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The Promise Questioned: I'm Going to Die
Scripture: Mark 8:31-9:1
Track 15 of 27 in the Transforming Story As God Gave It series
Running time: 35 minutes, 29 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, April 9, 2006
15th sermon in a 27 part series
"The Promise Questioned: I'm Going to Die"
The Transforming Story As God Gave It
(Mark 8:27-9:1)
Copyright 2006 G. Charles Sackett

From where I was standing last week, this is what it sounded like. (you dropped scrabble letters in bucket) It was absolutely remarkable. I was close enough to these front trash cans to listen to you throw away your sins. It was an incredible experience to be here and to watch you do that.

Later, we were sorting out the scrabble tiles and discovered that somewhere in the course of the morning some of the communion cups also got tossed in with the sins and some of the tile came out rather, ah, stained. Seems so appropriate. The blood stain of the cross over the top of our sin.

I don't know that God does anything greater for us than to make us that offer of forgiveness. To make it possible for His blood to be a cover for the sin that we've committed in our own lives. And yet, if that were all there were to it, it would be too little.

Somewhere along the line the church must come to grips with the fact that forgiveness of sin may be God's greatest gift but it is not the end of the story. That there is something far greater than that, that goes beyond that in our relationship with God.

The text that we're looking at this morning is Mark 8. It's a fascinating statement of what occurs in the lives of the disciples of the first century and I think has a great deal to say to those of us who are at this end of the journey in the 21st century.

Mark 8:27 is a passage that is familiar with virtually everyone who has been around the church very long. If you haven't heard it in Mark 8, you have certainly heard it in Matthew 16. You've heard it read or said at some point. Mark words it this way: Mark 8:27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Christ."

That statement may or may not mean a great deal to you and me at this end of the journey. Quite honestly, most people who live in the United States, are not raising questions about whether Jesus came as the Messiah or not. But it was the most profound question that could have been asked in the first century. You had a bunch of people of Jewish heritage who were waiting patiently for God to speak and it had been 400 years of silence. And they were hoping, waiting for anyone to come along who could be this person for whom they waited. This Messiah, this One who had come to bring redemption to Israel.

In fact, this isn't the first time that this set of questions and answers have been offered. If you back up a couple of chapters in Mark's Gospel, you'll notice back in Mark 6, this same conversation is coming at the end of the story of John the Baptist. After having been sent to prison in this particular text, Mark 8:14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him."

Others said, "He is Elijah."

And still others claimed, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago."

This was a pretty common image of Jesus, to be a prophet, to be a good man, to be a teacher. But the answer that Peter gave was the answer that was supposed to have been the answer that everybody was to give. He is the Messiah.

Unfortunately, by this time, people had a fairly warped opinion of what that meant. For a good Jew in the first century, under Roman domination, being held against their will to a rule that they totally disagreed with; anybody coming in the name of David would have come as a conqueror, not a servant. Would have come prepared to lead Israel back to its glory. The anticipation of one in the lineage of David would have been coming as a king who would set Israel back on its rightful place. And Jesus began to fit that image.

If you could imagine yourself an oppressed people, underneath someone else's domination, waiting for somebody who would come and relieve you from that kind of domination. To have experienced Jesus the way that the disciples had experienced Jesus, would set you up to give the answer that Peter gave. Only it would have been colored by what you were hoping for. If you're looking for a conquering king, how nice would it be to have somebody that could take five loaves and two fishes and feed an army? Who could take a man who was lame and heal him? Who could raise a person from the dead? What kind of a military leader could you have asked for, any greater than one who could do miracles at the drop of a hat?

And so, in that sense of expectation, if Jesus is the Messiah, He could be the One that we're waiting for. The One that would deliver us from Roman domination. And Peter, both in hope and at great risk says, in answer to the question, "Who am I?" "You are the Christ." And I don't know whether to say that with an exclamation point or a question mark. Did Peter say, "Thou art the Christ!" in good King James language or did he say, "You're the Christ?" But that was the hope. It was the dream that someone was going to come to be the person that they needed to be. In the language that you and I have been talking about up to this point in our story, the story is fulfilled. We've been waiting for the Messiah. The whole Old Testament story has been to get us to this place. That Jesus would come and there would be One who would be the Redeemer of Israel and Peter takes this enormous risk and says, "Okay, I think you're Him. And talk about dashed expectations. Look at the next segment of this text.

Mark 8:31. He then began to teach them 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.

And notice what Mark does here in Mark 8:32. He spoke plainly about this. . . . Make sure you understand Mark's insertion. He wants you, the reader, to be sure you understand, Jesus could not be misunderstood at this point. He was being absolutely clear. Peter, the rest of you disciples, I'm here because I have to suffer and die. That's not what the expectation was. So what does Peter do?

