Tough Words from Jesus Mark 8:31-38
October 6, 2019 Rev. Don Hackett, D.Min.
Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, Pa

Last week we talked about Tough Mudder events. To participate you need to pull together a team to run a ten mile course with difficult obstacles. The whole point to finish together. The bonus is you challenge yourself to do things you could not do alone and you bond with others. I have seen pictures of these events and they are tough!

Today we are going to talk about something even tougher, following Jesus Christ.
In our passage today Jesus speaks to you and me in very direct terms. He is serious and he wants us to know what we are getting into when we follow him. Caution here. These are familiar words to many. Try and hear them fresh today. Jesus has some powerful things he wants us to know. The context of this passage is at the turning point of Jesus’ ministry. He is popular but that is not the goal. Jesus has a mission to accomplish and he begins to talk to his followers about the details. Join me in reading this passage.

Mark 8:31-38 New International Version

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.”
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.”

What did you notice in this story? Here are some things I picked out.

1. Peter blew it.
Just a few moments before Peter was the one to declare that Jesus was the Messiah. The Spirit of God had pulled back the veil and allowed Peter to get a glimpse of the King of Kings standing right before him. Wow. What an experience! In the next breath, Peter was trying to get Jesus to abandon his mission to save the world. Peter had much to learn about Jesus the Christ.

Just like you and me, we have much to learn about Jesus and his ways. We can experience the love and wisdom of God in one moment that leaves us in awe. Then we can turn and drop back to old selfish ways of thinking and living in a flash. That is the way we are. We are people who are slowly being shaped by God. We make mistakes. We fall down. With God’s help, however, we get back up and keep going. Just like Peter. As you and I come the Lord’s table today, Jesus knows our past. Jesus knows our joys and struggles. Lord Jesus is here to help and heal us.

2. Jesus talks about crosses.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Crosses were a common sight on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The were 3D Roman billboards declaring this is what happens when you mess with Rome. It was a very slow and painful way to die. You could hang there a long time before you suffocated to death. Jesus died on a cross for you and me. He suffered and died so we could be free.

Read with me the quote from Hebrews 5 at the top of your bulletin, right before the Prelude:
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” Hebrews 5:7-9

Jesus suffered the cross long before he was nailed to the cross. Have you ever had a difficult event like a big test or medical procedure? Remember how you agonized days and maybe weeks before the event? Jesus suffered his most of his adult life because he knew where it was all leading…to the cross. Even the night before his crucifixion, he said to his disciples in Matthew 26:
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

Jesus said we need to take up our crosses and follow him. We do not need to carry his cross, Jesus already did that. Followers of Jesus need to go where God leads them.
The disciple John was lead to the remote island of Patmos to write the book of Revelations. Paul was lead to plant churches around the Mediterranean Sea. You might be lead to love a neighbor or classmate who everyone finds hard to love. Your cross may be caring for a loved one when you have others things planned. Your cross and my cross is going wherever and doing whatever God ask us to do. Your special way of loving God and loving the world is your cross. When you and I daily seek God, we are lead step by step in our ways of loving and serving the world.

3. We save our lives by losing them.
We save, rescue, discover our lives by handing them over to God.
Jesus said:
For any one of you who wants to be rescued will lose your life, but any one of you who loses your life for My sake and for the sake of this good news will be liberated. Really, what profit is there for you to gain the whole world and lose yourself in the process? What can you give in exchange for your life? Mark 8:35-37  (The Voice)

We know that is the way life works. If you want to gain the skills in a sport, or school, or on an instrument, or to do your work effectively, you give up a lot. You study and practice instead of hanging out or watching your devices. This is even true if you want to take care of your body. We walk away from poor eating habits, to embrace food that will free us to move and live. We gain life by giving up that which take life.

Jesus know all about losing to gain, did he not? Jesus the Christ left Heaven to join us in our struggles. He gave up status, power, position, and even his last breath so he could gain life for all of us. He said: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus Christ now invites you and me to his table to eat his bread and drink his cup, so together we may bless the world.

Let’s pray:
Gracious God, we know following you is not easy. We need your love and wisdom pulsating in our bodies. Come Lord Jesus and send your Spirit to live anew in us.
We come in Christ’s Name. Amen.