Small Group Discussion Questions (NET)

Read Mark 8:34-38

1. Jesus' disciples had a misunderstanding of who the Messiah would be, and it affected what kind of disciples they were becoming. What are some of the common misunderstandings of who the Messiah is today? What is your understanding of who the Messiah is?

2.The first two components of Jesus' call to discipleship is to deny self (reject your way of living; your power to save yourself) and to take up your cross (embrace His way; His power to save). Share the story of when you embraced the power of Christ to save you.

3. The third component of Jesus' call to discipleship is to follow Him, not just to death of self, but to abundant life now and for eternity. One of our barriers to accomplishing this mission is focusing on the things that don't matter in life. What are some of the things that you have elevated to greater importance than Christ? (see verses 36-37)

**To help clarify question 3, feel free to discuss a quote by Francis Chan: "Our greatest fear in life should not be failure, but succeeding in the things that don't matter."

4. Our reward for accepting the call of discipleship is that Jesus will be unashamed of us at the end of our earthly life (see verse 38), and that we will live forever with Him in eternity. Who in your life needs to hear this message? How does your hope in this message affect the way you live out your mission in life?

Sermon Notes

Take Up Your Cross
Mark 8:34-38

Good morning! For those that don’t know me, my name is Andrew Ogea, and I have the privilege of serving as one of your pastors.  

As you already know, our Pastor Larry is continuing his well deserved sabbatic for the remainder of this month to focus on the preaching ministry and future direction of our church.  I spoke with him this week, and he is thrilled about what God is teaching him during this time.

I have been blessed by the previous two messages preached by two of my fellow staff members, Luis and Jeff.  If you didn’t get the chance to hear those, be sure to go to our website and listen to them on our podcast.  

I am incredibly humbled to be entrusted with the preaching ministry today. God has been speaking to my heart on the matter of discipleship over the past few weeks.  I have been pondering questions like

“What does it mean to be a fully devoted follower of Christ?  Am I engaged in actions that represent my Savior, Jesus?  Am I making a priority the things that truly matter in life?  Or have I been chasing things that really don’t matter all that much?  

And to be transparent with you, God has begun dealing with me on the very things we will be learning today in regards to the life of a disciple of Christ, and I am hopeful that the message will be a launching pad for some honest dialogue between you and God.  

I invite you to open your Bibles to Mark 8:34-38 and hold your place there because before we read the passage, I want to give you some context for our scriptures today.  

At the introduction of the Gospel of Mark, he fast-forwards past the birth narrative, straight to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus where He is baptized by John the Baptist who all along had been preaching of the Messiah who would be coming.  

He is then immediately drawn to the wilderness for 40 days and tempted by Satan.  After winning that battle he comes back to the region of Galilee and begins to preach the Good News of God, that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.

He calls upon twelve men to be his disciples, and they leave everything behind to follow him.  And an incredible journey ensues, where they witness Jesus perform the miraculous.  He heals the demon possessed, the gravely ill, those stricken with disease,  the lame, and the blind.    

All along Jesus interacts with people whom the Pharisees consider to be questionable at best and he is condemned by religious leaders for eating with sinners and breaking the Sabbath.  Nevertheless, he teaches those he encounters with wisdom unmatched by any other teachers of the day which only increases his opposition.

Afterwards, there are more miracles.  Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loves of bread and two fish.  He walks on water in front of his disciples and at his command he calms waves in an unsettled sea.  He feeds yet another 4000 more people with seven loaves of bread and two fish.

Finally after all of this, the disciple Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah.  Now, I am a pretty nonobservant, forgetful kind of guy.  The other day before we walked out of the house, my wife told be to grab my daughter’s shoes off of the floor.  And somehow within those five seconds of walking to door, I forget to get the shoes.  I thank God every day that my wife has mercy on me.

But you have to wonder about Peter.  I mean is he that forgetful of all the things that have happened so far.  Is he just that nonobservant.  And he’s not the only one.  This is the first time that we see anyone making this claim in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus is the Messiah.

At this point Jesus begins to reveal his true identity to the disciples.  And He explains to them that he will suffer many things and be rejected by the religious elite, be killed, and rise again after three days.  

