By Simon ManchesterSunday 8 Oct 2017Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 20 minutes
If you have financial problems, and there may be a few who do have financial problems, you may spare a thought for a man in Bristol in the UK who received a tax bill in the last few weeks for £14 trillion. Giles Hembra, aged 42 whose job was to test railway signals has worked out that on his current salary it will take him 369 million years to pay the bill.
Now we are not unfamiliar with the idea of an unpayable and unsolvable debt and it’s a very real issue for us because the debts that we owe to God which is an actual debt for our failings and for our wrongdoings, for our sin, the disease and the sins and the symptoms – this is utterly beyond us to solve – utterly beyond us.
That’s why the Cross of Christ which is so familiar to those who come to a local church is so important to us. Because we know and understand that at the cross, the Son of God paid our unsolvable debts. It was not his debts that he was paying but it was our unsolvable debts, and he is also through the cross providing us with undeserved release from our obligations and undeserved riches.
Jesus teaches in these nine verses that there are two crosses. There is the one he would suffer and die on which we called the Cross of Salvation, and there is the one that his followers would carry which we call the Cross of Discipleship. And they are very different. If there is anybody here who wants to be forgiven and have eternal life – you need to grasp the first cross, the Cross of Salvation. You need to work out why Jesus died, that he was there for you and then you need to ask him for the mercy which he freely and gladly gives.
If you want however to be a follower and you want to belong to Christ, you will need to grasp the second cross, that there is an old life which goes and a new life that starts. In other words, you have to get life through the Cross of Salvation, that’s a gift, and then you have to live the life through the Cross of Discipleship, that’s the responsibility.
The lead-up to this teaching is that as we saw a couple of weeks ago that one disciple, and that’s Simon Peter has begun to find out who Jesus is. He started to realise that he is the Messiah, but as a man with bad eyes, he cannot see what he has come to do – he’s got the identity right, but he’s not got the mission right.
What we are going to see as we look as these two subjects today, The Cross of Salvation and The Cross of Discipleship is that we need to get the whole picture clear.
The Cross of Salvation
We read Jesus began to teach that he would suffer and be killed and rise on the third day. Peter could not stand listening to this; he began to rebuke Jesus, Jesus then has to turn around and rebuke Peter because as one theologian has said “for Peter, the cross is unthinkable, for Jesus the cross is inevitable” and they both cannot be right.
I know this is very familiar to us and those of you who have been coming to church for a long time, you are perfectly aware of who Jesus is and what he has come to do. But I just remind you that for Peter realising in a real breakthrough that Jesus is the Messiah and then hearing the Messiah would die is a great grinding of the gears.
It’s like having the best news, and then it’s all taken away from you. It’s like somebody saying to you – we’ve got the medicine which can solve the disease, we’ve got it, but we’ve just lost it. We have recovered the money which hackers have removed from your account, all your savings have been eliminated, and we have recovered it – Oh it’s just gone again. We have found your little girl in the rubble of the earthquake, she is somewhere, and we don’t know whether she is alive or dead.
It’s that struggle for Peter. A suffering Messiah is a contradiction in terms. He has been with Jesus for three years, and he has seen that Jesus has no problem that he cannot solve. And if you read Mark chapters 1-8, you will see his great kingly power, and now he suddenly turns around and says “Yes, it’s been like this but now I am about to die and it’s too much for me, I am about to suffer and be killed”.
So all the disciples in the 1st Century and in the 21st Century need to grasp the first half of Mark’s Gospel – his Kingly power and in the second half of Mark’s Gospel – the Cross.
- Jesus overcoming all enemies without any difficulty
- Jesus is being overcome by all his enemies
And these two things are both true, and they are both logical – the question is “NOT is Jesus the Messiah?” – The question is “Why kind of Messiah is he?” And the answer is he is the kind of Messiah who will die and rise, and the reason that he will die and rise is that he is going to win rescue for his people by dying and rising.
