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Applying the Bible: Mark 8:31-38

The blessed man of Psalm 1 meditates on God’s word night and day. We’ve been spending time in Mark’s gospel on Sundays recently, and below is a reminder of what we saw in Mark 8:31-38. There are some questions to think about to help you meditate on God’s word, and Wanlin has kindly shared her answers with us.

Mark 8:31-38

Big truth: losing life now MUST come before saving life later

Key verse: 8:34-35

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Reflection: In this passage we saw the shocking truth that the Christ must suffer at the hands of men and be killed, before rising again in glory. Not only that, we saw that anyone who would follow Jesus must follow a similar pattern – being prepared to lose their lives now, to save them when Jesus returns in glory. It’s a big challenge that Mark confronts us with – it would have shattered his readers’ expectations of what life would be like once the Christ had come. And it comes as a challenge to us as well – we’re nervous of things that sound extreme or and radical. We much prefer to be moderate – right in the middle, not too hot, not too cold. But Jesus leaves no room here for comfortable, middle-of-the-road Christianity. He demands all of us.

There is however also great comfort in that Jesus knows this path of suffering, and walks it before us. He is a King who doesn’t ask us to do anything that he wasn’t prepared to do himself.

Thinking it through:

  • What should we expect as Jesus’ followers, in this life?

As Jesus’ followers, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and lose our life for Jesus and for the gospel. To deny ourselves is to give up our own plans, thoughts and all the things that belong to our old selves, and only follow what Jesus taught us in the Bible by the Holy Spirit. To take up the cross is to bear the suffering which might arise because of the gospel. To lose life in this life means we should be willing to give up everything for the sake of the gospel. But we are to do this because nothing can compare to what we gain with Christ, not because our lives are useless!

  • Why is it hard to lose life now? How are we tempted to think like the world?

We are sinners living in a wicked and adulterous world. Our sinful nature will make us want to please ourselves and not God. Most of the time, we are not willing to sacrifice our time, money and other things which are value to us for the gospel and for God. It takes efforts and it can be painful to put God first. The world we are living in affects the way we think. The values of our society make us think that physical things are more important than spiritual things, like our faith in Jesus. To think like the world is easier and more attractive. We don’t need to feel the pain of losing our self-interest to serve God. The only thing we need do is please ourselves.

  • How does this passage correct the way we think about the future?

What we have on earth can’t be exchanged for the future. What we have on earth is only temporary.

Working it out:

  • The Son of Man will return in glory. How does this truth affect the way we live now? How will it affect our priorities? (short-term and long-term)

We will spend our time more wisely. Not spending our energy seeking pleasure, but making the pursuit of God more important than the selfish pursuit of pleasure. 

  • In what ways are our priorities and behaviours worldly?

Our passions centre on possessions, status or power, so we tend to chase after these things rather than the things in heaven.

Spend some time praying for God’s help in this – that he would show us where we need to repent, and where our thinking and behaviour needs to change in light of the truth. Pray for grace to make those changes.

Praying it in: Father, thank you for Jesus’ words in this passage, challenging though they are. Please help us to grasp this pattern that Jesus’ followers must walk. Please reveal to us the ways in which we need to repent or worldly thinking and priorities, and please give us a greater appreciation of the reality that Jesus will return. Help us to put our hope in “life later” – an eternity with you.

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