But, it is apparent that they had a misunderstanding of his mission.  This is the scene where we find Peter, the same disciple who claimed that Jesus was messiah, rebuking Jesus because of his predictions.  He began to tell Jesus that he was wrong.

You see, all along these Jewish disciples had believed the popular misunderstanding that the Messiah would be a military conqueror who would defeat all of the enemies of the Jewish people and rise victorious as king of the kingdom...all of the while setting the Jews apart from the rest (The Gentiles) as his chosen people for eternity.  

At this point, Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him that he is not thinking of God’s concerns, but man’s!  Peter had misinterpreted who the Messiah actually was.  At this time in Peter’s mind, he was following a different Messiah.  

Folks, we can learn many lessons from the disciples in this segment  of the Mark’s gospel, mainly, that it is of utmost importance that we know who we are following, because that will ultimately determine the way in which we follow and the kind of disciples we will be.  

If we have an inadequate view of the Messiah, we will in turn be inadequate disciples, following a god that we have formed in our own minds instead of following the true God.
What is your view of the Messiah?  Is he an just an idea to you?  Was he just a good
teacher or prophet?  

This is Jesus.  This is our Messiah.  And the question is, What does this Jesus want of us.

All of this discussion leads us to our main text today where Jesus lays out the call to discipleship.  In response to Him being Messiah, he calls us to be his disciple.  He tells us what discipleship means and what our heart response and actions should be as his followers.  And it is here in this text that he gives the correct understanding for discipleship in view of his messiahship.

So lets read Mark 8:34-38, What is the call to discipleship according to Jesus?

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.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

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?  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.” (Mk:34-38)

The Call To Discipleship
 A Call For Everyone (34a)

First, Jesus explains that it is a call for everyone.  He is not just speaking to the 12 disciples.  At the beginning of verse 34 it says that he called the crowd along with the disciples.  You see, Jesus makes it clear that this is a message for all people to hear.

The reason this is so important is because we, as a crowd of people who are right now looking at this event, can know that this calling for discipleship is for us as well.  Jesus is calling you.  He is calling me.  He is calling us all to be disciples.  What does the call to discipleship entail?

The Call To Discipleship
 A Call For Everyone (34a)
 Deny Yourself - (34b)
 Reject Your Way (35a)

The first thing we are called to do is deny ourselves.  

In the second part of 34, it says that if you want to be his disciple you must deny yourself.   This word deny here, means to reject.  In essence, we are to reject self.  Or reject our way.

In his commentary, Frank Stagg writes, “Denying self is not to be confused with denying something to oneself, whether material things, pleasure, or whatever.  Wicked people often deny themselves to many things in order to achieve their selfish goals or conquer their enemies.  

What Jesus meant by self-denial is far more radical than denying something to oneself.  He meant that one must say no to oneself.  He meant the opposite of Adam’s yes to self and no to God.  He meant a yes to God and no to oneself.”

This is not a denial of a certain food, or a relationship, material possessions, or a pleasure.  It is something greater than that!  It is saying no to self as lord. This is an intense power struggle happening here where you are releasing the control of your life   We know that this is what Jesus means because he says here in the first part of verse 35

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it (35)
Denying yourself means relinquishing your power.  We are to give up our power over our lives especially the power to save yourself.  

Let me try and make this point clear to you.  How many of you, if drowning in a raging sea, would resist a lifeguard that comes to give you a life preserver.  You push your head out of the water long enough to say, I can do this, I can make it, I will surely save myself.  That would be foolish right.  You would die in front of your rescuer!  

So, I ask you today, “Have you rejected your way?” “Do you reject your power to save yourself?”  When we live like we are in the driver’s seat and fail to realize that we are all drowning in a raging sea of sin, yet continue to do things our way, then we will in actuality lose our spiritual lives in the process.  So, the call to discipleship means that you reject your way.

The Call To Discipleship
 A Call For Everyone  (34a)
 Deny Yourself  (34b)
 Reject Your Way  (35a)
 Take Up Your Cross  (34c)
 Embrace The Way  (35b)

The second part Jesus’ call to discipleship is to “Take Up Your Cross”.  Jesus says in verse 34, “Deny yourself and take up your cross...”

