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Via Crucis
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Text: Mark 8:27-38

Main Idea: We don't understand Jesus as well as we think we do. Jesus invites us to lose our lives and pursue a cross-life - this is the call of discipleship.

Introduction
  1. We’ve been spending a little time in Mark the past few weeks.
  2. The more time you spend with these stories the more you realize that each gospel is unique in its portrayal of Jesus.
  3. In Mark the narrative moves along at a fast clip
  4. And Jesus literally explodes into our lives off the pages of this gospel.
    a. He is powerful, active
    b. He encounters demons without flinching, heals sickness with a touch, calms storms with a glance.
  5. Often we are more comfortable with a meek and mild Jesus, who comforts us in our sorrows, holds the little children in his arms and has enough love for everyone in his sphere of influence.
    a. Our Jesus makes us feel good
    b. He affirms who we are
  6. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us want just enough of Jesus to be protected, but not enough to mess up our lives
    a. Too often we want to add some Jesus to our lives, with the expectation that he will help us along the path we are already traveling.
  7. But in our story today, there is no Jesus like that.
    a. The Jesus we encounter today confronts our well-conceived plans and speaks directly to the real issues of discipleship: cross, suffering, self-denial
Who is this guy?
  1. I’m sure at one time or another you’ve all seen a movie, a TV show or a cartoon about a superhero.
    a. Superheros are making a comeback, ya know?
      1) Yeah, that’s right.
      2) There are at least 2 or 3 superhero movies coming out now.
      3) I think it has something to do with the development of special effects capabilities in the past several years.
      4) In this last Superman movie you couldn’t even see the guy wire that held superman in the air.
      5) And it wasn’t obvious that Superman was just hanging there and the background was whizzing by.
    b. I’m not sure who your favorite is
    c. But Spiderman is my favorite superhero.
    d. It’s the classic underdog story.
  2. Anyway, I always love the moment when the superhero races onto the scene of a crime or a disaster or a crisis (ya know, a beautiful young woman is somehow dangling off the edge of a skyscraper.
    a. I mean, someone’s got to do something.
    b. And then the superhero appears.
    c. Camera pans to the crowd below as they look up to see a man flying, or shooting spiderwebs from his wrists.
    d. The look on their faces, and sometimes the words that come from their mouths, scream…
      1) Who is this guy?
    e. Of course, if you watched Superman growing up, like I did, you know the refrain, right…”A bird, a plane, no…it’s Superman!”
  3. And while Jesus never saves a damsel in distress the way we see in Superman, I do sense that he often left the crowd wondering, “Who is this guy?”
  4. And in Mark, it seems to be happening every 10 minutes or so.
  5. The pace is “break-neck”
  6. And by the time we arrive at chapter 8, verse 27, and the pace slows to a walk, Jesus knows that the buzz is building and the speculation increasing about who he is.
  7. And so he asks his disciples in verse 27, “Who do people say that I am?”
    a. What’s the word on the street?
      1) “Well,” they reply, “some say you’re John the Baptist come back from the dead.”
      2) “Some say Elijah – remember his return was prophesied somewhere.
      3) Tied for third place are a bunch of other prophets.
      4) Today you might hear someone say, “Some say you’re one of the Mutants with strange powers.”
  8. But Jesus was never one to follow the polls and public opinion.
    a. If you remember, Jesus simply walked away from more than one opportunity to be crowned, “King of the Jews.”
  9. What matters to Jesus is who the disciples say that He is.
    a. Peter, front of the line, hand raised, “Oooo, ooo, pick me, pick me…
    b. The disciples have taken small wagers on this and Peter just KNOWS who Jesus is.
    c. The signs and words of Jesus have brought a picture into focus – they know who he is and are dying for it to be explicitly said.
      1) “You’re the Christ!”
Rebuke and Counter Rebuke
  1. It seems like a good time for congratulations, but Jesus is not interested.
    a. Instead of congratulations, Peter gets a rebuke.
    b. “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him”
    c. The word here translated “warned” in the NIV is actually, “rebuked”, the same word you will see in verses 32-33.
  2. Why would Jesus rebuke Peter when he got the answer right?
    a. Could it be that the right answer is not enough?
    b. Why so hard on Peter?
      1) Maybe, if this claim about Jesus gets out too quickly Jesus’ life will be in danger before the proper time.
      2) Maybe Jesus “rebukes them not to say anything” because Peter’s is only partly right.
      3) What if Peter doesn’t understand what the title, “Christ,” means and Jesus doesn’t want false ideas spreading around about him?
    c. It isn’t but a few sentences later that we learn that this last option is right.
      1) NOTICE – Mark 8:31-32
      2) Peter understands who Jesus is, but completely miss understands what it means to be “the Christ.”
      3) The conversation quickly turns from who Jesus is to what Jesus is sent by God to do.
      4) And on this matter, Peter is lost.
    d. And rather than congratulate Peter on his new found faith, Jesus instead undermines it, plunging Peter into deeper confusion…in order to lead him to deeper faith.
      1) Perhaps there is a challenge here for us, who like to have our faith all buttoned down, carefully summarized in as few words as possible and all ambiguity removed.
      2) Instead of removing doubt and confusion, Jesus amplifies it for Peter.
      3) Instead of removing ambiguity, Jesus deepens the ambiguity
      4) Why? Because that seems to be the pathway to deeper faith.
      5) We today are a lot like Peter.
      6) If we can name it we think we have faith.
      7) If we know certain things to be true then we have all that we need
