34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8:34-37
It’s unnatural isn’t it? Self-denial ... cross-bearing … following Him … till our lives are lost … but wait, if we do that, then we will have LIFE!
The disciple Peter thought it was unnatural. When Jesus explained His death and resurrection, Peter totally missed the point and focused only on Jesus’ death and not the power of the resurrection. Peter figured he’d take Jesus aside and let him know he was mistaken, that wasn’t how it was going to go down, only to receive this blast from Jesus as recorded in Mark 8:33
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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Jesus predicted his death a few more times and we don’t read that Peter contradicted Jesus any longer, but then came the Last Supper. This time, Jesus was predicting that “you will all fall away…” (Mark 14:27)
This time an enthusiastic Peter let Jesus know, he had it wrong AGAIN! I got your back buddy… “Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.” (Mark 14:29)
But, here comes the reality check from Jesus:
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[a] you yourself will disown me three times.” (Mark 14:30)
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:31)
Peter and the disciples all pledged their lives to Jesus; standing with him until death even it that meant their own. Yet, the Gospels record that Jesus was the only one crucified that day between two criminals. The rooster crowed, and his followers had scattered, looking on from the shadows, denied and disowned. His followers and Peter had done what came naturally … they saved their earthly lives.
Was this radical call to self denial, cross bearing, following and life losing, only for the disciples? While it is tempting to think Jesus was speaking only to the twelve, but words like “anyone” or “whoever” don’t let us off the hook. It is natural for us to protect and preserve our lives, even our livelihoods. I certainly don’t like pain, hardship or loss. Over my life I’ve tried to be a good steward; we have life insurance, we have RRSP’s, even have some funds set aside for the unexpected emergencies. I stop at red lights, look both ways before I cross the street, and if I remember, even lock our doors at night!
“… but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35) It’s about sacrifice on account of Jesus, not about being careless. I’m a planner, I like my ducks in a row, as a result for the first number of years I had this quote written on a whiteboard in our EMMC home office:
“We need to plan for a future where God has to show up”.
It was there to remind us that the God’s vision is bigger than our vision and His plans are greater than our plans.
Our world is naturally self-absorbed. Talk of sacrifice, is usually followed with the caveat of “to what gain? Or “what’s in it for me?” There may be a willingness to sacrifice, but only if there is a potential payoff to ourselves. Our culture often says “do what’s best for you”, or “You have to look out for number one”. In our culture “Number One is me”, but Jesus’ call on our lives requires us to stretch beyond our natural instincts of pursuing comfort and avoiding sacrifice. Jesus’ call means we have Him as Number one, I am second … His priorities, not ours, His plans, not ours, His ways, not ours, His glory, not ours.
The disciple Peter is wonderfully spontaneous and enthusiastic, often well-meaning, but also blessed with foot-in-mouth disease (said the wrong things). He showed us, how natural it was for him to want to preserve his life, to the point of disowning Jesus who he KNEW was the Messiah! Then, later we see the beautiful scene of forgiveness as Jesus asks Peter to feed and care for His sheep. For the rest of his life, Peter preached and spread the Gospel. He was imprisoned, beaten and eventually was killed, all for the glory of his Savior. What was once seen as unnatural, had become fully natural! For Peter, the costliness of following Jesus was no longer in question, as he was willing to follow him regardless of the cost.
We live in uncertain times. Our country and many others have become decidedly secular; what are we willing to lose for Jesus and the Gospel?
Are we willing to lose our reputation, on account of Jesus?
Are we willing to lose our families, to lose friends, our jobs, even our lives on account of Jesus?
Are we willing give our lives to Jesus if it means we are asked to embrace the suffering that may bring?
I’ve asked these questions before. They are jolting questions that some of you may have had to answer at one time or another. During Jesus’ ministry, he asked these questions quite regularly in various ways. How big or small the cost for each of us is not the point, because all of our life is to be surrendered to Him. He wasn’t looking for half-hearted, lukewarm commitments. He gave His life for ours, and in exchange wants us to lose our lives to save it … and embrace The Great Exchange.
Acts 20:24 (NLT)
But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
The Great Exchange
Join us in Winkler Manitoba June 9 to 11 for the Gathering 2023 as we learn more about The Great Exchange and the journey to which God has called each of us!