Thursday, October 20, 2016

Evaluating a Ministry, Part 6

In the previous posts, I first introduced the basis for this series, and then proceeded to establish an evaluation based on the various perspectives as estimated from Mark 8. But the fullness of the evaluation does not come from others who think they know what should happen (Pharisees), those who are participating in the ministry (disciples), those who are recipients of ministry (the crowd), or even the minister himself/herself. (In this case, the minister is Jesus so humanly the previous statement might be true, but divinely it would not be and because we cannot distort the human from the divine in the case of Jesus, we must allow Him to be the exception to my statement!)

The Final Evaluator

The one “character” who is implied throughout the story is God (the Father). The Father is explicitly mentioned in v. 38, which ties the teaching of Son of Man (in v. 31) directly to God. This is also made abundantly clear in Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in verse 33. However, for the majority of the story, the implication is that God is either present, or being requested for proof of Jesus’ actions. God is certainly implied as the Recipient of Jesus’ thanks (v. 6), and from Matthew (16.17), we know He is the source of Peter’s confession about Jesus. However, God is the hidden meaning in the Pharisees’ request for a sign from “heaven” (Mark 8.11). A practicing Jew was careful not to utter the name of YHWH, and thus heaven became a suitable alternative for speaking of God.

So, God is, indeed, present in the passage under review. Interestingly, notice that the minister is thankful to God, the disciples are instructed by God, the religious leaders mistakenly try to use God to their advantage, and the crowd may be oblivious to God’s role in this. (Certainly, the crowd followed Jesus for three days (v. 2), but for what purpose? If these were Gentiles, as I believe, then they had no messianic expectations unlike the earlier crowd in Chapter 6. Thus, after they were fed, they may have simply left as Jesus requested.) If this scenario is true, it is not unlike many scenarios in churches today. But the question at hand, is truly what does God think?

The answer comes in Chapter 9. Let me review the sequence of events before disclosing God’s evaluation. In Mark 8, Jesus feeds the 4000, is confronted by the Pharisees, rebukes the disciples, heals a blind man, asks the disciples who others and they think He is, corrects their expectations about His coming, and casts a new understanding of what being His disciple truly means.

Following this series of events, Jesus takes three disciples with Him up the mountain where they see Jesus in all of His glory. This transfiguration of Jesus certainly would never be forgotten by these three (Peter, James, and John), but it is the words that God speaks that provide our evaluation.

Perspective: These men have just seen Jesus in His glory, but they must now focus on learning before they see Him beaten and battered. “I have shown them a glimpse of what is to come but they must focus on the present for now.”

Evaluation – Well done! “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him” (Mark 9.7). If we were to elaborate these exact words, God is essentially saying: “He is doing what He has been sent to do. He is teaching the truth that needs to be known. He is ushering in My Kingdom. Pay attention!”

In Mark 1.11, “a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’” God was speaking to Jesus as He was now entering a time of testing and then beginning His public ministry. In Mark 9, God speaks to those near to Jesus confirming that all that has been done is according to plan and they should listen to Jesus so they are ready when it is their time to go forth as well.

The Point

Everyone who has heard of Jesus has an opinion of Him. That is true now, and it was certainly true when He lived. Some only cared for what He could do (the miracle mongers), some only cared why He did what He did (the Pharisees), some were invited to join (the disciples), and some were perplexed by it all (e.g. Nicodemus). But all had an opinion. However, the only opinion that mattered to Jesus was that of His Father. In fact, Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5.19). Thus, Jesus was not acting on His own behalf, but was completely following God’s lead.

In doing so, Jesus ministered in such a way as to not only know who was truly evaluating Him, but how the evaluation was to be conducted. In essence, Jesus knew the expectations and thus could choose to fulfill them or not. But Jesus knew how to fulfill the expectations because He was watching for guidance from the One doing the evaluations! Therefore, the outcome was not only being getting God’s approval, but His endorsement as well.


What is true for Jesus is true for us as well! Only God was truly capable of evaluating Jesus ministry. No one else understood – especially, before the resurrection. (The disciples did not understand the term resurrection, let alone its implications!) But God had a plan and Jesus was working to fulfill His appointed mission regardless of the praise and adoration of some, the sneers and jeers of others, or the apathy of the rest. His focus was on doing God’s work and only paying attention to God’s critique.

Of course, we do not have the same insights that Jesus had, but a part of that is that many of us ascribe to the saying (intentionally or not) of being too busy doing ministry that we don’t have time to minister. Sometimes this is due to the expectations of others, but often it is fulfilling our own expectations of ourselves. But when this is true, it is never the expectation of God. Surely, we all have times of busyness. I doubt that anyone had more (differing) expectations on Him than Jesus. Yet, Jesus knew when His time had not yet come (e.g. John 2.4; 7.6). The truth is that God has given everyone the same amount of time in a day. And that amount of time is perfect to accomplish all that He wants us to accomplish for Him on that day. As we learn to know God better, we will discover that we might indeed find ourselves busier than ever. However, what we find ourselves doing will have consequences that reach much further and last much longer than the concerns of most people – including those that may evaluate us.

The truth is that while most people in ministry may not know exactly what God’s expectations are, they realize that their efforts do not match the expectations God likely has for them or their ministry. But rather than wonder, Jesus took the time to know God and to know what He wanted – each and every day. What if today’s ministers did the same? Again, we may not have the exact insights that Jesus had, but God has promised to draw near to those who draw near to Him (James 4.8). That verse is just after the statement the need to resist the devil, who is aiming to take us off course. If we seek to gain God’s approval, we must maintain our focus on the only evaluation – and the only Evaluator – that matters.

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