If you have a Bible, you can open it to Mark chapter 8:31-38.
Happy Saint Patrick’s weekend… Right? I mean, this is awesome. The best thing we’ve got going on this weekend.
We celebrated Saint Patrick’s when I was growing up as a kid. My dad’s name is Patrick John. My name is John Patrick. I don’t think we are named after St. Patrick. I just think that I have 10 siblings, so I think that he just got tired of naming all of his kids, and he just ran out of names. I’m not quite sure. He’s like, ‘What do you want to name him? Patrick John…? John Patrick… ? Sure. Put it in there.’ [ Laughter ]
But St. Patrick… he’s an interesting guy. What if I were to ask you, though, ‘Who do you think St. Patrick was?’ Think about that. How would you answer that question? I asked my wife that question and she did not know. She said, “I don’t know. He’s some Irish guy… Lucky Charms… Leprechaun… Drinks green beer… I’m not quite sure.” But would it surprise you if I were to tell you that St. Patrick was not even Irish? He wasn’t even Irish. He was from England. He got kidnapped when he was a boy and taken to Ireland. He became a Christian in Ireland. He escaped… went back to England and felt the call of God to go back to Ireland and become a missionary. It’s a radical story, but oftentimes, we don’t know that, because we have misconceptions about who St. Patrick is. Oftentimes, we have misconceptions about people that we think we know a lot about… Right?
Now, what if I were to ask you, ‘Who do you think Jesus is?’ How would you answer that question? I’m going to guess that all of you in here know something about Jesus. You may know a lot about Jesus, you know a lot of facts and information about Him, but I’m going to guess that there would be a lot of misconception. And maybe even right now you’re going, ‘Yeah, I mean, like I know this Jesus guy, but I don’t really know what to do with all of these facts like, He died. He rose from the dead. What do I do with that?’ A lot of misconceptions.
Well, Mark 8:31-38 is really going to help answer the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ And what does it mean? What does it really mean to follow this guy?
(2:48 – 32:02)
But before we get into the actual text itself, let me just set the stage here. Let me give you the context. It’ll be good, because the next four weeks are all Easter-related. They’re all Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where He’s going to die. And so we’re in the Gospel of Mark.
I love the Gospel of Mark. … I think it is my favorite [Gospel account]. But how he writes his gospels is very interesting. He writes it more like a comic book than a movie. It’s very fast paced, it’s very action packed. And immediately… there’s that word, “immediately,” is constantly going throughout Mark’s gospel.
And the very first verse in Mark’s gospel is Mark 1:1, This is what he says. He tells us right from the get-go, this is why I’m writing. This is who Jesus is. It says …
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
So right from the beginning, Mark comes out. He has a big splash and he goes, ‘Guys, this is the good news. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ… it’s not his last name. It’s a title… the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, a divine title… Jesus is the prophesied Messiah, here on earth, to take the kingdom of heaven and bring it down to earth. That’s really good news! And in fact, Jesus’ first words in Mark 1 are ‘The kingdom of God is here.’ Heaven has come down to earth in a sense. Big deal! And then in the first eight chapters of Mark, you get all of these powerful miracles being done by Jesus. He’s healing paralyzed people. He’s casting out demons. And while he’s doing this, people are starting to catch on. They’re watching all these things and they’re seeing just how powerful Jesus is, and they’re going, ‘You know what? Maybe this Jesus guy, maybe he really is the Messiah!’ They start asking those questions. And interestingly enough… Jesus does something very interesting. Anytime that somebody’s starting to catch on or anytime that he heals somebody, He tells them, ‘Don’t tell anybody. Be quiet about this.’
(5:15 / 32:02)
And then in chapter eight, where we’re at, in the middle of chapter eight, it’s kind of the linchpin of the whole gospel of Mark. It’s where Jesus, up to this point, was traveling around to different towns and doing these miracles. He now turns with his disciples and He is headed straight to Jerusalem, where He’s going to die. And along the way… He makes three shocking statements about His future and what’s going to happen to Him. And the very first statement is found in our text. Let’s look at it.
31 And He (Jesus) began to teach them (… the disciples) that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed. And after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter, (of course) took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning and seeing His disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Let’s stop there for just a minute. These words, and specifically verse 31, … what Jesus said right at the beginning, would have absolutely shocked the 12 disciples… Just shocked them! They knew that Jesus was Messiah. Just read two verses above in verse 29. We didn’t read it, but… Jesus is asking, ‘Hey, who do people say that I am?’ And then He asks the disciples, ‘Well, who do you say that I am?’ And Peter exclaims, ‘You are Christ, you are the Messiah, You are God’s chosen One.’
