Text: Mark 8:27-35
27 Then Jesus and his disciples went out into the villages of Ceasarea Philippi; now on the way he began asking his disciples, saying to them, “Who are people saying I am?” 28 Then they told him, “People are saying, ‘John the Baptist,’ and some, ‘Elijah,’ and others, ‘One of the prophets.’ ” 29 Then he began asking them, “But who do you say I am?” Answering, Peter said, “You are the Christ.” 30 Then he warned them that they should tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again; 32 And he was speaking plainly about this matter. Then Peter, after taking him aside, began to rebuke him. 33 Now after turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Go away behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of men.” 34 Then after summoning the crowd together with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow after me, let him disown himself, and let him take up his cross, and let him follow me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.”
Children state and ask the most amusing things. A Sunday School teacher once reported to me what a little girl had asked and stated in Sunday School the previous Sunday. The class had been watching a video of Jesus resurrection, which ended with his ascension into heaven. The little girl suddenly asked: Hey! Why did you stop it there, just when it was getting to the best part? I always wanted to see what heaven was like. When the teacher told her that the video stopped there because no one has seen heaven yet to know what it is like, the little girl responded, Well, Im going there! And after Ive been there, Ill tell you what its like!
That little girl knew she was going to heaven. Praise the Lord for that! May we all go there! Our getting there, however, depends on how we answer the most important question of all: Who is Jesus Christ? Lets hear the answer to that question, as well as learn what he did for us and what he urges us to do for him. From the above text we learn: Jesus Is The Promised Christ, Who Denied Himself To Do Gods Will, Who Urges Us To Follow His Example.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who are people saying I am?” The answers he heard were all wrong. They replied, “People are saying, ‘John the Baptist,’ and some, ‘Elijah,’ and others, ‘One of the prophets.’ ”
Having heard the people’s wrong answers, Jesus put the question to his disciples. “But who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Who do say Jesus is? Your answer is the most important answer you will ever give. You will be judged by your answer. Your answer will determine whether you spend eternity in heaven or hell. By the power of the Spirit may we all be answering: “Jesus is the Christ.” For the Bible tells us, “If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Peter identified Jesus as the Christ who had been promised throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, such as in Isaiah 50:4-10. Those verses promised the Christ would be an obedient servant of God, who would willingly give himself and his life to do Gods will. He would suffer the abuse and humiliation inflicted on him by the Jews and the Romans. He would endure that suffering even though he would be innocent of any wrongdoing. He would bear those heavy crosses of rejection, shame, and suffering because his mind would be set on carrying out what was in Gods interest and will for the salvation of us sinners.
The Scriptures promised the Christ would do these things. Having been identified as this promised Christ by Peter, Jesus taught his disciples that he “must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
The word must in the Greek literally means: It is necessary. It was necessary that he suffer many things and be rejected, killed, and rise again, because such things were the unchanging will of God for him. God had foretold those things in the Scriptures. It was necessary that those Scriptures be fulfilled and that those things happen to him as they had been foretold.
Psalm 118 had foretold the promised Christ would suffer the rejection of the religious leaders of the Jews. It stated: “The stone the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22) It was therefore necessary that Jesus, who was the promised Christ, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law. Isaiah had foretold Christ would be put to death. He stated: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Who thought about his generation? For he was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the blow belonged. He was given his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, although he did no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:8,9) It was therefore necessary that Jesus, who was the promised Christ, be killed on the cross and buried in a rich man’s tomb. Psalm 16 had foretold the promised Christ would rise from the dead. It stated: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; you will not permit your Holy One to see decay.” (Psalm 16:10) It was therefore necessary that Jesus, the promised Christ, rise from the dead on the third day. Being the willing, obedient servant of God, Jesus was set upon going through with his suffering that had been foretold to do his Father’s will, which was to save us.
We, however, have not been such willing, obedient servants of God, set upon doing what is Gods will for us. We have violated his will and sinned throughout our lives.
How comforting, then, to hear that Jesus is the promised Christ who suffered, died, and rose again. He suffered for our sins, as Isaiah had foretold he would: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment for our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus’ suffering and death brought us God’s peace. God is no longer angry with us over our sins. He has forgiven them and forgotten them, as he promised he would, stating in the Old Testament Scriptures: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will not remember again.” (Jeremiah 31:34) Having his forgiveness, we are not subject to punishment in hell. Rather, we are the heirs of life in heaven.
In following Jesus by faith to our heavenly home, we will follow his example of self-denial to do what is Gods will for us, even if we must suffer to do it.
