Today’s reading is Mark 8 and Ps 132
This year we have spent quite a bit of time looking at the Gospels and the relationships between Jesus and His disciples. Mark 8 tells us two miracles that Jesus did and it shows us several conversations that Jesus had with His disciples. I’ve had the privilege of writing on both of those miracles and the discussion Jesus and Peter have in this chapter so today I want to concentrate on the last few verses of Mark 8.
Vs38” Calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your own soul?”
I think as Christians, we have heard this passage or portions of it, quoted so often we get a little callous to what Jesus was trying to convey to the crowd, His disciples and to us. When this was written, the people it was written to were under Roman rule and the phrase “take up your cross” was common knowledge to all. Everyone knew that death on a cross was the form of execution used by Roman soldiers for dangerous criminals and they knew that a prisoner had to carry his own cross to the place of execution to show submission to Rome’s power. So Jesus was saying to these people, take up your cross and follow Me, meaning, show submission to Me by choosing to follow Me instead of choosing to satisfying yourself. One of the commentaries I looked at said, “Jesus asks us for submission, not self-hatred; He asks us only to lose our self-centered determination to be in charge.” That makes the meaning hit home hard and fast for me. Lose my self-centered determination to be in charge. Isn’t this what we all want, control? Don’t we want to manage our own schedules, set our own priorities, value the people we choose to value, spend our money the way we want to and then fit Jesus into what is left of our life? “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.”
Jesus knows we need more convincing…more to think through and consider. “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We are so human. It’s all we know. Life on earth is all we have experienced. It’s hard to be human and live for eternity. It requires trust, belief and real relationship with God. We humans have the hardest time grasping that life on earth is temporary. Stuff, position and power are worthless compared to our souls, eternal life with Him. Is anything worth more than your soul? When I am able to get my perspective right on this and give over my desire for control, stuff, position and power to follow God’s plan, God is so gracious. He gifts eternal life plus an abundant and joy filled life here on earth. He loves us so well that eternal life isn’t enough of a gift for Him to give. We matter so much to Him that He wants to help us change and become more like Him while we are on this earth. He gives us part of Himself, to live inside us to guide, teach, convict and grow each of us in His Spirit. So as we close today, I ask you to spend some more time with Jesus question. “Is anything worth more than your own soul?”