Jesus says, “You must put aside your selfish ambition,
shoulder your cross, and follow me”.
Mark 8:34 is this a commandment?
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that he, the Son of Man, would suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and three days later he would rise again.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and told him he shouldn’t say things like that.
33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples and then said to Peter very sternly, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.
35 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.
36 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?
37 Is anything worth more than your soul?
38 If a person is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in the glory of my Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 9:1 Jesus went on to say, “I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”
Insights and Bible Commentary:
Mark 8:32, 33
In this moment, Peter was not considering God’s purposes but only his own natural human desires and feelings. Peter wanted Christ to be king, but not the suffering servant prophesied in Isaiah 53. He was ready to receive the glory of following the Messiah but not the persecution.
The Christian life is not a paved road to wealth and ease. It often involves hard work, persecution, deprivation, and deep suffering. Peter saw only part of the picture. Don’t repeat his mistake. Instead, focus on the good that God can bring out of apparent evil and the Resurrection that follows the Crucifixion.
Peter was often the spokesman for all the disciples. In singling him out, Jesus may have been addressing all of them indirectly. Unknowingly, the disciples were trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross and thus fulfilling his mission on earth. Satan also tempted Jesus to avoid the way of the cross (Matthew 4). Whereas Satan’s motives were evil, the disciples were motivated by love and admiration for Jesus. Nevertheless, the disciples’ job was not to guide and protect Jesus but to follow him. Only after Jesus’ death and resurrection would they fully understand why he had to die.
The Romans, Mark’s original audience, knew what shouldering the cross meant. Death on a cross was a form of execution used by Rome for dangerous criminals. A prisoner carried his own cross to the place of execution, signifying submission to Rome’s power.
Jesus used the image of carrying a cross to illustrate the ultimate submission required of his followers. He is not against pleasure, nor was he saying that we should seek pain needlessly. Jesus was talking about the heroic effort needed to follow him moment by moment, to do his will even when the work is difficult and the future looks bleak.
Mark 8:34—Matthew 10:38; Luke 14:27
We should be willing to lose our life for the sake of the Good News, not because our life is useless but because nothing—not even life itself—can compare to what we gain with Christ. Jesus wants us to choose to follow him rather than to lead a life of sin and self-satisfaction. He wants us to stop trying to control our own destiny and to let him direct us. This makes good sense because, as the Creator, Christ knows better than we do what real life is about. He asks for submission, not self-hatred; he asks us only to lose our self-centered determination to be in charge.
Mark 8:35—Matthew 10:39; Luke 17:33; John 12:25
Mark 8:36, 37
Many people spend all their energy seeking pleasure. Jesus said, however, that worldliness, which is centered on possessions, position, or power, is ultimately worthless. Whatever you have on earth is only temporary; it cannot be exchanged for your soul. If you work hard at getting what you want, you might eventually have a “pleasurable” life, but in the end you will find it hollow and empty. Are you willing to make the pursuit of God more important than the selfish pursuits? Follow Jesus, and you will know what it means to live abundantly now and to have eternal life as well.
Jesus constantly turns the world’s perspective upside down with talk of first and last, saving and losing. Here he gives us a choice. We can reject Jesus now and be rejected by him at his second coming, or we can accept him now and be accepted by him then. Rejecting Christ may help us escape shame for the time being, but it will guarantee an eternity of shame later.
Mark 8:38—Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9