According to this verse, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. It's an extremely strong word. He repeatedly rebukes Him. I can just see Peter taking Him by the toga and pulling Him off to the side saying, "Jesus, what are you talking about? You can't do that. That's not what Messiah's do."

Mark 8:33. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

I don't know. I don't know any conceivable way to capture what that must have felt like for Peter. I tried to put myself in a position where I could figure out what that must have . . . . .you just took the risk of your life. As a good Jewish man and you said, I think you, Jesus, are the Messiah. Jesus comes along and says, I'm going to go to Jerusalem and die. Peter stands up and says, Wait a minute. No you're not. And Jesus says, Get behind me adversary! POW! Man that had to hurt. But the key is Mark 8:33. You've got your mind set on the things of men, not on the things of God. Peter, you're thinking like a man. You're not thinking the way a disciple thinks. You're thinking like a human thinks. You're thinking like a Jew thinks. You're thinking like an American thinks. You're thinking like a person who wants out from under domination thinks. You're thinking about this from the wrong perspective, Peter.

Now I don't know how much of this occurs in the actual conversation, between Peter and Jesus, but I got a sneaking suspicion there's a whole lot more going on here than what's written. And I can just see Jesus saying, Peter, don't you remember that day, down on the beach? You were fishing, and I came up to you and I said, Come (remember what He said?) Follow me.

Sounds so simple. Ah, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, do you know where you have to be standing if you're going to follow someone? You got to be. . . . .behind them. By the way, that is literally the word that is used. Peter (Mark 1:17) come behind me.

You know what happens in Mark 8? Exactly the same word. Peter, go behind me.

See Peter's problem is he got ahead of Jesus and he started to do the leading instead of following. He was going to tell Jesus what a Messiah was supposed to look like. He was going to tell Jesus how it is that you follow after identifying Him as your leader. And I come back and remind you of what Jesus said. I must suffer. It wasn't a choice.

By the way, that word "must" that occurs in this text is used very sparingly in the New Testament and it's used exclusively to talk about something that God ordains to happen. It doesn't happen because you say it has to happen. It doesn't happen because somebody powerful says it has to happen. It doesn't happen because a Roman says it has to happen. This happens because GOD says it has to happen. I MUST, by divine ordination, I must suffer these things.

Here's what I'm trying to tell you. While redemption is absolutely incredible, and there would be no one more convinced of that than I am, while being able to take your sin and pour it out and get rid of it; while that's so utterly remarkable, that's not the end of being a disciple. That's only the beginning. That's just the start of the story for you. This is a story of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Someone, who, because they have been redeemed have identified Him as the Lord of their life, and as the Lord of their life, they are willing to say whatever it is that you ask of me, I'm willing to do. Wherever you say to go, I'm willing to go.

So let's ask ??? Where is Jesus taking us as disciples? By the way, I understand Peter's reservation. Jesus just got done saying, I'm going to go to Jerusalem and die. And He says, Come follow me. There's some people you don't want to play follow the leader with.

Look at this text. Because here's what it means to be a disciple. Here's what you signed up for when you decided to say, "Jesus is the Lord of my Life."

Mark 8:34. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come (behind) after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 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."

The implications of this statement about following Jesus are really very clear. And I'm not going to try to hide them from you. I'm just going to say them as clearly as I know how. The very first thing He says is we have to be willing to die to our self.

That's not a popular trait, by the way. And it doesn't come easily to any of us. We are by nature, born selfish. Any of you have children? Any of them ever seem demanding and wanting their own way? Any of them ever learn this word? Mine! Any of them ever have trouble sharing their toys? Any of them give you difficulty by saying, "No" I don't want to do it your way. Many of them learn how to say that before they know how to voice the two words together. No and no. But it was clear, wasn't it? That they were self-centered egotistical creatures. Now they had that initially in order to survive. You have to think about that, that's a pretty good trait to be egotistical and self-centered when you're an infant and totally dependent on the rest of the world. And frankly I'm a, I just readily admit I'm a bit of a spaced out cadet sometimes and if my children didn't cry, the chances are I wouldn't have fed them. So the self-centeredness was not a bad thing on the front end of things but you know, it gets really troublesome when their 17 and still telling you the same thing.

Did you read about this the other day? I was listening to the radio or reading this in a story and this person is on asking for advice. "I have this son who is totally hooked on computer games. I don't know what to do with him. I can't get him off of the internet. Oh, by the way, he's seventeen." It's like, who's the parent here for cryin' out loud!

