Summary: This sermon is a recap of Jesus' identity and mission, and then explains what it means to follow him.
The past few Sundays we have been exploring Christianity by looking primarily at the Gospel of Mark.
Let’s read Mark 8:22-38:
22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:22-38)
A little boy at Sunday school was asked to draw a picture of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on their flight into Egypt. The teacher had been telling them about the time in Matthew chapter 2 when an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to flee with his family from the murderous King Herod. So the little boy carefully drew a picture of a huge airplane and, when the teacher asked him what it was, he pointed out that it was “the flight into Egypt,” indicating Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus who were sitting happily in the passenger seats.
“But who’s that?” asked the teacher, indicating a shadowy figure in the cockpit.
Growing a bit tired of all the stupid questions, the little boy said, “That’s Pontius—the Pilot.”
It’s not only five-year-olds who misunderstand what Christianity’s about. There must be millions of people in this country alone who have rejected what they think is Christianity, but who have actually rejected something that is only a pale imitation of the real thing.
There must also be a great many Christians who have lost sight of the basics.
I want to look now at Mark chapter 8 in order to find out exactly what it means to be a Christian. In this chapter, we see Jesus explaining that a Christian is someone who knows who Jesus is, understands why he came, and is prepared to follow him—whatever the cost.
The aim of today’s lesson is to recap what we have covered so far about Jesus’ identity and mission, and then to explain what Jesus demands of those who want to follow him.
Specifically, I want to answer three questions:
1. Who is Jesus?
2. Why did Jesus come?
3. What does it mean to follow Jesus?
I. Who Is Jesus? (8:22-29)
So, first, who is Jesus?
This question has dominated the book of Mark up to chapter 8, and we, the readers, already know the answer. As we’ve seen, Mark has told us the answer in the very first verse, where he writes that this is a book about Jesus Christ, “the Son of God.”
You might think that would drain the book of all interest, but the fact is that the disciples don’t know what we know. And so we follow them around, watching as they try to make sense of Jesus.