Today we are continuing our conversation through the book of Mark, which is intentionally walking readers–us–through a process of knowing Jesus. And as we come to the Gospel of Mark, as we process knowing Jesus, we need to feel the complexity of knowing Jesus–not to bring us to an impasse, but to bring us to an understanding that knowing Jesus is incredibly complex and we need to give it time, energy, and effort, and never stop growing in our knowledge.
A person that stops knowing you more is a person that starts the process of knowing you less.
So as we walk through Mark, we don’t want to sit back and let it just passively soak in. It won’t happen; it doesn’t work that way.
In Mark we have seen Jesus’ being set apart–from the prophets, as the Son of God, as one that God is pleased with. We have seen Jesus stand out as being one of authority–over sickness and oppression, in His teaching, and in contrast to the religious authorities. We have seen Jesus questioned and still keeping His focus. We have seen Jesus as the Kingdom of God and as the miraculous provider. We have seen Jesus be misunderstood. We have seen Him be about the internal, not just the external. We have seen Jesus call out the spiritual authorities. We have seen Him empowering and entrusting. We have seen Jesus care for the insignificant. We have seen Jesus touch the unclean and make it clean.
And in all of this, we need to be actively engaging in the process of knowing Jesus: evaluating, analyzing, asking questions, being confused and mistaken, trying again, reading more, hearing more, processing more… This is the process. Knowing Jesus is not something that is ever finished or done. It is process, and Mark is walking us in it.
The mind-bending part of this whole process is Jesus’ invitation to be the Body of Christ while we are still in process.
After His life and death and resurrection, after appearing to many, Jesus looked into the eyes of His disciples and said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The thing about this moment is that as time passed from it, the disciples proved that they didn’t fully know Jesus as He gave this commissioning. Like them, we are commissioned even though we’re not perfect.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)
Even in our imperfect knowing of Jesus, come follow.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
Even in our imperfect knowing of Jesus, love as He has loved.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1)
Even in our imperfect knowing of Jesus, meet needs. Can you believe this?
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
Do even greater works in our world than Jesus–even in our imperfect knowing of Jesus. We are God’s plan. We have been well placed. God is so excited that you are in your home, that you have your neighbors, that you work with the people you work with, that you face the challenges you face, that you have your kids or your friends…. I could go on and on.
It is easy to pray, God, do something for my world. Amen. And–I believe it–HE IS. It is you. And (this is crazy) it is me.
My faith says that we are well placed–we are empowered, entrusted, equipped, supported–even while we walk in imperfect knowing of Jesus. Now this is not an excuse to give up on the process, but rather it is a deepening invitation to know Jesus more.
Today we come to some moments in Mark 8 where that theme of knowing kind of surfaces.
As we walk into this, let me invite you to process being kind of known. Imagine a moment where a person invites you to watch a horror movie and you go to be nice, not because you love horror films. After the film they ask you if you enjoyed it. You don’t want to offend the person that invited you, so you say that it was great. Now, for the rest of time, they are constantly inviting you to horror films, becasue they presume you love them and that they are your favorite.
Imagine a moment where a person invites you out for sushi and you go to be nice, not because you love sushi. After the meal they ask you if you enjoyed it. You don’t want to offend the person that invited you, so you say that it was great. Now for the rest of time they are constantly inviting you out for sushi because they presume that sushi is your favorite.
Imagine a moment where a person gets you a birthday gift of a free indoor rock climbing session at a local climbing gym. You send a thank-you note. You struggle with not wanting to go climbing. The person asks you several times if you have gone climbing yet. You finally go. It is as you expected. You are asked if you enjoyed it. You don’t want to offend the person that gave you the gift, so you say it was great. Now for the rest of time you are a climber and are constantly invited to go climbing because they presume that climbing is your favorite.
Can you feel it? People can know you, know lots about you, know lots about you that is true–while also knowing some things about you incorrectly. Process this for a moment”
What are some of the potential impacts of a person knowing you “incorrectly”?
Today in Mark 8, we come across the impacts of knowing Jesus incorrectly.
Imagine a moment where ou are slightly irresponsible about putting gas in your car. You realize that the gas light has been on for who knows how long and the first gas station you go to is closed for some reason and on the way to the second one, traffic is terrible. You turn the driver's seat of your car into an altar of the Lord and you pray for God’s miraculous provision of gas. You make it to the gas station and your theology is formed: God will never let me run out of gas if I pray desperately for provision! So you become even more irresponsible in putting gas in your car because God will always provide. Until one day…
What are some of the impacts of believing inaccurate things about Jesus?