We don't deny self easily. But you got to remember that, that's exactly what this thing is about. It's about self-denial. It's about making your self subservient to what the Lord wants from you. That's just the way it works. This whole thing is about "taking up your cross" which, by the way, as Lacey pointed out, we have turned into a lot of things that it wasn't in the first century.

Any of you ladies got one on this morning? You have one right here in the front row. Oh man, I'm sorry! Do you know what wearing a cross around your neck would be equivalent of in today's culture? It would be like having a little rendition of an electric chair, or a firing squad, or a lethal injection. See this thing here? This was never intended to be pretty. The first century person would have never said, "Oh, that's a lovely cross." They would have said, "That's death." Because that's all it ever meant. If you were Jewish and you walked down a road somewhere and sitting on the side of the road, you saw a cross, you would have said this one thing. "Somebody died here." To a Jew, if you remember your Old Testament, for anyone to die on a tree, meant that they were "cursed" of God.

So Jesus comes along and says, "If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me." "Die to your self."

If you haven't come through the foyer, may I encourage you to go through the foyer and just kind of meander around the display because the display is not of bad things. It's not a display that you would normally think of when you think of worldly things. We don't have any playboys out there, you know. We don't have any pornography or any alcohol out there. There are no drugs in the thing out there. It's houses and cars and computers and date books. It's the stuff that we live with every day that is a "good thing", as long as you own it and it doesn't own you.

So He says, one of the implications for being my disciple is that you're willing to die to your self and to follow me and you got to remember where He's going now. He's going to a gallows. He's going to a cross and He's asking you to come. There's nothing easy about discipleship. Everything's easy about salvation, by the way. Please don't misunderstand me. Forgiveness is easy for you. It was pretty hard for Him, but it's easy for you. All you got to do is say "yes" to Him, right? He says, "Come to me and I'll give you salvation". You come to me and identify with me, you participate in my death and resurrection and I will give you salvation. And so we make that offer pretty regularly and it's not, oh it's a little embarrassing to go in the Baptistry. It kind of makes you a mess, but it's not a bad thing. You know. You identify with Jesus and you come up and you're new. The challenge isn't getting saved. The challenge is living like a disciple.

The second implication of that, by the way, in this text is that we have to determine our price. Mark 8: 36-37 reminds us that we all have a price. I know that you don't like that and I think you would deny it, but the question still is in the text just as clear as it can be. What would a man exchange for his soul?

I read a half a dozen stories early this morning. I don't know. You don't have probably a chance to do that kind of thing. You probably have no need to do that sort of thing. But I'm always doing that kind of thing cause I've got to stand up here and talk. If I read less, maybe I would talk less, but that's probably not true.

So I read about the professional football player who traded his soul for drugs and alcohol. I read about the finance man who traded his family and his soul for a big paycheck. I read about, Madonna, who, believe it or not, finally admitted that money and materialism isn't everything. And so, she's going to do some searching she says. Right now she's looking at Jewish mysticism. She's not going to find her answer there, but, at least she recognizes what the rest of us finally have to come to recognize. That whatever it is the world has to offer isn't the answer. Some of us have to learn that the harder way than others. But everybody, they say, everybody (I don't know if this is true), but they say, everybody has a price.

That was the whole point of the movie, Indecent Proposal, which I did not see, by the way, but have read about. Where Robert Redford pays a million dollars for the privilege of sleeping with another man's wife. They wouldn't do it for just a pittance you know because that would make you a prostitute. Well, when the offer hit a million dollars and they saw that as a ticket to their freedom in the future, suddenly it didn't seem like such a big thing after all. And you sit there aghast that anybody could do that and yet I'm here to tell you that every one of us at some point in our life has exchanged our soul for a great deal less than a million dollars. We have traded our soul for a moment of anger. We have traded our soul for a fleeting glimpse of what it might mean to be happy. We have traded our soul for a friendship. We have traded our soul to be popular with our friends. We have traded our soul for a lot less because all of us at some point have a price. And the challenge of being a disciple is to learn that you don't have to do that. You don't have to be popular and you don't have to be wealthy. You don't have to have friends. You don't have to have any of that if you have Christ. The rest of that will take care of itself, in the long run.

So Jesus says, what would you trade? Peter would trade, by the way, an earthly Messiah. Later he would trade, he would trade almost anything later on just to get out of that courtyard.

Well, the third thing that He says is you have to take your stand. Mark 8:38 If anyone is ashamed of me. . . . .in this generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him. And Peter, just a few weeks from now, in this text, will, in fact, turn his back on Jesus and three times, say, "I never knew you". It's easy for Peter. It's easy to condemn Peter at least. Cause you probably have never done that, right?

Some of you have heard me tell you this before. It's one of my life's most embarrassing moments. (The band can stay down there, cause I'm not done yet. I just want to come down here where I can tell you the story better.)

