This article is adapted from a sermon preached by Adam Brock entitled The Way of the Cross.
If you could have any question in the world answered, what question would you ask? This is different from the classic, what would you wish for. Instead, if you could know any one mystery, what would it be?
According to one article, some of the most searched questions on Google, from 2021, include:
Certainly, those are not the most profound questions in the world. I would add to the list this year the question, “Why don’t we talk about Bruno?”
Our passage today is going to answer three questions for us. That is if we’re willing to really grasp what the Spirit of God wants to teach us!
Here are the three questions:
Chapter eight is a perfect center for the Gospel of Mark. For eight chapters we find the writer focusing on the power, authority, and deity of Jesus, but all of sudden something changes, and from this moment on the emphasis shifts. The eight chapters that follow this focus on the redemptive act of Jesus on the cross. Our passage today is not the climax of the story, that’s the cross, but it is a distinct turning point. I’m praying that for many of you reading this, today could be a turning point in your life. Maybe a turn to Jesus or a turning back to faith, or a turn that takes you even deeper with the Lord.
Let’s begin by reading v. 27-30.
Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.(Mark 8:27-30 NIV)
What’s happening here is Jesus has just finished a miraculous moment and is traveling with His disciples. He takes this opportunity to ask them some questions. He begins generally by asking, “Who do the people say that I am?” Remarkably, so many different opinions were held by the people, but that remains true to this very day.
There is a well-known quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis that essentially says there are only three ways to answer this question. Either Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or actually the Son of God.
Some thought He was John the Baptist, which is really interesting because they were cousins and had previously been seen together.
But Jesus doesn’t spend too much time on it because He quickly personalizes the question and asks again. “Who do YOU say that I am?” What about you?
In a day and time when so many people want to avoid ever having to draw a hard line on issues and questions, and the norm is to give “non-answers” to tough questions we see Peter stepping up with boldness to answer this question for himself. “You are the Messiah!”
So, Who is Jesus? He’s the Messiah! Peter’s answer, Messiah, or as other translations might say, Christ, means “The Anointed One!” I think it’s both interesting and helpful to remember that “Christ” is not the last name of Jesus, but rather it’s His title. So, in our singing, in our praying, in our scripture reading, each time we say Jesus Christ, we’re essentially saying Jesus is Christ — the Messiah, the Anointed One, The Promised Savior and King!
Back to the question. This is an extremely personal question. “Who do you say that I am?”
I cannot answer this question for you. You have to come to the place in your spiritual life where you have answered the question, who is Jesus?
This is the most important question of life. This question is central to our faith. Like Peter, we all must personally and accurately answer the question “Who is Jesus?” There comes a point where we must all answer this question.
For me, it became personal in 1998. I was 9 years old and had been raised, thankfully, in a church that preached Jesus. So, I had heard the gospel message consistently my whole life. And as a part of that, I had even prayed a prayer of salvation, no less than 100 times, because why not?! But something changed when I was 9 years old. I had been thinking it through and I knew that even though I had prayed a prayer what seemed like 1,000 times before, it had every time only been with my lips and in my heart, I was ready for this to be personal.
And so, on a Monday night in March, I asked my parents if they would pray with me because I was ready to follow Jesus for real. I was ready for being a disciple of Jesus to be my personal choice. Before that, I had been living off the faith of my parents, my pastor, my teachers, but I knew that God was calling me to make a personal decision that only I could make.
I’m so thankful that here in this place we’ve got families with a legacy of faith, but you need to know that turning to Jesus for salvation is a personal thing that each person must do on their own.
So, who is Jesus? He is the promised savior! The Messiah!
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 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.”(Mark 8:31-33 NIV)
Now we looked at this story as told by Matthew back on the last Sunday of January. So, we won’t spend too much time unpacking this section but what you must see is the urgency and directness with which Jesus lived His life.
Jesus came to make a way of salvation possible. Suffering, dying and rising were all part of the plan to make forgiveness and salvation possible!
From this moment on, Jesus began openly talking about the need for Him to die. This was not what Peter wanted to hear, it’s not what he expected to hear. It did not compute with the preconceived ideas about a political Messiah, one who would come in and overthrow the Romans, that the Jews during that time would have been hoping for. But Jesus knew what Peter didn’t, that the Kingdom of God would be brought forward through the death and resurrection of Jesus, not by political rebellion.
Jesus came to defeat sin, conquer death, and make a way for sinful men to be able to stand before a Holy God and be welcomed into the family!
