Jesus the cornerstone

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes (Mark 12:10,11).

Read Mark 12:1–12

Normally, when we listen to a story or watch a movie, we think about the characters and make judgements about them. We think about whether they deserve praise or blame, reward or punishment: we want the goodies to win and the baddies to lose. We have this way of thinking right from the beginning when we are children first listening to stories. Although we might become more sophisticated as we grow, our sense of what is right and wrong remains, and we listen to or watch stories ready to make judgements.

In today’s reading, Jesus tells a story to the chief priests, scribes and elders who have questioned Jesus about his authority (Mark 11:27,28). In the story, Jesus talks about the tenants of a vineyard, who not only rob the owner of his produce but also mistreat and kill his servants and even his son. Jesus knows that the chief priests, scribes and elders will be able to judge for themselves that the tenants in the story are wicked. Jesus also knows they will eventually understand that he is speaking about them.

It can be a shock for us to realise that, in the story we listen to, we are the ones in the wrong. This is how it is in the Bible: God’s word reveals to us that we are sinners, we have acted unjustly, and we deserve condemnation. This would be too much for us to bear, except that Jesus, who tells us stories that reveal our need, is also the one who has gone to the cross to take away our sins. Although Jesus was despised in life – and suffered a shameful death – through his resurrection, he showed that he is the cornerstone of the church and that as God builds us together in him, we can live with humility and hope.

Father, thank you that Jesus is the cornerstone and that through holy baptism, we are built together into the temple that is his body. Give us humility to acknowledge when we sin, and give us hope that you give us new life through your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Fraser Pearce grew up in Sydney and has served as a pastor in Melbourne, Bendigo and Adelaide. He is married to Margaret, and they have four children ranging in age from 15 to 23. Fraser enjoys being with family and friends, listening to (and playing) music and reading.


A question of authority

[The chief priests, the scribes and the elders] said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?’ (Mark 11:28).

Read Mark 11:27–33

There used to be a show on TV called Undercover Boss. Bosses would go ‘undercover’ in their own companies to investigate how things worked on the ground level. Many interesting conversations ensued, with workers having no idea of who they were talking with until the big ‘reveal’ at the end. It was a way for bosses to get in touch with the challenges they may not have been aware of and make improvements.

Jesus, however, knew exactly what was going on. He had ‘upset the apple cart’ in cleansing the temple, and the ‘authority figures’ demanded answers! They were intent on getting rid of him and wanted to know what authority this man was operating in.

Jesus chose to evade answering them at that moment, targeting their beliefs in the process. He could see their hearts and motives. He also knew that the timing wasn’t right. His time, though drawing very close, had not yet come. There were significant things to be done before the trial that occurred several days later.

Jesus, the Son of God, would ultimately surrender his life to save the world. He had the authority and was, in fact, the only one who could! Even after the big reveal, when he rose victorious from the dead, there were some who still dismissed him … choosing to stay in the paradigms of authority they were accustomed to. But for all who would/will believe, Jesus’ authority over death and the devil is final and life-changing! That is authority worth living under!

Dear Jesus, to say you put up with a lot is probably the biggest understatement ever. But thank you for doing it. Thank you for being my Saviour. I praise and thank you for your amazing love. Thank you that I now get to live and serve you under your authority. In your name, I pray, Amen.

Georgie lives in Adelaide. She loves getting out into the country to experience God’s creation. She likes taking photos when she can. After teaching for many years, she now enjoys working in a church/school setting where she still gets to share stories about Jesus with children and families.



Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no-one, for you do not regard people with partiality (Matthew 22:16b).

Read Matthew 22:15–22

Here we go again … Another showdown.

On one side we have disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians, intent on ensnaring Jesus with a web of words. On the other, we have Jesus, seeing right through their ploy to the very hearts of those seeking his capture.

And yet, the words spoken as a means to flatter Jesus are not only true, but the way Jesus used to brush ‘the web’ away!

Jesus is indeed a man of uncompromising integrity. He isn’t buffeted by the influence of others when they miss the mark. Jesus’ foundation is truth.

Jesus is secure in his identity as God’s beloved Son. While on earth, he lived in the confines of humanity and obeyed the laws of the land. And yet he never lost sight of the fact that everything belonged (and belongs) to God (Psalm 24:1,2). Jesus’ eternal perspective kept him grounded.

