December 2, 2018
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”—Mark 10:32–34
Advent Sermon #1, 2018
From Thanksgiving to Advent …
It has been three weeks since I have been with you in this pulpit. So much has happened in three weeks. The last time I was with you we had just finished Global Focus, and then the next day I went with a team to China. When I returned, we had the South Campus building dedication event, and then we celebrated Thanksgiving, and now here we are at Advent.
I just want to make a few comments that will bring those threads together as we move from Global Focus and Thanksgiving to Advent.
The South Campus Dedication was such a glorious service. It felt to so many of us like a dream come true. The Lord gave us the land, and the Lord worked joy in your hearts to cheerfully and generously give to make that building a reality. A dream come true—though behind the scenes something almost happened that would be a disaster. We had a printing company do the banner that had our mission statement on it—but they made a mistake—a typo. Our mission statement is: Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. But with the typo it read, “Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things ‘or’ the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”
Pastor John Piper spoke at the Dedication Service. Can you imagine how horrified we would have been if we hadn’t caught that, and he saw it while he was preaching? He commented on the little pulpit they used (imagine a wooden music stand) to save space for the orchestra. He said, “Is this supposed to be a pulpit? We need a real pulpit because we need a place to put our Bible on it.” Later he said, “You may remember that I told you this from a real pulpit …” If he trouble with the small pulpit, can you imagine what he would have said about having messed up our mission statement?!
I want to connect Global Focus now with the South Campus building. Right now we have 110 global partner units (some of whom we got to visit on our China trip). We also have about 100 in Our Nurture Program. During our Global Focus “call,” we had 65 new people come forward—and eight of them came from the South Campus! That is huge. In the past, we have had one person or sometimes none. This year we had eight. That is part of what we are talking about when we say building the South Campus is not about landing, but about launching— spreading a passion for God’s supremacy for the joy of all peoples.
Let me also try to connect Global Focus, Thanksgiving, and Advent. During Global Focus we got to announce the first of the 25 Unengaged People Groups to now be “Engaged.” Remember the difference between unengaged and unreached. “Unreached” means that a people group has less than 2 percent evangelical Christians—a very small Christian witness among that people group. Unengaged means that the people group has no Christian witness, no Christian workers, no church at all. This people group went from unengaged to unreached. Now that there is a full-time person and a plan to reach them, let us now pray that they will go from being unreached to reached. What does that have to do with what we are talking about today with Advent?
Here we are remembering and celebrating Christ’s first coming. We are anticipating his second coming. While we eagerly await the Second Coming, this people group has not even heard about the First Coming. Let us pray with thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done and pray with expectation for what he will do in this Advent season.
Let’s see this point emerge as we unpack the three claims of the outline.
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them.
We have seen this theme in Mark throughout chapters 8–10. Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah up in the northern part of Israel in Caesarea Philippi. From that point on, Jesus has now stated three times that they are going on a journey to Jerusalem. They have been on that road for three chapters. On that road or way, he has been talking about how he will take up his cross in Jerusalem and that his disciples must join him on that Calvary road by taking up their crosses and following him.
Now we get a picture of Jesus and the disciples on that road. What is it? Jesus is the leader in every way. He is walking ahead of them, setting the pace, leading the way.
And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
We hear of two important things about how the disciples responded to how Jesus led the way out front. They were amazed and afraid. Why? These two words in Mark are descriptions that see something divine, but fall short of faith. The crowds and the disciples are often amazed and astonished by the divine works of Jesus, but that does not mean that they respond with faith. Fear is a very common response in Mark for the disciples. It typically means that their pre-existing categories have been challenged or even blown to bits.
Mark is portraying a confusion on the part of the disciples—a deep-seated question: Why does Jesus seem to be a man on a mission? Have you ever seen someone walking with purpose in every step? You know that they are going somewhere or going to do something—they are driven—they are on a mission. It is not leisurely. It looks single-minded. That is what they were seeing in Jesus.
Jesus is now going to address their confusion and answer their question. He will describe for them in detail what is waiting for them at the end of this road.
