by Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2008
Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
The crowd has always been attracted to Jesus, but large numbers do not mean actual adherence to Jesus. The same is just as true today as it was when Jesus “called the crowd to Him.” With the “crowd” came the disciples and even one of them, was not a true disciple. In fact, several still had much to learn what real discipleship to Jesus meant. Jesus quickly comes to the point that many prognosticators deliberately ignore in our day in order to please the crowd that has come to watch the Sunday morning show. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This was a message that was hard to hear back then, even when so many had so little to “deny” in life. Yet, if you think that then you are making a huge mistake. To deny oneself is to deny who you are, what you have been doing in life all along, and to deny your wants, desires, and pleasures in life. To deny what you believe about yourself and about God. It is to deny your very existence and truthfully tell yourself, “I am nothing.” But notice the second part of Jesus’ statement the crowd had to swallow: “and take up his cross and follow me.”
Perhaps you, as a part of the crowd, can try to convince yourself that what your life has been about up to this point is really worthless, but now Jesus asks you to “take up your cross?” What does this mean? Jesus explains that “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (8:35) If we deny who we are and lose ourselves for Jesus and His gospel, His good news message, we will save our lives? We are to take up those things in our lives and sacrifice them for Jesus. They are worthless anyway. And we are to take up the message of the gospel of God of Jesus’ life: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If we do this we may never be the same! People might see us as not one of the crowd! Isn’t this way too much to ask of us?
As part of the crowd we have earned so much in this life! We have our own selfishness, secret sins we hide from ourselves and others, our own form of security, and our way of doing things. In fact, we could make our lives better if we just tried hard enough through our own efforts of being good and following all the rules… “self” help right?
Then Jesus continues speaking to the crowd and His words begin to pierce our deceitful hearts when He asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (8:36-37) The crowd is confused. The crowd is not sure it likes this message Jesus is preaching here. The crowd begins to dwindle away leaving us exposed and open whereby we have to make a decision to go with them or stay here with Jesus. And then He says the words that cut us to our very core: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (8:38)
We want to run away. We want to plug our ears. We do not want to hear anymore of this message, yet we cannot help but hear the words the crowd wants us to drown out! We must ask ourselves the cleansing question, “Am I ashamed of Jesus and His gospel?”
Dear child of God can you admit it and deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him? Can you? Will you?
This is the final truth the crowd does not want to hear. They are already headed for the exists, thinking about where they will eat Sunday lunch. They wanted to hear a nice satisfying message from a preacher that would sooth their souls with fine platitudes but they were subjected to this! “Ashamed!?” Ashamed of Jesus!? Us!?
How could the crowd be ashamed of that which they have no knowledge of in the first place? Both the speaker who denies telling the message of the cross and the cost of being a disciple of Jesus and the crowd that came for a fine sounding message have lost something they are not even aware of. They thought that by just coming to hear some fine sounding words they have secured for themselves a place in heaven, yet they entered in as paupers and they leave spiritually destitute. Sated and satisfied with themselves they are already looking for the next entertainment. After all, the crowds were very large today and the music was nice.
What about you? Are you part of the crowd?
NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.