Our stony heart idols cannot be removed,
they can only be replaced by the One who turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.
It is only when we are captivated by something greater than our idols,
that we can experience victory from the chains that bind us.
This week we again see the Pharisees trapped by their idol of power,
hardening their hearts against Jesus.
But we also see one man who is being wooed toward
the One who can set him free.
So our symbol for the week is a heart transplant.
In February I spent time with Lee and Vince Petno, dear friends that Steve and I met in Akron, when both the men were doing medical residencies. I met Vince’s wife Lee, and invited her to Bible study. She was a practicing Catholic and refused, saying, “My church takes care of that.” She had religion, like the Pharisees in Mark 12, but not a relationship with Jesus.” But I gently persisted and she finally came and received “a heart transplant.” She changed so dramatically that her husband, Vince, was intrigued. Lee, obeying 1 Peter 3:1-2 literally, didn’t say a word, hoping to win him without a word.
When Vince met me he asked, “Are you the one responsible for the change in my wife?”
I laughed and said, “No! That would be Jesus.”
“Really!” He looked amazed but it put him on a pursuit for truth. He went on a Catholic retreat called Cursillo (similar to the Protestant “Walk to Emmaus”) and God found him. Vince and Lee eventually left Catholicism, but have been passionate for the Lord all these forty plus years. Last Friday I got an e-mail from Lee saying, “I am still in the afterglow of my salvation.” Vince spoke at Steve’s funeral, saying, ” I could fix other peoples’ hearts, but not my own.” He explained how God gave him a heart transplant! (Sometimes he tells people, “I had a heart transplant when I was in training to be a cardiologist.” They are amazed and asked him to tell them about it! Isn’t that a great segway into a testimony? 🙂
Isn’t that a great way to describe the expulsive power of a new affection?
I am not ashamed of the gospel for it has the POWER to drive out religion, idols, and darkness. We watched Lee and Vince live for the Lord, and then, their children, and now, their nine grandchildren! What power there is in the gospel!
When Vince retired from his practice of cardiology, he began a factory in Ohio to make mobility carts to help the handicapped in third world countries. Now they are in Florida, living in a retirement/assisted living community that also has one of these factories. When I visited, Vince had just returned from an African tour to check on how the carts were doing, and what was needed. Watch this and be inspired! Vince said, “When we give them a cart, we tell them where the love comes from.”
I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Friday, for it may be controversial, and I so appreciate the depth here. This week’s passage is not covered by Keller in his book, though I surely would have loved to know how he interprets the story of the widow’s mite!
Highlight from Last Week:
I can’t say it enough. I love the interaction, the iron sharpening iron aspect of our blog.
You dance on the table when there are answers to prayer — I saw it with Jennifer’s answer concerning her daughter and Bing’s answer concerning helping her students in a time of Covid 19.
You share wonderful posts of songs and more. I asked Lizzy to send me this when she wrote about it on the blog concerning the Easter service from her church last week. Their Philip is the last little boy to sing — and then Nila posted the same song done by another group. Though we are self-sheltering, we are inter-acting, not neglecting the fellowship of the saints!
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Share one specific way your heart has been changed by Jesus. Share also one way you still need a stone changed to flesh.
Monday: Let Us Kill Him, and the Inheritance Will be Ours
3. Read Mark 12:1-12
A. Summarize what happens in this parable.
B. Whom do you think the various tenants represent?
C. Why did the final tenants want to kill the Son? (verse 7)
D. What does Jesus mean by verse 10?
E. Why did the Pharisees decide not to try to arrest Jesus?
4. What idols do you see at work in the hearts of the Pharisees? What motivated
them to harden their hearts?
5. Do you have an idol you run to for your needs? How do you harden your heart
against the Lord when He whispers to you to come to Him instead? What lies have
6. How might you pray for yourself to overcome your heart idols today?
Tuesday: Avoiding a Heart Transplant
Kathy Troccoli tells of her own heart transplant. As a young woman she was intrigued by a lifeguard at the pool who loved Jesus. She and Kathy had many discussions, but Kathy was always trying to outwit her with hard questions, in an attempt to avoid Jesus. Finally this young woman said, “I can’t answer all your questions, Kathy — but no matter what, one day every knee will bow to Jesus — some who are saved and some who are lost. You will bow too.” That put the fear of God into Kathy and softened her heart.
Here we see the Pharisees and the Sadducees coming to Jesus with hard questions, hoping to trap him, avoiding their own heart transplants.
7. Read Mark 12:13-17
A. How were the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus — hoping He would show disrespect for
Caesar? How did He escape their trap?
B. Do you see any practical applications from Jesus’ answer? If so, what?
8. Read Mark 12:18-27
A. How were the Sadducees trying to show Jesus that He was wrong to teach there was
B. What does He tell them that shows the error of their thinking?
C. Some have taken verse 25 to mean we will become angels. What point is Jesus
D. What do you learn about the resurrection from Jesus’ answer?
Wednesday: Very Close to A Heart Transplant
9. Read Mark 12:28-34
A. What is the scribe’s question and Jesus answer?
B. What is the scribe’s response and Jesus response to him?
10. Meditate on verse 30, asking the Spirit to illumine you for your own life. What do you
11. How might you incorporate the above into prayer?
12. I keep going back to the different way liberal churches and traditional (meaning the way the churches were when they originated) churches see the purpose of the church. Liberal churches jump right to the second commandment, minimizing the first. Why is the first vital?
Thursday: Beware of Obstacles to Heart Transplants
Many today see Jesus as a great teacher or prophet, but do not honor Him as Lord. Unless we believe He is Lord, we will never have a heart transplant.
13. How does Jesus use the very words that scribes have written down to prove to them
that He is Lord? (Mark 12:35-37)
Because our hearts are idol making factories (Calvin) we need regular help in turning the stones in our hearts back to flesh. Our idols are the stones. Take heed to the following warning of Christ.
14. Of what does Jesus warn in Mark 12:38-40? What do you think are the idols that lead
to pretense and concern over outward appearance?
15. How might you earnestly pray for yourself in regard to the above?
Friday: The Widow’s Mite — More Here Than We Might Realize
Usually this passage is used as a lesson in generosity, and I’m not disputing that. I do think Jesus is commending the widow. But, when you look at the context, might there be another lesson here? First, I’d like to see if you see what I believe I see — and then I’ll jump in and tell you my perspective.
16. As you look at the context of all of Mark 12, what would you say has been the general
condition of the hearts of the religious leaders?
17. First bookend to Widow’s Mite: Read Mark 12:40 and describe what injustice the
religious leaders have practiced.
18. Read Mark 12:41-44.
A. Describe the scene, noting any detail you can. (Sometimes reading out loud helps
you see more.)
B. What in particular do you see in the description of the widow?
19. Second bookend to widow’s mite. Read Mark 13:1-2, remembering that chapter
divisions are not inspired. What is the second bookend to the widow’s mite story?
20. Do you think Jesus is teaching more here than just a lesson on generosity? If so, what?
(I am going to jump in with my thoughts after several of you speculate. Hoping for a good discussion.)
21. What is your take-a-way and why?