This past week I continued preaching from Mark 8 at our weekend worship gathering. The passage is a hinge text for the whole Gospel of Mark. It is a hinge between seeing the power of Jesus and seeing the weakness of Jesus. It turns us from the question of Who is Jesus? to the question of What kind Messiah will Jesus be? In the answer to those questions we realize what it means to be Jesus’ disciple.
I did not share all of the following quotes in the sermon, but I have been affected by them.
“The disciples cannot know who Jesus really is without accepting the necessity of his suffering and death. And they cannot be his disciples unless they accept that fate for themselves.” William Lane
“To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self-denial can say is ‘He leads the way, keep close to him.'” Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship p. 97.
“The cross is the heart of the gospel, and bearing a cross is a central requirement of discipleship.” David Garland, NIV Commentary
Are you beginning to see how radical Jesus is? It’s not a matter of saying, “I’ve been a failure, I’ve been immoral, so now I’m going to go to church and become a moral, decent person. Then I’ll know I’m a good person because I am spiritual.” Jesus says, “I don’t want you to simply shift from one performance-based identity to another; I want you to find a whole new way. I want you to lose the old self, the old identity, and base yourself and your identity on me and the gospel.” I love the fact that he says “for me and for the gospel.” He is reminding us not to be abstract about this. You can’t just say, “Oh, I see: I can’t build my identity on my parent’s approval because that comes and goes; I can’t build my life on my career success; I can’t build my life on romance. Instead I will build my life on God.” If that’s as far as you take it, God is almost an abstraction; and so building your life on him is just an act of the will. The only that can reforge ad change a life at its root is love.
Jesus is saying, “It’s not enough just to know me as a teacher or as an abstract principle; you have to look at my life. I went to the cross–and on the cross I lost my identity so you can have one.”
Once you see the Son of God loving you like that, once you are moved by that viscerally and existentially, you begin to get a strength, an assurance, a sense of your own value and distinctiveness that is not based on what you’re doing or whether somebody loves you, whether you’ve lost weight or how much you’ve got. You’re free–the old approach to identity is gone.” Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 105.