      8) And if Jesus were part of conversations like that, I think he would do to us something like what he did to Peter – turn the whole conversation on its head, heighten the ambiguity so that we can go deeper.
      9) This is exactly what is about to happen to Peter.
Peter trips over the stumbling block
  1. Paul later describes the cross as a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor 1:23) and Peter is the first one to trip over it.
  2. Peter sees partially, like the main in 8:22-26, who starts by seeing partially.
  3. Surely anyone with Jesus’ powers to calm the sea, heal the sick and feed thousands with only a few scraps of food is headed for glory and power.
    a. Jesus is, Peter concludes, precisely the Messiah they need for their national plans.
    b. He is ready to ride into Jerusalem and let the revolution begin
    c. But Jesus’ mission is different and Peter is totally caught off guard by what Jesus says next.
      1) “…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (31).
      2) Peter never heard the part about rising again after three days.
      3) He heard suffering many things and the blood rushed to his head.
    d. For Peter, a suffering Messiah is impossible.
  4. The quest to uncover Jesus’ identity does not end with the confession that He is the Christ (to understand that he was both human and divine, for example).
    a. They cannot truly know who Jesus is without accepting the necessity of his suffering and death
    b. And they cannot be his disciples without accepting the same for themselves.
      1) Not only is Peter wrong about the suffering that Jesus must endure
      2) The cross is not only for Jesus – it is also for his disciples.
  5. So it is for us – the confession of right theology about Jesus is not enough. We need true understanding of Jesus and his mission.
    a. And more than that, we need to accept his way – his life and calling – as our own and model our lives after him.
    b. The cross is not just a means of salvation but a way of life.
    c. The via crucis – the way of the cross.
  6. Jesus second touch, to heal their blindness begins with Jesus second rebuke (first rebuke was command not to tell anyone)
  7. Peter wants Jesus to do things his way
    a. When that happens Peter becomes an obstacle – an instrument of Satan.
      1) What about us? Don’t we want Jesus to do things our way?
      2) To help us avoid suffering and to smooth things out?
      3) To make our lives work?
Call of Discipleship
Three movements
  1. (1) Deny yourself, (2) take up your cross and (3) follow me.
    a. He’s not talking about bearing our cross (as in, patiently enduring suffering when it comes)…
    b. Jesus’ language is aggressive – you must deny yourself and seek out the cross.
      1) Go find it and carry it with me.
Rational
  1. We all want to secure our lives but we usually choose ways that are destined to fail.
  2. Jesus offers the paradoxical principle: Save your life by loosing it
    a. Kinda runs against the conventional wisdom that the guy with the biggest guns, or bank account, or best toys wins.
  3. This is the upside down nature of the kingdom
  4. The best way to secure your life is to loose it.
  5. What does this look like?
    a. Forsaking homeownership in the suburbs to pursue God’s mission in the city.
    b. Forsaking the comfort of an “nice neighborhood” to live among “the least of these”
    c. Rejecting the worlds way to success and happiness and choosing rather the way of suffering, in order to suffer with Christ.
    d. This is what the cross is about – the via crucis – the way of the cross.
  6. I hope you can reflect on the life decisions you are making, even now, and ask yourself, what does discipleship demand?
    a. Am I looking for a Jesus who will save me from my enemies and secure my comfort
    b. Am I ready for a Jesus who will lead me directly into danger and suffering?
      1) Can you imagine Jesus leading you directly into your suffering and reminding you that he walked that way before you?
      2) Can you imagine really finding Jesus for the first time in the midst of suffering.
    c. Am I ready for a Jesus who walks the via crucis?
    d. Do I have the courage to walk it with him?
    e. Can you envision what “loosing your life in order to find it” looks like?
A Warning
  1. What good is it to gain the whole world and loose your soul?
  2. Hey Peter, say you defeat the Romans and get back your Jewish pride, then what?
  3. Is anyone any different?
  4. Jesus has in mind a revolution with deeper consequences and higher stakes.
    a. The consequences are a people – the people of God –  transformed into the image of God.
    b. The stakes are everything – in the final analysis we will be weighed in the balance to determine if these words of Jesus made us turn away – ashamed of Jesus – like Peter was ashamed.
Promise (9:1)
 
  1. Or will we receive the promise of chapter 9, verse 1 – to see the coming of the kingdom of God in power.
    a. The suffering will not last forever.
    b. Jesus will return with is reward for those who have trusted and followed him.
Conclusion
  1. Discipleship is not about believing a bunch of things about God and Jesus and end-time events.
    a. That’s just barely the beginning.
  2. Following Jesus is not about eliminating the questions and solving all the mysteries
    a. Rather it seems that Jesus is truly seen and understood when we deepen the mysteries and delve deeper into the questions and discover ambiguities we never knew were there.
  3. And discipleship certainly isn’t about fixing all our problems and making our lives work out nice and smoothly.
  4. Jesus will not be added to our already crowded lives, like a therapist that helps us deal with the stress of everything
    a. Jesus would impress upon his disciples…
    b. And Mark is eager to remind his community
    c. And we must understand today….
      1) Discipleship – or, following Jesus – is about losing the life you have – life as you know it…
        a) And only after you have done that, to find your life – the life God has in mind for you.

Submitted by Ryan J. Bell. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.



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