Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gimme Three Steps


My Inner Redneck

Pardon me while I channel my inner redneck. Back in my high school days back during a previous millennium and living in a small midwestern town, I loved me some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yeah, I admit it.

These guys pretty much invented southern rock while they cranked out one hit after another. Sweet Home Alabama. Call Me the Breeze. And of course, Free Bird.

Dance Lessons

But my personal Skynyrd fave is a little ditty called Gimme Three Steps. It’s all about a dude needing to make a quick escape from local establishment after an encounter with a jealous boyfriend.

Did you know that the title of that tune are basically dance lessons Jesus gives His own disciples (Mk 8:35-38)? A commitment to Christ consists of three moves. Putting down your life. Picking up your cross. Following your Lord.

Gimme three steps.

Simple, Not Easy

Three simple steps. But don’t mistake simple for easy. And that’s exactly Jesus’ big point. Following Him won’t be easy. But it WILL be worth it. So VERY worth it.

If you’ve been following along in Mark’s bio of Jesus, we’ve reached a huge turning point here in chapter 8. Not surprising, it comes as part of another three pack. Noticing a trend here?

Another Three Pack

First of all, the radical Rabbi/Carpenter from Nazareth has finally admitted He’s the Messiah, the Hero from heaven everyone’s been waiting for (Mk 8:29).

Second, Jesus announces He’s NOT the kind of Christ the people are expecting. Instead of leading a revolution against Rome, He’ll wage war against sin through suffering, rejection, and execution (Mk 8:31).

Which brings us to point number three: The characteristics of a Christ follower. This is kinda like watching Seth Curry and the Warriors lettin’ ‘em fly in the NBA Finals. Splash!!

Draining Threes

Before you think the crowd is just going wild watching Jesus drain threes, think again. His own righthand man checks the Lord and gets a hand in His face (Mk 8:32-33). Peter tells Him to stop all this death talk.

The next thing you know, Christ tells Pete that he’s playing for the wrong team and goes so far as to call his buddy “Satan.” Note to self, trying to hijack God’s agenda for my own purposes is a big mistake.

Rocky and the rest of the posse just don’t get it. It won’t be long before he turns his back on the Lord three times (yeah, another three…I told you it’s a running theme) and a rooster crows twice.  At that point, Peter will know EXACTLY what Jesus is talking about! 

A Deeper Lesson for a Larger Audience

Which brings us to Jesus’ three steps of discipleship. The Lord begins by assembling everyone. “Then, calling the crowd to join His disciples” (v34). Several big time Bible experts say Christ is turning His rebuke of Rocky into a deeper lesson for a larger audience.

Just who’s in this crowd? They could be the folks who followed at a distance when they left Bethsaida (Mk 8:22). They could locals from the villages near Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8:27). Chances are, it’s both.

Accepting All Comers

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus makes it clear this applies to ALL of us! “If ANY OF YOU wants to be My follower…” (v34 emphasis added). It doesn’t make a hill of beans where you call home, your ethnic background, your financial situation, or religious tradition. If you want to follow Christ, you can. He doesn’t care what boxes you check. He accepts all comers.

Junk in Your Trunk

Maybe you’ve got your doubts about all of that. Maybe you think there’s no way the Lord can look the other way after what you’ve done. I’ve got news for you. VERY Good News. He’s a WAY better Savior than you are a sinner.

Don’t believe me? Did you know that Jesus’ top spokesperson in the First Century was a guy who used to arrest, torture, and kill the followers of Christ? I’m not making that up. Before he became Paul the apostle, he was Saul the assassin. If the Lord can forgive him, He can handle any of the sinful junk in your trunk.

A Spiritual Seal Team Six?

The other big idea here is that disciples aren’t some sort of spiritual Seal Team Six for Jesus. God doesn’t give you that label when He calls you up to the major leagues of faith. He makes it clear. To simply follow Him is to be a disciple. 

The Lord’s previous announcement that He’s the Messiah who will suffer, die, and rise again was just for those closest to Him. This next announcement concerns everybody. He wants everyone to know what it will cost to follow Him.

NOT Seeker Sensitive

Jesus calls everybody in. Y’all need to hear this. He’s about to drop some very important knowledge. Everybody listen up. What He’s about to say is NOT just about more free food, another miraculous magic show, or the First Century version of a TED Talk.

What He’s about to say will probably clear out a good bit of the big crowd. I’m pretty sure no one would classify His announcement is seeker sensitive. You see, following Jesus may be free, but it does come with a cost. A cost with three moves.

Gimme three steps.

Step One

Step one. “You must give up your own way” (v34). Whatever was at the top of your life goals, cross it off. As a matter of fact, wad up that list and toss it in the trash. Then take out the trash. Bury the trash. And then bury the shovel.

