Sunday 4th June – Psalm 8
1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Sometimes you just have to sit, look, and wonder, and that’s what this Psalm is all about. I’ve never met a person, no matter who they are or what they believe, who is not taken by the glory of creation in some way or other. Some are captivated by the stars, some by the mountains or flowing rivers, other by the trees or the flora and fauna, others by the creatures large or small. Whatever it is, that beauty and awesomeness which is outside of us is met with a matching wonder from our hearts.
If you watch sports you will often see ‘high fives’ being given by the sportsman who has scored and those on his team who have watched. I use this as an illustration because it is as though creation holds up a silent hand to us and we match it with our smack of wonder. As Psalm 19 says of creation, it has no speech, no sound is heard from it, but its voice goes out into all the Earth (Ps 19:3,4), and it is our privilege to clap hands with it and make a noise of praise to God. I’m sure as we begin to enjoy some beautiful days we will be able to do that.
However, we also have the wonderful joy of not only seeing but also actively taking our part in its development. This is our great role as stewards of creation, to see it, to acknowledge it, to manage it, shape it, bring beauty and beautiful things out of it and to hold them up to God as little children hold up their little sub-creations to their parents and say “See, look what I’ve been able to do”.
It is true that there is no one whose hand will not seek to “smack the hand” of nature in wonder but for some it can be a disembodied hand for they cannot see the arm of God behind it and they just stop there. Often in similar fashion they cannot see that the law of God is similarly beautiful and worthy of honour though David sees and speaks of them as sweeter than honey matching the beauty of creation (v10). Someone once said about the atheist, “they have no-on to say thank you to” just as Paul said of such, “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21). Today let us not be dark in our thinking or allow folly in our hearts but let’s give praise and thanks to Almighty God and perhaps do something with that creation and show our own wonder.
You might enjoy Keith Green as he sings this Psalm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydvVNE36oyY
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
Monday Mark 14:27-42
If the New Testament story and early Christian history had been written by the Church it would surely not have portrayed its founders (the Apostles) in such a bad light as we see here. In fact the early Apostles were in no doubt as to their tragic and awful role in the origin of the story. No, this story is God’s story not that of men. It is the story of The Man, the Man of God, listened to and retailed by those who were swept along as part of it, and incorporated into it.
We see the consciousness of fallen man in the apostles, shown to be unable to see the truth about themselves (Peter and the others declaring great heroism) and unable to be awake as the Master of the world is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (v34).
They were merely to become spectators of the mighty work of God which we all are. The words of the old Negra spiritual puts it well when it asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”.
There is of course another way to look at this as our Father putting us to sleep because He knows that the subject of our salvation in the person of His Son is too much for us to bear. Truly we see through a dark glass, some things are too great for us to bear.
Tuesday Mark 14:43-52
The Kiss. We already know that Judas has gone and set about his betrayal, here we see the sealing act of that betrayal being a kiss, the act of warm loving relationship, being turned into the dagger of deception. Once again we see the dark unknowing activity of evil on display. Eventually evil cannot hide itself, it must always be dragged out into the open so that it can be slayed. The evil creature comes out from its dark cave to sink its fangs into the innocent one, but it is in God’s purpose, for he will not have evil killed out of sight in its den but will have his righteous judgement seen out in the open.
Once again in the text we see glimpses that show the mark of the eyewitness – cutting off of the high priest’s servant’s ear and the fleeing of the young man whose garment was left behind in the soldier’s hand (tradition has it that the young man was the author of this gospel, Mark). Jesus declares the truth that he was always available to his accusers, teaching in the temple courts, but of course everyone knew that this nighttime grab was to avoid the difficulty of a day-time raid that would have caused so much chaos amongst the populace. And so the story moves on …
Wednesday Mark 14:53-65
The supposed trial before the Sanhedrin is almost laughable as attempts are made to have witnesses come forward and make a case for the conviction of Jesus. The fact that they can never agree or give a coherent story shows them up as fools. The attempt to ‘get a result’ fails abjectly yet leads on to the real heart of the matter when the High Priest asks Jesus directly, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed one?” to which Jesus answers in the affirmative also adding, “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (v62). This picture has Old Testament references such as Daniel 7:13-14 but also in things such as Psalm 68 which sees God ‘riding on the clouds’ and even in Exodus where we see God coming down in a cloud. The imagery of clouds is symbolic of God’s presence and the coming down in judgement portrays the end of time..
