What's the Big Idea?
The Jesus that Mark reveals to us in his biography is a man on the move. There’s no lengthy backstory in Mark. He lets Luke handle Jesus’ birth, Matthew delve into the Old Testament, and John explain his divine, ancient origins! Instead, in Mark’s gospel, we see Jesus go and do. Miracles! Mercy! People are AMAZED. There’s never been anyone like this before.
Why? Because Jesus is on a mission and it’s nothing short of saving the world. His destination: the one inescapable place Jesus must go to complete the mission—the cross. Mark shows us his unwavering determination in every verse that leads to Holy Week.
In this multi-week series through the gospel of Mark, we begin a new year with Jesus on his race to the cross. As we journey with Jesus, we will be challenged to go there with him as well, learning, step by step, what it means as a follower of Jesus to carry our own cross or risk forfeiting our souls.
Ultimately we will learn how to run the race of our own lives faithfully to the end too, finding strength in our Savior’s cross, and successfully crossing the finish line of our earthly lives to gain the ultimate victory where endless glory awaits.
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West Palm Beach, FL 33411
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January 7 | The Starting Line
Every race has a start. As they prepare, and step up to the line, the competitors already have their minds and hearts on the finish line. They take their mark. There’s silence. The gun cracks and muscles instantly respond with action. The race is on! The eyes of the crowd are drawn in. Every race has a start, but it all began far before that moment. As did Jesus’ race to the cross. It began in time and history as God declared he would send a Savior. The preparations had been made, and now Mark describes how Jesus began his race, pulling us into it. Drawing us to follow this race, and even to run along with Jesus. Let’s go!
January 14 | The Amazing Race
Some athletes are simply incredible. When they compete, you can’t help but stare in awe and wonder at the strength they exert, the focus on their task, the abilities with which they have been blessed, and what they are able to accomplish. It tells you something about their origin, their work ethic, their determination, and you wonder what drives them so hard. You can’t help but stare in awe and wonder at Jesus’ miraculous power. It is amazing! As he is determined to use that amazing power to help people in need, he shows his determination to continue to help people with their greatest need.
January 21 | Running on Forgiveness
What inspires you to get up each day? What allows you to live with joy? With the hardships and struggles we experience in this world, we need something to encourage us and empower us to live well each day. Money, philosophy, and technology might be tools we use, but they aren’t the reason we live. Jesus uses tools to bring his incredible and miraculous grace into our hearts. That grace can inspire us each day. That grace gives us joy each day. Because of the power in Jesus’ words, you can live with joy; you can live with purpose; you can run on his forgiveness.
January 28 | No Distractions
All along the course the runners find distractions. Some in the crowd cheer you on, some in the crowd cheer on your opponents. Some praise your form and skill. Some accuse you of cheating. But you can’t get distracted. You need to stay focused on what is most important. Jesus faced many distractions in his ministry, but he always stayed focused on the most important thing - drawing more and more to be closer and closer to God. He drew his disciples, he drew crowds, and he showed them how outsiders can become part of the family of God; how sinners can become saints!
February 4 | Listen Carefully To Your Coach
The coach observes his athletes, jots down his notes, compares the times, and then he speaks. He teaches. He gives important directions. Those with the humility to accept his instructions and encouragements will grow in their abilities. Those who think they know better will struggle and fail. Jesus is so much more than a coach. He is our God - our Savior! When he teaches and instructs us, it’s important we open our ears to listen to his Word and to put his words into practice. As Jesus instructs us with stories and illustrations, he asks us to listen. His Word will work. When we are patient, he brings about his own results from the words he speaks.
February 11 | The Point of No Return
Glory and celebration await the victorious runners of the race, but that glory never comes easy. It only comes through the intense agony of the pain, even suffering, as every step becomes harder and harder; every breath becomes more strenuous. Only through that pain can the runner gain the glory that is to come, if they finish. Throughout his life Jesus showed glory in his miraculous power, and on the mount of transfiguration he showed incredible glory, but his race wasn’t complete. His race needed to continue; to the cross. There was no turning back. It had to go through the cross. There was glory ahead, but first the agony of the cross.
