Jesus Under Pressure
May 27, 2012 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Gospel of Mark
Topic: Christian Living Passage: Mark 3:7–21
I came across an e-mail this week that got my attention. It had been circulated years ago from the US Peace Corp giving its volunteers who were working in the Amazon Jungle instructions on what to do if they are attacked by a python. Here’s what the instructions were:
Step 1 – don’t try to outrun it. It’s faster than you are.
Step 2 – Lie flat on the ground with your arms pressed tightly against your sides and your legs tightly squeezed against each other and chin tucked in.
Step 3 – the snake will then try to push its head under you, experimenting at every possible point. Don’t move and keep calm (for some reason that was underlined).
Step 4 – allow the snake to swallow your foot. It’s quite painless and will take a long time. Remember, keep calm.
Step 5 – Wait until the snake has swallowed up to your knees, then slowly reach down with your knife and insert it into the distended side of his mouth and with a quick rip severe its head off.
Now if you’re like me when I read that, you’re wondering if you’d be able to lie stock still and just allow a snake to swallow you, feet first. Well, don’t waste your time. Turns out, the e-mail was a joke. A python isn’t going to swallow its prey until it has throttled it first and then it pretty much always swallows head first, not feet first. So I’m rethinking step one – gonna try to outrun it and see if that works.
Fortunately being squeezed to death by a python isn’t something most of us actually have to lie awake at night worrying about, but there is something that most of us face regularly, if not on a daily basis, that can wrap around our hearts and squeeze with a force that can take our breath away. I’m talking about the pressures of life. The external and internal pressures that we deal with every day: pressures of our job, the pressures of school, the pressures of people’s demands on our time, the pressures of deadlines, the pressures of finances, the pressures of what others expect of us, the pressures of our own expectations for ourselves, the pressures of being married, the pressures of wanting to be married, the pressures of raising children, the pressures of wanting to have kids but not being able to. The pressures that come from looking ahead and saying “what am I going to do with my life?” and the pressures that come from looking back and saying, “what have I done with my life?”
Pressure is everywhere and in every season of life except young childhood. Pressure has a way of wrapping around our hearts and it feels like our hearts are being physically squeezed, only pressures don’t squeeze the life out of us, they squeeze the junk out of us. All the junk that’s in our heart has a way of coming out: anxieties, fears, impatience, frustration, laziness, jealousy, selfishness, anger, apathy. Pressure doesn’t put that stuff in our hearts, but it can squeeze it out like few things can.
Jesus dealt with a relentless amount of pressure during his earthly ministry and the passage we are looking at this morning as we continue our study in Mark’s gospel gives us a window into some of the intense pressure that he faced and how he responded to those pressures.
Title: Jesus under Pressure
Sum up the main point of this message with one sentence:
We see Jesus’ heart best when we see His heart pressed
And what we see is, rather that junk and sin getting squeezed out of his heart, the more he was pressed the more the aroma of a heart totally surrendered to God’s will and totally given to loving and serving people came out. Let’s pray and then read Mark 3:7-21.
I. Jesus under pressure
We might not think that Jesus experienced pressure because he is God and God can’t experience pressure, but Jesus was also fully man and in his humanity he could feel and be affected by pressure just like we are. And there was a lot of pressure on him:
a. He was hated by the religious leaders (2:1-3:6)
We just finished looking at five consecutive stories that Mark records to document the growing hatred of the religious leaders towards Jesus ending with their determination to destroy Jesus. Everywhere he went they dogged him looking for any inconsistency, anything to bring a charge against him. They didn’t just not like him – they hated him and were out for his downfall. There was pressure from being hated.
b. He was pressured by the constant needs of the crowds (vv. 9-10, 20)
At the same time Jesus faced the pressure of hostility, he faced the pressure of popularity. Verse 7 tells us that crowds were coming from everywhere: from Galiless and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon.
This isn’t a small, respectful group quietly listening to Jesus. This is an unruly mob – more like a massive rock concert or a Hollywood celebrity being pressed by fans and paparazzi alike. Verse 9 tells us he’s in danger of being crushed by the crowd and he needs to have a boat ready in case he needs to get out of there fast. Verse 20 tells us that he and his disciples don’t even have time to eat because of the relentless demands of the crowd.
c. The pressure from demons (vs. 11-12)
And then there are the demons violently crying out as he walked among them. What they say about Jesus is true but their purpose wasn’t worship, it was disruption.
d. The pressure from his own family (vs. 21)
And in verse 21 we see that even his own family thought he was out of his mind! There is constant pressure on Jesus and it only increases as he nears the end of his ministry. And yet, we see Jesus’ heart best when we see his heart pressed. I want us to consider three things that we see in how Jesus dealt with pressure and what came out of his heart – three things that draw us to love and trust him more and call us to be more like him in how we respond to the pressures we face. And then I want us to consider a fourth response that gives us our strongest assurance in the face of the strongest of pressures.