We see Jesus accepting the identity of the Messiah and adding that he has a role in the final state of things – called the eschatological or last things plan of God.
Jesus wasn’t just a figure in history – he is, of course – but the end of the world or the Universal conclusion of all things is bound into him. And the response at the time? Kill Him! There is an alternative demonic ending and the figure behind that thinks he can change things by killing this man. How wrong he was and is.
Thursday Mark 14:66-72
Peter’s disowning of Jesus shows that fallen humanity always falls in with the Satanic aim. We see the mouth of Peter becoming the vessel of the Devil once again as he denies being part of or with Jesus. One of the reasons for the virgin birth which shows us the laying aside of Joseph is to highlight the fact that man is impotent to bring about his own salvation – God must save and Him alone. Even in Jesus’ disciples we see the complete failure to stand by God’s eternal plan for the cosmos.
As town dwellers we are probably not used to hearing the cock crowing but it can be a loud noise that wakens even the heaviest sleeper. If ever you hear it let it remind you of your failure to be your own saviour. But do not grieve in utter sadness, Almighty God makes and keeps his plan of salvation, and none will pluck you out of his hand (John 10:28). Look to him and trust him.
Friday Mark 15:1-20
The reason the chief priests and teachers of the law handed Jesus over to the Romans was because only the Roman Governor had authority to execute – and of course nothing less than that would satisfy the Jews. Pilate did not want trouble and the Jews knew they could cause trouble for him so the scene is set for either courage or failure and Pilate failed even though he tried to squirm his way out of delivering Jesus up to be crucified.
Barabbas is released and Jesus is flogged but “Crucify him!” is still the cry. The trial and flogging before Pilate in Norman Jewison’s film “Jesus Christ Superstar” is not for feeble stomachs as the the count of 39 lashes goes right through to the end. Before he is led away to be mocked and crucified by the soldiers he is a broken man physically though not spiritually. Then the mocking comes along with the crown of thorns and the attempted walk to the place of the skull (Golgotha).
Mark details all this because it is not a tragic detail at the end of a glorious life but part of the story, part of our salvation and part of the glory. John Bowring’s hymn puts it well,
“In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.”
No biography of well known or holy figures spends time on a scene like this but the gospels – not just Mark – spend around a third of their pages on this last week. This is what Jesus came for, telling his disciples often enough, yet it stuns.
Saturday Mark 15:21-32
When Jesus was so weakened by the flogging that he was unable to carry the cross the Roman soldiers pressed Simon from Cyrene into doing the job. Though we have no further details about him he is referred to as the father of Alexander and Rufus. This may be because in the future no-one knew Simon but they did know his sons and it is as though Mark is pointing out eyewitnesses again so that his hearers may know that the disciples were not following “cleverly devised stories” as Peter put it later (2 Peter 1:16.)
In fact there are a number of details in the text that would point to eyewitnesses relating what they saw.
In a real sense present day Christians can be witnesses too in how they reflect the work of God’s Spirit in their lives. My father, who only became a Christian in mid-life, often used to sing the little Chorus “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today, he walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way … you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!” It is what Peter speaks about in his first letter when he says to some of his hearers, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” (1 Peter 1:8) Inner joy is the result of faith and fellowship with the risen Jesus Christ, it is what C.S.Lewis spoke about when he titled his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy”. Of course those around the cross couldn’t see his saving power at that time and merely wept or else ridiculed and only mocked.
A Prayer: In my life Lord be glorified and may my inner joy testify to you. Amen.