You’ve Never had a CEO like Jesus!
In the mid-1990s Laurie Beth Jones wrote a popular book with the provocative title, “Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership”. Jones looked at the life of Jesus through the lens of a CEO. Based upon his sayings Jones touches on issues like boldness, discipline, management, and recruitment. To Jones Jesus was the epitome of the best possible Chief Executive Officer – one whose business thrives, in which customers are satisfied, and in which people work with great satisfaction.
What if Jesus were your CEO? As we look at our text from Mark’s gospel, we will discover that Jesus does not want to be your CEO. He wants to be much more than that.
Mark 8:22-33 New International Version (NIV)
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.” 27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
1. Jesus wants you to see him clearly
We have before us two different kinds of passages; one is a miracle of Jesus and the other is a teaching of Jesus. But both are saying the same thing: when you consider Jesus, you need to see him in focus. Jesus wants you to see him clearly.
Jesus and his disciples come to the town of Bethsaida on the See of Galilee. There we read of people leading a blind man to Jesus, begging him to heal the man. Jesus took him by the hand and led him out of the village away from the crowd. After spitting on the man’s eyes (sounds quite unorthodox) and placing his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” (8:23).
The man responds, “I see people; they look like trees walking around”. He sees, but inadequately. Then Jesus put his hands on his eyes and “he saw everything clearly”.
This two-stage healing process becomes a metaphor for the disciples. Like the blind man, they too were not seeing Jesus clearly.
What is this? It is a kind of seeing without perceiving. Before this incident Jesus feeds four thousand people. And when he is alone with his disciples, he warns them about the yeast of the Pharisees. The yeast is the teaching of the Pharisees. The disciples think Jesus is referring to the fact that they had not taken bread along. Jesus answers, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand?” (8:17).
Thus, to see clearly is to understand fully who Jesus is. Mrs. Jones wants us to see Jesus as a CEO. But most certainly such an understanding of Jesus is inadequate at best.
Why is it important to have a clear understanding of who Jesus is? Because understanding leads to response.
A year ago, Nico and Lily understood themselves as boyfriend and girlfriend. But last December Nico got down on his knee and presented Lily with a ring. Lily understood where this was going. She responded with “yes” and now they are engaged, soon to be married. Knowing leads to responding in a manor that is in line with the knowing.
2. Seeing Jesus clearly elicits either attraction or revulsion
Jesus wants to know people’s perception of him. Thus, he asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” (8:27). They tell him that folks consider Jesus to be John the Baptist raised from the dead, or a modern-day Elijah, who was to be the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal 3.1), or one of the OT prophets of old. All three categories were of those who heralded Messiah’s coming. They were preparatory.
Then Jesus asks his disciples who they thought he was. Peter, as is so often the case, becomes the spokesman for the eleven and says, “YOU are the Christ!”
They get it. Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the one the Old Testament has prophesized would come and would rule the world. But in their mind Jesus, the ultimate CEO, would overthrow the oppressive Roman dictatorship and establish his new world order. Indeed, this is what Daniel and Isaiah wrote about.
Then Jesus intimates that they are, like the blind man that he healed in stages, “seeing men as trees walking around”.
Jesus then says, “Yes, you are right. I am the Messiah, the Christ. I will turn everything upside down and rule all rulers and become the king of all the earth – but not yet.”
Then he goes on to tell a horror story; one that they would not believe. We now come to the high point of the gospel of Mark with what Jesus is about to say.
“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (8:31). So important is this that Jesus repeats it three times before he actually gets to Jerusalem.
Notice two very important things Jesus says here. Twice he says the Son of Man must be rejected, he must be killed. The word must here is a very special word in the original Greek. It means that this is a divine imperative. God has willed for this to happen. So, this is not an accident or the action of evil people. It is something that God has ordained must happen.
The second thing is the way Jesus references himself. He uses his favorite term to describe himself: the Son of Man. Eighty-one times in the four Gospels is this phrase “the Son of Man” on the lips of Jesus to describe who he is. Notice too, that Jesus uses the definite article: “the” Son of Man. Not “a” Son of Man. What does this mean?
