The Pursuit of the Jesus of Scripture
Did you ever hear anyone ask, “If I believe in Jesus, will He fix all my problems?” Pursuing Jesus for your selfish ends is not what the Scriptures reveal. Regrettably, humankind is prone to producing idols that fit their fancy.
What is an idol? Professor and author, Greg Beale, defines an idol as “anything worshiped in place of the true God.” It is incredibly easy to worship what a person can see or construct rather than responding in faith to God’s revelation. Whether out of fear, convenience, or upbringing, people pursue Jesus on their terms.
Believers also struggle against idolatry. Whenever we may face a crisis, we often expect Jesus to fix all the problems. We turn to Him with our preconceived outcome and then demand that He meets our desire. Too often, we may desire to pursue Jesus only if He does our bidding. Beale warns us of how easy it is for us to treat “the true God as a false idol and the truly false idols as the true God.”
Questions for Consideration
I wonder, did Israel genuinely desire the Messiah as predicted in the suffering servant passage of Isaiah 53? Did their cry for a blessing on Palm Sunday, ever imagine His crucifixion in less than a week? Hitting closer to home, are we able to sing about God’s faithfulness even when our desired result is not yet visible?
Which Jesus Came on Palm Sunday?
Israel grew overwhelmingly tired and frustrated over Rome’s dominance. Unfortunately, with bold ignorance, they made the true God into a false idol and rejected the true Messiah by treating him as a blasphemer.
The only Messiah they were searching for was the One that would come as a mighty warrior to overturn Rome’s power. Their idol was tradition, as emphasized by the religious elite. A Messiah who came to die and waste time on a blind man (Mark 10:49)? No way, not for Israel.
Israel was thankful when their Messiah arrived as royalty, ready to claim His throne, and destroy Rome (Mk. 11:1-7). Responding with excitement, they voluntarily quoted Scripture with the full intention of seeing Jesus fulfill what they longed for Him to accomplish (Mk. 11:9-10). The Jesus they wanted was the powerful, reigning king, eager to do their bidding.
Instead, Jesus walks up to the Temple, looks around, and then departs (Mk. 11:11). What? No powerful army to set up camp and begin the slaughter of the brutes of Rome?
Interestingly, Jesus prepared His disciples to understand the reason for His coming; to be the betrayed, crucified, but risen Savior King (Mk. 8:31-32; 9:31; 10:33-34). But each time, their response to hearing this was inadequate. All they could fathom was sitting in the seat of honor at the banquet of the Messiah. They longed for a crown and the prominent place at the right hand of their idealistic Jesus. Instead, all they got was Jesus crucified and humiliated.
In rapid-fire succession, Mark corrected the misconception. Immediately after His passion narrative (Mk. 10:33-34), Mark identified Jesus as the One who cares for those who are nothing more than a nuisance (blind Bartimaeus Mk. 10:46-52). Mark leaves us with the impression that Jesus will not fit into anyone’s mold. Why would Jesus waste time on such low-life? Pastor and author, Sinclair Ferguson answers, “No miracle in this Gospel more vividly illustrates the promise God had given through the prophet Joel. Bartimaeus encountered Jesus’ power, not on the basis of his strength, but in the context of weakness.” Bartimaeus willingly turned over his weakness for faith in the genuine Christ. Now that is pursuing the Jesus of Scripture.
The crowds may shout their willingness to follow Jesus. We may sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus,” but which Jesus? We must make room for the suffering that accompanies this following of Jesus. We need to seize, by faith, the cross as the means for following Jesus. The Jesus we must trust is the One that went through humiliation before exaltation.
Lessons for Application
The inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God must dictate our pursuit of Jesus.
We must be careful not to make an idol of Jesus when our desire for Him is out of selfish interest and nothing more. Here are three absolutes to keep us grounded in truth.
- Our salvation cannot be on our terms.
The Jesus we trust for salvation cannot be mixed with the idols of the heart. The rich young man (Mk. 10:17) wanted to inherit eternal life, but only on his terms, keeping his wealth. Jesus explained, “You lack one thing, go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The rich man rejected Jesus’ demand.
- The path for our salvation can only come through the cross
Jesus articulated clearly that the Gentiles “will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (Mk. 10:34). God declared from the time of sin that the penalty is death. There is only one death that will satisfy the holy demands of God, Jesus Christ’s. The necessary ransom was Christ as our substitute and paying the full penalty for our sin. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Only Jesus can satisfy the holy demands of God.
- Jesus is the only way of transformation from darkness to light
The Scriptures teach that all are born dead in sin, and all require a new birth. That new birth comes only by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. If we pursue a moralistic Jesus, we will never experience transformation from death to life, or from darkness to light. Paul stated it this way, “He [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).
If you want all that Jesus offers, then you must trust in all that Jesus Christ is as revealed in Scripture. You must repent of your sin and confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead. Anything less will give you nothing. So, which Jesus will you choose?