Monday, March 17, 2014

Passion for the Kingdom (Mark 9:30-50)

Jesus follows the second announcement of His passion with another teaching on the harder aspects of following Him. They all revolve around the continued preoccupation the disciples have with their exalted positions in the new kingdom of their dreams. Instead, Jesus teaches that they should deny their personal ambitions and desires and instead develop a passion for the kingdom God will establish.

Self-aggrandizement: He first draws their attention to a little, insignificant child. Those who wish to be great in God’s kingdom need to be the most servile. They need to welcome and serve the little subjects and not just “important” or “influential” ones. They need to set aside their own wishes and desires with an aim to draw as many as can be invited into the Kingdom, down the littlest child.

Self-righteousness: When asked about other bands and people doing kingdom work independent of their own little club, Jesus tells His disciples that they need to avoid exclusivism. Many people will profess and act in Jesus name, and that is a good thing. Too often followers of Jesus spend too much time defining the best or even the “only” way to correctly be a follower of Christ. The fact is that there is room for variety. True, some may misuse the name of Christ but it is not our role to judge who is correct, nor to defend Jesus against misuse. We should simply be about our duty and rejoice in all our allies, or let God deal with the posers.

Self-obsession: Returning to the child, and to the task of opening up the kingdom to all comers, Jesus points out how important the task is. It would be better to die than to live causing people to miss the kingdom. Followers of Jesus need not only to do everything to try to get the message out, they need to be very careful that they haven’t somehow changed that message—by watering it down or simplifying it into something altogether other. He also talks of the preference of mutilation rather than serving sin. In addition to the obvious teaching, I see here an opening to viewing the body as the body of Christ—others in the community. That is an incorrect reading, of course, but I think it harmonizes with the message of Scripture. The point is, we need to see ourselves (and needs/desires) as secondary to others in the Kingdom. We seek to serve others, not to make ourselves more important. (As if that were possible.)

Saltiness. Finally, He draws everything back to the missionary thrust of discipleship. Followers need to be salt in the world. Bringing the change of Gods Kingdom into a fallen, worldly one. If we aren’t doing that, what is the point? We aren’t in this to rule, but rather to herald and serve.

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