We Want to Fight
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6).
Mark 6:7-13 tells how Jesus sent out his apostles to spread the word of his kingdom come. Everything is different. Hope abounds!
Then, Mark makes what seems to be a diversion to tell about the death of John the Baptist. It’s not until verse 30 that he tells us about the apostles coming back from their mission. So we have what commentators call a Markan sandwich. Jesus sending the twelve (Mark 6:7-13) and receiving the twelve back (Mark 6:30) are the pieces of bread, and the story of John the Baptist’s death (Mark 6: 14-29) is the meat that makes it a meal. It tells us, in blunt and honest terms, what it means to be sent from God. It tells us about the cost of discipleship.
The Cost of Discipleship
In calling his first disciples, Jesus made certain they understood the cost of following. He said that God’s kingdom, for God’s people, must be the first priority.
He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:25-32).
He also said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23).
And he said, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
One day a scribe came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22).
So to be sent by God is to be sent into hardship for Jesus’ sake. On the front end of it all, he calls us to deeply accept that as part of the deal. He prepared the apostles for hardship, but he gave them his power. He does the same for us. It’ll be hard, but we’ll be with Jesus, and doing anything with Jesus, no matter the hardship, is a privilege we do not earn. Even suffering for Christ is undeserved grace. And we are not suffering pointlessly. When we suffer for Christ on his mission, we’re suffering for the sake of all who will hear. We are, in a small way, playing out the very gospel story that we preach. That’s why the apostle Paul said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Colossians 1:24).
A Long Line of Sufferers
When we suffer with Jesus, we are standing right smack-dab in the middle of historical Christianity. We are standing with the apostles, who gladly suffered for Jesus’ sake. We’re standing with the Reformers who risked their lives to return gospel-centrality to the Church. We’re standing with those who fought for social justice in an unjust America. We’re standing with the missionaries across the world who today aren’t sure about tomorrow.
If we want to see the world come to Jesus—and we do—then we’re going to have to suffer because in a world at war with God, there is simply no other way. And we want to say right now, that’s just fine with us. We want to fight for Christ.
There’s a scene in the WWII mini-series Band of Brothers where two soldiers are talking about the day’s events. Dick Winters says to Lewis Nixon after he returns from an airplane jump, “You’re probably the only man in the 101st with three combat stars over his jump wings.”
Nixon replies, visibly frustrated, “Not bad for someone who’s never fired his weapon in combat, huh?”
Winters can’t believe he’s never fired even a round. Nixon then tells him how after he jumped, the plane took a direct hit and all others were lost. He doesn’t seem happy to still be alive. Instead, he seems angry and depressed. Why? Because in his mind, he was never really in the fight. He never fired a round, and maybe he’d never get to. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself because he was in the war, he was sorry because he never actually was.
Christians are like that. When we, by grace, are drafted into God’s holy army, we want to be in the fight, to be on the front-lines sharing the gospel, taking our shots, because Jesus is there saving people, redeeming the world, doing what only he can do. It’s where the glory is!
We don’t want to reach the end of our life without firing a shot for Jesus! As the old hymn says,
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
We Want to Fight
John the Baptist confronted Herod with his sin not because he hated him and wanted to point out his flaws but because he loved Jesus and wanted to fight for his holiness. Bringing the gospel to the world will put the preacher of the gospel at odds with others. Some will come around and receive us. Others never will. That’s not up to us. Our job is only to spread the good news that there is Savior who will cleanse us, no matter how dirty we’ve made ourselves.
Our reason for fighting is not to demolish the other person before us. John didn’t approach Herod with that desire. Our reason for fighting is to see sinners saved by Christ. With Christ, it is not defense that wins championships; it’s offense. The gospel is advancing and God is doing his work. That doesn’t mean we will always be successful but it does mean God will.
We want to fight because our’s is a fight of joy to the world. We’re not mad at anybody, no matter how mad they get at us. We’re spreading the aroma of Christ, and if they don’t like it, they’ll have to take it up with him. They might wound us. They might shoot us. They might even kill us. That’s the cost we’re willing to pay. Why? Because the love of Christ compels us. And his is a dying love that brings life only through death.