January 10, 2016

By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor

Mark 8:27-9:10

While Jesus is on the 100-mile trail from Galilee to Jerusalem (Mark 8:27-9:10), he discusses some true marks of discipleship with his 12 disciples so that they will be able to stay on the right path of following Jesus, even when he is no longer with them. These marks can help us stay on the path of discipleship as well.

The first mark of true discipleship has two sides, glory and sacrifice, which ultimately leads us to resurrection.  The conversations in Mark 8:27-9:10 show us these two sides of this trail marker:

  1. There is glory in following Christ.

As Jesus’ disciples, we will see Jesus’ majestic glory, as Peter did when he declared, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). We ourselves will stand in awe of Christ’s dazzling glory when we follow Him, as did Peter, James and John at the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2, 3).

In the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9), we have been shown an occurrence of the past, which affects the future as we consider the afterlife. In Mark 9:3, we have been shown His glory in the amazing change of Jesus’ clothes from simply normal to those of “dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them,” and in Mark 9:4, we have been told about the hope of resurrection in the appearance of Moses and Elijah, formerly dead and now alive. We, too, as Jesus’ disciples, will experience Jesus’ glory in heaven and the hope of resurrection eternally.

For the present, we have been given hope in the recording of the many miracles Jesus performed with people here on earth (Mark 1-7), in Peter’s glorious affirmation of Jesus as Christ (Mark 8:27) and in the Father’s own affirmation of His Son: “This is my son whom I love. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7). In following Jesus, there is glory for us as He is fully capable as the Christ, the Son of God, to make our lives better, by, for example, answering prayers, healing our bodies, transforming our minds, and setting us free in myriads of ways.

  1. There is sacrifice in following Christ.

In response to Peter’s declaration of glory, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29), Jesus responds plainly that “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” (Mark 8:31, 32).  The glorious Christ must also suffer, be rejected and die (and be resurrected).

When Peter resists such suffering for His Lord, Jesus gives him the strongest rebuke He ever uttered: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:32).  Sacrifice must accompany glory in order to follow Him. Jesus had earlier given word pictures of things that His disciples might have to sacrifice to follow Him:  the cross [our life], our possessions, our shame [approval of others] (Mark 8: 34-38.)

There is great benefit in following Jesus Christ as we experience His glory, but there is also great cost. We will share in Jesus’ glory only as we share in His suffering. (Romans 8:18-25).  Sometimes, it is just hard….

In the sacrifice of following Jesus, we must recognize that:

  1. It’s fatal. We die to ourselves. It is not just extra effort to be better people.
  2. It’s willing. We are called to make a choice to deny ourselves and follow Him — or not.
  3. It’s personal. Each person’s cross is different (physical, financial, emotional, etc.)

When we open our hearts to the realization that we must accept and embrace both sides of discipleship, we are on the path of following Jesus.

There will be seasons in the Christian life when we feel predominantly on one side or the other, glory or sacrifice. On the glory side, we must lean into it, revel, rejoice, laugh, and love our Lord. On the sacrificial side, we are reminded that this is the only path to true life. For our own good, we must die to what cannot survive into eternity.

To live daily, we have Jesus’ Spirit to show us His glory and assist us in facing sacrifice: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). We are not alone as Jesus’ disciples at the trail marker of glory and sacrifice.

Have you embraced both sides of discipleship?