Returning to the series on Mark’s Gospel after a long break. Graham sees relevance to the post-Brexit state of the UK.
After the Brexit Referendum
Is there anything the church can say to work mates and friends about the situation we are in after the Brexit referendum? I think there is, and that it gives us an opportunity to speak of eternal things.
However you voted, it is clear that once the results of the referendum were announced there was a powerful surge of emotion in many people. I have heard of people saying they are grieving as though over a death. Others have been using the language of divorce, and they are the ones who say divorce can start out good natured but once it gets to the lawyers things get worse – they fear for our country.
Sadly a minority have acted disgracefully with their racist abuse. The racists seem to feel they have permission to come out of the woodwork. I was talking about this with a friend and they put forward the theory that racists have mistakenly thought that the other Leavers were motivated by racism and this mistaken belief has led them to think they are no longer a minority but that others think like them and we should all be racists together. I truly believe they are a minority. However, in the local press there is the reported incident of a Swedish mother speaking to her child in Swedish and suffering abuse as a result of being overheard speaking in a foreign language. I know of no racists in this church.
Of course many of those who voted to leave would say they did it for a better future for children and grandchildren, for prosperity and the greater good. They too thought they were saving our nation.
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
1) The Disunity
Verse 41: And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
Mark does not tell us when they heard, how the indignation built up, or how it was expressed in various ways. I wonder how bad things got by the time Jesus intervened.
Let us pause for a while and consider the reason for their disunity. Why were the other ten indignant because of the request of James and John? Because they also wanted place and power? They were all ambitious in a wrong way. Was the indignation of the 10 as strong as the aspiration of the two because it was prompted by the same feelings? They were all beginning to be jealous of one another, and that, in the very shadow of the cross! The situation is serious; there is a schism in the circle; what is to be done?
2) The Solution
One of things Jesus did was to teach. He reminded them of the big picture that they were to live out in small ways.
Today I am thinking of the Brexit vote and the health of our church. Here in this context Jesus deals with the desire for power of position. See his patience! He sets before these disciples two alternate world views, the worlds, and his. He then asks them to say which of these they will follow. He is getting them to see the big, eternal picture. He wants them to see the values of the kingdom that they are in and is yet to come.
When it comes to the state that our nation is in now, with a crisis of leadership and an uncertain future, we need to remind ourselves of eternal things.
Christ presents himself as the supreme example of his teaching. The son of Man too, came not to be served but to serve.
The Son of man came.
The disciples needed to be reminded that their disagreement was no private matter because they were part of the great purposes of God.
By talking of his birth he was not changing the subject. He was declaring that his birth was supernatural. He was reminding them that he was the promised messiah and the perfect example of what it is to be human.
He is telling them that his coming into this world, his advent, was voluntary. Only once is it recorded that he spoke of being born (John 18:37) and even then he immediately returned to the great truth that he came. There are many references to his coming and they always include the meaning that he chose to come, that his birth (and only his) was voluntary. The disciples are being reminded that they have a part to play in that which is great, eternal, so they need to stop being petty. The big story is bigger than who sits at his side.
The Son of man will die
Jesus explains to his disciples that he came to give his life a ransom for many. We, ourselves, might think of Christ’s death, but here we get a glimpse of what he thought of it. His death was why he came. His mission was to die, and die for us. We think of death as an interruption to our goals and plans, as the end of all we had hoped for. But for Jesus death was a continuation of his life’s work. When he said on the cross “It is finished” he did not mean that his work was done but that the work of the cross was successfully completed. This great eternal mission was too important for them to indulge in disunity.
The Son of man will give his life a ransom for many
The truth is, we do not fully understand this. None of us do. No matter how well we understand this, there is still more. This is a mystery. But this truth is not limited by our understanding of it. I can eat the fruit of a seed without knowing how a seed works. My experience of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for me is not dependent on me holding any theory of Atonement. It is only dependant upon my simply taking Jesus at his word and fully trusting in him.
God is not shaken.
See other examples of when Jesus relocated people. This would make a good study for our week ahead. We see many examples in Mark’s gospel alone leading up to this moment. Why did these relocations take place?
Mark 1:20 When people were called to him.
Mark 1:35 Jesus relocated himself to pray very early in the morning.
Mark 2:4 Brought to Jesus. “And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”
Mark 3:31ff When Jesus refused to move and go out to his doubting family
Mark 4:35 Relocated by boat or relocated into a boat for a lesson.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
Mark 6:31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 7:31-35 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Mark 8:22-26 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spat on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Mark 9:2-4 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them…
See Mark 10:35-37. Notice that the request of the disciples was about being position, location. And in response he positioned them, relocated them, all together, next to each other, near to him.
Jesus called them to him (NIV: called them together). When Christian people get cross with one another, the best thing to do is to get together around Christ, even with our unresolved differences. It is in his presence that we can deal with our differences. Better to deal with our differences in his presence that allow our differences to drive us from him and from each other. Once driven apart the enemy can do his work. It is being in his presence, in fellowship, and together in worship, that we will find our anger cooled. his humanity will shame the proud postures we have taken, his tenderness will rebuke our tempers.
“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
all upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.”
As people gathered around a well in those ancient days, and still do in some parts of the world, they come from all directions and as they get nearer to the well they get closer together.
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life for evermore.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
As we know from studying Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians recently, we are one body.
A closing prayer. A prayer to use this week.
This prayer we are about to pray was written in the 8th century. These were difficult times. But hear the faith and trust and be inspired by it.
The historical background
The Middle East, the coast of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula quickly came under Islamic Arab domination and Christian Europe was afraid. The westward expansion of the Arab Empire was halted at the Siege of Constantinople by the Byzantine Empire and the Battle of Tours by the Franks. In 726 the Byzantine Emperor Leo III destroyed the icon of Christ above the Chalke Gate in the capital city of Constantinople which began the first phase of the Byzantine Iconoclasm which also seemed to remove all that many Christians had held dear.
In Europe, late in this century, the Vikings from Scandinavia, begin raiding the coasts of Europe and the Mediterranean. It is thought that the poem Beowulf was composed then. And from 793 we have the first written account of a Viking raid carried out on the abbey of Lindisfarne (otherwise known as Holy Island in Northumbria).
So it is a good time now to pray this prayer.
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light,
look favourably on your whole Church,
that wonderful and sacred mystery,
and by the tranquil operation of your perpetual providence
carry out the work of our salvation:
and let the whole world feel and see
that things which were cast down are being raised up
and things which had grown old are being made new
and that all things are returning to perfection
through him from whom they took their origin,
even Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gelasian Sacramentary (8th century)