Tony's Reflection 71 

 

How do you rate this as a job advert?

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Legend has it this was the newspaper advert Ernest Shackleton placed, when he wanted to recruit men for his expedition to the South Pole. It’s hard to imagine people applying in their droves, but at least he was honest. Anyone applying knew exactly what they were in for.

Do you think this job advert is any more attractive?

“People wanted for hard and demanding cause. Hours: 24/7, for as long as you are still breathing. Must be willing to give up all own desires and ambitions to be reshaped for the cause. Opposition inevitable. No full reward in this lifetime.”

That one doesn’t sound a lot more promising. Millions of people, though, have taken up this advert over thousands of years and they still are. It’s what Jesus had to say about the cost if following him and being a Christian.

It’s not what many expect. It’s certainly not what Peter anticipated. Let’s go back to Mark 8:31-34, when Jesus first dropped this bombshell.

Peter has just had his eureka moment. After years following Jesus and experiencing all the amazing things he did and said, the penny has dropped. Peter begins to see the truth about who Jesus really is.

“You are the Christ” he says.

This is a “hang out the flags and celebrate” moment. A time for some happy backslapping.

We know what Jews of Jesus day, people like Peter and the other disciples, were expecting when the Christ, the Messiah, came. He was going to be the great and mighty leader, the answer to every national and personal problem. He would be universally loved and adored - apart from by “evildoers”, whom he would liquidate without mercy.

As Peter makes his earthshattering statement, we can see his eyes alight and his heart ablaze with excitement as he and the other 11 start to imagine what it is going to be like for them, coasting on the first class carriage of Messiah’s glory train.

Jesus looks at the childlike delight and excitement on the faces of the 12. He can see them starting to fantasise about how they are going to enjoy the spoils of victory with him.

Jesus knows that Messiah’s time of triumph isn’t coming yet. Those hopes that so excite Peter and the others will indeed come true – but only on the other side of a tragedy which is beyond imagining for any of them, right now.

He can’t let them get carried away. Jesus knows full well what is going to happen to him on “good” Friday. That awful prospect of what the future holds has long been bringing a cold chill to his very bones and pain to his heart. He has borne this burden on his own. Up until now. Now is the time to share it with his closest friends, as he tells them what it will mean, over the next few weeks to be “the Christ”.

Jesus breaks it to them gently. At least for now, he spares them the graphic detail of the unspeakable gore and shame that will come with crucifixion. The religious leaders will get him and kill him. Then, after three days, he will “rise again”.

Peter’s mind goes back ... he has seen Jesus take on and beat an army of demons, single-handed, all at once. He has the power to tell the wind to stop and it does. He can even bring the dead back to life. Surely he can sort out a few Pharisees out to get him?

Peter remembers all he has dreamed of Messiah doing. Dreams of glory he has had since he was a little boy.

No, what Jesus says just doesn’t add up. Peter doesn’t want to make a scene, so he takes Jesus aside privately. “Stop talking like this. You’re the Messiah, these things can’t and won’t happen to you…”

Jesus sees red. More accurately, he sees his oldest enemy. Satan has tempted Jesus over and over with these very thoughts. “It doesn’t have to be this way, after all you are the Messiah…” Jesus wishes, with all he has, there could be an easier way, but he knows there are no shortcuts to the eventual triumph he will win, enjoy with his Father and share with his followers.

He gives Peter a good telling off, then Jesus calls everyone in sight, onlookers as well as the 12, to gather around. Now is the time for some straight talking. Things were going to get rough, to put it mildly, over the next few weeks and anyone who wants to be around him needs to know what is in store.

“Do you really want to follow me? Are you sure? If you do, you need to put aside all that you want for yourself and be prepared to put yourself to death.”

For some of those there that moment, they too, like Jesus would end up being crucified. That is what happened to Peter. Most of the 12 suffered violent, gruesome deaths simply for following Jesus and believing in him.

Everyone wanting to follow Jesus needed to “put themselves to death”. Not literally… but by being willing to lay aside all of their personal ambitions, all their own dreams of success.

The call to us is exactly the same. To say to Jesus, “It’s not about what I want for myself, but about what you want in me and for me.”

An attractive advert for the “job” of following Jesus? It is when we see what comes next …

signed Tony