As we near the end of Mark, no one is “getting it.” The disciples are not understanding Jesus’ identity. Everyone was giving up hope. Peter denies Jesus. Judas betrays him. The Pharisees and scribes were clueless. The only ones who understood who Jesus was were the demons, and they were silenced.
One of the first people to “get it” is the Roman centurion. Watching Jesus die on a cross he exclaims, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Today we begin reading Philippians. What an extraordinary book! Paul, like Mark, sees things in a different way and amplifies our Christian walk. Paul begins with a prayer:
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy…that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight….” These Philippians are dear to him, and he states this: “you hold me in your heart.”
Paul rejoices that he shares the gospel with them. It is an invisible bond, like that of family. This same joy is also tied up in Paul’s expectation of Christ’s return, a return that will save people from God’s wrath and judgment. We also learn that he is in prison, which may be prompting this kind of world view.
Nevertheless, Philippians is charged with a kind of hope that our world needs. Like the centurion who finally gets it, Paul is painting a picture of the Christian life that involves living and growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.
There is some debate among scholars about sanctification. Luther and Calvin and Barth all had different ways of seeing it. But ultimately it is a process of becoming holy in the Lord. It is a trajectory of grace which began in our baptism and which Paul reflects here at the beginning of his letter. Study, repentance, and prayer itself become vehicles or reflections of this sanctification.
It is more than just fruitful living, it is the fact that our love will overflow so much that we will find ourselves drown in holiness. It is hard to escape from God’s presence and grace when one is over one’s head in it!