A King’s Ransom Launch: The “All The King’s Men” Sermon Rewind

It’s not just the verses that are inspired.

It’s the whole process — compilation, composition, design — that bear the marks of divine authority behind the Scriptural gift.

Nowhere is that more true than with Mark’s treatment of all the failures of Jesus’ disciplines.  Mark is meticulous, detailed, and sometimes even hilarious as he records all the foul ups of Peter, James, John, and the rest.

But the sermon hinged on the question:  how did Mark know?  He wasn’t there as either earwitness or eyewitness to what the disciples said and did.

The conclusion is obvious:  Mark knew because they told.  Jesus’ inner circle refused to be shamed by their secrets; they shared them instead.

It all led to this bottom line:  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.


Someone told me once that smart people surround themselves with smarter people.  Pretty good, isn’t it?  And maybe you’ve see that, or believe that, or maybe you wish you had heard it earlier because it would have prevented some epic fails in your life.

            But if anyone should know that smart people surround themselves with smarter people, it would be King Jesus, wouldn’t it (even though it would admittedly be hard to find someone smarter than the guy who created it all, but you get the idea …)?  Because we are all about A King’s Ransom on the way to Easter this year and every king, any king, has all the king’s men.  A posse.  An entourage.  A supporting cast.  And the least you could expect Jesus to do was to select the cream of the crop, bold, insightful, courageous men. 

            And yet Mark’s portrayal of them is so different that, so detailed on that subject, such an unmistakable pattern.

            Because look:  they start out CURIOUS if slightly CLUELESS in 4:41:  

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Then they’re GLORIOUS in 8:29 as Peter is the first human being ever to identify Jesus for who he really is: 

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

All of Mark up to this moment has been an identity mystery where the reader knows what Jesus’ men don’t. So you’d expect that the big discovery by Peter here would lead to all kinds of blessing and favor.  Not so fast.  Because IMMEDIATELY Peter starts putting demands on what kind of Messiah Jesus can be and in so doing he turns, literally, DEMONIC in 8:33:

3But 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.”

Whew!  Curious. Glorious. Demonic. Delirious.  Because then things really begin spiraling out of control for all King Jesus’ men.

            Because remember – Mark could tell Jesus’ story by omitting all this but he doesn’t.  They are next argumentative & egotistical in 9:33-34:

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greates

Busted!  I genuinely love that scene.  Then two of them get ENTITLED in 10:35-37:

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 

Prime Minister on one side and Secy of Defense on the other!  And that entitlement mentality leads to MORE fighting in 10:41:

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

So: rivalry, backbiting, gossip, intrigue, jealousy … sound like any church you’ve ever heard of?  Sheesh.

            And all that, all that on this journey to the King’s Ransom is but prelude to the great culmination of the disciples’ story, an oft overlooked verse set aside in Mark 14:50.  Because Jesus is in this moment on his way with his cross to the hill of Golgotha where he will be crowned king of that hill and king on that hill.  And where are his men in his neediest moment? 

50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

 AWOL.  When the going got tough, the disciples were already gone.  Abandoned.  It is was bad that they postured and argued and fussed; it was exponentially worse that they looked after their own hides first and went off and HID.  Hiding was a way of life for these guys.  You know, I am convinced that the abandonment of the eleven in 14:50 was worse, much worse, than the betrayal of the one, Judas, in 14:45.  Judas’ betrayal, at least, seems to be part of the plan.  The abandonment?  Dunno.  Going got tough and they were long gone.  In hiding.

            So the question is WHY?  Less WHY DID THEY ACT SO BADLY FOR LONG? But more why does Mark, way more than any other of Jesus’ biographers, go to such lengths to make fun of the king’s men?  Is it to distinguish this new faith from every other king and ruler and religion whose stories get told in a sanitized way?  Like by a PR machine and not investigative journalism?  Is that it?  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s so that all of us reading the story will ask ourselves, “Ewwww.  How am I like them?  How am I egotistical, posing, and ultimately abandoning?”  Likely.  But there’s another, more fascinating reason why all the king’s men wear dunce caps.

            Consider this:  how does Mark know all this stuff?  How does he get all these details?  Now: we think he was there; he was the TMI guy in 14:51-2:

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Yet even if that was him, or if he was later, the fact remains he wasn’t inner circle.  Not one of the 12.  Much of this stuff he didn’t see first hand and most of those conversations he didn’t hear at all.  And that makes Mark & Scripture MORE INSPIRED, not less and here’s why:  the reason Mark knew is because they told.  He knew of Peter’s denial, the fight on the road, J & J’s ego trip, and the final, total abandonment because the guys involved in all the misdeeds fessed up.  They told.  The characters themselves, likely in acts of confession and contrition, told.  Honestly.  Not sparing the details or putting the spin.  Somewhere, they must have known they wouldn’t get past it if they didn’t share it.

