The mission of Bethel Church is to make disciples who live, love and lead like Christ. This, of course, begs a question: just how did Jesus live, love and lead? If we are to make disciples who are like Christ, then we need to know how Christ manifested these things in his own life.
Taking Mark 14:32-42 as an opportunity to peer into some very raw moments in Jesus’ earthly existence, we find him modeling real life, real love, and real leadership. Mark 14:42 speaks to the leadership matter, and we’ll look at that in a future post. In a previous post we considered the manner in which our Lord lived, particularly as revealed by his authenticity and personal connection with Abba as seen in Mark 14:35-36. But the goal of Bethel Church is not just to make disciples who lead and who live like Christ. It is to make disciples who love like Christ. In what way do we see this exhibited most clearly?
The final words of Mark 14:36 help us here. Immediately on the heels of Jesus confessing to his Father that he would like the pending cup of suffering (his pending death on Calvary’s Tree) to be taken from him, he then proceeds to declare, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” In these words we find a powerful and dramatic expression of ultimate love—a love that can be best described in one simple word: obedience.
Churches don’t talk about obedience today. Rather, we talk about feelings and raising the bar and trying harder. Obedience seems to be an antiquated and legalistic formula for self-righteousness. And yet Jesus elevates it to a place of primacy, and in so doing displays for the world what is ultimate love. Indeed, consider his own words from the supper that took place earlier in the evening before he and his friends worked their way to Gethsemane: I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father (John 14:31). The greatest evidence of true love, in the economy of the Almighty, is obedience.
This challenges us to consider some observations about the obedience Jesus offers up in Mark 14:36. One important detail to be noted is that Jesus’ obedience to his Father is an informed obedience. That Jesus is tuned into what is the will of his Father demonstrates that Jesus is not merely offering blind obedience to some idea or command or expectation. He is rooting his action of obedience in something tucked deeply within the very heart of Abba. It isn’t enough for Jesus to simply acquiesce to the mission which would bring him death on a cross. His obedience was a result of an awareness of the passion and purpose burning within his Father—a passion to see sinners redeemed, a passion to see his Father’s name magnified among all of the created order, a passion to see mercy and grace move like a tsunami across the scared and scarred land of brokenness and shame. Knowing that these things were in the bosom of his Father motivated Jesus toward obedience. The man who declares, “I will be sexually pure,” but finds as his motive the desire to be righteous and not hurt his wife or kids will find himself struggling to stay the course, for important yet time-constrained expectations do little by way of real motivation. But the man who makes such a declaration because within the heart of God is a passion for the dignity of women, the freedom of the soul, the enduring joy which is a heart set on eternal things, will find inspiration that is richer and greater than self-realization.
Tightly related to an informed obedience is an obedience given as a response to inspiration rather than obedience given as an act of regulation. Christians in particular are terrible about feeling the need to edit themselves, manage sin, and otherwise regulate their righteousness. Obedience that is the result of such regulation is short-lived, one-dimensional, and easily interrupted. However, obedience that responds to that heart of Abba, as referenced above, is an obedience that easily displays true love and integrity and passion. Regulated obedience is not about love but about law. Responsive obedience is about demonstrating love toward another. I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
One last observation to offer is that the obedience Jesus models is costly. It cost him his life on the cross. It cost him his friends. It cost him his family. Indeed, when he died on Calvary’s Tree he died alone except for his mother and best friend. Where were the crowds that followed him throughout Galilee and Judea? Where were the jubilant masses waving the fronds from the week prior to his death; the ones singing “Hosana” and cheering him onward. Obedience is costly. It will cost you too, should you choose the path of the disciple of Christ.
The mission of Bethel Church is to make disciples who live, love and lead like Christ. If I really want to be about this audacious conviction, this great mandate, then I need to first of all understand just how Jesus lived, loved, and led. For him living was about being recklessly free with his Father. We’ll see something of leading in our next post. And for him loving was about total obedience; obedience that was intimately rooted in the very heart of God, demanding a response, regardless of the cost. That is how Jesus showed the depth of his love, and it is how I must show the depth of mine. As I enter into that journey, then I am way down the pathway of being a faithful and maturing disciple; and I’ll be well-positioned to help you be one too.
“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s sermon entitled, “Love!,” part of the sermon series entitled, “An Audacious Conviction,” and presented on the weekend of August 21, 2011, at Bethel Church.