The King of Glory. 

“His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.”         – John 12:16

John presents the events from the last days of Jesus to enable his readers to realize that the crucifixion is the means by which Jesus was to be glorified. Earlier in the chapter he described how Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ body for burial. Her act was not a show of ostentatious extravagance but an act of costly, but humble worship. This anointing gives us quite a sobering perspective on the triumphal entry into Jerusalem for that event made it seem that the complaint of the Pharisees was correct: that everybody was following Jesus and wanting to proclaim Him King. Most of the people shouting His praises were expecting a Messiah who would be a mighty warrior King. But He had come to Jerusalem to die on the cross, the death of a heinous criminal. His way to glory was through His own death.

Thus, as John points out, most of the Jews rejected Him. They did not want a King of peace and a King who was a humble servant. They wanted a miracle worker who would provide them with signs and wonders. They wanted a political leader who would overthrow the Romans not the Kingdom of darkness. They could not accept glory that was not achieved by the usual means and rejected Christ. Many of those who did believe chose to keep their faith quiet lest they suffer the outrage of their fellow Jews. Yet even those who believed failed to understand and so their weak faith would be sorely shaken by the crucifixion.

The question for us to ponder is how we respond to Jesus in our culture, in our social milieu, in our neighborhood, or in our family. How often have we hidden our faith from others so they would like us! And how many times have we lied about Jesus so our friends or co-workers would not mock us! Jesus went to the cross for them too. They need to know the truth from us.

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The King of Peace.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  (Zechariah 9:9 ESV)

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt amid the acclamations of many was an open declaration that He was the Messiah. According to Zechariah, this is exactly how the Messiah would appear. Many among the Jews that day knew this prophecy and knew exactly what Jesus was saying. Their King came lowly, riding on a donkey. Perhaps to us this may seem comical. We would expect a King or ruler to be a powerful man riding a white horse, a drawn sword in his upraised right arm at the head of a mighty army. 

But to the Jews there was nothing comical about what Jesus did, because they were expecting the Messiah to come just in this way. Yet their concept of the Messiah was not a man of humility as the prophecy tells us, but a man who would deliver them through military conquest and throw off the yoke of oppression by slaughtering his enemies.

When Jesus entered in triumph on that Palm Sunday, he came as the King of Peace, to bring peace between God and man. He gives us this peace through his own self, through His sacrificial death on the cross. Through Jesus we who are of different nations and ethnic groups are united as one family. We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, not of any earthly one. Our loyalty, our allegiance is to Jesus above all else. 

Jesus’ cross is ours.

“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”                        Mark 10:43-45

James and John and so many covet fame, status, power, wealth and comfort. The whole life of Jesus was one of helping others, putting them first, by sacrifice, service and suffering. If we follow Jesus, if we take up our cross, we too are to live lives marked by such sacrifice, service and suffering. How do we do this? Well, we start with our home, our family. All family relationships, between husband & wife, parents & children, brothers & sisters should be marked by divine self-giving love.

Sacrificial service begins at home but continues in the Church, starting with the Church leaders. Jesus’ emphasis was not on the unrestricted exercise of authority and discipline but upon servant leadership which is marked by humility and concern for building others up rather than tearing down. If pastors and church leaders adhered more closely to Christ and were prepared to accept the humiliation that sacrifice brings rather than insist on wielding power, there would be much more harmony and less discord. 

As far as church members are concerned, we too are to love one another. Jesus, on the night before he was crucified told His disciples that the world would know they were his disciples by their love for one another. Love means unselfish behavior in which we count our brethren in Christ to be better than ourselves and always look to promote the interests and wellbeing of others.

The cross is to mark our Christian life as we live in the world. Jesus sent us out into the world to preach the gospel of the kingdom. The cross lies at the very heart of our mission because Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. Preaching that message is upsetting to people because it means that all men and woman are sinners. No one is able to please God by their own merits or actions. We need a savior to atone for ours sins, to make us right with God because we cannot do it. But few people want to admit how sinful they are! Our stand for Christian righteousness and truth, for the cross will place us at odds with such people. They cannot stand to see our goodness because it shows how corrupt and selfish they are. Many will hate us, and will make our lives miserable. If we want to live the way Christ wants us to that means we renounce sexual immorality, the seeking of wealth and fame. We must turn away from lying, cheating, stealing and seeking to promote our own agenda. We must renounce economic security and professional advancement. We must face the fact that we are not going to be popular. 

If Jesus endured persecution, and suffering, why should we not expect them too? Comfort and ease, power and popularity, these are not the marks of a disciple. Suffering, shame and selfless service are. 

The Cup of Suffering.

Mark 10:35-45

There is a third choice Jesus places before His disciples to make. Not just between selfish ambition and sacrifice or between power and service, but between comfort and suffering. By asking for thrones in glory, James and John wanted comfortable security in addition to power and glory. Who doesn’t long for a nice easy life of comfort with no problems, with all our needs met? Jesus asks them a question in reply to their request: “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I will receive?” James and John say “We can.” But they misunderstood the question. Perhaps to them the cup in question was filled with the choice wine that they would drink at the victory feast of the Kingdom.

But Jesus meant the cup of suffering. Indeed these 2 would share that cup. James would beheaded by Herod Antipas. John would suffer lonely exile on the island of Patmos. But such thoughts were far from the minds of these two brothers. Now they were dreaming of security, ease and affluence. Sad to say, that spirit is alive and well in the world. The way of the world is always to seek the easy way to satisfy self first above the needs or wants of others.

