On the ledge above my kitchen sink sits a little postcard with the phrase:
“In the morning when I rise, Give me Jesus”
The phrase comes from an old song, which happens to be one of my favorites:
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.
And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
When I come to die,
Give me Jesus.
Whenever we hear this song, I nudge my husband’s arm and remind him that I want it to be sung at my funeral. He smiles, tells me he remembers because I’ve told him a million times, but I don’t want him to forget. Because, really, this is the summary of the Christian life: Jesus is all you need — from beginning to end — both in life and death.
I need constant reminders of the gospel in my daily life, and having words like this surrounding me is a great way for that to happen. But it’s all too easy for me to begin believing only half-truths when I read this card and even cry out for Jesus to help me in the midst of my day. Just yesterday as I stood there looking at this postcard, it occurred to me that getting out of bed in the morning and beginning my day with coffee and my Bible is a practical way to put Jesus first, a living-out of this cry of my heart to “Give me Jesus”. But how quickly I get going into the rhythms of my day, meeting the needs of my family, struggling with the sinful war that rages in my soul, and generally stumbling along through all the issues of life and suddenly it’s 10Am or lunch time and I’ve either neglected to cry to Jesus or I’m just not sure that he’s actually doing anything to help me because the struggles of being a Mom — or just a person — feel less than the wonderful day that I had envisioned while sitting in the quiet of my chair with my Bible open in my lap.
We’ve been studying the gospel of Mark in our Women’s Bible study at church this year, and becoming reacquainted with the details of Jesus’ life and ministry has been refreshing and challenging in many ways. Mark introduces his audience, Gentile Christians living in Rome, to the story of their Savior’s life. They had believed and received the gospel, but they were in the midst of persecution and needed reminders of the identity and purpose of Jesus, as well as their purpose as his followers. Mark tells the story of Jesus that includes the life and faith of the disciples. You see belief, wonder, fear, amazement, and struggle in the life of the disciples; their belief grows and then wavers all within the same chapter. Jesus has changed their lives and brought about the Kingdom of God and they aren’t always sure how to interpret what he says and does.
The 12 disciples want to be with Jesus. They are drawn to him. And the crowds respond in much the same way. Through the miracles Jesus performed and his authoritative teaching, people are amazed. Of course there are the skeptics–there will always be those–and Jesus addresses the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish Law, putting them in their place, exposing their hearts, and simultaneously bringing about his own suffering and death as they plot to kill him because of his bold claims.
Mark’s account of Jesus’ life is not a slow-paced one. He moves from one encounter to another and uses words like ‘immediately’, ‘and’ and ‘then’ throughout the narrative. It’s fast-paced, and commentators liken reading through this gospel to watching a train speed by. This is what happens for the first 8 chapters of the book. You almost feel the need to catch your breath or sit down to soak it all in.
It’s beautiful, compelling, and you feel like you know who Jesus is and what he’s all about by the middle of the book.
Yes, give me this Jesus! I want to follow him too! This seems to be the response of both the disciples and the crowds of people, and it’s no wonder. Jesus truly is remarkable.
And then, all of a sudden, it’s as if the train screeches to a halt and Jesus says something startling. At the end of chapter 8, he told the disciples that he was going to suffer and die. Yes, he promised that he would rise again, but the suffering and dying wasn’t what the disciples had planned for their Teacher and friend. Jesus didn’t stop there, though, as if his own purpose wasn’t difficult enough to digest. He went on to explain what would be necessary for anyone who might follow him:
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[d] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
You can almost hear the thoughts in people’s heads when Jesus spoke these words. Wait a minute. I thought following Jesus was going to mean miracles and healing and power and authority and abundance. What is this losing my life to save it and forfeiting my soul? Give me…Jesus?
Just as quickly as Mark slows his recounting of the story, our souls slow down as we wrestle with this startling reality of being a follower of Jesus.
Because what Jesus is saying is that following him is going to look very different from what we would imagine and plan.
When I say, “Give me Jesus,” I want his help, his strength, his endurance, and his goodness to shower me and empower me for my day. When you say “Give me Jesus,” you’re crying out for tangible reminders of his presence and the joy that comes from abiding in him. And these things will happen. He is with us, he does help us, and we are given the power of the Holy Spirit to live and move as the people of God.
But it doesn’t end there. Whether we realize it or not, the startling reality of saying “Give me Jesus” is that in essence we are saying, “Give me anything it takes for me to really treasure Jesus above anything else.” And when you say this, you need to be prepared.
It might look like your day being just as hard as it was before you cried out to God.
It might look like your kids continuing to disobey.
It might look like a husband who still doesn’t know how to meet your every need.
It might look like forgiving that friend who hurt you.
It might look like you losing your job.
It might look like some terrible tragedy that you wish you could avoid.
But when you say “Give me Jesus,” you also gain a treasure that can never be taken away. You actually get Jesus.
Our Pastor who led the training at the beginning of this year’s Bible study said this to our women leaders: What feels like life often leads to death, and what feels like death often leads to life.
This is the upside down nature of God’s Kingdom and it’s the upside down nature of being a member of his kingdom. When you say Give me Jesus, you’re saying, Give me the forfeiting of my soul. Give me suffering. Give me the reversal of my desires. Give me humility. Give me a heart of service. Use me up for you, Lord, whatever that means.
So, by all means, plaster the phrase “Give me Jesus” on your walls and tattoo it on your forearms. Sing it at the top of your lungs and cry it out to the Lord every minute of every day.
But hold on and get ready. Because Jesus is going to take you on a journey unlike anything you could ever imagine. He’s going to show you the wonderful powers of his character and you’ll stand amazed at watching him work. And he will also show you the place of humility, loss and suffering. You’ll find that when he does you will be given the strength to say, like the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Mark wrote for his audience so that they would really know and be encouraged by Jesus, and that mission was accomplished.
We live our lives and cry out, “Give me Jesus” so that we will truly come to know and be encouraged by Jesus. This can only be gained through sharing in all of the facets of Jesus’ life – tasting his glory, yes, but also tasting the suffering.
One day, when it’s all said and done and Jesus has returned to carry away his bride, the only thing we will taste is the glory. The suffering, the loss, the struggle of our souls will all be forever turned right-side-up into the glorious joy of the forever presence of Jesus when we see him face to face.
“Give me Jesus”