The Greek verb the NLT translates as “give up” (Gr. απερνεομαι/aperneomai) describes to deny strongly, totally reject, and completely disown. It’s the very same word the Gospel writers use when Peter rejects Jesus not once, not twice, but three times in His hour of need (Mt 26:34-35, 75; Mk 14:30-31, 72; Lk 22:34, 61; Jn 13:38). Yup, another three.

A Kung Fu Grip

We can easily read step one as “reject yourself totally.” Let’s be honest. Most of us have a kung fu grip on our personal agenda. From the outside, we may look humble and holy but deep on the inside we’re constantly trying to manipulate our circumstances to get what we want.

My problem is that my hands are full. Full of myself! Jesus has something WAY better for me than what I think I want. He has what I really need. And God can’t put something better in my hands if I won’t put down all the crapola I’m carrying.

Crud Compared to Christ

Take it from the apostle formerly known as Saul. He spent most of his life building up a religious resume that he thought would impress everybody…including God! There’s just one little problem. He eventually discovers that everything else is crud compared to knowing Christ.

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared to the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ, and become one with Him” (Phil 3:7-8).

A Big Steaming Pile

Here’s a little something something you didn’t hear in Sunday school. That word Paul uses that’s translated as “garbage” (Gr. σκυβαλον/skubalon) actually describes a big, steaming pile. That’s what you’re carrying around. That’s what Jesus wants you to put down. So drop it like it’s hot.

Jesus Take the Wheel

This is what’s called self-denial. It’s never been a popular message but in our selfie-centered, look-at-me society, it’s not exactly trending on Twitter. At best, we might allow Jesus to be our co-pilot.

But Christ says we need to scoot over. “Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (v34 The Message). In the words of the great theologian Carrie Underwood, “Jesus take the wheel!”

Step Two

That brings us to step number two. Now that our hands are empty, the Lord has something He’d like to hand us. He says you can be sure you’re one of His followers when you “take up your cross” (v34).

“Take up your cross,” you say. Hmm, I wonder what this says in the original Greek. It means exactly what it says. Jesus gives His disciples the most gruesome form of torture and execution the world has ever seen.

Too Disgusting to Describe

We see the cross today as jewelry hanging on a necklace or sitting on top a towering steeple. But in Jesus’ day, the Romans used the cross as a brutal means of capital punishment for rebels and insurrectionists against the empire.

Did you know that Mark and the other writers of the New Testament never go into great and gory detail in order to explain the cross. They don’t have to. Everybody knows what it means. It’s WAY too disgusting to describe. It’s not something you discuss in polite company.

Dying a Criminal’s Death

Jesus models the ultimate in self-denial when He willingly accepts the cross. In a letter to his friends in Philippi, Paul quotes the lyrics of an early praise and worship song about Christ to get that point across.

“Though he was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

A Dead Man Walking

We can’t begin to wrap our brains around all that Jesus left to come to our rescue. He gave up His life in paradise in order to come and live ours. He took up the cross that was meant for us. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Mark alludes to the fact that the condemned would have to carry their own cross to their own death. It would be no different for Jesus on that bloody Friday (Jn 19:17). Is there a more grisly description of a dead man walking?

My Custom Designed Cross

But notice you are to “take up YOUR cross” (v34 emphasis added). Christ carries His own cross to His execution. We carry our own cross to our salvation. We each bear our own cross…not somebody else’s! God has one custom designed just for you and just for me.

In other words, each one of us faces our own specific burden when it comes to following Christ. Every follower can count on some sort of suffering as a result of their faith. But my cross is different from the one you carry.

The Hard Road Ahead

This is Jesus’ way of prepping us for what’s ahead. Just like He tells His team the night before His own death, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (Jn 16:33). It’s like a Gospel Google Maps telling us there’s a VERY hard road ahead!

But our Savior doesn’t simply say, “Yeah, good luck with that.” Nope. Just the opposite. “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Sometimes your cross is extremely heavy. Sometimes it’s not so bad. But yours is nothing compared to the crushing cross Christ carried for you and me.

NOT a Lukewarm Latte

Let’s take a moment to talk about what taking up your cross DOESN’T mean. Can we be honest? Suffering is not something the followers of Jesus face much in the United States. At least at this point.

Taking up your cross is NOT when the barista gets your name wrong and gives you a lukewarm latte. It’s NOT being asked to work weekends. It’s NOT the government mandating unisex bathrooms.

Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters around the world are carrying unimaginable crosses. In many parts of the world, publicly professing your faith in Christ will get you tortured and killed. Instead of crying in our triple venti non-fat caramel macchiato, we need to be praying for those who are truly suffering for their belief.

