Hey Christians! Listen up. I have a question for you:
Are you ashamed of your LORD?
What if he is just a little too humble for your taste? Do you think he might be just a little too little… a little too backward… a little too contemptuous?
I mean, if you could worship Mammon as a Christian, what would that look like? Surely you could acquire great wealth for yourself to enjoy AND, of course, use “wisely” for ordering the world in a way surely God would want… No?
I mean, if you could worship Mars (the Roman God of war) as a Christian, what would that look like? Surely you could conquer enemies and plant a flag on their turf AND, of course, coerce your new subjects to accept your faith – the faith in God… No?
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” asks Jesus (Mark 8:36), and he might well be recalling the day the devil tempted him with such (think: Luke 4:5-8/Matt. 4:8-10).
In Mark’s Gospel account of the Life of Jesus, this question of gaining the whole world and forfeiting your soul comes up at a major transition point in the narrative. Jesus has been preaching in parables (almost like coded messages) since chapter 4 (see vss. 33-34 particularly). His sermons have been hard to understand up to that point. The crowds have walked away puzzled and the disciples had to ask for explanation. But here in chapter 8, Jesus suddenly begins speaking plainly to his disciples – very bluntly (v. 32). And still they don’t understand, but his message is a prediction of his own death – a miserable, shameful, horrible death.
Think about that.
These men signed up to follow this messiah, who they think will lead them in a charge against all God’s enemies with God’s special blessing. (Sound like American Christianity???) With God on their side, they should be able to face overwhelming odds without flinching. Their faith is ready to be tested. Jesus has been speaking in parables for a while now, but that is to be expected. It is a way of weeding out the infiltrators and confirming the insiders. But now he gives them the straight skinny. But there is just one problem.
As Jack Nicholson once said, “You CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
The message is not encoded at all. It is as plain as the nose on your face, but the disciples cannot grasp it because it is sooooooo deeply counterintuitive to every fiber of their being. Jesus, their Lord, is embracing shame, pain, and despair so that he can then bear the image of a LOVING CREATOR God coming to his own subjects in sacrificial love to be crowned King of the Jews.
Who really wants a king like that?
Suppose it like this: When you go shopping for a car, do you ask to see the Corvettes, the Cadillacs, the Mustangs, and Lexus’s? I mean, even if you determine you can’t afford one, don’t you want to see all the best stuff you might be able to afford before just driving off in whatever jalopy or economy car you might be limited to purchasing? How much more would you do this when choosing a messiah? So, if your messiah began saying, “I am a jalopy that is so broke down you can’t even repair me with all your best efforts… Oh, but you really must spend every last dime and penny you have to your name in order to obtain me….” Would that even compute in your feeble?
It didn’t compute for St. Peter either. Go read Mark 8, and see what I mean.
So, Agent X, what does all this have to do with homelessness in Lubbock, Texas (USA)?
(Glad you asked.)
Here on April Fool’s Day, 2017, I want to invite you to look deeply into the heart of God to find Jesus. It will make an April Fool of you, I am sure. You might even think you should be ashamed of yourself for spending your whole life, your every breath, your whole love, and all your strength on this messiah. He is not a long shot; he is a sure thing: a sure crucified thing. He is stating the matter plainly, and you can plainly see him. In Matthew’s Gospel, he actually identifies himself with those very needy people you might not want to see, and certainly not count as friends. The very people you might be tempted to divert your eyes from on a street corner. That conversation about sparing a dollar that seems to glob onto your day, your agenda, your life… like a stain on your shirt or a booger on your finger you can’t get rid of.
Yeah… Jesus is talking about crucifixion, which is far worse. So finding him in the homeless beneath your contempt should be quite easy by comparison. If you would fall on your knees at the foot of the cross to worship your dying/dead messiah when the whole world mocks both him and you, how can you divert your eyes from that bum at the entrance to the Wal-mart parking lot?
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Jesus is stating the matter plainly. He wants your all – or maybe you could “spare a dime”. And if you can’t spare a dime, how can you give your all? What does it profit a man to worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?
Yeah… Jesus is stating the matter plainly, but he will start small. That bum is Jesus to you (Matt. 25:40). Don’t be ashamed of him.
(Hey, Tom… Is that “THUNDER”?)