And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
This is now the third time in these three chapters that Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection. But this third prediction is the most detailed. Notice some of the particulars and note especially that this is where this sermon should begin to feel like a traditional Advent message (i.e., what did the OT anticipate would come with the coming of Christ).
First, look at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ words. He begins with the title “Son of Man” and ends with his resurrection (after three days he will rise). He starts with the title “the Son of Man.” This was a favorite title that Jesus used for himself. It does not merely mean that he is a human being. It is a title drawn from Daniel 7—a mysterious figure “one like a Son of Man” comes to the Ancient of Days and receives a kingdom.
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.”— Daniel 7:13–14
All throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been trying to connect two themes (found in two different types of texts). This King is going to establish his kingdom through suffering and death and resurrection. Jesus essentially connects Daniel 7 with Isaiah 53 as the same person. There is a Daniel 7 person who receives an everlasting kingdom and whom all the nations will serve, and there is an Isaiah 53 suffering servant who will be despised and rejected and slaughtered, but then vindicated. Jesus brings them together and says that they are the same person—him. And death will not be the end of his kingdom. His kingdom will be established through his death and resurrection. This king is going to defeat death. His death and resurrection will bring about the death of death and everlasting life for those who receive him.
Second, the Jewish leaders have a part to play. The chief priests and scribes will condemn him to death (Mark 10:33). Notice the legal language. There is going to be a trial and they will pronounce that Jesus deserves to die. But it will be a travesty of justice, a legal kangaroo court. Mark tells us that Pilate knew the Jewish leaders brought Jesus forward to be murdered because of “envy” (Mark 15:10).
Third, the Gentiles have a part to play. The Jews will cast a verdict and then deliver Jesus over to the Gentiles to carry out the verdict. The Gentiles will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. All of these things happened in Mark 15 as the soldiers mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him.
Fourth, Jesus is “delivered over” [Mark 10:33 (2x)]. The verb is passive voice. Someone is delivering Jesus over to death. Who? You could say that it was the will of the Jews or the will of the Gentiles to deliver Jesus over to death. But that is not pushing in far enough. Consider Acts 2:22–24.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
This was all according to plan. God delivered over Jesus to death as part of his plan. This was prophesied hundreds of years earlier by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:10).
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Think of how specific this prophecy was. The Gospel accounts have Jesus being flogged and they also refer to Jesus being struck in the face, spit upon and having the hairs of his beard pulled out. Listen to Isaiah 50:5–6.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
But the particularities of the prophecy go even further. We read something remarkable in the very next verses (Isaiah 50:7–8).
But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
Jesus was leading the way—all the way. He set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem and to face all that he knew would come. But he also stepped forward with pure confidence and trust, knowing that this was all part of his Father’s plan (every millisecond). And he went into it all knowing how it all would end. He would be vindicated. He would rise from the grave, and by doing so, he would bring many sons and daughters to glory. He would not fail. He would fulfill the Father’s plan.
Application: The Connection Between Advent and Mark 10
Many people look at the Christmas story as a beautiful, pristine picture. Sometimes it is a little romanticized. It looks like a scene from a Precious Moments display. We sometimes have the impression that it was tranquil and serene (we start humming “Silent Night”—all is calm, all is bright). Now, I love the song “Silent Night,” but we need to see and hear a little more of the picture.
There may have been some quiet after Jesus was born, but not before. Part of the curse was pain in childbearing. There was screaming in the air and blood on the ground. And before that moment of delivery, can you imagine the panic? There was no room for them—it was an emergency—like driving to the hospital because your wife is in labor. Imagine not being able to find a hospital.
And the stable was not exactly a sanitized labor & delivery room. It seems cool that animals were there, but have you ever smelled inside a barn? I’ve had to clean out pigpens and clean up cow pies. It is not a “Precious Moments” picture—there are never cow pies in any manger scenes.
