“He took Peter, James and John with Him, and He became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”
Today’s passage, is probably one of the most clearest narratives depicting Jesus fully as a human being (whilst still being fully God). It shows us that Jesus too had feelings and felt emotions. It shows us that what Jesus was going to suffer in the next few moments, would by no means be something easily done. Yes, Jesus was born as a human for this very purpose, but it was not something He freely wanted to do. Jesus even prayed that God would take the ‘cup of suffering’ away from Him. His heart was anguished. He felt crushed with grief. Not only was He about to be betrayed, an event He had fully prepared for no doubt, but He was going to be ridiculed, embarrassed, shamed, beaten, tortured and killed.
Yet despite all of this, despite being crushed with grief, He knew that at the end of His suffering, He would experience the joy of having a deep and intimate relationship with us. He knew that after He had finished suffering, there would be no more barriers between us and Him. As the writer of Hebrews says, ‘it was because of the joy that was awaiting Him, that He could endure the cross, disregarding its shame’ (Hebrews 12:2). Friends, this is how much the God of the Bible loved and loves us. Yet He is not just bound by words in a historical book. He is alive today and loves you just as much as when He decided to die for you.
“On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’.””
As Jesus was on His way to pray in Gethsemane, so much must have been going through His head. He was going to pray for strength to persevere through the oncoming suffering He would face, and pray for His disciples whom He knew would desert Him shortly. Can you imagine the weight upon Jesus’ shoulders? Not only would He carry the world’s sins on His shoulders but would be abandoned by well meaning but scared friends, friends whom He had poured into for the last three and a half years, friends who had left behind even their families to follow Jesus. Can you imagine how alone Jesus must have felt? Yet Jesus, despite knowing they would abandon Him, was already making a reconciliation plan for after His resurrection, “But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Isn’t that incredible grace?! That same response is Jesus’ words for us. Even though He knows we will make wrong decisions and do things that abandon or even bring shame to His name, He still says ‘I will go ahead of you and wait for you to come back to Me.’ What grace, what love and what mercy.
“Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where He preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!””
Mark 1: 14-15
When you think of good news, you don’t expect it to be coupled with bad news. Well, in Mark’s gospel, this is exactly what we read. Mark tells us that almost straight after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee to preach ‘good news’. Hold on, wait a second, how can there be ‘good news’ even though John has just been arrested. That was terrible news; News which no doubt shook the whole community. Yet, Jesus taught us and all those around Him, that His coming far outweighed the bad news of John’s arrest. It is not that Jesus wasn’t moved by John’s arrest, far from it, John was His cousin after all. Yet Jesus wanted to highlight that even when bad things happen, even things that result in death, the truth that the Saviour of the world had come to forgive sins and to right all the wrongs, stood as a firm foundation in the midst of bad news.
Even though John had just been arrested and Jesus’ followers must have been filled with fear, more kept following Him, even leaving their livelihood (v18) and family (v20). This shows us that in the midst of hardship, in the midst of bad news, there is always a light calling us and beckoning us with the ‘GOOD NEWS’. This news not only can change our current circumstances but can change our eternity. Don’t let bad news steal you away from the good news that Jesus has come. His Kingdom is here in our hearts and He lives among us!
“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. BUT we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”
Whatever we try to do to please God or make ourselves right with Him, will always fall short of His glorious standards. It may seem like a harsh reality, particularly given that our natural instinct is to try to do good things to please people. At school we do our best to achieve the best marks, at work we work our hardest to get that promotion. In social circles we try to look our best to catch the partner of our dreams. We live in a society that calls for the best all the time. And according to the theory of evolution, only the best survive! Yet in God’s Kingdom, the opposite is true. When we stop trying to be our best in our strength, we stop trying to gain God’s favour, when we live in His grace and not our good works, we will begin to be set free from ‘doing’, and rest in ‘being’ in His presence.
Paul puts it in even stronger words to the church in Galatia. If you keep trying to do good by obeying the laws of Moses, thinking that by your good works you will become righteous before God, you have misunderstood grace and are further away from Him than you think. Friends, put your whole heart and trust in God, knowing that He has already paid the price for your righteousness and liberty. Live by the Spirit, not by trying to please God in order to be made right with Him by your good works. You are already made right with Him because Jesus has done the hard work! You just need to live in Him and His freedom. What is important is Faith IN HIM which naturally produces good works clothed in love.
““I told you that I AM HE,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.””
Even in the midst of Jesus’ most vulnerable point, He was still interceding and fighting for His disciples. People often say that Jesus was a weak man, a frail figure, who couldn’t even protect Himself, yet when we read the Bible, the picture of Jesus, is far from that. On the contrary, the image of Jesus in today’s verse, is more like Jesus is an army general, defending His troops and surrendering for the greater good of humanity. Even surrounded by the temple guard and Roman soldiers, He still had the courage to protect His disciples, demanding that they be set free. Although this statement was a fulfilment of scripture as a prophetic moment, it still highlights, that Jesus never gave up and never stop caring about His disciples. We too are today included in that. Jesus never stops caring about us, even more so now that He is sitting down at the right hand of the Father, in complete victory. Jesus showed us what love looked like. It was love in action. Even when He knew that He was about to be beaten and killed for murderers and thieves, who wouldn’t even recognise His act of love, He still looked out for the vulnerable and put others before Himself. That is the Jesus we call King!
“I will be careful to live a blameless life – ….”
Surrounded by praise giving, God glorifying Psalms, is this wonderful statement and profession of faith by David. In this psalm, David declare to the Lord all the things he has set his face to do in the sight of God. To live a life of integrity, to reject perverse ideas, to be-friend faithful people, to be diligent in choosing those who work in his palace and so much more. All of the things David had set out to do, were all from a heart wanting to please God.
Yet it is a good reminder to us, as David also mentions here too, that without God’s help, even our best intentions, will be fruitless; ‘When will you come to help me? (101:2b)’. Yet with God, not only can we live holy and pure lives in our homes, but our influence can change the world around us. If we desire to live in purity and holiness, if we too set our face to follow after the things of God, then we too can make a huge difference in this world. Perhaps it would be a good thing for us to write a list of ‘I will’s’ too and see what God is birthing in your heart!
“For there is only one God and One Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity; the man Christ Jesus.”
1 Timothy 2:5
The man Christ Jesus, both fully God and fully man. A difficult truth to fully comprehend yet the most significant truth in the whole of Christianity. If Jesus was not fully God, He would not be worth worshipping. If Jesus was not fully man, then there is no way He could have understood our problems, no way He could have walked with us through hard times and no way He could have been our substitutional sacrifice. Yet Jesus was both fully man and fully God. And it is only by His sacrifice that man-kind and God could reconnect in a true and pure relationship. Jesus is our Mediator, our Ransom and the reason why we can commune with a Holy God and the Creator of the world. Our imperfections, our sinful lifestyles and bad habits are made clean and righteous before God because Jesus made us clean by taking our punishment for us and cleansing us by His blood.
Today we can rejoice that Jesus was fully God, came to live on this earth as a 100% human being, carried our sins and burdens to the cross and there left them, rose again victorious, so that we too can die to our old selves and be resurrected new creations. The past is gone. The new has come. Jesus our Mediator has reconciled us to God the Father. We are victorious in Him. He reigns victorious. That is why we worship Him. That is why we praise Him.