February 14 | Give Up Fear For Lent
As you run your race, what do you find vital and essential in your life? What do you need - more than anything else? Can you find it here, in church, in the ashes, in the religious motions, rites, and ceremonies we employ and practice? Maybe, the better question to ask is what don’t you need? Of what do you need to let go, give up? Guilt, shame, fear. Let Jesus take them. He is what you need. Find him and his mercy here, in worship. Let these ashes, these rites, and ceremonies refocus your heart on Jesus and his race to the cross for you.
February 18 | Practice Proper Form
Proper form makes all the difference in the race. How your feet hit the ground, the way your toes push off, the rotation of your legs, the pumping of your arms, the position of your chest, the focus of your eyes - it all matters. Runners practice proper form and technique for a purpose, but not just an external one. It is to ensure their whole body is in sync, including their lungs and heart. It all contributes to a successful race. Jesus reminds that when it comes to our spiritual race proper form in our hearts leads to proper worship in our lives and proper praise on our lips.
February 25 | A Compassionate Teammate
When teammates train together, compete together, travel together, eat together, have fun together, they develop a deep bond. They may known each other better than anyone else, and because they know each other so well, they often are able to offer the exact encouragement needed. Jesus is our compassionate teammate and he knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what we need - every time! He knows how to meet all our needs. He does everything well.
March 3 | Losing To Win
No one likes to lose. No matter how much our competitive nature drives us, we still prefer to win. But sometimes you win by losing. If you want to follow Jesus you have to lose to win. You have to give up your life for Jesus in order that he can save that life. You have to deny yourself and follow him, just as Jesus denied himself to take up his own cross.
March 10 | Make Sure You Have Salt
Family support is often a massive part in the story of an athlete’s success. In addition to physical talent, determination, and practice, a support system is necessary for success in competition and life. Jesus knows this better than anyone - he was part of the creative acts that instituted marriage and the family. So on his own race, Jesus speaks clearly and directly about the support system God has built - not for himself, but for our benefit. To live as God’s children is to raise up the next generation and disciple one another starting at home. This is why it is so important for us to become more like Jesus and support one another like family.
March 17 | First Is Last
How many of us easily buy into the thinking, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” The Kingdom of God flips this thinking around. Jesus turns the ways of the world upside down. Which is so good for us. We need Jesus’ revelation and teaching to help us with this. Worldly wisdom takes us the opposite direction and we’ll never finish the race. Jesus guides us in understanding what is truly valuable and important to pursue with eagerness and urgency.
March 24 | The Final Stretch
They come around the final turn and now it is a sprint to the finish, but just because it is near the end of the race doesn’t mean the steps become less important - they become more important. Every stride takes the runner closer to the finish, closer to victory, but every step becomes more challenging, more difficult. The crowds may roar around the turn, but the celebration can’t fully begin yet. There is more to take in. As Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds roar with praise, but the chants will turn by the end of the week. Every step, every movement, and every word of Jesus’ teaching is important in this final stretch before the cross.
March 28 | For Many, For You
Jesus wanted his disciples to never forget his race to the cross. He wanted them to remember his race because of what he would do - for many, and for you. Jesus gave up his body and his blood to the cross for each one of us. As he institutes Holy Communion, he does so so that we remember and receive that assuring truth again and again in a special way - bread and wine, body and blood, for the forgiveness of our sins.
March 29 | The Finish Line
The finish line. The pain. The exhaustion. The final breath. The tired muscles that finally fail. This is what we witness at Jesus’ cross. There is tremendous agony and pain there, but he crosses that finish line for one, incredible, remarkable purpose - our salvation. The curtain stretched out and torn as he died on the cross, reminds us that the separation from God we would have suffered is no longer there. The pain, the exhaustion, the body laid to rest in a tomb means that Jesus' race is finished and there is the hope of glory ahead.
March 31 | The Comeback
Jesus finished his race as he gave his final breath on the cross. We have run together with him as Mark announced each step of this race. Now Mark is elated to give us this final account. The account of victory - Christ is risen up from the grave. He was victorious. Because Jesus was victorious, so are you. His race is over, but yours continues. He tells you to run out into this world and declare his victory, and you won’t be alone - Jesus will always run with you.