Tag Archives: Death

Of Passion and Power

 

In this Series

Building on a recent post where we looked at the development of a Kingdom Leadership Paradigm through the teaching of Jesus, in this post we’ll look at how the Gospel of Mark presents contrasts between the predicted passion (sufferings) of our Lord with His disciples desire for power and authority.  This overview will, hopefully, further elucidate the paradigm that was introduced earlier.

In Mark’s divinely inspired gospel account, we find our Lord prophesying of His imminent death on three separate occasions.  In each of these passages there is a general pattern followed: the prophecy, the reaction, a correction, and a new paradigm.  In each of the prophecies, the Lord describes His being handed over to men (elders, scribes and priests), suffering unto death, and subsequently His resurrection.  Typically, the reaction by the disciples provides evidence that they’ve misunderstood the nature of Christ’s predicted suffering and instead move to assert, posture towards, or request positions of power.  These misunderstandings are then followed up by a rebuke or correction by the Lord, who then subsequently establishes of a new way of looking at kingdom relationships, particularly as it relates to authority.

Prophecy #1

The first of the passion prophecies comes in Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Subsequent to this announcement, the self-appointed spokesman of the disciples, Peter, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him.  We need to pause here and consider the weightiness of this situation.  Jesus has just announced to His disciples that His life will soon end in suffering and death, followed by the prophecy of His three-days resurrection.  Peter, obviously disliking or disagreeing with this prophecy, asserts himself as the authority over Jesus, essentially attempting to establish His own superiority prior to Jesus’ death, “And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

In turn, this garners its own rebuke from Jesus, “Get behind me Satan.”  This scene is especially striking when we consider that just prior to his rebuke, Peter had made his familiar statement that Jesus was the Christ (Mark 8:27-30).  Following upon His rebuke of Peter, Jesus, having laid down the pattern of suffering to come in His own life, then sets forth the expectation of suffering and self-denial for those who would follow after Him

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

This statement on the necessity of self-denial for the followers of Christ is a further statement on the Kingdom Paradigm that inverts the normal societal structure.  In this case, whoever wants to live, must die.

Prophecy #2

Next, we arrive at the second prophecy of Jesus’ death in Mark 9:30-32

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Following in the the steps of their self-appointed leader after Jesus’ earlier prophecy, the disciples again do not understand what Jesus is saying regarding His death and again, we find them jockeying for power following the predicted passion of our Lord

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. Mark 9:33-34

Here in these first two passages under our consideration, the contrast could not be more striking.  Jesus announces His pending suffering, death, and resurrection and the disciples are concerned with earthly authority and power, perhaps even as it relates to who would be in charge after Jesus’s death.

Once again we find a rebuke coming from our Lord and a reordering of expectations (Note the related event in Mark 10:13-16)

35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  Mark 9:35-37

With this particular correction Jesus reverses the assumed order of societal structure, leadership, and ambition i.e. last will be first.  In order to drive this point home, He places a child in their midst.  Just after this, Mark 10:13-16, Jesus again uses the physical example of a child to establish the point that one must be child-like to enter into the Kingdom.

Prophecy #3

The third prophecy that our Lord makes, concerning His passion occurs in Mark 10:33-34

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

As if having nothing better to say on the matter, the disciples once again prove that they do not yet understand what Jesus is prophesying, rather they are more interested in seeking individual power and authority.

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Mark 10:35-37

Notice the contrast between the predicted suffering of Christ and the power-play by two of the disciples.  After commenting that the disciples would likewise follow the Lord in suffering, and noting the indignation of the other disciples, the passage shifts towards another example of the overturned structural norms, specifically patterns of authority.

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Perhaps here in this final passage we have yet the strongest statement on the nature of leadership and authoritarian structures within Christ’s Kingdom.  Specifically, Gentile leadership is held up as an example of dysfunctional leadership, namely that of a top-down authority which our Lord directly contradicts by His establishment of servants being leaders.

In Mark’s gospel account, the contrast between suffering and servanthood with exaltation and authority could not be more striking.  With this, as with our previous post, we may clearly see that Jesus was reordering priorities, ambitions, and the nature of authority or leadership. His new Kingdom Paradigm establishes how we are called to live in our Christian communities and how we are called to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Foundations of the Gospel

 

Building on the introductions to Paul’s missionary journey at Corinth and the issues he faced there, we find the apostle beginning the most substantial portion of his First Epistle to Corinth, chapter 15.  Here he is concerned with correcting errant views on the Doctrine of Christ’s Resurrection and subsequently the bodily resurrection of believers.  We may recall that the city was largely a melting pot of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.  The influences upon the city were from Greek culture, as well as Roman, Jewish, and that of all those who had access to the city through its two major sea ports.