But up to this point, most Jewish people, including the disciples, had a misconception about who the Messiah was. They thought that the Messiah was coming as a political leader to establish a kingdom of power through military force. What they never expected was that the Messiah would come as a Suffering Servant to establish a kingdom of peace through death. It would just blow their mind to hear these things for the first time.
And so the picture we get in verse 31 is Jesus gathering up His disciples like He always did.
He is constantly teaching them. He begins to teach them about Himself. But up to this point, all of his teachings about Himself, who He was, were cloaked in parables… Right? …cloaked in a way that they weren’t able to understand. Like talking to somebody who’s an expert in something and they’re just talking right over your head. You know those people, like the car guys and the numbers guys. It’s another language to me. I’m like, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying.’ And I just want to shake them every time. I’m like, ‘Will you please just speak plainly in a way that I can understand what you’re saying?’ Well, right here, that’s what Jesus is doing.
Up to this point, it’s been parables. It’s going right over the disciples’ head. But right here in verse 32, it says, ‘Jesus said these things plainly.’ He said these things with frankness in a way that is not open to more than one opinion. It’s crystal clear what He’s saying to these guys. Think about that. For the very first time, Jesus is teaching His disciples openly about how He must die in order for the kingdom of God to be established.
(9:06 / 32:02)
Wouldn’t you have loved to be a part of that Bible study? Jesus is gathering His disciples up. They’re all circling around. And Jesus knows how shocking this is going to be to them, because they don’t comprehend this. And then He goes, ‘Hey, let’s open up the scrolls, guys. And, maybe, let’s start in Genesis 3:21. Remember the story of Adam Eve? Remember how they sinned and they got cast out of the Garden? You remember how God had to kill an innocent lamb and clothe them in the skin of that lamb? Well, guys, that’s a picture of Me. And keep on going. Go to Genesis 22. You remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? Remember the story of how Isaac was Abraham’s one and only son, the son that he loved, and he put the wood on the back of his son and offered him up as a sacrifice? Guys, that’s about Me. And what about David? Go to Psalm 22. Do you remember the man in Psalm 22, the man that was forsaken by God and mocked by man? Now flip over to Zachariah 13:7, guys. Check this out. Do you remember the shepherd who’s flock scattered when he was struck? Or how about Isaiah 53? Do you you guys remember that man in Isaiah 53 who was despised…. who was rejected…was stricken and afflicted… pierced and crushed?’ Jesus is looking at his disciples and He’s going, ‘Guys, that’s Me! I am the fulfillment of all of those prophecies, of all that the Old Testament was pointing towards. It was pointing towards Me, and it was leading Me to this point where we’re going on the road to Jerusalem towards the cross.’ The disciples’ eyes would have been huge… massive! They would have been so shocked!
But there’s one word that would have shocked them the most, the word “must” in verse 31. You see it there? Jesus says, “The Son of Man must…” That word means, ‘it’s necessary. It’s inevitable.’ The Son of Man must suffer. The Son of man must be rejected. He must die. He must rise from the dead. Because… Listen… The death of Jesus was no accident. The death of Jesus was planned by God from before the foundations of the world.
Look at what Acts 2 says. This is Pentecost. Acts 2:23 says,
“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the infinite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Satan tried to keep Jesus from the cross in the wilderness. Do you remember that at the beginning of His ministry? ‘Hey, become king this way. Just get a following this way. Do these miracles. Have everybody come and notice who You are. Do it that way.’ And Jesus said, ‘No, Satan!’ Then fast forward. Peter also tried to keep Jesus from God’s plan. Jesus rightfully called Peter out for what it was. It’s demonic. It’s demonic to try to deter the
Son of Man for why He came down to earth in the first place to get to the cross. The Son of Man, Jesus, must go to the cross if you want any hope in this life and in the next. If Jesus is not rejected by his family… if Jesus is not mocked by soldiers… if He is not beaten beyond recognition… if He does not have a crown of inch-long thorns pressed down around his skull… if He does not have nails piercing both of his hands and both of his feet… if He does not die and have a spear thrust into His side… if He is not buried and, three days later, rise from the dead, then as Paul says, [1 Corinthians 15:32; Isaiah 22:12-14] ‘Let us eat and drink. Let us do whatever we want in this life because there is absolutely no hope for us in the next life.’
But He DID suffer, and He WAS rejected, and He WAS beaten, and He WAS killed and He DID rise from the dead! And therefore, if you are a child of God, you have hope for eternal life, if you know this Jesus! Can I get an Amen?! This is Jesus!
If you’re here this morning and you are wondering who this Jesus is, what I just described, this is who Jesus is. He is the One that loved you, came down to earth to die for your sins, to suffer, to be rejected, to be killed. He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. And He came to take away YOUR sins, YOUR sins… all of them… wash them away, IF you would follow Him. IF you would follow Him… That is the big question.
