We’re just beginning an adult Bible class study of the Gospel of Mark here at Central and I’m helping tie all of those short little stories together by preaching through some of the big picture themes in the second gospel. Because the book is so short and Mark appears to be so intentional about it, these big themes are really easy to spot and a lot of fun to follow.
One of those themes is the idea of truly “seeing” Jesus.
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, nobody really “sees” Jesus. They don’t understand what’s going on. They don’t get it. They ask dumb questions, they make poor decisions. Jesus seems to be perplexed as to why they’re so slow to “see.”
“Do you still not see or understand?” (8:17)
“Do you have eyes but fail to see?” (8:18)
“Do you still not understand? (8:21)
“Do you see anything?” (8:23)
“You will see the Kingdom of God come with power.” (9:1)
“What do you want me to do for you?” “I want to see.” (10:51)
“Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see.” (15:32)
“Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” (15:36)
“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last… And the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God.'” (15:37-39)
Everything becomes clear at Calvary. It’s not blurry at the cross. This centurion — of all people! — this pagan, Roman, idol-worshiping, bacon-loving, Gentile sees the Son when he sees how he dies. Seeing the Kingdom of God come with power is about what happens at the cross.
It’s about pain and suffering, sacrifice and service. It’s about the ultimate giving of one’s life for the sake of others. At the cross, God in Christ turns everything completely upside down. The “way” does not lead to a throne of gold in the middle of the temple in the middle of the holy city. The “way” leads to a wooden cross in a rock quarry outside the city gates. That’s where Jesus is really seen.
We need to pay attention to how we project our own vision onto Jesus. A lot of the times we want to ignore or even change Jesus to fit our own ideas and preferences, especially when it comes to suffering and sacrifice. I can’t look at Jesus and say I like his healings and his love, but I don’t want the ridicule and rejection. I’ll take his wisdom and his compassion, but I don’t want his pain and suffering. I’ll take a large helping of his resurrection, but hold the death. I’d like to participate in Jesus’ power, but not his cross.
If Jesus really is the Christ, then he demands to be followed and obeyed. He’s not asking for us to make little adjustments to our lives or minor changes to our world. He expects a complete overhaul!
Jesus is not offering self-fulfillment or self-improvement or even uplifting spiritual experiences. He offers a cross. He doesn’t tell you to try the cross on for size to see if it fits. He doesn’t ask for volunteers to carry a cross to earn extra credit. The cross is for all of us. We can survey the wondrous cross, we can kneel at the cross, we can love the old rugged cross ’til the cows come home, but the call is to carry the cross. To live the cross.
I’ve heard most of my life that Jesus died so I don’t have to. That’s wrong. I’m learning that Jesus died to show me how to. Jesus shows me how to embrace suffering and rejection, how to understand sacrifice and death as God’s holy will for all of us. But we have to look at the cross. If we concentrate on the cross, we’ll be able to see everything clearly.