Then He called the crowd to Him 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.”(Mark 8:34-38 NIV)
What does Jesus require of me? To sum it up in one word: surrender! We are required to surrender. Here’s where I want us to spend the rest of our time unpacking because the text reveals several aspects of our surrender that we need to consider carefully.
First, we are called to surrender our self-centered way of life.
Look again at v. 34.Then he called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”
This makes up what should be the baseline of normal Christian life! Instead, however, to embody this way of life is to appear radical to the world.
We are called to deny ourselves by valuing Jesus more than our own comfort, our own aspirations, our own identity.
In Luke 9:23, we see a similar admonishment but with one added word, daily. Because taking up our cross is not a one-time occurrence but a lifetime of obedience. What makes this difficult is the reality that we were born to be self-centered. It comes naturally. It is our default. So, what does Jesus require, that we give up what comes naturally to pursue a much harder path. One that puts others first!
What does Jesus require of me? To surrender my self-centeredness!
Next, we are called to surrender our safe life. "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:35 NIV)
A life of discipleship is a life of following the Master wherever He would go. And He’s demonstrated He’s willing to go to any length to glorify the Father, even the cross.
Ultimately, to the Christian, following Jesus becomes the hope of heaven, since our leader has already gone there: but first comes the cross. No cross, no crown.
I want to be honest with you here because Jesus is honest. Jesus is super honest about the fact that salvation is a free gift and discipleship is costly, and He’s calling you to both! To follow Jesus is to embrace the way of the cross, and sometimes that means doing something that in the eyes of the world goes against our natural desire to live a “safe” life!
2 Timothy 1:8 (NIV) says:So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.Signing up for suffering doesn’t typically draw the crowds. The disciples learned how to put this into practice though. Notice their response in Acts 5.The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:41-42 NIV)
I want you to read for an excerpt from Mark Batterson’s book, All In, titled: Pack Your Coffin.
A century ago, a band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries.They purchased single tickets to the mission field without the return half. And instead of suitcases, they packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed out of port, they waved goodbye to everyone they loved, everything they knew. They knew they’d never return home.A.W. Milne was one of those missionaries. He set sail for the New Hebrides in theSouth Pacific, knowing full well that the headhunters who lived there had martyred every missionary before him. Milne did not fear for his life, because he had already died to himself. His coffin was packed. For thirty-five years, he lived among that tribe and loved them. When he died, tribe members buried him in the middle of their village and inscribed this epitaph on his tombstone.When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easythings? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. Faithfulness is notholding the fort. It’s storming the gates of hell. The will of God is not an insurance plan! It’s a daring plan. The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn’t radical. It’s normal. It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. It’s time to go all in and all out for the All in All. Pack your coffin.I hope that one line resonates with you as much as it did with me: “It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.”
What does Jesus require of us? To surrender the idea that I get to have the safe life I want!
Lastly, we are also called to surrender our successful life.
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.”(Mark 8:36-38 NIV)
Do you want your life to count? Then don’t waste it living for yourself! The one who tries to live this life “for self,” who hoards it jealously and selfishly, will lose it. If you hoard resources, time and talent, hoard grace, and live your life to amass things for yourself then you’re wasting your life.
Success is not measured by what you get but by what you give away!
Jesus is not teaching works salvation; He is teaching that true conversion always results in self-denial. It is an absolute fruit that always is produced by the Holy Spirit.
Do you know what I believe is the strongest witness we have to a watching world?
When we follow God even when it costs us. When our definition of success runs contrary to the world’s and yet we joyfully live a life of obedience!
What does Jesus require of us? To surrender. And this is a requirement for all of us.
Faith begins with an initial surrender; we call that conversion and some of you have never done that. Faith grows and develops through ongoing surrender. That is the life of discipleship. And for all of us, there is some area of your life that God is calling you, right now, to surrender to Him.
Our purpose at Trinity is to come alongside you and help you take those steps of faith that involve surrender. And so today, if you’ve heard the call of God to surrender your life, and for whatever reason, you’ve never stepped out in faith, then I’m inviting you to go public with your faith. Let’s step out and be obedient.
Is there an area that you need to surrender? Maybe it’s your self-centeredness. Maybe it’s your “safe” “mission-less” lifestyle. Maybe it’s your definition of success. Either way, let’s lay that at the altar and pick up the mantle of surrender today!
If you are ready to surrender to God or want to know more, reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 337-480-1555.
What appeared to be the greatest tragedy the world has ever known was in actuality the greatest victory the world had ever seen.
If you look to your job, or your school, or your club, or your possessions to give you life and identity, you’re going to be severely disappointed because all these things make really crummy saviors! Nothing created can ever take the place of the creator.