Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do You Know What You are Eating?

Reading: Mark 14
Mark 14 begins with the chief priests and teachers of the law scheming as to how they might kill Jesus. They determined not to do it during the Passover or Festival of Unleavened Bread lest the people riot (Mark 14:1-2). However, as the story unfolds, we discover, they are not in charge. Jesus will die during Passover, for that is how His Father planned it.
We are quickly transported to a scene in Simon the Leper's1 house. There a woman comes in and anoints his head with a jar of perfume worth over $20,000 in today's wages. All present are offended that such an extravagant “waste” is poured out on Jesus. However, Jesus said it was to prepare his body for burial (Mark 14:3-8). No one appraised the situation correctly except Jesus and possibly this woman who gladly pours out what may be her most valuable possession on the Savior. Judas leaves to betray Jesus; Jesus sends his disciples to prepare for the passover meal.
22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."   23Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25"Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."   26When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:22-26)
What did this meal represent? What were they eating? Did they understand? Clearly this meal represented his flesh and blood being broken and poured out. It not only represents the person of Christ; it represents the sufferings of Christ. Did they understand that, in eating, they were partaking of the sufferings of Christ? In what follows, it is safe to say they did not. But Jesus quickly informs them, and us, what it means for us to partake of Him, and to partake of Him in His sufferings.
27"You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." (Mark 14:27-28)
The sufferings of the Shepherd will effect the sheep. Why will they be scattered? Because, as we will see, they don't want to be involved in the sufferings. But, it is too late. They have already partaken of Him in His sufferings at the table. So soon they must learn suffering. But thank God for mercy. They will fail, and miserably on the first go at it, yet the promise stands, “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter immediately wants to distinguish himself from the rest. However, the rest quickly join in with their protests and self-appraisals of how they would never fall away—even if they have to die (Mark 14:29-31).
If we are going to successfully follow Jesus in His sufferings, we must first join His sufferings in prayer. In fact, it is a failure to join Him in prayer that leads the disciples to failure in joining Him in His sufferings. (For more on the importance of joining Him in prayer from Mark 14, see Do You Curse in Your Sleep? Peter Did.) The disciples clearly did not understand the urgency of the hour, so that while Jesus was deeply distressed and horrified (Mark 14:33 HCSB), the disciples were quite comfortable as evidenced by their sleeping and resting (Mark 14:37, 40-41).
Without following Jesus in prayer, we will never be able to follow Him in His sufferings. The disciples demonstrate what happens when we attempt to follow Jesus prayerlessly. When the crowd shows up to arrest Jesus, with swords and clubs, “they all deserted Him and ran away.” (Mark 14:50) However, there were a couple of exceptions. One young man followed.
51A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. (Mark 14:51-52)
If the others were watching as they fled, they get a clear picture of the cost of following Jesus in His sufferings. We may end up loosing everything. Following this, we get another picture of one who is following Jesus. But this time, it is an attempt that might more often resemble our own efforts at following Jesus while attempting to remain at a comfortable distance from the sufferings.
53They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. (Mark 14:53-54)
Peter was following Jesus. But he did so at a distance. Peter was closer to those who arrested Jesus than he was to Jesus Himself. While the Savior was suffering, Peter was warming himself. How often would I prefer to follow Jesus at a distance? I'm just like I suppose you are: I want to follow Jesus, but I don't want to suffer. Therefore I follow at a distance. But as the rest of the story informs us clearly, that just doesn't work. Peter ends up denying the Savior vehemently (Mark 14:66-72).
But thank God for His mercy. Peter had already partaken of the Savior in His sufferings earlier that evening. That meal meant two things for Peter: 1) The blood of the covenant for Peter was Christ's blood. And therefore, the promise that Jesus would go ahead of him... meeting him again in Galilee... is sure. Peter's restoration is sure. Your restoration when you attempt to follow at a distance is sure. 2) However, this meal also meant that Peter would partake of the sufferings of the Savior. And all who follow Him will. Peter learned to join Christ in prayer (see the book of Acts), and he learned to suffer with Him, even to the point of death. However, when that happened, Peter would fully understand, as would all disciples, that Jesus was worth more than that bottle of perfume; indeed He is worth more than our entire lives.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

1So many people were named Simon that culturally it was always important to distinguish which one was being referenced. This Simon was evidently once a leper, possibly healed by Christ.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Something David and Goliath Can Teach Us About the Gospel

Reading: 1 Samuel 17   
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Paul describes the church as “not many wise, not many influential, and not many of noble birth.” He then goes on to describe how God then acts and works in the world: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly of this world and the despised—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are...”. David's encounter with Goliath informs our understanding of these verses, teaching us what it means to be despised by the world, and teaching us what it means to nullify the things that are.
Goliah was a somebody. He was a giant and is described as the champion of the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17:4). The word used in the Greek Old Testament means “strong man”. Goliath was a strong man that had to first be defeated before the rest of the Philistine army could be defeated. He was powerful.
Goliath despised David! (1 Samuel 17:42 ESV) Why did he despise him? Because he was but a boy... his cheeks were still red, his appearance still had that fairness of a youth. He was a nobody, a freshman! Who does he think he is? In fact, even his oldest brother despised him (1 Samuel 17:28). The world measures power based what it can see; God measures based on what He can see (1 Samuel 16:7). In David, God didn't see power, but a humility that was dependent on God. David was able to kill Goliath, not because David was powerful, but because God was powerful. Goliath despised David, but God didn't. God favored David.
God would use David—a nothing and no one as far as what is visible—to make nothing of Goliath—a giant, a major something and someone, as far as what is visible. We see this described briefly:
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. (1Sa 17:50)
The irony of this chapter is captured in the last scene as David is brought before Saul. He hasn't had time to clean up, or even dispose of the head of Goliath, so he is brought in before the king, with Goliath's head in his hand, as Saul asks, “whose son are you young man?” David wasn't old enough to be a man in his own standing. The question put to him after this momentous occasion is basically, “Who is your daddy?”
As we come to the Gospel, we are those no ones and nobodies in the eyes of the world. And we face powerful foes in the governments of the world, and the powerful of the world (rich, those in power positions of the educational system) who would defy God and reject Him. However, as we go forth with the seemingly weak message of a crucified Messiah, God uses nothing to make something into nothing. (For more on this see Making Nothing Out of Something with Nothing.) Christ, the Son of David, the one despised and rejected by men, has defeated the strong man first at the cross, and now we do the clean up operation by proclaiming the message of the cross. (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 12:29) The seemingly weak message of the cross is powerful because it is effective at saving those who are otherwise perishing!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,