Jesus Tips His Hand

One other point about Jesus’ mention of how you should “take up your cross” (v34). After describing His eventual betrayal, torture, and murder (Mk 8:31), Jesus tips His hand as to how it will happen. Crucifixion.

What’s the bottom line for you and me when it comes to this cross carrying business? I think the Message paraphrase of this verse says it best. “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it” (v34 The Message).

Step Three

Jesus brings us to step three, “Follow Me” (v34). The idea here comes from a Greek term (Gr. ακολουθεω/akoloutheo) which literally describes traveling down the road together. We saw the same word earlier in the verse when Christ says, “My follower (Gr. ακολουθεω/akoloutheo)” (v34).

Following Jesus means walking the road of life with Him. We go where goes. We stop where He stops. We love who He loves. We do what He does. It’s NOT carefully following a complicated list of righteous dos and sinful don’ts. It’s following His example.

Hanging around the Savior

As we said before, disciples are regular folks like you and me. They’ve simply placed their trust in who He is, what He’s done, and where He’s leading. Disciples follow Jesus. They hang around the Savior. They watch how He lives and loves. Then they do it themselves.

Gimme three steps.

Not a March

There you have them. I love how Pete Briscoe calls discipleship a dance. Too many of us mistake it for a march. It’s not. It’s a dance. Following Jesus is like taking dance lessons.
The three steps are simple. One, put down your life. Two, pick your cross. Three, follow your Lord. Like we said, it’s simple but far from easy. But the awesome thing is that Jesus also gives us the strength to make those moves.

Bust a Move

As believers, Christ calls us out on the dance floor. It’s like at a wedding reception when the DJ plays a tune that gets the crowd going. Now that you know the steps, it’s time to bust a move.

Jesus says, “Go ahead. Gimme three steps.”

©2018
Jay Jennings

Sunday, September 2, 2018

When Jesus Calls You "Satan"

Picking up a Nickname

If you’ve played team sports, chances are you picked up a nickname. Maybe more than one. No, not a shortened version of the name your parents gave you. Sorry, that doesn’t count.

I’m talking about one of those labels you get from your teammates, coaches, or maybe even the fans. Hopefully it’s something awesome like Magic, Crazy Legs, or Dr. J. Maybe even one with a sweet “the” before it, like the Babe, the Crime Dog, or the Big Hurt.

Then there are those nicknames that are, shall we say, less than flattering. How would like somebody slapping you with something like the Muscle Hamster, No Neck, or Stink? Yeah, me neither.

It’s Just What Dudes Do

Did you know some of Jesus’ disciples have awesome nicknames? When a bunch of guys hang out together for three and a half years, it’s just bound to happen. I mean, it’s just what dudes do.

Jesus calls brothers James and John the “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17). How cool is THAT?!? The Lord also changes Simon’s name to Peter which basically means Rocky (Jn 1:42).

A Terrible Tag

And then there’s the time Christ calls that very same Pete “Satan” (Mk 8:32-33). Yeah, you read that right. The Son of God actually calls the leader of His disciples Lucifer. I’m not sure there’s a more terrible tag than that! If it’s up to me, I’d rather go by Stink.

The crazy thing is that just moments before, Rocky’s the first one of the guys to call Jesus the “Messiah” (Mk 8:29). That results in the Lord giving Peter a nifty “attaboy” (Mt 16:17).

Pushing Our Plans Down God’s Throat


But in a New York minute, Christ suddenly calls the former commercial fisherman Satan.  What in the Wide World of Sports just went down? When we take a closer look at this passage, we’ll see that anytime we try to push our plans down God’s throat, it’s satanic.

Playing a Guessing Game

Let’s rewind a bit for context. The first major chunk of John Mark’s bio of Jesus is basically a guessing game (Mk 1:1-8:26). Folks are trying to figure out the true identity of the radical Rabbi/Carpenter from Nazareth.

Oh, there’s no lack of theories. Jesus’ own family thinks He’s off His religious rocker (3:21). Folks back in His hometown aren’t all that impressed (Mk 6:1-3).

The Buzz on the Street

The Jewish religious leaders blow a gasket when our Savior starts forgiving sin (Mk 2:6) and come to believe He’s on assignment straight from the pit of hell (Mk 3:22).

The buzz on the street seems to point to Him being John the Baptizer, Elijah, or one of the other prophetic hall of famers (Mk 6:14-15; 8:28).

Putting the Pieces Together


The Lord’s personal posse has a front row seat for one miracle after another and freak out at the possibility of who He might be. After He shuts down a late night storm on the lake, they openly ask each other who the heck is this Guy?!? (Mk 4:41).

