As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:306
As I read this, it really hit me that people need to see the REAL Jesus, not a deceptive one. And I began to realize I haven’t always been reflecting the real Jesus to my friends.
Because I want to make Jesus easy for my friends.
When my friends are having a hard time, I want to empathize with them, and tell them it’s okay. I don’t want to be seen as self-righteous or closed minded by telling them they have to do the right thing no matter how difficult it is.
After all, I haven’t walked a mile in their footsteps, I don’t know what they’re going through. Would I be able to do better if I were in their shoes?
So I’m soft and I let them settle.
And I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. I really don’t have the wisdom to understand what they’re going through, or what their journey should look like.
The thing is, though, that I may be withholding from them the thing that could help them most – the real Jesus. Yes, I tell them about the Jesus who is loving and compassionate, and this is vital. Without these qualities in Jesus, we could never make it. We need his understanding and loving mercies so desperately.
But we also need the hard-nosed Jesus. We need the Jesus who set his face towards Jerusalem and gutted it through to his death. We need the Jesus who pushed through in the garden and kept praying until he had the heart to do the right thing. We need the Jesus who willingly took the way of suffering.
Because we’re all going to suffer, and if our only goal is to end that suffering, we’re going to miss the point. It’s in pushing through the suffering that we are able to grow, overcome and be our best. If we just settle for where we are because it’s too hard and painful try to do better, we’ll never become the best version of ourselves. We cheat ourselves of the joy of victory, the joy of being our best selves.
I’ve got to reflect the beneficent Jesus, but I also have to call people to follow the Jesus who never did what he wanted, but always sought to please the Father (John 8:29), the Jesus whose sweat was like drops of blood as he prayed to be able to do the right thing, (Luke 22:44) the Jesus who gave his ALL.
Unless I show my friends this Jesus, and call them to imitate him, I am leaving out the one thing that can help them through their trials: the Jesus who found a way to be righteous when it was hard. THIS is their lifeline! Because there IS a way through. There’s a better place ahead, if they’ll just keep fighting.
If you read the whole chapter of Mark 13, you see that Jesus was sending a clear message to his listeners: struggles and hard times were coming. This is a message people have never wanted to hear.
Case in point, we all love Jeremiah 29:11, and how God has plans to give us a hope and a future. But right before that in 29:8 He said, “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.”
The Israelites were going to have to go through seventy years of captivity before they got to the place where God was going to bless them. And they didn’t want to hear about that. They wanted to listen to false prophets who would tell them it wasn’t going to happen.
We all gather around us teachers who will tell us what our itching ears want to hear (II Tim 4:3), that we’re going to be free from struggles.
Is this how the early disciples encouraged one another? By telling them that life doesn’t have to be hard?
Acts 14 says of Paul and Barnabas, “Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.
Paul and Barnabas built up the churches by telling them that they would be in for a hard time.
What was the real Jesus Paul preached? Here is a part of his sermon in Acts 13:
Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have (Jesus) executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. Acts 13:28-31
Paul preached the Jesus who suffered, died and came back to life.
THIS is the Jesus we imitate in our lives, and encourage our friends to imitate. We get beaten down by life, but we rise again! We live out the gospel over, and over again, as we go through hardships.
Let’s not be deceived, like the writer of Ps 73 almost was:
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
We can’t think the be all and end all is the cessation of struggles. But we can have the mindset, and help others to have the mindset, that there WILL be challenges and we CAN get through them, just as Christ did.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. II Cor 1:5
So going back to the beginning, maybe instead of being self righteous and telling my friends to do the right thing no matter how tough it is, or being soft and letting them settle, I should tell them that I’ll cheer for them and be with them every step of the way as they fight through!
It’s just like the illustration we had Sunday in our lesson. Mitchell, who was preaching, had someone from the audience, Nate, go up front and do push ups.
Nate thought he could only do 40 push ups, but when he had people cheering him on, he did 73! Check out the following link below if you want to see it in action: Video
WE CAN DO IT, with encouragement from one another, and the real Jesus is our inspiration! He gave his ALL! And as we strive to give our all, we will realize more and more the abundant life God intends for us to have.