Five Stories and Lots of Details
Good morning, friends. I want to join Allan in a special welcome to those of you who are home from North Hills on livestream, our mission partners around the world who will watch this later, and then all of you who visit us from everywhere. We’re glad that you’re joining us this morning.
You can feel the tension created in two Psalms as they describe God. Let’s see if we can come up with two words, just two words, that describe that type of tension. And we’re going to think of this our whole time together today — hot ice, hot ice.
William Shakespeare, the great British playwright, used those terms in his play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with a lot of energy and no experience, a carpenter, a weaver, and some of their friends decide they’re going to write and perform a play for the local politician’s wedding. And the crew describes their play to the politician as “merry and tragical, tedious and brief.” That’s similar to saying Schindler’s List is hilarious or that the encyclopedia is a quick read. They don’t go together. And at the end of the play, the politician describes that tension as “hot ice.”
Today’s stories in Mark lead us to a “hot ice” moment in the life of Jesus. We come face to face with two things coming together about Jesus that make it a little difficult to put them together — hot ice. Jesus is this man of complex contrast. Mark edits his stories together today, almost like he’s directing a film in 4K, and he wants us to see every last little detail about Jesus.
So, today we’re going to work through five stories with lots of details in 30 minutes. Five stories, lots of details, 30 minutes is a recipe for disaster in preaching. You know, Jesus isn’t boring, but preaching can be. So, we’re going to try our best to get through all of these stories and focus in on the person of Jesus. I’m going to view myself as kind of a tour guide through all of these passages, pointing you to things that you might not have seen before or things we might have overlooked. As I read these long passages, some of them are longer, as I read them, I want you to try to see them in your brain as a movie. As I read the words, you see the images (what’s happening in these stories) in your brain and see yourself as part of it. And then we’ll discover a lot about Jesus together.
So, the first half of “hot ice” in the life of Jesus, we’re going to look at the first half of that. And we’re going to look at story #1 and story #5. We’re going to treat them as a pair because they’re almost exactly identical. I’m going to read story number one from Mark 7 and then story #2 here in a moment. But pay attention to everything that’s exactly the same in these two stories.
Story #1, Mark 7:31-37.
“Then [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”
Story #5, notice the similarities (8:22-26).
“And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to [Jesus] a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, ‘Do not even enter the village.’”
Two stories, really similar details. Let’s look at all of these details and see what we learn about Jesus himself. Two different regions — we’re in Decapolis and Bethsaida. And in both of those situations, people bring people to Jesus. “They brought to Jesus,” “Some people brought him.” We know Jesus is famous. Everybody knows what Jesus does, and Jesus seems to attract people who want to help other people. In both stories, these people beg Jesus to do something. Now, that word beg is really interesting. It’s a very similar word to where we get the name for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Encourager. These people are coming to Jesus and strongly encouraging him, “Do something. Fix it. Do what you do. We’ve heard about you.” And Jesus responds to their encouragement. In both stories we see Jesus doesn’t heal from a distance. He touches them in both stories. He lays his hands on him.
Now, there is a difference in that one story is about a deaf man with a speech impediment, while the other one is about a blind man. So, we see Jesus responding and recognizing two of the world’s most common disabilities. Approximately 400 million people worldwide today suffer from each of these.
I want to press pause in this moment, and I want to draw our attention to something that is pretty wild about Jesus and God and disability. Did you know that God has always been particularly concerned about the deaf and blind? He has given special attention to it. So, we’re going to back all the way up into the Law, back in this book called Leviticus, where God gives his people laws about how they’re supposed to act. God says this,
“You shall not curse the deaf. Or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God, I am the Lord.”
You don’t curse deaf people, and you don’t make blind people trip. Instead, you fear me. Why? I’m Yahweh. Those are my people.
It’s not isolated to that. Deuteronomy 27:18, God uses stronger … This is the second time the Law is given. It’s even stronger language.
“Cursed be anyone who misleads the blind.”
God looks at people and says, “You mess with the blind, I’ll curse you.” Psalm 146:8, Isaiah 35, Matthew 11, Luke 7. So, in this story with a deaf and blind man, Jesus is embodying the very care that God himself has had for the deaf and blind all the way back to when the law was given.
