Mark Part Three Dive
WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO – THE CROWD OR JESUS?
The final thing I want to show you in the Gospel of Mark is a behind-the-scenes character who is actually quite a demanding, overbearing, annoying distraction throughout the book. But before I reveal the behind the scene character, let me ask you a question: who sets your identity? Your identity is who you are, your foundation, the very thing you stand on in life. If your identity is undefined or unfocused, your actions will follow. Let me give you an example. If your identity is set that you are worthless and unlovable, then you will act that way and even make decisions from that basis. So, let me ask you again, who sets your identity? Is your identity set by Facebook, Instagram, social media? Is your identity established by your upbringing, life experiences, your friends? Or is Jesus the One that tells you who you are?
I know right now many of you would boldly proclaim Jesus sets your identity, but let’s dig a little deeper and discover if that’s truly the case. I can read my Bible and establish that I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14), and then one look at Instagram to destroys that statement and I’m obsessing over my weight, how I hate my nose, how I would love to be able to fit that bikini again like this person on Instagram. Again, I read my Bible and establish that I am ‘blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 1:3), but moments later feel completely inadequate and anxious that I need more money so I can have that house, that car, that will make me feel blessed. Do you think Jesus felt like this on Earth? Would Jesus have listened to Instagram or social media to establish His mission?
When I read the Gospel of Mark, I see several spheres of influence that are trying to mould and change Jesus’ mission and Identity. Highlight each as you read and take note of what they say and how Jesus’ reacts; it is a really amazing study. The largest and loudest is the crowd, then there are the Pharisees, then the disciples and the last, God Himself. Each interact with Jesus differently, vying for His attention and giving their opinion, but Jesus only listens to one.
Let me show you the crowd. This loud, overbearing influence is with Jesus throughout the book. They heap praise on Him, they follow Him everywhere, they worship Him and encourage Him in His ministry (in the beginning!). Check them out in these verses:
M 2:1 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left,
M 2:13 A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.
M 3:7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.
M 3:9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.
M 3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
M 4:1 The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into the boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.
Trashing tip: Go on a highlighting spree and check out all the other verses featuring the crowd – Chapters 4:36, 5:21, 5:24, 6:31, 6:34, 6:45, 7:14, 7:33, 8:1, 8:34, 9:14, 10:46, 11:9, 11:18, 12:37, 14:2.
By Chapter 11:9, the crowds are shouting praises to Jesus as they spread cloaks and branches in worship. They love His teaching (Chapter 11:18), are amazed at His miracles and listened to Him with delight (Chapter 12:37). So much so that the Pharisees became afraid of them (Chapters 11:32, 11:12, 14:2). Isn’t it amazing that when everything is going well, the crowds follow? It’s very easy to slip into the trap of finding your identity and confidence in the crowds that follow you, but Jesus never did. He knew that as soon as it got hard, the crowds would turn – how right He was. In Chapter 14, Jesus is arrested, and…
M 14:50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
And it gets worse. Not only did they desert Him, this very crowd, who, only three chapters ago, were praising and worshipping Jesus, change their position completely.
M 15:8, 11-15 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did... But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.
We don’t hear from the fickle crowd after this, the rest of the text refers to individuals, like the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion, or the women Jesus appeared to at the tomb. Mark is very clear in relation to the fickle nature of trying to please the crowds. The voices that have a lot to say will praise you when you are up but when you need them, most either turn on you or are nowhere to be found. Jesus had compassion on the crowd but only one encounter set His identity and mission: being with His Father alone.
I absolutely love the moments in Mark where Jesus leaves other spheres of influence that are trying to speak into his life: the crowd, the Pharisees, even the disciples, and goes and spends time with the one voice He trusted: His Father. Highlight these moments in another colour.
M 1:35 Jesus prays in a Solitary Place. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
I love this moment before the crowds appear in Mark (in Chapter 2:2). Jesus establishes His time of prayer, away from the crowd, away from the disciples, away from any other voice that can distract and distort what His Father is saying. I imagine these beautiful moments of time where God sets Jesus’ mission, gives Him guidance, encourages and directs Him. Jesus ministers to the crowds, rebukes the Pharisees, teaches the disciples and listens to the Father. Never get this mixed up: don’t listen to the Pharisees, they are to be rebuked. Don’t try and teach God, He is to be listened to. Don’t try and teach the Pharisees, teach those who are willing to listen, the disciples.
In today’s world, we have so many voices that want to shout at us and tell us how to think, how to feel, and tell us who we are, but let your time with God in prayer and the Word of God be the loudest voice, above the crowds that gather, above the Pharisees that follow and mock, even above your friends. Let your Father in Heaven set your mission and identity.
Have a great time finishing Mark and keep noticing who Jesus listens to as you adventure through this book.