And more to the point of our text today, we see a foreshadowing of rejection represented in the picture. No room for them anywhere. Not a royal earthly welcome with earthly pomp—born in a palace surrounded by great heads of state or something. In fact, the earthly authorities want him dead. Herod has all the Jewish boys 2 years and under murdered in an attempt to murder the promised King.
Jesus lived a life of rejection: rejected in his hometown, debated by the scribes and Pharisees (his family thought he was insane and tried to get him to come home), and the scribes and Pharisees have been plotting to murder him ever since Mark 3.
But why? He was despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53). It is part of the story. So Jesus had a purpose in his steps as he moved into what would be ultimate rejection. Rejection was part of the story, but not the main theme. No one naturally moves with purpose toward rejection and pain and suffering. What is the point?
Conclusion: The Greatest Story Ever Told
What was the purpose in his steps? It is called “love.” He was coming for us.
There is a song in Andrew Peterson’s book Monster in the Hollows that describes the search of a spouse for her beloved. Her true love has gone on a long voyage. She waits and waits and then eventually when she can stand it no longer, she sets out to search for her love—no matter what the cost may be. It brings me to tears every time.
“My Love Has Gone Across the Sea”
My love has gone across the sea
To find a country far and fair
He sailed into the gilded west
And lo, my heart will never rest
Until my love returns to me
Or I set out to find him there.
Come home, come home! I sing to thee
My love, come home and rest thy head
I’ll watch for you the winter long
And sing for you a summer song
And if you can’t return to me
Then I will sail to you instead
Through tow’ring wave and shriek of gale
I’ll aim my vessel ever west
And steer it by the cord that bound
My heart to yours, until you’re found
And should you find my body pale
And wrecked upon the loamy shale
Rejoice, my love, and call me blessed!
In death, my love, I loved you best
We would all agree that this is a picture of love. But the tragedy is that she did not find her beloved. Her beloved found her dead because she failed in her attempt. It is the effort that portrays love. A no-holds-barred, whatever-it-takes kind of love. That is why the song says, “In death, my love, I loved you best.”
But just like the song has a pale body in death, the song itself pales in comparison to the love of Christ. The spouse has an amazing love in terms of commitment, but not in terms of accomplishment. At one level, it is successful in showing how much she loved her beloved, but at another level, it is a failure because she never found her love—they were never reunited in life—only in death. Death ended the relationship and severed the cord.
Jesus’ love is greater. He traveled further. Not across the sea, but across heaven and space and time to breath our air and walk our sod. The obstacles Jesus faced were greater than any song could tell. The eternal Son of the Father took on flesh; he became a baby. The Light had to enter our darkness. The Light shined into the darkness and the darkness threw everything it had at the light. He lived and was scorned and rejected constantly. He overcame greater trials, rejection after rejection, even his own disciples.
His love was greater because in the song, the spouse set out on a journey for seemingly noble purposes “to find a country far and fair.” We set out away from our Creator for sinful purposes. We set out to make our own home and build our own kingdom; we walked away from this relationship. We were wayward and rebellious. And yet, Jesus left the heavenly country, far and fair, and pursued us out of sheer grace and mercy and redeeming love. And his love was not ineffectual. When he sets out to save, nothing can stop him. He went to the cross willingly—nobody took his life from him. It was not an accidental crashing onto the shore. He moved toward his death knowing that it was coming. Love made the crash inevitable and intentional. Yes, he died. His body was pale and broken and buried. But he was not only broken by death—he broke death. He put death to death and triumphed over it so that nothing could separate us from his love—not even death. The cord that connects us can never be severed for all eternity. His victory means that he is going to bring us to that country far and fair forever. No greater love, no greater victory, no greater story ever told.
Closing Song: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
The closing song needed to have that note of effectual love—his purpose can’t be thwarted. We will be with him because of his great love and power, not because we were good enough or strong enough or loved him enough.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Main Point: Jesus is leading the way on the road to his death and resurrection.
Pray for a grace to see what Jesus did for us and our salvation. Pray for a grace to receive it and celebrate it and share it this advent season.