My daughter was in high school track and she's good. She didn't get that from her Father, by the way. She left her medals from the track meet at the high school one day and she asked if I'd go get them cause she had to go to work. So I thought, well, sure, why not, that's no big deal.

So I drove out to the high school. At Lincoln there's a circle drive. I pulled into the circle drive where you're not supposed to park and I parked. And I hopped out of my car and I realized I was wearing a homemade tee shirt from one of my classes that day. One of my students has a project teaching as if we were little children, had us write our own Christian shirts. And, on it said something about "We Love Jesus" and it looked, really hokey. I mean "cheesy" to the max and I remember stepping out of the car and I started to close the door when I looked down and I realized that I got this "cheesy" I Love Jesus tee shirt, on. And there was that moment when I made a profound decision in my life to take off the shirt before I went in the building and anybody saw me.

And I would like to tell you, it isn't because I'm ashamed of Jesus, that I was only ashamed of the "cheesiness" of the shirt, but to this day I still don't know the answer to that question. Why did I take that off? Why? Probably the same reason I don't like it when people know that I'm a preacher. Probably the same reason I don't wear Christian tee shirts. Because there's just something hard about being a disciple in public, for me. Maybe not for you, but, for me.

And Jesus says, "You want to be my disciple, you follow me. And following me means you can't be ashamed of me. You got to own it." I am a disciple of Jesus. And I come to this text and I find myself challenged with what it means to really be a disciple. Not just to take advantage of the salvation that God offers, but to really be a disciple. Because frankly, this call to a discipleship is a great deal harder than I ever expected it to be. And honestly, Jesus does not always meet my expectations. Things don't always turn out the way that I think they're supposed to.

I wonder if Peter must have thought - Did I just get it wrong? Was it a mistake? Is He not the Messiah? Did I blow it? Did I misunderstand? This isn't what I thought I was getting in to.

I think that is why the next text is there, by the way and I'm not going to preach on it. Otherwise, we'll be here until Easter. Which, by the way, is next week.

The next text is an out-of-transfiguration and if you didn't pay any attention to it, it would sound like this in Mark 9:2. After six days Jesus took with him (and who's the first name on the list? You got it!) Peter. What a statement of grace, uh? Get behind me Satan (and six days later) Who is the first person He calls? That my friends is grace. And they get out of transfiguration and Jesus is transfigured before them and Moses and Elijah are there and then all of a sudden there is this cloud. And I don't have time to go into all of the Old Testament ramifications of that but you just think about mountains and clouds and Moses and Elijah and all of a sudden you've got all kinds of images that should be flooding your brain. And there's a voice of God that says, "This is my Son, . . . . .Listen to him!" And the cloud peels back and there's no Moses and there's no Elijah and Mark is so abundant . . . . . .with him except Jesus, always.

This isn't about Moses. This is not about Elijah. This is about Jesus. Peter, you were right. He is the Messiah. Listen to him!

I wish I could say this more profoundly. But I'm going to say it the same way. "This is God's Son, . . . . .Listen to him!" Because He has the answers to your life. And while discipleship is hard, it is worth it.

Now just before we sing, I want you to meet somebody who has made that statement true this last week. I want you to meet Paul and Birdie. They're going to stand in just a second right back here and I'd like them to stand up. Paul and Birdie Garden. They came this last week. They took another step in their journey with Jesus and they were immersed into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and, they just want to be a part of this body with you. And we're grateful for that. Welcome.

And I want you to hear that the invitation is always there. But the invitation is not just to the benefit, the invitation is to the challenge, to be the disciple that God is calling you to be. And that means dying to your self. Now here's my polite way to say this. I don't know any better way to say it. So quit whining when things don't go your way. This is about following Jesus, not being served, but serving. This is about dying to your self and giving your life to Christ and doing what God calls you to do no matter how hard that is.

It means coming as a collective community to follow Jesus. And together, to walk side-by-side and to get this thing done and to hold each other up, and to make sure that we're all able to follow and that none of us are guilty of selling our soul for a pittance.

So we're going to sing. And here's what we're going to do, we're going to have our Elders and anybody else that feels led to do that, to just stand up here in the front, along the front, and if you would like someone to pray with you about your life, they are here to pray with you this morning. And we're going to sing and while we're singing, you come and you pray and there will be a second song. It's going to go two songs long because we want you to have an opportunity to just voice before God your desire to follow Jesus. And if you need some help, let us help you. So while we're standing, would some of our Elders and their wives make their way up here to the front. Some of our Staff and their wives if they're in here, just come up here and be available.

The rest of us, let's stand and let's sing together, shall we? Let this voice your commitment.