What does it take to follow Jesus? Let’s let Jesus answer that question. Look at verse 34 and 38 in chapter 8 of Mark. After Jesus rebukes Peter, He calls the crowd to Him with His disciples and says to them,
Mark 8:34 – 38
34 “And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever will lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him, will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(16:37 / 32:02)
What does it take to follow Jesus? Let me just give you two realities. The first one is this, Following Jesus is fatal. It’s fatal.
Now, before we are too hard on Peter, There was a reason why Peter rebuked Jesus. And it wasn’t just because he’s the guy who always shoves his foot in his mouth and he’s always saying a bunch of dumb stuff… Right? But it wasn’t that. That’s also the case, but Peter, when Jesus said “The Son of Man must suffer and die,” Peter knew exactly what that meant. Peter knew as soon as Jesus said that, his brain went, ‘Wait a minute… If they do this to YOU, then we’re next! We’re next on the chopping block!’ [as well as] everyone who was in that crowd. When Jesus said “Pick up your cross,” they would have known exactly what that meant! It wasn’t fuzzy, like, ‘Hey, my stubbed toe is my cross to bear this week.’ No! He is saying, ‘I am calling every single person who would follow after Me to deny and die.’ And Jesus is saying the same thing today.
If you want to follow after Jesus, you must die in order to live. It’s the great gospel paradox where if you lose your life, you’re going to find it. But if you try and keep your life, and everything in this life, if you have all of your hopes bound up here, you’re going to lose it. At the end of the day, if you want to follow Jesus, the very first thing you have to do is to die to the thought that you have any power to save your own life. You cannot do it. The reality of every human is that we are drowning in an ocean of sin. And the time for your treading of water is running out. You have one life… ONE life, to make a decision about whether you can be saved… one life to reach out for hope. And that hope is going to only be found in the cross, in what Jesus did for you in His death, burial and resurrection. That’s the first thing you have to do. You have to die to the thought that you can save yourself in order to live.
You also have to die to human approval and human honor. The cross is a shameful place. When people were crucified, they were often naked and exposed for everyone to see and everyone to mock them. Following Jesus does not lead to you becoming dignified, important, and liked. Following Jesus leads to becoming lowly, weak, and hated.
My brother illustrated this to me. A year before I became a Christian, when I was 18, God got ahold of his heart. We used to run around and do all sorts of stupid things together, one of them being drugs. I was rolling up a blunt and I was handing it to him. He just looked at me and he goes, “You know I don’t do that anymore.” I remember, at that moment, I started to mock him. I started to make fun of Him. I started to laugh at Him. Really, I was mocking His Jesus. I started to mock Him.
(20:34 / 32:02)
Following Jesus does not make people like you. Rather, it calls you to love those who hate you. In verse 33, Jesus calls Peter out and says, ‘Right now, Peter, you have the mind of a man. You don’t have the things of God in mind. You have the things of man in mind.’ Following Jesus means having the mind of Jesus, as Philippians 2 says, ‘Have this mind of Christ inside of you that considers others as more important than yourselves.”
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”]
Or as Jesus Himself would put it in Mark 10:45. Talking about Himself, He says,
“For even the Son of Man (even the Son of Man) came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Listen, if the Creator… think about this… if the Creator of everything gave up His place of honor and became a lowly servant, are we really so prideful to think that we don’t need to do the same? This is a call of every life that is going to follow Jesus to die to human honor, to die to approval, to die to comfort. The cross is not a comfortable place to be… Right? And that should be obvious.
Think about how shocking this would have been for the disciples, hearing this for the first time. In their minds, they thought that they were going to become princes. Jesus flipped that and said, “Actually, you’re going to become a martyr.” Just imagine that paradigm shift of going, ‘I thought we were going to rule. Now you’re telling me I’ve got to die?!’ That’s not comfortable. But this is the call of every Christian to chase Christ, not comfort. You chase Christ, you don’t chase comfort.
The minds of the disciples were very similar to the American Christianity mindset. They were looking for a political savior to give them power, possessions and comfort. Jesus made it very clear to His disciples, and He makes it very clear to us today that following Jesus means dying to the comforts of this world. How are you doing in that? Following Jesus will cost you your life. It’s not passive. It’s painful. It’s not laid back. It’s lethal. It’s not detached. It’s deadly.
But in case some of you here are hearing me and you were thinking that Christianity just sounds AWFUL! Let me give you the second reality, because this one’s really important. The second reality of following Jesus is that following Jesus is not a burden, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing. Jesus is not calling you to a miserable life. He’s calling you to a full life! And here’s one reason why it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because Jesus is standing by to pick you up every single time you fall.
I know what some of you are thinking right here. You’re like, ‘Look… I know that I’m a follower of Jesus. I know that for sure. But I don’t even come close to doing those things perfectly that you just said.’ But Jesus is not asking you to follow Him flawlessly. He’s asking you to follow him faithfully.
