What about you?

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Mark 8:27-9:1

Seeing clearly

When was the last time you had your eyes checked out? If you are young perhaps you have never had your eyes tested. Although once you get to school it usually does happen or at least it used to.

Our oldest son got his eyes tested at primary school and they sent a note home with him telling us that he needed glasses. This was not the wisest of ways to communicate with the parents. Our son didn’t want glasses did he, and so, you probably can guess what he did with that note that said that he needed them. It never made it home and it was only the year after that we found out that there was something wrong with his eyes.

While for some our problem with our eyesight can start incredibly early in life for others of us, they come with older age. I’m now 57 and like most people since my early forties I have made that annual visit to the Optometrist to get my eyesight checked out and get some help with seeing things clearly.

Looking at Jesus

In the reading today we have come to a turning point in the gospel of Mark[1]. It was time for the disciples to focus and start seeing things more clearly. The disciples had been seeing all that Jesus had been doing and the time had come for Jesus to test their eyes to see if they knew who they were following. Jesus was about to head to Jerusalem and to the cross. His public ministry in Galilee was over, and it was almost time for him to get on with next phase of what he had come to do. But before this happened, Jesus seemed to need to spend time with the disciples to help them clearly see who it was that they were following and what it would mean for them to follow him. Jesus begins to focus on the way to Caesarea Philippi.

On the way to Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi was north of the Sea of Galilee. It was located at the foot of Mount Hermon at the headwaters of the Jordan river.

According to my crude measurements [see MAP]using a ruler and old map it was about 40 kilometres as the crow flies from Bethsaida which was at the northern end of the sea of Galilee. Philip the tetrarch had built his residence there and had renamed the township in honour of the emperor and it came to be known as Caesarea Philippi (of Philip). Again, Jesus seems to have taken his disciples aside and gone for this walk in the country leaving the more densely populated areas so that he could help teach them more about himself and his mission in preparation for the next part of the journey.

Who do people say I am?

On the way to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” During the first half of the gospel we have seen people making up their minds about Jesus. Here the disciples tell Jesus the various theories and conclusions that people had come up with and that Mark had mentioned earlier in chapter 6. Some, like Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead. Others were saying that he was one of the great prophets of old, Elijah who they expected to come before the coming of the Lord. Others were saying that he was just another one of the prophets. All these suggestions were better than what the teachers of the law were saying about Jesus, but they all fell far short of who Jesus really was and is. He wasn’t just another great and godly man in a long procession of them.

But what about you?

But at this point what was most important for Jesus was not what others were saying about him, but what his disciples thought and understood. Therefore, Jesus asked “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

I think this is question that Marks also wants us, his readers, who have come this far with him in his gospel to answer. “But what about you?” What do you see when you look at Jesus after hearing Mark’s account of all the things that Jesus did and said? Who do you say that he is?

If right now Jesus was to come and stand right, there in front of you and just drop this in the conversation how would you answer him? Through what lens are you looking at Jesus  – teacher or  prophet, a godly man. Jesus put his disciples to the test that day and he puts all of us to the test when we hear the gospel taught and preached. “What about you?” He says, “Who do you say that I am?” It’s an important question for our eternal destiny is bound up in the way that we answer this question. One day how you answered that question in this life will be all that really will have mattered.

You are the Messiah

Peter’s answer to that question is the turning point of the gospel. The scales have finally fallen from the disciples’ eyes so that they can see clearly enough to make out who Jesus is. Peter answered, “You are the Messiah”. Finally, the disciples understand. He is the Messiah (or the Christ). Among the Jews, this term which meant “anointed one” had come to refer to the promised son of David who would come into this world to rescue God’s people, and sit on David’s throne and establish God’s kingdom on earth and rule over it forever. He was more than just a prophet and he was more than just Elijah or John the Baptist who were just getting things ready for Jesus. He was God’s promised king who had come to rescue, rule, and restore our world. He is the Lord whose feet, as we have seen in the gospel so far, you are meant to fall down at.