In both stories Jesus insulates the hurting. That’s the best word I could come up with. What I mean by that is, did you see that in the story with the deaf man he takes him aside privately. And in the story with a blind man, he takes him by the hand and leads him out of the village. Why did Jesus do that? Well, we don’t know exactly. Here’s my two cents. I don’t think Jesus wants to shame them in front of people or make them a spectacle. Because when he’s about to heal them, your response, if you’ve never seen anything before, and then you get to see is going to be big. And Jesus, he pulls them aside. He makes sure that they’re okay. It’s just them and him. Can you see Jesus taking the hand of the blind man? They bring the blind man to Jesus. Jesus takes his hand. Picture him walking. “Hey, watch out. Right here, there’s some sheep. We’re going to turn right, around a wall, and then we’re going to go through a gate.” Jesus guides this man out. He insulates the hurting.
Then we run into these kind of weird details in the story of Jesus putting his fingers in the guy’s ear, spitting and touching his tongue, and spitting on the blind guy. Yeah, there’s a lot of faces that are looking at me right now like this. I’ve studied this, and I’m just going to give you my shorthand. This is the best way I can explain the spitting stuff. Think ancient Neosporin. You guys know what Neosporin is? You get a cut, you put that little cream on there, then you throw a Band-Aid on. In this culture, saliva would have been thought of medicinally, like Neosporin. So, there you go. That’s the best I can do on that section.
But if we take what Jesus does with the spitting hands on eyes, fingers, and ears, I would argue that what we’re actually seeing is Jesus communicating creatively. So, again, the man who is deaf, we have no idea if he had any way to communicate. Probably not. Maybe some simple signs. But Jesus, why does Jesus go into his ears? “Hey, I’m going to do something here. I’m going to fix this — ancient Neosporin — I’m going to fix this tongue; I’m going to fix that for you.”
And then the detail next is Jesus looks up to heaven in the story with the deaf man. “I’m showing you where the power is coming from. I’m going to fix this, and this is where it comes from.” With the blind man, he’s letting him know, “I’m going to fix something right here.” Jesus is just communicating really creatively with people who might have difficulty communicating on their own. Jesus speaks to both of them. “Be opened.” “Do you see anything?”
Now in the story of the blind man, there is this interesting interaction where Jesus has to do two things. He puts his hands on, the guy sees trees, sees people walking like trees, and then Jesus fully heals him. There’s tons of theories as to why Jesus does that. I don’t know that anybody can say definitively why. I just kind of like to think that Jesus does it out of kindness. If you’ve never seen light in your life. And then you see light. Maybe Jesus just gave a little bit of light so he could absorb it and a little bit, completely healed the next time.
Then we see that Jesus completes his miracles, both of them. It’s a triple repetition, ears open, tongue restored, spoke plainly, opened eyes, sight restored, saw clearly. These miracles were complete. And here, if you see this movie in your brain of Jesus healing people, in my own heart and I’m somewhat of a drama person, I still fall flat in experiencing the story. I mean, imagine what that was like for these two people.
So, I wanted us to try to experience it, to try to experience watching people have an amazing experience with their hearing and sight. We’re going to take just a few minutes. We’re going to watch a couple of videos of someone having their cochlear implant turned on and then somebody being able to use enchroma glasses that help them see the color spectrum, sometimes for some a little bit more clearly. This is only a snippet of what it would have been like to watch Jesus do a miracle. Let’s watch these.
Now, imagine being in Bethsaida or Decapolis and Jesus says, “Ears, be opened. Eyes, see.” And here’s why the details matter in these passages. This is what’s crazy. The detail in the story with the deaf man … Why does Jesus have to keep telling him, “Stop talking?” He charged them to tell no one. We’ve talked about this before. Jesus is telling people, “Don’t talk about my miracles, because I’m not defined by my miracles. I’m the message.” But in that moment when he heals this man who has never heard and can’t talk, Jesus has to keep telling him. The text actually says: “and the more he charged them, the more zealously he told people about it.” Well, if I had never heard in my life and that guy healed me, I’m telling everybody, man. I don’t care what he says. That’s the Jesus that we follow. That’s the type of man who engages with people.
Let’s look at another story and see if we get this first half of “hot ice” — story #2. We did 1 and 5. Story #2 (Mark 8:1-10),
“In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.’ And his disciples answered him, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?’ And he asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ And he directed the crowd to sit on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about 4000 people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.”
