February 27-March1, 2021
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Mark 8:31-38
“THE CROSS IS NECESSARY”
1. It was for Christ.
2. It is for me.
Mark 8:31-38 (EHV) “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again. 32He was speaking plainly to them. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.”
34He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38In fact, whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Our church architecture is not unique. Many Christian churches are built this way. What is the focal point? What does the design of this sanctuary force you to do with the pews positioned the direction they are? With the walls gradually narrowing your focus? With the angled top walls? You’re right. Look at the cross! You can’t help it. Now the reason for that is not simply symmetry or aesthetics. It’s theological, Biblical. The focus is on the cross because the cross is necessary.
Our Lord Jesus makes that abundantly clear in His words to us today. Now I seriously doubt that it was on Peter’s bucket list to be called Satan by the Lord he loved. And yet that is exactly what happened. How? Well right before this Jesus had asked His disciples who most people thought He was. All the answers could be best summed up with “a man.” A great man. A good teacher. One of the great prophets. But just a man. Then Jesus turned to His disciples and asked but “Who do you say that I am?” That’s when Peter had his shining moment. Peter answered for the disciples. “You are the Christ the Son of the living God!” A beautiful confession of faith. Could not have said it better.
That’s where our text picks up as Jesus explains what it means to be the Christ. “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again.” Jesus taught that the cross was necessary. It was necessary for Him to be the Christ. Jesus had been sent on a mission. While he regularly pointed out people’s sin His mission was not to stop people from sinning but to save them from the eternal consequences of sinning. While Jesus healed some people and fed others His mission was not to make this world a nicer place to live but to make it possible for sinful people to live forever in the joy and perfection of heaven. And for that to happen He had to go to the cross. He had to be betrayed, suffer and die because only His holy and innocent sacrifice was worth enough to pay the awful debt for all the world’s sinners. Only His continued perfect obedience all the way to death would gain Him the right to give that perfect obedience to those who believe as a robe of righteousness, a ticket to heaven. Jesus spoke this very plainly to them.
And then Peter had one of those moments we all have had. He opened his mouth when he should have kept it shut. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Rebuking Jesus? Telling Jesus what to do or not do? This isn’t going to end well. “But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.” Ouch. He got called Satan. Why? He had his will set toward want people want, the things of men. What is that? Glory. Now. “You are the Christ, Jesus. You don’t suffer and die. You rule gloriously. No enemy can stand against you. You will crush your enemies.” All true statements except that Peter wanted those things for Jesus on earth. He wasn’t thinking of God’s eternal plan. For God’s eternal plan the cross was necessary for Jesus.
Just like the cross is necessary for those who follow Jesus. Peter is not the only one who misunderstands God’s plan, Jesus’ mission. Peter isn’t the only one who wants to see Jesus triumphing here on earth. We all fall into that. We think, “If I do things right, if I behave a little better, things should go easier for me on earth than for those who don’t.” We think as followers of Jesus some of the glory Jesus deserves should rub off on us. We think if we do what God wants and say what God wants then things should go well for us and everyone will like us. Not a chance in a sin filled world. The cross is necessary for those who follow Jesus. “He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Ask the rich man in the Bible account of the rich man and poor Lazarus. He would have given anything to get out of Hell. But it was too late. You have to follow Jesus in earthly life.
And if you will actually follow Jesus, you will have a cross. There is no other way to understand Jesus’ words. To deny yourself means to deny your way of thinking, your values, your priorities and replace them with Jesus way of thinking, values and priorities. When you do that and live that you will get your own cross. You have heard it said, “We all have our crosses to bear.” When people hear that they may think that the cross Jesus is talking about is some illness, or a family problem, a bad relationship or the pain of loss of life or use of limb. But that’s not the cross Jesus is talking about. Those things happen to believer and unbeliever alike. He’s talking about those things that can only come from following Him and His next words make clear what the crosses will look like. “In fact, whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Crosses for Christians happen when we show loyalty first to Jesus and His words, His teachings. An example. One of our college students told me one of her first classes where the professor asked for a show of hands. “How many of you believe the world is created like the Bible says?” A smattering of hands. “Good,” he says, “now we know who all the fools are.” The class erupts in laughter. Put herself in her shoes, in her dorm room among her classmates after that. That’s a cross. Here’s another. One of our students in college thinking she was messaging a friend shared her Christian values. That “friend” passed on snippets of her comments that brought down a barrage of nasty online bullying. Reported it to the college. Nothing happened. Had to switch schools to feel safe. That’s a cross. It's a cross when your faith in Christ moves you to deal with a relationship or family problem Christ’s way and it does not work like being mean would. It’s a cross when your kids or friends come to you to announce they are going to live together without being married or they are attracted to someone of the same sex and you tell them “I love you and I will always love you. I need you to know that God says that is wrong and dangerous. Can we talk about this?” and they storm out or cut off the relationship.
There is of course, another way. We can be ashamed of Jesus and His teachings. When God puts those opportunities to speak the truth in love we can turn them down. We can give tacit approval. We can commit spiritual adultery on Jesus by implying that fake gods or no god at all can still get you to heaven.
No we can’t. This is Jesus we are talking about. He knows how the Devil is going to try pry us away from Him. So He helps us with our weakness. First He warns that those who turn their back on Jesus on earth will find His back turned to them in heaven. Then He gives us what we need to stand strong. Glory. When the Son of Man comes in glory! The book of Hebrews tells us Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame because of the joy set before. He knew He was winning you so the cross was worth it. Parents who adopt children and have children know this. Why do you go through all the hard work, the angst, the pain? For the joy that will be set before you! You look forward to holding that child. That’s why we are willing to carry our crosses. We know what’s coming. There’s a simple saying to hold on to. First the cross, then the crown. It was true of Jesus. He went to the cross to be the Christ. Now He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s true for those who follow Christ. Take your cross now, glory is coming. Remember what He said? Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life. And so He will! Amen.