During his time on earth Jesus invited just about anyone and everyone to follow him. We are all invited to follow him. You are invited to follow him. But there’s something you need to know about following Jesus. It will cost you something eventually!
It may cost you money, career advancement, or even relationships. That’s because Jesus offers us the choice of denying ourselves now or losing ourselves later. So, let’s talk about that.
Here’s the BIG QUESTION: Are you willing to LOSE YOUR LIFE to follow Jesus?
Mark 8:27-33 Jesus, in this text, realizes many of the people who have been following him up to this point, have just been along for the ride (consumers). So, he builds this teaching that leads up to some big life questions. Those things we all have to wrestle with- the choices we have to make, the points of tension, etc. when we’re confronted with a “cost” to follow Jesus!
Obviously, there are huge benefits to following Jesus… purpose for life, become a better person, etc. But at some point along the way there’s a price we have to pay.
Mark 8:27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
You may not want to ask people you work with this question! You may not like the answer. But Jesus wants to know who people think he is. There’s a buzz…
Mark 8:28-29 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Messiah means “anointed One.” In the Greek, it’s “Christ.” “You are the anointed One, the Savior!”
Mark 8:30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
WHAT?? Wait, aren’t we supposed to tell everyone?? But in this case, Jesus is telling his closest followers, it’s not time yet for everyone to know. “I need you to know who I am!” Then he begins to tell them there may be a price to pay to follow him!
Mark 8:31-32 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. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Jesus is telling them things are going to get tough… and he hopes they’ll want to continue to follow him. Peter pulls him aside and “rebukes” him– “Whoa Jesus, don’t go negative on us! Look at the crowds. You’re famous. I’m kind of famous. At this point, Judas not so much! What are you talking about?? You’re not going to be killed! The winds and waves obey you. No more of this death and dying stuff!”
Mark 8:33 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.”
Jesus is telling Peter that up to this point it’s been great to follow Jesus- crowds, miracles, getting to be a big deal! But you’re not really a follower Peter, you’re a consumer- its been about what you can get out of it!
Jesus is saying that when things become challenging, and I lead you down a difficult path, you’re not going to bail, you’re going to be in this with me! Because in reality, Peter wasn’t concerned about what was going to happen to Jesus, but what would happen to him because of what was going to happen to Jesus!
Jesus uses this as a teaching moment and reveals what it really costs to follow him. This is one of those up close, personal encounters; a point your finger in someone’s face, where Jesus is getting down to the bottom line. Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified and if they are going to follow Jesus up close and personal then they may have to face the same situation!
The great news for you and me: None of us in this room are going to be physically crucified for following Jesus. Yes, we may need to make some tough decisions, but those first followers literally had to face what Jesus was going to face! Here’s is how Jesus relates it to us…
Mark 8:34 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.
The idea of “the cross” scared them to death!! Jesus is saying that if you really want to FOLLOW ME then you can’t just be a “Jesus consumer”– just for what we can get out of it, and yes, there are huge benefits to following Jesus- better marriages, relationships, etc.
BUT, if you are really going to FOLLOW ME, Jesus says, then you are going to have to DENY yourself! This is not some big scary theological thing– you deny yourself all the time. It’s basically saying “NO” to you. You DENY YOURSELF a dessert, or something you want, etc.
Jesus says there is going to be a time, a fork in the road, a point of tension, where what He wants for you and what you want for you are very different! In that moment you have to decide if you’re going to be a consumer or a follower. And if you decide to be a follower, you’re going to have to say NO to you and yes to Jesus!
And so Jesus wants everyone in the crowd to get this- he doesn’t want them to miss it. He wants them to mentally prepare themselves for what they may have to face.
He’s drawing the line between being friendly with Jesus and what it really means to follow Jesus! You will have to Take up your cross!
We think of the Cross and it’s a pendant on a chain around our neck or some 6×6’s nailed together in a hokey church Easter play. But we’ve never seen the Cross, smelled the stench, experienced the brutality. I could get really graphic here about what happens to a body that’s been crucified, but some of you would have to leave the room… It’s all very much glorified and romanticized for us.
But the group sitting there listening to Jesus they are scared out of there minds!! Because they had seen crucifixions and the Romans would leave crosses standing as a visible reminder and means of inflicting fear on people!
Jesus says you need to understand from this point forward if you are going to follow me then it may cost you something and you are going to have to DENY yourself… Imagine people in the crowd- they are freaked out. The fish-n-chips dinners, the miracles, it’s all been great… but deny myself, take up a cross… Now get this: “I’m not so sure following Jesus is going to be worth it!”
Jesus knows this scares us. It’s why so many people choose to “UNFOLLOW” Jesus. It’s not that you don’t believe, it’s just that you can’t deny yourself. So, Jesus adds some things that helps us to get our head and our heart around this.
Mark 8:35a “For whoever wants to save their life…”
What? Wait… I want to save my life! We all do! We’re actually all working on that- we exercise, work, etc. We want to “save” our life. Jesus uses some common ground…
Mark 8:35b“will lose it…”
We get that too because no matter how hard we work, this body, this life is going to end, going to die. So Jesus has our attention and he says…
Mark 8:35c “…but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Every one of us, every person on this planet that is working so hard to “save” their life is going to lose their life anyway! AND Jesus says if you choose to follow me and in the process of following me you lose your life- that you’re going to lose anyway, lose a job, lose a relationship, lose something of value, that you’re going to lose anyway, you choose Jesus over things, Jesus is telling you, you will SAVE it!
