Summary: Can the awesome presence of Jesus become too familiar? Looking to Jesus and carrying our own agenda produces problems with vision.
Read or quote Mark 8.
We are half way through Mark’s gospel today.
What does Mark do for you and I as readers? Just think of the way we get to be in on all this action in Jesus’ life and ministry. We are allowed to overhear Jesus’ public and private conversations and observe the reactions of all those who came in contact with him. What a privileged position Mark puts you and me into! We are allowed to look at the disciples at their best and worst. We get to watch the enemies of Jesus fall on their faces again and again as they attempt to trap him. With Mark we are there to witness it all. We can marvel at the miracles and wonder at the multitudes. Thank the Lord for the gospels! Today we reach a new turn in the road. This time, Jesus has some important teachings about himself that we need.
But before we do that, think back. Who was the first character in Mark’s gospel that comes on the scene? Remember? He appears in the wilderness wearing camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He eats desert food and preaches a prophetic message of someone who will come after him. What are his words again? “After me will come one who is mightier than I. I am not even worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs of his sandals.” Wow! Who is this mighty one? What kind of person is this? How great is his authority?
John says, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
The gospel begins by pointing out the awesome authority and majesty of who Jesus is. But you know something? It is very easy to have a vision problem. Coming to Jesus at first can be shocking, exciting and amazing. But after a while, when we have become accustomed to his presence and comfortable with his nearness, there is a danger that we begin to loose sight of his majesty. That first love faith can begin to cool. The deep sense of joy and appreciation for his grace can become common.
The brides maids are all there. The groomsmen are standing with the groom. The wedding march begins and the bride walks in with her dad as the groom stands there anxiously waiting. Stars shine in their eyes and covenant promises are spoken to each other, promises to love, cherish and be faithful to one another until death do us part.
The preacher pronounces them husband and wife, they kiss, and they leave together to begin their ever after life together. For some couples the stars continue to shine through the years. Oh, there are bumps and trials on the way, and there are times of doubt and damaging emotions, but through it all, love and commitment remain. For others the stars go out even as the love dies and drowns in the misery of boredom, selfishness, conflict, sinful breach of covenant, or whatever else destroys what God has joined together. Sometimes the relationship survives, or at least they remain together, but the joy and love have faded and perhaps died. They loose sight of one another and build separate lives.
Look at your faith in Jesus Christ. Think back on the time when you experienced God’s saving grace. Remember when you decided to follow Jesus? Remember when you confessed the name of Jesus as Lord and your faith in him as the Son of God? Remember when you walked into that water and were baptized in his name for the forgiveness of your sins and his blood washed your sins away? There you met Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. Remember your first love commitment to follow Jesus? It was exciting and fresh! There were stars in your eyes and joy in your heart!
I don’t know how much time has passed for you, but I know that there is a danger of familiarity giving birth to contempt. How is your relationship with Jesus coming these days? I believe that we are either growing deeper and closer or we are becoming blind to his grace and losing sight of our first love faith. We are either growing in the Spirit and bearing fruit, or choking on the world’s worthless worries and temptations and being neither light nor salt.
Gospel faith is expressed in at least two ways in scripture. There is a punctuated gospel expression, i.e. I was lost and now I’m saved expression. Paul’s conversion is the scriptural classic. He hated Jesus, he met Jesus, he gave the rest of his life to following Jesus. There is the death, burial and resurrection. Before Christ I was like this, then I met the Lord. Now my life is like this! Lost – saved! Dead in sin – Alive in Christ! A person is outside of Jesus Christ, they hear the gospel and are baptized into Christ! Hell bound – Heaven bound! This is a common theme in the book of Acts. Is that it? For some people, Christianity means get wet and forget. Ok, I’ve accepted Jesus and been baptized, now I have to go to church the rest of my life! What a great salvation! Is that the kind of faith we see in Mark? Did Jesus save you so that you would endure setting in church on Sundays and Wednesday nights the rest of your life? I don’t think so.