Icons: Mark 10.17-31


[I presented this to over 600 teenagers at Casady School on 13 October 2015, and the 25 adults at the Capitol Bible Study on 28 October 2015]

Most Protestants don’t get into Icons much, for lots and lots of reasons – some of which I think are correct, and some of which are a bit fishy. Icons are about imaging someone or something, putting it before your mind and eyes and hearts. There’s something of a close connection between the Icon and the person being imaged. One of my favorites is an Icon of Michael the Archangel. I don’t burn incense to it, or kiss it. But because of the name connection I do like having it. This set of true stories is very much about image, about iconing. So let’s quickly work our way through each section.

False Image (10.17-22): This young, wealthy fellow has an image he is portraying, a self-image. "I’m well-to-do, I’m upright because I’m right-up-there with the affluent and famed." And so he asked Jesus, “What must I do?” and Jesus says, “Do good, be good, keep the law.” “That’s me, Jesus! I’ve got my act together; my resume is clean and full. My image is good.” “Dude, there’s one thing missing, one thing smudging your image….your Image!” This wealthy guy had a false image, built on his own “having it all together,” “Looking good,” “Stylin’ and Profilin’,”etc. We, too, are obsessed with image: On the one hand, there is the image we put forward on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Vine, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. Our image is what we portray in all of the phony smiles, photoshoping, and cropping. On the other hand, our “self-image” is boosted – or bludgeoned – based on how many “Likes” or “Thumbs-up” we get! How often is your image a false image?

Competing Image (23-27): After the young, wealthy fellow slinks off and sulks away, Jesus sets out to correct the disciples’ perceptions, and it ends up being about conflicting images. What you imagine is the right image ends up being all wrong! “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!…they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved”” (23, 26)? The images that wow us and woo us may be all wonky and awry! What gets the affluence and the fame and the facetime may be, really, flat and fractured!

Sometimes pop-music gets it right, and sometimes it gets it really right:
“And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz” (Lorde, “Royals.”).
In the rest of that song, Lorde does a fine job exposing and stripping down the famous images.

How do we get away from those flat and fractured images, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (27). Is your image in conflict with what God really wants for you?

God’s Image (28-31 – esp. 31): Peter gets a bright idea, “Wait, we’ve left it all to follow you Jesus. Does that mean we’re on the right path?” Then Jesus describes all that his followers will have, even “persecution” and they have these things “now in this time,…and in the age to come eternal life” (29, 30). But it’s in v. 31 Jesus explodes our categories of image, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first”. Jesus describes God’s Icon, his image – the humility of God, the God who became human to make us humans like God (“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” 2 Corinthians 8.9), which comes out in v.32-34, and then in v.45; “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It strikes me that there may be one, or two or three of you here who are struggling with your image; that you’re not filling out the image others have of you or what you think you should have. And in anger or hurt, you’re harming yourself, maybe cutting yourself or doing something destructive to yourself. Let go of those images, and embrace the image of God. This is the image that matters, this is what it is to Icon God: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (31). Come, and receive Jesus Christ as he is freely offered to you in the Gospel!


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