As we close out our study of the gospel according to Mark we are challenged and encouraged by the humiliation and and exaltation that takes place through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.
As Jesus progresses through His final week the conflict with the religious leaders intensifies. Jesus’ responses to the religious leaders questions that are meant to trap Him become more and more direct and reveal the reality that not all who witness lives of sacrifice for the glory of God will rejoice and celebrate. Yet, Mark also drives home the truth that God will remember and empower those who live sacrificially for Him.
Jesus is now set on journey to Jerusalem to complete the purpose for which He came. As He sets out on this final phase of His earthly ministry He is committed to guiding the disciples in understanding not only that He is the Son of God but that His kingdom will be established by way of the cross. They, and we, must understand this in order to understand the path of true discipleship and the power of profound servanthood in everyday life.
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.
There is a tendency to think that if we maintain a measure of familiarity with Jesus Christ that we are safe. We are safe because Jesus is a part of our lives so we are on good terms with him. We are safe because Jesus is at a safe distance in which we can control what we will listen to and what we will filter out when it comes to obedience and doing his will. However, Mark 6 tells a different story. It teaches that familiarity with Jesus is actually a very dangerous place to be. Instead, Jesus desires that we pursue dependence on him, because that is the only place in which we can find true intimacy with him.
Parents know the difference between hearing something and really hearing something. My mother learned quickly when something went in one ear and out the other as she would say and when it really stuck. Mark 4 is a lesson about truly hearing Jesus and how we can determine when that type of hearing actually takes place.