Mark 8:34-38 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 9:1-8 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
At this point in Jesus’ public ministry He introduces His disciples to the difficult teaching that He, as the Christ and the King of the new Kingdom of God that He was establishing, would die. Any ruler of a kingdom who dies is replaced by someone else and His reign ends. But not so with Jesus. Jesus’ departure would only be temporary. He would rise again! And His death would be necessary for the Kingdom to be formally established as the only passageway into this Kingdom would be through faith in the work that Jesus would accomplish in His death. Of course none of the disciples understood at this time what it meant that Jesus would die for their sins. And perhaps just as difficult to accept was the teaching that all of Jesus’ followers will suffer for His Name. The only way that our lives may be saved is if we are lost for His sake. It is only as we are willing to become less the eyes of the world that we can rest in the knowledge that our souls will be saved. The way up is down. Nobody wants to suffer but the Kingdom of God requires us to demonstrate our love to Him through sacrifice. This is a love that is true and genuine. Sacrificial love not out of force but of willing submission is what God desires for us to be in His Kingdom.
But God never leaves a Christian to suffer without the promise of glory. Any time Christian suffering is mentioned in the Scriptures, glory is always beside it. And any time glory is mentioned in the Scriptures, suffering is close by. They are always coupled together showing the path to glory is through suffering for His Name. And so at the very first mention of Jesus’ suffering death upon the cross the future glory He would receive when He rose from the dead was made known. As Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up onto the high mountain and saw Jesus transfigured they were given a glimpse of what was to come. They were given a glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ. Elijah and Moses were there with Him representing all of the Old Testament teaching given to mankind through the Law and the Prophets. The entire Old Testament pointed forward to this moment when Jesus Christ would die upon the cross suffering the wrath of God the Father as He suffered for my sins and yours. God’s plan of salvation would be shortly fulfilled and Jesus would not hide what was to come from His disciples but He at the same time knew that they would not and could not understand until after He rose from the dead.
At the mount of transfiguration the voice of God the Father was heard from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” The authority that Jesus Christ has is beyond measure. It is above all authority given to man. He is in His glory even now and one day in the future His glory will be revealed to all of mankind. All who will not repent and believe in Him before His return will be punished eternally for their sins and rejecting the only means of their salvation. If only people would listen to Him now as He speaks through His Word! The living Word of God continues today to carry all weight and power and will either lead to our salvation or our damnation.
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The Christian life is a life of difficulty and hardship and sacrifice, not of ease and comfort. The disciples were excited to follow Jesus in the beginning as everything that He did was so amazing and fascinating. But their feelings would gradually turn to anxiety and fear as the cross approached. Jesus was preparing them for what was to come. Ultimately one of them could not take it any longer and tried to escape what God requires of all who follow Jesus- sacrificial love. The true follower of God will not abandon their pursuit of God when persecution and trials come but the false believer will. Judas Iscariot was willing to betray Jesus to save his own life but in turn he showed that he never loved Jesus Christ and was outside the Kingdom of God.
Do you desire to see the Kingdom of God in power? It always comes through suffering. Have you counted the cost of following Jesus?
Luke 14:28-33 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
To renounce all that you have is to surrender everything to Him. Jesus paid it all but He expects us to sacrifice for Him. We cannot save ourselves but we can show our love to Him through sacrificial love. The next part of the disciples journey in following Jesus would stretch them to the very core. As Jesus died upon the cross they all would abandon Him and suffer great shame for they did not love Him as they thought. But the eleven did not give up their pursuit of God. Jesus restored them and raised them up for His glory. Every Christian will struggle in their ultimate surrender to God. But Jesus will lead us through suffering into future glory!
Pastor Murray Hack