Marks of His Presence"Jesus wants to speak with exploding power to your heart and life."
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four. His brevity demands that we must be looking for the insights that are dropped like theological grenades. A breathless pronouncement tells us this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1). But what should be clearly obvious and undeniable is not. At every point, Jesus must dynamite our narrow perceptions of reality. We cannot conceive truth without His revelation. Jesus wants to speak with exploding power to your heart and life.
Though in the previous installments of this Bible study we focused on Jesus and the calming of the storm, it is quite appropriate that we stand back and look at the bigger picture, especially at Christmas. None of our crises, tragedies or fears are completely dealt with unless the Son of God took on our flesh and bore our sufferings. The Creator became one with us to confront and ultimately defeat all that threatens His life in us.
We are tempted to make miracle stories like this one about us because we live mostly out of our fears. But the beauty of the incarnation, both the conception and birth of Jesus, is that the almighty and infinite love of God is manifested in every difficulty our sin has produced. He “emptied” Himself so that we can bring our fears and self-sufficiency to Him. The words He speaks are not mere correction of our wrong thoughts. They are His personal commitment to dive into every storm that comes against us. He does not save from heaven. He comes to every pain, fear or tear. He comes to save us. Everything about Jesus, from the Manger to His death, bears the shadow of the Cross. He takes the dusty ashes of our weakness and offers to us calm and restored life.
As we noted, Jesus can do two things for you and me. He can remove every ounce, every element, every tentacle of self-sufficiency. Our part is to lay it down. Just say, “I’m wrong, forgive me.” Say “Lord help me, I need You, I need Your presence immediately and completely in my life.” Pray “Lord Jesus, I am fed up with living my life this way, fed up with sufficiency and pride and soul-crushing anxiety. I’m not going to do it anymore. I want You to live Your life through me.”
It was years ago on an Ash Wednesday; I was in a Chicago airport and needed a rental bus to pick up the car. There were two of us on the bus besides the driver. The other guy was talking loudly and incessantly. I was trying to get in some thinking time, and he was loud and gregarious. He kept asking me questions about sports and he swore a lot. I was offended. It was my space. Why would a guy swear like that in my bus on the way to get my car? So, there we were, two guys in a rental car company bus and we had to wait because someone was late, and I was irritated by that. Nothing was working my way. The guy turned to me and said, “What do you do?” I knew that if you say the word “seminary” people run for the hills. This time I was excited. I would say, “seminary professor” and he would be gone! I told him and he said, “That’s interesting. I am a Catholic.” I thought, “Yeah, right!” with a hint of well-trained Protestant criticism. He kept talking. His language changed a lot after that moment. It was interesting how that worked. So, I thought I’d made a difference in his life. I hadn’t said anything about Jesus, but I was helping him to clean up his language. But I was still irritated.
Then I think the Holy Spirit gave me insight into the meaning of reality in that dark bus. He was saying, “Bill, would you get off your narrow-minded high horse, your little self-sufficient orientation, your prideful reservation? You haven’t said a word about Me, thank you very much. Here is a guy wanting to talk about what you do. Could I get in this conversation for just a few moments?” So, I turned, attempting a smile. I was saddened about how coarse I had been in my heart toward this gentleman. Fumbling to renew a positive conversation, I asked, “Tomorrow, are you going to church to get those ashes on your forehead?” He looked at me like I was a total idiot and said, “Well, of course I’m going to do that. Aren’t you?” I said, “Probably not. I’m a Protestant and we don’t usually do that as part of our observance.” “That’s sad,” was his response.
I asked, “What do you do?” Basically, he was the kind of lawyer that goes into boardrooms to mediate between angry, screaming owners and workers. His job was to enter relational chaos to bring opponents into creative conversation. I said, “So, let me get this straight. You are going to church tomorrow morning to have an ashen cross put on your forehead. And you are going to walk at 8 a.m. into a tense setting and try to help people exploding in anger find some way of talking to each other?” And he said, “That is exactly right.” I said, “Friend, thank you. I needed to hear that. Because I don’t think there is much on the outside of me that tells anybody that I trust Christ as much as you do. I think you are doing more to offer Christ in a day than I do in a year.”
Is there a mark on your body, on your life that is clear when you go into the storms, the tense situations? Can you say unequivocally, “I am marked by the presence of the resurrected Christ?” I know I want my life to be like that. We will hear nothing if we are self-sufficient. If you are prideful, could I recommend to you a prayer I pray often? Simply say, “Jesus, make me willing to lay my pride down.” We will hear nothing if we think of ourselves as self-sufficient if we have one ounce of pride. Is Jesus asleep in your life, or has He risen in you in power?
Would you allow the full implications of the exploding Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to detonate every aspect of the self-life that is not dependent upon His Risen Presence in your heart? That detonation, demolishment, decimation of your self-will is the beginning of the revelation of His power to remove all that hinders His perfect place.