Ultimately the Son of God reveals His true identity to the Twelve during a little mountain retreat. That’s when Pete puts the pieces of the puzzle together to say He’s the Christ (Mk 8:29). But Jesus blindsides them and says He’ll be betrayed, tortured, and brutally murdered (Mk 8:31).

A Deeper Dive

That’s where we pick up the story in Mark’s Gospel. After initially blowing their expectations of what the Messiah will do and be, Jesus takes a deeper dive into what His mission will look like.

We read how “He talked openly about this with His disciples” (v32). While Matthew’s version of this very same story is nearly identical (Mt 16:21-23), this little factoid is unique to Mark.

An Extended Discussion

A couple of important points from this simple phrase. The tense of the verb here is imperfect. For those of us who aren’t English majors, that just means we can easily translate this as “He was talking.” In other words, this is an extended discussion, not some single, offhand comment.

Jesus not only offers a lengthy messianic explanation, He pulls no punches. See the word “openly?” This is a really cool word in the original language: παρρησια/parresia. It’s the one and only time John Mark uses it in his Gospel.

A Joyful Confidence

The term describes an attitude of joyful transparency that stems from freedom and a lack of fear, often in the face of intimidating circumstances. It’s doing something courageously, confidently, boldly, or frankly.

When Pete preaches His very first sermon at Pentecost, he does it “confidently (Gr. παρρησια/parresia)” (Acts 2:29). Later that same apostle and his buddy John stare down the religious big wigs with “boldness (Gr. παρρησια/parresia)” (Acts 4:13).

The writer of Hebrews encourages the followers of Jesus to “come boldly (Gr. παρρησια/parresia) to the throne of our gracious God” because of all our Savior has done as our great High Priest (Heb 4:16).

Putting the Cookies on the Bottom Shelf

But there’s another important part of this word that helps us here. It also paints a picture of holding nothing back and doing so in a straightforward way. Plain. Clear. Accessible. Uncomplicated.

Jesus puts the cookies on the bottom shelf. This time there are no parables, metaphors, hints, clues, riddles, or veiled allusions. He leaves nothing to chance. The Message puts it this way. “He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it” (v32 The Message).

Unpacking Big Ideas

What a great reminder to all of His followers to keep our language simple and understandable when telling others about Jesus. I’m NOT saying we should dumb down the Gospel. Not in the least! But we need to be able to unpack these eternally important ideas in a way folks can understand.

Let’s do it openly. We need to be plain, clear, accessible, and uncomplicated. Throwing around five dollar theological terms like Penal Substitutionary Atonement without explanation will only result in your listener looking at you like my dog looks at television.

Meanwhile back in Mark’s story, wouldn’t you love to see the looks on the disciples’ faces when He spells out what’s going to happen? But despite Jesus going into great detail about it all, it’s blatantly obvious that the guys still didn’t get it.

Grabbing the God by the Sleeve

We know that because of what happens next. “Peter took Him aside” (v32). The author uses a Greek word (Gr. προσλαμβανω/proslambano) that paints a picture of physically taking hold of someone or something. In this case, that someone is the Savior.

Apparently, Pete grabs the sleeve of Jesus’ robe and yanks the Son of Man to himself for an emergency sidebar. Maybe Rocky doesn’t want to embarrass the Lord in front of the others. Maybe he’s trying to get Christ to understand the impact of what He’s saying on the rest of the team.

Stern Words for the Word

Whatever the motivation, Peter actually scolds his Savior. He “began to reprimand Him for saying such things” (v32). He has a few stern words for the Word. Drop this all death talk right here, right now.

What exactly does the disciple say when he gets in the grill of the Son of God? Flip over to Matthew’s Gospel again. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said, “This will never happen to you!” (Mt 16:22).

That’s Crazy Talk!!

The point of Peter’s pep talk is simple. He and the boys can’t see any reason why the Messiah needs to die. Betrayal? Get outta here!! Suffering? That’s crazy talk!! Murder? Are You out of Your mind?!?

Think about it. Rocky pulls the Lord aside tells Him what the Anointed One is supposed to do and what He’s not! I’m pretty sure if there’s anybody who doesn’t need messianic mentoring, it’s Jesus.

Turning Discipleship Upside Down

The problem is that Pete has turned discipleship upside down. The student doesn’t teach the teacher…ESPECIALLY when the Teacher is the sinless Son of God!! This makes about as much sense as the clay pot telling the potter that he’s doing all wrong (Is 29:16; 45:9).

We all need to back off before we throw Simon Peter under the bus. We all second guess our sovereign God on a regular basis. Why does He allow this? Why doesn’t He stop that?  When we do, we’d better buckle up. He may blow our doors off like He does Job (Job 38-41).

