Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Do We Need to Follow Jesus?

Reading: Mark 10
Mark 10 begins with Jesus crossing the Jordan into Perea, an area of Herod’s jurisdiction. It was here that Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, “For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” (Mark 6:18) So the Pharisees are testing Jesus with a question about divorce. Most likely their test was designed to get Jesus in trouble with Herod, for their motive was murder (Mark 3:6). After Jesus handles this test, it is time to return to discipleship training, for it seems they still don't understand what it means to follow Jesus (Mark 10:13-14).
The rest of the chapter revolves around this topic of following Jesus. First there is the account of the rich man being invited to follow Jesus but He went away sad (Mark 10:21-22). This man was completely blind to who Jesus was and therefore could not leave his stuff for Christ. The third account is about a blind man who seems to see Jesus quite clearly and immediately followed Jesus (Mark 10:52). In the middle, are the disciples who are more like the rest of us who believe. They were following, indeed had left all to follow Jesus, but seem to be recoiling a little from their decision to leave all and follow Jesus. They seem to be a bit foggy on what this following Jesus is all about.
These three accounts are set up by a small interchange revolving around children.
14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
The kingdom of God belongs to those who are like little children. Culturally this didn't mean cute and cuddly, but foolish, uneducated, unkempt, insignificant, weak and dependent. Children were on the bottom rung of their social ladder. But not the rich man. He was at the top. Unlike our modern/post-modern culture in which the rich are considered evil, in that day the rich would have been considered the do-gooders. They were blessed by God, and that was evident to all. It wasn't from winning the lottery, but from hard work and obedience. They were experiencing the results of finding and obeying God's Wisdom (Proverbs 3:16; 8:18). And this man's description of his own life demonstrates that he perceived himself this way.
So, if anyone was able to get into the kingdom, these guys stood a good chance. This explains why the disciples were concerned about anyone's chances if the rich were unable (Mark 10:26). But now he has run into Jesus. And the biggest problem he has is his blindness. I say that because he clearly doesn't see that the One standing in front of him is greater than all his wealth. When Jesus asked the man to sell everything, give to the poor and come follow Him, He wasn't asking him to do two things, but one. Jesus had left everything in heaven to come here to save us. To follow Him is to be like Him.
Now Peter is getting concerned and says, “We have left everything to follow you!” This seems to be one of those statements that has a dangling question somewhere nearby. What did Peter intend by this? Is it an implicit question? (What about our treasure?) Or, possibly a refund request? (“Impossible? But Jesus we put a lot in; any chance we could get it back?”) Or was it: “We’ve left everything to follow YOU! What else is there for us?” I'm not entirely sure, but however you slice it, I think they represent the average disciple well. We were gung-ho when we started following, but as time goes on we have our reservations. What about, what about, what about... ? Jesus graciously assures them that they have nothing to lose!
The next scene drives this heart issue home. James and John come to Jesus and zealously make a request.
Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. (Mark 10:35-36)
Their request reveals that they are still seeking glory for themselves. They are still unclear on what this is about. Their request was not granted. But it stands in contrast to the very next scene where Jesus offers the same thing to Bartimaeus, the blind man.
50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:50-51)
The rich man thought he could see just fine, but was obviously blind and therefore unable to see Christ. The disciples were seeing Jesus, but not as clearly as they needed to. But the blind man kept calling out to Him, and jumped to his feet to come to Jesus when called, and knew exactly what he should ask for. Same question James and John were asked, but He knew what to ask for. Do you? I want to see!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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