This weekend I’ll be at a church camp.
The theme this year is going to be “Following Jesus to the Cross”. Our lessons will come from the Gospel of Mark.
As Mark begins, we meet the missional Jesus. From the very early pages, Jesus accepts his role as the one who inaugurates the kingdom of God. As he goes from place to place in the first eight chapters of Mark, he astounds people with his miracles.
In those first eight chapters, we see Jesus do the following:
- Jesus drives out an evil spirit.
- Peter’s mother-in-law is healed of a fever.
- Other various diseases are cured.
- A man with leprosy is made clean.
- A paralytic has sins forgiven and walks.
- The storm is calmed.
- A demon possessed man is made sane.
- A woman with a flow of blood is cured.
- There is the resurrection of a dead girl.
- Jesus feeds the 5,000.
- Jesus walks on water.
- A deaf and mute man is healed.
- Jesus feeds 4,000.
- Jesus heals a blind man.
Not surprisingly, coupled with all these miracles is a theme of popularity in the gospel of Mark.
People begin telling friends and neighbors about Jesus’ miraculous feats. Jesus becomes like a modern day pop star and the paparazzi are everywhere. When he enters a home, the crowds are so great the doors to the house are blocked. He cannot enter into towns because of the crowds. Any time he seeks a solitary place, the people flock to him (5,000 men).
Thus, the first eight chapters of Mark focus on Jesus’ growing influence, popularity, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. But everything changes when Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ.
From there, Jesus sets his eyes on Jerusalem and talks about his suffering and death (three times in chapter 8, 9, and 10). Jesus also begins to share may hard teachings. As an example, he talks about selling everything you have. Now, rather than rushing to see Jesus, people start to walk away sad.
The gospel is transitioning from something you GET to something you GIVE, and some are not up to the call.
The crowds dwindle. The followers scurry away.
Before entering into the Garden, Jesus predicted that all his disciples would fall away. And all did.
Alone and abandoned on the cross, Jesus cries out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When we stand before the cross, we can see our true spiritual colors. Following Jesus in times of plenty and prosperity is easy. But, following Jesus to the cross is hard. That requires that we give something, sacrifice something. Correction. It requires that we give everything and sacrifice everything.
No wonder so many people ran away from the cross.
Now, 2,000+ years later, we all run to the cross, cling to the cross, and survey the cross.
Jesus has taken the cross from a sign of danger to a sign of protection. At the cross we know that whatever happens, we are not left alone. However much we might suffer, Jesus also has suffered.
Like Paul, we can now stand under the rule of death and taunt it – ‘Where O death is thy sting?’
The cross changed history, but more importantly, the cross has changed my life. It refines my life and defines my life. It adds meaning to the mundane and purpose to the meaningless.
Today I’m thankful for the cross of Christ.