II. Jesus’ heart revealed under pressure
a. Jesus always took the time to get alone to pray (vv. 7, 13)
One of the patterns of Jesus’ ministry is his commitment to get alone to pray and spend time with his heavenly Father. He gives and gives and then gets alone. We see this pattern described in chapter one:
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35
And we see this pattern continued throughout his life and ministry. In verse 7 Jesus withdraws to the sea – in part to get alone to pray. In verse 13 when Jesus went up on the mountain to choose his 12 apostles, Luke tells us that he prayed all night before choosing them. Everything that Jesus did publicly flowed from his private time in prayer with his heavenly Father.
Pressure gets in our face and tells us we don’t have time to pray. There’s too much to do, too much on our mind, too much pressing on our hearts. You know what pressure squeezes out of our hearts? Independence from God. Self-sufficiency – I don’t need God, at least not as much as I need to take control and “git ‘er done”. I’m speaking out of experience – far too often that describes my heart.
But if Jesus, who accomplished more in 3 years of ministry than every other person in the history of mankind combined, needed to take the time to get alone with God and pray, we are foolish and shortsighted if we don’t see that we need to do the same. Someone has said if we don’t follow Jesus’ example and come apart, we may indeed come apart! May we learn from Jesus’ example and rather than allow pressure to tear us apart, may it drive us to God in prayer!
b. Jesus performed miracles motivated by compassion (vv. 7-12)
Even when Jesus tries to withdraw, the crowds find him and relentlessly presses him to heal their sick and deliver those who are tormented by demons. And yet Jesus never gets impatient with them and he never runs out of compassion for them. Jesus never gets sick of the sick. The pressure of constant demands on his time made it necessary for him to withdraw at times, but it never squeezed an unloving or selfish word or deed from him – squeeze Jesus’ heart and compassion and love comes out.
There’s so much we could say about this – we’ll take time to consider the power of Jesus to do miracles on another day – plenty of examples in this gospel. But from Jesus’ heart revealed by the press of the needy and suffering we can be assured of two things:
1. We can come to Jesus with every aspect of our lives too. Like the crowds pressed in just to touch Jesus we can press in to touch Jesus with our needs and fears and desires and loneliness, our struggles, and our weaknesses and our sicknesses and know that he never grows sick of our coming.
And he has the power to meet every need. He may not answer our prayers in the way or the timing that we want Him to, but it’s never because His compassion for us has dried up or because He isn’t able to, it means there is some loving purpose for it not to be removed. That gives us sustaining grace when a trial hangs on longer than we want it too. But we shouldn’t stop coming. If that describes you in some way, press in to Jesus in prayer and don’t stop and don’t doubt His love and compassion for you. Be persistent until you have touched the hem of his garment!
2. The Lord has called us to reach out to the needy and hurting with compassion even when their needs seem to demand more than we have. While we are never their Savior, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we pray and give and love and care for those around us. Whether it be a stranger in need of help, a co-worker we barely know, or someone very close to us. Spurgeon says of this call:
The more we do for Christ the more we may do, and I think usually the more we must do. If we hold back from Christian labor we may think that little is required of us, but as soon as we once enter, heart and soul, into the Master’s service, we shall feel as if we needed a thousand hands and a hundred lives to overtake the growing demands upon us. ~ CH Spurgeon
What comes out of your heart when people make demands on you? On your time? On your ease? On your peace? When your child demands your attention when all you want is some “me time”? When you know that serving in that ministry or getting involved with something would mean sacrificing some of your chill time on a weekly basis? What comes out of your heart when someone’s need interrupts your favorite TV show?
ILL: I remember getting an emergency call years ago – a married couple was in crisis. The problem was that they timed their crisis right at the beginning of a huge Giants-Eagles playoff game and I had invited a house full of people to watch it with me (even had some Eagle fans there!). My heart was being squeezed – and selfishness was oozing out. But in the long run their need was far more important than the game and God gave me grace. What oozes out of your heart when someone’s demands press on your heart?
I’m not saying that we never have a moment for ourselves or that we don’t sometimes need to say no or that we try to meet every need. Not even Jesus did that. But Jesus’ example under the pressure of the crowds doesn’t just assure us that we can go to Jesus, it also calls us to give our lives away in similar service – and expect our hearts to be squeezed! Spurgeon makes an important point: if we’re not involved in the labor we may feel like there’s not much work to be done – but if we begin to give ourselves to Christ’s work more and more, we will find it demanding more and more from us. And we will also find God giving more and more grace to our hearts.
c. Jesus interrupts the urgent for the important (vv. 13-19)
The third response we see Jesus have to pressure begins in verse 13. He goes up to a mountain – he does get away from the crowds and he calls the 12 disciples whom he will call apostles to himself in order to appoint them. What this is is Jesus interrupting the urgent for the important.
