Jesus Is the Engine
This is our last message in the series. We’ve been exploring what Christianity is all about and we’ve said: It’s not about religion, and rituals, and how good and proper you can be, how you can fix yourself. Knowing Jesus does bring a new passion for holiness, but even that isn’t the engine. Jesus is the engine. Christianity is about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s about hooking up to Jesus as the engine for moving through life.
What I’m getting at is not merely believing, but following. It’s one thing to believe that driving north on I-75 will land you in Cincinnati. It’s another thing to get behind an engine and move north on I-75. In other words, there’s a difference between understanding something, thinking that it’s true, and actually relying upon it.
Today I’m going go back to Mark 8 and revisiting the stories of the blind man and Peter. Because there is something about following Jesus that is embedded into those narratives that we didn’t address before.
Let me start by asking you…
• Why do you think Jesus healed people?
Certainly he was caring for people’s needs. Certainly he was showing his authority over sickness. Certainly he was fulfilling Old Testament prophesy. Certainly he was giving a sign that he was the Christ, the anointed king, come to save his people.
And… my next question is a critically one…
• What do you think Jesus came to save people from?
Well, it wasn’t to save them from the Romans. He came to save them from sin and its consequences by bearing that sin himself on the cross.
Now, Jesus’ healing of the blind man also makes another point. It tells us that there are times in life when something clicks, you understand, a light is turned on, and everything changes.
I recall being about 5 years old and sitting in the kitchen with my mother and she was busy drilling me with subtraction flash cards. I wasn’t doing well. She was upset. I was crying. Then, all of a sudden, something clicked. I figured out how to move everything to 10 and go from there. I began to smile through the tears. Praise came from mom. The light turned on; I’d had an epiphany.
Through the multiple eye-sight miracles in the Bible Jesus is saying, “This is what happens to the soul.” He’s saying, “ Look, see, this is what God does in your life. This needs to happen in your life. ‘Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).”
Our tendency is to think: “God, you need to show up and fix my mess.” That’s how we pray. That’s how we talk. But God says, “Umm… that’s not how it works; that’s not even what it’s about. You need to have you eyes opened. You need to say with John Newton, ‘Once I was blind, but now I see.’”
Sometimes the seeing comes as a two-stage event:
(1) Maybe there’s a movement towards Jesus, we’re thinking, “Ah, Jesus ain’t so bad; real Christians ain’t so crazy.” We’re sensing an openness in our soul. What’s most alive in us is a curiosity, an interest to draw closer.
(2) Then, the second stage comes… we begin to see that Jesus himself is the answer to the deepest longings of our heart. We’d thought we needed better life conditions, but we see Jesus was all we needed. What’s most alive within us is a draw to wait patiently in his embrace.
Remember the story of the blind man? This is what happened to him.
“Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees, walking’” (Mk 8:23–24).
The man is seeing, but things are still out of focus. …
“Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (Mk 8:25).
• Who was the first person the blind man saw clearly was?
A: The one who was right in front of him: Jesus.
The first thing about following Jesus is realizing that he’s the engine. He’s brings change from the inside out. Therefore, what’s needed is an encounter with him. You may come to that through the church or through the Bible, but they’re secondary. You have to meet a person and he must do something: Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, must turn the light on.
Have you ever stared at one of those dot pictures with the hidden images? A college friend had one in his dorm room and I starred at it until my eyes went blurry and my friend wondered if I’m okay. But, then, all of a sudden, the image pops out. Boom, there it is! Well, it’s like that, suddenly Jesus isn’t a historical figure in a book, he’s my Lord and savior.
That’s how it was with James Cash Penny. J.C. Penny tells in his autobiography how he was in the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan trying to regain is health, and one night he thought he was dying. He wrote several letters and went to bed thinking that he wouldn’t be there in the morning. But, he was alive come the morning. So he got up and walked down the hall.
He heard singing coming form the hospital’s chapel; it was the old hymn: “Be not dismayed whate’er betide. God will take care of you.”
