If You Would Follow Christ: Deny Yourself; Take Up Your Cross and Follow Mark 8:31; 34-37
Sermon Summary. This the beginning of a series entitled “On the Road to Jerusalem.” We are in the Lenten season of the church and moving towards the deep sorrow of Good Friday. Pay attention to Christ during this season. He remains attentive to his people, to preaching, to healing, to feeding the flock. But, always looming in the background is the road to Jerusalem. Always looming is Good Friday which he knows is before him. As the works he works in the lives of the people grow, the discontent and plots of those in power grow as well. It is a time for reflection as we think about what Christ endured for those whom he loved. It is a time for reflection as we see he did not consider his own life more important than others – regardless of what they have done. In this particular narrative, he calls together crowds that have been following him and his disciples and begins to speak to them of death and the cost of Christian discipleship. There is a choice . . . and there is a cost to the choice. God’s reward is there as well but we will have to deny ourselves. And, we will have to take up our own crosses if we are sincere in our choice to follow the Lord.
Choose Ye This Day. The beginning of verse 34 begins with a very important word . . . “if.” Christ does not present the disciples or the crowd with a mandate or an absolute. He presents them with a choice. On that day, as today, he presented the disciples and the crowd with a question we must ask ourselves. Do we choose to follow Christ. Keep in mind, they had already begun the journey of following him, but now he was presenting them (and us) with more information about the Christian journey.
- What does it mean for us to have a choice about whether we will follow Christ? Are we ever forced to follow Christ? To come to church?
- How committed are we to our choice?
- Have we seen others waiver in their willingness to follow the Lord? Remember, it is a choice.
Deny Yourself. Christ wanted to make clear that the Christian journey is not an easy one. Sometimes, we can focus on the miraculous provision that Lord makes for us. Certainly, the crowd would have been thinking of the healing and provision of food. But, if we only focus on these things, we forget that Christ was on the road to Jerusalem. He was on the way to the cross. He makes aware to these people that the Christian journey is a straight and narrow road. It requires some denial of self.
- How did Christ deny himself? Look at Philippians 2:6-8. Look at Luke 22:39-46
- What are some things we need to or can do better at denying ourselves?
- What does Philippians 2:3 say?
Take Up Your Cross. The cross was not only a sign of death but also a sign of shame and stigma. The cross bearer had to carry his own death instrument, often before a mocking crowd. Surely, we know Christ bore his cross unto death. We also have crosses in our lives to bear.
- Hebrews 12:3 reminds us that we “have not yet resisted unto blood.” This means that although we suffer, we have not suffered on the cross like Christ did. Yet, we all do have a cross to bear in life. What are some of the challenges that we have to go through in life while we are on this journey (consider that Psalm 23 has us going through – not around – the valley of the shadow of death)?
- How do we experience the cross bearing on our journey? Is it easy? Was it easy for Christ?
Follow Christ. Having considered the cost, the option now remains before the crowd, the disciples and us as to whether we will follow the Lord. Those of us who have made that choice know it is wonderful, marvelous and mysterious journey. It is not always easy but the reward is eternal life, abundant life and God’s peace beyond all understanding. Let us be reminded that we have chosen to follow the Lord and follow him as he leads us.