Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 8:22-9:1. He spoke of how Jesus knew that he was going to suffer, be rejected, die, and rise again. We must die to ourselves in order to follow Jesus, for we do not profit anything by gaining the world but losing our soul.
- Last week we saw that the disciples were just as blind as the Pharisees and they didn’t understand who Jesus was. Their blindness was just as bad as the Pharisees, and Jesus left the Pharisees. But when speaking to the disciples, he kept using the word “yet.” The disciples didn’t understand. They were blind, but there was still hope that they would gain understanding.
- Remember we also said that Jesus is the one who gives faith. He is the one who gives understanding. Seeing signs and wonders doesn’t automatically mean someone will believe and understand who Jesus is. Jesus has to reveal himself to them and give them understanding.
- The disciples are blind, and they need Jesus to give them understanding. They need Jesus to make them see.
- Today we are starting a new section in the book of Mark, it is kind of like the second act in a play. Jesus has been doing ministry around Galilee, in both Jewish and Gentile regions. Now he is going to start traveling to Jerusalem where his ministry will end and he will be crucified. But the next couple chapters tell of his journey there, with the teaching of the disciples as the main focus. We left off last week realizing just how blind the disciples were, and we are going to enter a section now where Jesus starts to give them sight.
- And naturally, this section begins with the healing of a blind man. Let’s take a look.
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 people, 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.”
- This healing happens in stages. Now it isn’t because Jesus didn’t have enough power to heal him the first time, or messed up the spit formula, there is a point. This is a healing story, which we know is about Jesus bringing the kingdom of God into the world. He is spreading the kingdom by removing the results of sin through signs and wonders, healing people and restoring creation one sickness at a time.
- But this healing is symbolic as well. It is symbolic of the blindness of the disciples. They kind of see, they kind of get it, but they don’t have a clear picture. The disciples need to see everything clearly, and only Jesus can give them that clarity, and right now they are either blind or see the walking trees.
- The perfect example is the very next story, we see this illustrated in Peter’s confession. Look at what it says.
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.
- Jesus and his disciples are cruising down to Jerusalem, and they are in the villages of Caesarea Philippi and he asks them who people say he is. They respond with John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets, but Jesus wants to know who they think he is. So Peter answers, and says he is the Christ.
- And this is great! Peter finally gets it! He sees that Jesus is the Messiah, that he is the Christ, he sees who Jesus is!
- Or does he? Is Peter seeing walking trees, or is he seeing clearly? Does he see a fuzzy, blurry picture of the Messiah, or does he see who Jesus is clearly?
- We find out in the very next story, take a look.
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.”
- Jesus starts teaching his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected and be killed, but then rise again after three days. And it says he said this plainly, it wasn’t in code or parables or hidden language or anything, Jesus said very plainly that he must suffer, be rejected, die, and then rise again.
- But Peter, the guy who just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, who seems to get it, takes him aside and starts to rebuke him. Peter, is rebuking Jesus. But Jesus isn’t having it, so he turns to his disciples and then rebukes Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- And it becomes clear that Peter really didn’t understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, for him to be the Messiah.
- Jesus starts to explain what he must do as the Messiah, that he must suffer and die, but Peter doesn’t like this. Peter’s idea of the Messiah was different. He was seeing walking trees, not clear people. He wanted Jesus to be a different kind of Messiah, a different kind of Christ, but that isn’t what Jesus came to do. So Jesus rebukes him. And his rebuke seems harsh, but notice what is happening here.
- Jesus is setting out to do the will of the Father. He is on a mission to suffer and die. But then Peter comes along, and starts saying no, you shouldn’t die, what are you talking about, you should conquer Rome and bring the Israelite people back to their home. And Jesus sees this as a temptation from Peter. It’s deception. It’s reminiscent of the Garden, when Satan comes up to Adam and Eve and tells them they surely won’t die. He tempts them to turn from the will of God and choose what they think is best. And now this is what Peter is doing. He is placing the option before Jesus to turn from the will of God, and to do what seems comfortable or best for him. He is tempting Jesus, trying to deceive him and turn him away from the will of God.
- Now Peter doesn’t necessarily know this, but it is what he is doing. So Jesus isn’t calling Peter Satan, and he isn’t saying Peter is possessed by Satan, but what Peter is doing by trying to avert Jesus from the will of God through deception and temptation is the work of Satan. So Jesus is saying no to temptation, choosing the will of God, but also saying that anything that prevents him from going to the cross to suffer and die is from Satan.
- He tells Peter he is setting his mind on the things of man and not the things of God. So there are two camps. The things of man and the things of God. The things of God are that the Messiah must suffer, be rejected, and die, but rise again three days later. The things of man are that he doesn’t need to do that, but that he has come to conquer and win a military battle. Overthrow Rome and deliver the Jews from oppression.
- But these aren’t the things of God. Jesus then calls the people to himself and starts teaching them the things of God.
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.”
- Jesus then begins to teach on the values of the kingdom, and these values are opposite of what you would expect. He says if anyone would come after him he needs to deny himself and take up his cross and follow him. Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.
- Jesus says that in order to follow Jesus you must die. You must die to yourself. Taking up your cross means more than just dying, someone who carried their cross through town was giving up their future, their dreams, their plans, everything they thought they wanted in life was no more, they were going to their death. Carrying your cross means giving up your life in every aspect, and that is what Jesus is asking for.
- He is saying that if you want to follow me you must give up your life. You must abandon where you want your life to go and what you thought your life was going to be about and you must submit it to Jesus. Now dreams and passions and plans are not bad things, but if they are going in a direction other than one that brings God glory and advances Jesus’ kingdom then they must be abandoned. You must give up that part of your life.
- This might seem extreme, and it might even sound harsh, but it’s worth it. Look what Jesus says next.
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.”
- It profits you nothing to gain the whole world and lose your soul. You can spend your whole life building up your world, getting good grades, being good at sports, having the coolest friends, wearing the nicest clothes, owning the newest thing, but if at the end you have lost your soul it wasn’t worth it. Because this life on this earth isn’t our only life. After this life ends we have the option of living eternally with God, our creator, in a new heavens and new earth. And in the grand scheme of eternity, the short years we are here on this earth building up our world and chasing our dreams and doing what we want to do matters very little.
- What does matter on this earth is whether or not we were ashamed of Jesus and his words. What matters on this earth is whether or not we made a decision to take up our cross, give up our life, and follow Jesus. It is only by doing that that we can live with our creator for eternity. It is only by following Jesus and believing in him that we can have the relationship with our creator that we were made to have. It is only by doing that that we can experience true joy and purpose and love. We can chase dreams and work to build up our world, but if at the end of our life Jesus is ashamed of us because we were ashamed of him and didn’t follow him, it wont have mattered. You can’t take a Uhaul with you when you die. But you can take your soul. And the only way to save your soul is to take up your cross and follow Jesus.
- And we follow Jesus because the kingdom of God has come with power. Look what it says next.
1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
- He tells the people there with him that some of them will still be alive and see the kingdom of God come with power. What is he referring to? He’s referring to his death and resurrection.
- Think about what Jesus is saying. He is saying that in his death there is power. That the kingdom of God will not come with an army or a military conquest, but with the death of its king. This upside down kingdom that Jesus is talking about, these upside down values that Jesus is teaching is disciples begin with the ultimate reversal of expectations when the king of God’s kingdom dies on a cross.
- And through his death sins are atoned for, grace is poured out, mercy is shown, and people can live in the kingdom of God forever by following the crucified king.