The Roman Christians, who were the recipients of Mark’s Gospel, would have known very well what Jesus meant when he said “take up your cross.”  In the Roman world, the cross was an instrument symbol of two things.  First it was a symbol of submission to the Roman Government.  Before a criminal was nailed to a cross, he had to take the cross upon himself and carry it to his place of execution.  

To the Roman government, this signified a complete submission of the criminal to their authority and power.  To be a criminal is to go against the authority of whomever makes the law.  So what the Romans would do to a criminal who defied their authority was to exert their authority and power back onto the criminal in judgement.

So when walking to their death, the criminal is showing that he has no choice but to submit now to their authority.  His life is completely in their hands.   

So when Jesus says take up your cross, he is saying that the call to discipleship means that you identify with his way.  That you trust in who he is.  There are many who say they reject their power to save themselves, yet they embrace a different way, a false god, a certain way of living that ultimately leads to death.  

Jesus says to embrace his way, the way of the cross.  In doing so you are completely submitting to his power to save you. Your life is completely in his hands.  The second part of verse 35 says,

 “whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (35b)  

Do you see the difference.  The person who rejects their way for Jesus, and embraces His way, his gospel, will be saved. In John 14, Thomas, one of the disciples asks Jesus, “Lord, How can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

The call to discipleship is to deny yourself (reject your way), and to take up your cross (embrace The Way, Christ Jesus).  So, I ask you today, Have you embraced embraced Christ? Have you embraced his saving power?  If you haven’t I strongly urge to consider the way of Christ?

The Call To Discipleship
 A Call For Everyone (34a)
 Deny Yourself - (34b)
 Reject Your Way (35a)
 Take Up Your Cross (34c)
 Embrace The Way (35b)
 Follow Jesus (34b)
 To Eternal Life (36-37)

The third and last part of this call to discipleship is to follow Jesus.  Where was Jesus headed.  To his death.  He would eventually take up his cross and carry it to his death.  And here in this passage he is predicting that the way in which he would die would be crucifixion that is reserved for criminals.  

Once again, to the Roman Christians, carrying the cross symbolized submission to power of the Roman Government.  But it also was a symbol and instrument of death. Those who carried their cross, and those who witnessed it, knew that the criminal was going to die.  Once on the cross, there was no going back. You were dead.  But Jesus he wasn’t a criminal.  He was perfect, sinless, blameless.   2 Corinthians 5:21 says,

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Jesus showed us his way by carrying his cross to his death and becoming the ultimate sacrifice and ransom that was paid for the forgiveness of our sins.  The Roman Government thought they had the power, but this was his plan all along.  And it was not just to die, but to rise again on the third day showing that he has power over death and that he is the giver of life.

John 8:12 says,

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

I love the way Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.

When you take up your cross and follow Jesus, you are by faith following him to a death of self that leads to life in Christ.

This death of self is where the day to day challenge comes in.  That  is why In verse 36-37 of our main text, Jesus says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  

Jesus is saying here that you should focus your life on the things that truly matter.  The idols that we have built up in our lives based on money, sex, and power, success.  Put them to death with Christ. Pastor Francis Chan says, “Our greatest fear in life should not be failure, but succeeding in things that don’t matter.” Verse 38 Shows the Result of Accepting the call to Follow Christ, Jesus said,

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)

You see, to follow Jesus is to be unashamed of him.  The opposite would be to reject Christ.  If that is the case he says that he will be ashamed of you when this life on earth comes to an end.  He will say, Depart from me for I never knew you as my disciple.

Does this mean that those of us who follow this call will be perfect, no.  Peter who claimed Jesus as Messiah went onto deny him three times before he died on the cross.  Jesus visited Peter after his resurrection.  And finally understanding the fullness of who the Messiah really was, Peter repented and Jesus forgave him.
Jesus is saying in this last verse that the reward of accepting the call of discipleship is that at the end of this earthly Jesus will be unashamed to say that you were his disciple and welcome you into his heavenly kingdom where you will live forever with him in glory.

Jesus loves each and every one of us, and is gracious to extend the call to us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.  I pray that you will consider what your response will be to his call today.  For those that have already accepted the call, I want to encourage you as I close with a Scripture from Colossians 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is youra life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)