Mark 8:31-38: Take Up Your Cross
April 23, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Remember the healing that began this section of Mark? The man who was blind, was first partially healed, and then fully healed so he could see completely. Similarly, Peter (yesterday) gave the right answer to the question about the identity of Jesus. And yet it now becomes apparent that he only understood, or saw, partially. When Jesus starts to explain, and explain “plainly” (8:31) that he must be crucified, Peter will have none of it. He has the temerity to take Jesus to one side and rebuke him (8:32).
But Jesus recognizes that this attempted correction of his identity to move his destiny away from the cross was really a manifestation of a divine temptation. He is the Christ, the King, the anointed one; but that King must be crucified for the salvation of sinners. To fail to go to the cross would be to listen to the devil’s attempt to derail Jesus from his divine mission.
Peter is not yet understanding that Jesus is the Christ of the Cross. Many people today still find it hard to grasp the meaning and purpose of the cross. At its heart is a simple exchange (Isaiah 53:6). We deserve to die. Jesus took death for us. By his wounds we are healed. He took our sins, and his righteousness became ours. He took the punishment we deserved. What a glorious message! What a wonderful truth!
But there is also a discipleship point as well as a salvation point. And Jesus now explains that discipleship implication (8:34-38). To follow Jesus is, in a sense, also to take up our cross. To follow Jesus means to die. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (8:35).
What does Jesus mean by this apparently paradoxical statement? Because our “life” (or soul) is, as a result of the fall, twisted and ruined, it has become a “selfish self.” Our selves are orientated now towards our own selfish desires and pleasures. This is the human condition. We can rise as high as what evolutionists call “reciprocal altruism,” but our selves are mired in the deepest hell of selfishness. We are born this way. Our natures are fixed in this spiral towards the black hole of inveterate selfishness.
Well, says Jesus, this “self” must die. The “selfish self” must end, be put to death, be crucified. Instead, our “selves” must come back into line with their original created (pre-fall) intention of our Creator: to be submitted to the will of the One made us. This “self” is now truly free, and truly what the self was meant to be. That self, that true self, is now saved, it is what it is meant to be. It is submitted to God, worshipping Christ, and has the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5/16:26) which is the channel through grace, and Christ himself saves us.
Now Jesus appeals to the common sense of this apparently, and really, painful decision. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Oh that that verse was stuck above the corridors of Wall Street! That it appeared under the title of Forbes magazine! There are many, many men and women who give themselves to a career in business, in politics, and (let it be said) in religion, who do so at the prideful expense of finding rest and salvation in Jesus themselves. Let it not be you!
Submit to Christ today, this morning, and enjoy him now and forever! Save your soul! “For what can a man give in return for his soul?” There is nothing more precious that we have than our own selves—you would not trade anything for your own self. Do not trade in your salvation for a bank account number. For eternity is at stake: “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.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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