How does Jesus deserve and demand to be responded to? The famous triad of Liar, Lunatic, or Lord attributed to C.S. Lewis is arguably the question of Mark’s Gospel.
Liar, Lunatic, Or Lord?
Is Jesus a liar, to be questioned as did the Pharisees? Is Jesus a lunatic, to be disbelieved, as did the crowds? Or is He Lord, to be worshiped and loved, as did the disciples (at least by the end of the Gospel)? That’s probably the most pressing theme throughout Mark’s Gospel.
Over and over again, indirectly through the lens of the various groups’ responses to Jesus, we can almost feel Mark’s own emotional pleading with us to respond to Jesus well.
Running To The Empty Tomb
In an almost abrasively abrupt ending to the canonical Gospel of Mark, the disciples learn of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and respond in the only way appropriate—in utter shock, amazement, and awe.
To be exact, the text says they responded in “trembling and astonishment”, for “they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). But why did they respond in the way they did? Why such fear? Why such awe?
Most immediately, they observed someone rise from the dead, which is enough to make one a little afraid on its own. But, if you do a word study of all the occurrences of the words ‘fear and trembling’ together in the Bible, the results are astounding. The term ‘fear and trembling’ is most always used when God is present (cf. Ps. 19:9; Isa. 64:2; Phil. 2:12-13)!
This is astonishing because the disciples obviously had to know that this man was not a mere man, but everything He said about Himself—that He is the Son of God, equal with the Father, the LORD—was true.
They knew they were and would be in the presence of God Himself.
Drenched with sweat, panting for air after they sprinted to the tomb which once held their Rabbi, the disciples’ winded lungs took a gasp of air, not for being out of shape, but out of pure amazement that their Lord was alive!
Fight For Sight
Do we respond to Jesus in that way? Do we, as individuals and churches, see the beauty and glory of the crucified and risen and reigning Jesus, and tremble?
Now, it doesn’t seem appropriate that this is a fear and trembling like one would do if they knew they were on death row, about to get the electric chair, fearing for their life. No, I think God intends for us to tremble in His presence because He is a good Father, the faithful Savior, and powerful Spirit, in whose “presence is fullness of joy” and at whose side are “pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Jesus deserves and demands our awe not because He is a vicious dictator or vain old woman seeking compliments, but because He is the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for His sheep, which should garner our loving awe at His sheer grace and mercy toward undeserving wretches like us.
This should affect both our own personal devotions, as well as our ministries.
It should affect our personal devotion to Jesus because we should be in constant realization that we are in the presence of the very LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, but it should also lead us to be in joy and peace that we are no longer enemies of this God because of the cross-work and empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
Further, as leaders of the church, the flavor of our ministries should taste like Mark 16; that is, we should constantly bring our people to the bleeding feet of Jesus and to the empty tomb of Jesus, imploring them to react to Jesus in fear and trembling, repentance and faith.
This kills all notions of both moralism and lawlessness; for, Jesus demands and deserves both more than outward obedience, but also demands and deserves our utter allegiance.
No, the life of repentance and faith is a life of death and resurrection: Dying daily to self and our fleshly desires, and seeking the resurrection, life, and joy of Jesus—the joy which He died to obtain for God’s children.
Friends, fight for sight. Fight to see Jesus every day. Remember Jesus. Respond to Jesus. Repeat.