So, here’s the weird thing about this story, Jesus in the Book of Mark has already done this thing once before. He fed a lot of people with minimal food, and that time it was 5000 people. So, in this moment, I want to ask the question, why does Jesus do it? Why does Jesus feed people? And Jesus answers us. He says, “I have compassion on the crowd.” Jesus’ primary motivator for meeting the need for these people is compassion. He’s moved for them. He loves them. But then if I got to hang out with Jesus, I want to ask Jesus, why do you have compassion on these people in this moment? And in the text, Mark gives us the details why. Jesus says this, “They have been with me now three days.” Please don’t answer or react out loud, but could you imagine listening to me teach for three days? Thank you for doing it out loud. That’s just brutal. But these people have hung out with Jesus for three days. He’s seen them be diligent and faithful in their following. They stayed and listened and watched.
Then he says, “They have nothing to eat.” Jesus knows they’ve either run out of food or they never had enough food to begin with because they didn’t know they were going to be with him for three days. Jesus says, “If I send them away hungry, they’re going to faint. They’re going to black out. These people are hangry.” Jesus is projecting the consequences of what happens if he doesn’t meet their need. “Some of them have come from far away.” So, Jesus has interacted at least with multiple people in this crowd of 4000 — oh, you’re from Decapolis, you’re from Bethsaida, you came from Jerusalem, you’re from Tyre, you’re from Sidon, you’re from across the Jordan — all language used in Mark up to this point. Jesus knew significant details about thousands of people, and he had compassion on them. Jesus knows what’s going on in the most mundane moments of his ministry — lunch.
Now, maybe this doesn’t happen in your home. Sometimes figuring out what we’re going to eat in our home is just a pain — buying, shopping, cooking, figuring out if you want to go out to eat one night and you do the dance of, “Hey, where do you want to go?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” “I don’t know, I asked you first.” That can take any marriage into an argument like that. But Jesus cares about those moments in life — eating. There are just too many details to ignore that what Jesus was really passionate about in this moment were these people eating. He knows their sacrifice. He knows they’ve been there. He has compassion.
Even more, this shows that Jesus is one who meets all needs, not just spiritual or mental. Jesus teaches and feeds. If Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor,” and then let that crowd go home and faint on the way, his message would fall flat. But he didn’t do it. His compassion drove him to teach and feed. Jesus preached the gospel while handing out snacks. Jesus met the needs of the real heart, the real person, and he met the needs of the stomach, you could say.
So, in summary of stories 1,2, and 5, the first part of “hot ice,” Jesus is a man of compassionate connection. Compassionate connection. Jesus is personal to the level of sticking fingers in ears and spitting. Jesus would never shame anyone publicly or use them as a gimmick. Jesus recognizes that men and women are both physical and spiritual, and to meet the need of one and ignore the other is deficient. Jesus connects with compassion, and it is so beautifully specific in these stories. Jesus, compassionate connection, the first part of “hot ice.”
The second part comes in stories 3 and 4. So here’s story #3. It’s about the Pharisees, and it’s found in Mark 8:11-13.
“The Pharisees came and began to argue with [Jesus], seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.”
So, I mentioned I’m kind of a tour guide in these sections. We’re going through them quickly, trying to point out things that you might have missed. I need some help in this section. I’m not typically a big quoter of other people when I preach, but here there are things that we miss about Jesus if I don’t use somebody smarter than me that really knows the language. So, James Edwards is going to take over for a few minutes as tour guide and let us see what we need to see about Jesus. So, he says this.
“Several Greek words in verse 11 are more antagonistic than the [translation] indicates. [So, what I just read to you, it’s kind of flat. They come to him. Jesus sighs. He says, “I’m not going to give you a sign.” He gets into the boat and leaves. But it’s more antagonistic] leaving no doubt of the Pharisees’ opposition. For ‘came,’ Mark reads ‘came out,’ as if in military rank. [So, the Pharisees are coming at Jesus shoulder to shoulder like they’re in the military.] They not only ‘question’ him, they ‘dispute’ or ‘oppose’ him. The word for ‘asked’ means to attempt to gain control of. Likewise, the word for ‘test’ does not mean an objective test to discover the merit of something, but an obstacle or stumbling block to discredit.”
That’s the tone of this interaction with Jesus. The Pharisees march towards Jesus like they’re in the army, shoulder to shoulder in lockstep. Their method of speaking to him is argumentative and dishonest, and their words seek to trip Jesus up before he even gives an answer. And what does Jesus do? Jesus sighs.
