Taken together, the two readings that are set for today make for uncomfortable reading. Both passages are about the darker side of the Christian pathway.
In Mark’s gospel we see Jesus, working, teaching, preaching, healing....as usual. So busy that He and His disciples didn’t even have time to eat.
And all the thanks He gets for it are, firstly being misunderstood by His own family who say that He is out of His mind. And secondly by the teachers of the Law who say that He is possessed by the Devil.
Great! Wasn’t there anyone who recognised Him as Lord? Hopefully the disciples did.
But notice Jesus— who went head to head with Satan on a daily basis...and was victorious....notice Jesus does not deny the existence of the Devil and the demons.
I think it was C.S. Lewis, in his book The Screwtape Letters who said that Christians make one of two mistakes when talking about the Devil. either they give him too much credit or they mistakenly say that he does not exist at all.
Not Jesus. He knows that, like a strong man tied up, Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus was victorious over all evil on the cross and we have nothing to fear.
Then, in the passage from Corinthians, Paul talks about all that he and his fellow workers have suffered because they proclaim the Gospel and because they declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.
He says in verse 8: we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted , but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.
That makes hard reading doesn’t it?
But it seems that he is happy to accept that suffering for the Gospel is sure to happen, and he is happy to embrace it as long as it brings glory and thanksgiving to God, and Life to fellow believers.
How could this be? And indeed , how did Jesus Himself endure such opposition?
The way forward for them and for us is seen in verse 18. It says that Paul and his colleagues “fixed their eyes, not on what they could see, but on what is not seen.”
That is a bit of a conundrum isn’t it? How can you fix your eyes on something that you can’t even see?
It means this; they kept in their hearts and minds the certainty of what the future held.
In v14; We KNOW, that is we are certain that God will raise us up just as He did with Jesus
In v16; we do not lose heart, we are being renewed.
In v 17; our troubles are achieving glory for the future.
And in Ch 5v1 We have a building that God has made for us.
And this is just as it was for Jesus. Reading from Hebrews ch 12 and verse 2
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”
We have all gone through trials of various sorts especially in the last year or so, we will undoubtedly go through more throughout our lives. How can WE keep moving forward in our faith?
We do it in just the same way as Jesus and His disciples did; we fix our eyes on Jesus and the certainty of a future He has promised us and prepared for us in heaven with Him.