Though The Path Be Dark

Mark 8:35 Then He called the
crowd to Him along with His
disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The phrase ‘come after me’ is a phrasal verb that simply means to follow. Considering this meaning, it looks a bit queer that this verse is here, and this is why:

Mark 8:31 He then began to
teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed…

Christ is in the process of explaining the bends and bumps on His road of life. He explained to His keen audience that He would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and the teachers of the law. These three were actually the spiritual authority over the Jewish people- the custodians of ‘what is good’ and the people deemed to be closest to God; the people upon whom all eyes gazed for spiritual and moral direction. These people were the influential ones in society and they simply ran the show, for they had all the Jews at the palm of their hands, giving direction and setting
standards. Whatever they said happened; whatever they willed came to pass. If they told they Jews to jump, they (Jews) would probably ask, “how high?”, “how many times?” and “in what way?”

These were the people that
would supposedly reject Christ. Needless to say, a rejection by these elite translated into a rejection by the whole community. It meant excommunication or, most likely, death. And Christ held nothing back as He predicted His path. He clearly told His audience where He was headed- Calvary. He explains that He must suffer, and that He must be killed. Not just die, but be killed. Here is a man, innocent and faultless in all His ways, causing nothing apart from good; healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, freeing those oppressed by evil spirits and teaching the very word of God with a deity unseen before. Yet this man- this good God- says that He will die, not out of disease or natural calamity, not peacefully in slumber, but painfully in the hands of a
bloodthirsty mob. Unfairly and shamefully before many eyes, all of which were able to see only because of His goodness which they deserved not; and amid loud and condescending jeers, all of which were made only because in His divine and sovereign meekness, He allowed them.

And then He says “If anyone
would come after me…” It looks terribly out of context,
this phrase. That you should
explain all your coming hardships and tribulations- trials that you will face and yet you are innocent- and then ask people to follow you looks a bit off. Doesn’t it?

When we follow someone, it
means that we take the path
that that person is on. We go behind them so that we may go through what they went through and thus share the same experience. Therefore, when you are telling someone ‘follow me’, you want them to be one with you in experience, and so there must be some sort of incentive. One must be convinced that therein lies
good for them- that therein is a better option compared to what they already have. That changing from their path and direction to yours will actually add to their coffers rather than spell calamity. The future of your path must promise jolly times rather than regretted folly.

Let’s go back to Christ’s invitation in Mark 8:34 again: “If anyone would come after me…” Christ calls. Still looks out of context; that He should promise doom and gloom for them that follow His path and still ask people to walk that path seems, to some extent, quite absurd. And doubtlessly, that’s what many in our generation, and definitely in those past, sight as a problem to the gospel that we preach. For they see no good in the Good News. They see the path- that it is narrow and scantily populated, and thus apparently lonely. They see the sweat and
troubled times, the pain that has to be endured, the cross that has to be carried, the rejection and most clearly,
the death. All for what? “Why should I leave my ‘good’, comfortable path and follow your ‘hopeless’ and gloomy path?” rings the question time and time again in the mind of the unbeliever during an encounter with a faithful conveyor of the message of the gospel.

So, again, here we are. Christ is saying, “I will suffer and surely die. But do follow me. Come my way by denying yourself and taking up your cross, and walk the path that I walk.” Question is, what’s the incentive? What’s the logic?

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.”(Mark 8:35)

I love that word ‘for’, for it
shines brightly through the
gloom of dilemma as it brings to us Christ’s explanation. Equal to the word “because”, it explains Christ’s stand- His invitation to follow Him even into the vale of suffering and death. Christ explains the reality of things. The reality, not necessarily as we see it, but as God sees it. It is a fact of life. You see, the beauty of this truth of life is that it is the view of Him who created life. It is the Creator’s description of what He created; explaining
how His ingenious invention works. Therefore, whether we, mere dust, like it or not, whether we accept it or reject it (as many do), whatever side we take, it is fact. It is sure!

Ps 19:9 The ordinances of the
LORD are sure and altogether
righteous.

And here is that blessed truth: That whoever wants to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for God and the gospel will save it. But what is it that Christ came to do so that in the path that He walks, He should find such brutality?

You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”(Jn 18:37)

Christ came to take a stand for the gospel and proclaim the truth. But why should this lead to painful, shameful Calvary?

Jn 3:19-21 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

image

Anyone who lives by the truth
comes into the light because the truth is light- it clearly shows the darkness, depravity and fallen nature of our hearts. It shows our weakness, and exposes the situation and desperation of our nature; that we are, indeed, lost, fallen and dead in our trespasses and therefore that we very direly need a savior. This tramples on human pride. It reduces one to nothing so that like Isaiah, one says, “Woe is me, for I am UNDONE” (Isa 6:5 KJV).

“What are you saying? That I am weak and unworthy and that I cannot save myself? Even a little?” and the truth would give a simple resounding “Yes!” to that. And by doing this act of trampling on human pride and esteem by setting forth and standing for the incorruptible truth, you will, like Christ, rub many the wrong way and hence be rejected. This is because what you stand for is hated by men; for man naturally loves darkness in which none of his folly is exposed. And that path of standing for the truth (with the knowledge that it might cost you your life) is what Christ is calling us to. He is not just asking us to run towards death. He is not encouraging us to look for a cool way to end our lives here on earth. Rather, He is asking us to follow Him. To love the truth. To love light. To love God so much so that like Jeremiah, we may say, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.”(Jer 20:9 NIV) This passion for the Christ leads us to, like He did, stand for the truth and the light irrespective of the result; and this result- this inescapable result- is rejection by man, for man is by nature evil and therefore delights in darkness. And the incentive?

Mk 8:31 “…and after three days rise again.”

Eternal life! “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”(Jn 17:3 NIV) The incentive, dearly beloved, is knowing God. Having an intimacy with God- with Christ who hung on that tree, with the weight of your sin on His bruised shoulders, for when we walk His path of standing for the gospel and consequently meet inevitable suffering, we fellowship with our Lord.

Phil 3:8-11 What is more, I
consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like
Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

So Beloved, why follow Christ
in this difficult and narrow
path? Why speak and stand for truth in love and gentleness yet it makes others ‘uncomfortable’ and hence makes them reject us?

In Paul’s words, “To know
Christ and the power of His
resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

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~ by paintbrush89 on May 22, 2013.

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