When Peter heard Jesus must suffer and die, he took him aside and began to rebuke him. At the time Peter did not yet understand many things about the promised Christ. Like the rest of the Jews, he was looking for a Messiah who would establish a heaven on earth. If Jesus, the Christ, were killed, that would never happen. Peter, therefore, did not want to hear anything about Jesus’ suffering and dying. He tried to dissuade Jesus from going through with his suffering and death, telling him, according to the Gospel of Matthew, “God forbid, Lord! This shall absolutely not happen to you!”
Jesus in turn rebuked Peter. “Go away behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of men.” In that instance Satan was using Peter to tempt Jesus not to do what was God’s will for him--to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Peter’s mind was not set on the things God wanted done but on what he himself wanted done.
Jesus’ disciples had to learn that they too must accept and follow whatever was God’s will for them instead of pursuing their own interests. Jesus told them, “If anyone wishes to follow after me, let him disown himself, and let him take up his cross, and let him follow me.” Jesus was denying himself to take up the cross his Father had laid on him to save all people. His disciples must likewise deny and disown themselves to do what was God’s will for them, even when it would hurt and they would lose their lives in the process. Jesus explained, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.” Those who refused to suffer for doing God’s will, because they loved their life on this earth, would lose the very life they so cherished. They would be condemned. But those who willingly suffered for the sake of Jesus and his gospel of salvation would save their life - - their eternal life and soul.
So in following Christ we will deny ourselves. We will refuse to make ourselves the sole object of our life. Rather, we will make God and his will the center of our life. We will make the sacrifices God calls on us to make. We will, when called on to do so, take up a cross that includes being ready to suffer shame and death to remain faithful to Christ. In this way, though we may lose our life, we will save it and have eternal life. But if we should deny Christ to save our earthly life, we will lose our eternal life and be condemned.
We disciples of Jesus already suffer persecution for the sake of him and his Word. We who believe Jesus is the Son of God, who was crucified for our sins and raised on the third day, and we who accept the Bible as the inerrant, inspired Word of God are scoffed at and mocked by those who reject these truths. To date our Lord has not asked us to make the supreme sacrifice for him and his gospel--the shedding of our blood. That time may come, however, as our society continues its downward course into sin and godlessness and it becomes more and more pagan in its nature.
Our society is becoming increasingly godless. It is even returning to ancient forms of paganism, complete with the adoration of the devil and immoral revelry. I say this in light of an article published by Charisma magazine in March of 1997, which was entitled: Neo-pagan celebration attracts thousands. The article began: Severed animal heads are roasted over a flame; people dressed as demons perform pagan rituals; men and women dance nude before fiery idols as a starry night softly illumines the flat desert around them. No, this is not a description of a thousands-of-years-old Canaanite religious festival. It is occurring in modern-day America.
The pagan festival described in the article embraces the devil, hell, the darkness, and sexual masochism. The article stated that pagan festival has been occurring since the mid-1980s every Labor Day weekend in the desert of northwestern Nevada. It is called The Burning Man, named after a 40-foot wooden statute that is torched the final night. The article stated the number of pagans who attend the revelry has been increasing each year. In 1996 more than 10,000 were in attendance.
The writer, George Otis, Jr., who witnessed the pagan celebration, concluded his article: I had to admit that the Christian values we have long cherished in the West are being extinguished...As spiritual darkness has become more pronounced in our culture, we have started to see ungodly forces creeping into our own backyard.
Paganism and anti-Christian forces are on the rise. As they multiply to take over our society, we can expect their hatred of Gods Word and our Christian faith and values to increase, and with it the persecution of the faithful. The persecution is likely to become ugly, physical, and violent, as the persecution of Jesus by the Jews and Romans was, and as was the persecution of Lot by the Sodomites and the ancient Christians by the Gentile pagans.
If such physical persecution should occur in our United States, may God prevent it, we will need to be ready to follow Jesus by taking up that cross to follow him in doing Gods will of testifying to the Lord Jesus and the truth of the gospel with our blood. To strengthen us for the ordeal and to comfort us through every kind of persecution, even the kind we are subject to today, we have the gospel of eternal life. We have the promise and the hope that even though we should die, yet we will live, for in losing our life for Jesus and the sake of the gospel we save our life. What is more, we have the confidence, which was expressed to me by one lady in my congregation years ago, How thankful we can be that we always have the Lord with us.
With the psalm writer we can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1) We have this confidence because by the grace of God we know the answer to the question: Who is Jesus Christ? He is our Lord, the promised Savior of the Scriptures, who for our sake denied himself to do God’s will of suffering and dying on the cross for our forgiveness and salvation. No matter what may lay before us, by faith we now follow Jesus, intent, as he was, on setting aside our will to do God’s will. May God keep us in this faith and conviction until the day we stand before him in heavenly glory, where we will forever be delivered from all that causes us to suffer in this world. Amen.