Sermon: Walking with Jesus through self-denial and confidence
Reading: Mark 8 v. 27-38
Sermon date: Sunday 11th

Ice breaker

(For a digitally savy group): What criteria do you use to decide whether to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ something or someone on social media?
(All): What criteria do you use to decide which political party to vote for?
Leader’s note: Seek to draw out not just personal taste, but ability / credibility of person chosen, the alignment of the goals of the person or party chosen with their own goals. Would you follow anyone if you didn’t know who they really were and where they were going, what their agenda was?


Leaders notes:

There is probably more material here than you can fully cover. Focus on those parts that are most helpful to your group.

Background and introduction

The gospel of Mark is written to a Roman audience, from beginning to end – it’s 16 chapters and it splits into 2 halves and we’re looking at the key passage between those two parts where Jesus asks a crucial question of his followers, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Today it could well have been posed as a social media rating or some informal market research.
Read Mark 8 v27-38
If you skip through the previous 8 chapters you see that Jesus has done miracles, blind have seen, the dead have been raised, five thousand people were fed and the religious leaders have attacked Him. And as he is walking with the disciples he turns to them and says, “Ok, so who do people think that I am? What is the majority view out there? When people get together in Jerusalem homes and coffee shops and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this carpenter, this itinerant preacher?’ – what are they saying?”.
As we shared earlier, there are two questions you ask if you’re going to follow someone - Who are you? Where are you going?

Part 1: Who are you?

Q. What do you think of the results of the opinion poll? v28
John the Baptist: Right message but mistaken identity. Elijah – major prophet of the past who had stood against the wicked King Ahab and called the people back to God. One of the prophets – the religious set!
Q. What sort of answers do people give today?
Q. What did Simon Peter mean when he said ‘You are the Messiah!’? What had led to that conclusion?
Leader’s note: The word ‘Messiah’ refers to "anointed or chosen one” in the context of a prophet, priest, or king. In Isaiah 42:1; 61:1–3 God’s Messiah was predicted as a coming Deliverer, chosen by God to redeem Israel. A popular view in Jesus’ day was that the Messiah would redeem Israel by overthrowing the rule of the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom (see Acts 1:6). The Greek equivalent is the word Christos or, in English, Christ. The name “Jesus Christ” is the same as “Jesus the Messiah.” For us we might use the words ‘Jesus our Saviour and Lord’
Q. Who do we think Jesus is? If the group has questions about Jesus’ claims it may be worth expanding this section further.
CS Lewis’ quote is helpful:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (Mere Christianity pp. 52-53)

Part 2: Where are you going?

Or what’s your priorities / agenda?
Q. How does Jesus elaborate on what will happen to the Messiah? v31
Q. Why does this shock Peter? What were his expectations?
Q. How does Jesus respond and why so sharply? v33 (Refer back to the temptations when Satan had offered him all power and authority if he only would bow down to him Matt 4 v8,9)
Q. When we come to faith do we always realise what we’ve let ourselves in for?
Q. How have our expectations of ‘the Jesus way’ changed as we’ve understood the gospel better?
Q. What are the key issues for Jesus? v34-37 - A re-evaluation of worldly norms and values
v34-37 in the ‘The Message’ version:
‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?’
Q. How do we understand ‘denying ourselves’, ‘taking up our cross’, ‘following Jesus’ v34?
Q. Can you share anything that you remember about the sermon you heard on Sunday?
Leaders note: Denying ourselves – chocolate etc – is a very watered-down version of what Jesus meant. He was talking about the fundamentals of who or what are we living for and its impact on every area of life. Deny may be better translated ‘renounce’. Self-denial is not to deny one’s personality, to deny things as an ascetic or to withdraw from the world. It is instead the turning away from my self-centeredness and every attempt to orient my life by the dictates of self-interest. The opposite of ‘I did it my way’!
Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, an illness. This passage has a different emphasis as in Jesus’ day, a cross wasn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was mainly a symbol of death. What Jesus was really driving at was that they needed to put to death their own plans, desires, and expectations and then turn their lives over to Him and follow Him every day – wherever it would lead, whatever the cost.
See also Romans 6 v4-7, Galatians 2 v20
Q. What is the significance eternally?
Q. What does it mean, or might mean, for us?
Q. How does a ‘God perspective’ change our approach to life? In big and small areas.
Q. Are there any specific aspects you personally want to act upon? (Could leave till end of session as reflection)
Encourage discussion around: Who’s running our life? What are our objectives?
Q. Where does health, wealth and happiness fit in?
Useful quotes: ‘Where your treasure, there is your heart also’ Matt 6 v19-24, 33.
‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’ – quote from Jim Eliot who, in 1956, gave his life seeking to contact the unreached Auca Indians of Ecuador with the gospel. His widow later spent two years as a missionary living among them and leading many to Christ.

Part 3: Being a follower: Nailing our colours to the mast 

Q. Why is some form of public statement of our faith so important? v38. Compare with other life commitments – marriage, football teams, etc.
Q. What form might our acknowledgement of Jesus take? E.g. Baptism, confirmation; friends, family and work conversations; etc
Q. What do we do when we funk it and cop out? Although Peter subsequently failed and denied Christ 3 times (John 18 15-27) – it was not the end. (John 21 v15-19)

Possible you-tube songs to conclude with (either audio only or video, play all or part):
I will follow: Chris Tomlin,
I have decided to follow Jesus,


Philip Maycock, 04/03/2018