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No Other Way




No Other Way

Mark 8:27-33

Mark 8:34-38


Try to put yourself in the disciple’s shoes for just a moment.


The disciples were on cloud nine. Euphoric. Elated. Jesus was, in fact, the Christ, the Messiah… the Son of the Living God. Peter had confessed no less... and Jesus (as you and I talked about a couple of weeks ago) affirmed Peter’s confession... and promised to build his church upon it (Matthew 16).


So, can you imagine? (PAUSE) Finally, the long awaited arrival of the Messiah was actually here! It was happening, in real time! The disciple’s found themselves eye-witnessing what countless prophets and priests had foretold. I’m sure it was an amazingly encouraging, yet overwhelmingly humbling realization: the Messiah had arrived - on their watch. Imagine how you’d feel, if you’d been in their shoes. Hope was literally standing in their presence!


But then Jesus started talking about suffering… And being put to death by his enemies, and rising again from the dead.


It was kinda like one of those “Good News/Bad News” jokes: where the doctor says to the patient; “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there are beautiful golf courses in heaven. The bad news is that you have a tee time Tuesday morning.”


The Good News! Christ is here! The bad news, there’s a cross to bare. Which confused the disciples to say the least. I mean how in the world could death, be the path to victory? That’s not the way it’s supposed to work!


So Peter sought to correct Jesus. But Jesus would have none of it... calling Peter’s correction of Satan. Which, of course, shocked, Peter, and probably everyone around him! What in the world could be satanic about wanting Christ to be victorious? But Jesus insisted, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).


Of course, Jesus knew all the disciples, and everyone in the crowd who had been following along, we’re thinking the same thing. So He gathered them in close, and began to teach. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).


I imagine you could’ve heard a pin drop. Most of the crowd probably had that deer caught in headlights look. A cross? Really?


Everyone listening KNEW exactly what a CROSS meant: the Romans used a cross in execution. It was a feared, horrific thing to behold. All of God’s people had been hoping for, longing for, praying that Jesus would conquer their enemies, and free the people from the fear of a cross. NOT tell them they had a cross to take up!


Was Jesus actually calling his followers to die?


Well… Yes.


You see the kingdom of Christ is not of this world… The kingdom of Christ is far broader, far more encompassing than what can be felt or seen or heard.


And the true enemy of those who dared follow Christ was far more powerful and deadly than any cross the Romans could construct.


The real enemy, dwells within.


Jesus had, no doubt, come to conquer an enemy. But that enemy was not what the people expected.


So, Jesus was preparing his disciples, for what was just over the horizon… the cross… His cross, first and foremost, but then their cross, too.


Because, everyone in the sound of Jesus’ voice would have a cross to bare...


And when Jesus said, “deny yourself, take up your cross... and follow me” - he was calling his disciples (you and me) to die...

*To die to self.

*To die to the desire for self-glory…

*to Die to the desire for earthly treasures...

*to Die to the ways of the world…

*to Die to the fear of life…

*to Die to the desire for an easier way...


Unlike other prophets, other teachers, other would-be Messiahs... Jesus wasn’t calling his followers to some stoic life of self-righteousness - where keeping the “letter of the Law” or maintaining certain rituals made one worthy. He was calling his followers to the joy, true joy, of living beyond self. Jesus was calling his disciples to a life filled with joy and peace beyond all comprehension... that’s found in putting God’s will above self-will.


The wide path of the world is seductive, no doubt. It appeals to our sinful hearts, and seems easy, because so many are traveling on it. But it’s destination is true death: separation from God.


So Jesus was calling his disciples to deny the false joys of the world... and it’s brief satisfaction, and temporary fulfillment… In order that they might have real joy, eternal joy, everlasting joy, that’s found in self-surrender to the will and Way of Christ.


The fact is: living the Christian life requires surrender... and surrender requires perseverance... sometimes it’s hard… And that deters many people from taking the NARROW path to life. Because, denying self, denying the physical temptations of this life, is tough.


Denying self seems counterintuitive... the world says our lives are our most precious possession. But then, that’s why denying self is so crucial for living a life of faith in Christ. Because nothing, this side of heaven, displays the worth of Jesus, more than our willingness to give away our lives (in small ways, or large ways) for his sake.


The Christian life is a journey to the greatest joy imaginable. But, as Jesus said, “the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14).


Because, in order to pursue our greatest joy, as perplexing as it sounds... we must deny ourselves, take up our cross... and follow Christ.


There’s simply no other way.


Amen.

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