What do you see in this picture? A lady? How old might you guess she is? Some will say “old” and others will say “young” and both are right depending on how your eyes first catch the picture. But the reality is that both answers are correct.
This picture became somewhat famous in Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey uses this picture to discuss the nature of paradigms (and the challenge in changing them). We all see the world in some way, and the way we see it is often quite different from others. Does that make us wrong? Not necessarily, it just makes us different. Like this picture. Some may still be trying to see the other approach, but both a young lady and an older lady are present (focus on the ear/eye. If you see it as an eye, now look at it as an ear or vice-versa). It is like our political system. I think it is a mess. And I am not fond of a great deal of what is happening. But, and I mean this sincerely, I firmly believe that virtually everyone who goes into politics does so with the motives of helping people. Their ideology and methodology of how to accomplish helping others might be vastly different from someone else, but the top end goal is the same.
Jesus came into a world that was dominated by Rome and all of its military might. The Greek culture was still prominent and philosophers were still highly valued. And then there was Israel. Neither mighty, nor considered to have people who were intellectually elite, this small piece of land was simply a wasteland that had a religious fervor about some deity they called YHWH, with expectations of a messiah that would rescue them from the oppression.
And the Messiah did come. And He did offer redemption and rescue, but not as they (those who sought Him) had thought. And His teachings and life were so different than anyone else could imagine – especially those closest to Him. To truly embrace who Jesus was and what He was doing (and was asking them to do) was to embrace a paradigm shift. It was as if Jesus was asking them to see an older woman for those who saw her as young. It might be very difficult at first, but with a little practice, it would become easier, and ultimately, His followers might, just might, learn to master this shift in understanding. But the road to this understanding was long and His remaining time was disappearing.
Following Jesus means embracing His path (vv. 30-32)
Reggie spent time on this portion here so let me just briefly add a couple of thoughts.
Jesus path was to take Him to Jerusalem. His path was toward suffering. His path would include death. Whereas in Mark 8.31, Jesus mentioned that the suffering would be at the expense of the elders and chief priests, here Jesus says that it is men who will turn on the Son of Man.
Paradigm Shift: Those who choose to follow, must follow for Jesus sake, not our own. Crowds who called out to Him because of the healings and miracles would soon abandon Jesus because the path became too difficult. His own disciples did not understand His teaching. And after being rebuked for speaking up the last time He mentioned the need to suffer and die, they were not about to ask Him again.
But if we embrace His path, it doesn’t stop at death for Jesus says in verse 31, He will rise. And if that is true for Jesus, then it is true for all who follow after Him. He is the Way and He shows the Way.
Following Jesus means embracing His leadership (vv. 33-34)
Would the disciples embrace Jesus leadership? Well, maybe. In the story we have so far, they seem to have done whatever has been asked with maybe a little grumbling (Mark 8.4 – “These” people), but a great deal of misunderstanding (Mark 6.52; 8.21). But what if Jesus asked them to be less than they desired? That might be a different story.
Before I begin this, I am not saying Jesus would ask them to be less than God made them to be. Or that Jesus wouldn’t want them (or us) to reach our full God-given potential. I am saying that He may indeed ask us to be less than WE DESIRE to be. (Take a moment to read Mark 9.33-34.)
Let me set this up for you. In Mark 9, Jesus makes a statement that some will see the Kingdom of God come. Although these words can be interpreted in many way, I believe, at least in part, that the Transfiguration of Jesus must count in fulfilling that statement. And three of Jesus disciples (Peter, James, and John) did witness Jesus in all of His glory. Meanwhile, back down the mountain, the other 9 (plus any other disciples with Him not among the Twelve) were unable to heal a demon-possessed boy (last week’s sermon).
So, here they are walking as a group through Galilee on the way to a house in Capernaum. The house is almost certainly that of Peter’s mother-in-law where Jesus has visited, ministered, and perhaps even stayed. So, imagine twelve (or more) testosterone-filled men walking for upwards of 170 miles. I imagine a little pride started showing through, especially as they were getting a little tired. Perhaps the conversation might have gone a little like this:
James: “Boy, I am glad I am not one of you all.”
Bartholomew: “What do you mean?”
John: “Jesus pretty much said you all didn’t pray and that is why you could cast out the demon.”
Simon (Zealot): “Well, its not like you could have done it either.”
John: “Sure I could have. James or Peter too. Why do you think Jesus took us up the mountain? Because we are His favorites?”
Thomas: “I don’t believe that!”
James: “What do you believe Thomas?”
John: “You know it is true. And we are on our way towards Jerusalem, and when we get there, guess who is going to be Jesus right-hand man (or maybe men)?”
Andrew: “Come on guys. You don’t really think that do you?”
Peter: “Brother, I love you. But facts are facts. You may have introduced me to Jesus, but He obviously has chosen me, and these other two.”