Edwards, again. “The original Greek reads that Jesus ‘groaned in his spirit.’ The word for ‘groaned’ is a rare word, occurring only here in the NT, and fewer than 30 times in all of Greek literature. A survey of its uses reveals that it is not an expression of anger or indignation so much as of dismay or despair. [Jesus was dismayed. He despaired.] It is used to describe persons who find themselves in situations where they are pushed to the limit of their faithfulness.”
In all reverence, we could say in modern language, Jesus is at the end of his rope with the Pharisees. He’s over it. He’s endured the Pharisees spying on him, accusing him, accusing his disciples, interrogations meant to ruin him and the ongoing pressure of their religious brutal judgmentalism. And in this final testing, approaching like military, Jesus’ first response is to go [sigh]. Then he speaks. And once more, Edwards is great.
“The last part of verse 12 is an unusual grammatical construction in Greek. It’s a Semitic construction — which roots it in Jesus or the early church — implying categorical denial. It means: ‘If a sign shall be given to this generation, may I die!’”
Kent Hughes, another pastor, agrees and even goes further.
“The phrase is literally [Giving a sign that you’re not going to get a sign. That phrase literally is,] ‘If shall be given to this generation a sign [fill in the blank with something!’ ‘May I be killed. May God punish me.’ The construction [Hughes argues] is characteristic of Hebrew oaths — suggesting intense emotion.”
Again, reverently, Jesus looks at them and says, “You’re going to get a sign over my dead body.”
In another story, another gospel where this is recorded, Jesus gives an answer that describes, in a sense, he says the same thing in the positive way. Oh, you will get a sign. It’s going to be the sign of Jonah. Now, that’s an Old Testament character who got swallowed by a large fish, spent three days in the darkness, and then came out of that fish. Jesus says you’re going to get a sign of Jonah, and it’s going to be me. I’m going to die. I’m going to be buried for three days, and then I’m going to rise again. There’s your sign, Pharisees. You will literally get a sign over my dead body. My dead body will be your sign. And you’re still going to reject it. Because they didn’t really want to sign, they wanted him gone.
Mark in this story gives us one more final detail. Jesus left. Jesus sighed, spoke, and left. He got into the boat. The exit of Jesus is part of his response to them. And we have to pause here as religious people and think, how scary it would be to have Jesus turn his back, step into a boat and sail away.
Story #4, this one’s about the disciples, Mark 8:14-21.
“Now [the disciples] had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he [Jesus] cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’ And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ They said, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ And he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’”
End of story. How emotional would you have to be to ask six questions in a row without waiting for an answer? Husbands, if you do this at home, I have good news for you. I do counseling at very reasonable rates because that ain’t going to get you nowhere. Can you imagine what it would feel like to have six questions in a row asked of you? Which leads me, if I’m honest, it leads me to this question, what in the world is wrong with these disciples? What is their deal? In one of the stories today, they forgot that Jesus had already fed 4000 people with one pack of pita bread and a can of sardines. Then when they only have one pita in their boat, they’re still worried about bread and have no idea how they’re going to be taken care of. They are just trying to sit there and figure out, “Okay, we don’t have any bread. There are twelve of us.” Maybe one of them thought of Jesus and said thirteen slices. Who knows? But they were focused on that one pita. That’s all they had.
And Jesus is trying to raise their attention. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. Beware of evil thinking. Beware of wrong philosophies. Beware of views of me that are not accurate. And they’re … pita bread. What is wrong with them? What is their problem? How can they be so dumb? How can they forget the miracles? No wonder Jesus ends with, “Do you not yet understand?” Do you not yet understand? Do you not yet understand?
Maybe, if we listen real close, that question will reverberate in this room for the disciples here right now. Because the story didn’t resolve. The disciples didn’t get it. Mark doesn’t say, “And then the disciples looked at Jesus and went, ‘Oh, that’s what you mean with Herod and the leaven and the Pharisees. Now we get you. You’re not talking about this bread; you’re talking about philosophy and what we believe. Great.’” They still didn’t get it. The next thing that happens in Mark is you whiplash transition from that moment to Jesus healing the blind man.
