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Mark 8,31-38 Upsidedown Kingdom Common Sense

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Mark 8:31-38


Mark 8:31-38


Jesus Predicts His Death

 31He then began to teach them

       that the Son of Man must suffer many things

       and be rejected by the elders,

       chief priests and 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.

33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples,

       he rebuked Peter.

       "Get behind me, Satan!" he said.

       "You do not have in mind the things of God,

       but the things of men."

34Then he called the crowd to him

       along with his disciples and said:

       "If anyone would come after me,

       he must deny himself

       and take up his cross and follow me.

35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,

       but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel

       will save it.

36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,

       yet forfeit his soul?

37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words

       in this adulterous and sinful generation,

        the Son of Man will be ashamed of him

       when he comes in his Father's glory

       with the holy angels."


This story was in the news yesterday (March 11, 2006):

“NEW YORK (AFX) - Bill Gates gained ground at the top of the megarich rankings as the world's wealthiest people added 400 bln usd to their net worth, according to Forbes magazine's annual list.

The number of people whose wealth reached 10 figures stood at a record 793, an increase of 102 from the previous year, with Microsoft founder Gates in first place for the 12th straight year.

His 50 bln usd fortune marked an increase of 3.5 bln usd from the 2005 Forbes list.

The magazine said strong markets around the world contributed to the surge in wealth, as the total net worth of the list jumped to 2.6 trln usd -- more than the annual GDP of Germany.

'Making a billion just isn't what it used to be,' observed Forbes Associate Editor Luisa Kroll, who noted that the number of billionaires had grown by more than 300 in the past three years.

While US names accounted for nearly half the fortunes on the roster, this year's ranking was notable for the influx of newcomers from Brazil, India, Russia and other emerging economies.”

When you read a story like that,

       it almost makes you sick, doesn’t it.

A handful of people have so much wealth,

       that they could easily put a well developed country

       like Germany

       in their back pocket.

36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,

       yet forfeit his soul?

37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Last week Tim Horton’s was in the News…

Did you get that story?

Somebody had bought a cup of coffee

       and then threw out the cup

       which happened to be the winning cup for a new car.

Some girl noticed this cup whose Rim had not been rolled up,

       and she started to “Roll up the Rim to Win”.

But, the Rim was a bit tight,

       and she didn’t want to break a nail,

       so she gave it to a friend

       who rolled up the rest of the rim.

Now, there is a fight in court

       about who “Rolled up the Rim to win.”

“If you ask me,

       its the lawyer who is going to end up driving that new car.”



       and Greed!

       That’s what its all about…

And, you don’t just get to the top

       by being nicey-nice

       and saying “please” and “thank you”.

You have to assert yourself!

       Sue somebody…

       show them who is in charge…

You have to be able to cut some throats along the way

       and not feel any guilt…

       after all, you’re just trying to make it to the top

       even if it is at the expense of relationships.

That’s the logic and common sense of this world!

You have to do better!

       Grow richer!

       Live in Comfort and Style and glamour!

       Enjoy more holidays!

       Be somebody!

       Climb the next mountain!

       Overcome the next hurdle!

       Win the big pot of Lotto 649.

And, the hight of the scandal is that the world

       has no problems with making money with religion either…

ILL.: A few years ago, a large department store tried marketing a doll in the form of the baby Jesus. The advertisements described it as being "washable, cuddly, and unbreakable," and it was neatly packaged in straw, satin, and plastic. To complete the package, the manufacturer added biblical text appropriate to the baby Jesus. To the department store executives, it looked like a sure-fire winner, a real moneymaker. But they were wrong. It didn't sell. In a last-ditch effort to get rid of these dolls, one of the store managers placed a huge sign in one of the store windows. It read:

Jesus Christ
Marked down 50%
Get him while you can.

That’s what the world calls success…

And that’s how Peter and the disciples were thinking  

       when Jesus asked them

       “Who do you say that I am?”

Listen to Peter’s logic:

“You are the Messiah!

       The Promised One of God…

       the One that will bring about world peace…

       and right all wrongs.”

The disciples’ understanding of the Messiah

       was very much in line with that of their society.

The Messiah would liberate Israel

       from all the oppressors.

He would march into battle and come out victorious.

       There was a strong nationalistic understanding

       of the role of the Messiah.

And, it is against the background of this common understanding

       of the Messiah

       that we must read Jesus’ call to discipleship.

When Jesus connected his messianic role

       with suffering and death

       the disciples were horrified…

       they could not believe what they were hearing…

       they could not understand what this non-sense was all about.

“What do you mean,

       that the Son of Man must suffer many things

       and be rejected…

       and that he must be killed.

Are you out of your mind, Jesus?

       We’re going to Jerusalem

       to take over town-square…

We’re going to take control of the temple…

       and get rid of king Herod and all the Roman soldiers…

We’ll build ourselves an empire

       and we’ll expand our economic reach…

       and we’ll have the best education for our children…

       and the best health care system for our sick…

       and with God on our side

       we will rule the world…

       and that’s that!”