In a world that at times weaves webs of confusion, we too can stand on truth, secure in our identity in Christ, knowing who we are and to whom we belong. Knowing this, what truth from God can you hold on to today that will help you clear away those webs?

Dear Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. There are times when life gets loud and confusing. Help me remember my identity is in you. You are my anchor. In your name I pray, Amen.

Georgie lives in Adelaide. She loves getting out into the country to experience God’s creation. She likes taking photos when she can. After teaching for many years, she now enjoys working in a church/school setting where she still gets to share stories about Jesus with children and families.


Saving Kids

Everything is possible for the one who believes (Mark 9:23b).

Read Mark 9:14–29

How often have we heard the plea from a parent, ‘Can someone please help my child’? The grief and pain of a parent who scans the crowds for someone – anyone at all – to ease the pain of our children who are cast into the fires of social media confusion or drowned in the waters of online activity.

The father in our Scripture is desperate for someone to act on behalf of his son, but predictably, those in charge (the teachers of the law) are discussing with the other nine disciples. We don’t exactly know what was said but can only assume that they were scoffing to the disciples, ‘You claim the power of your rabbi, but you can’t even heal a child’.

All the hot air wasted on arguing about the issue rather than fixing it …

Enter Jesus, perhaps still glowing from the Transfiguration. The crowd rushed to him, overwhelmed and in awe. ‘The spirit keeps driving him into the depths of the fire and water. If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’

The father’s response is not simply about healing his son but restoring the family.

Help us.

Jesus gives the most hopeful response – one for the 1st and 21st centuries. ‘Everything is possible for the one who believes.’

No somethings, or a few things, but everything.

But the caveat is – they’re possible, not promised. For this father and his son, the father’s belief brings about immediate change through Jesus’ power, but sometimes the possibility is in the future. Sometimes, that thing we are desperate for doesn’t come in the form we expect (or even want). How does a Christian deal with this? How does a believing person, who prays and fasts, wrestle with an answer that resounds with ‘later’?

What things in life do you struggle with? How do you hear the words of Jesus as possible and promise-ful, especially when it comes to kids?

Lord Jesus, help us. We know you have the power to rescue. You have promised that belief will lead me through. I pray that you give me the patience to wait for your answer. Amen.

Reid Matthias is the school pastor at St Andrews Lutheran College in Tallebudgera, Queensland. Reid is married to Christine, who is part of the Grow Ministries team. Together, they have raised three incredible daughters, Elsa, Josephine and Greta. Dedicated to the written word, Reid has recently published his fourth novel, Blank Spaces, maintains the blog and regularly contributes to The Lutheran magazine.



Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’ (Mark 9:5).

Read Mark 9:2–13

Today, we read about the Transfiguration. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be there and how it would have felt. We know the three disciples were frightened, but to see Jesus in all his glory like that – what an amazing mountaintop experience!

Can you think of a time when you’ve had a mountaintop experience?

It’s a natural human inclination to want mountaintop experiences. It’s also a natural inclination to want to hold on to them. These amazing experiences are so good that we want to stay in that place forever – or for as long as possible – and to savour it.

Peter, of course, was being Peter, so he came up with a solution for this. He wanted to build three shelters: one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, right there on the mountaintop. Then he could visit at any time to recapture this unique experience.

We might smile or even outright laugh at Peter’s suggestion, but did you know that the Crusaders actually did build three chapels on Mount Tabor? Now, there is the Church of the Transfiguration that contains them. The Chapel of Elijah is located in the south tower; the north tower holds the Chapel of Moses.

We want to stay there on the mountaintop, but we can’t. Sooner or later, we must leave the mountain and go back down to the real world, and the glory quickly fades. Life happens, death happens, we battle our own demons, we find ourselves in a valley, and the mountaintop seems so far away.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus is also there with us in the valley. He’s not just on the mountaintop. Jesus comes into our grief, fear, doubt, confusion and circumstances. When we look to him and at him, the other stuff fades away. We can experience a bit of the mountaintop in the wonder and joy of his presence and love right where we are.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the mountaintop experiences in our lives. Thank you also for being with us in the valleys and everywhere in between. Because of you, we can experience the wonder and joy of your presence wherever we are. Amen.

Verena is a Church Worker Support Officer for the LCA Church Worker Support Department, where it is her privilege to support congregations, pastors, lay workers, employees and volunteers of LCA. In her spare time, she is involved in drama ministry, women’s ministry and prayer ministry. She has three children and eight grandchildren in three different states.



‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs’ (Mark 7:28).

Read Mark 7:24–37

During the next few days, we will read through an average ministry week in the life of Jesus in Mark. We start with this story.

Jesus was travelling in Gentile territory when a Gentile woman approached him, threw herself at his feet and begged him to heal her daughter, who was possessed by a demon … Jesus ignored her.

Why would he do that? Jesus loves everyone, doesn’t he? Yet he tells her that he was only sent to the children of Israel. She was a Gentile, so he couldn’t help. It would be like throwing the children’s food to the dogs. Basically, he calls her a dog. That’s a bit strong, isn’t it?

‘Dogs’ sounds harsh, but the term he used was the Greek diminutive kynaria, which meant little dogs, household pets. Jesus also said that the children of Israel had to be fed ‘first’. He threw her a bit of hope that her turn might come if she waited.

So, what did the woman do? At this stage, I probably would’ve been so embarrassed and humiliated that I would’ve just wanted the ground to swallow me up. But she persisted. She argued back. She used Jesus’ rebuff to her advantage. ‘Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’

Don’t knock crumbs. They do mount up. My mother-in-law would carefully gather all the crumbs on the breadboard from cutting bread and put them in a container in the freezer to use later for cooking. I was amazed at how quickly the amount grew and all the different things she used them for.

Anyway, the story has a great ending because, impressed and pleased by this woman’s reply and faith, Jesus healed her daughter.

I am in awe of this woman and her persistence. Her faith was incredible. She had no doubt that Jesus had the power to heal, and she realised that even the crumbs of what Jesus could do would be enough.

That’s true for us today, too. But Jesus offers us, his beloved children, far more than crumbs. He comes into our crummy lives and gives us the Bread of Life. He gives us everything. The whole loaf, the entire bakery, and we don’t have to argue or wrestle with him for it.

Precious Jesus, Bread of Life, I thank you for everything you have done for me and everything you have given me. Help me never to take it for granted. I come to you now like that woman and bring you my requests. [Take the time to give Jesus the things on your heart today.] Thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. Amen.

Verena is a Church Worker Support Officer for the LCA Church Worker Support Department, where it is her privilege to support congregations, pastors, lay workers, employees, and volunteers of LCA. In her spare time, she is involved in drama ministry, women’s ministry and prayer ministry. She has three children and eight grandchildren in three different states.


Still dull on what Jesus thinks?

Are you so dull?’ Jesus asked (Mark 7:18a).

Read Mark 7:1–23

I still feel a special affinity to the texts I wrote exegetical essays on while at seminary. Today’s from Mark, on what defiles a person, is one of those.

It left a number of lasting impressions on me that have been refined ever since. One is about the need to watch how we make rules about things that are neither commanded nor forbidden. Another was Christ’s care for parents. Another was the way Jesus so efficiently carved out the ceremonial food laws but left the moral code in place. And of more levity, Jesus’ own description of human anatomy in relation to food that is put in the mouth. Many of the translations sanitise this. The NIV is case in point when it translates food entering the mouth and going ‘out of the body’ rather than into the more earthy ‘latrine’ (my Greek dictionary) or being ‘flushed’ as The Message puts it. Yes – Jesus knew all about loos.

Related to the moral code, I learnt about the use of ‘vice’ and ‘virtue’ lists in the New Testament. They were a common device of the day to make a point. You see them throughout the New Testament letters – the gifts of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and 23 being a good example of a virtue list as well as a real description of the Spirit’s work in us (Galatians 5:19–21 is its vice list counterpart).

In today’s text, Jesus himself, in verses 21 and 22, lists 12 vices that come out of the heart and defile a person. The first six describe behaviours. The second six have more to do with attitudes. Clearly, the original sin in our hearts drives both behaviours and attitudes. My main impression from this text is that Jesus takes sin seriously. This is despite what I hear people suggest to me today, not least in the church. Sure – he doesn’t want us distracted by the impact of breaking rules that aren’t really rules. But he nevertheless wants us focused on what dishonours him and hurts others and ourselves.

The sexual revolution is a prominent example today. In this list, Jesus’ own lips nominate ‘sexual immorality … adultery … lewdness’ as ‘evils that come from inside and defile a person’. He died to forgive us for these, as he did the rest on this list. It seems we remain dull to think any amount of them in our lives – and the other vices he lists – continue to cause him no concern.

