Do You Want To Follow Jesus?
There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is a proverb that the bible speaks to us. And one of the areas in which this is true is when you’re a student. If you don’t know the answer to the question the teacher is asking, then is the time to be silent and learn. But when you do know the answer, then that might be the time to speak. That is the context we find ourselves in as we walk through the end of Mark 8. We read: “29 “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he strictly warned them to tell no one about him.” (Mark 8:29–30 CSB17)
Jesus the master teacher had asked the disciples who they thought he was. Peter spoke up for them all and said that Jesus was the Christ. But then notice what happens. Jesus warns them to not tell others about Jesus. Now was the time for Peter to be silent and to learn. But what happens next? “31 Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He spoke openly about this.” (Mark 8:31–32 CSB17)
What is the difference between a teenager and a toddler? The teenager will find your inconsistencies and hypocrisies and challenge you. A toddler will not. Peter here in these words is growing as a follower of Jesus and he is beginning to show it. Peter is told to be silent and private with what he knows about Jesus. But look at Jesus. Jesus is doing the opposite of what he says. Jesus is not practicing what he preaches. Jesus is boldly, loudly and publicly laying out his future in front of everyone. So Peter has to act. We read: “32 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning around and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”” (Mark 8:32–33 CSB17)
Jesus is not practicing what he preaches. Jesus tells them to be silent, but he blabs out as much as he wants. So Peter takes Jesus aside and tells Jesus to stop. And if Jesus was preaching boldly and loudly before, he gets twice as blunt and twice as loud. He shouts out to the crowd as he is speaking to Peter and he says, “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter does not get to be the professor. Peter has a lot to learn. And Jesus will not stand for Peter pretending to be a professor when he still had a childish understanding of the bible. But notice what Jesus does then. He uses this as an opportunity to teach everyone. We read: “34 Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life?” (Mark 8:34–37 CSB17)
Jesus reaches out to the crowd and through them to us today asking that amazing and important question: Do you want to follow Jesus? And so, let me ask you, do you want to follow Jesus? If so, then learn what following Jesus looks like. Following Jesus is saying “no” to yourself. Well, what does that mean? Jesus answers that question. But he answers that question with a figure of speech we don’t use today. It’s called a Chiasm. In Greek the letter Ⲭ was shaped like a big “X.” And it was shaped like a big ‘X” because when you follow the pattern of thought, if you were to draw it out on paper it would make an ‘x’ shape. For example, in the Old Testament we hear the proverb, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6 NIV) It makes an ‘x’ shape. And the Holy Spirit does this to make a very important point. We find the same pattern here in these words: Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life because me and the gospel will save it.
Now here, too, we need to define this word, life. In english versions this word is either translated as “life” or “soul.”1 And here in this context it is what matters most to you. What is the foundation of your life? What is your heart and soul? If all the time and treasures God gives to you revolve around you and you cling to them with a death grip, then what will happen to you when you die? If you love your time and your treasures more than your Savior, that is idolatry. And when you die you will lose all your earthly time and all your earthly treasures and then burn in hell forever. However, if you willingly, gladly, joyfully give up your earthly time and treasures because God promises to you in his word that there is so much better waiting in heaven for you, well then, when you die, you receive time…forever and you receive treasures that are uncountable.
But, my dear friends in Christ, it’s hard to look at these verses and not see our sin. We see our sins so closely when we focus in on those few words, “because of the gospel.” It is only when we treasure God’s word and grow in it that we are ready—both to share our faith and die for that faith. Look at Peter. He was so ready to be Jesus’ professor. He was so ready to rebuke Jesus for his inconsistency. But on Maundy Thursday night when a little servant girl asked if he knew Jesus, he denied Jesus. That’s why Jesus says to him and us today, “deny yourself!”
In these words Jesus asks and invites us to lose some of our life here so that we will be ready hereafter. Or, to put it differently, each of us has a sinful nature that loves the things of this world. And that same sinful nature absolutely hates learning about Jesus in his word. If you ask one Christian guy about the baseball stats for the Twins, he can tell you every detail. You ask another Christian lady about her favorite cooking show, and she’ll go on forever. But if you ask either of them how many psalms were written by king David, both of them will stare at you like a cow staring at a new gate. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies and habits. But when we show that we know more about them that we do about God’s word, that proves that we care more about them than God’s word. Jesus doesn’t ask us to lose our life because of hobbies and habits. No, he asks us to lose our life because of the gospel.
Isn’t is wonderful, my dear friends in Christ, to know that what cling to so closely and dearly, Jesus gave up. Jesus grew up as the son of a carpenter. He knew his woodworking better than anyone who ever existed. But that wasn’t his life. God’s word was his life. Doing his Father’s will was his life. Jesus gave up what we cling to so closely and dearly to earn forgiveness for us. Yes and that even meant giving up his perfect life itself on Good Friday. He did this so that our sins of knowing more details about our hobbies and habits than we do about God’s word are forgiven along with all the other sins.
So do you want follow Jesus? Well then, my dear friends, learn your faith. Ready God’s word at home. And come to bible study here. But there’s more. We read: “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”” (Mark 8:38 CSB17)
Do you want to follow Jesus? Then learn your faith. But also live your faith. You see, as Jesus speaks these word, that was not the time for Peter to speak boldly and publicly. But that time would come. The book of Acts proves that to us in detail. And the same is true for us. There is also a time for us to speak. But my dear friends, how we live our lives shapes how we speak about Jesus. The more we are in God’s word the less ashamed we are of Jesus and his word. And then we are able to speak. And we don’t have to make up weird, contrived ways to share our faith. We don’t have to go out and buy T-shirts that say, “Ask me about my faith!” No, we simply live our faith and then be ready to speak about our faith. A guy I used to know put it this way. He said that the answer to anything his co-workers would ask him was always the same: “church.” What are you doing Wednesday night? I’m going to church. You see, he simply lived out his Christian life and let people know he was a Christian. But, as you know, this is only the first step. The next step is a conversation. And usually the conversation starts wth the words, “I don’t agree with that.” People challenge us an confront us when they learn about our faith. What is the solution to that? Bible study. It drives us back to God’s word. Do you want to follow Jesus. Learn your faith. Live your faith.
1 “ⲯⲩⲭⲏⲛ” (Mark 8:35 GNT-ALEX)