The disciples finally understood who Jesus was, but this did not mean that they understood what being the Messiah would mean for him. They had no idea as to how he would rescue and restore our world and what it would mean for them to be his followers. They had their own preconceived ideas of what his rule would look like, but they were wrong. They could make Jesus out but if anything their vision is like that of the blind man in the previous story, there is still a lot of blurriness. This is the reason why Jesus told them not to tell anyone because there were a lot of wrong ideas in circulation at the time about how the Messiah would rescue and deliver his people and the disciples shared a lot of them.

Being the Messiah

The disciples at this point need more instruction and it was from this point on that we read Jesus began to teach them what being the Messiah would mean for him and what it would mean for them to be his disciples.

The gospel of Mark roughly divides into two halves, in the first half Mark helps us to understand who Jesus is and in the second half we see what he came to do. Here in chapter 8 is where Jesus began to teach his disciples what must happen to him.

Mark 8:31- 32

31 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. 32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Jesus spoke plainly about the necessity of what had to happen for the kingdom to come with power (9:1). He explained that it was necessary for him to suffer many things and to be rejected by the very people who ought to have welcomed him, the elders, the chief priests, and teachers of the law. He then went on to say that he also must be killed and after three days rise again.

Why these things had to happen Jesus will explain in chapter 10 where he told the disciples that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). His death and resurrection would be the way that he would rescue his people from sin and death and establish God’s kingdom on earth.

However, at this point in the gospel, the disciples found this hard to understand. They expected the Messiah to defeat all their enemies and go to Jerusalem and sit on David’s throne and from there rule the world forever. Peter did not like what he was hearing about suffering, rejection and death and he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. But Peter was not looking at these things from God’s perspective, but through the lens of this world, from a human point of view. He was thinking about Jesus in a very selfish human sort of way, wanting Jesus to be the sort of king that he wanted him to be, so that his own desires could be met by following him.

Sadly, this temptation comes from the evil one and still very much alive today. People create their own version of Jesus to satisfy their own longings and desires so that Jesus is more acceptable to them. We fashion Jesus into our own image. We have the Jesus who is there to make me a success in life as though his biggest concern is to give me a leg up to help me achieve my potential and dreams. We have the Jesus that wants us to be prosperous and to shower all the good things of this world on us. We have the Jesus who does not care about my sin and does not talk about judgement only love and acceptance. These are human ways of thinking about Jesus that reflect us and our own desires rather the things of God. Jesus made plain where these ideas come from – the evil one, from Satan. He did not mince words and he severely rebuked Peter.

Peter was not thinking about things the way that God thinks about them. Jesus came to be served, rather than serve. He came to suffer, rather than to indulge himself. He came knowing that he would be rejected and killed by the very people who should have welcomed him. He came to lay down his life for his people on a cross to rescue us from our sin. He would triumph through suffering and sacrifice.

Being his disciple

Of course, if this is what your king is like it has big implications for those who would call themselves his disciples. Jesus went on to explain what it would mean to be his disciple to both the crowd and his disciples. These words were not just words for the twelve but for all who would call Jesus Lord and follow him.

Mark 8:34-38

34Then 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. 35For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 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 we have in these verses is firstly a brief explanation of what being a disciple involves (verse 34). Secondly, in verses 35 to 37 we are told why we ought to follow him and lastly there is a warning (verse 38) followed by a promise (9:1).

Take up your cross

In verse 34 Jesus explains that if you want to be his disciple you must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow him.

Now, someone who took up their cross in the ancient world was someone whose life was in the process of being taken away from them. The Romans hung people on a cross as form of capital punishment and they would make those who were being crucified carry the cross beam of their cross to the place where they would hoist them up on it.

In our case, our lives are not taken from us. We are called to deny ourselves, like Jesus we lay down our lives for him and for the sake of the gospel. We trust in him and live out the good news of the gospel no matter what the cost in this world. I think sometimes this passage is misunderstood as though all that Jesus was saying was that we must be open to the possibility of martyrdom and suffering for our faith like him.

Although I think what he was saying included this, he was also saying more than this. He was saying that following him means no longer holding on to our lives for ourselves but living them, here and now, for him and his gospel. We are to trust him and put his words into action in our lives, building our lives on them. We are all called to deny ourselves and to live our lives for him who died for us. It is as the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter.

