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Ruth Campbell - February 18, 2024

On the Mountaintop

From Series: "Surprised by Love (Gospel of Mark) Part 2"

In the opening verses of Mark’s gospel, Jesus bursts onto the scene announcing that God’s kingdom has come near. He displays the power of this kingdom through physical and mental healing, the forgiveness of sins, the miraculous provision of food, and demonstrations of authority over nature itself. Jesus teaches that love is the greatest commandment in this kingdom. And he evidences how revolutionary this love is through his inclusion of the poor, “sinners,” women and children, foreigners, and social outcasts. Further, he warns that this love is self-sacrificial, and the way to real life lies through dying to self. While Jesus’ acts of power generate wonder, the radical nature of this kingdom bewilders the crowds, and provokes intense hostility from the religious leaders. Even Jesus’ own disciples are left confused and afraid. The first words of Mark’s gospel declare Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God—the rightful ruler of Israel. But ironically, it is Jesus’ enemies who repeatedly call him a king in mockery, and it is a Roman centurion overseeing his execution who recognizes Jesus as the Son of God. The gospel ends abruptly with an empty tomb in the midst of the fear and confusion. The lack of closure to the story forces readers to ask for themselves: what kind of king is this? And where do I stand in relation to him? Through this Lenten series, we will pick up where our fall series on Mark left off. We will look at various characters from the gospel as they encounter Jesus in different locations: glorified on a mountain, entering the gates of Jerusalem, eating with friends, hanging on a cross. We will ask ourselves hard questions about the cost of entering this kingdom, as well as the rewards of a life lived according to the rule of love.

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