Also, we may recall the details of this missionary journey were captured for us in Acts 18 where we saw one of the fundamental objections to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel was Christ’s resurrection.

It is this pillar of the Gospel that he aims to expound upon as he introduces 1 Corinthians 15:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

His discourse on the defense of this precious doctrine of the resurrection begins with a review of the Gospel, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.”  It is the foundation of this gospel message that we are principally interested in examining in this post.

Paul begins by way of reminding the Corinthians of the gospel message that he preached to them and the impacts that it has had upon them.  Namely that it is this gospel which they received, upon which they stand, and through which they are being saved.  We may note here, in verse 3, the reference by Paul to the present on-going aspect of salvation.

He buttresses these statements of assurance with an exhortation unto perseverance in the faith, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain“.  This is by no means an affirmation that believer’s may lose their salvation, rather it is a declaration that true faith will persevere, will continue believing and continue holding fast, will continuing being saved.  Whereas those of a false faith, A la 3/4 of the soils in the parable from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 and those in 1 John 2:19, fall away and prove their profession a shame.

After this prologue, which really could serve as the introduction to its own letter, the Apostle breaks down what this gospel message includes, principally the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

The first pillar of the gospel mentioned in our passage is the death of Christ. The death of Christ is the purpose for which He came into the world.  It is the manner and means through which God has redeemed a people for Himself.  Note here the application of His death, i.e. for our sins.  The little word “for”, huper in the Greek, is significant for its usage in connection with the substitutionary death of our Lord.

This first pillar is supported with an appeal to the authority of Scripture.  Clearly, the reference to the Scriptures here is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ’s death.  It is inclusive of ALL previous divine revelation of God as recorded in Scripture, but may also specifically refer to such passages as Gen. 3:15, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, etc.

Second, we see the pillar of the burial of Jesus.  This may seem insignificant as compared to our Lord’s death and resurrection, however it affirms the first and anticipates the second, therefore serving as a critical link between the two.  His burial states emphatically that He died, thereby meeting the demands of the law and ultimately satisfying the wrath of God for all those who would believe.

Remember also that the burial of Christ was a point of controversy and thought by the Romans to be an opportunity for Christ’s body to be stolen such that the propagation of the “lie” of his resurrection would be made greater than the “lie” of His declaration of being God’s Son (Matthew 27:62-66).  Furthermore, the burial of Christ is a critical pillar because it serves as an apologetic against those who deny the burial of Christ, such as Islam, or those who assume only a spiritual resurrection.

Finally the significance of the burial may be seen in the place in which Christ was buried, namely a Garden.  This brings full circle the idea of the first Adam’s death (spiritually and then physically) in the first Garden and the Last Adam’s burial and subsequent resurrection (physically and then glorified) in the Garden (See also Romans 6:1-4).  It therefore is a connecting point of biblical themes all of which have their yes and amen in Christ.

Third, and the final pillar of the gospel foundation described in this passage, is the resurrection of Christ on the third day, again in accordance with the Scriptures.  The resurrection of our Lord is the validation of His declaration that He is the Son of God, His life of perfect obedience, His defeat of death, and His fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption (John 19:30).   It is the proclamation of victory over sin, death, and the devil.  It signals the inauguration of the reversal of the curse of sin and death, the enthronement of the King, and as we will see the firstfruits of all subsequent resurrections.  Furthermore, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection and inclusion of it into the Gospel is the basis for the bodily resurrection of believers.  Therefore, this final pillar is not tangential to Paul’s forthcoming argument for the resurrection of believers, but is indeed its foundation.

One additional point to be noted concerning the second reference of “according to the Scriptures”.  This fascinating detail is again affirmation of submission to the authority of Scripture and a testament to its fulfillment.  Taken individually, it highlights several key prophecies of Christ resurrection.  Most notably that of Jonah (1:17, cf Matthew 12:40), Hosea (6:2) , and those made by the Lord Himself (Matt. 12:40, John 2:19; Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19).

The Apostle Paul, by way of Divine inspiration is laying the foundation of the Gospel upon which he will build his doctrine of the bodily resurrection, first of Christ, which we have seen here, yet ultimately of believers.  Though there is much disagreement over sections of this mighty chapter dealing with the millennium, the kingdom, and aspects of the eschatology of resurrection, these foundational pillars of the Gospel are non-negotiable.

This is the gospel which has been preached.  Have  you believed it?  Are you standing upon it?  Are you being saved by it?  If so, hold fast to it.

For the Glory of God

 

**Image Credit: http://www.kevinbrownlee.com/2012/01/21/81/