14 Sep

Saving and Losing?

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September 15 & 16, 2012

Mark 8:27-38

Saving and Losing?

Tom Willetts

 

Mark 8:27-38

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

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?”

28 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.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Predicts His Death

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

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.”

The Way of the Cross

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. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 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? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Manwill be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Footnotes:

  1. a.     Mark 8:35 The Greek word means either life or soul; also in verses 36 and 37.

 

Who is already getting the annoying phone calls from the various political candidates asking for your consideration and vote? All of the calls are trying to get you to consider who the candidate is – identity, positions or stances on the issues, and to get you to support them. They are asking, “Who do you think that I am?”

We all have experienced this question in our lives. At a job interview, or at a major corporate project presentation or event or even when we got married we all are called upon to define who we are to others – receive their response to our claims and together move forward for a common good or purpose. Sometimes people don’t believe our promises – sometimes they don’t grasp the full measure of our identity. They hold on to partial, flawed, incomplete, self-satisfying identities from our past.

Jesus initiates this type of conversation in today’s scripture. Apparently there were many people saying many things about who Jesus was. Over the past eight chapters of Mark Jesus has been teaching and preaching and healing and feeding masses of people and here at the thematic midpoint of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am?”  The answers he gets are perfectly correct based upon the past history of the disciples and the pundits. 28They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

John the Baptist is correct because Jesus’ major teaching points were the same as those of John the Baptist. Since Jesus came after John and John has been beheaded by Herod by this time, Jesus is assumed to be a disciple of John or John the Baptist returned. The disciples’ understanding of the message, “Repent the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and the timing seems to support this position.

Others say Elijah, because Jesus has on two occasions fed masses of people as did Elijah. Jesus has healed people – even children – as did Elijah; Jesus even healed a foreigner – as did Elijah. Wouldn’t it be great to have a great healer in our midst to fix all the health care issues we confront in our lives? Jesus is the Great Physician and does offer healing and wholeness – this is true and we like this – we want this.

and still others, one of the prophets.”  Over the centuries of Jewish history many prophets had come to the nation to correct the misdirected ways and deeds of the nation. – Return to God and be faithful to God – Oppose the foreigners corruptions – Remain hopeful, God has a plan – God will deliver the people from oppression – are all themes of various prophets over the history of Israel and Jesus has said all of these things to people as he has journeyed around Israel.

Jesus reframes the question and asks, 29“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  I’ll bet there is a long silence. It’s a lot easier to offer the answers of others than to be put on the spot and offer “my” personal answer. It’s a huge risk. It’s frightening to guess – to propose – to open yourself up to possible critique. After all, we all know that Jesus knows the answer – but what answer – will we be right or wrong – perhaps a big problem or hug.

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.[a] RIGHT ANSWER. YEA!! 30Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Why the secret? For Mark it was critical that we the reader – the future disciples – realize fully what CHRIST meant – for Jesus and as a disciple of Jesus.

The next paragraphs make it clear that the people closest to Jesus didn’t yet understand what “You are the Christ” means. They offered the words – the correct answer – but didn’t yet grasp the meaning – the impact – the transformation – the crisis – the adjustments –the changes – these words cause in our lives. We know that Peter is correct in saying, “You are the Christ,” but what does that mean? Peter didn’t know at that moment – none of the disciples knew – though later he – they – us would realize. The growth of the realization of what “You are the Christ” means is the work of discipleship. Let me set the question this way? If I ask, “Is Jesus the Savior of your life?” Is YES your response? “Is Jesus the LORD of your life?” Can you answer with the same YES? Are those the same questions? They are NOT.

Many people want salvation from the sins of their life, we’ve all made mistakes – eternally heavenly bliss is much preferred over the fires of hell. However, fewer want to permit Jesus to tell them what to do – be LORD of their lives. I mentioned “meddling” last week and someone asked for a definition – let’s linger a little longer here this week. Meddling from my life’s experience is when the words of Jesus directly offend or invalidate our personal preferences and beliefs and we experience a crisis or spiritual discord.

Forgiveness – How much? 70 X7.  WHOM? Everyone, including yourself.

Who in my neighbor?  The person who most frightens or has the least in common with you. Do I have to share with everyone? YES. All people are neighbors. ALL means ALL.

Whom do I love? Your enemy.

For whom do I pray? Those who persecute you and speak hate toward you.

How much do I love God? With everything – all that you have. 10% is only a down payment.

You think I’m meddling yet? Talk with Jesus about it but first listen carefully: 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. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 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? 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.”

These verses outline the path of discipleship and make the “end game” obvious. The path is; (1) Self Denial, (2) Cross bearing, (3) willingness to lose one’s life for Christ’s sake, (4) boldly, lovingly witnessing to the gospel in the world. The end game is eternal life in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.

Saving is Losing. Some will offer a John the Baptist or prophet’s answer and say, “Keep repeating the past. We didn’t get it right yet. It was good enough for them. It’s still good enough now.” Some will offer Peter’s answer, “NEW is better,” and perhaps not really realize what that means and their personal agenda gets in the way.

All of us must hear and follow Jesus’ words of faithful discipleship. Jesus is the Christ LORD and SAVIOR – following Jesus means a life of Self Denial, Cross Bearing, Personal Sacrifice, and Witnessing to the Gospel. Faithfully following this path of discipleship we will realize that saving is losing. So, who do you say Jesus is?

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

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