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Reflections On “A Ransom For Many” — 9

Daniel Tan

Mark 8:31-10:52

When a mentor you’ve spent a long time with says that they are going to sacrifice themselves in the worst kind of death known to man, I think for the most part it's inevitable that you freak out a bit. That was what happened to Peter. Except rather than simply freak out, Peter also made the decision to rebuke his rabbi. Not a great idea. He did “not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33), but perhaps for good reason.

The cross at that point in time did not signify what it does now. Crucifixion as it was invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans was this horrible method of executing someone. To carry a cross and follow someone was basically to take up a burden that would lead to that horrid death. But within that, God made an opportunity for us to be free from our sin.

The events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ are frankly supernatural and if they didn't happen they'd be crazy tellings by crazy people. Anyone who believed that story would either be super gullible or just out of their minds. Yet some things crop up that lend to the validity of the story.

First, if people wanted to make up a story back then, it was common to over-glorify the heroes, not to focus on their misgivings. Second, there were historical points added in that could be verified. Third, people were giving their lives to spread this message. Now that happens in cults as well (and is likely why Christians were considered a cult at first), but the message that came wasn't one of personal gain or of malicious sacrifice. It was a message of love and compassion.

An example of one of the teachings we know is the reversal of hierarchy. To be first we must become last (Mark 10:43-45); we must adopt the humility and the servitude of one born to the last of the household, the lowest of the lowest positions, and only then in heaven our reward would become that of the firstborn. In a Hebrew society where family birth order was highly important, such a teaching was unheard of.

Or what about being like children (Mark 10:13-16)? Children and women were not seen seriously in that community, especially not children. But Jesus taught that we need to be like children when looking at the world and pursuing our faith; not egocentric and rambunctious, but rather yearning and innocent.

The message of the world on the other hand has always been to climb higher by stepping on others or by your own efforts and making sure to have enough money and power to claim the top. When has anyone ever been happy in that position? Fearful of someone else usurping the throne and always bothered by the prospect of not having enough to maintain the position. What kind of greatness is that?

If for nothing else, the message that Christianity delivers about how to live life should spur you on to buy into the philosophy first even before you approach the theology. And this is something that has happened time and time again where organizations have adopted concepts originating from the teachings of the Bible.

As Christians though, the call is to be like salt (Mark 9:50). Salt flavors things. If you've ever cooked you know that using enough salt is important to get something to taste like anything. Unsalted things are generally quite bland unless they come with their own natural salinity or umami. Salt though, was an expensive resource back then. The process of obtaining salt was labor and time intensive. It came to the point where salt was the currency. Salarium, the root word from which ‘salary’ was derived was a payment of salt. Our presence in the world is to be like that. A precious resource that helps bring out the good in others. Not something that simply burns at the wounds of those who are hurting.

Christianity is not an easy path to follow though. That much is certain. The fact that we are to bear a cross says it all. Anyone who practices a Christianity that has always been easy or tells you that Christianity is an easy road to walk is either ignorant or lying through their teeth. Sure it might get easier as time goes by (doubtful) and it might be easier for some rather than others, but the path forwards is not a pleasant one.

Despite that, we are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth so that in heaven we reap our reward. We gain eternity by forfeiting the temporary state of life that we have, though this temporary state seems to be all that there is. That's why there's no point in arguing who is the greatest. The greatest is the one who sacrifices the most for the kingdom and that is a painful path ahead. Wanting to be like the greats of the past is a nice ideal, but that forgets the suffering that those of the path have to go through. To aspire to be as great as one of the patriarchs of Israel is to forget their flaws and ignore the tests of faith that were in their lives, sometimes to the day they died.

If the church or any part of the kingdom revolves around you, you're doing it wrong. It's God's kingdom not your kingdom and if you try to usurp the throne, God won't stop you but He won't stop the forces that seek to overthrow you either. The king is to sit in his rightful throne. You are important, but you should never become irreplaceable, because none of us have the fortitude nor the wisdom to reign.

What Jesus looks for isn't just someone who can follow the rules well, but is held back by their love of the world. Jesus looks for those that would give their all. Perhaps that's why Jesus attracted crowds of what people termed sinners; sinners had the least hesitance in sacrificing everything to gain something better. And aren't we all sinners called to yearn like children? Of course, no one is asking you to uproot and spread the gospel full-time. That is the ideal though. Let's not deny it. That would be the ideal, but the world and our love for it, no matter how weak or strong, holds us back. But if we are to become the greatest, we must first become the least.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections.

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