That word “deny” in verse 34… It’s only used in one other story in the New Testament. And it’s the story of Peter denying Jesus. I’m sure you guys are familiar with the story of Peter denying Jesus. Peter, he’s a true follower of Jesus. And he did not pick up his cross flawlessly, but Jesus would help him do it faithfully.
At the end of Mark’s gospel in Mark 16, after Jesus rose from the dead, he had two women going to the tomb. They see it’s empty, and an angel is there. And the angel says, ‘This Jesus, He’s not here.” But here’s what I want you ladies to do. I want you to go and tell the disciples, “Oh, and tell Peter…’
(25:02 / 32:02)
6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter…”]
I love that! Jesus knew Peter denied Him. He’s fallen down and he’s hurting. And Jesus says, ‘I want to pick you up.’ That’s the heart of your Jesus. That’s the heart of your God, your Savior. He wants to pick you up when you fall. God’s not calling you to do this flawlessly. He’s calling you to do it faithfully.
But here’s another reason it’s a blessing to follow Jesus, not a burden, because it fills you with purpose on earth and rewards in heaven.
I love this verse in Matthew 5:11. It says,
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice…” (That’s a weird thing to say. Rejoice…) “and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”
So just the other day, I was flying back to Des Moines. And I sat next to this 25-year-old guy. He’s tall, handsome, a super successful accountant down in Austin, Texas. His best friend works for Elon Musk at SpaceX. And his girlfriend is a nanny for Denzel Washington’s kids. That’s crazy! This kid’s got it going on… Okay? He’s got a really important life. But come to find out, as we’re talking, that he had a near death experience when he was 18 years old. So as I’m trying to fit in Christianity every way that I can in these conversations, I said, “Hey…” This is just the Christian coming out of me right here. You had a near death experience, and I’m sure your mind was racing and you had to reassess your life. So what’s the purpose of your life?” He sat back and thought about it. He said, “Well, I guess my purpose is to be successful and to have fun while I’m young.”
Worldly purpose is shallow and short-sighted, but that’s not true if you’re Christian. If you are a follower of Jesus, it will be painful. That’s a promise. But I promise you it will be purposeful. God will fill you with purpose. What did Paul say in Philippians 1:21,
“To live is Christ…” Don’t just jump past that phrase and go to “to die is gain.”
That’s true. But guys, he’s saying to live is Christ. A Jesus follower’s purpose is to imitate the life of Jesus no matter where it leads. We tell others how they can find eternal life even if it gets us mocked. We love and serve the neglected even if it doesn’t get us noticed. We speak out for the hurting even if others hate us for it. And we preach the gospel even if others kill us for it. We run, Christian, we run this race… this race of life… with purpose and endurance, looking to our reward… looking to Jesus, the founder and the perfecter of our faith, who for ”… for the what? “the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Let me give you one last blessing. Following Jesus is a blessing, not a burden, because it ends in eternal life.
My favorite parable in all the Bible is Matthew 13:44, where Jesus says,
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.” Watch this. “Then in his joy,” What does he do? ”He sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Let me tell you something. I’ve never done this before, but I can just imagine it’s not easy to sell everything that you have unless… the treasure you’re getting in return is worth it.
Now I’m relatively young, so I have to work at thinking about death… Right? But that’s not true for some of you in here. Some of you are getting close to death, and you know it. Let the words of Jesus be a great blessing, not a burden to you. If you’re close to death, pick up your cross, keep denying, keep following, keep pushing towards Jesus. The end is near. Be Tychicus, like you saw last week. Be the faithful servant until the very end. And then, go and die like a Christian, and go to your reward.
Let me end with a story about an old dead guy, (because I started with a story about an old dead guy) Charlemagne the Great. In the year 1,000 A.D., a German emperor decided he was going to open the tomb of Charlemagne and get the crown off of Charlemagne’s head. When they opened up the tomb, what they found was Charlemagne in his royal attire… crown, robe, scepter in one hand. But then he had a Bible opened up on his lap with his dead, bony finger pointed to one verse. And the one verse was Mark 8:36,
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
(30:54 / 32:02)
I don’t know if Charlemagne’s in heaven or not, but he clearly understood what Jesus was saying here. The temporary treasures of this world are not worth comparing to the eternal treasures of following Jesus. Have you done that?
Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for the Son. We thank you for Jesus. We thank you that this was a plan. We thank you that this was not an oversight. We thank you that you had us in mind, that on the cross Jesus was thinking about us. And that He had to die to absorb all of the wrath that was supposed to be on me. Lord, I pray that if there is somebody in this room that does not know you, Lord, do a miracle right now. Father, open up their eyes. Let them see their Savior and save them. We love you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.