Lent Devotion, Friday, March 23, 2018


(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

Jesus asked the blind beggar Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, “Rabbouni, for me to see again.”

It was a stunning reply, which both surprised and intrigued me. He didn’t call Jesus “Rabbi”(Teacher) but “Rabbouni”(My Teacher.) His choice of words implied a previous relationship; this was not the first time he had encountered Jesus. They had met before.

And Bartimaeus asked to see again, an implication that he had once been able to see. He was asking for renewed vision.

I began to realize that Bartimaeus was not only seeking physical healing, but re-awakening of faith. That’s why I included his story in my Gospel. We all stand in need of an ever-renewed trust in Jesus. Bartimaeus teaches us to cry our need and acknowledge our blindness. Faith is knowing that we are beggars. Faith is jumping up at the word of Jesus, rushing to Jesus, and leaving behind anything that might hold us back.

Lord Jesus, our Teacher, give us the gift of seeing again. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Thursday, March 22, 2018


(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

Jesus told us to bring the blind beggar Bartimaeus to him. When we told Bartimaeus to get up, he left his cloak behind.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. You see, a cloak is one of a beggar’s few possessions; indeed, it’s his most important one. Not only did the cloak provide cover on chilly days, but it was the means by which he collected his money. He would spread the garment in front of him, hoping that passers-by would drop in a coin or two. All the livelihood he had was what he could gather in that cloak. And yet, to get to Jesus, he left it behind!

Bartimaeus gave up everything he had so that he might stand with Jesus. And as he stood there, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer of Bartimaeus surprised and intrigued me. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what he said.

Lord, I wonder. In order to be with you, what are we willing to give up? Amen


Lent Devotion, Wednesday, March 21, 2018


(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

We were traveling with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. As we walked along, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the side of the road. When he heard that Jesus was going by, he began shouting over and over, “Have mercy! Mercy! Have mercy!”

Those of us with Jesus were annoyed by Bartimaeus. So we told him to be quiet. We wanted him to stay in his place, and the proper place for a blind beggar was to stay silent and out of the way.

Bartimaeus ignored us; he refused to be silenced. He continued to cry out, “Son of David have mercy on me.” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” Reluctantly we said, “Bartimaeus, get up; he is calling you.”

As Bartimaeus jumped to his feet, he did something I’ll never forget. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Lord, teach us to hear the voices of others. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Tuesday, March 20, 2018


(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)

When Jesus was in Capernaum, he had a good thing going. Because of his teaching and healing, he had become a real hit, a kind of super-star. People came out in droves to see him. But he decided to leave town and go through all the villages of Galilee. And he was just as popular there! He was so popular, in fact, that it would be difficult to enter villages because of the crowds and commotion. So he started staying outside, in deserted places. But they didn’t stay deserted long; the people heard where he was and flocked to him.

But then he decided to leave Galilee. And that struck me as kind of strange. After all, he was packing them in; he had, so to speak, a full church. Why mess with success; why pick up and leave? If your goal were big numbers and popularity, Galilee was the place to be; Galilee was the place to stay! But numbers weren’t the main thing with Jesus. Obedience to God mattered more, and this obedience moved him toward Jerusalem. As we traveled there, we saw a man by the roadside named Bartimaeus. Tomorrow I’ll tell his story.

Lord, teach us that following your way matters more than being popular. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Monday, March 19, 2018


At the time of Jesus’ arrest, the Gospel of Mark says that “a certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and rain off naked.” (Mark 14:51-52)

Some have speculated this young man is the author of the Gospel. We have no way of knowing for sure, but for the purpose of these devotions, let us assume it is so. Beginning with the next paragraph, and continuing through the remaining days of Lent, it is Mark who is speaking to us.

My name is Mark. You may have heard of me. I wrote a story of Jesus; in that story, I included a word about my greatest failure. You see, I ran away from Jesus.

Along with his other followers, I abandoned him. I was too frightened to stay. That moment of shame is a bitter memory. And yet the shame has been wiped away by Jesus’ gracious mercy. For although we left him, he did not leave us. But if we are to follow him now——if his way is to become our way–it is necessary to know his story, and the life he taught. So let me tell a bit of his story. By doing that, I hope to inspire you to follow his way.

Lord God, thank you for the gospel writer Mark. Through his words, we know that when we fall you will lift us. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Saturday, March 17, 2018


Mark tells us that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness, “angels waited on him.”

This is not the first time the Bible speaks of angels in the wilderness. Angels lead Israel on its Exodus journey. (Ex. 14:19; 23:20; 23;32:34; 33:2.) Angels give Elijah hope and food (1 Kings 19:5-7.)

Angels appear later in Mark’s gospel, in connection with the end times. And so angels point us both to what God has done in the past and to what God will do in the future. In other words, angel-talk gives witness to a faithful God who is leading us toward a better world. We Christians sometimes forget this future dimension of God; we think we need to return to a previous golden age to live safely and securely. But the Bible talks about new things, not a restoration of the past. Our purpose as followers of Christ is not to make things as they once were, but to envision and enact a world that is in keeping with Jesus’ values of compassion and welcome.

God of our past and of our future: Thank you for the angels, signs of your protecting grace. Align us with what you are doing through them; lead us to new adventures of sharing your shalom with the world. We ask this in your Son’s name, and through the life-giving power of his Spirit. Amen.

Lent Devotion, Friday, March 16, 2018


Mark tells us that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness, he was tempted by Satan. The figure of Satan represents evil forces with threaten the way of God in the world.

Sometimes this evil force is manifested in bizarre ways, as in those who are demon possessed.

More often, it makes itself known in more “normal” ways, even appearing in the guise of well-meaning advice. When Jesus told the disciples that he must suffer and die, Peter said, “Lord, this must not happen to you!” Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.” (Mark 8:33)

Our words and decisions may oppose the way of Jesus. If it could happen to Peter, it can happen to us. But here’s the good news: even when we fail, Jesus will not give up on us. He is always seeking to restore, renew, and lift us. Thanks be to God!

Forgiving God, we confess our failure to you. We do not always follow the way you set for us. Have mercy upon us, and through the work of your Spirit, restore us to the fellowship of your Son. Amen.