While I’m not saying “Bruce Almighty” has all of its doctrinal ducks in a row, but that flick certainly shows how ridiculous it would be if we had divine decision-making power. That’s because we can’t see what God sees and know what God knows. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Sneaking a Peek

While the Lord and His lead disciple are having their little one-on-one, Christ sneaks a peek at the rest of His team. “Jesus turned around and looked at His disciples” (v33). It’s yet another nugget you’ll only find in Mark.

How would the author know about the Son of God’s glance? Because of his source. You see, the disciples of the very first disciples all believed John Mark’s Gospel is actually Peter’s personal memoir. Early pastors like Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement, Tertullian, and Origen all said as much. We’re talking serious heavy hitters here.

Repping the Rest of the Team

So we find this tidbit only in Mark’s story of Jesus because the person who told him about was standing right there! Pete knows because he remembers it firsthand.

Why does the Lord look over His shoulder in the middle Rocky’s reprimand? Probably because Peter’s not just speaking for himself. Many times in the Gospels, he reps the rest of the team when talking to Christ (Mt 18:21; 19:21; Mk 10:28; 11:21; Lk 8:45; 12:41; Jn 13:6-9).

Pump Your Brakes, Pete

Jesus swivels His head back and looks His disciple square in the eye. This has gone far enough. Mark tells us how Christ “then reprimanded Peter” (v33). Slow your roll, Rock. Pump your brakes, Pete.

The word the NLT translates as “reprimanded (Gr. επιτιμαω/epitimao)” makes its third appearance in past four verses. A little earlier, Jesus “warned (Gr. επιτιμαω/epitimao)” His team to keep the news that He’s the Christ on the down low (Mk 8:30).

A Flag on the Play

 

Pete has just “reprimanded (Gr. επιτιμαω/epitimao)” the Lord for all His ridiculous talk of messianic suffering, betrayal, and murder (v32). And before the disciple can finish, Christ throws the flag.

This Greek word can certainly mean to warn, strongly admonish, or even threaten. But it also describes how you can size a certain situation and assess a penalty. In other words, Jesus blows the whistle on Pete. There’s a flag on the play. This one’s coming back.

That Escalated Quickly!

It’s with laundry on the field that the Lord gives His disciple his new nickname. “Get away from Me, Satan!” (v33). One moment Peter tells Jesus “You are the Messiah” (Mk 8:29). Seconds later, our Savior calls him Satan. Well, THAT escalated quickly!

Some people think the documents in what we now call the Bible are heavily edited to make the disciples look good. If I’m Rocky, this story doesn’t make the final edition. This certainly seems to blow that accusation right out of the water.

Jesus Is the Hero

A couple of points to consider. John Mark’s Gospel may be Peter’s story, but it is Peter’s STORY OF JESUS!!! This isn’t the apostle’s autobiography. Pete’s not the point. Just like the rest of story of Scripture from beginning to end, Christ is THE HERO!!

The other point is that Jesus’ closest followers are consistently seen as knuckleheads who just don’t get it. Don’t make the mistake of elevating them to superstar saint status. They’re broken, sinful, garden variety, average people just like you and me. 

The Duel in the Desert

But why would the Son of God seemingly turn on His right hand guy? So glad you asked. We’ll see a connection when we flip over to Matthew’s version of Jesus’ duel in the desert with the devil (Mt 4:1-11).

The tempter wraps up his big pitch by promising our Savior that he’ll give Him every single kingdom of the world. All Jesus has to do is worship him. None of that messy cross business. Talk about the Easy Button!

Hijacking the Heavenly Rescue Mission

How does the Lord respond? “Get out of here, Satan!” (Mt 4:10). There’s no way Christ is going to allow Lucifer to hijack His heavenly search and rescue mission of you and me. And it’s almost the very same words He says to Peter.

You see, Jesus came to do a job. To live the perfect life that we failed to live. Die the death for our disobedience we should have died. To rise to the glorious new life we don’t deserve.

A guy named Paul puts it like this. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2Cor 5:21).

The Ultimate Reserved Seat

Just like showdown with Satan, Pete’s apparent well-meaning advice for the Lord would sidetrack what He’s come to do. If Jesus listens to Rocky’s rebuke, there’s no cross, no “It is finished!”, no empty tomb.

The connection between the Son of Man’s words for the devil and the disciple is this. Anytime we put our plans ahead of God’s, it’s satanic. Period.

Anything less than choosing God’s will puts us on the throne of heaven. And He’s not sharing it. You see, the Almighty’s got the ultimate reserved seat. Don’t make Him ask you to move.

A Problem of Perspective

Christ tells His disciple that this is all a problem of perspective. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (v33). Jesus wants him to know that Pete can’t see what’s going on from where he stands. If he could only see His messianic mission from the eternal angle.

