Saturday, February 20, 2016

Jesus' Success Principle: The Way to Up is Down (Mark 8:31-38)

[After Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus] 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. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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’
(Mark 8:31-33,
NIV, bracket mine).

Jesus, the Son of God gave up His life in order to save the world. To some, Jesus’ death on the cross looks like an unnecessary surrender, a ‘loser’. But we now realize that without His death and subsequent resurrection we would be “unredeemed” and the daily personal guidance of His Spirit would not be available to us (see John 16:7). That’s why it is necessary for Jesus to take up His cross…

Now, Jesus began to tell His disciples of His coming death. But these men, particularly Peter, refused to hear of it. They have misconceptions and misunderstanding of what the Messiah first came to do. “You’re the Saviour, you’re great,” they were thinking. “You’re going to smash our enemies and we’re all going to ride to glory with you.” They were rightly concerned, but they were wrongly concluded Jesus’ mission. That’s where Jesus had to cut Peter short and introduce one of the most important principles Christians must learn: the way to up is down. In other words, the way to success in God’s plan is not to rely upon our own intelligence or strength to push to the top. That’s the pattern of the Satan-influenced human nature – “Get behind me, Satan!” “…merely human concerns” – smash and grab, look out for yourself first, do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you.

But Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Roughly translated, that means to set aside the primary goal of pleasing yourself first, to accept willingly the unpleasant or uncomfortable situation that may result from denying yourself, and then leave the outcome to God. That’s Jesus’ pattern for success in the Kingdom of God. I love Jesus’ honestly; it hurts, but it is sweet and necessary. Jesus doesn’t promise any easy way. True discipleship is costly, but worth it. David Hewitt writes, “Jesus is very honest about things; he does not hide the unwelcome demands in small print. Neither does he ask anything of us that he is not prepared to give himself. He has the right to ask us to take up our cross because he has carried his own. The call to follow Jesus is not a call to give up certain things, but to die. In this way, Jesus sifts out the true disciples from those who are merely camp followers.

On the surface, Peter’s way of success looks like more fun and happier, but remember: after Jesus’ cross came His resurrection. After His resurrection Jesus was more glorious and victorious than before. But it would not have been so without the Crucifixion. If we follow Jesus through the Crucifixion (deny self, take up the cross) we are also privileged to “follow” Him in the glory of Resurrection. In the early Book of Acts, Peter eventually experienced Jesus’ style of success. After received the power of the resurrected Christ, Peter committed to deny self, take up his cross and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside-down for his faith.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:35-37). Jesus challenges our values. Do we want to follow Him or not? If we cling on to life selfishly, worry too much on our rights and privileges, we lose out in the end. That kind of life is not worth having. It is foolish to sacrifice eternity for a moment. Jim Elliot, a Christian martyr, says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Think about it.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words… the Son of Man will be ashamed of them
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Have you been ashamed to identify with a ‘loser’?
When Jesus returns, who will be the loser?
Take your stand for Jesus now – deny yourself, take up the cross and follow me.

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