Updated: Jan 26
Jesus offers us the great paradox of the work of God in this world. Jesus tells his disciples what is required for those who will follow after him – those who will be his disciples. He states in Mark 8:35, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” This is just so opposite, such a contradiction, to how most people, including many Christians, see life. This is God’s glorious way that turns all of our expectations about how one succeeds in life on its head. Yet, be honest, it grates against how we see greatness and how we seek greatness in this life.
It is interesting that Jesus first corrects his close followers so they know how he will be the Messiah – God’s sent and anointed one. Through allowing himself to be rejected and crucified. Only then can he gather the “crowds” around him, those who are interested but not yet committed, to tell them the cost of discipleship. The cost of commitment and Jesus does not offer an easier road for half the cost. So often, though, we sell following Jesus short, offering Jesus as the way to the “good and easy life.” Jesus offers no such way. He does though, offer the way to live in the abundant and eternal life of God – the life our soul, our very being, was created for.
Jesus lays out the cost of discipleship in Mark 34b, saying that for one to follow, a person “must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Each of these three demands help interpret the others. They are not three separate steps but a set of images that impress in our minds a visual picture of the disciple’s life. So, Jesus wants us to work out what it means in our life to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow him.
What would this look like in the life God has given you – your resources, your time, your relationships, your experiences? Try to use specific examples of actions and not simply general statements.
In verse 38, Jesus speaks of his return at the end of this time and history. Then, what looked like “weakness” and even “foolishness” to many will be seen as God’s means to set things to rights that has been marred and destroyed by evil and sin. It appears clear that how we respond to what God has done in Jesus, the seeming foolishness of his life and his death on the cross, will determine Jesus’ view of us when he returns.
Two questions: What will the return of Jesus in “God the Father’s glory” prove about “saving our lives by losing our lives?” Then, what actions might caution us to see that we are “ashamed of Jesus and his words?”
Jesus ends with a statement that continues to cause great debate among Bible scholars. After he concludes laying out the cost of discipleship, Jesus says in Mark 9:1, “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.’”
What is Jesus talking about? How will this event (or events) show that God’s Kingdom or life under God’s rule has come with power?
One final thought on this text. Before you consider how to answer these questions, recall what Jesus as taught and how Jesus has acted up to this point in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus never sends us where he has not been himself. Jesus never asks us to be other than he already is.
See you Sunday.