In Part 1, the four portions of Mark 1.1 were each briefly examined. Each person must choose a response to Mark's claim about new beginnings, the good news, and most importantly who Jesus is. That is, is Jesus who He claimed to be – and who others claimed Him to be? This second post will explore why we must consider our choice, and provide a brief look at preparing ourselves to make that choice, in light of this series especially.
Why follow Jesus?
Should we follow Jesus? Why are those words being used? Well, those were His words to the early disciples. Mark 1.17 says, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And those same words apply to us today. Let me provide two reasons for us to follow. The first reason may sound more important than the second, but the second proves that the first is real.
1) He knows the way. He will show us the way. Because He is the way.
One question someone might ask, is “Well, if I am supposed to follow Jesus, where is He going?”
Jesus said in John 14.6, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” People want to argue that that there are multiple ways to get to heaven. Argue all you want, but you better be right. Jesus said there was one way and He is that way. Not everyone wants to spend eternity with God in the new Jerusalem, but for those who do, following Jesus is not optional. In fact, He says it is the only way to be there. Many will respond, “Well, I believe in God, so that is all that matters.” Let me debunk that thought. The ancient Israelites believed in God. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers reveal that people experienced many miracles of God, directly in their presence, and yet did not get into the Promised Land. More importantly, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John reveal that people spent a lot of time walking and talking to Jesus and yet turned from Him. They knew of Him, but they didn’t really know Him, or believe (that is, trust) in Him.
2) He is the example. Many people want to impact others in a positive way but don't know how to go about it. Is there any better example than Jesus? A part of the reality is that Jesus life showed us so much about who God was that we otherwise would have missed. The people of Jesus days largely missed it. They wanted what He offered, but not to follow (see John 6.66). We would have missed it too (and we oftentimes do anyway), not because the Old Testament didn’t mention it, but because our focus would have been elsewhere. Jesus offered us a way to understand the Father, to be a blessing for others, and in what only works in God's economy to, experience untold blessings as well (though most of these will wait until we enter eternity).
The book of Mark begins with this radical statement about Jesus being the Son of God. But it ends by showing how the example He set revealed this truth to others. In Mark 15.39, the Roman centurion who was watching as Jesus died, proclaimed, “truly this man was the Son of God.” The life Jesus lived set an example of how to live, but revealed who He truly was. His resurrection means He not only was worth considering, but IS worthy following today. He is truly the Way, which, of course, is what He claimed (John 14.6).
Let me conclude this portion of the post with an illustration. The illustration will reveal why God sent more than just a messiah, but actually sent His Son.
Imagine you have a piece of sheet music with, what you have been told, could be one of the greatest piano pieces of all time. You know someone who plays the piano well (my wife, pictured playing in Amman, Jordan, does so I will use “her” and “she” as pronouns), so you ask her to play it. But she starts asking questions about the tempo. She shows you areas that are faded making it hard to read and suggests that maybe a page or two is missing. But she is intrigued as well and sits down to play the piece. It is beautiful. You have others come to listen. They agree it is beautiful, but everyone realizes something isn’t quite right. But as she continues playing, a young man overhears the music and steps into the room – at the back, observing, listening, and remaining quiet. He listens to the pianist comment about how hard it is to get it just right, especially without knowing all of the details. Everyone there, except this young man, is wondering just how well it would sound if all of the music was present and readable. After the song ends, the man steps up and asks if he can sit at the piano. Your friend gets up and takes the music, and then to everyone’s astonishment, the music that the man starts to play is the song that she has in her hands. His skill is exquisite. His touch on the keys is both technically brilliant and extraordinarily graceful. The young man is not only far beyond his years in ability, but he plays this most brilliant piece of music from memory. When he concludes, everyone is ready to applaud. But the young man simply lifts his hand as if to hush the crowd, then quietly announces that you haven’t even heard this piece at its best. He says that the piece was written for the piano, but is actually a part of a concerto, and is to be performed with a full orchestra. When you ask if he wrote the music, he shakes his head and says, “My Father did.”
(Story adapted from Sitting at the Feet of the Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.)
This is roughly what Jesus has done for us. He has provided an example of what it means to live according to the writings of God. But, Jesus did even more. He not only provided the example, but invites us to play alongside of Him. Effectively, we are a part of the orchestra of God. As we follow His lead (truly as our conductor) and learn to follow Jesus example, we learn to live (or perform, you might say) as God intends. And, as we do that, we bring Him glory.
And that is why our JOURNEY letter for this week is: “R – Revere”. Simply stated, we may follow others without worshiping them. But for the One we truly worship, we must also follow. We may begin to follow before we fully trust Him, or we may put our faith in Him, and then learn to follow. But either way, our response to the gospel, the good news is our beginning as well. It is being born-again, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John. Just as Mark says in the first verse that he is preparing to share the beginning of the gospel, once we receive the gospel, we have just begun our journey. Trusting in Jesus is not the last step of our faith or we would die the moment that we did so. It is a new beginning for us. The beginning to learn to live a life devoted to Christ and His mission instead of only worrying about ourselves.
So, what about our next steps?
Well, again, one of the keys to this series is seeing the opportunities that find Jesus, or that He seeks to find Himself. As we understand His faith, and how He responds to opportunities, we will better know how to live out our faith and respond to the opportunities around us. So, before we examine our steps, what can we glean from Mark 1.1 about opportunity.
Opportunity: This passage may not seem to have any direct opportunity. But it does! It provides an opportunity to respond to the truth that Jesus came not only as the promised Messiah, but as the very Son of God (Phil 2.5-8). So, how do we respond?
In this series, we will be referring to the steps we can take to fulfill the opportunities God brings our way. The four steps are Learn, Live, Love, Lead. But for this week, I want to take a bird's eye view of the steps and how they can fit together for this series. This series is to break us out of a mindset that simply believing in Jesus or coming to church is enough. Rather it is that we follow His commands because we love Him (see John 14.15). Therefore, we need to:
LEARN, who Jesus was (is), in order to allow us to
LIVE, as Jesus lived, that we might begin to
LOVE, as Jesus loved, and ultimately
LEAD, as Jesus led, so that when we
(LEAVE), as Jesus left, the world may know Him better then than it does now.
May this series encourage and exhort us to Follow Jesus, make disciples, and respond to the opportunities around us.