Sermon Summary from June 18, 2017
Mark 8:22-9:1 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
I. But what about you? Who do you say I am?
We are at the literal center of the gospel of Mark. From this point on, Jesus prepares to be crucified. But his disciples still didn’t understand.
Jesus’ disciples had a first hand look at Jesus. They saw him confront the Pharisees for building walls to protect the purity and national greatness of Israel and to insulate the Jews from the Gentiles. Instead, Jesus wanted to open the doors of these walls (maybe even tear them down) to welcome Gentiles and sinners. So, after spending all this time with him, who did the disciples themselves think Jesus was?
Impetuous Peter answered for them: “You are the Messiah.” So, the disciples confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), sent by God to save Israel and become its king. But did they really understand what that meant? It’s likely Peter believed, like his Jewish peers, that the Messiah would be a powerful, avenging ruler who would liberate and vindicate the nation of Israel (see Psalm 18:47).
But when Jesus began to talk about the necessity of his own suffering, death, and resurrection (v. 31-32), Peter was upset and rebuked Jesus. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter as one who was an obstacle to God’s plan – so long as he continued to misunderstand the Messiah’s true purpose (v. 33). In Mark, the disciples always misunderstood Jesus. This is why the previous episode (vv. 22-26) where a blind man needed Jesus to touch him twice to see clearly is an encouragement for the disciples and for those of us who fail to fully comprehend Jesus.
After clarifying the necessity of his death and resurrection, Jesus then invites everyone to understand what it means to follow Jesus (vv. 34-28):
II. Discipleship is our answer to Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” It is the way we live, make choices, and practice our faith. Therefore…
— If I’m willing to deny myself and carry my cross, it means I believe and am showing the world that Jesus is the Messiah who was willing to suffer for us.
— If I’m willing to give up my life for the sake of the gospel, I am showing the world that Jesus is the King who gave up his life to save the entire world.
Here are some questions and examples:
—- Suffering inconvenience to build up my church. Ask yourselves:
– Do I study the assigned passage before coming to worship? If I do, then I can be prepared to help young believers or visitors to better understand the sermon.
– Am I willing to be inconvenienced to be a consistent participant in small group?
– When I see a ministry need (e.g., returning college students, young adults who are searching for a spiritual home), am I willing to help them build a community at Canaan?
– Do I care enough about our EM website to want to improve it so that others can get a better idea of what Canaan is all about?
– As parents are we exposing our kids to the needs of the world, the need for justice, for people to know God and to follow Jesus?
—- Example of hard work and sacrifice for the gospel to impact our neighbors, co-workers, and community:
– The Young Adults of Emmanuel Korean Presbyterian Church organized two concerts over the past six months to support International Justice Mission (an anti-trafficking ministry) and Compassion.
– Pastor Brian Leong and Lord’s Grace Chinese Christian Church leads Move Mountain View, a coalition of churches that collaborate with businesses and the City of Mountain View to improve community life there. Brian has also received a multi-million dollar grant to start a community service to the poor. One of the programs is called Lots of Love, a service to homeless people who need a place to park their cars overnight. Lots of Love will start this fall and is looking for churches that will open up their parking lots to these homeless people.
III. The joy of carrying the cross
Now if carrying the cross and denying ourselves sounds like obedience, works, and guilt, I promise you that it is not. Here’s why: We don’t suffer for Christ just because we are told to obey him. Obedience is for beginners. Obedience is for the immature who need a mature person to prod, remind, and nudge.
The joy of carrying the cross is the vision for the better country, a.k.a. Kingdom of God, eternity, heaven (Heb 11:13-16). The people of faith in Hebrews “were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v. 16).
We are willing to suffer, bear our cross, be inconvenienced because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom. We want to see the greatness of God prevail in the world. We want to see the new creation, i.e., heaven on earth. We want to see the end of human misery, injustice and suffering. We are willing to put up with our personal inconveniences and suffering because we are looking forward to the end of suffering for the world!
The joy of carrying the cross is also about a life that well-lived. Psalms shows us a good example of life as discipleship, if we don’t focus on a single chapter, but the whole book.
Psalm 1, if read alone will teach us that Christian life is all about obedience. The danger is to read the entire Psalms through this lens. If so, then carrying our crosses is all about blind obedience.
But note Psalm 150. What is theme of this final chapter? Praise and worship! If we read the entire Psalms (a.k.a. the Psalter), what we discover is that the life of faith starts in obedience, but ends in joy, praise and worship. And the middle Psalms are filled with ups and downs, struggle and victory, anguish and joy, darkness and light, boredom and weariness. The life that carries the cross will be filled with ups and downs, but the ultimate hope is praise, worship, and joy! In Christ, we have a foretaste. If Christ triumphed over the difficulties of life and faced his suffering with hope, we can too! (Heb 12:1-3)
IV. People, Carry that Cross!
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)
Let us be willing to suffer and bear our crosses because we love Jesus and seek his Kingdom, not because of obedience alone. Let us be willing to put up inconveniences because we look forward to the end of misery, injustice and suffering for the whole world! Because we want to see the greatness of God prevail. Because we want to worship and praise God in the new creation, the new heaven on earth! May it be so! Amen.