Sick people, demon-possessed people, spiritually hungry people relentlessly reaching out to Jesus, “heal me!” “Save me!” “Set my son free!” – these are urgent needs and there’s never a convenient time to stop. But Jesus knew that for his ministry to be preserved he needed to do more than heal and heal and heal. He needed to raise up men he could pass the responsibility to. They would carry on his work in the world after he ascended. They would preach and cast out demons and heal the sick. The church would be built on the foundation of their teaching. They would be the new 12 tribes of Israel, the forming of a new community of faith, people of God. The choosing of 12 wasn’t urgent, but it was essential to the continuation of Jesus’ ministry after he ascended!
Pressure’s slight of hand
Pressure has a built in slight of hand – it gets our attention on something while often hiding something else from our view – and often what we focus on is the urgent and what we lose sight of is the important. That’s one reason why so many people have regrets as they get older – not just because they deliberately chose stupid, evil things, but because they spent a lifetime focused on the urgent and neglecting the important.
So a man finds, too late, that he spent his life focused on the demands of the office, and neglecting the needs of his family. And when the day comes that the office throws him a retirement party, they give him a watch and tell him how much he meant to the office and then forgets him a couple days later, and he wakes up as if from a dream and realizes he doesn’t know his kids, or his wife, and he regrets missing the years he’ll never get back. Pressure did a slight of hand: keep your eye on the urgent.
The most common is focusing on urgent daily stuff but not tending to our spiritual life. Greatest slight of hand as we raise the temporal to a higher priority than the eternal. And then when we come to a place where the temporal is shown for what it is, our hearts are far from the eternal because we haven’t stored up any treasures in heaven.
The urgent is real and needs to have a part. And there are things that are important and urgent. But as hands reached out to Jesus and said, “My need! My need!” at points he needed to neglect an outreached hand to give his attention to the important, the lasting. Not because he didn’t love or care, but because he did.
Let’s pause for a moment: is there some area where the urgent is pressing your heart to constantly focus on it while neglecting some important area? What’s it squeezing out of your heart? What’s it revealing about your heart? Are you afraid if you stop it will all fall apart? Are you finding some sense of identity from always meeting that urgent need? Is there an andrenaline rush by always being in an urgent mode?
Jesus’ heart was pressed with the urgent but he kept his priorities straight. He interrupted the urgent for the important. May we learn to follow his example.
The pressures Jesus faced only grew as he approached Calvary. When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemene he was pressed hard. The name Gethsemene means “oil-press” and Jesus was pressed until he sweated blood as he asked his Father to remove the cup from him. But what that pressure squeezed out of his heart was submitted obedience to his Father’s will and that submission took him to Calvary where he hung on a cross for our sins.
And on the cross, pressed by God’s forsaking wrath, pressed by excruciating pain, pressed by the mockery of his tormentors and the religious establishment, what squeezed out of his heart were the words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
And because Jesus faced the pressure of Gethsemene and Calvary and responded with total obedience to his Father’s will, our greatest pressures have been removed. For those of us who are trusting in Christ as our Savior, God’s wrath for our sin has been removed by Jesus’ atoning death – we need not live in fear of judgment. God’s loving acceptance has been secured by Christ’s perfect obedience – we need not wonder if God accepts us. He does. God’s promise to care for us and lead us as a Shepherd is unshakable, for in Christ all His promises are yes and amen.
Jesus is our refuge in the storm – shelter from the pressures of life. Jesus is our anchor beyond the veil, tethering us to his eternal kingdom. So we can roll the pressures of life – whatever they may be for us – onto him. And we can ask Jesus to give us more of the kind of pressures that come from serving his cause and know that as we extend his love and compassion to the needy around us, he will pour more love and compassion into our hearts. And when the needs are too great for us, we know they are never too great for him.
In other words, the closer we are to Christ, the more pressure we will face, and the less pressure we will feel, for in Christ we know that nothing can press our lives unless he allows it to, and he will work his character into our hearts through the pressures so that more and more what comes out of us is like Jesus. All based on what he did, not on what we do. And that lifts all pressure off us. Let’s pray.
More in Gospel of Mark
March 31, 2013Shock and Awe at the Empty Tomb
March 31, 2013Shock and Awe at the Empty Tomb
March 24, 2013A Glorious View from the Mt Everest of Our Redemption