The dictionary defines the word paradox as “a statement that seems to contradict itself, but may nonetheless be true.” For example, it is a paradox that standing is more tiring than walking. Our Lord gave us many paradoxical propositions in His teaching about the kingdom of God that dramatically departed from accepted opinion during the time He walked the earth . . . and today as well! Here are just three of these statements, which we might call paradoxical, taken from Mark’s gospel account of our Lord’s earthly ministry.
Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)
If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. (Mark 10:43)
Jesus turned the world upside-down in every way, including His use of such paradoxical pronouncements. He catches us off guard and teaches deep biblical truth in a way that we simply were not expecting! Who was expecting to read that to live you must die . . . to be great you must serve . . . to gain you must give? For that matter, when was the last time you considered that there is great blessing to be found in mourning, as Matthew 5:4 assures us?
These teachings of Jesus are designed to interrupt our self-focus and to shift it to our Savior. What Jesus is saying with His paradoxical teachings is that His way of living is far better than our way of living. He knows what is best for us, and in teaching us this truth, He is calling on us to totally trust, deeply depend, and radically respond to His call in our lives.
Who better to teach us which way to go than the One who is the Way? Who better to teach us truth than the One who is the Truth? Who better to teach us about life than the One who is the Life? (John 14:6.)
Here is a bit of insight from the prophet Isaiah that can be a source of both comfort and strength for you as you follow wherever Jesus is leading you, especially when it seems like He is leading you in a direction that you can’t understand:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
The Lord’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways by nature. And that is why we must trust Him, even when we cannot trace Him . . . even when His plan seems paradoxical! We can be utterly sure that He is leading us down the perfect path into His perfect plan for our imperfect lives.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!