Luke, chapters 10 & 11

“[…] Give as gifts of mercy the things that are from within, and look! everything about you will be clean.”
~Luke 11:41

What are the things “from within?”
Jesus has been asked to dine with the Pharisees and has reprimanded them for outwardly appearing to be spiritual while hiding greediness and wickedness within. (Luke 11:39)
“The one who made the outside made also the inside, did he not?”
Jesus explains God’s justice and love, which we are capable of imitating, should be our main focus.
Then he further denounces their religious hypocrisy. (Luke 11:40,42,44)
So when Jesus says to give gifts from within, he appears to be alluding to sharing generously from a pure heart, with selfless motives.
The attitude with which we give stems, of course, from the way we choose to think. (Jer. 4:14)
At the end of the day, God is looking at whether or not our love is sincere. (1 Pet. 4:8,9)

Mark, chapters 13 & 14

“Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? She did a fine deed toward me.”
~Mark 14:6

Mary’s strong appreciation for spiritual things has always impressed me.
Myself coming from a culture that, like ancient Jewish culture, assigns value to a woman based on how industrious she is within the home, and personally not being inclined to cook, I have always easily identified with Mary’s personality.
On the occasion in which Jesus taught at their home, Mary was picked on by her sister, Martha, for sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of helping her serve. (Luke 10:38-40)
Now, five days before his death, Mary takes an extremely costly bottle of genuine nard and pours it on Jesus’ hair and feet.
This time she is criticized by Jesus’ own disciples. (Matt. 26:6-9; John 12:2-5)
According to the Jewish Talmud, women were not supposed to be well-versed in spiritual matters, and we are not aware of any precedents of women closely following a prophet. (Sotah 3:4)
Still, Mary set an excellent example of being spiritually conscientious and maintaining a balanced view of material things, all while not letting others’ negativity discourage her.

Mark, chapters 11 & 12

“When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you your trespasses.”
~Mark 11:25

It can be particularly difficult to forgive others when we consider their sins to be much graver than anything we ourselves have ever done.
Jehovah himself has standards for forgiveness.
For instance, Jehovah expects wrongdoers to repent in order to receive his forgiveness. (Luke 17:3,4; Acts 8:22)
But even if we cannot know the heart condition of someone who has wronged us, forgiving them is key to achieving inner peace. (Eph. 4:31,32)
What’s more, Jesus taught that we should not judge others and that we should pray for our enemies. (Matt. 5:44; 7:1,2)
It helps to remember that the person, like us, was born imperfect. (Ro. 3:23)
The Bible encourages Christians to try to conquer evil with good, and to leave matters that are beyond us in God’s hands. (Ro. 12:17-21)
And we do well to keep a humble view of ourselves, knowing that Jehovah “has not dealt with us according to our sins.” (Ps. 103:10-12)

Mark, chapters 7 & 8

“[…] He sighed deeply in his spirit […].”
~Mark 8:12

Jesus was a man who clearly expressed his emotions.
This is the only passage where the greek verb “anastenazas,” or exasperation, is used in the Scriptures.
It describes how the Pharisees’ lack of faith made him feel.
But Jesus also sighed when speaking sign language to a deaf man he was about to cure. (“estenazen,” Mark 7:34)
He did not simply go through mechanical motions like an overworked doctor.
His sigh conveyed heartfelt empathy, a quality he reflected from our heavenly Father.
People may respond favorably or critically to God’s message, and they can move us, encourage us or drain us.
And like Jesus, we will need to discern who truly is appreciative of the good news and keep looking for them without becoming disheartened.

Mark, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] He was at home. And so many gathered that there was no more room, not even around the door, and he began to speak the word to them.”
~Mark 2:1,2

When I think of Jesus’ ministry, I do not think of him as having people over for brunch, but rather picture him as a wanderer, reaching out to others wherever they were at.
But he did have a home based in Capernaum, which was close to Nazareth, the town he had grown up in. (Matt. 4:13)
What strikes me in this passage is Jesus’ hospitality, even towards those who did not have faith in him. (Mark 2:6,7)
Not only was his privacy overcrowded in an unannounced manner, but some even removed the roof to bring down a paralytic man. (Mark 2:4)
Jesus remained helpful and compassionate as always. (Mark 2:5)
When we in the Christian congregation are encouraged to be hospitable, it is not a suggestion based on culture or personal preference. (1 Pe. 4:9)
The way of hospitality is part of Christ’s example.

Matthew, chapter 25

“Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
~Matthew 25:20-23

In Jesus’ illustration of the slaves and the talents, one slave was responsible for the equivalent of 102 kg of silver (~225 lbs.), or what was back then about 100 years’ wages for a common laborer.
The second slave was responsible for 40.8 kg of silver (~90 lbs.), or about 40 years’ wages.
They both doubled their master’s initial capital by immediately investing it. (Matt. 25:16,17)
Jesus focused on the effort each made and in the story, each received the exact same compensation.
This shows me that God does not value my service to him depending on how many privileges I may hold within the congregation, but on how much effort I individually put forth in serving him wholeheartedly.
He focuses on quality, and as long as I am doing everything I can to be a true Christian, I will receive as many blessings as someone who perhaps bears more responsibility. (Matt. 25:29)

Matthew, chapters 18 & 19

“[…] Whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven.”
~Matthew 18:18

When we are waiting for a decision to be made by our congregation’s body of elders, we can easily lose patience if it affects us personally.
When Jesus was talking about things being bound or loosened, he did it in the context of someone on trial.
When a body of elders holds someone to account for their sins, they need to be careful not to rush into rash judgments based on hurt feelings.
Jesus implied elders’ decisions should be based on principles laid down in heaven, and the same principles should guide them when reinstating someone into the congregation. (2 Cor. 2:6-8)