Mark- The Gospel of Action - The Great Equalizer
December 5, 2019, 1:30 PM

Mark: The Gospel of Action

“The Great Equalizer” – Mark 10

 

There is a theme in Mark 10 that emerges as you read its various sections, as a combined whole (the manner, in which, it is supposed to be read). Jesus was the great equalizer of people. Most of us if we are honest have prejudices. It is because we are so self-focused as people. Jesus was not prejudicial toward anyone. He did not succumb to the man-made taboos of societal structures and hierarchies. Jesus did as we are instructed in James 2:1…

James 2:1 (NIV)
1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.

He did not show impartiality or favoritism. No doubt it is Jesus teachings and lifestyle that influenced his brother James to include this challenge to us in His letter.

Jesus was the great equalizer.

Smack dab in the middle of chapter 10 Jesus reiterates once again to His disciples his impending future that He is going to die…

Mark 10:32-52 (NIV)
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,
34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."

  1. Jesus mind was set on this upcoming reality. He was going to soon be betrayed and killed. This is the teaching that he is repeatedly trying to convey to His disciples in preparation of what is to come. While this great sacrifice continued to be on His mind and in His speech, His disciples were distracted by other things. Their priorities and values were warped by their ambitions and prejudices, as we have seen in previous chapters.

Jesus had just revealed that He was about to be crucified and they change the subject revisiting an argument that they had with their fellow disciples just one chapter back…

Mark 10:32-41 (NIV)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

Once again the disciples are caught up in arguments and issues that have no merit in the mission of Christ. Jesus is talking about how He would become nothing, dying for our sins; and they were arguing and posturing about who would be the greatest. “We want you to do whatever we ask” – they said. How often do we do this? We think that God is a big genie in the sky ready to do our bidding.

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)
42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 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."

This is the crux of the gospel message. It is what Jesus life was all about. It is what He had been teaching them concerning their purpose as followers, and it is our purpose.

We are called to serve others rather than serve ourselves.

More than that even, we are called to serve those who are less fortunate.

I love the passage in James that outlines our faith in action – he told us that…

James 1:27 (NIV)
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

These are ideals that the disciples themselves were struggling with. It is our struggle. We have difficulty keeping our focus on what matters. We are easily polluted and led astray by our own plans, wants and needs. Our world tells us to focus on the opposite of this. Get all that you can for yourself and give away the leftovers.

Remember Jesus told us to not worry about those things, but often we get caught up in life and those are the only things that we think about. We are called to serve and to allow God to meet our needs, but so often we are consumed with the distractions of Me, Myself and I.

We have a tendency of elevating this – “Me, Myself and I” -thing above all other things. The problem is that as this becomes our focus, we often get caught up in devaluing others to fulfill it. We elevate ourselves and devalue others.

“My time is too valuable. They are not deserving. That doesn’t fit my plans. They are too far from help.” – these become our excuses for not following Jesus lead in the opportunities that surround us.

Jesus example was one of descending rather than ascending. He became nothing for us. With no promise of a return investment He gave everything for you and I.

In the culture in which Jesus lived there were some very real hierarchical structures. In that day the Roman’s were in their heyday as the superpower. They had strict control, but they allowed for their conquered subjects to have laws and structures of their own within the broader blanket of Rome. As you are probably well aware the Jews did not like the Romans (even though the Romans were ultimately in charge). They didn’t care too much for any Gentile – that is a race other than Jew. They had structures within Judaism as well. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the prominent religious sects and they were at odds with each other and despised one another. Based on vocation and financial position assumptions were made about one’s value. Men looked down on woman. Children were devalued by both men and woman and if you had known sin in your life or were physically diseased or unhealthy it could be looked at as a sign of God’s displeasure with you. The culture was infused with a great judgmental spirit.

And so there was a fair amount of disrespect and infighting going on amongst the people. Equality and benevolence was not a consideration as people were striving to become better than the next guy.

Often in our world we make the same kind of value judgments about people.

You know in the church we say that every person is important, but sometimes our actions or even our inactions say something else.

James sharply addressed this in one instance…

James 2:2-4 (NIV)
2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.
3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet,"
4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

This is not limited to the worship service on Sunday however, consider how you spend your time each week. What sets the priorities in your life? How does your view of people motivate you to help, offend or ignore the needs?

