Jesus Calls Us to Follow Whatever the Cost - Second Sunday in Lent
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Mark 8:27-38
February 28, 2021

Our Gospel reading tells us about that day when Jesus and His disciples were on the road to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, north of Galilee. Jesus asked His disciples questions. The first one was, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). The second one was, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

Peter answered the second question for himself and the others: “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). In Matthew’s account of this, Peter also said that Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe Peter was thinking of Psalm 2, where the Christ testified: “I will tell of the decree the Lord said to me: You are my Son, today I have begotten You” (Psalm 2:7).

Then Jesus went on to teach them that it was necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things, be killed, and rise again from the dead after three days (Mark 8:31). The name Son of Man was the way Jesus referred to Himself. Jesus then went on to teach what it means to follow Him. That is the part about self denial and taking up one’s cross (Mark 8:34). That is also the part where Jesus talks to them about the relative value of things: gaining the whole world but losing one’s soul; asking what would a person give in exchange for one’s soul? (Mark 8:36).

There are a lot of specific things going on in this text, but one thing in a general way stands out for me today. It is that all of this discussion takes place right here in the midst of our very real world. And this is a world where people have ideas about God and Christ and spirituality and salvation and such. It is also a world where governments and government officials have their ideas about things which they put into government action and codify in the law, such that those who don’t agree with their law become subject to penalties. It was the case there in Galilee and Judea in the first century. Jesus talked about this when He spoke of being rejected by the elders and chief priests and the scribes of the people of Israel (Mark 8:31). It seems to be becoming more and more the case here in America today.

It is in such a world that Jesus asks His disciples to state with the voice, openly, who Jesus is, and what the truth is according to God’s word. So He calls forth our testimony and declaration, for He puts to us the questions. What do people say? But what do you say, according to God’s word?

But there is a potential cost. Jesus does not assume that following Him means compatibility and peace with the world. So He talks to us so that we are prepared to testify to what God’s word teaches; to hold to Christ as Savior and walk in the grace and mercy of the Gospel.

Jesus talks to us by reasoning with us. “For what will a person give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37). What have we gained if we have done everything we possibly could to be on good terms with the world at the expense of not abiding by the truth of God’s word and the good news of Jesus? The answer is: we have not gained anything, but lost everything. So Jesus talks to His church by way of warning: “Whoever is ashamed of me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

Why is His reasoning and His warning so important? It is because of what He says of the world: “it is adulterous and sinful.” When the world adopts attitudes and takes action and makes laws that are contrary to the way God created things to be and contrary to His will, it is not being clever and innovative and reflecting a growth in understanding—we know better now, not according to Jesus. Jesus speaks of it as “adulterous and sinful.”

The world is adulterous in that it turns away from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Creator and Father of the human race. It is sinful for it always finds ways to call good what God calls wrong. The world stands under condemnation for this, and Jesus does not want us to be condemned along with the world.

We escape from the condemnation under which the world stands by repentance with respect to what is contrary to God’s will and where we have manifested the rebelliousness and weakness of our fallen nature, and faith in Jesus as Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As the Apostle Paul says today, “Since therefore we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9 ESV).

So Jesus asked the questions of His disciples when they were on the road to Caesarea Philippi. He asks us the questions as we are situated here in America. And it seems that we are entering unprecedented times in America. This is not just because our culture and the governing authorities have accepted moral thinking and morality that is contrary to God’s will and sound moral thinking. This has been going on for quite some time. It because the governing authorities seem to be closing the room that has always been afforded Christians, and other religions, under the Constitution, to freely preach, and teach, and practice their faith without government interference and civil penalties. Many thinkers, commentators, and people are seeing the Equality Act that was passed by the House of Representatives last week and headed for the Senate as the embodiment of this and a turning point.

And what if it becomes more and more the reality for Christians here in America, as incredible as even contemplating that thought is, to have to deal with penalties from the government for being faithful to God’s word and the Gospel; to being faithful to the way things have always been with the human race with respect to the basics of human sexuality? We hear Jesus call us: “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Mark 9:35).

A cross? How do we find the will and courage to take up a cross and follow Jesus? It is because He has taken up His cross before us to redeem us, to prepare a home for us in our everlasting fatherland that nothing here in this temporary and passing home can take from us. Even if we lose our place and glory in this world on account of Jesus and the word of God, we gain a place and glory in God the Father’s everlasting kingdom. We live in the hope of the glory of God, through the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:2). For it was not when we were perfect that Christ died for us, but while we were still sinners that He died for us His atoning death (Romans 5:8), so He could live again and speak to us forgiveness and everlasting promise.

We do not take up our cross in our own strength. We do so in the strength given to us by God. For in Jesus, “our hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” (Romans 5:5).

Jesus calls us to follow Him. Jesus’s call us to testify, because He asks us questions: What do people say? But what do you say, according to God’s word? Let us heed His call and follow, let us speak and testify and live, accordingly, whatever the cost may be. For we live in His promise, the promise of Him who has conquered all things for us, who has overcome the world, the promise which says: “Whoever loses one’s life for My sake and the Gospel, will surely save it” (Mark 8:35). Amen.


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