We read in Chapter 8:31 that he began to teach what we might call Lesson No.2. They have learned Lesson No.1 – Who he is, and now he is about to teach Lesson No.2. And this is what he says in verse 31 “the Son of Man must suffer many things”. So he reinforces Christ crucified by saying ”the Son of Man suffer”. He borrows the phrase from the Old Testament – this phrase in the Old Testament meant somebody with cosmic power and authority and he says “Son of Man – that’s me, will suffer” Christ will be crucified and he says “he must”. If debts are to be cancelled, then he must die. If death is to be defeated, then he must die.
Some people still feel today that Jesus’ death was a sad tragedy. There’s this view of the cross that it’s an emotional thing. That you are meant to look at a painting to see somebody who has a cross around their neck and a figure stuck to the cross, and you are meant to say ‘that really moved me, that moves me to re-dedicate myself and to try harder and to be a little more noble in the way I live and to a kind of a giving of self-type of person’ but Jesus’ death, friends, was deliberate.
We’re not meant to look at the crucifixion and become all sheepish, embarrassed and sorry as if it took place. Jesus said it must take place. He went to the crucifixion deliberately, voluntarily, purposefully and powerfully.
You remember he said in Matthew Chapter 26 when he was being arrested, “Put the swords away, you don’t need to look after me, I could call six, I could call 12 armies and they could come and deliver me from this. I could get out of this very easily” – No the Son of Man MUST suffer because this plan to die is the plan to pay and the plan to save.
Jesus explained this very plainly in verse 32 and the word “plainly” is only used once in Matthew, Mark or Luke, and it’s here “plainly” he explained the cross very boldly, very openly, very freely and very clearly. He is the best communicator in the world, and he gathers his disciples, and he says he is going to be completely open with you about the crucifixion. And of course, the whole world is going to get behind the death of Jesus.
- The religious are going to get behind it
- The irreligious are going to get behind it
- The Jews and the Gentiles are going to get behind the death of Jesus
The organisers, we are told in verse 31, are going to be religious, the Elders, the Chief Priests and the Scribes and again we lose the shock of this. This is like Jesus saying ‘the central religious figures, the people who have been reading the Old Testament and waiting for a Messiah, they are the people that are going to initiate this crucifixion’.
It would be as if we said today, “So and so is going to be rejected for his Ministry and he is being rejected by all the Clergy and all the Bishops and all the Theologians” – that’s what Jesus is saying here of himself.
And the religious people will lead the rejection, the Government, the Roman Government will agree to the execution, and then all the crowds will call for the crucifixion. And the reason that this is going to take place is because “Good Friday” is not just a reminder to us that
God So Loved the World
That he gave His Only Son
That whosoever believes in Him
Will not perish
But have eternal life.
But Good Friday is also a reminder to us that given half the chance we deep down want to do away with our Maker – that’s what we are like.
I have been reading an article in TIME Magazine on Internet Violence. Some nice guy in the evening congregation gives me his old copies of TIME Magazine, and this article says that the internet has shown the geek has become a sociopath. Well, actually we know of course that what the internet is doing is it’s revealing the sociopath beneath the geek. It’s not as though the geek has become somebody new.
According to this article, 70% using the internet have experienced some harassment. The writer says ‘of all the people who have attacked him, the Trolls, the most vicious has been a girl called “Megan”. She repeatedly ridicules him and has written that she wants to meet him and fight him. So he arranged to meet her, according to the article, discovered that she was tiny 5 foot 2 inches and said ‘would you like to punch me?’ She said ‘of course not’. She said ‘the internet is the realm of the coward.
But it gives expression, doesn’t it to what is inside. It’s a forum, it’s a vehicle which enables people to say what they want, and now it’s emerging that there is this great darkness, this great hostility in the human heart and it’s being expressed horizontally. But it’s also being expressed vertically against the Maker, against the Lord, against the King as we heard in Psalm 2.
And the proof of this, (if you want to know what your own human heart is capable of) take it to the worst possible conclusion – is Good Friday – that’s why Jesus is going to die. It’s going to be a human assault but of course behind it is an utterly divine plan. He must suffer and die so that sins will be forgiven.
Somehow in all this discussion, Peter misses a significant word in verse 31 (I don’t know how he missed this) but the word that Jesus would rise on the third day.