We see the difference in perspective all throughout Scripture. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9).

Getting on God’s Wavelength

Pete’s friend Paul says the key to getting on God’s wavelength is sharing our Savior’s perspective. “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phil 2:5).

If not, our objectives are a total waste of time each and every time they conflict with what God wants. “You can make plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Prov 19:21). As the old saying goes, if you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans.

Pulling No Punches

Before we get our undies in a bundle about Peter, we can relax. We know how his story turns out. Eventually Pete WILL see it God’s way! Rocky pulls no punches in his very first sermon just a few months later.

“God knew what would happen, and His prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Him to a cross and killed Him. But God released Him from the horrors of death and raised Him back to life, for death could not keep Him in its grip” (Acts 2:23-24).

Rocky II

A few days later, Pete does it again. Call it Rocky II. He stares down the Jewish leadership known as the Sanhedrin when they try to put a lid on this whole Jesus-Is-the-Messiah deal.

“For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to His Servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release Him. You rejected this holy, righteous One and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!” (Acts 3:13-15).

God Flips the Script

Here’s what Pete’s point in both messages. Jewish power brokers team and scheme with the most brutal dynasty on the planet in order to kill the Christ. You know what happened? God flips the script on them and uses it accomplish His plan!

But here in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, Peter can’t see any of that. He simply sees the One who’s just announced that He’s the long awaited Hero from heaven say He has a date with death.

Attempting to Call an Audible

He steps and attempts to call an audible on Jesus’ game plan of grace. And as a result, the Son of God calls Simon Satan. Ouch. Talk about a bummer of a nickname. Something tells he prefers Rocky.

But that’s what happens anytime we try to push our plans down the Lord’s throat. If it’s not God’s plan, it’s satanic.

©2018
Jay Jennings

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Record Scratch

Back before Spotify

SKRRRRRRRRP!

That’s the sudden and unexpected sound of a record scratch. Let’s go back before iTunes or Spotify. Before CDs. Before cassettes. Rewind even further. Even before eight-track tapes, everyone listened to vinyl. We ALL listened to vinyl. Not just the nerdiest audiophiles.

Back in the day, folks knew firsthand all about the irritating screech made by dragging the needle across an LP or 45. Fast forward to the 21st Century, the record scratch has become a kitschy sound effect. Or as Merriam-Webster puts it, the noise associated with “surprise or change…an abrupt interruption.”

Leader of the Revolution

Way back even before turntables, Jesus drops such unexpected news on His closest followers that it’s deserving of one of the loudest record scratches in history. He’s just confirmed to the disciples that He is indeed the Messiah, the long-awaited Hero from heaven. Just NOT the kind of Messiah they’re expecting.

The anticipation of the Hebrew nation for the Messiah is a revolutionary political and military leader. He would command the rebellion, throw their Roman oppressors out on their ear, and lead the Jews to become a world superpower like never before.

Instead Jesus reveals He’s come as a very different kind of Messiah. Don’t expect Him to rise up against Rome. No, He’s come to be the suffering Servant who will lead the rebellion against sin and death.

The Messiah Will Suffer?!?

We pick up the story in the eighth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. “Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead” (v31).

The Messiah will suffer?!? Be rejected?!? And be KILLED?!?!? What the WHAT?!?!? That is NOT how this is supposed to go down!! Cue the earsplitting sound of a record scratch.

SKRRRRRRRRP!

Who Is Jesus?

Mark’s bio of Christ takes a hairpin turn here in the middle of chapter 8. Till this point, the second Gospel asks one question over and over and over. Who is Jesus? Could He possibly be Messiah? Is He the One God has promised to send that we’ve all been waiting for?

His weird, bug eating cousin John knew exactly who He was (Mk 1:7-11). So do the devil and his toadies (Mk 1:12). But until now, Jesus keeps everybody else guessing.

Off His Rocker or Straight from Satan?

Is He crazy? His own family thinks so (Mk 3:20, 31-32). Folks in His hometown certainly aren’t impressed (Mk 6:1-6). Religious leaders even suspect He’s on assignment straight from Satan (Mk 3:22).

But as He continues to teach the people, heal the sick and diseased, as well as drive out demons, Jesus’ popularity surges to an all-time high. Is is possible that He’s one of the great prophets of the OT who’s come back for an encore (Mk 6:14-15; 8:28)?

A Hike into the Mountains

All along the way, the Lord starts dropping clues that He could actually be the Christ. Here on this hike from Bethsaida up into the mountains near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus connects the divine dots for the disciples (Mk 8:27-30). Yes, He IS the Messiah!