Peter and the disciples know what Messiahs should do.

       Messiahs rule!

       They don’t die!

And Jesus severely rebukes him.

Jesus turns to Peter and says,

       “What you are saying is of satanic origin.

       God did not reveal this to you; the devil did.”

The greatest temptations often come in the voice of those

       who love us and think

       that they only want the best for us.

Jesus rebukes Peter,

       and then he shows the disciples

       the way of true discipleship.

And, what Jesus does, is

       he puts our human understanding of where its at

       on its head.

He takes our human common sense

       and turns it upside down.

In The Upside Down Kingdom, Donald Kraybill writes,

“Kingdom players follow new rules. They listen to another coach. Kingdom values challenge patterns of social life taken for granted in modern culture. Kingdom habits don’t mesh smoothly with dominant cultural trends. They may in fact look foolish.”

Vance Havner said, Our Lord never put discipleship in fine print in the contract. He called on us to forsake all, take up our cross, deny self, love him more than anything else. We are not our own, we are bought with a price, the personal property of Jesus Christ with no right to anything. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” *

       "If anyone would come after me,

       he must deny himself

       and take up his cross and follow me.”

Self-denial is pretty serious stuff…

       and we’re not talking about denying ourselves

       an After-eight for the season of Lent.

Anyone who wants to follow Jesus

       must say No to him/herself

       and Yes to Christ.

We must deny ourselves of every self-seeking action,

       and follow Jesus Christ in obedience.

We must be able to say with Paul that

       “it is no longer I who live,

       but Christ lives in me.”

We live no longer to follow our own will,

       but we surrender – we give over – our will into His.  

“He must take up his cross and follow me.”

 What does that mean?

ILL.: A writer for the magazine Talk-of the Town wrote an article on a new boutique called “Cross Culture”. A clerk at the store explained that “crosses are a fashion statement. This store used to have silk scarves and evening bags. But that’s gone. Now we’re selling trendy crosses here. We have one of the best collections in New York City. We’re pretty low on stock right now. They’re just flying out the door.” – Christian Century


Is that what Jesus had in mind?

       “take up your cross and follow me?”

ILL.: Alexander Mackay, missionary to Central Africa, 

       said to the sending committee

       shortly before his missionary departure:

I want to remind the committee

       that within six months they will probably hear

       that some one of us is dead.

Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen

       should start for Central Africa

       and all be alive six months after?

One of us at least—it may be I—

       will surely fall before that.

When the news comes, do not be cast down,

       but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.

ILL.: And Willard Hotchkiss, a pioneer missionary,

       gave the following testimony:

I have dwelt forty years practically alone in Africa. I have been thirty-nine times stricken with the fever, three times attacked by lions, and several times by rhinoceri, but let me say to you, I would gladly go through the whole thing again, if I could have the joy of again bringing that word “Savior” and flashing it into the darkness that envelopes another tribe in Central Africa.*[1]


In our life of faith,

       we sometimes say that “someone has a heavy cross to carry.”

In the time of Jesus,

       prisoners who were to be crucified

       had to physically carry their cross themselves.

It wasn’t just a temporary emotional or physical inconvenience,

       like a high blood pressure,

       or the physical ailments of aging,

       or even the burden that some people carry

       for a loved one who doesn’t walk with the Lord.

To carry a cross meant

       that you were carrying the instrument of your own death

       to the place of your death.

Jesus was telling his disciples,

       that the road to Jerusalem

       was the road to his execution.

There is a hefty price to be paid for following Jesus.

       Discipleship involves looking death in the eye

       and saying with confidence:

       “You’ve got nothing on me.”

ILL.: In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes how he learned to do this amid the starvation and brutality of a Soviet prison camp:

"From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself, ‘My life is over, a little early, to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die - now or a little later. . ." Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogator will tremble. Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.

Solzhenitsyn discovered in the gulag that there is a strength that comes from renunciation of life, a strength that triumphs even over the powers that threaten death. Death, the last enemy, has already been defeated by Jesus’ rising from the dead. That is his victory, that is how he wins the final, apocalyptic battle over the power of Satan. And that event means that death will not be allowed to speak the last word over us either - thanks be to God!

The Common Sense of the Kingdom of God

       tells us that success is not the things you do for yourself…

It’s not about self-actualization…

       survival of the fittest…

       eat or be eaten…

       climbing the success ladder at the expense of others…

The Common Sense of the Kingdom

       follows an upside down logic:

The greatest among you

       must be your servant…

There is no love greater than that of one who

       lays down his life for his friends…

If your enemy is thirsty

       give him a cup of cold water.

Bless those who persecute you.


May we never be ashamed to carry our cross

       as followers of Jesus

       even to the place of our own death.

Because when we live our life for Jesus

       God will restore us to everlasting life and joy.



* Vance Havner, Playing Marbles With Diamonds (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 18.

* Quoted by Gordon MacDonald in Restoring Your Spiritual Passion (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1986), 21.

[1]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (Page 818). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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