Is having inaccurate beliefs a disqualifier to relationship with Jesus? Why or why not?
In Mark 8:14-21, Jesus and the disciples are getting on a boat and have just left the Pharisees–the Pharisees who had just asked for a sign from Heaven, a sign from God regarding who Jesus is. And Jesus is still thinking about all that has happened while the disciples are realizing they forgot to bring food with them–they forgot to bring some bread. And Jesus, hearing their conversation about bread and thinking about the Pharisees still looking for a sign, tells them:
“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)
And the disciples, still focused on the missing lunch, think, wait–is Jesus upset that we forgot the bread? Jesus asks them, Do you still not understand?! Do you still not get it??? When there were 5,000 people hungry waiting for food, I fed them and how many baskets were left over? 12. When there were 4,000 people, listening to me for 3 days, we divided a few loaves of bread among them and how many baskets of food were left over? 7. How do you still not get it??
Paul processed it this way:
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:7-9)
After this, Jesus takes the disciples to the villages around Caesarea Philippi, places where Baal was worshiped, where the Greek god Pan was said to be born, where Caesar was worshiped as a god. And He asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:28-29)
It seems like Peter finally got it. He knows! He gets who Jesus is! Well, kind of…
Then Jesus explains what being the Messiah really means:
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:31-32)
So Peter, who just announced that he believed Jesus was the Messiah, immediately corrects Him and tells Him He’s all wrong about what being the Messiah means. I mean, He’s the Messiah, so….
But Peter and the disciples have been told their whole life who the Messiah is. He would be a king from the line of David. The anointed one. A great, super-human figure crashing into history to remake the world. Before the Messiah came the world would fall apart into physical and moral chaos. The Messiah would vindicate God’s people with the total destruction of hostile powers. There would be a complete renovation of Jerusalem, and it would be the center of the world with a new age of peace and goodness which would last forever.
And Jesus tells them, no–He would suffer and be rejected; He’d be killed and rise again… this is not what we thought.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:31-33)
Hebrews processes it this way:
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
Peter didn’t get it. Could he? Then in the next verses, Jesus goes on to give a deeper perspective to following Him.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
Paul processes this:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
So this is the progression of not getting Jesus: The disciples think Jesus is upset about forgetting the bread (as opposed to warning them about how ungodliness can work its way through us like yeast in dough). Peter gets it–Jesus is the Messiah! Wait–Peter doesn’t get it. Peter doesn’t want Jesus to be a sacrifice, doesn’t fully understand what being the Messiah means. Then Jesus brings the ton of bricks: If you will follow Me, it will cost you everything, and in that cost you will find true life–value–everything.
But don’t worry–even after all of this, the story is not over–the story of their not really getting it, not fully knowing Jesus.
In the middle of this chapter, Jesus heals a blind man. It is a living parable of what is happening. Just like He taught the crowds in parables, we see this parable for the readers, for the disciples, in real time. Jesus meets a blind man and heals him, but it takes more than one time for him to fully see.
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26)
Knowing Jesus, seeing clearly, gaining deeper understanding is not a one-stop thing. It is process. Mark is walking us in process. The disciples were in the midst of process. And, as in this story, repeated contact with Jesus led to seeing more clearly.
We already talked about the costs / risks / challenges of not “really” knowing Jesus. If there was ever a moment when this challenge should have been completely overcome, it was when Jesus walked with His disciples. Yet it wasn’t.
Relationship with God is not forced. Jesus Himself, in the flesh, didn’t even mysteriously make it happen. Apparently relationships are a process…
What is gained by the process of growing a relationship that would be lost if it was just “magically” imparted to you?
Some life lessons aren’t so simple, even if they sound that way. Some of life’s lessons take time, experience, failure, trying and trying again; and even then it is still a struggle.
Deepening relationship with Jesus is a lifelong process. This lifelong struggle is not a sign of failure. It is not holding us up from being entrusted by Jesus. It is just part of the process. But that doesn’t make it easy or simple. So here’s the final question to sit with:
What are some of the costs to lifelong pursuit of knowing Jesus?
What makes those costs worthwhile?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Mark 8:34-38.
How do you tend to respond when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear? Why?
How do you tend to respond to adversity? Why?
What is the cost of a life where people protect you by not telling you things you need to hear and prevent you from facing adversity?
How do you process Jesus’ words here in these verses?
What does it look like when it is lived out?
What is the cost of not living out this calling?
How are you challenged, encouraged, focused, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan