What was it like to be born to the dusty roads of Galilee in Jesus’ day? This question excites archeologists and Bible students alike. What ideas ignited their ambitions? What revolutions stirred their passions? What did young people dream of becoming? What accomplishments did old people brag about?
Perhaps they looked at Herod and dreamed of power.
Perhaps they saw the Sadducees and craved their wealth.
Perhaps they were roused by the fist pumping idealism of the Zealots.
Perhaps they were drawn to the law and order of the Pharisees.
Perhaps they craved the holy isolation of the Essenes.
Their world and ours, lives at the confusing crossroad of these passions. Their opposing intersections cause constant collisions.
But Jesus invites us to go off-road to find a totally different path for our passions. He didn’t merge popular philosophies into a highway of acceptance. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus’ way is like no other. In contrast to the choices listed above, the way of Jesus says that weakness is the path to power, wealth is dangerous, enemies are to be loved, and we are the ones in need of mercy. The way of Jesus is not even in the same atlas as the popular ways of our day.
Jesus sparked the passions of his generation and generations to follow with these counter-cultural words.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Those words launched a revolution. People began to pour into the streets to hear Jesus (Mark 2:13). They left their jobs and homes to follow him (Mark 1:16-20). What caused such a fervent response?
See the Real Problem
Jesus was honest with us. Our most pressing need is within us. Each of us. Our sin has ruined us. We need personal, authentic repentance. “Repent!” Jesus said (Mark 1:15).
Oh yes, popular movements gain support by saying the problem is with “them.” “If we can just change the government, culture, and public opinion we’ll be okay,” we think. But lasting change can only occur when I realize my biggest problem is my sin.
Many people do not follow the way of Jesus because they don’t realize their way is broken. It is the gospel that reveals just how far off course I am. How fearful is my lost condition! I am separated from God and all that is good for eternity. It is the realization of my lostness that drives me down a passionate path to change.
Trust in the Right Person
But who can I trust to point me in the right direction? Not me. I’m the one who got lost in the first place. Others are just as lost, and some are downright hurtful. It is easy to run into a dead-end of cynicism and think, “You can’t trust anyone!”
Then Jesus dropped some rock-solid truth you can get passionate about. He says, you can “believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). You can trust the mercy it offers and the wisdom it provides.
The values of society are constantly drifting on the tide of public opinion. Statues built on the values of this generation will be despised and toppled by the next. How can anyone be passionate about such fragile legacies?
In contrast, the gospel points us to Jesus who is faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). His ways will still be standing when the highways of humanity crumble into dust (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
A Goal Worthy Your Passion
We live in a time when passions run high. Worthy subjects are grabbing the wheel of culture and jerking us in different directions at great speed. But Jesus gives his disciples an overarching passion that directs all others, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15)
Can we really be passionate about things of this world that so quickly change in frightful and uncertain ways? The fitful obsessions of culture are like shimmering streets which lead to a ghost town. The pressing need of our generation is to be a part of God’s eternal kingdom and have our hearts governed by his righteousness! It is the path that leads to life and to a new heavens and earth where righteousness shines as clear and constant as the sun (2 Pet. 3:13).
Thankfully, the passive attitudes of the “whatever” generation are being replaced by the zeal of the “woke” generation. But let those passions be stirred by the words of Jesus, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
The Jesus Way. Several years ago, Eugene Peterson gave a series of lectures at Baylor University on the way of Jesus contrasted with the culture of Jesus’ day. It was a fascinating approach and is now in book form under the title: The Jesus Way, Eerdmans Publishing.
A Solid Song for Shifting Days
My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.