Repent and Believe, part 8 (Mark 11-12)

Dr. Rachel Coleman

We’ve been on a challenging, encouraging, and sometimes surprising journey with Jesus and the Twelve through Mark’s Gospel. We’ve been tracking the real-life implications of answering the grand gospel invitation, “repent and believe,” and responding in obedience to the costly gospel imperative, “leave and follow.” (See the previous parts of the series here.) As Jesus and his disciples move into Jerusalem, with the shadow of the cross looming darkly over them, what it means to “repent and believe” takes on sharper edges.

In what is almost like a Shakespearean aside, Mark throws in a conversation between Jesus and the disciples about faith and prayer, sandwiching it between some big, public controversies. In Mark 11:22–25, Jesus teaches the disciples that a prayer life shaped by “repent and believe” will be grounded in three inseparably woven strands: trust God unreservedly (v. 22), ask boldly (vs. 23–24), and forgive extravagantly (v. 25). Asking boldly and well flows out of the relationship of confident trust in God and the disposition to forgive others.

The longer Jesus hangs out in Jerusalem, the more he finds himself in sharp conflict with the religious leaders. And for most of Mark 12, the disciples sort of fade into the narrative background as Jesus and his hostile opponents stand at center stage. Maybe, just maybe, “repent and believe” means that sometimes you have to step back, keep your mouth shut, and just watch and listen as Jesus does his thing, learning from him how to respond to hostility and opposition.

At the very end of Mark 12, there’s another wonderful little aside, with Jesus stepping back from the public stage to have a very intentional conversation with his disciples. Jesus’ words about “the widow’s mite” (12:41–44) make painfully clear that “repent and believe” means giving God the best, the fullest, and the necessary, rather than the leftovers, the “discretionary income,” or the expendable portion of our treasures, talents, and time. It means the kind of giving that expresses not just gratitude but dependence—a total reliance on God that will almost certainly look like foolish risk-taking in the eyes of the world.

Questions to consider:

  • Of the three strands that weave together a strong prayer life—trust fully, ask boldly, forgive extravagantly, which is the “weakest link” for you, and how can you strengthen it? What might change if you do?
  • Where does Jesus’ “conflict management strategy” impact your life? And where might he be calling you to “zip the lip” and let him speak into that situation?
  • How’s the level of risk-taking dependence reflected in your giving?

 

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