Holy Spirit, you take what is Christ’s and make it known to us. And so you’ve made it clear Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many, even me. Keep me taking this word seriously and living in his grace. For you daily and richly forgive all my sins and the sins of all believers. Amen.

Pastor Matt Bishop serves the St Paul Lutheran Church and co-located primary school at Blair Athol in Adelaide. He delights in his wife Mel, three young adult daughters and, soon, a son-in-law. He would like to spend more time fishing but loves being a pastor and sharing the gospel with everyone God puts in his path, not least the nomads, prodigals, exiles and sceptics of the Christian faith.


He was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6:6).

Jesus returned to Nazareth as a changed man with a vastly different vocation. His baptism in the Holy Spirit had ordained him in his earthly ministry (see Mark 1:9–11).

Nazareth hadn’t changed, though. Here was the carpenter. A brother in a big family. His siblings were likely adolescents and young adults, along with all the dramas accompanying that. Hence, Nazareth was content, even obligated, to take offence at him teaching them the ways of God. We are told Jesus ‘was amazed at their lack of faith’ (verse 6).

Yet Jesus was not content to leave it at that. It’s almost as if he asks the question, ‘Who then will trust me?’ For faith – trust – in him saves. Jesus has to keep giving faith a chance by getting his word to the people. And so he sends his disciples out in his authority to proclaim his kingdom. Yet it’s clear that he knows not everyone will believe, given his instruction to ‘shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them’ who do not welcome or listen to the disciples.

We can be like both the Nazarenes and the villagers who reject Jesus. Like the Nazarenes, we can treat him like he is still the kid we grew up with. He has little relevance to say to us. Although that’s because we’ve changed, not him. We’ve heard new things from others, had new experiences, conformed to the culture and are all ‘grown up’. Somehow, Jesus just isn’t relevant anymore. Or, like the villagers, we don’t welcome Jesus or listen to him (at least like we once did). You know, like when you once went to church pretty much every Sunday, participated in a home group, set aside your offering, or [insert discipleship thing(s) you no longer do here].

But it’s far from a lost cause. Jesus has to keep giving faith a chance by getting his word to the people. ‘Repent!’ is the chief message the disciples were to take out. Notice how they are the undeniable trusters in this account in the way they take him at his word and still go out, even though his hometown has rejected him?

Repent is still a keyword for us. Except, now, it can be understood in the full gospel revelation of his life-giving resurrection. Still going to take offence, not welcome him and not listen to him?

Lord Jesus, we aren’t as smart as we think we are. Please save us from taking offence at you. Or not welcoming you or listening to you. Forgive us when we have, and give us hearts to receive your faithful commission, just as the disciples did. In your name. Amen.


Dead … or asleep?

He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ But they laughed at him (Mark 5:39,40a).

Read Mark 5:21–43

We have come to this account in Mark of the healing of Jairus’ daughter after two very public healings: the demon-possessed man and the woman healed in the crowd by simply touching Jesus’ garment.

Now, we have a very odd situation. Jesus is ‘late’ for the healing of Jairus’ daughter (we know God is never late, but sometimes we wonder, don’t we?!), and she has already died. Or has she? Jesus tells the mourners in their wailing that the girl is asleep. He knows she is no longer alive – and he also knows she is about to be raised to life. Jesus can call that sleeping if he wants – he is God!

Sure enough, Jesus clears the house and raises the girl from the dead. So why did he say she was asleep? Next, we also learn that Jesus gave strict orders not to tell about the miracle.

Who knows whether they kept this or not? Why would he do this? Perhaps it had to do with his own ministry plans. Maybe it was to also protect Jairus from controversy since he was a synagogue leader.

His ways are higher than our ways. (Read Isaiah 55:8,9.) Sometimes, the work in our lives is just for us. We may pray or minister privately to a person who may never tell of the work God has done in them. Other times, there is a public testimony and news to share far and wide. There is a time for both. The outcome is the same: The power of God is moving in our lives, and he has his hand on us.

Praise be to him for that!

Lord God, thank you that your resurrection power, which raised Jesus from the dead, is working in my life! I praise you that nothing can separate us from your love! In Jesus’ powerful name, I pray, Amen.

Sal is married to Pastor Matthew Huckel, and they live in Victoria with their six children. Music, theology, literature and languages are passions the family share and explore together. Sal loves writing, speaking, and walking to the beach at every opportunity.