And He Said This Plainly

I’m continuing my lectio divina study of Mark, and today I read how Jesus began to teach the disciples about His mission. They understood that He was the Christ, the Messiah. So He went on to tell them that he would be rejected, suffer, be killed, and after three days rise from the dead. Mark notes, He said this plainly. (Mark 8:32). In other words, He didn’t beat around the bush or use euphemisms, He told them right out — I’m going to die and rise again. We can tell from what happens later that in spite of this plain speaking, his followers didn’t get it. Peter tries to rescue Him when He’s arrested. They flee and hide while He’s being crucified. They’re doubtful and astounded when Mary Magdalene reports she’s seen Him. It seems incredible, that after being told exactly what to expect, they managed to ignore or forget them.

It makes me wonder how often I do the same thing. There are plenty of places in the Bible when Jesus tells me how to behave or what to do, and I find a way to weasel out or misunderstand. For example:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Of course I try to love God and my neighbor. Don’t all Christians? But do I love God with all my heart? Don’t I save a piece for my husband, my children, my home and my own comfort and security (in other words it’s at least partly about me). Then there’s the love for my neighbor. God couldn’t possibly mean that I would love my neighbor in the same way as I love myself, could He? That would mean helping him when it’s inconvenient, maybe even sacrificing for him. That would mean loving him when he’s been unfriendly and annoying, or refused to help me! That would mean not gossiping about him, and seeking his welfare. Even worse, if I read the parable of the Good Samaritan closely, it’s plain to see that my neighbor isn’t just the fellow who lives upstairs or down the street, but anyone who needs me.

I marvel at how dense the disciples were. Jesus told them plainly. And they’re not alone. He tells me plainly, too. I’m no different from those early followers; I hear the things I like, and ignore the ones I don’t. However, Jesus and the Bible speak plainly. You and I just need to hear.

For more on the Gospel of Mark see:

Take Heart; it is I

Rest a While

Go Home

The Kingdom is Here

“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand;  repent and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:13-14

In Sunday School this week we had a long discussion about the kingdom of God.  Everyone knows that the kingdom is at the heart of Christ’s teaching and purpose, but evidently there is little agreement about how to define it.  Some equate the kingdom of God with heaven;  others that it is still in the future and will be established during the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth.  Others connect it with the spiritual life –“behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 KJV).  Still others associate it with social reform.

It seems the Lutheran understanding goes like this (at least our Bible Study author from Concordia Publishing and my husband-Pastor agree):  the kingdom of God is where the Gospel is preached in its truth and purity, and the Sacraments are administered according to the command of Jesus.  In other words, the true Church is the kingdom.  This includes both the Church Militant (the Church still struggling against sin here on earth) and the Church Triumphant (the Church in heaven at rest).  It is both now and not yet. It is not the institutional church, but the people of God, known only to God, past and present.

The kingdom is now.  It’s here.  It’s available to you.  Don’t you want to be part of it?