Discipleship is not an optional activity as a Christian. It’s the essence of being a follower of Jesus.
It’s through discipleship that:
- We are identified as His followers.
- We are transformed into a new creation.
- We are positioned to receive God’s blessings.
- Leads us on the straight path to Heaven.
Discipleship is a community activity. Proverbs 27:17 says, “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” This act can’t be done alone. Belonging to a local church and engaging is a crucial step in being a successful disciple.
What we learn from Mark 8:31-38 is that an improper view of Jesus’ Messiahship will lead to inaccurate discipleship. Jesus did not and has not come to establish an earthly kingdom but an eternal kingdom. He did not come to overthrow a political system but a human condition.
In Mark 8, Peter rebukes (corrects) Jesus because Jesus explained how He will suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders but three days later will come back to life.
Jesus turns the tables on Peter and rebukes Him because, unknowingly, Peter is attempting to obstruct the reason Jesus came. The word rebuke is the same word used in Matthew 4:10 as Jesus rebuked Satan in the desert.
It was in the desert that Satan tempted Jesus by promising to give Him the kingdoms of the world if He would bow down and worship him. This was an attempt to eliminate the power of the cross.
Without the cross, there is no resurrection. It is Jesus’ resurrection that empowers us to live free from the control of sin.
Peter’s prevent-defense of Jesus’ suffering would have had the same effect. For Peter, Jesus dying was unthinkable, but for Jesus, it was inevitable!
Another reason that Jesus is so remarkable is that He knew He would suffer and was aware of whom that suffering would come, yet He never once altered His course. His suffering was the only way to destroy the stronghold of Satan.
Jesus pivots in this conversation to teach us something about discipleship. Discipleship involves suffering.
Suffering can be characterized by pains, challenges, obstacles, hardships, disappointment, and confusion. These aren’t signs Jesus is absent but are circumstances working to perfect our faith.
Jesus defined discipleship in three specific terms.
#1 Come follow me. This instruction requires that I cease following myself and my desires and place Jesus at the center of my life.
#2 Deny myself. Denial is not asceticism or self-hatred but to renounce self as the driving force in life.
#3 Take up your cross. Carrying a cross was Jesus’ most striking comment to His original audience.
It was this statement which would have been shocking to first-century Christians living in Rome. To them, a cross was a symbol of pain, shame, guilt, punishment, and ultimately death.
Jesus died on a cross so that we would only have to carry ours.
As a disciple of Jesus, to carry your cross is a willingness to suffer in pursuit of Jesus. It’s about following Jesus even when you’re mocked, isolated, disrespected, refused, misunderstood, misinterpreted, judged, ridiculed, persecuted, and have your rights violated for the sake of obeying Jesus.
To further drive the significance of discipleship, Jesus makes four contrasting statements.
#1 For whoever would save his life will lose it.
To the person who seeks to avoid suffering as His disciple and not be transformed, they may save themselves from pain now but, in the end, will lose their life.
#2 Whoever loses his life will save it.
Those who lose their life by taking up their cross will result of spending eternity in Heaven, where this is no more pain or suffering!
#3 What does it profit to gain the whole world, yet lose your soul?
Gaining the whole world reveals our inaccurate value placed on things versus our soul.
#4 What can a man give for his soul?
This is a rhetorical question to provoke thought on your soul value. Apart from Jesus’ payment for your soul, what could you give to pay your sin debt? Nothing!
Jesus gives our soul the highest evaluation when He to earth, in the form of a man, experienced temptation and yet never sinned, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, to pay your debt of sin, so you can live free and eternally.
Jesus concludes by stating that by rejecting the discipleship process, we run the risk of being rejected by Jesus.
So where are you on the journey of discipleship? Is there daily or weekly habits keeping you from being a disciple and making disciples?
Let’s experience the joy of our salvation and remove those things from our life that are keeping us from engaging with Him regularly!