Not That Long Ago

Strap yourself in their sandals and let that sink in for a moment. This radical Rabbi/Carpenter from Nazareth really is the Christ. It wasn’t that long ago that you were working at your dad’s fishing business when this Man invited you to be part of His posse (Mk 1:16-20).

Maybe you were busy putting the squeeze on your own people on behalf of the evil Roman Empire. Then one day, Jesus stops by the office to chat when everyone else avoids you like the plague. Meeting Him is so life changing that you throw a party for your friends so they can meet Him too (Mk 2:13-17).

Blowing Their Messianic Minds

In the months that follow, it becomes even more clear that something is very different about Him. His teaching. His miracles. His compassion. You have those whispered side conversations with the other guys. Could He be the One? Is it really possible?

Here in the shadow of massive Mount Hermon, Jesus confirms He’s the Christ. There’s just one problem. He’s not THAT kind of Christ. Not the one they’re expecting, anyway. As a matter of fact, He’s about to blow their messianic minds.

Jesus’ Personal Favorite Nickname

First of all, Jesus confirms He’s Messiah by calling Himself the “Son of Man” (v31). This is our Savior’s favorite nickname for Himself. This phrase shows up a total of 14 times in Mark. And the only person who calls Jesus the Son of Man is none other than Jesus.

What exactly does the name mean? It comes from a passage in the OT where God pulls back the curtains of the heavenly throne room for a dude named Daniel. What the prophet sees is a divine coronation, a passing of the baton from Father to Son.

Messiah’s Coming out Party

“As my vision continued that night, I saw Someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14).

All Bible scholars agree on the identity whom Daniel sees. The Ancient One is the First Person of the Trinity, God the Father. The Son of Man is the Second Person of Godhead, God the Son.

Dan’s vision is actually the Messiah’s coming out party. So when the Son of God uses the Son of Man as His personal label, it’s His not-so-subtle way of revealing He’s the One the Father has promised to send.

Dripping with Messianic Meaning

Jesus reaches deep into the OT and selects a name that drips with messianic meaning. Jews know full well what the Son of Man signifies. It’s another way of saying the Christ or the Anointed One. But it’s a title that probably doesn’t trigger any alarms for the Romans.

This. Must. Happen.

At this point, you can bet the boys are all in. Our Lord is Messiah! Sweet!! We’ve hitched our wagon to the right Rabbi, fellas!!! Suddenly our Savior says that He “must suffer many terrible things” (v31).

What the WHAT?!?!? Messiah is supposed to rule and reign. Who said He “must suffer many terrible things” (v31)? Jesus makes it clear that what’s about to happen isn’t a possibility. There’s no getting around it. This. Must. Happen.

It’s a Lock

“Must” is the Greek verb δει/dei, which means to be necessary and inevitable. It comes from a root word meaning to chain things together or put someone in handcuffs. We’re talking about something that is a lock. It’s not “if” but “when.” going to happen.

A little later, the Lord tells the Twelve all about how God will pull all the strings just before His Second Coming. “These things must (Gr. δει/dei) take place” (Mk 13:7). It’s ALL part of the plan. It’s all part of HIS plan!

God’s Gonna Do What God’s Gonna Do

We may think we know what God has to do. There’s just one little problem. God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do. Period. Just ask Job. Here’s what he said to the LORD after his ordeal, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You” (Job 42:2).

When God wants to do something, there’s no getting around it. It’s a lock. This. Must. Happen.

A Prediction of Pain

And Jesus says what’s about to go down is going to be nasty. Well, at least three out of the four. First, He’s going to “suffer many terrible things” (v31). “Suffer” (Gr. πασχω/pascho) is a word in the original language which means to experience physical or psychological pain, if not both.

You might be interested to know that this term is the source for both Passover as well as what we’ve come to call Jesus’ passion describing His crucifixion, death, and burial. This suffering reminds me of when they ask Clubber Lang’s prediction for his fight with Rocky Balboa. “Prediction? Pain.”

Our Savior is predicting His own pain on what we’ve come to call Good Friday. He’ll undergo not just the physical torture of 
scourging and one of the most excruciating forms of capital punishment the world has ever seen, but the psychological torment of rejection by His heavenly Dad.

No Ticker Tape Parade

Second, Jesus breaks it to the boys that He’ll “be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the religious law” (v31). Imagine the disciples shock at hearing these words. Of all the people on the planet, shouldn’t these guys be the ones who organize the ticker tape parade for God’s Messiah?

The Roster of Religious Big Wigs

Let’s take a snapshot of the roster of religious big wigs the Lord lists here. Leading off are the elders. These are older members of the ruling council who’ve orbited the sun for several decades. They don’t necessarily hold a professional position like a priest or scribe.