And so it (might have) went. Or something to that effect until they arrived in Capernaum when Jesus asked the nature of their conversation. They were silent. Because they were convicted. Jesus had just talked about Him dying and they were arguing about their perceived greatness – at least relative to one another.
But Jesus statement shows that what they desired is not what He was offering. They were talking about leading from the top, Jesus said the leadership model He followed meant leading from the bottom. Specifically, Jesus is revealing that following Him, serving Him, does not mean that they get to do what they want to do, but what He wants them to do. And He has already provided an example because He has already served them, and will continue to do so, modeling what He expects them to do for others.
Paradigm Shift: To lead truly means to follow. Being first, means being last. Being up front may get the attention, but being last can be full of purpose and meaning – but only if one has the right attitude. Ultimately, this paradigm shift is continued in the next point, so let us move there.
Following Jesus means embracing His plan (vv. 35-36)
What was His plan? To Serve.
Jesus served the crowds, His disciples, and through His death, all of humanity. This moment is critical to Jesus. We know this for two reasons. First, He sits down (v. 35). That was the traditional posture for a rabbi when teaching. Second, it says He called the Twelve. Now remember, they have just entered a house so presumably they are all fairly close anyway. He has just asked them a question, so we know that most, if not all, of them are very nearby. But He calls them – as if to get their attention. And then, He provides this teaching about being a servant.
To illustrate this, Jesus takes a child into His arms. (Again, this is in the house where Peter often stayed – could it have been Peter’s child?) An interesting note about this is that in Aramaic the word for child is the same word for servant. And like servants, children had no rights. And, if it is possible, a child had less rights than a servant. Certainly, male children had some value because that meant an heir for the property. But otherwise, until they were old enough to serve, they (whether male or female) were essentially worthless.
So again, we have another major paradigm shift.
Paradigm Shift: To lead would mean to serve. And servants were without rights or respect. All of society knew that the wealthy could get what they wanted, but few others had a chance. Jews projected this onto eternity, where advancement might be possible due to God’s faithfulness. But a servant? A servant! And that is why this teaching was so hard to swallow.
To put all of this succinctly, to follow Jesus means embracing Him (v. 37)
It is important not to miss this. The child is not the one receiving. We will see the more familiar story of having a child-like faith in a couple of weeks. Here, Jesus point is not what the child receives; it is the child that is received. And whoever receives this seemingly worthless child receives Jesus, which means receiving God. Ultimately, all that matters is that we receive (embrace) Jesus.
- Some will choose a path that leads to death, but do not know Jesus.
- Some will choose to follow Jesus, but only when life is good.
- Some will choose to serve others, but do so for their own purposes and glory.
- But if we receive Jesus, we must also choose His path choose His leadership, and choose His plan of service.
The disciples nearly missed it all. And as we will see next week, they missed Jesus point. But through Jesus persistence, His disciples eventually embraced this paradigm shift. How do I know? Not because the Bible tells me so, though it does. I know because God is still using people to proclaim his message and show His love, which was carried forward from these earliest disciples. It took a man coming back from the dead to truly convince them, but they were convinced and therefore shifted their paradigms, and so can we.
The JOURNEY letter for today is the full word: JOURNEY.
We are all on a journey and we must choose to embrace Jesus every step of the way.
As we embrace Jesus, we not only sing His praises, but will we help others find cause to do so as well.
We often want to be around people who are like us, act like us, think like us, talk like us, dress like us, etc.
But God takes people no matter what they look like, act like, dress like, talk like, etc.
We want people who sing the hymns and proclaim Hallelujah for all the blessings in their life. But God wants people to call to Him even with the most broken of Hallelujahs. A new rendition of the song Hallelujah has just been released. Many have expressed various interpretation of the lyrics. I believe the lyrics have a great deal of depth, but one simple understanding could view the various challenges of singing Hallelujah. Early in the song, it is done with ease, then has to be drawn out, then becomes difficult because of abuse, then is nearly impossible because of spite and even revenge.
But it is possible.
The video captures this well as the light fades towards sunset. As I prepared this message for the week, I thought about how hope fades for those we are unwilling to receive. Are we willing to receive those who would otherwise not be received. People all around us are crying out. Maybe you are crying out. Does anyone hear? Well, God does! He hears the broken Hallelujah just as well as He does those which are not broken. And He wants us to hear these cries. But to do so, we have to change our thinking – our paradigms.
Learn to change your paradigms in order to embrace Jesus. (Determine your reasons for not following Jesus path. Maybe it is a prejudice against a certain place or person (or type of person? Or maybe it is fear or a lack of faith? Whatever IT is, until you are honest with yourself, you cannot truly embrace Jesus, because His path is so radically different from all other paths.)
Live for Jesus, not for yourself. It is ok to have goals and ambitions, but they need to be in line with the Lord’s. (See Proverbs 16.9.)
Love others by receiving them regardless of who they are. In doing so, you show your love for God too.
Lead like Jesus. Serve others, just as Jesus has served you.