“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “
“But when Jesus turned and look at his disciples he rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he said, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed on them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
The cross is THE symbol for Christianity. It makes its way onto church steeples, social media posts, imprinted onto the cover of Bibles. The cross it’s seen everywhere, from jewelery to the first aid kit.
It’s the symbol of Christianity, and yet what does it mean?
In the above verses, we find out what Jesus says about the cross and why he went to the cross. As well as, why his followers must take up their cross. In verses 31 to 33, Jesus says it’s necessary, tt’s a MUST that would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again. It’s a necessity for Jesus to do these things. The question is, therefore, why must Jesus go along this path?
The answer is that it’s God’s plan for the Messiah. Jesus here, is identifying himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah.
Isaiah 53:4 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, familiar with pain.
Isaiah 53, Verse 4 “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering..
Isaiah 53 Verse 5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions and he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Why the cross? Because it is God’s plan that the Messiah would suffer and rise again.
We find out, however, in Mark chapter 8, that this necessity causes Jesus’ disciples some agitation.
Verse 32 “He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!, he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Just a few verses earlier Mark’s gospel, Peter had confessed that “You are the Christ”. He confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. And now, he’s telling Jesus off. He has none of it, and there’s a satanic stench about it.
The disciples, as Peter verbalises here, weren’t expecting this pathway for the Messiah. They were, expecting something much more triumphant and probably a lot more pleasant than death. The concerns of God, however, weren’t on Peter’s mind and heart. He may have been thinking…if Jesus is going to suffer, what does this mean for me?
The Jewish people, at the time, hadn’t connected the dots between the Suffering servant of Isaiah and the Messiah. They didn’t think they were one and the same person. The kingdom of God was going to come about by military victory, not suffering. So they thought. They expected the Messiah would crush Israel’s enemies, namely the Romans.
If we have on our mind human concerns, like Peter did, then the way of Jesus to death seems pretty pointless and weak. Yet, if we have in mind the things of God, then we’ll see that there is nothing more important and more life changing than the cross.
Jesus said that the Son of Man must suffer. He must be rejected. And he must go to the cross. And he must rise again. Why? So that Jesus could deal with the biggest enemy of all. The enemy of our sin against God.
Jesus must suffer, so that he could stand in the place of his people. Jesus lived his life on behalf of them, on behalf of us. Jesus suffered, not for the sake of his own sinfulness, but for his people. Jesus would be rejected, not because he was unworthy, but because he must be rejected for his people. The punishment for sin before God was death, and if Jesus was going to save his people, it was necessary. It must happen. It must be this way, that the full payment for sin be paid by him at the cross. And to rise again victorious over sin and death. With all this in mind, that the Son of Man must suffer.
What then does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does it mean to belong to King Jesus and have our lives directed by him?
It means taking up our cross.
“Then he called the crowd to him and along with his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.”
Jesus is saying here, since I am the King who is going to suffer, to the cross, and to glory. If you want to follow me, If you want to come after me, if you want life, that’s the word there, LIFE with God. If you want to see Jesus his glory, and the kingdom of God come in power. THEN being a follower of him means deny yourself and carry a cross.
Denying yourself isn’t about losing your sense of being an individual self. Nor is it that we need deny ourselves from having things. Rather, denying yourself, means disowning self. Renouncing self as the most important thing about you. It’s what Peter, by the way, does when Jesus goes to the cross. He disowns Jesus, it’s same word used here.
Deny self. It means saying no to yourself in order to say yes to God. It means saying no to attempting to establish me, myself and I at the centre of my life. It means thinking about what Jesus wants in a particular situation, whether at the office at work, or in a relationship, and how he wants me to act as his follower in this situation, rather than thinking about just myself. It means that ‘self’ is not the most important thing to me. My wants, needs, desires, come after what Jesus wants for me. If we want to follow Jesus, he comes first. He calls us to be more about him, than about ourselves.
In the end, it’s about allegiance. Is our allegiance primarily with Jesus, before ourselves?
Jesus goes on and says ‘take up your cross.’ The Christian is someone who carrys a cross.
Historically, Cross carrying was a cruel practice of the Roman Empire. The Romans used to force prisoners to carry their own cross beam to the execution site. Cross carrying was for criminals who had rebelled against authority. And so when the Romans horrendously made the prisoner carry their cross, it was a way of humiliating the prisoner. It like saying you weren’t rebellious any more. You’re Defeated. You’re under Roman rule and submitted now to the authorities.
Jesus is saying, quite shockingly, that if we’re following him, we have to take up our cross like a condemned criminal. In other words, we’re not in charge, Jesus is the one who has authority over us. It’s a picture of complete submission to Jesus. We’re to completely, and utterly surrendered in our lives to him. Totally, without holding anything back. It’s a willingness to say, I’ll follow you Jesus, come what may, no matter what happen to me as Christian. You call the shots Jesus, and take care of me, no matter what might come my way.
Verse 35 fills this out “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
You see, the self needs to be denied. We need to take up our cross. Jesus is infinitely worth more. The gospel is worth more. Following Jesus, might even cost you, your very life. Yet, Jesus says, I’m worth it. He’s worth more than friends, family, jobs, hobbies, even more than life itself. What is given up, is nothing compared to what is gained.
Verse 26 “For What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
If we live to gain the things of this world: A repution, friendships, success, without following Jesus. Jesus is saying…Even if you could have it all. All the pleasures you could dream of. All the experiences that money can get you. Even if you could have it all (which you can’t and you wont)…. Even if you live like you can, it is nothing if your soul is lost. It is a waste.
What can you give in exchange for your soul? You can’t buy you way back to Jesus with all the stuff you accumulated while you rejected him. What does it gain you? Nothing.
Verse 37 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.”
There might be more honour in the world by not naming the name of Jesus. Mocking and ignoring Jesus might get some points with people. However, shame from the world for being a Christian, is a small price to pay. Shame from the world, is nothing compared to God being ashamed with you.
When the Son of Man, in all his glory, returns to earth as judge. God in Christ will come as judge. And set up his judgment seat. And all will give an account to him. And he’ll ask every one of us whether we’ve followed him.
For those who follow Jesus, verse 1 chapter 9, there is good news. Some will not taste death before they see the kingdom come with power.
The meaning of this verse is debated but I think that here Jesus is reassuring his followers, that even though he’s calling them to follow him, come what may, even to death, that they will experience the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom come in power even in their own life time. Because just the next verse, in what is called the Transfiguration, where the curtain of heaven is lifted just a bit, to reveal the glory and power of King Jesus. They get a glimpse of the Kingdom in power.
Those who aren’t ashamed of Jesus. Who follow him. Who love him. Will experience the kingdom of God. Back then, some saw with their own eyes, the glorified Jesus. And for us, we see the power of Jesus’ resurrection at work daily. We see the kingdom powerfully at work in the world, growing in love and service. And one day we will see Jesus, face to face. In all his glory. We’ll see the King come with power.
Following Jesus isn’t a loss. It’s not a loss to keep on following Jesus.
It’s not a loss to do this when youre being told you’ve got to sign up to something that goes against what you believe. Because, as Jesus says, those who lose their lives for his sake will gain them.
You’re not missing out if you follow Jesus. Even if you find it hard to make friends at school, because people don’t really like christians. Because, as Jesus says, those who love him and his words will look forward to meeting him.
The call to be follower of Jesus, is the way to life and salvation.
He’s a king who went to the cross for you.
He’s a king who loves you so much to suffer and die in our place. Therefore can submit to him out of love and trust.
A King who gave himself completely for you, so how can we not deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him?