2 Corinthians 5:15

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

To take up your cross is to deny yourself and no longer live for yourself but to live for him who died for you. It is to give your whole life over to following Jesus regardless of the cost.  And what Jesus says is that it is worth it.

It is worth it.

Following Jesus is worth anything that you might have to give up here and now in this life. In verses 35 to 38 the Lord Jesus explained why we ought to do this. He said to the disciples that if we try and hold on to our lives for ourselves, we ultimately lose them. However, it is those who lose their life for Jesus and the gospel who will save their life. They might lose their life in this world, but what they gain is infinitely more valuable than what they might have had to give up. Jesus said…

Mark 8:36-37

36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul.

Jesus is here talking in the language of the accountant saying that what we gain cannot possibly compare with what we might lose in this life. Even if you should gain the whole, what good would that be if you forfeited your life (the word soul in verse 36 and 37 is the same word that was translated ‘life’ in previous verse = psyche).

There is nothing that is so valuable in this life that makes it worth trading for the life that is yours in Christ (even if someone could give you the whole world). The life that we have following Jesus is just so much better and more valuable that it is worth anything to have it and nothing you might lose by following Jesus can compare with it.

Don’t be ashamed

Jesus warned his disciples to not be ashamed of him and the gospel. We need to be careful. We are not to be ashamed of Jesus and his words for if we are then he will be ashamed of us when he comes in his Father’s glory. We will miss out on the life and the glory to come.

The words of Jesus don’t always sit well with an adulterous and sinful generation in which we live. They won’t be accepted or welcomed by the majority of people, and some who will call themselves followers of Jesus will try to edit the words of Jesus to fit in with the scruples of the generation that we find ourselves living. They will become ashamed of Jesus’ words and will massage the Bible’s message to fit with the culture that we are part of. Jesus warns us against being ashamed of him and his words. We are to keep preaching the gospel and the message that we have received. Like the apostle Paul we are to not be ashamed of the gospel but to recognise that it is the power of God for salvation (see Romans 1:15). For if we don’t and are ashamed of his words, he will be ashamed of us and we will miss out.

But the Lord also gave those disciples with Jesus that day a promise. He told them that they would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God come with power. One day we too will see the kingdom of God come in all its fullness if we follow him.

But what about you?

At this point it does not matter what others think and say about Jesus, the question that Jesus asked his disciples is really the question that he is asking you and me today. “But what about you?

Firstly what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Who do you say I am?

On the day of judgement when Jesus comes in all the glory of the Father what will matter is how you have answered this question that Mark has put to you this day.

Do you believe that Jesus was more than just Elijah or John the Baptist or a prophet? Who do you see when you look at Jesus and all that he did and said? Are you willing to testify with Peter, “You are the Messiah”? Do you believe that he is the king that God has sent to rescue us and rule over our world? If you do then surely you know that you cannot keep on ignore him. You cannot brush him off or aside and keep on living life as though you rule it.

What are you going to do?

What about you? What are you going to do? Are you going to take up your cross and follow him? Jesus said that “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” He calls us to trust in him and his words and giving our whole life over to following him.

You might think this is an awfully big step to take, but as Jesus has explained it is worth it. Following Jesus is worth whatever you think that it is that you might lose, because what we have in Christ is just far better than anything this world might like to throw at us. It is not loss, it is incredible gain for what you have here you cannot hold on to and what Jesus has for you, you will hold onto forever. So, if you haven’t already, then fall down at his feet and confess him as Lord and take up your cross and follow him.

Don’t be ashamed

But what about you? You who have already started on that journey of faith. Don‘t let this adulterous and sinful world intimidate you. Don’t be ashamed of Jesus and his words but live them out and tell of him who died for you. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel it is the power of God for salvation.

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Discussion Question

In what way are Christian influenced today by our own culture to dilute the message of the gospel?

 

[1]. Throughout the first part of the gospel, Mark has been showing us that the disciples had a real problem with understanding what they were seeing. At times Jesus seems surprised at their lack of understanding (see 4:13) and on at least one occasion he had referred to them as “dull” (7:18) and asked them whether they had eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear (8:18). They were seeing but not really understanding what they were looking at.