Mark 8: Are you ashamed?


A number of transitions happen in Mark 8. Up to now, Jesus has been pretty popular. His miracles had amazed everyone, but in vss 11-13, Jesus signals that he will no longer jump through hoops and perform miracles on command. He had been supernaturally patient with the disciples and their inability to understand, but in vss 14-21, Jesus actually reveals a hint of impatience. He had been counting on the miracles and the message to prove to people his identity, but in vss 27-30, Jesus asks the disciples point blank if they’ve figured it out. And while, up to now, he had used mostly parables to teach, in vs 31, we’re told that Jesus began to teach them plainly about all of the horrible things to come, even the suffering and crucifixion.

Suddenly, the entire tone of Jesus’ ministry takes on a new urgency. From here on out, he’s going to focus increasingly on the Twelve as he aims to train them to lay the foundations for his Church. From here on out, he’s going to spend a considerable amount of time warning about the upcoming passion of the Christ. From here on out, he’s going to be on a collision course with the cross.

And he wants everyone to know that, if they would be his follower, they will have to be resolved to follow him there.

Now, there are entire sermons to be preached from vss 34-38, but this morning, I want to offer a few observations. The first is that, up until this point, the people have clamored to see and hear Jesus. The crowds of people who followed Jesus around were, in a word, overwhelming. And I suspect that there wasn’t a person in those crowds who didn’t want to follow Jesus. But then again, they expected him, some day soon, to march into Jerusalem, overthrow the Roman authority there, and then go on a campaign to conquer the world for the Jews and God (in that order, no less). Suddenly, though, Jesus reveals that, if they really want to follow him, it’s not going to mean conquest and glory at all. Conquerers generally enjoyed the spoils of war and became rich and powerful. Jesus says, if they would really follow him, they will deny themselves. Ouch.

Even more than that, he announces that, if they would follow him, they would have to “take up [their] cross and follow me.” Two thousand years removed from the culture and situation, it’s easy for us to miss what Jesus was saying. The crosses we see are carefully formed and beautifully finished decorations for our churches, our homes, or even our bodies. For the people that heard Jesus that day, though, a cross was a rough-hewn beam that was splintered and blood-stained by years of deadly use as an instrument of torture and execution. Indeed, people who were carrying a cross, generally speaking, had already suffered extensive abuse. They were almost always marched out naked. And under no circumstance would they be marched back. Indeed, the image of the cross evoked in Jesus’ original listeners the image of great suffering, humiliation and pain, and ultimately death. Who would want to do that?

And speaking of humiliation, if being crucified was a source of great humiliation, it was only short-lived for the person who was actually on the cross. For his friends and family, though, the humiliation went on an on. If you knew someone who was crucified, it was because they were a criminal. In fact, only the worst criminals were crucified. And if you associated with criminals… oh, my. Let’s just say it wasn’t good for your reputation. So generally speaking, it was a normal thing for people to do their very best to forget about anyone they knew who was crucified.

So let’s think about this for a second. Deny oneself. Suffering, pain and death. And extreme humiliation. And yet, Jesus proclaimed, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words… the Son of Man will be ashamed of him” (vs 38).

You know, most people have a natural inclination to avoid the things Jesus here declares will be a natural part of following him. We avoid them because they’re not fun. Because they’re not safe. Because they’re not cool. And honestly, I sometimes think that it is this last one that has the most influence on our decisions. Sadly, though, it is that very need to be cool that could cost us everything in the end.

So what do we need to do?  Well, if we’re ashamed of something, we’ll generally do whatever we possibly can to avoid it. If we’re not ashamed of something, we’ll generally do whatever we must to obtain it or get close to it.

Simply speaking, we must do whatever we must to do just as Jesus has called us to do: to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. And if we’re going to do whatever we must to realize these things, suddenly, the list of things that we won’t do becomes a whole lot shorter.

We won’t go to church becomes we will be there every chance we get, eager to learn.

We won’t drive anything less than a Lexus becomes we will take the bus if it means we can accomplish something for Jesus.

We won’t tell someone about what Jesus is doing in our lives becomes we will tell everyone about what Jesus is doing in our lives.

So are you making up excuses so you don’t have to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus? Are you ashamed of Jesus? Or are you resolved to do whatever it takes to be just like him?


  • (1) Another large crowd without food? Don’t these people think about the essentials of life? And why wouldn’t they just head home when they got hungry? The answer, of course, is that they didn’t want to miss anything that Jesus said or did. Is your faith like that?
  • (1-10) You know, the similarities between this account and the feeding of the five thousand are such that I would be tempted to think that Mark got mixed up and recorded the same thing twice. But the fact that Matthew, one of the twelve, similarly records two separate incidents is striking. Matthew was certainly there for both of these incidents; his level of personal detail is striking. So I guess, as crazy as it sounds, Jesus must have done the same trick twice!
  • (4) It is interesting that, even though the disciples had been there for the feeding of the five thousand, a very similar situation, they still didn’t get that Jesus could multiply whatever supply they had to meet the need.
  • (11-13) Isn’t this the same question that our generation asks? We want Jesus to do something amazing and undeniably divine before our very eyes before we believe. Yet the simple truth is that, even when he does exactly that, our faith wavers in short order as we look for the next big thing. We don’t need miracles. We need relationship.
  • (14-21) In a rare moment of exasperation, Jesus pushes his disciples bluntly. Don’t you get it yet? Boil this all down to: “What do I need to say or do to show to you that I am the King of kings, Lord of lords, the alpha and the omega, the Sovereign of the universe, the I am?”
  • (23) It occurs to me that leading a blind person is not something you can do for a stranger. The fact is, the blind person has to be able to trust you. Jesus’ taking this guy for a walk was a simple way to gauge just how much this man believed.
  • (25) It is interesting that Jesus had to touch this man twice. I wonder what that’s all about.
  • (29) For the first time, Jesus probed the disciples to see if they were connecting the dots. I suspect that they had all wondered about Jesus’ identity, but in the heat of the moment never really sat down to draw the line. Not that Jesus asked them directly, I suspect that they were all looking around hoping that someone else would venture to express the thought that they were all thinking. Peter was just impetuous enough to say it. The only conclusion they could reach with all of the evidence that they had was that Jesus was the Christ. Matthew adds to Peter’s comment, “the Son of the living God,” which was a revolutionary idea for a bunch of people who had been taught that the messiah would be a mere mortal. But again, it was the only conclusion that fit the facts that they had seen.
  • (31) It is also interesting that, only now that they have come to this astounding conclusion, that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus begins to teach them something that will simply blow their minds: he had to suffer, be rejected, and ultimately die and rise again. Clearly, Jesus would teach us revolutionary concepts in stages.
  • (32) Another shift happens here. Jesus switches from parables to speaking plainly. In fact, painfully plain at times. Once we’re on the same page with Jesus, He truly begins to reveal Himself to us, removing any guise or veil that may have obscured Him before.
  • (33) Poor Peter. He had just concluded that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, an absolutely revolutionary concept, and Jesus crushes his dreams by revealing that, rather than restoring Israel to global prominence, He was going to the cross. Talk about whiplash!
  • (34-38) The image here for Jesus’ listeners was clear. If we want to be Christ-followers, we need to put our money where our mouth is and make the rubber meet the road. It’s not enough to say that we are Christians. We need to put ourselves second to everyone else. We need to be ready to agonize and even die for others. And we need to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, living as He lived. This would have been a difficult teaching to swallow from such a popular guy. And ordinarily, being associated with someone who was crucified would have been a source of horrific humiliation. But Jesus’ words were to embrace the humiliation, to disregard self, and to give everything for others.

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