Mark 8:35 “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.”
What in the world does that mean?
Truly for many this is one of the most esoteric passages in the Bible. Jesus is speaking after predicting his own death and after rebuking Peter with the famous words “Get behind me Satan.” He calls a crowd around him along with his disciples and talks to them about losing their lives.
Do we take the passage literally? Is Jesus advocating suicide?
Of course He is not.
He is talking about dedication to Jesus, to God and to the Gospel. If you dedicate your life to God [or lose your life] you will save your life.
This is a very important idea that is being expressed in God’s word. This is “something you can take to the bank”. This is God speaking through His Son. It is an example of what Dr. Willard calls “a principle” of the Bible.
Too often people who say they study Scripture get wrapped up in the incidentals of Scripture. Incidentals are specific instances of Scripture that apply to particular people in particular instances. Do they apply to all people? Are they general pronouncements? No they are not.
In my Sunday School class we have been studying The Grave Robber, a focus on seven miracles of Jesus. Recently we had a class on the miracle of the lame man at the Baths of Bathesda. Maybe as we look at this miracle we can get insight about what Willard means about incidentals and principles.
For thirty-eight years an invalid had gone to the Baths, known for their healing powers. He certainly needed a healing. Superstition said that when the baths bubbled, the time was ripe to jump in and receive a healing. The problem the invalid had was he could not get off his mat to get to the pool in time. He was lame and had been for his whole life. Others jumped ahead of him. When Jesus arrived on the scene, the invalid asked if Jesus could help him get into the waters as they are stirred. Instead Jesus said “Pick up your mat and walk.”
Of course I am using this story to illustrate the difference between principles of the Bible and incidentals of the Bible. What is the incidental? Jesus is violating a Pharisaical rule that one must not work on the Sabbath. This day was the Sabbath. Jesus was telling the man to “pick up his mat” and “do work.” This was providing Jesus’ detractors just another reason for Him to meet His death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, another “incidental” violated.
But dig deeper about what has happened. What did this poor man need? He needed a healing. One of my Sunday School class members said it so well: “Grandpa told me that when the ox is in the ditch, you had better get it out.” He means certain circumstances supersede the incidental rules.
This is one of the meanings of the story of the invalid. Jesus did what needed to be done. Did He break a rule? He did. Should He have broken the rule? You answer that one. He was faced with a man who had been on a mat for 38 years waiting for a healing. He healed the man. He told the man to pick up his mat because he did not need to lay on it any more. Maybe it was symbolic of his healing.
What’s the problem? The problem is with the people who focus on the incidentals of scripture.
I have been writing about the words of Scripture lining up with what we are about to do. Perhaps we feel God is giving us direction. Perhaps God has spoken a word to you. You have your doubt. So you turn to Scripture for confirmation.
What if you start looking for incidentals?
You are probably going to be confused.
Dr. Willard says we need to focus on principles “something that wells up from the whole Bible and the totality of the experience of God’s people through history.”
Principles are the big issues that God and Jesus have expressed in Scripture, not the issues that will have us as Christians “lost in the weeds.”
Let me end on a principle that Dr. Willard cites, one of the most significant principles in the whole Bible [Mark 12: 30-31] “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Challenge for all of us to obey?
A principle to take to the bank?
*I hate to use the expression “take to the bank” but I think it communicates that you can rely on this idea. That is my intention.