He slipped into the chapel, and found a seat in the back. Someone read from the Bible and someone prayed. Then, J.C. Penny spontaneously bowed his head. What was most alive in him was a pleading question, he prayed silently: “Lord, I can do nothing. Will You take care of me?” “Over the next few minutes,” he said, “something happened to me … it was a miracle.” He saw, he trusted, he rested.
The first person that happened to was Peter. As we saw a few weeks back, the disciples were kinda seeing Jesus, but he was still a bit blurry…
“And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets’” (Mk 8:27–28).
Jesus was like a tree, people didn’t really get who he was: “Umm… we don’t know if Jesus is a tree or Elijah,” they we’re saying. So, Jesus makes the question personal…
“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” (Mk 8:29).
In other words… “You can tell me what others say. But what do you say?” Jesus is getting personal.
“Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ’” (Mk 8:29).
Peter’s like the blind man. When Jesus makes it personal, the lights go on. And, now that Peter’s get’s it, he’s getting hooked up to the engine.
But remember that Peter was confused as to where Jesus was going.
“And Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mk 8:31).
Peter’s thinking, “Jesus, you’re the one. You’re my Lord. You’re my savior. You’re going to restore our economic fortunes, our military might, push back the boarders of Israel to where they were under David. You’re going to get the Romans out of hear.” So, Jesus’ declaration about suffering and dying is an absolute disaster to Peter.
What does Peter want? He wants Jesus on his own terms, and wants Jesus to take care of his concerns.
If Jesus is the engine, you can ask him for sight like the blind man did, like J.C. Penny did.
If Jesus is the engine, you go where he’s headed, not the other way around. This means that let go of dictating the direction of travel. You let go of idea that God is the pizza delivery man, bringing your order.
“Peter,” says Jesus, “I’m the engine. I’m what this whole thing is about. So, if you’re going to have any part of me, if you’re going to follow me, you have to go where I am going. And, Peter, I’m going to the cross. I’m going to give my life for you. I’m going to make it so your sin no longer separates you from my Father. I’m going to remove your fear of the Father and enable you to dance.”
“Peter,” says Jesus, “I’m not a passport to a self-indulgent life. I’m not even the way to a comfortable life. I’m not here to satisfy your ego. I’m here to de-center you, to cause you to orbit something other than yourself—my Father.”
“Peter,” says Jesus, “This is how I’m loving you. This is what my rule is like. I’m not tyrannical.”
“Peter, says Jesus, “I’m inviting your respond to what’s most alive in your right now. Come, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul, Peter. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (see Matt 11:29–30).”
Following Jesus, rather following myself isn’t easy. Sometimes turning way from myself feels like death. Perhaps that’s exactly why Jesus said:
“‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?’” (Mark 8:34–37).
What does it mean to follow Jesus? To hook up to that engine? It means having the light turned on. It also means he doesn’t follow us, but we follow him. He doesn’t rely on us, we rely on him.
Nearly a decade ago I was working on my doctorate in Scotland. My wife at the time was lonely for her home in Hong Kong. She wanted to go back indefinitely. We argued, eventually settling on a 6-week trip. But half way through the trip she wrote me to say would never be returning.
I didn’t know what to do. After seeking counsel I felt compelled to pack up my household goods and move to China. I fought with God about it. I didn’t want to go to China. I didn’t want to live there for the rest of my life. But God cornered me and asked, “Do you trust me?” I confessed I didn’t, but I wanted to. The desire to trust was what was most live within me. “So, pack it up and mover, Dan, for that’s were I’m headed.”
It was another 9 months moving was possible, but the relief I felt when I finally surrendered, saying, “Okay, Lord, I’ll follow,” was real. The weight of the world lifted from my shoulders, a warm peace flood my soul. I was hugged by the Father.
When you drive on I-75 you see many billboards. Many mean nothing to you. But there’s the one, that on the right day, seems to call to you: “2 for 1 Big Macs, exit 22.” A lot of people hear of Jesus, but pass him by. But some draw near, then the lights go on,. They see themselves and Jesus differently—they get it. And they’re compelled by what’s most alive within them to hook up to the engine and follow.
Where are you this morning? What’s most alive within you? Will you follow?
You think about it.