Victory in Jesus

man-crossSince the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, humanity has faced conflict. The first conflict with one another is seen in the blaming of Eve by Adam, then we see Eve blaming the serpent, Adam, in his desperate attempt to deflect the blame from himself even goes so far to blame God when he says “the woman whom YOU gave me”[1] (emphasis mine). Not only do we have conflict with one another, we are in constant conflict with life in general. We battle sickness, disease, even death is a constant enemy we wish to stave off. The situations we face in life are always the elements which undoubtedly get us to look for something or someone to blame.

This subject of conflict is central to the Gospel of Mark. As Jesus enters upon the scene in chapter one, we see Him doing so fighting against the same elements we face in life. His first conflict (which isn’t elaborated on too much) is His temptation in the Wilderness by none other than Satan himself. After calling the twelve disciples to Himself, we read about defeating demons,[2] healing fever and various diseases,[3] then a leprous man[4] in quick order. Not only do we see physical ailments that we battle and are common to man being dealt with, we see the conflict among friends[5] and enemies[6] taking a front row seat. Spiritual, personal, and domestic conflict abound in the first nine chapters of Mark. Each taking root during the Fall of humanity. Each finding their beginning with the introduction of sin into the world and finding fertile hearts of fallen humanity to blossom and bloom into a deadly harvest of destruction. While our personal struggles are fiercely unique to each of our situations, we are not special because of our struggles. Paul told the Corinthian church that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…”[7] This means that all people, at all times, and in all places, face the same conflict that is found in our lives. It is something we all face and will continue to face in this world because of the effects of sin.

The good news is that Jesus came! He is introduced as the Christ,[8] the One who would redeem the world. The first nine chapters of Mark show us a foretaste of what this Messiah is doing. He is undoing the damning effects of sin in this world. The problem we often have though, is that we have an expectation of God that isn’t biblical. We want God to take all the conflict in our lives away from us now. The conflict Jesus faces in the Gospel of Mark is due to this same misunderstanding that the Jews had of the coming Messiah. Jesus didn’t fit their paradigm. They wanted a Messiah who would conquer the Gentiles and restore Israel to her former prominence, [9] instead Jesus is received by the outsiders[10] and doesn’t call for a political revolt. Instead of being welcomed by the religions leaders looking for the Messiah, Jesus is ridiculed rejected.[11] Because of their misguided view of what they believed God to be like and what He was supposed to do for them, they missed His message of redemption.

The final portion of Mark deals with the epitome of the Gospel. From chapter ten to the end of this Gospel, the cross is in view. This transition is abrupt and is typical for Mark’s writing style. Though it seems like Mark takes a sudden turn from the narrative, the undertone of the central them of conflict is well intact. The metanarrative just takes on a different appearance. Instead of dealing with conflict in personal stories (like sickness) we see Jesus shift his focus on the overall problem, dealing with sin through His death. The various conflicts we face all go back to the problem of sin. The Bible teaches that the only way to remedy sin is through sacrifice.[12] By His sacrifice for sin upon the cross, Christ undoes the effects of sin upon His people. Do we still struggle? Yes, but we are assured that the final conflict we all face has been dealt with. This is what prompts the Apostle Paul to say with a note of finality “O death where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?”[13] Christ does much more than fix our day to day conflicts, He has settled the final conflict between man and his God.[14] Knowing this, we can face this life with confidence and assurance that nothing can come between the believer and their Lord who loves them and “gave Himself”[15] for them.

[1] See the full exchange in Genesis 3:10-13

[2] Mark 1:21-28

[3] Mark 1:29-34

[4] Mark 1:40-45

[5] Mark 9:33-37

[6] Mark 8:11

[7] 1 Corinthians 10:13a

[8] Mark 1:1

[9] Green, Joel B., Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013.

[10] Mark 7:24-30

[11] Mark 2:1-3:6

[12] Hebrews 9:22

[13] 1 Corinthians 15:55

[14] Romans 5:1

[15] Galatians 2:20

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