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The Gospel of Mark #20 - The Cost of Commitment

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The Gospel of Mark #20:

The Cost of Commitment

Text: Mark 8:27-38

Thesis: To learn what it means to follow Jesus completely.

Introduction:

(1)   Have you ever started a project, but failed to complete it?

(2)   A lot of people are “gung ho” about Christ immediately after becoming a Christian, but soon afterwards, this zeal diminishes and people fail to be as committed as they should be.

(3)   I believe that many people have an inaccurate understanding as what if means to follow Jesus.

(a)    Sometimes, Christianity is presented in such a way that a person believes that life for Jesus will be “peaches and cream.”

(b)   However, Neil Postman correctly observed: “I believe that I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion.  When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether” (Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. 121).

(4)   Let us look at what is truly involved in following Jesus:

Discussion:

I.                   The Story:

A.    Jesus asked His disciples about people’s concept of His identity.

1.      The questioned was asked in the region of Caesarea Philippi, which “was about twenty-five miles north of Bethsaida” (Black 151).

2.      The disciples responded by saying that people consider Him to be: 1) John the Baptist; 2) Elijah; or 3) One of the prophets.

3.      Overall, “the average people ‘on the street’ thought he was great. They were impressed with his prophetic character, but did not have the slightest idea that He was the Messiah” (Hughes 1:199).

B.     Jesus then asked His disciples about their concept of His identity.

1.      The never bashful Peter quickly responded: “You are the Christ.”

a.       “The word Christ means ‘the Anointed One, the promised Messiah” (Wiersbe 1:139).

b.      “Peter’s confession recognized that Jesus was the appointed agent of God whose coming marks the fulfillment of the divine promise and the realization of Israel’s hopes” (Lane 291).

2.      Because of timing, Jesus warned the disciples to keep this information to themselves (i.e., “He did not want to precipitate a premature conflict with either the Jewish national leaders or the Romans” [Shelly 88]).

C.     Jesus proceeded to teach them about His coming crucifixion.

1.      In verse 31, “the verb ‘must’ (dei) suggests divine necessity” (Brooks 136).

2.      Upon hearing Jesus’ fate, Peter pulled Jesus aside to “rebuke Him.”

a.       Peter’s “counter-rebuke reveals his ignorance about the nature of Jesus’ messiahship and his deep offense at Jesus’ teaching” (Garland 325).

b.      “Peter had become the unwitting carrier of demonic doctrine, parallel to that which Christ faced in the wilderness when Satan tempted him to abandon the Father’s will and seek an easy Saviorhood” (Hughes 1:201).

3.      Jesus then rebuked Peter by saying: “Get behind me Satan!”

D.    After this, Jesus called the crowd together to teach them concerning what it means to follow Him.

1.      First, He extended an invitation to follow Him to all who are willing.

2.      Second, He defined what it meant/means to follow Him.

a.       To follow Him is to deny self.

(1)   The word “deny” in the text is from the Greek word “aparneomai,” which means “to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interest.” (Thayer’s, 54)

(2)   Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only Him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self-denial can say is: ‘He leads the way, keep close to him’” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 88).

b.      To follow Him is to take up your cross.

(1)   “What did the cross mean to Jesus? It was something He took up voluntarily, not something that was imposed on Him; it involved sacrifice and suffering; it involved Him in costly renunciations; it was symbolic of rejection by the world” (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Discipleship, p. 22).

(2)   “Cross-bearing as a follower of Jesus means nothing less than giving one’s whole life over to following him” (English 161).

c.       Please note: “In the original Greek all these steps are stated in the present continuous tense … This is not a decision of the moment, but the program of a lifetime” (Schubert 148).

3.      Third, He invited people to consider the alternative.

a.       By choosing to follow self or someone/something else other than Jesus, one may “gain the whole world.”

b.      However, when everything is said and done, the decision to follow Jesus is the only one that will make any difference.

c.       “Jesus challenged anyone thinking of following him to count the cost of doing so and to come to him only if discipleship means more than life itself” (Shelly 90).

II.                The Application:

A.    Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

B.     Despite His heavenly position, He left it all behind in order to come to this earth to die for our sins.

C.     If we wish to be forgiven of our sins, then we must follow Jesus.

1.      We must die to ourselves.

a.       This death begins at baptism.

(1)   In our baptism, we experience a death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).

(2)   We are to rise up as a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17).

b.      However, this is an on-going process that will continue until Jesus comes again (cf. 1 John 3:1-3).

c.       Illustration –

There was an ancient custom in the days of Socrates that his students would present him gifts at graduation.  One boy was unable to afford a nice, expensive gift like the rest of the students.  Thus, he waited until the rest of the boys had presented their gifts and then he approached Socrates and said: “I had no money to buy you a gift; therefore, I would like to give you the only gift that I have … I give you myself.

2.      We must carry our cross.

a.       As Christians, we will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12).

b.      As we are persecuted, we must persevere (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58).

D.    We must remember what truly matters in this life.

Illustration –

Charlemagne’s tomb was opened around AD 1000 by the emperor Otho.  He found the skeleton of Charlemagne, dissolved and dismembered into various hideous postures.  The skull was still wearing the crown, and the bony finger was pointing to the verse in scripture, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Conclusion:

(1)   In Luke 14:33, Jesus said: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

(2)   Jesus thought that you were worth the cost.  He is asking you today to make a choice about whether He is worth the cost.  Will you follow Him?

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