Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mark Chapter 8

Sometimes the proof in front of our face isn’t enough. Sometimes we ask for more when we have more than enough to make an informed decision. I am, sadly, often guilty of this. My wife calls me the worst decision maker in the world. We laugh about seeing examples in the world of people who are slower at making decisions than me, saying that particularly bad situations make me look decisive by comparison. Unfortunately, it is common that we look for one more sign from God before proceeding. It is often not enough that we have to make decisions on our own. We need a parting of the clouds and a voice from heaven before moving forward. The unfortunate thing is that this very rarely happens. God is certainly capable of it, but He asks us to act on faith.

11The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." 13Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. – Mark 8:11-13

In the context of this message, what the Pharisees were asking was absurd. To this point, Jesus had already performed dozens of miracles. If we take these chapters as being chronological, He had already fed several thousand people with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. He had miraculously healed dozens of people and driven out demons. It is no wonder that Jesus, the One with infinite patience, gets frustrated here. If I were in his shoes, I would certainly wonder what more these people wanted. Jesus wanted these people to act on faith, but time and again they fell short.

34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." – Mark 8:34-38

This is what we are asked to commit when we choose to follow Christ. In a way, it is much more than what the original law laid down in the Old Testament asked for. Under that law, only part was needed. Since Christ came to establish a New Covenant, we are asked to give everything we have. He gave everything He had for us, so anything less than the same from us is still far from enough. This is the only reasonable action we can take when presented with Christ’s sacrifice. It is the only way we can gain that which is not ours, and that is eternal life. We also cannot accept this sacrifice with shame. We must accept it with the honor it deserves. As we see, if we view our faith with shame, Christ will view us with shame. This goes back to the great commandment, somewhat, in that we must go forth and make disciples. The only way to do that is to accept this mantle without shame. If you wear shame with it, why would anyone else want it?

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