Summary: Jesus says these 3 things are MUSTS for anyone who desires to come after Him!
In our western church culture, bigger is viewed as better. Bigger means success. Bigger means God’s blessing; God’s approval or better yet, special approval. Bigger is better!
And to achieve & maintain this status everything the church does must be big – its music & “worship service”, its special programs & presentations, its ministries to the different age-groups, its community outreach – all of it has to be big, over the top, many times extravagant. Also in order to achieve & maintain this status, quite often it requires making people feel good, not saying anything offensive or taking strong biblical stands, not requiring hard choices or sacrifice – unless it has the promise of double or more return in this life. That’s the way many attempt to get around it.
Point is: Jesus probably wouldn’t do well in our western church culture, especially if He preached what He preached in our section today in the Gospel According to Mark, where He really lays out what it means to follow Him, to be 1 of His. And what He teaches in this section, may make someone here today feel uncomfortable, but this is what Jesus says it means to follow Him. Turn to Mark 8:34-38:
So Jesus begins with (34), “if anyone wishes (desires) to come after Me…” “If anyone” means its open, wide-open for any person. Whosoever will may come! It’s not a club where only a certain class of people are allowed to even be considered. No, & we see this open invitation represented here for Jesus doesn’t say this only to His disciples or back in Jewish Galilee but v.34 reads, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples & said to them…” And remember, at this point Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi, a Gentile region, not Jewish. So when He said, “If anyone” He was speaking to a predominantly Gentile audience, i.e. the outsiders, in terms of how the Jews viewed them. Point is: it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, your ethnicity, your family background, or your own past no matter how bad or messed up it is, or lack of abilities or any other such thing. Jesus simply says, “If ANYONE wishes to come after Me.” No exclusions! So there’s no, “Well, you don’t know about me or what all I’ve done.” Ok, maybe I don’t & maybe IT IS bad, but do you meet the qualification of ANYONE? Do you fit under that term? Encouraging!
Now we have to keep reading pass the “if anyone.” That’s set, Jesus invitation is open to anyone, but there is something critical that follows. 2 weeks ago, I talked about (31) the “musts” of Jesus. He said He MUST suffer many things, be rejected, be killed & rise from the dead. These were musts if salvation was to be provided for us. Well, in today’s section there are also some “musts” in connection with anyone coming after Jesus.
Have you ever taken the time to read the “Terms & Conditions” dialogue box that pops up on a newly installed App or Program? Probably not, b/c it’s like 50 pages long & written in lawyer language. You just want to start enjoying the program or app but you can’t until you click on the “Agree” button.
Well, v.34 is kind of like a pop-up dialog box for following Jesus – This tells us, from Jesus own lips, what is required to be a follower, to come after Him. And contrary to the dialogue boxes on your phone or computer, Jesus continues to speak here, as He began to do in v.32a, plainly. No lawyer language here, rather plain language that the disciples & the others listen-ing would have understood - and so can we. But these are Jesus’ terms & conditions & they require our clicking on the “Agree” button.
Christians sometimes think of following Christ kind of like the special forces in the military. IOW, there are a lot of people in the military but only some of them become a ranger, a seal, Delta Force – some of them do, but not everybody that’s in the military. A similar thing can be thought of in regards to being a Christian. There are a lot of people who are Christ-ians but not everyone is called to that deeper walk or that more mature walk with Christ. That’s just for those who are the elite or the varsity, first-stringers.
Well, that may be what many or even someone here thinks, but I don’t know where you go to support that from the Bible. And you most definitely can’t use Jesus’ teaching to support it - b/c what He says here is, “If anyone” or whoever wants to come after Me, MUST “deny himself, & take up his cross & follow Me.” IOW, this doesn’t apply to some elite class of Christ-followers, it applies to whom? Anyone who desires to follow Jesus. That’s not going to go over well with many Christians, not going to fit well with what many churches teach, but it is what Jesus said is required. It is a MUST – so let’s walk through it. Let’s look 1st at what Jesus says is...