Do you ever read something in the Bible and then go, "wow this is hard!" Last night in youth we had a Bible study, and it was tough to teach, but even harder to live up to.
The setting is a nice green hill in Israel. The disciples are chilling with Jesus, no crowds, no miracles, no big storms, just a nice sunny day to relax. The disciples are probably enjoying it, thinking about how great it is going to be when Jesus is king and they are all rulers and leaders of his new kingdom. And then Jesus asks this seemingly harmless question. He says, "Who do people say I am?" The disciples think about it for a bit, and since it's a nice day, they choose not to tell Jesus all of the bad things they've heard (you know the, "Jesus is Satan or at the very least the son of Satan stuff) and so they go light hearted instead. They say, "Some say you're John the Baptist back from the dead." and everyone laughs because we know that's impossible, and so the disciples continue to one up each other. Then Jesus says, "Who do YOU say I am." And Peter with a brainwave says, "You're the Messiah!" Jesus says "Bang on you got it, and soon I'm going to die..." and as Peter listens his view of Jesus is shattered! So he takes Jesus aside to tell him that to lead a country he can't be dead. And Jesus says, "Get behind me Satan!" and then maybe in a gentler tone, "You are seeing things from a human point of view and not from Gods."
And now we get to the hard part Jesus says, "If you want to be my disciple then you need to take up your cross and follow me." We think take up our cross so I put on my little gold chain and tuck it into my shirt. But in this culture the cross meant ONE thing. It meant death of the body and spirit. The cross wasn't just about killing you, it was about humiliating you, shaming you and making you long for the hand of death to take you. To say to some one, "go to the cross!" was the equivalent of saying, "Go fuck yourself" or maybe worse. The cross was an insult, the cross was shame, and the cross was death. This is why Paul talks about the shame of the cross.
So what does that mean for us? Well if we aren't standing for what is right, at the risk of humiliation, shame, and pain, then we are not taking up our crosses and following Jesus. We are failing to be disciples of Jesus Christ. And in Mark 8 Jesus says, "If you are ashamed of me in these sinful and adulterous days, then I the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when I return in the glory of my Father and with the heavenly angels."
And now, like Peter, my view of what Jesus will do for me is shattered. I always expected Jesus to welcome me into heaven with open arms and the big "Well DONE!" But Jesus is saying, “if you've been ashamed of me then I will be ashamed of you!
So how do we live up to it? How do we carry the cross? Not just the youth who I shared this with last night, but how do I live it myself?
(Verses from Mark 8:27 on)