It’s not about self-esteem. It’s not about looking to others for validation. In fact, Jesus told his disciples in Mark 9:30-37 that they needed a wake-up call. Peter, James and John had just been on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and now were debating who would be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus called them in to discuss their heart motivation. And He calls us in to have that same discussion. Do we perceive ourselves as better than others? What verdict do we give to others? How do we think we fare by comparison? Pastor Mark identifies the root of all self-validation as pride: the declaration that we can do life without God. Yet, if we identify ourselves as little children, in need of a caretaker, we can begin to shed pride and put on true humility, where we embrace failure as the mercy of God and as an act of God’s love toward us. In embracing Jesus we live out the gospel and find that it is not greatness we desire or receive, but freedom.
Is racism an issue for the church to address today? Speaker Brennan Coughlin calls the church to transform the world in its’ thinking about race issues, not to let the world transform it. In this passionate focus on Revelation 5:9 Brennan points out that Jesus’ mission was to destroy racial, ethnic and national barriers in favor of a church where Jesus’ blood unites people from “every tribe, language, people and nation.” He calls us to remember we are a body that has been purchased by the blood of Christ and that, in turn, is called to reach out to others regardless of race.
Tenderly, tenaciously Jesus leads us to deeper faith. In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus casts a demon out of a boy, when his disciples could not. The boy’s disappointed father, having come to Jesus with expectations of healing, faced the frailty of his faith. But when confronted by Jesus, the man responded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Like the man, we are in need of our faith to be strengthened. Pastor Mark challenges us not to lose the opportunity to be enthralled with Christ Himself in our desire to see our circumstances change. Our failure and helplessness are some of God’s most powerful tools of spiritual growth. In this process of strengthening our faith, Jesus provides the way for us to seek and find Him.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where the disciples had pictured triumph, Christ predicted tragedy, sharply rebuking their temptation to access His kingdom without accepting His Cross. But Jesus doesn’t leave his followers there. In Mark 9: 1-13, Pastor Mark invites us to join the disciples as Jesus leads them to the mountain top. Here, they are personally called into the cosmic mystery of God’s great redemptive plan. Here, they are overwhelmed by God’s raw shekina glory and the beauty of Christ illuminated, as He truly is, the ultimate revelation of God and the radiance of His glory. And here too, the exquisite humanness of Christ is revealed, as He receives tender affirmation from His Father, to strengthen Him for His coming sacrifice. This life altering mountain top experience is God’s gift to those, who would take up their cross and follow His Son.