Mark 8:34-9:1Common English Bible (CEB)
After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Jesus continued, “I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom arrive in power.”
Jesus has built up quite a good reputation – with the healings and miracles and championing of the poor. He has street-cred, he is a believable, followable crowd-puller. Where he goes, the crowd goes – he has them in the palm of his hand.
But then he goes and blows it! If you really want to call yourself my follower, then you risk painful death.
As we follow the gospels through, the crowds melt away. Even that palm sunday crowd melts away pretty quickly as the procession passes the Antonia garrison.
At the end, Jesus is pretty much alone.
Too much church talk hides a secret desire for the crowds and an unspoken judgement that crowds validate a ministry.
Equally, though, I am irritated by expressions of christianity that are so bland that they have no attractional value at all and yet seem to look down their noses at anything else that even begins to look successful.
It’s a very circly circle to have to square!
Jesus didn’t seem to care whether he attracted huge crowds (and he did) or whether the uncompromising force of his preaching put people off and turned them away (and it did!)
Maybe the truth is that a faithful telling of the gospel will be both attractive AND repellant! And maybe the truth is that we shouldn’t really obsess about measuring whether we are to be judged “successful” in human terms. Maybe the truth is that we should simply get on with faithfully living the gospel and give people credit that they don’t need the Gospel to be soft-pedalled, that they might actually need the hard-core version – even the one that might scare them off!
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