Look upon us, O Lord, and let all the darkness of our souls vanish before the beams of thy brightness. Fill us with holy love, and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom. All our desire is known unto thee, therefore perfect what thou hast begun, and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer. We seek thy face, turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory. Then shall our longing be satisfied, and our peace shall be perfect. (Augustine)
Today we continue through Mark 10, reading about yet another time that Jesus told his disciples of his death. So read through Mark 10:32-34 several times, marking words and phrases as you go. What strikes you? What surprises you?
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34 ESV)
My guess is that Jesus’s disciples were “amazed” and “astonished” by his teaching. Think of all Jesus has done and taught them thus far: miraculous healings. Deliverance from demons. Power over nature. A coming kingdom that turns every religious value on its head, in favor of grace. An economy that puts more value in a little bit of yeast or a tiny, tiny mustard seed than all the riches of mankind. The ability to feed thousands of people with just one meal. So many lessons about the human heart. Stark warnings to anyone who trusts in his own righteousness or her own riches. These things are amazing! And the disciples who were with Jesus for about three years or so saw all of it. With their own eyes.
So what were”those who followed” so afraid of? All of the above. They witnessed these things, too—along with the reactions of the religious leaders of their day, who held a lot of power. There were rumblings, to be sure. Word was traveling fast that this man was dangerous and must be dealt with. People were probably drawn to Jesus on the one hand, attracted to his love and grace and wisdom and the way that everything he said cut them to the quick. But they were also fearful, because they knew that Jesus, and everyone associated with him, were targets of the leaders. Who wants to get caught up in that crossfire?
To follow Jesus—to really follow him—is amazing. And quite dangerous. His love is not some mamby-pamby feel-good emotion. The love of Christ is violent at times—a backhoe to the human heart, tearing up and destroying every piece of junk and deeply-rooted bramble of sin. And the grace of Christ is unrelenting, standing firm against any religious thought that is based in human action or self-righteousness. The very love and grace that we who follow Jesus cling to is the same love and grace that got him killed.
We should be amazed. We should be astonished! But we need not be afraid.
Yet we will be afraid. Jesus tells his disciples what is coming. “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” What in the world must his disciples have been thinking?
Well, we know (having read this before, and having read what comes next), they seemed to not fully believe him. Because when everything began to be fulfilled, they seemed surprised. When he was actually killed, they did not expect him to rise again. Even though he had told them what would happen. They were afraid.
How many things has Jesus told us, through scripture, that, when it’s time to believe him, we don’t?
I have a friend who has been diagnosed with Stave IV cancer. He is young. He has a wife my age and four young children. His prognosis is bleak, even though he is fighting it with everything he has. And his diagnosis and the season he is in—barring a miracle, his last season on earth—is forcing him and many of his friends to take a look at what Jesus said about what happens next. For those who are in Christ, death is not the end. Everyone will die to this life, but there is a resurrection to come. Jesus, who died for our sins and then rose from the dead, demonstrating, yet again, his power over nature and even death, is coming again. There will be judgement, but all who are in Christ will be found forgiven. Not innocent, but forgiven. He will collect us all—those living in Christ, and those dead in Christ—and we will populate a new heaven and a new earth. The Bible has much to say about this. This is the story of scripture.
Yet when it comes time to believe, when the mist that is this life is nearly evaporated and it’s really time to believe, we aren’t quite sure. Just as Jesus told his disciples about his death and resurrection, when the time came, they weren’t so confident that he was right.
But he was. Every word of it.
This is the encouragement I am drawing from this passage today. I have never spent much time feeling fearful of death. Like most healthy young people, death has, for the most part, been the farthest thing from my mind. Sure, I knew it would come. But not for many, many years! Then the reality of my friend’s sudden illness, and the parallels between his life and mine (he and my husband are the same age, as are his wife and I), brought the reality of death very close to home.
And here’s my hope: Jesus told his disciples what was going to happen. They were amazed, and afraid. But he was right. About all of it. And my hope today is that he was also right about the things that have not yet happened. We look back at the disciples’ actions during holy week, after Jesus’ death, and shake our heads. How could they act like it was over? We wonder. Jesus told them what was going to happen! Why didn’t they believe, while he was in the grave, that he would rise again? He told them! Several times!!
But all I have to do is look at my own unbelieving heart. My own fearful heart.
This passage encourages me to believe. To believe in the resurrection—not only the one that took place two thousand years ago, but the one that is yet to come, which the apostle Paul wrote of in his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)
May the fact that everything Jesus has said so far came to pass exactly as he said it would fan our faith to believe that all he said that is yet to be fulfilled will also come to pass—exactly as he said it would.
What are you afraid of today? Let the encouragement of scripture lift your fear and embolden you with faith to trust Jesus at his word and to live in the freedom that comes when we are unafraid.