And unfortunately the same spirit also is present in the church especially in the West, particularly here in America. We regard security and safety as our birthright. Most of us know little nothing of real suffering for our faith, the suffering that the saints endure today throughout the Moslem world, as well as in India, Africa and China. We in America think that when we come to Jesus, He will take away our problems and allow us to do what we want. We think “I shouldn’t have these problems. I shouldn’t be sick. I shouldn’t have money troubles. I shouldn’t have to work that hard. Everyone should like me.” But when we come to serve Jesus, He asks us to put others first before self, to put service before security, compassion before comfort and hardship before ease. Insistence on personal comfort is incompatible with the way of the cross. Jesus calls us to take on uncertainty, discomfort and rejection for His name.

The power of the servant.

Jesus words presented James and John with another choice: not just between selfish ambition and sacrifice but also between power and service. When they said that they wanted to sit at the side of Jesus in His kingdom, they were asking to sit on thrones and to exercise the power that Kings who sit on thrones possess, the power to tell others what to do, the power to force others serve them, to provide for their every need and desire.

All the world lusts for power. Even in the church there is this lust for power, for making a name for oneself, of building bigger churches, of getting large numbers of people to come to them, of big claims of how dynamically the Lord is moving. But I wonder who gets the glory? There is a saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Give some people power and authority you see how fast it goes to their heads, how fast it corrupts and changes them, especially if they claim to speak in the name of God. Then who can challenge them?

Such people think that God would be lost without them. They have that unique vision that unique skill that makes them indispensable to the kingdom of God. The truth is that god does not want powerful and dynamic leaders for they are useless to God. What God wants are humble servants, people He can use. 

That’s what Jesus was: a servant. Here in this passage Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man coming to serve others. Now the Son of Man is found originally in a passage in the prophet Daniel 7:13-14. There Daniel sees the Son of Man given total power and glory over all the nations of the world. All will serve and worship Him. 

Jesus is the Son of Man. He is entitled to that glory and power. But He said that the Son of Man came to serve and give his life. So yes as Son of Man he would receive glory, but He would attain it as the suffering servant. Isaiah 52-53 describes the suffering servant as the one who is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and suffering. The road to glory led through the shame and rejection of the cross. The suffering servant becomes the Son of Man only by self-sacrifice and suffering for others.

And Jesus calls His disciples to follow. In the secular world, in the world of politics and business and even on the street, people like to throw their weight around, to use violence, threats, intimidation to exploit and abuse others, to get others to let them have their way, to fulfill their desires. But in Jesus says it shall not be so with you. The Kingdom of God is organized on a completely different principle: humble service not self enriching power. The symbol of the Christian leader is not the rod and staff, not the dollar sign, but a basin of water for washing the feet of others.

Ambition or Sacrifice?

Mark 10:35-45

Jesus makes a reply to James and John that leaves them with some choices. It leaves all of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus with those choices. The first choice is the way between selfish ambition and sacrifice. As I said earlier, we can easily fault James and John for making such a ridiculous request, but we should know better than to cast stones because we all do the same. What they are asking of Jesus is as if we went to God and prayed “I’ve made my plans. Here they are. Give me what I want.” Or “You need to give me power and wealth and comfort so I can do what I want.” And that’s how many people live their lives, thinking God is with them but He is not. And then when it all falls apart, they wonder where God is? Why did he let this happen? Why did he let me fall? Why did He let me fail?

We have all made plans without consulting God both important ones and minor, day to day decisions. We’ve made plans and now we want God to bless what we have already decided to do. We are telling God what to do, to bless and fulfill our plans and wishes. But did we first ask Him what he wants us to do? Did we think of making our plans in the light of God’s kingdom? Have we made our decisions based on following the ways of the world? Do our plans ignore other people and their needs? Do our plans include doing some unrighteous acts, stepping all over other people to get what we want? That is what James and John were doing. They were ignoring what Jesus wanted and they were ignoring their fellow disciples.

The world is filled with men and women just like them, people who are forceful go-getters, hungry for status, honor, prestige, and power. The world is filled with people who measure life by achievements, fame, wealth and success. Such people are aggressively ambitious for themselves, but totally disregard the needs and rights of others. It’s a good thing Jesus was not this way. If he had put Himself first, where would we be? He calls us to follow Him.

Blogging With Agabus: The way of the Cross.

Mark 10:35-45

This passage from Mark takes place just before. Mark tells us of a conversation that took place between Jesus and the disciples as they were journeying up to Jerusalem. After this they will stop at Jericho before proceeding into the city itself. Jesus knows he is going to be crucified and her tells this to His disciples, but they are not listening. They are not paying attention. They were too engrossed in their own ideas and desires. 

It is obvious that they had too much pride and selfishness, an exalted sense of their own importance, so it is easy for us to criticize them. But all too often we think and behave in the same way. All too often our lives conform to the way of the world. The way of the world is the way of self, me first just like James and John. But the way of the Kingdom of God is the way of the cross, the way not of self, but of self-sacrifice. 

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” After what Jesus has said about his coming suffering and death, this request has got to qualify as one of the most blatantly self-centered prayers ever prayed. James and John wanted to sit on thrones of power and glory. And they were making their request before anyone of the other disciples asked. They anticipated the mad scramble for the seats of power that they thought would be coming. 

Jesus points out to them that such a request stands in total opposition to the Kingdom of God. James and John wanted to sit on thrones in power and glory. Jesus was going to be nailed to a cross in shame and weakness, to carry the sickening and detestable weight of our sins. The way of the cross is the way of self-sacrifice. It is the way of self-sacrifice on behalf of those who deserve no mercy or love, for those who actually hate and despise God. The way of the cross is the way of suffering, of surrender and submission to the will of God. And that is the way to glory.