Mark understood how to leverage this life. At a turning point in his book, he included an interaction between Jesus and Peter that contains some kernels of truth, that when planted, give rise to a leveraged life. Near the end of the encounter, Jesus speaks these words: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8.35) Jesus knew how to use his time on earth, his life on earth, for the maximum effect.
To live a life of leverage, one used to the fullest extent, first off, we must understand the identity of Jesus. Mark begins the narrative with a question from the mouth of Jesus: “who do people say that I am?” This is a vital question for Mark who begins his Gospel with “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”(1.1) and arrives at his pint in chapter 15 with a Roman Soldier confessing “Surely, this man was the Son of God!” (15.39). Linking these two confessions, there were multiple partial-confessions throughout the book.
- After he stilled the stormy sea, “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him?” (Mark 4.41)
- After teaching in the Synagogue, the people of his hometown asked, “Where did this man get these things? What’s the wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (6.2-3)
- After healing the deaf and mute man, people were amazed and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (7.37)
The identity of Jesus was a high point on Mark’s list of things that he wanted his gospel to communicate. Many in Mark’s gospel missed the point. In John, everyone who walked away knew exactly who Jesus was…not so for Mark. They may have walked away healed, but they walked away from Jesus, leaving life with Jesus on the table. When and only when we understand and can answer the question “who is Jesus?” will we be able to leverage our lives to the fullest. Peter’s answer sums it up. “You are the Christ!” A few words with thousands of implications. Christ is the greek equivalent of the hebrew word Messiah. Messiah was the one sent from God to save his people. He is the one who would hear his people, fight for his people, and ultimately bring rule to the people. Peter is saying: “Jesus you are the Messiah.” It was as close to the true identity of Jesus as any human confession seen in Mark’s gospel up to this point.
The real identity of Jesus changes us. When I understand the power that Jesus has, over the spiritual world of demons in this particular case or over the physical world’s greatest attempt to dissuade us, death, does it begin to resonate that it too lives in me. Only when I understand that Jesus stopped for little children, reached out and touched lepers, took time for a desperate father, and spoke to a broken woman, will I realize that he has promised to do the same for me. When I understand his humanity, after all Mark does paint a more “human” figure of Jesus than the other gospel writers, only then do I bear my own soul to him for his working. “Who Jesus is” changes the way we live.
The second thing needed to live a life of leverage, is an understanding of his mission. Following Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to teach about his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is no coincidence that when we first learn of Jesus true identity, as the Christ, is when he first predicts his death. It is true. He came to die for us! Let that be known. In the next two chapters, 9 and 10 respectively, we will learn further of his death. But for now, he sticks to the bare bones of it. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (8.31) Jesus mission had taken on different forms starting early in Mark’s book. He came to preach (1.38), then to call sinners (2.17). Then he came to be killed (8.31; 9.31) which you would think would be the pinnacle of his mission. But its not. See dying for no reason has no effect. Jesus death would have meaning, purpose…leverage. He came to be served up, sold out, and handed over (10.33-34); ultimately he came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10.45) His mission was revealed in greater detail as the book progressed.
Peter, upon hearing the news of Jesus ultimate demise, rebuked him. For all the progress he had made in the prior paragraph, now he seems to be sliding back into his old ways. He didn’t understand Jesus’s ultimate mission. For a man who understood Jesus’ identity, he missed the mission of Jesus. If we are to life a life of leverage, it has to center around the mission of Jesus. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to testify to the truth and show us the light. He came as a ransom, a peace offering, a sacrifice. He came in order to give us life. He came, his mission, was to let us leverage this life.
The third necessity of a leveraged life, is following Him. (Mark 8.34-37) Jesus turns the private rebuke of Peter into a public teaching to the crowd. The message is: “Follow”. It is made clear that this teaching is not just for Peter, but for everyone. Crowds were essential to the “following” in Mark’s book. Sixteen times, Mark uses the word akouloutheo, when translated to English is “follow” and it breaks down this way.
- Twice, it is used in the context of two men [Simon/Andrew and 2 unnamed disciples] (1.18; 14.13)
- Twice, it is used in the context of the disciples (6.1; 9.38)
and here are the important two:
- Once it is used of an individual. Peter follow’s “from a distance” in the courtyard after Jesus’ arrest. Not a good thing. (14.54)
- Eleven times, it is used in the context of the crowd. Either the crowd “followed Jesus” or heard Jesus teach on “following”, or watched someone “follow” (2.14,15; 3.7; 5.24; 8.34; 10.21, 28, 32, 52; 11.9; 15.41)
Crowds were essential to Mark’s understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Discipleship is a communal effort; a team sport. For sure, the path to Jesus was as varied and individualized as the people themselves, but the work of following is every bit a group movement.
If we follow Jesus with passion, joining with others who are like-minded like ourselves, we will begin to live a leveraged life. Following Jesus gives a purpose and meaning to this life. When we pour out our life in service to others, following his example in Mark 10.45, we will find our life. Jesus says it plainly: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8.35) Taking up our cross is a request to die. When we die to ourselves and follow Jesus, we are embarking on a journey that is unparalleled. Those who get the most out of life are those who hold onto it the least. Only in welcoming the risk, taking the steps, and engaging in the call to follow, will this life have ultimate meaning and purpose.
Leverage (vb) to use something for its maximum force