The Cross-Formed Lifestyle

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 3/8/2020

There is this verse in Mark 7:37 that strikes me as odd. Jesus has just healed a man, opening his ears and loosening his tongue, and in the most dramatic and disgusting way—using his own spit! Mark 7:37 says, “The [crowd] was extremely astonished and said, ‘He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”

What if Mark’s gospel ended at Mark 7:37? What if at Mark 7:37, Jesus just dropped the mic and walked off the stage? What portrait of Jesus, of Christian faith, would we be left with? “This Jesus, he is so nice, and so amazing. He just makes everything in my life swell. He heals my body. He makes me healthy. He fills my stomach with bread and fish. He calms each/every storm. He helps me fulfill all my hopes and dreams. Jesus gives me that peaceful, easy feeling. If we just touch the edge of his robe. If we could just bottle up some of his saliva for future needs. Jesus you are like my American Express—'don’t leave home without it.’”

In Mark 8:22-26, we have this two-stage healing of a blind man. At first, he sees things unclearly (“people look like trees”). But when Jesus lays his hands on him a second time, he begins to see everything “clearly.” This miracle is followed by Peter’s Great Confession in Mark 8:29, “You are Christ.”

Peter’s confession comes by divine revelation, its revealed (see Matthew’s gospel). “He sees.” But we’re quickly left to wonder, “What does Peter really understand? What more is there for him to see?” The split second Peter says, “You are Christ,” Mark 8:31 tells us that, “THEN Jesus began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” There is an abrupt change in tone. “Great answer Peter! I’m going to suffer, be rejected, killed and raised after three days.”

Look at Mark 8:32-33, “Jesus spoke openly about this. [No parables].” But then, “Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. But turning around and look at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

What in the world is happening here? Peter sees something but it is a bit fuzzy, “You are Christ.” He has begun to see, but is not yet seeing clearly! Like everyone Peter had developed a physical attachment to Jesus’ flesh and blood. But now Jesus was announcing openly, “I’m going to suffer, be rejected, killed and raised after three days! In fact three different times, in the span of a just a few chapters Jesus, keep reiterating this point. Each time he gets more specific/graphic…

The first mention of his suffering/death is Mark 8:31. The second is Mark 9:32 where he says, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.” The third is in Mark 10:33-34 where Jesus says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, spit on him, and kill him, and he will rise after three days.”

Perhaps you can sense Peter’s panic and fear? In Mark 1-7, he have a portrait of a Jesus who serving the concerns of man (Jesus is my American Express). But suddenly from Mark 8-16, we have an explicit portrait of a Jesus laying down his life to serve God! Peter had his heart/mind wrapped around a Jesus who serves his needs. He had his heart/mind around a Jesus who enabled him to have his best life now; But a Jesus who serves God’s concerns unto death? A Jesus who willingly lays down his very life? *Peter had “his own concerns” in view; but he’d not yet clearly seen “God’s concerns.”

Mark 8:34-9:1 says, “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 1-7, people are relating to Jesus out panic and fear. They’re crying out, begging, desperately holding on to life. There is so little faith and courage. But here in Mark 8, Jesus is calling his disciples to faith, and faithfulness, to ultimate obedience and sacrifice, to lay down their lives, to have courage not just in the “face” of death, but in death, and through death, and beyond death! They are being called to stand firm in persecution and hardship, to stand till the end, unashamed in sinful/adulterous culture.

Jesus rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.” How those words must have stung Peter. How they must sting us? There is no concept more foreign to the American Christian than “costly discipleship.” What? I should lay down my life for others? I should lay down my life for God? How adverse we’ve become to the least hint of suffering, pain, sacrifice.

Look at Mark 9:2. “After six days. . .” Those had to be the longest six days of Peter’s life! But don’t worry, Jesus hasn’t given up on him! He hasn’t given up on us!

Mark 9:2-10, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transfigured in front of them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, since they were terrified. 7 A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this word to themselves, questioning what “rising from the dead” meant”.

You can’t read Mark 8 and 9 without getting the strong sense that Jesus is trying to graduate Peter’s faith from the “physical/natural” to the “spiritual.” Let’s talk about this. Given the choice, who wouldn’t prefer to walk by sight, and not by faith? Up to this point the disciples have had a “physical” attachment to the person of Jesus. They’re attune to his audible voice, the power of his physical touch. Even the edge of Jesus’ robe, even his spit brings healing! His presence calms storms. He can walk on water with his feet, multiply bread with his hands. When Jesus is transfigured, Peter’s gut reaction is “This is so epic! Let’s build three shelters.” Let’s capture, and preserve, and forever live in this moment!

But this is NOT how God intends us to live. We walk by faith, and not by sight. Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God. In Mark 9:7 the Father’s voice booms, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!” In other words, “Trust him! Obey Him. Follow Him. Don’t be ashamed of Jesus or his Words!”

With these word God is commanding Peter to trust wholly in Christ’s words. Jesus is teaching Peter to trust in the spiritual reality of who HE IS. He isn’t just the Christ who physically incarnated himself among man, and dwelt among us. He is the Christ who would be rejected, and suffer, and die, and be raised after three days. Like Peter, we can see the physical portrait of Christ clearly! But we have trouble seeing beyond the trees, seeing beyond the cross, seeing the greater portrait of the true person of Jesus now resurrected, now ascendant, now reigning in heaven above, now commanding us by his Holy Word, “Listen.”

