© 2000, J.W. Carter
We are in the center of an 8-lesson series entitled, "The Cost of Bold Discipleship" and is based upon the perspective of the Gospel of Mark. In Mark, chapter 8, we find Jesus teaching, healing and preaching around the areas of Galillee and Caesarea. He has just healed a man blind from birth, who exclaimed upon first sight that men looked like trees walking. It is argued that this testimony is a solid proof of the miraculous cure because immediate sight would fill is brain with bright images, but without experience, the brain would have no way of figuring out what they actually were, thus the confusion. So, for some time now, the disciples have been exposed to Jesus teaching and witnessed many miraculous acts. It is now time for Jesus to challenge the disciples on their personal faith.
27And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
Mark, like Matthew and Luke, sharply distinguishes a turning point in Christs ministry. Each reports His early demonstrations of messianic authority, and each traces the intensifying hostility of the religious leaders. The turning point comes when Jesus asks the Twelve who people say He is, and then ask who they say He is.
First, Jesus asked them who the world thought He was. What was their response? As we look through scripture we see a variety of responses to Jesus:
- His neighbors at Nazareth seem almost insulted that one of their own should gain fame.
- The 5,000 Jesus fed wanted to acclaim Him king "by force" (John 6:14-15).
- The Pharisees and teachers of the Law held rigidly to their traditions despite Jesus devastating critique of their theology.
- A pagan woman saw clearly who He was, and her faith was rewarded.
- Other crowds were deeply impressed with Jesus powers of healing, but rather than respond with faith were simply "overwhelmed with amazement" (7:37).
- His disciples continued to be confused about the meaning of what they had seen, but despite their lack of understanding they grasped the one central and essential truth: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Who do the people of todays society think that Jesus is (or was)?
29And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
Today, as in the first century, men and women must make a decision about Jesus. Mark reminds us that the evidence is in, and each of us must choose. Will we simply be amazed and awed? What is an appropriate response when one discovers who Jesus really is? (Trust ourselves to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Messiah.) Who is Jesus to you?
30And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
Why did Jesus warn the disciples to keep his identity secret? (The Messianic Secret: They did not yet understand who he was, nor did they have the appropriate response to who he was.
Mark 9:9-10. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what "rising from the dead" meant.
Simply believing that Jesus is the Christ is not enough. The demons who possessed the man in the Gaderene tombs knew who Jesus is. James 2:19 describes that the demons know who God is and they tremble. What do the people in the world think who Jesus is?
- Moslems: A great prophet and teacher, second only to Mohammad.
- Jews: A cult leader.
- Others: A fable or myth; a famous teacher;
31And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. This was the title he often used for himself, and was a clear identification with the Son of Man that Daniel described in his prophesy.
Dan. 7:13-14. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
32And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
We sometimes are critical of the response of the disciples to Jesus teaching, assuming that they have the same understanding of who Jesus is that we do. This is not the case. Even Peter, who boldly stated that Jesus is the Christ, had an entirely inappropriate response. Why did Peter take Jesus off to the side to rebuke Him?
How often do we rebuke Jesus? We feel the clear command of God to repent from some action, or attitude, or we hear Gods call to a specific action, yet we take Jesus aside and give Him our own opinion. What is the result of such disobedience? What are some actions we might refuse to submit to Jesus? What are some attitudes that we might refuse to submit? What kind of calling of God do we refuse to acknowledge in obedient action?
Peters "rebuke" of Jesus was due to his still incomplete understanding of the true mission of the Messiah. Peter could not reconcile the idea of the suffering Messiah with the current Jewish notions. The O.T. had predicted a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of the people (cf. Isa. 53), and this message became the central focus for the early church (cf. Acts 17:2, 3).
33But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
What was Jesus response to Peters action? What is Jesus response to our disobedience? Would he speak to us as if he were speaking to Satan? (No, because we have been filled with the Holy Spirit.) However, those who are unsaved, who do not have an understanding of Jesus is, nor do they have the Holy Spirit to contribute to their understanding, have only world philosophy as their source. The philosophy of the world comes only from the Prince of the World, Satan. The philosophy of the world does not have in mind the things of God, but rather the things of the world. Who is the source of authority and truth, according to world philosophy? (Human reason, logic and intellect.) Consequently, Peters reasoning superceded Jesus authority.
When we utilize human reason to reject Gods direction in our lives, we are acting just like Peter, and just like the lost world. We cannot affirm Jesus as Christ and then challenge His choices! He is either Lord, and we submit to Him, or He is not, and we may go our own way.
34And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
"Deny" (8:34). The Gk. words are arneomai and aparneomai. In a situation where a person makes a decision, "deny" means "reject." But when a person has a strong personal faith in Jesus, it means unfaithfulness to or abandoning the relationship. What does it mean here to "deny yourself"? It means to decisively reject the motives and desires that well up from our sin nature, and choose instead to follow Jesus completely. When we take daily steps of obedience we gradually become the new person that Christ died for us to become.
What does it mean to "Take up his cross." Of course, the disciples would be clueless as to what Jesus meant, but we can look back on the cross. To Jesus, the cross was His ultimate calling. It was the objective of His obedience. Likewise, Jesus disciples have a cross that is their ultimate calling. The Greek word for "take" uses a verb tense that refers to a continuing act. Consequently, the verse is sometimes translated "take up his cross daily," but the real meaning is a continuous obedience to the call. The act of taking up our cross lies in four main acts that relate to our relationship to God, and our relationship with others.
Our relationship to God: (1) Worship and Prayer. We are to recognize who God is and worship Him as he is worthy to be worshiped. We are to pray on a continual basis. (2) Gods Word. We are to spend time in Gods Word, making it the predominant focus of our lives.
Our relationship with others. (2) Ministry to those in the church body. We are to be continually responsive to opportunities to meet needs of people in the Church. (3) Witnessing. We are to be continually responsive to opportunities to meet needs of people outside of the church, including the ability to share the gospel and lead people to Jesus.
Taking up the cross is not an option. Verse 34 is clearly an uncompromising command. If you are unwilling to take up the cross, then you are not Jesus follower. You are not Jesus disciple.
35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospels, the same shall save it. 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
One of the apparent paradoxes of Scripture relates to the voluntary sacrifice of a mans life for the cause of Christ. The verse does not demand martyrdom in order to secure life. However, the passage does establish that men coming to Christ must give Him their lives in such totality that they retain no claim upon them. Having placed themselves forever in the hands of Christ, they immediately possess the abundant life.
38Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Finally, the act of taking up the cross, and the act of losing ones life for Christ both relate to our testimony to the world. We cannot compromise our faith and testimony in this sinful world without bringing upon ourselves disappointment and shame from God. How would you act if you were suddenly faced with either denying your faith or facing persecution? Sometimes we would be willing to die for Christ, yet we are not willing to live for Christ. Does this make any sense?