There is both good and bad in the fact that the cross has become a very familiar sight in our world. We see it everywhere we turn from buildings to jewelry. The message of the cross is so simple a child can understand, yet it is so rich that even if we were to spend every waking moment of our entire lives studying it we would fail to mine all the riches to be found there. In this series we will seek to mine some of those riches and spark a passion in each of us to pray as the hymn writer wrote “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”
The book of Ruth in the Old Testament tells the story of a foreign woman who places her faith in God resulting in a life directed by that faith. Though the circumstances of life remain difficult and Ruth must struggle just to provide the basic necessities of life for her and her mother-in-law, what she finds is that God’s love is not measured by the circumstances of life and no matter how hard we may try, we cannot out give God.
At the halfway point of the gospel of Mark we find the disciples making the declaration that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. The eighth chapter marks a transition in the gospel. The disciples acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah but they cannot wrap their minds around how He is the Messiah. As Jesus begins to teach that He is a suffering Savior they resist His teaching. Though they resist Jesus lovingly and strongly rebukes and continues teaching and leading in preparation for the time when He will turn over the ministry of spreading the gospel to this group of faithful followers.
Jesus’ teaching on purity and impurity were a shock and an outrage to the religious leaders and a source of confusion for the crowds and the disciples. After years of emphasis on the external traditions of ritual washings meant to guide God’s people in how to live out the holiness, the traditions had taken the place of Scripture and at some points, actually contradicting the commands of God. Jesus therefore brings the people back to the heart of the issue, that purity and impurity are determined by what is going on in the heart rather than by anything external.
As Jesus continues His ministry the conflict with the religious leaders of Israel grows. As this conflict grows it reveals Jesus’ commitment to people and meeting their greatest need. For Jesus, people matter, their needs matter, and their greatest need matters most to Him. In the face of opposition from the religious elite Jesus message is loud and clear, the priority of human need outweighs the need for human conformity to religious ritual.
We live in a world that determines the greatness of a person by the number of people that serve them. However, D. L. Moody once said, “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.” Moody’s words are a great summation of the message of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus shares the original version of this quote in Mark 10:45, setting the tone for His entire ministry and the lives of those who are His followers. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are here to serve not to be served with the intent of integrating the gospel into every area of our lives. The message of Mark 10:45 is that properly oriented hearts serve like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is what the first 25 chapters of The Story have been leading up to. As Christ dies on the cross, He dies as our substitute, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve for our sin and making it possible for us to find reconciliation with God. But His cross also reveals to us a tangible example of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ a life that is marked by selflessness, obedience, and sacrifice.
When Jesus asked His disciples “who do you say that I am?” He was not experiencing an identity crisis. He was seeking to help direct their expectations and redefine some of their understandings. Jesus continues to ask that question and it is answered in many different ways, but there is only one way that the Bible permits us to answer this question that is true to who Jesus really is. He is our divine friend who shows us what He thinks of us by going to the cross.