Jesus is giving us the opportunity to consider all the things we’re going to end up losing anyway, but be able: To lose them with a purpose and meaning attached! To take what we all will lose and come away with way more than what we thought we gave up or lost! And then Jesus furthers the discussion with this question:
Mark 8:36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Jesus is saying, let’s imagine you have EVERYTHING– in the context of how we look at people and think they’ve got it all. We’ve got the “whole world”- the house, the car, the career, the look, the friends, the whatever all that is. Whatever the “whole world” is for you.
And at the end of that life, you’ve got it all, but you’re going to lose it all anyway, and on top of all that you also LOSE YOUR SOUL!
Now if you don’t think you’ve got a soul or when you die that’s it, this isn;’t a problem. And there were some in the crowd, the Sadducees who taught there is no afterlife (they were “sad you see!”), no big deal. But, Jesus very specifically taught there is a heaven and a hell. And Jesus is saying what if at the end of this incredible life you choose to live you forfeited your soul??
What’s it mean to forfeit your soul? Jesus really doesn’t go into detail here but it can’t be good! It may mean hell. It may mean an eternal existence of separation from God, from all that is good. Would it be worth it? To forfeit your soul? Would we really choose this temporary life, as awesome as you could make it, over eternal life?? So Jesus clarifies it further…
Mark 8:37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
So Jesus turns it around and puts it this way: In that moment you realize you’re at the end of your life, and you’ve had a decent life, maybe a great life, or you built this incredible life, and you’re about to “forfeit” your soul, what would you give in that moment?? Everything!! You’d be willing to give it all!! Because you’re going to lose it anyway!
Jesus helps us answer both questions: What good is it to gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? NO GOOD! What would you give in exchange for your soul? EVERYTHING!
Jesus says, “Look what you’ve just discovered about yourself! Those of you that are afraid to follow me or what you may have to give up or lose to follow me or deny yourself of, here’s what you just realized:
My Soul is greater than My Things! That when it is all said and done, you’d be more than willing to give up everything to save your soul! That’s a life changing, defining moment! It’s realizing that no matter what life I’ve built… I can’t take it with me…. I’m going to lose it all anyway… And Jesus is giving us an opportunity to give it up in such a way that it impacts and shapes the destiny of my soul.
This isn’t as big of a sacrifice as we make it out to be. You are going to lose it all anyway… BUT you can win if the value of your soul is what you consider to be greater than anything else!
Mark 8:38a “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation…”
Basically Jesus is saying that in those instances when you’ve claimed to be a follower but then someone calls you out on it… “Hey you go to church don’t you? You’re a follower of Jesus, a Christian?” and you respond with, “Me? No, we just go for the children’s program!” Or, to those in the crowd that day, “No, we just came for the fish-n-chips dinner!” You’re called out as a follower, but you’re ashamed to admit it, look what Jesus says…
Mark 8:38b “…the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
What’s this about?? It’s when we stand before God and give an account. And who was the guy standing front and center when Jesus was laying this all out? Peter! Remember his words? “I’ll never deny you Jesus! I’ll never be ashamed of admitting I’m a follower!” Remember what happens? Peter denies Jesus big time!!
What did Jesus do? Kick him out of the group?? NO! (Jn. 21) He forgives Peter and puts him in charge of the whole group!! And Peter died for what he saw, believed, and experienced- a risen Savior!!
What’s the principle of this story, this moment in Mark 8: Our BIG takeaway?
Salvation did not cost us anything! Jesus paid the price for your salvation! There’s nothing you can do to earn it!
Following Jesus will eventually cost us something! But following Jesus in this sinful, adulterous generation means there is going to be a time, a decision, a conflict of interest where you’re going to have to determine to follow Jesus because you will…
You will sense a A moral DUTY! It won’t be a Bible verse, or something everyone else has to do, etc. It will be that moment when you just know you can’t take that job or choose that path or have that relationship, etc. It’ll be the thing you know you must do or not do. That if you’re going to be a Jesus follower, then you’ll know in that moment what it will cost you, that you’re not just a Jesus-consumer, you are a Jesus follower!
It will feel like a DEATH! Because you choose to follow Jesus a dream may have to die, a desire for something you’ve been wanting will have to die; you’ll know that choosing that situation or that opportunity may mean forfeiting your soul. And choosing to follow Jesus will mean you’ll have to let that dream, ambition, opportunity, etc. die because you’d have to turn your back on Jesus to do it!
It will be a DEFINING moment! If you learn to say No to you and yes to Jesus you’ll discover who you really are and who you really belong to. Those moments change, transform, define your life! You KNOW in those moments you’re not merely a Jesus-consumer you are a Jesus follower!
There will always be times when you will have to say NO to you and YES to Jesus. Faith will say you have to go this way and culture will say you have to go that way and you’ll choose to follow the way Jesus is leading! Those times define your life!!
We are fooling ourselves and others if we think we can follow Jesus and it not cost us anything! You see, Jesus consumers are only interested it what they can get out of it- they don’t give, they don’t sacrifice, they don’t serve, they don’t stay the course, they don’t deny themselves, they certainly don’t die to self…
And Jesus is saying that is not only a very selfish way to live, but its not going to gain you anything. In the end you’re going to lose it all anyway and are you willing to forfeit your soul? Because in that moment, when you face eternity, and you know you’re about to lose it all anyway, you’d gladly, you’d beg to be able to give everything to gain eternal life with Christ!
Jesus is saying that there is a cost to follow him, that there is a big difference between being a Jesus-consumer and a Jesus follower. And that cost is losing your life to save it! It’s learning to say no to you and say yes to Jesus.