The following is a sermon that I wrote for my jail/prison chaplaincy class.
I want to start today with reading from the scriptures:
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
– Mark 8:31-38 NKJV
At first glance, Jesus’ words here can be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down a bit and add some historical context to get some clarity.
In the earlier verses in this chapter, we see Jesus feeding the 4000 from a few loaves & fishes that the disciples were able to round up.
6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and) having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand…
– Mark 8:6-10a NKJV
I often wonder how anyone could go away from this event and be unchanged. Think about it, Jesus himself took what was probably a lunch for a couple of people and multiplied it to feed 4000 men plus women and children.
Next, we see the Pharisees challenging Jesus’ authority by asking for a sign. His response to them was:
“Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” – Mark 8:12b NKJV
He then warns the disciples not to be tricked by the Pharisees or Herod (or anyone in your life) saying:
“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread?) Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart] still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19) When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”
They said to Him, “Twelve.”
20 “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?”
And they said, “Seven.”
21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”
-Mark 8:15b-21 NKJV
His message here was that just as it only takes a little bit of leaven (yeast) to make a whole batch of dough rise, it also only takes a small amount of negativity (sin) to begin to harden your heart against the truth. Can you think of a time when this happened in your life? I sure can.
In my college years and for most of my 20’s I did not live a life that was honoring to God, suffice it to say I was a party girl. After all, I was young and had a right to have fun…right?!? I say that to say, it only took a little peer pressure for me to “forget” the way I was raised and commitment that I had made to Christ to follow him. It wasn’t until I was planning to get married that I finally listened to the tug of the Holy Spirit on my life and headed back to church where I belonged.
One day as Jesus and the disciple were on their way to Caesarea Philippi, the following conversation takes place:
27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”
28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” –
–Mark 8:27-29 NKJV
Here we see that the disciples are beginning to understand who Jesus really is and the importance of their relationship with him. In earlier verses, we saw Jesus’ frustration with not only the Pharisees but the disciples as well. However, here we see that he is asking them to dig deep and tell him their true feelings. It is the same with you and me. Yes, it is true that Christ is not always happy with the decisions that we make or the friends that we keep. BUT he always loves us and is waiting with outstretched arms to welcome us into (or back into) the family of God. It doesn’t matter how many times you have messed up because, his death on the cross covers ALL OUR SIN, all we have to do is receive him into our hearts and lives and then “go and sin no more”. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect but it does mean that we have to strive to be more like Jesus every day.
In the verses that I read at the beginning of this message, Jesus spoke openly to the disciples about how He was soon to suffer ridicule, torture and even death at the hands of those who feared what his message would do to their way of life. Because this message distressed Peter, he took Jesus aside and rebuked him. Christ responded by saying:
“Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
–Mark 8:33b NKJV
Said in a different way, Peter was scared and wanted Jesus to stop talking about His death. However, Jesus knew that fear and worry comes from the Evil One and needs to be recognized for what they are and he wanted to make sure that they understood that.
He continued by saying:
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
–Mark 8:34b-38 NKJV
In today’s language the message is:
To truly follow Christ, we must give up our selfish me-centered lives and instead follow his example. Self-centeredness may gain you fame and fortune on this side of Heaven but will do nothing to earn you a place in the after-life. As a matter of fact, we cannot earn our way to Heaven at all. The only way to Heaven is through a relationship with God’s one and only Son, Jesus. There are no second chances after we die, if you have not accepted Him on Earth he will not recognize you as His in Heaven. Said plainly, if you do not choose Him the only other option is complete & utter isolation in the fires of Hell.
BUT REMEMBER – you can assure yourself a place in Heaven today by repent of your sin and asking Him to be Lord of your life.
Myself and the other volunteers are here to help you receive Him right now!!