You see, when the disciples don’t get it, as Mark regularly points out through his book, we need to remember, we don’t get it. Because when we start asking the disciples’ questions, we’re taking the role of Jesus. Jesus asked the disciples a lot of questions, and then I found myself doing this, when I read the story, I was like, “I’m with Jesus on this one. I don’t know what they’re doing. I would have gotten this. I need to ask these guys these same questions.” It’s so arrogant. I’m the disciple in the story. When the disciples forget about who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, what he has said he would do, I need to remind myself, I do the exact same thing. I forget who Jesus is, I forget what he said he can do, I forget what he’s done for me in the past.
Some of my friends are in this room and know that COVID aside, 2020 was a brutal year for the Fergusons. Beginning with my dad passing away in February and then just a whole host of things that primarily hit us in our home and finances, just one thing after another after another. So, as I was writing this thinking of you, which is always dangerous preaching, I then was like, “Wait a minute, that’s a great point to make, but I did that all last year.” I sat in the boat with my piece of pita going, “Well, what are you going to do now? Don’t you know something’s wrong down here? Hey, what are you doing? I don’t want another bad thing to happen.” And I’m just waving my pita at God. I’m no different than them. Not all the time. Sometimes I remember. But I still have these moments where I forget who he is and what he said and what he’s done. Maybe you do, too. We can look at the disciples and see ourselves.
So, “hot ice,” five stories. Jesus, compassionate connection, “hot ice,” confrontational correction. Confrontational correction. Despite what culture says, Jesus is more than just love. He is a complex man. Confrontational correction. There has never been a man in the history of the world so gifted at confronting those who disbelieve. Jesus going to people who don’t believe in him yet; he is so gifted at coming in in a winsome, kind, but yet confrontational way for them to see the truth. He is so good — we’ve seen it with the Pharisees — confronting the people who think they’re religious, and that they’ve got it. And he’s even good at confronting his own followers. And then there’s compassionate connection. There’s never been a more compassionate man who connects with people in the history of the world than Jesus the Christ. Right down into the most mundane moments of life. “Hot ice.” Jesus, compassionate connection, confrontational correction.
I don’t think this is as popular as it used to be, but when I was a kid, families used to do family portraits. You would go to a place, and they would take a picture of you. I think it was called Olan Mills. You’d go and get your portrait done with your family. Now you just pay somebody who’s on Instagram. They come out, and it’s really cool, and it’s all over the world, and you’re popular with a hashtag. But old school, you went and got a portrait. And I was thinking, do you know what I’ve never seen? I’ve never seen a family portrait where everybody is standing profile. Like this. If I were to preach like this for the past 27 minutes, that would be pretty rough. I mean, you guys would hate it after a while. Why are there no selfies on Instagram (I think) that are profile? Because it’s not who we are. It’s not all of us. It’s only a part of us. Watch film, watch TV. You hardly will ever see a profile shot. Because you only see part of the person.
The same is true for us today. When we think of Jesus, we have to think portrait, not profile. We don’t get to pick and choose about Jesus. That’s what Mark does through his whole book. This is who Jesus is. And there are lots of people who only choose profile and not all that Jesus declares he is. And Mark forces us to embrace all of him because we see in the Scriptures that Jesus is a man who holds children in his lap and a sword in his hand. Jesus offers mercy and yet will judge the living and the dead. Jesus in one moment opens a scroll and declares healing for the blind, the lame, and the deaf, and then in another moment opens a scroll that finalizes God’s judgment on the world. Jesus unifies the Church and separates believing from non-believing. Jesus allows himself to be whipped and then makes a whip to cleanse the temple. Jesus calls people in stories “daughter” and “disciple,” and in other stories, “dog” and Satan. Jesus gives gentle words to wounded hearts and scathing rebukes to religious minds. Jesus owns a church full of worshipers and leads an army of angels. He was born in a manger, sits on a throne. He’s lamb-gentle and he’s lion-fierce.
Jesus is a man of complex contrast and we have to embrace all of him, or I think we get none of him. It’s not one or the other. He is the embodiment of God. We take all of who God is. We take Psalm 18 — thunder, lightning, hailstones — and we take still waters, green grass, sheep. So, practically, seeing Jesus in portrait, seeing Jesus “hot ice,” seeing Jesus completely. Practically, what difference does that make? I want to give you three things to do, three things to do with this image of Jesus.
