St Michael’s, October 18th 2009
Reading – Mark 10:32-45
This week is our penultimate look at Mark’s gospel … our final week, next Sunday is actually entitled ‘A Fresh Start’ so I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back and bring to a close our studies in Mark.
Our reading begins with Jesus leading the way to Jerusalem … why were the disciples astonished while others were afraid? Because they knew that by now, Jesus was hated by those who had the power to do something about him. The fact that the disciples were astonished rather than afraid indicates that they had finally understood something about Jesus, that he was the Messiah – the one sent from God to rule his people. They knew now that one day soon Jesus would be king … they just weren’t expecting him to pick a fight to prove it!
But this is the third time Jesus tells his disciples exactly what is going to happen … and as I was preparing for this morning, that intrigued me … why did he tell them three times? And as I read the different passages, I also realised that each time, Jesus also told his disciples what it would cost to follow him.
So I have three short readings and three questions for you this morning …
1. Read Mark 8:34-38 – The cost of following Jesus – our future
How might we lose our lives for Jesus and the gospel?
We may not be called to martyrdom, to literally lose our lives for the sake of following Jesus, though even today across the world many do so. But it’s all too easy to live as if we were ashamed of him … to be half-hearted about our allegiance … to keep quiet when it might be awkward … to be unwilling to lose face among our sceptical friends or colleagues, or to risk our jobs, our income. That’s what it means to deny ourselves and carry with us the cross of Jesus … and it is costly. Whether in terms of reputation or money or time or effort, or our very lives, following Jesus is about putting him first …
2. Read Mark 10:29-31 –The cost of following Jesus – our friends and family
Why are we so reluctant to talk to others about our faith?
One of the reasons we often find it hard to tell others about our faith, is fear of their reaction. It may be that as friends get to know us or family see us grow in faith, that they will wonder and ask … but it’s just as likely that they will take offence. So we hold back. And rather than talk to them about something so important as their eternal destiny, we let it go … what will it cost us to speak up for Jesus? And what it is worth to those who might just understand?
What difference does following Jesus make to our priorities?
Following Jesus is costly … and perhaps this aspect of service is one of the hardest … giving up our lives can be an abstract concept when there is no open opposition or persecution. But to seek to serve, and to give real value to that service is to turn our worldly values upside down.
Family and friends, focus and future … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Jesus demonstrated his greatness by giving up his life for us, just as he’d told the disciple on those three occasions. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (vs 45).
So following Jesus is costly … yet as we read in Hebrews 4:15, ‘ …we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are’.
Jesus has not asked anything of us that he didn’t go through himself. Nor does he ask anything of us that he does not then repay in abundance …
For the cost of our family … a new family. For the cost of our status and reputation, and for the cost of our service to him in giving up our lives … eternal life, the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, the power of his presence here and now …
The message of Mark’s gospel, which we’ve been reading for the whole of this year, is simple. Have you got it yet?! It’s this … following Jesus will cost you everything … family, friends and future … but in return, he gives us … well you decide!