            And more than that, Mark knew the Afterward.  You know how at the end of a book or even better, a movie, when the author or director will give you the Afterward & tell you what happened to all the people in the story in the coming years?  Like the end of the McDonald’s movie.  Well, Mark knew the rest of the NT and he knew church history and he knew what and who all these men became.  He knew the cowards became courageous.  He knew that Peter was crucified upside down – because he didn’t want to compare himself to Jesus by dying in the same manner – all because he WOULDN’T deny at the end the one he had denied at the beginning.  He knew that John died in exile, that James was felled by the sword.  Being a disciple was an even riskier job than a rock star:  none of them died peacefully, of naturally causes.  They died violently, at the hands of the oppressors and for the sake of their Savior.  One by one all the abandoners became martyrs. 

            They stopped hiding themselves and their stories and in so doing overcame their failures to write a newer, better story.  They got past it.  Huh.  So you know what that means?  You know what the thrilling truth from that emerges from a series of embarrassing stories?  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.  Mark knew because they told and in that telling there was liberation from the shackles of shame, failure, and cowardice.  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.

            Their transparency with Mark was the vital link in their ultimately triumphant story.  Transparency leads to triumph … even when triumph is martyrdom.  They became not defined by their flaws but by their faith.  They shared the stories instead of being shamed by them and yes in all that openness there was an overcoming.  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.

            And my goodness, how doubly true is this these days.  Someone here is hiding a compulsion.  It could have to do with a computer or gambling or shopping or purging.  And you can’t get past it.  The deeper it’s buried the more its roots dig in all over your life.  Someone else is hiding a past – maybe even a financial debt your new love doesn’t know about – and the longer it goes on, the less likely you are to tell it.  Someone else hasn’t owned up to the ones you love the most about those times you were villain or victim or both.  And someone is like that guy who was handed a box of chicken to go at KFC one time.  And he opened it up and noticed that it wasn’t chicken but accidentally the day’s receipts.  Thousands of chicken fried dollars!  And so he told them the mistake, exchange much dinero for greasy fried.  Well, the news heard about and got there lickety split to interview him. No, I’d prefer not to, he said.  Why not?  You’re the most honest man in town!  the news people said.  Actually, because I’m married and the woman I’m here with is not my wife.  Yep.  There’s no getting past that level of hiding.  Deception.   You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.

            Listen: you own what you reveal but you are owned BY what you conceal.  It’s just the way it goes.  Some of you have come to church today as the shamed possession of that secret, that story, that failure.  And the failure is defining you because it’s buried so deep.  Defining and then owning you.  But when you decide to reveal it, to tell it to your “Mark” – or your counselor or your mate or your pastor or your pilgrim in recovery – all of a sudden you own it.  You control it.  Please: own it and don’t be owned by it.  Assert the power the risen Jesus has already given you.

            Know this as well:  what you excuse will be exposed.  When you excuse it to yourself now – it’s not bad, it’s just flirting, everyone does it, I had to pay for that abortion, other people have done worse – you are setting yourself up for a painful exposure then.  And you’ll have the ruined family or even the arrest record to prove it.  Seen it up close & personal like.  Revealing is your choice. Exposure is your ruin, especially when it comes at the hands of your boss, your mate, the law.  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.

            Do you know the kind of thing I’m talking about?  Well on the elevated train tracks of the Chicago Transit Authority (the real thing, not the band (AV)), every so often they have these alcove areas.  The tracks are very narrow and there are occasions when workers are at risk of being sandwiched between trains coming in different directions.  So for worker safety, the CTA has added what they call “Fool Catchers” where a worker can scamper to safety, pause, and wait while trains pass by instead of sandwiching in.  Listen: most of us play the fool at one time or another.  We let ego get in the way, we feel entitled, we become argumentative, we abandon.  And when we play the fool, that’s when we need a fool catcher.  Many times, that’s our LifeGroup (though not at risk of being an Oversharer!), other times it’s a counselor, it’s a pastor, it’s a recovery group.  This is one place where our RC friends have something to show us.  While the confession booth is not necessary for forgiveness, I think it has a lot to speak for itself in terms of psychology.  Unburdening.  Empowering us to get past what is holding us back … because we stopped holding it in.  You’ll get past it when you stop hiding it.

            And listen: here’s what I’m not talking about.  The guy who sent a note to a company that said:  “I can’t sleep at night.  Here’s $100 I stole from you.  If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest that I owe.”  Nope. As AA says:  “half measures availed us nothing.”  It’s a full accounting, a thorough honesty, it’s locating your MARK and letting him know your flaws so you can then unfurl your faith. REF

            Because here’s the think about Mark, the AFTERWORD guy.  Because he is like those friends of yours who when you prove yourself to be a fool don’t consider that you’ve done a permanent job.  That was Mark.  He knew the rest of the story.  He knew that Peter, James, John & the rest had transparency … and that transparency was the prelude to victory.  More than that it was the resurrection of Jesus that made all that difference.  Because Peter, James, John and the rest must have realized:  He was abandoned and forsaken by US so that we could be embraced and forgiven by HIM.  He’s not only the one who SAID you will know the truth and the truth will make you free; he’s the one who embodies and empowers that freedom! 

And you – all you all the king’s men or all the king’s women – you’ve got a rest of the story as well.  A healthy marriage.  Kids who are whole.  Recovery from compulsion.  The ability to go to bed at the end of the day, do that searching & fearless moral inventory and realize:  I’ve got NOTHING TO HIDE.  Not from spouse, not from Savior.  Nothing.  Then we’ll be a people and a church truly in union with our King.