First is I want you to listen. And when you listen, I want you to listen thinking portrait or profile. Everything you take in — in your podcasts, other sermons, books, conversations, life group, family, news, culture — what is the view of Jesus that you’re being given? Is it a full portrait, or is it only a profile? If you have sources in your life that are only giving you a profile of Jesus, then you can still use those as long as you recognize that you have to have a filter there. Listen, profile or portrait? What are they telling me about Jesus? I want you to listen everywhere. I want you to specifically listen here and hold us accountable. Those of us who preach the Word, are we giving to you a full picture of Jesus or not? And if we’re not, say, “Hey, you’re not. What about this? What about this?” So, first, seeing Jesus this way, practically, I want you to listen, listen for him.
Secondly, I want you to think. What does a portrait of Jesus inform? If I choose to embrace all of who God and Jesus are, what does that inform? What does that help me see? I’m going to give you a couple of ideas. First, seeing Jesus this way, I think informs your view of the Bible itself. Jesus informs your view of the Bible because Jesus can take the contrast of Old and New Testament and make them complementary. Because Jesus is the embodiment of God in man, Jesus can take … as Peter described last week, some people want to make them a God of the Old Testament and a God of the New, and Jesus steps in in full form showing both of those realities in his person and brings together the Old and New Testament in himself.
A portrait of Jesus informs our view of the Bible and informs our view of salvation. Jesus converges selfless sacrifice and the price of sin. He gives himself for anybody who would believe. He died for the sins of the world, but he also had to pay a price, a judgment that was on us.
It informs our view of evangelism. The portrait of Jesus prompts a great love for sinners, anyone who is outside the love of Jesus. Knowing that Jesus loves them, drives us to love them. But it also allows us to be very honest about the way they choose to live and their sin. And we can do that in love and just say, “The ways and words of Jesus seem to say Christians live differently than that.”
A portrait of Jesus informs our view of our own growth. The portrait of Jesus, he patiently guides us. He is a shepherd. But we learn in Hebrews 12 that he also directly confronts us through his Word, through the Spirit, through our brothers and sisters.
And finally, our view of justice, the ever popular word right now in our culture. A full portrait of Jesus defines justice. Jesus energizes deep love for victims, period. He’s all about it. And it motivates action to make things right. That is the very essence of what Jesus does on the cross. He makes everything right. Jesus is bringing full shalom to the world. It Informs us.
So, I want you to think. I want you to listen, I want you to think, and finally I want you to feel. How do you feel about following this Jesus, this complex man? The more I’m in Mark, I’m so thankful Peter decided to go through this book, because I just want to follow that guy. I had these thoughts in my head, and they seemed very non-spiritual, but I know I would be one of the disciples in the boat. I know I would, but I really want to hang out with him. I really want to follow this guy. It drives me into this moment of seeing the way he lives. Great love for him. Just watching him guide the blind man out of the village so that he’s okay. It’s like, “Oh, I want to I want to be with that guy.” And then seeing him right in front of Pharisees saying “Over my dead body.” Great love, awesome respect. That’s how we want to feel about him.
Jesus, “hot ice,” compassionate connection, confrontational correction, all in one person perfectly. We embrace all that he is. And it’s interesting that Jesus gave his followers a practice, a ritual (don’t be afraid of the word ritual) to remind ourselves that we have to embrace Jesus. And we call it, depending upon your background, communion, the Lord’s table, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist. Jesus brought together these simple elements of bread and wine and used them to give the disciples something to do to practice the idea of embracing him.
Bread — Jesus actually said, “I am the bread of life.” You eat this bread, you have life. I’m the living bread of heaven that came down. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. That’s what Jesus says. I am the ever-living loaf of bread. Consuming me gives you life forever. Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” His flesh and blood, his bread and wine.
The night before he was betrayed and killed, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples, and he took a loaf of bread, and he broke it. And he said to them, “This is my body.” Remember, I’m the bread of life. Loaf of bread, breaks it. “This is my body which is broken for you.” In the same way, there was a cup of wine on the table, and he looks at his disciples and says, “This is the new covenant in my blood. Drink this.” Followers of Jesus have been practicing that meal for thousands of years, reminding ourselves to embrace all that Jesus is, embrace his body and his blood, which was broken and shed for us. And we’re going to do that this morning.
So, we’re going to have a song. We’re going to hand out these elements to you. We’ll have people walk through and pass it to you. There will be two cups stacked; the bottom one has bread, the top one has juice. Be careful; they sometimes get a little stuck pulling them apart. So, I invite you to consider the portrait of Jesus while we hand these out. I’ll come back up in a moment, and we will all partake together.