Am I Ashamed of Jesus?
Sermon on Mark 8:31-38
Text: [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“I’m ashamed of you.” These words show a disgust that is felt. A parent may say that to a child, who has behaved in a particularly bad manner. Sometimes, when we catch ourselves saying or doing something, we may be ashamed. Most often, we speak of being ashamed of someone when they have done something wrong. It is beyond imagination, for example, that you would hear a parent say he was ashamed of a child who brought home a straight “A” report card. This morning, we have an opportunity to study our lives and see if we are embarrassed of someone. We ask ourselves, “AM I ASHAMED OF JESUS?” We will look at 1. The Shame Of The Cross, 2. The Shame Of Indifference and 3. The Shame Removed.
Our text begins, Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” This was the first explicit mention of his death. When Peter heard this, we are told, he “took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Peter didn’t want Jesus to talk that way. Why would Peter do this, especially in light of the fact that, just prior to our text, he made a beautiful confession of faith? Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” What would make him turn around a couple of minutes later and rebuke Jesus for speaking about his impending death?
Peter was ashamed of Jesus for talking this way. Jesus was starting to get a following and then he told everyone that the leaders of the country were going to execute him. It is possible that Peter, as well as a portion of the crowd, had political aspirations for Jesus. This talk of death just didn’t fit into those plans.
Jesus used this opportunity for a lesson. After Peter rebuked Jesus, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” This same temptation was used by Satan during those forty days in the wilderness. Satan offered all the kingdoms of the world and their riches, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Satan offered an easy way out, one that had nothing to do with suffering and death. However, Jesus saw through that temptation. He saw the same temptation in Peter’s words. So, in a very harsh manner, Jesus dismissed the temptation.
Then, Jesus addressed the crowd. We read in verse 34, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus makes it very clear that following him will, at times, call for a sacrifice on our part. When Jesus used the word, “cross,” he is not necessarily speaking of the instrument of execution, though some Christians have been called upon to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
To the Christian who would follow him, Jesus gives three specific commands. 1. Deny Yourself — This means that we lose our sinful self and are found in Christ. We say “No” to our sinful nature and “Yes” to what God wants us to do. 2. Take Up Your Cross — Bear the burden which being a Christian involves in a sinful world. 3. Follow Me — This is a continual following of Jesus and his example.
Bearing the cross may bring shame to us. Has it ever happened to you that you were faced with a situation where you knew it would be wrong if you did something? Yet, you also knew that, if you did not do it, the people you were with would make fun of you? What do you do? That situation was a cross that God placed in your life. Sometimes, bearing a cross for Jesus will bring shame to us. People will make fun of you for being such a goody two shoes.
That is a minor example of the cross that we are, at times, called upon to bear for Christ. Yet, when you get down to it, our shame and cross are nothing in comparison with the shame and cross that Jesus bore for us. Jesus endured the shame of the cross for me, for my sins. While on the cross, Jesus had every sin in the world on his back. Yet, we rejoice in that cross, because we know that it was there that Jesus paid for every single sin that we have ever committed. Now, in God’s sight, I need not be ashamed for I have been declared holy because of the work of Jesus. So, I need not be ashamed of the crosses that God asks me to bear any more than the cross the Father asked Jesus to bear. Rather, we take our example from the early Christians who, according to Acts 5:21, rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” They looked upon it as an honor. May God give us the same spirit.
Jesus continued by saying, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Jesus points to a very real possibility, especially for the early Christians. Some of them would be called upon to lose their lives for the defense of their faith. When they were faced with that situation, there would be the temptation to deny Jesus and his Word. For example, do you remember Peter in the courtyard of the high priest, denying he even knew whom Jesus was?
Yet, sometimes, is it even the threat of death that causes us to deny we know Jesus? Sometimes, it is only peer pressure that makes us deny Jesus. Notice, also, that Jesus includes that phrase, “for the gospel.” Jesus calls us not only to be faithful to him, but also to his Word. This, also, is a very great struggle. We live in an age when many church bodies want to join together. They say, ‘We all believe basically the same thing. Why don’t you join with us in a joint service?’ Here again, we face pressure. ‘What would be so wrong with it?,’ we ask ourselves. Yet, we know from the Scriptures that there must be complete and total agreement between church bodies and the Scriptures, before we can have any fellowship with them. This includes things like scouting, which has a religious tone to it. It includes soloists and organists, not only for our Sunday morning services, but also for weddings and funerals. Now, however, you may feel some pressure. Do you bring shame on yourself by being called a separatist, that we think we are better than others because we are sticking up for what God’s Word says? May it be that we also rejoice because we are “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
When we hear about the shame and trouble that we may be asked to bear, we might ask ourselves if it is really worth it. Jesus almost seems to anticipate that question as he continues in verses 36&37, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus tells us to look at the cost. You can have everything in the world. You can have fame, popularity, wealth, an easy life. You could never have to stand up for Jesus. However, at what cost? Would all of the accumulated wealth of the world be worth the loss of your soul? Jesus told the story of a man who was rich. In a particular year, he had a bumper crop. He didn’t have room to store it in his barns. How did he respond to these blessings from God? He said to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” However, that night his life came to an end and all of his wealth counted for nothing. He had forgotten to get rich in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he was lost for eternity.
This is a question that each of us must ask ourselves: “Am I exchanging my soul for some earthly thing? Am I more worried about the here and now than I am about where I will spend eternity? Am I concerned about being ashamed of Jesus and acting like a Christian?”
We continue with verse 38, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” What a stern warning! Jesus makes it very clear that those who are ashamed to know Jesus will find that Jesus is ashamed of them on the Last Day. The shame will theirs for eternity, as they are punished in hell.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must all admit that in one form or another, we have been ashamed of Jesus. For this, we come to our heavenly Father and ask for his forgiveness. We also pray for the strength and the willingness to boldly confess Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” In other words, those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior will enjoy eternal life in heaven. Then all of the shame that we were asked to bear will be replaced with a crown of glory that we will receive from Christ’s own hand. Until that time, may God grant that none of us is ashamed of Jesus and, as the hymn verse goes, “‘Till then — nor is my boasting vain — ‘Till then I boast a Savior slain; and, oh, may this my glory be, that Christ is not ashamed of me!” Amen.