt offering. The altar was used to offer sacrifices to God. The passage, then, can be used to help us think about the subject of sacrifices, both then and now.
Sacrifices then. The text doesn’t tell how the altar was to be used. The first readers didn’t need that information; they were familiar with the fact that sacrifices were offered on it.
Further instructions concerning those sacrifices are given in the book of Leviticus. There, we learn that the sacrifices offered on the altar had a variety of purposes. Among the sacrifices were guilt offerings, sin offerings, whole burnt offerings, and peace offerings – including thank offerings and freewill offerings and sacrifices made when vows were taken. For some of the offerings (whole burnt offerings), the whole animal was burned on the altar and the other part was eaten by those who brought the sacrifice. The priests were also given portions of the meat from the offerings.
Sacrifices now. The New Testament teaches that Christ is the sacrifice for those under the new covenant. In addition, He is the high priest who takes the blood of the sacrifice into the most holy place (Hebrews 8:1; 9:11-15). Christians are saved by His blood (Ephesians 1:7). No matter what we do for Christ – even if we were to die for Him – in no sense can our sacrifices or our gifts atone for our sins. Only Christ’s blood can make atonement for us.
Even though our gifts so not cover our sins, as priests we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5). A sacrifice is an offering; it is anything we offer to God.
We are to offer a sacrifice of ourselves. Altar terminology is used when the Christian is called upon to give himself as a “living…sacrifice” to God (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus called on every Christian to offer himself, even to the point of death, when He said that each one must “take up his cross” and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
We are to offer a sacrifice of the praise of our lips. Hebrews 13:15 says. “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” We are to praise God in song, to “be of the same mind with one another… so that with one accord we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). We don’t bring animals to offer on an altar; rather, we place before God’s heavenly altar the praises of our lips when we join together to sing in the assembly.
We are to offer a sacrifice of money. Paul wrote to the Philippians that he had received from Epaphroditus the gift that they had sent to him. He called that gift
“a fragrance aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). Giving a gift of money to the church is also a gift to God, an offering or sacrifice to the Lord.
We are to offer a sacrifice of saved souls to God. Paul was given the privilege of being a “minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles” and wrote of “my offerings of the Gentiles” (Romans 15:16). This imagery depicts Paul as a priest making an offering to God. What was Paul’s offering? The Gentiles, the people to whom he preached and who were saved by his preaching. In a similar way, when we preach to others and lead them to salvation, they become our offerings to God.
We cannot give our own blood for our sins. Christ has made the sole sacrifice that takes away sins. Because we have been saved by Christ’s blood, we are to make offerings to Him. Are we making the offerings we should, or are we giving Him less that He desires and deserves?