Summary: A sermon about the scandal of following Christ.
“From Information to Commitment”
This morning’s Scripture passage is scandalous!!!
First there is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah.
Then there is the startling prediction of Jesus’ suffering and death.
Finally, Jesus gives His call to discipleship, which, at its center is a call to “lose one’s life.”
After reading these verses, it’s amazing that anyone is a Christian.
It’s scandalous alright!!!
But, after all, scandal is a term that has been associated with Christianity from the beginning…
…as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1: “we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.
But to those who are being called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and wisdom.”
And God’s power and wisdom goes in the opposite direction of how most of us would interpret power and wisdom.
A British journalist once wrote, “I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die.
For these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus.”
Yes, this Scripture passage is a scandal.
And it’s even more scandalous if we look at what comes before it.
At the beginning of Mark Chapter 8 we have Jesus feeding the 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
Now, this is the second mass-feeding of this kind.
The first one happens in Mark Chapter 6 when Jesus feeds 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
In the first feeding miracle, Jesus is in Jewish territory—feeding Jewish listeners.
In the second feeding miracle, Jesus is in Gentile territory (anyone who was not a Jew was considered a Gentile or unsaved—not one of God’s Chosen People) feeding Gentile listeners.
And the Messiah or the Christ was expected to come to vindicate the Jews only—and destroy their enemies…
…or to at the very least, make their enemies their footstool.
So when Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
And when Peter answers correctly, “You are the Christ,” the disciples still really have no idea what that means, because Jesus has redefined the definition.
When Peter calls Jesus the Christ or the Messiah, he doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus is “divine,” let alone the Second Person of the Trinity.
What Peter means is that Jesus is the true King of Israel, the final heir of the throne of David.
And what this meant for the Jews of Jesus’ day was that the Messiah would clean out the Temple.
He would defeat the enemies of Israel.
Israel would be number one again, and the Gentiles (all the non-Jews) would be put in their place!
But Jesus hadn’t been gathering up a military force.
He hadn’t been on the campaign trail—announcing His program and plan to topple the high priests and their associates.
Instead, Jesus is giving the idea of a Messiah a face-lift.
And this Messiah is divine.
There will be no more Temple, for those who worship God will worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
And this Messiah has come not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles…
For in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female,” for we are all one in Christ Jesus!!!
This is scandalous indeed!!!
As a matter of fact, it’s so scandalous that most of us living 2,000 years later still “don’t get it.”
It’s too inclusive.
It’s too big for our minds to wrap around it.
But that is part of what makes it so exciting!!!
For it is different.
It continues to be “something new.”
Mark tells us, beginning in verse 31 that Jesus “began to teach his disciples: ‘the Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days rise from the dead.”
You might as well have a football captain tell the team that he plans to let the other team score ten touch downs right off the bat.
This wasn’t even close to what Peter and the others had in mind.
They may have figured out by this time that Jesus wasn’t a military leader, but they certainly did not expect Him to go straight to His death!!!
As Charlie Brown once said, “Winning ain’t everything but losing ain’t anything,” and Jesus seemed to be saying He was going to lose.
And worse yet, He was inviting the disciples to come along and lose with Him!!!
This was and is a scandal!!!
Messiahs don’t get killed by the authorities.
A Messiah who did that would be proven to be a false Messiah.
But that is not the way it works; and after-all, the disciples seem to miss the part about Jesus rising again.