How many of you would agree… the Mark 8:34-35 portrait of discipleship is inspiring? Yet here is the reality. Until we begin to see the fullness of Christ resurrected, ascending, now reigning in heaven… our discipleship will be anything but inspiring!

After the transfiguration, Jesus, Peter/James/John come down off the mountain. While they were gone, the other disciples were having trouble casting out a demon. In Mark 9:29, Jesus says it’s because, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.” It’s the same problem. The disciples were so attached to Jesus’ physical presence, they’d not yet learned to abide in Jesus’ spiritual presence. What is prayer if not spiritual attachment, abiding in Jesus presence, abiding in Jesus’ Words, abiding in His will?

In Mark 3:14 Jesus went up on the Mountain and appoint the Twelve to be Apostles. But do you remember? Mark 3:14 says, “He appointed the Twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority….” They got the “sending out” part down; but forgot the “be with him” part. The disciple’s first call is “to be with Jesus.” Jesus would be physically absent. So how do you go about abiding in a physically absent, physically resurrected, now ascendant and now reigning Christ? Well, you pray! You abide in Jesus’ words, in his will. You Listen. By the way Jesus had been abiding in his Heavenly Father all along… he’s been careful to go to the mountain and pray at every turn. But now it was time for the disciples to learn to spiritually abide in Jesus—and to do so no matter how great the cost.

I would suggest our spiritual attachment to Christ enables a whole other life. Could I put on the Teacher hat for a minute? I believe Mark 8-9-10 is a portrait of the kind of life that becomes possible only through spiritual attachment to Jesus.

We’ve already been talking about Mark 8:34-36. If we don’t attach to Jesus spiritually, how can there be any real following of Jesus, any serious denial of self, any substantive taking up of our cross, or laying down our lives? How can there be costly discipleship, costly sacrifice?

Mark 8:14-29. If we don’t attach to Jesus spiritually, how can there be any real power to our life and ministry? The prayerless disciples couldn’t drive out a demon! With God everything is possible. But without God, everything becomes impossible. Healing, but then everything else too!

Mark 9:33-37. The disciples argue about who is the G.O.A.T. (greatest)? Apart from Jesus, we’ll never find cause to live for anyone greater than self!

Mark 9:38-41. The disciples try to stop people healing in Jesus’ name. How quickly we turn against one, when we take our eyes off Jesus. We become filled with envy, jealousy. We compare. We compete. Jesus brings peace!

Mark 9:42-49. If we don’t attach to Jesus spiritually, how will we ever escape the fleshly pull of your hell-bent passions? Jesus warns how quickly our eyes, our hands, our feet don’t just carry us into sin… but carry us into hell where “the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched.”

Mark 10:1-10. If you we don’t attach to Jesus, how will we ever abide by God’s creation design, living according to our gender, within his boundaries, with pure hearts, within God’s covenantal boundaries (1 man, 1 woman, lifetime). Only Jesus can cure the hardness of our hearts in regard to sexual sin!

Mark 10:17-22. If we don’t attach to Jesus, how quickly we become deluded by our own sense of moral goodness and self-righteousness.

Mark 10:23-30. If we don’t attach to Jesus, how quickly wealth becomes our God. Instead of seeking security in God, we put our hope in money.

Mark 10:35-44. If we don’t attach to Jesus, greatness will be more about getting than giving, leadership and power will become more about being served than ever serving!

In Mark 10:46-52, the second blind man saw clearly enough to understand his need for God’s mercy. In Mark 10:47 he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” They told him to be quiet, but he screamed all the more. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. And the blind man said, “I want to see.”

Here was a man who begged who saw spiritually but begged to see physically. We seem to have just the opposite need. We naturally see, hear, feel, taste, touch. By nature, live/walk by sight, physically attaching to anyone/anything that promises life.

But Jesus is calling us to live beyond the natural/physical. He is calling us to live by faith, not sight. To attach to him now spiritually… learning to abide in his Word… learning to truly be with Jesus in prayer… learning to truly listen--following, obeying, giving up, sacrificing, serving, loving well, living holy lives, laying down our life, enduring hardship and persecution.

Later in life Peter would reflect on Jesus Transfiguration. In 2 Peter 1:16-19 he writes, “For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!” 18 We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

He also writes in 2 Peter 1:3-11, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”


Scripture Verses

Mark 9:42-10:52

Worship Playlist

Ready or Not by Hillsong

Your Love Awakens Me by Phil Wickham

Jesus Paid It All by Passion

Follow You Anywhere by Passion

Study Questions

  1. The philosophy of the world has always been, "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die." How might our perspective of ultimate things affect our behavior on a day-to-day basis?
  2. Survey Mark 9:33-10:52. What everyday attitudes and behaviors does Jesus address? How relevant are these topics for Christians today?  
  3. Consider Mark 9:33-41. What attitude does Jesus expect his disciples (and those in leadership) to demonstrate?  
  4. Consider Mark 9:42-50. How does Jesus connect casual, everyday actions to eternal realities?  
  5. Consider Mark 10:1-16. What is Jesus' perspective on marriage, family, and children?   
  6. Consider Mark 10:17-31. What is Jesus' perspective on riches and possessions?   
  7. Consider Mark 10:32-45. What is Jesus perspective on Christian suffering?  
  8. In Mark 10:46-52 the blind man cries out for mercy. Which area of discipleship do you most struggle? How does knowledge of God's mercy encourage you to continue growing?  

Apply It!

Resources

At the Lakeside Bookshelf:

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of The Son of God by Timothy Keller