...Continued from The Gospel of Mark
As we begin a new season together we will all be following Mark's story of Jesus which was a Journey towards the cross of Christ and living in light of his resurrection. In our short few months together in Mark will have no illusions that we will be able to probe the depths of this book. However, while we cannot plumb its depths, we will ascend its heights and run across its peaks. Our main concern is having our vision of life transformed by the wonders we see in Jesus Christ and his gospel. It is our hope that our vision and love of Jesus is aroused and our feet made swift in following.
The Gospel is Our Life - Signpost in Mark 1
The book of Mark begins with a resounding clarity of purpose: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Here we find a beginning of a new chapter in an unfolding story, here we have good news coming forth, here we find the name of a person which means "The Lord Saves," here we find a person unique in all of history; a Son but no ordinary man. Human beings have been made and fashioned for worship and our hearts will glory in all manner of things be it through religion, the pursuit of pleasure, the identification with a certain group or the exaltation of self. Yet our lives will wander adrift without the lifting of our burdens of sin and the receiving of grace and peace with God.
When religion beckons we must find the root of our story in the good news. It is not what we do that makes us acceptable to a holy and good God, it is what has been done by Jesus himself in the fullness of time on the earth. Jesus' first words in the gospel of Mark beckon us to action: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Healing Comes from Jesus - Signpost in Mark 1, 2, and 3
In a world that daily echoes the remnants of the fall of man we know that we are in desperate need of healing and wholeness. Our bodies are broken and will surely pass away at an appointed time. Our relationships are broken with communities constantly separating and being fractured. Spiritual powers torment and destroy lives daily around the world and our souls are stained with the reality of sin. We live today with the present world groaning and longing for redemption and renewal. Jesus tells us that the self-righteous, the proud, the self-sufficient and the denial of our condition have no place with God. For he tells us in Mark 2:17 - "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." All sinners may come to him and none will be cast out.
We Live In His Story - Signpost in Mark 4
There are many ways to define life and communicate its ultimate meaning and purpose. Many have chosen to describe the world only in scientific terms. Many have chosen to weave complex philosophies for the consumption of humanity. Others have danced through a myriad of political visions, cultural revolutions and social engineering. Yet how did Jesus teach us and define for us the ultimate reality and the Kingdom of God? He told stories to teach those who could hear. Stories designed by God to both reveal the hidden secrets of the rule and reign of Jesus and to conceal them from those who would have no part in worshipping their Creator. In the parables of Jesus life finds form and definition. In his stories we see our story with clarity and soul humbling and soul refreshing life. In fact, in the large story of the gospel we find the truth and see our faces as we are meant to be.
The Hero of Every Story - Signpost in Mark 4
If life is the unfolding of a great story, the story of God, then that story has a beginning, a climax, and a final resolution. It also has a hero, a great rescuer and every story of Scripture whispers his name. The identity of Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God is the most important issue in all of history. In the last part of Mark four we see a question emerge from the lips of the disciples, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" In this signpost we look at the hero of history in a story that includes uncertainty, calamity, fear, peril and chaos - sound like life? It ends with Jesus speaking definitively into hearts filled with trepidation and the peace and calm that results.
A New Living Way - Signpost in Mark 7
So many times we get consumed with the external realities of appearances, morality, religion and wearing masks for people all around us. Yet what is the reality of the human heart? The picture that Jesus paints for us is not pretty as he tells us all matter of sin and wickedness flows out from our hearts. Though his picture of humanity is one of depravity, he does not leave us there. He knows that a mere coat of paint to cover our brokenness will crack and crumble in life. No, instead of a simple pious makeover, he reminds us that the problem we have is not simply our poor religious performances. In order to transform us into new people and place us on a path of life, it requires radical heart surgery. It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean, and it is a renewal and recreation of our very selves which we most desperately need. Is this possible? Seeing Jesus in Mark 7 tell us YES! But we must come to God needy and hopeful - in faith - for the work only he can do.
A Continual Unfolding - Signposts in Mark 8, 9 and 10
There are some high mountain peaks in every narrative, crucial plot turns which move the story to its climax. As the story of Jesus unfolds in Mark we see some very important events go down. First, Peter confesses Jesus to be the Christ a confession upon which the church will be built. Second, Jesus begins to foretell what was prophesied about him long ago, that the Son of Man must suffer, be murdered and rise from death. This was an unexpected turn of events for the disciples that he repeats with them driving home the central focus of his mission. Third, God reveals Jesus is his glory on the top of a mountain. His radiant beauty and manifest glory was displayed for the disciples just before they turn towards leading the mission towards a cross in Jerusalem. The cost of following Jesus, a Jesus who would be rejected by people and die an ignoble death, was being made clear.
Do We Really Want Jesus? Signposts in Mark 11 and 12
Upon his entry to Jerusalem Jesus was being treated like a political religious rock star. He was on the Jay Leno show, Carson Daly wanted to hang out and pretty much the whole town was in an uproar at the arrival of Jesus. Their hero had come to save the day for Jerusalem and the reigns of the Roman oppressor would soon by conquered by the Messiah, a great warrior King! Or was there another plan? Many of the people who welcomed Jesus would soon stand on the other side of his cause. He would threaten religious power by bringing the salvation of God. Those who desire to lead men in religion, rather than to the throne of grace, would soon shout out with ferocity "Crucify Him!"Even his closest of friends, the man who just had confessed him as the Christ of God would turn on his friend in a moment of trial. Peter himself would deny Jesus. So I ask us...do we really want Jesus?
Death by Love and Life By Death - Signposts in Mark 14, 15, and 16
The final apex of Mark's story comes to a head in the final chapters of the book. Everything that began in chapter 1 has moved to this final station where death will come by love and life for God's people will come by death. Jesus, the creator of all things, is mocked, rejected and tried as a common criminal. His people abandon him and he submits himself to a shameful death, even death on a cross. Yet such was the will of a loving God, for it pleased the Father to crush the Son. Putting an end to sin, death and hell in one act and by death would come life to all men who believe. This is the crown jewel of our faith. The songs of men might sing of self-sufficiency and the triumph of our human ingenuity. We will have no portion on this plate - we will preach and live Christ. Christ crucified, victoriously raised, on mission on the earth today beckoning to each of us...Follow Me.
This is my prayer - joy in following Jesus in the mission of God on the earth,
Reid S. Monaghan
This phrase is borrowed from the subtitle of what I consider to be the best children's Bible available today. Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible - Every Story Whispers His Name (Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz, 2007).