Thursday, March 31, 2011

Assurance of His Love

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." ~ Mark 10:32-34

Having already twice predicted his death (Cf. 8:31; 9:31), Jesus in his final prediction reassures his disciples (and ourselves) that he was fully aware of his fate that lie ahead. First, in Mark Chapter 8, Jesus claims that "he must be killed and after three days rise again." Again in chapter 9 Jesus says, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." Yet in this last prediction, Jesus not only offers a more vivid account of his imminent death, but also a profound insight into the vast assurance of his love for us.

Mark is my favorite Gospel. This in part because it's the shortest gospel, but mainly due to the portrayal of Christ as a man of action. Mark's constant use of words like "immediately" convey a sense of urgency as well as purpose in all that Jesus sets out to accomplish. This most certainly is the case in this passage, as Jesus is walking ahead, leading the pack with a resolute determination to complete his mission. Fully aware of the brutal reality that had been foretold (Isa. 53:1-12), yet still having decisively set his face "like a flint" (Isa. 50:7) in his journey towards Jerusalem. What is Jesus so determined to accomplish? Mark 10:45 lays this out clearly. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The description of the disciples and crowd following Jesus as both "amazed" and "afraid" reveals the magnitude of this situation. Having already described the cruel death that awaited him, no wonder his followers are in shock that he was unwavering with his resolve. Especially given his own awareness of the violent and graphic nature of his condemnation. In this last prediction, Jesus is the most detailed about his death. Specifically mentioning that he would be mocked (Luke 23:11), spat upon (Mark 14:65), and flogged (Mark 15:15). The term "flog" or "scourged" means to beat severely with a whip, and was the reputable beating given to those condemned to death in the Roman judicial system.

What could possibly drive someone to this end? How could anyone definitively and willingly enter into this indescribable suffering? On the cross, Christ endured a torment and cosmic rejection beyond our comprehension. As the only worthy substitute, he bore the exclusion from God that the human race deserved. And he could have stopped it! He could have ended the torture, the rejection, the suffering, the abandonment, at any moment. All he had to do was give up on us, and walk away. Yet nailed to the cross dying, bleeding, agonizing, and staring down at those betraying him, in the greatest act of love in all history, he stayed.

Having known what lay ahead, Jesus still remained steadfast to suffer in love, never letting go of us. Even hell itself could not separate his love from us. No matter what hardship comes our way, we know it can't be that God doesn't love us. The reassurance is at the cross. I have come to believe this incredible story is true. God loves me and I can never be separated from that love. Do you believe it?
"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." - C.S. Lewis


1. Jesus offers himself as the sacrifice. Why is sacrifice at the heart of real love?
2. Why didn't Jesus just let go of us?

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