Do Whatever We Ask

Transfiguration of Jesus PortraitIn Mark 10, James and John have one request of Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” It’s probably not the request Jesus would hope to hear in the context of Mark 10. After all, he had just finished talking about how the kingdom would be populated by those who are child-like and help the poor. I don’t think selfishness is the child-like trait that Jesus had in mind. So what is it that James and John want: a better understanding of how to be child-like or maybe some practical strategies for how to best help the poor? No, not even close. They want the best seats in heaven. After everything Jesus has taught them, they’re still looking out for their own interests.

I’m sure glad we never do that, right? Of course, too often we still do. We have a hard time getting past our own selfishness. We like things our way, but Jesus gives example after example of the importance of considering those around us. He shows us that other people are more important than our things or our status. He showed us by the way that he lived. He says that he “did not come to be served, but to serve.” He wants us to do the same. How will you serve this week?


A Mountaintop Experience

Jesus' TransfigurationWe’ve all had memorable experiences.  A couple years ago a friend and I were at a conference and decided to take in a baseball game during a free night. We weren’t fans of either team, but we like baseball and thought it might be fun to see a game in a stadium we had never visited. The first half of the game was alright. The concessions were overpriced, and there were some loud guys who had been over-served behind us; but it was still baseball. Around the 7th inning, I turned to my friend and asked if the visiting team had a hit yet. They hadn’t. For the next couple innings an average game between teams we didn’t follow became a lot more exciting, and we witnessed a pitcher’s first no-hitter. As the team celebrated with him, an older couple came on to the field. His parents were at the game. Out of close to 40 games he would start that season, they were at this one. What a great experience!

In Mark 9 Peter, James and John were eye witnesses to something far greater than any mountaintop experience we might imagine. Jesus was transfigured before them with Moses on one side and Elijah on the other. One of the greatest of the patriarchs and one of the greatest of the prophets appeared there and talked with the Messiah. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him,” a voice from heaven said. And then just like their roles in life, Moses and Elijah faded away and only Jesus remained. Peter would later write about the experience in 2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” They had a mountaintop experience, and their lives were forever changed. Listen to Him, and yours will be too.


It’s Not Going to Be Easy.

FollowWill it be worth the trouble? Have you ever asked yourself that question before starting on a task? At our old house, my wife and I decided to update our kitchen. It was a lengthy, incremental project that included stripping and painting cabinets, replacing counter tops, installing a new sink and faucet, tiling a back splash, installing new appliances and painting. We did most of the work ourselves in an attempt to save money. The whole process took YEARS. It was not years of daily work but just projects here and there. Somewhere in the midst of it all, we decided that starting the project might not have been a good idea, and we would hire someone if we ever wanted to do something like that again. We got to enjoy the completed kitchen for less than a month when we started packing everything up to move to Oregon. If we had known all that at the beginning, we probably would have done things much differently.

Jesus is very upfront with his disciples and the crowd in Mark 8, when he tells them that following him will not be easy. The idea of a person taking up his cross would have been all too familiar in their culture, and it would not be something that anyone would seek out. He wants them to understand the cost. He wants their commitment. He asks the same thing of us today. If we are living the lives that Jesus calls us to live, there is a cost. It requires our time. It requires using our talents. It requires our giving. It requires our hearts. It requires that we become living sacrifices. And is it worth the trouble? Absolutely. “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?” (Mark 8:35-37)

Don’t Tell Anyone

Jesus Heals the Deaf ManCan you keep a secret? It’s difficult sometimes, isn’t it? There is something exciting about knowing some piece of information that others do not know and being the one who shares that information. You get to see the look of surprise on their face. You’re the one who knows. There are people who absolutely love moments like that. They are the last people you want to confide in when you have a secret of your own.

What about when it’s your experience you want to share? When is the last time you could not wait to tell someone about the exciting thing that happened to you? You had a great first date. You received or gave an amazing gift. You found a great sale somewhere. You just returned from a wonderful trip. We love to share those experiences with others.

In Mark 7, Jesus encounters a man who is deaf and can barely talk. The man’s friends bring him to Jesus to be healed, and Jesus does not disappoint. When Jesus heals him, he is immediately able to hear and speak plainly. As the man and his friends left Jesus made only one request of them: don’t tell anyone. But the text tells us, “The more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.” They could not help themselves. It was the most incredible thing they had ever experienced. They had to tell others about it.

God loves us enough that He sent His Son here to Earth to live a difficult life and die on our behalf so that we could live with Him eternally. Don’t tell anyone? We cannot help ourselves. It’s the most incredible thing we have ever experienced. We have to tell others about it.

Sheep without a Shepherd

Shepherds Watch Over the SheepIn Mark 6, Jesus and his apostles get on a boat to escape the crowd and find a quiet place to rest. The crowd has other ideas and meets them on the shore when they arrive. Rather than get frustrated, Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Every time I read that phrase, I am reminded of a news story I first read in 2005.

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported. In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported. “There’s nothing we can do. They’re all wasted,” Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam. The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700. “Every family had an average of 20 sheep,” Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. “But now only a few families have sheep left. It’s going to be hard for us.” (USA Today, 7-8-05)

It’s a sad, yet almost comical story to think of one sheep after another walking off that cliff. It’s easy to step back and think of just how dumb those sheep must be. Don’t people do the same kind of thing every day though? How many times do we see people blindly following others into self-destructive actions? How many times do we continue to make the same mistakes and fall into the same sins? Too many times we are like sheep without a shepherd just like this crowd was. Jesus responds not with impatience, frustrations, or an I-told-you-so. He has compassion, teaches and even feeds more than 5000 of them. In John 10:11, He goes even further and says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Let’s all step out of the line of sheep heading toward that cliff and follow the good shepherd who loves us enough to lay down His life for us.