I’m not sure if I am better than Peter, I am not! but I imagine if I was listening to this and Jesus said ‘I am going to suffer, I am going to be killed, and on the third day I am going to rise’ – I think I would say (I may be wrong) I think I would say “sorry did you just say be killed and rise on the third day?” – but he doesn’t.
His mind is all consumed with “suffer” and “die”, and he begins to rebuke Jesus and we have no record of what Peter said here. You know taking Jesus aside and saying to him;
- This is absolute nonsense that you are talking about
- Do you realise who you are?
- You know who you are
- I know who you are
- You can easily solve this problem
- And if you can’t solve the problem
- We will solve it – stop talking such
We don’t know what Peter was talking about. But Jesus turns around to him and in these terrible words; he says “Get behind me, Satan”.
In other words – out of my sight. I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to hear you, and I don’t want to understand what you are saying – out of my sight.
We may think this is a bit of an over-reaction but the fact of the matter is that Jesus can see what we cannot see which is that Peter has become the mouth-piece of the world. Now just as the devil in the temptation at the beginning of Jesus’ life said “don’t go through with the crucifixion – just bow down to me” the crucifixion will be over – no need to do it and Jesus resisted that and then halfway through the Gospel here, Peter says ‘let’s get away from this crucifixion idea’.
Jesus again hears the voice of the devil and then at the actual crucifixion in Mark 15 as he is hanging on the cross, people call out in the words of the devil “come off that cross, come down – if you come down we will believe”. Jesus knows full well of course that if he comes down, nobody believes. But the voice of the devil calling on him to resist the crucifixion – and just as the cross is beyond our full appreciation – I don’t suppose we will really ever fathom the full implications of the cross.
Even in heaven according to Ephesians 3 that the love of Jesus Christ is beyond knowledge. That’s why it’s proof positive that heaven will not be boring. There is always going to be more to know, do, enjoy and just as it’s beyond our full appreciation. The temptation must have been beyond our appreciation as well. The temptation to avoid it is which is why Jesus speaks so strongly to Peter and tells him to get behind him.
Interestingly Peter helped Mark write his Gospel and legend; good historical evidence is there that Peter helped Mark write his Gospel. It is very wonderful, isn’t it that Peter would have been sitting there helping Mark write his Gospel and say to him, “Don’t forget to include my utter stupidity, my ignorance, my blasphemy, the terrible suggestion that Jesus would avoid the cross – don’t forget to include that” – because he was so unclear.
Of course the death came, the Resurrection came, the Spirit came and Peter was wonderfully transformed and clear and in the light and he was able to say on the day of Pentecost – “the crucifixion of Jesus was utterly God’s plan, wonderful, wonderful plan”. And then he was able to write about it in his Letter and say something like this:
“Jesus Christ died for the unrighteous, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God” and he explains it so simply and clearly.
I don’t think I could say strongly enough to you this morning and I say this to everybody here that the cross where Jesus died is the only hope you have.
If you want a reason why you might one day be in glory with Jesus, you are going to need to look back in your mind to the cross, and you are going to need to say as you look back in your mind to the cross – “He the righteous died for me, the unrighteous to bring me to God” – how wonderful.
That’s the only hope we have, and it is an absolute complete and perfect hope. What he did on the cross in dying for our sins was to pay for them all. It’s a sufficient, perfect sacrifice and you need to personally and profoundly lift up your voice in prayer to say to him “You who died for me, be my Saviour and be my Lord”.
I remember bumping into a lady once, and I asked her how she had become a Christian. She said the great John Stott said to me on one occasion in just a private conversation – “What does the cross mean to you?” She said she couldn’t explain it. She went away, and she thought about it and it dawned on her, and that was the beginning of her trust in Christ. There’s The Cross of Salvation.
The Cross of Discipleship
Mark Chapter 8:34 where Jesus turns around and says to the crowd and the disciples “If anybody wants to come with me, he/she must take up their cross, the cross of discipleship”. It’s a very famous invitation.
Some of you will remember the famous invitation of Ernest Shackleton who invited men to come with him to the South Pole. I think in about 1913. And the advertisement in the paper apparently went like this:
LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS
SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL
HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS
Do you think that was a successful advertisement? The numbers flooded in. He was inundated with men wanting to join him on the trip to the South Pole.
Or think of Churchill in World War 2 and his famous speech;
I HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER YOU
BUT BLOOD AND TOIL AND TEARS AND SWEAT
But Jesus is not appealing so much to the courage of the crowd and the courage of the disciples, although that is a part of it. He is appealing to the sanity. He is saying ‘if you know who I am, nothing is worth it that keeps you from me. Nothing is worth it that keeps you from coming to me, sticking with me and one day meeting me. Nothing is worth it’.
I don’t think we can face these words without realising the incredible claim that Jesus is making about himself when he says this.
Who would dare to stand up and say to the world ‘if you have ME well you can lose your life.
If you have ME, you can lose everything you own.
If you have ME, you can lose all your pleasures’. It’s an incredible thing that Jesus is saying.
Now you notice he is not apologising, he’s not justifying himself, he’s not saying it will all be worth it in the end, please, please, please come and join me. He just says “I am worth it”. This is not like a commercial for skin cream – “You are worth it”!
This is “I am worth it” – that’s what Jesus is saying, and if you belong to me he says, and you get who I am, that’s it, that’s enough even if you lose everything else.
Now I suppose an evil man could say this. An evil man could say ‘give up everything’, and of course evil men have said this to certain people.
I am Messianic – give up everything. But it’s been a very depraved invitation, hasn’t it – a tragedy? Or it could be an insane person says this “come with me, I am the Messiah, you’ll get everything in the end”, but that would be a tragedy – the greatest possible tragedy. But when you realise that Jesus is the Messiah, the Maker, the Ruler, the Saviour and the Lord, previous beyond the whole wealth of the world when you have him, you do have more the world can offer – you do.
- His character proves it
- His conduct proves it
- Once you have him – you have everything.
Not everybody agrees with this, and some years ago I remember David Marr who was writing for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, he wrote a book called “The High Price of Heaven” and he basically said that this invitation of Jesus to give up the pleasures and to have Him was basically too much. The price was too high.
Now you can only think like that if you don’t understand Jesus and you don’t understand the fleeting nature of pleasure. But Jesus does understand, and he invites us to have him and if necessary to lose everything else. I think this invitation of Jesus is very comforting because it forces us to think about who he is and realise who he is. And then it forces us to see everything else in the light of his value.
He very calmly and clearly says ‘drop everything that would keep you – whether you have got idols – if they will keep you from me – get rid of them.
- If you have got sins, get rid of them
- If you have got excuses, get rid of them
- If you have got alternatives, goals or preferences, get rid of anything that will keep you from me.
Take up your cross and come with me – says, Jesus.
- Deny yourself, that means to say ‘no’ to self and your resistance
- Take up your cross, that means say goodbye to the old life and start a new life
- Follow me, that means where I go ‘left’ you go left – where I go ‘right’ you go right
Come with me according to my word, that’s what Jesus says.
Now I have tried to think through what he goes on to say in these verses 35 and following. I’ve sought to think them through in fresh phrases because I think when we hear things like;
“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul” we lose consciousness at that point, don’t we? We just stop thinking. It’s so proverbial.
So I want you to look at verse 35 where Jesus says:
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me and the Gospel will save it”. I want to re-phrase this verse, and it goes like this;
You need to know the right hand; you need to know the right hands. If your soul is in your hands and you’ve got control, you will lose it. If your soul is in my hands and I’ve got the control, you’ll save it. That’s what Jesus says.
And Luther endorsed this once. Luther said “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in his hands I still possess”. Put your soul in his hands, you need to know the right hands.
In verse 36 and verse 37 where Jesus says;
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
“What can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
I have changed this into this little phrase, “You need to have the right brains, you need to have the right brains”. Because if your priority in your brains is that the world is the top priority, you have made a tragic mistake. You are going for something that will disappear, but your soul is more valuable than the world.
If you could get a set of scales and put your soul into the set of scales and the world in the set of scales, your soul would outweigh the world. Therefore you need to ask yourself whether your life and your engine and your direction are in line with the value of your soul because it’s more important than the world.
