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March 19, 2014
Mark 3: 7-12

Jesus’ ministry is beginning to gain momentum. Apparently word is spreading, and people are increasingly excited about what they hear. The crowd is swelling as more and more people gather around Jesus, most of them hoping to receive a miracle of their own. This would seem to be the very image of success. The movement is growing.

Yet Jesus remains surprisingly ambivalent about it all. He doesn’t dismiss or reject the crowd. He receives them without complaint and goes busily about the work of ministering to their needs. But at the same time he doesn’t celebrate his growing mass appeal. He doesn’t thump his chest or point to the heavens with a sign of victory as if to say, “Yes, Father, we’ve done it. This is what we I came here for!”

Because it wasn’t. The irony in this passage is that despite Jesus’ growing popularity only the demons truly recognize who He is. While Jesus doesn’t disparage the crowds or blame them for seeking relief from their suffering, He also knows that he did not come into the world just to meet people’s immediate needs. He didn’t come to gather a crowd of fans. He came to make the ultimate sacrifice and to build a community of disciples who are committed to sharing in that sacrifice. Jesus’ ministry is defined by the cross, not by the crowds.

What is our definition of success? Whether in business or in family life or even in ministry, it is tempting to base our assessments of ourselves on things that don’t really cut to the heart of what the gospel is about. I, for example, will sometimes measure my effectiveness as a pastor by how many people show up on a Sunday morning to hear me preach. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to come and hear the gospel proclaimed. But that’s the visible thing, the part of my work that everybody can see. What if the most important thing I do all week is sit beside the bed of someone who is sick or dying and minister to them with my silent presence? How do I measure that? How does that fit into my definition of “success?”

The chances are good that most of us will not be called upon today to do anything extraordinary. We are not likely to have large crowds gathering around us lauding us for how we can instantly change their lives for the better. But we will have the chance to do something sacrificial or at least thoughtful for the sake of others. In some way we will have the chance to give some part of ourselves away. It’s not likely to make the evening news, but it might just make the kingdom of God a little more visible.

We should hope for nothing more out of life.

Lord Jesus, help me today to be open to all the big and small ways you are calling me to bear my cross. Help me to be a faithful witness, especially when it does not call attention to me. Thank you for faithfulness to me in all the circumstances of my life. Amen.