Jesus did not stand for this. In fact he elevated those that were considered the last, the low, the least. He flipped the hierarchical structures on their heads.

In chapter ten alone He does this in three instances for the value of woman, the value of children and the value of those in need.

Last week we talked about the issue of divorce – and specifically as it relates to women…

Mark 10:1-9 (NIV)
1 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied.
4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."
5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied.
6 "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'
7 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Jesus elevates the rights of others.

The society viewed women as property. If you get sick of the old model trade it in for a new one. Jesus questioned them about the law of Moses. They responded with a provision in the law which allowed divorce – for the protection of the woman – but Jesus brings it back to the flaw in their hearts and in their understanding. Their view of women was wrong. God had created male and female and the two will become one flesh. Jesus was the first to argue for women’s rights. He elevated the rights of the lowly.

Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.
47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Jesus gives value to the undervalued.

Here this man who was blind, calls out with great bravado for Jesus to heal him. The bystanders were repulsed by his rude behavior and rebuked him. Their opinion was that this man didn’t deserve the time of day. Jesus however was willing to give him the time of his life, as He would restore the mans sight back to him. Bartimaeus was a throw away, but Jesus stopped and showed him great value. Jesus makes time for those considered a nuisance.

Conversely He, Jesus, is not impressed by piety or wealth. Mark 10:13-26 deals with the familiar story of the Rich Young Ruler…

Mark 10:13-31 (NIV)
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel
30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

This man’s wealth and his personal achievement in the law became stumbling blocks for him. He could not let go of the one thing left in his life that was keeping him from Jesus and from a life fulfilled in the mission of Christ. The disciples in their own ways kept getting tripped up and distracted by their own grasp for power and position. With these things – fame, fortune, position and power – come mammoth issues and concerns that can and will distract us from what Jesus ultimately wants us to do in our lives.

Again we were called to serve and when we get distracted by all of life’s trappings we can lose sight of this.

I close this posting with one more passage from Mark 10 – as Jesus once again is frustrated with his disciples and their lack of understanding, exhibited by their treatment of children.

Mark 10:13-14 (NIV)
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Jesus is the great equalizer in that He treated everyone equally and taught about equality, but Jesus was not just trying to pass some Civil Rights ideas on. He was concerned about the hearts of men. Again Jesus elevates the low, but as we continue on we notice that not only does He elevate them but here in this instance He makes them the example for us to follow.

Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The child is not distracted by the trappings of life. He is not bogged down with the worry of things. She is not yet prey to skepticism and unbelief. Children are not prejudicial or shallow in their judgments. They are open and full of faith.

These are the things that we must battle against and for in our lives. We must allow Jesus the great equalizer to refocus us.

“In scuba diving one of the first things you learn is how to equalize your ears. Being able to equalize the pressure in this sensitive area of your body is highly important.
What Does Equalizing Pressure Mean and Why Should You Equalize?
As you descend in water, the pressure of water against you increases causing the air in your body to decrease in size. In small spaces in your body, such as the space within your inner ear, this pressure causes a squeezing sensation that can become increasingly uncomfortable (or even painful) the deeper you dive. If you continue to dive without equalizing the pressure in your ear against the pressure outside of it, you risk causing damage to your eardrum. Equalizing the pressure in your ear is the action of putting air into your inner ear to counteract increasing pressure from outside of it…”(
Javier Melendez writes for scuba diving websites. His recent articles focus upon dive gear.)

Equalizing in diving is all about adjustment. As you descend you have to equalize in order to function properly.

Jesus example was one of descending stepping down out of heaven – forsaking His rights for others. As he descended Himself He was elevating others - equalizing. In following Him in descending we need His equalizing power to make us useful and successful in His purposes.

Jesus is the great equalizer. He has come to adjust our lives and bring them into alignment with Him and His vision for us.

Today make yourself open to His adjustment in you. Allow Him to work on areas of inequity and to bring the change of perspective or priority that is necessary.

 

Allow Jesus the great equalizer to renew His perspective of others and His purpose in you.

By Carl Friedel


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