Summary: What’s your price? If God put a figure on your heart to indicate your value, what would it be? On the other hand, what value do you place on God’s heart?
Present Mark 7-9 dramatically, by memory if possible.
Don’t you just hate it when the very thing you know you must do will cost you everything. Jesus certainly understands this. He lived his life on a collision course with a cross between two thieves. By the way, that’s the same course he’s calling everyone else to take too. Perhaps our “cross” will take a different shape, but a cross it must be. The cross is the price of glory, the price of following the Son of God.
Jesus begins to face more opposition as his ministry continues and the crowds that are attracted to him increase. Not everyone cheers for Jesus. His name and fame are not welcome among the powerful since his message challenges their social boundaries and clashes with their religious traditions. He is becoming a dangerous man. To his opponents, his influence must be either redirected or stopped. John the Baptist has already tasted the bitterness of death due to his faithfulness to God’s calling in his life. Now all eyes turn to Jesus, the one who came after John, but was before him… Jesus, the one for whom John’s ministry prepared the way; Jesus knows where he is going and why he has come. He knows, and he shares this with his disciples, but they simply can not absorb the words.
It is hard to accept that good news has enemies. It is hard to accept that those who bring us the best and highest gifts have those who hate them and wish them dead. Why can’t we all just get along? Why does it have to be so difficult? Why? I don’t know. But I know that Jesus has been down that road too. He cut the original path to glory! It is a path with a price to pay. A path for all who would walk it with him. And, get this, what looks like defeat, ends in victory! What looks like the end turns out to be a new beginning. What appears to be final death becomes eternal life. This is the promise. Only faith can motivate us to accept the price.
Just think about Jesus with me. What on earth is he doing here? Where’s the logic? Imagine God. He takes his only begotten Son. His beloved. And he sends him into enemy territory stripped of glory that would make him so obviously divine no one could deny it. No one is blown away by his appearance. In fact, God the Father puts the Son in the form of the poor and lowly and has him identify himself with the outcasts and sinners. God sends him to where he knows that he will face temptation, persecution, rejection and suffering. In fact, God plans for it to happen that way!!! And then this, God’s Son, speaks God’s will and works God’s wonders among a people that will arrest him and make up false charges against him and will not be satisfied until he is nailed to a cross to die. And then what will God do? Of all things! He will take all of the sins of all those sinful people, and, in fact, he will take the sins of all people everywhere and of all time… he will take all those sins and, get this, He will pin them all on the Son! Even as he dies on that cross! And then… then… God, the Father will punish the Son as if HE, THE BELOVED SON OF GOD had committed every one of those sins!
What on earth!!! Why on earth!!! (Pause) It is the price.
Thanks be to God, this is not the end of the story!
But we are not there yet. Jesus is just beginning to tell his disciples about this plan. At this point in Mark’s gospel Jesus begins to teach his disciples about these things. They can’t swallow it. Could you? This is a lesson we too must learn. Don’t rush past it. Don’t jump to the end. Just let Mark tell us and take the time he takes to lead us to where we know we are going with Jesus. Don’t cheat yourself here and miss the message of this moment. Jesus is on his way, but he has not arrived in Jerusalem yet. He hasn’t been betrayed yet. Wait with Mark. But know this as we go along here: Jesus didn’t just come to feed the hungry and heal the sick. Jesus didn’t just come here to impress the crowds with divine power over demons and darkness in men. He didn’t come just to pick fights with the Jewish authorities. Jesus didn’t come just to tell us about the kingdom; Jesus is the King of the kingdom! Jesus came here to lay the foundations and build the structures of the kingdom in the hearts and lives of men and women, me and you! Just look at what he’s doing. Jesus is uprooting, overthrowing, tearing down, and demolishing first, so that afterward he may build and plant the kingdom of God in us. This process will cost him more than we can imagine. It is a work of God. A work of love. A work of life that requires pure blood sacrifice to accomplish! It is a work that only Jesus can do for you, for me. We need to sit and let this message steep. We need to hold onto the moment we have here with the disciples who didn’t understand what on earth Jesus words about his death and rising could mean. Twice he has brought it up, but as Mark indicates, Jesus is teaching this to his disciples. It is time to begin to digest this part of the message. The part about the price. His payment. His arrest, suffering, trial and death… and after three days… his resurrection!