Novelist and academic C.S. Lewis says “A civilisation is a gnat compared with a human being because a civilisation would turn to dust but a human being is for eternity.”
The third thing which is in verse 38; “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”.
I have re-phrased this “You need to own the right nerves” because if you were ashamed of Jesus and I don’t mean you have a lapse, all of us lapse in this area. Peter himself was ashamed. But if it is your policy to be ashamed, if you say Jesus lives on a shelf and I will call him when I want him, but I am not going to publicly own him, I want to be a secret disciple. Well Jesus says your policy will be my policy. It’s a very serious warning, and we need to own the right nerves.
So you see how carefully we need to listen to what Jesus is saying when he turns to the crowd. His Cross of Salvation is astronomically wonderful, but the Cross of Discipleship is incredibly serious.
- We need to have the right hands for our soul. When we put our soul into his hands, he will care, and he will control
- We need to have the right brains for our values. Do you realise your soul is worth more than the world?
- We need to have the right nerves for our witness. Because if you try to be a secret disciple, your secrecy will kill your discipleship.
Bishop J.C. Ryle said “a salvation that costs nothing is worth nothing.”
I want us to think very carefully about what Jesus is saying when he invites people to come and take up their cross.
- Jesus is obviously not calling picnic-ers
- He is not saying, would you like to drop in on something really fun
- He is not calling pretenders. He is not saying – well I am deeply committed to you if you play “church” every now and again but your heart is still dark
- He is obviously not calling compromisers – people who are trying to live a double-life who fool many much of the time but not all – all of the time
- He is not calling consumers as if Christianity is like a television that you can turn on when it suits
- He is not calling spectators – people who just look at the game and then walk away.
Some Sundays ago I asked the question from Chapter 8:29 where Jesus says “What about you – who do you say I am?” And I asked some people in the church at different Services – “Who do you say Jesus is?”
You know what the regular response was? It was not a bad response. The regular response was “He is my Saviour” – that’s great.
I, however, would like to know whether that person still regards Jesus as their Lord because if Jesus is not the Lord, he cannot be your Saviour. He must have control over everything if he is to save you from the worse dangers. And if there is a person who says “He is my Saviour” yes I’ve fixed that up, but he is not my Lord – I treat him as reasonably feeble, you obviously don’t have a King. And if you don’t have a King, you don’t have a Saviour. That’s why we need to think most seriously about this.
Am I actually somebody living under the Lordship of Christ? Or have I struck a strange deal with him which is not a biblical deal where he will be my Saviour but not my Lord – that’s impossible.
These verses come from somebody who greatly loves us. Here is somebody who is about to lay down his life on the cross. There is no greater lover in the universe who invites us to come and follow him but remember Jesus also said that in the congregation (like this) there will be sheep and goats – there will be wheat and tares.
A.W. Tozer said once – you know there is a lot of people who are walking around hell at this very minute who can recite John 3:16. It’s a serious thought, isn’t it?
So the first cross – The Cross of Salvation is wonderful that the righteous has died for me the unrighteous, you the unrighteous – it’s wonderful to bring us to God.
But the second cross – The Cross of Discipleship is serious isn’t it? Jesus said there will come a day (according to the Sermon on the Mount) where many people will come up and say ‘we went here and we did this’, and he will say “I don’t know you”. There needs to be a serious response, doesn’t there, to a wonderful salvation.
I hope you will remember who is speaking these words, the Messiah, the most wonderful person the world has ever seen – the most loving person the world has ever seen. I hope you will remember what he went on to do which is to die on the cross. And I hope that you have asked him for that salvation and I hope that you are following him. Next week we will see that he takes the disciples who may be stunned (some of them) and gives them a preview of heaven – and we will look at that next week.
Our gracious God we thank you this morning for the wonderful cross of salvation. We thank you for the incredible work that Jesus did on behalf of sinners like us. And we thank you that this cross brings us forgiveness, adoption and hope – a secure and wonderful hope.
We also thank you, heavenly Father, for the invitation to take up our cross and follow. We pray that you would help us to do that with the integrity and courage and faithfulness and joy. We count it a great privilege to know Christ. We ask that you would help us to honour him –
In Jesus’ Name – Amen.