In his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman observed that Americans in the age of the screen are in danger of becoming nothing more than an audience. Nearly 40 years later, that danger is just as real.
C.S. Lewis wrote that it is a dangerous thing to open your Bible. The Bible is a book that doesn’t allow us to be spectators. To open your Bible is to open your life to the light of God’s eternal word – to open your heart, your motives, your decisions to the demands of truth.
Our passage today is one of those dangerous places in the Bible. We turn to Mark 8:31-32.
Peter has just become the first recorded person to confess that Jesus is the Christ. It was a high point in Peter’s life. It wouldn’t last long.
In verse 31 Jesus begins the first of three lessons on the suffering that is about to unfold in God’s plan for the Christ. Peter’s response to that revelation opens a door for a central teaching on the Christian life.
The Christian life is life of total commitment. To follow Jesus is to carry a cross. In our passage we see 3 compelling reasons to follow Jesus in the way of the cross.
1. Take up your cross and you will know Jesus.
In this conversation, Jesus introduces a concept that is very familiar to us but was absolutely unthinkable at the time – the Christ on a cross. The Christ was the great conquering hero, the liberator of Israel who would rally the leaders of the nation to victory. This is the Christ Peter imagined when he made his confession.
Jesus revealed something else entirely.
“When Jesus finally speaks of his messianic status it is not to claim the common understanding but to redefine it practically beyond recognition. Not only does Jesus not fit the messianic stereotype, but he defines his mission in scandalous contrast to it. The meaning of his life and mission is not about victory and success, but about rejection, suffering, and death.” -James Edwards
Peter was totally unprepared for this revelation. Shocked, he pulled Jesus aside to rebuke him. In response Jesus replies, “Get behind me Satan.”
Jesus spoke plainly, but Peter did not understand him. His mind was set on the things of man rather than the things of God.
The things of man are earthly – comfort, security, power and honor.
The things of God are eternal – the salvation of a soul.
In order to know Jesus, we must break through the walls of the earthly. We must come to see God has plans far greater than earthly comfort, security, power and honor. We must come to see the necessity of suffering.
2. Take up your cross and you will know true life.
Drawing the disciples and the crowd in, Jesus begins to teach some fundamental lessons of life. First he tells them that those who cling to their earthly lives will lose them. And those who let them go will find them.
To follow Jesus we must let go of our lives and take up our cross and follow him in the way of rejection and death to self. But this is not suffering for the sake of suffering. We take up our cross for Jesus and for the gospel. In other words we exchange our lives for something far greater.
The experience of clinging to life and losing it in the process is a common one. Throughout human history we have recognized the emptiness of just clinging to life.
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” ―Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ―Helen Keller
Jesus offers us a better way. Come to me, give away your life, take up your cross and you will find something to life for, you will find fidelity to the most worthy of purposes.
3. Take up your cross and you will gain more than the whole world.
Jesus follows that lessons with another one. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? To gain riches and possessions. To gain earthly comfort, security, honor and power and in exchange give up your soul is to net a terrible loss.
Jesus then gets specific – if you are ashamed of me before people who are sinful and adulterous, I will be ashamed of you when I come with the glory of the Father and the host of heaven’s angels.
To follow Jesus is to be rejected by the world. This may feel like a great loss, but it involves an enormous gain – the honor and commendation of Jesus in the glory of heaven.
In this world, faithfulness to Jesus and to the gospel is costly. It requires a total commitment. But it involves a great gain. When we take up our cross we gain true knowledge of Jesus, we gain true life and we gain a treasure more valuable than the whole world.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown