Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gospel of Mark Series – Part 7


Tonight we will conclude our brief study of the Gospel of Mark with part 7 of this series. During this review of the 16 chapters Mark provided, we have noticed several repetitive themes. Mark not only gets right to the point of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, recording more about what Jesus did than what He said, but he also repeats himself over and over, driving home important points of the Gospel message.

For example, out of the near 80 times the word “straightway” is mentioned in the 1,189 chapters of the King James Version of the Bible, half of those mentions are contained in the 16 chapters of Mark. Mark also takes great effort to speak of deliverance from demonic influences 16 times; speaks of authority and power 10 times each; over and again Mark records Jesus dealing with “hardness of heart” issues even amongst His disciples.

The 16 chapters of Mark reflect concentrated doctrines, what I call dynamic doctrines, such as the doctrine of “Faith and Confession” which we studied last week. Mark is a powerfully concentrated account of the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus.

Tonight we conclude our brief study with a look at another repetitive theme concerning the human vanity and carnal ambition which can creep into the lives of even the closest followers of Jesus. Turn with me to Mark, chapter 8.

This account takes place just after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. With that understanding Jesus foretells His coming death and resurrection, entrusting these enlightened followers with this information for the very first time.

Mark 8 NKJV

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32 He spoke this word openly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

Many people believe, as do I, that Peter was feeling pretty good about himself about now. Perhaps he had gone through what I call a “self promotion” phase. This occurs when we get the right answer to a hard question, perhaps a question which no one else could answer. All of the sudden, we believe we know things others do not and we “self promote” and become an expert.

The Apostle Paul called it, “thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think” syndrome. (Romans 12:3) – Paul’s remedy for that type of thinking is to “sober up”. Well, Jesus is just about to help Peter sober up a little.

Mark 8

33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Now it’s time to teach everybody a lesson. (This is what teachers do – they teach and thereby inoculate everyone who might have been infected or affected with the virus.)

Mark 8

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

35 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

How quickly human vanity, self promotion, and fleshly ambition can set in. Jesus was bearing His heart, telling of His coming crucifixion and resurrection and all the while Peter was day-dreaming, “self promoting” and not paying attention to the greater moments facing them all.

Fast forward perhaps a year, and we see Jesus once again opening His heart to foretell His disciples about His coming death and resurrection. This is the second time Jesus begins to share the innermost concerns of His life with those closest to Him.

Mark 9

30 ¶ Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it.

31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day."

32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.

It is perhaps true that the reason why they did not understand what Jesus was teaching is because they weren’t listening. Why weren’t they listening? Maybe it was because they were more concerned about themselves and their ambitions then they were about what mattered to Jesus. Let’s look and see … continuing with the next verse:

33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?"

34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."

Once again we see Jesus having to deal with human vanity and carnal ambitions. It is plain that the disciples were momentarily more interested in what they wanted than what Jesus wanted and once again Jesus took the time to set the straight. Jesus spoke to them about real promotion which only comes to those who lose themselves in service to others.

This is twice now that Jesus has tried to engage His disciples in a conversation about His coming sacrifice and the most important event ever in the history of the world but they cannot tear themselves away from their wants, their desires, their dreams for themselves and their own carnal ambitions. One might imagine that this would be the last time Jesus has to correct these selfish considerations … that imagination would be wrong.

Fast forward to the last two weeks of Jesus earthly life and ministry. He gathers His 12 disciples and begins their last journey together from the Galilee, down the eastern bank of the Jordan River southwards towards Jericho and ultimately to the cross in Jerusalem. On this momentous journey, the most important walk of His life, Jesus once again, for the third time, attempts to engage His disciples in a conversation about His imminent death, and once again He finds them not listening.

Mark 10

32 ¶ Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him:

33 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles;

34 "and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."

Now, before you begin reading the next verse and what happens, don’t you hope that the disciples are listening and that someone would ask an intelligent question, or a meaningful comment on the subject so that Jesus could expound and perhaps feel heard in this all important moment.

Mark 10

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask."

36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

37 They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."

38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

39 They said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;

40 "but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared."

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.

42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

43 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.

44 "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.

45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Once again Jesus has to remind His disciples about the life of a servant. However, I feel that once again it just goes straight over their head. Why, because they aren’t paying attention to the truly important things of the Kingdom and God’s needs but rather to their own wants, desires and ambitions.

As if all of these instances weren’t enough, 10 days later, when Jesus is at His most critical and vulnerable moment, about to be arrested, tried, sentenced and crucified, He asks His disciples to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and what do they do … they fall asleep. He asked them three times and yet they could even keep their eyes open, listen to care to involve themselves in His heartache … but left Jesus alone to suffer in agony while they took a break, grabbed a power nap, clocked out, after all, it was after hours and they had just eaten and were tired. I mean, what employer, master or teacher could expect people to work such a long day?

So, what can we say to all of this … why were these things written? The Holy Spirit instructed Mark to record the inspired accounts of these moments in hopes that you and I would read them, understand them from heaven’s perspective, and stop allowing carnal ambitions and personal desires, and individual pursuits to take us on some self promoting, self acquiring adventure.

God wants and needs us to listen to the things He wants to talk about … those things which are most important, most valuable and most necessary.

Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. And we, His disciples in this generation, must harness our carnal appetites and personal ambitions to serve others and not ourselves.

Where is your focus? Are you more energetic, more thoughtful, more interested, more involved, more engaged, more hopeful of getting something you want, you need, you desire – or – are you caught up in serving, laying your life down, giving your time, denying yourself and becoming the greatest servant in God’s army?

Where do you plan to spend your prime time? On you and yours or on Him and His?

Are you looking for a break or looking for an opportunity to spend more time serving with Him?

The road to greatness is a much lower road than one might imagine. Avoid self-promotion!

Effective communication does not only involve the common courtesy of simple non-interruption - where you wait until another person is finished talking before speaking your mind - it also should include the greater consideration of actually listening to what the person is saying and engaging in intelligent conversation surrounding the subject of their choice instead of changing the subject to fit your desires.

This is especially true when it comes to communicating with Jesus or other designated leaders whom He has placed in your life. Do you know what they want to discuss or do you have your own agenda? Listen and get understanding…