This phrase is found in the book of Daniel in the OT. This is what we read in Daniel 7:13-14
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Jesus says, “I am this Son of Man, the Messiah, the CEO of a new world order, and I will set up a kingdom that will not be destroyed. But before that happens, I must be destroyed!”
Jesus will be destroyed. He will be rejected and killed by the Jewish religious leaders – the ones who should have bowed down to the Messiah, crucify him.
Before an indestructible new world can come, the ruler of this new world must be destroyed! To understand prophecy in the Old Testament and how it relates to the New Testament an analogy would be helpful. Old and New Testament texts are like the sites on a gun barrel. Think of holding a rife in your hand. With your rifle you will aim at a target. To hit the target, you must align the sites. There are two sites on your rifle: the front site and the rear site. You aim by looking through both sites and aligning them with one another. Such is prophecy. In the Old Testament we have the rear site – far into the future. But in the New Testament we have the front sight, close to the shooter.
Jesus is giving us and his disciples the front site of what will happen to him. He will be and must be destroyed. The disciples knew this from the words of Isaiah the prophet 800 years prior to Jesus.
(Read Isaiah 52:13-53:6)
Like Isaiah foretold, the disciples were appalled.
Seeing Jesus clearly elicits either attraction or rejection. The disciples were horrified. They rejected what Jesus said about himself. Peter took Jesus aside and “began to rebuke him.” (8:32). This is a very strong word, one that was used to describe Jesus silencing the demons (1:25, 3:12).
Peter and the others wanted to hinder the divine injunction: the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, die. They wanted to guard Jesus from destruction. It was Satan’s desire to do the same thing. He tempted Jesus three times with the goal of keeping Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus rebuked Satan then, and he rebuked Peter as well.
Peter was minding the things of men and not the things of God. Peter was seeing men walking around as trees. His vision was unclear. And because his view of Jesus was marred, he rejected the way Jesus perceived himself to be.
But what makes Jesus so attractive? It is the reason for the divine imperative, the must. Why did Jesus have to be rejected and killed by the religious rulers of that day? So that his death would affect our living.
In the text that we read from Isaiah, he interprets why Jesus had to die: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him . . . and the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5,6).
This is the reason why Jesus left heaven to come to earth – to take away the sins of the world (Joh 1:29). This means that Jesus came to die to put to death that which we have produced – our very own personal sin; the evil things we have done, thought, and said that have hurt God and others.
Jesus was the lamb of God, the sacrifice in our stead. In Jewish theology a sacrificial animal had the guilt of the one offering it up to God imputed or transferred to it. When there is guilt, the guilty person must pay or atone for his guilt. The lamb was the payment for the infraction.
Now, let’s carry this over to Jesus, who the New Testament calls the lamb of God. His death on the cross was mediatory: it is your death that he died. The cross was more than the elimination of Jesus, it was his legitimation. Everything that you did that made you guilty before God and yourself was transferred over to Jesus, who was guiltless. He dies, you go free. He takes on your sin, you take on his righteousness. He is separated from the Father, so that you might be related to the Father.
But only on one condition – that you appropriate his death for yourself.
3. Seeing Jesus clearly means appropriating his life personally
How do we respond to who Jesus is? We could respond with “so what?” What does what happened 2,000 years ago have to do with me today? Everything!
Remember the divine imperative in the word MUST? The Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, die. Then comes the ultimate MUST – “after three days he MUST rise again.”
If Jesus was destroyed and was raised from the dead that means both his death and his life have relevancy for my life.
“Alive from the dead” – he is present here and now! The invitation he extends is to appropriate his transcendent presence in our lives. For, we can know Jesus like we know a good friend.
No, you’ve never had a CEO like Jesus! Jesus is beyond great. His is more than beautiful. He is absolutely in love with you. How do you know that? Because he gave his life up for you.
Remember Nico extending a shiny ring to Lily? How did she respond? With great joy, as Nico slipped the ring on her finger.
I invite you as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to respond like Lily did. Appropriate what Jesus did. Embrace him as your ever-present Lord and Lover. No, you’ve never had a CEO like Jesus! Amen.