Next are the leading priests. These men are in charge of worship at the temple in Jerusalem. It wasn’t that long ago that the chief priest had to be a descendant of Aaron and served for life. But once the Romans rolled in, they threw that out the window and handpicked the high priest.

So the leading priests includes also includes those who had previously served in that role. Apparently, once a chief priest, always a chief priest. The term could also include other important priestly power players at the time.

The So-Called Experts

Last and certainly not least in this who’s who of the Jews are “teachers of the religious law” (v31). A lot of the other translations call them “scribes.” These are the so-called Bible experts who should know the finer points of interpreting and applying Scripture. Notice how I said “should.”

Despite their incredibly impressive resumes, the Lord says these big dogs from the Hebrew home office will reject Him as Messiah. The idea behind this kind of rejection is to kick something to the curb after determining it is counterfeit.

A Brutal Murder

Which brings us to the third part of this terrible triple play. Don’t think this is simply the Jewish telling Jesus “thanks but no thanks.” The Son of God tells the Twelve that “He will be killed” (v31).

That translation of the Greek verb αποκτεινω/apokteino actually soft sells it just a bit. This word describes a brutal murder or dying a violent death. What ultimately awaits Jesus in Jerusalem will be gruesome and gory.
Just to review. Christ says it won’t be pretty. Pain. Rejection. Violent death.

The Suffering Servant

While His closet followers can’t figure out what all this has to do with God’s Anointed One, the prophet Isaiah wrote extensively about how Messiah would actually be what he calls the suffering Servant (Is 52:13-53:12).

This prophetic passage checks all the same boxes that Jesus teaches His team. One, it must happen. “It was the LORD’s good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief” (Is 53:10). In other words, what’s about to happen is right down the center of the Father’s plan.

Suffering, Rejected, Murdered

The Servant Messiah will suffer terribly. “His face was so disfigured He seemed hardly human, and from His appearance, one would scarcely know He was a man” (Is 52:14). The Christ will be “treated harshly” (Is 53:7).

Isaiah describes in detail how the Messiah will be a target of rejection and scorn. “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…He was despised, and we did not care” (Is 53:3).

And just as Jesus tells the Twelve, He will be brutally murdered. “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter…No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream” (Is 53:7, 8). When it’s over, “He was put in a rich man’s grave” (Is 53:9).

The Reason for the Bloody Scene

Believe it or not, Isaiah wrote these words 700 years BEFORE Jesus was born! The prophet also reveals the reason behind this bloody scene. It’s all for you and me. Yeah, you read that right. For you. For me.

“We thought His troubles were a punishment from God…but He was pierced for OUR rebellion, crushed for OUR sins. He was beaten so WE could be whole. He was whipped so WE could be healed” (Is 53:4-5, emphasis added).

SKRRRRRRRRP!

It’s God’s Idea

Yeah, you read that right. This is all God’s idea. It’s the Father’s plan. He gave His one and only Son so that we could have a relationship with Him. It’s the only way to bridge the mammoth chasm between Him and us.

A guy named Paul says it this way AFTER it happened. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2Cor 5:21).

Jesus Does for Us What We Can’t

Through the lens of 2,000 years of history, we can see what the disciples can’t. We know that Jesus lives the perfect life that we failed to live. He suffers excruciating pain and is totally rejected so that we never have to be. He dies the death for our sin that we should have died.

But thank heavens that it doesn’t stop there. He rises to a glorious new life that we totally do not deserve.

A Sudden Realization

Zoom back to the scene in Mark. If we could only see the looks on the faces of His disciples at His words. This is certainly not the reception Messiah is supposed to receive. Suddenly they must realize they’ll soon face something very similar. Pain. Rejection. Violent death. Cue the record scratch.

SKRRRRRRRRP!

Drowning out the Best Part

The ear-piercing sound apparently drowns out what Jesus says next. “But three days later He would rise from the dead” (v31). All His talk of agony, denial, and murder is so loud that they never hear the best part.

Two more times, Jesus will look His team straight in the eyes and tell them about His upcoming betrayal, murder, and resurrection (Mk 9:30-31; 10:32-34). And just like the first time, they just don’t understand (Mk 9:32; 10:35-45).

They just don’t get it. And before we get too cocky, you and I wouldn’t either. But it won’t be long before they do. One day soon, the resurrected Christ will come strolling out of the cemetery on a quiet Sunday morning.

A New Mega-Theme

What they don’t understand now is that before the Son of Man can rule and reign forever, He must first suffer and die on our behalf. And so begins the new mega-theme in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has a date with death in Jerusalem on our behalf.

Soon an even more deafening scrape will resonate throughout all eternity. When our Savior dies in our place, rocks will split, curtains are torn, and dead will rise. Talk about a record scratch!

SKRRRRRRRRP!

©2018
Jay Jennings