Jesus “called” the Resurrection, didn’t He? I say that because it’s one thing to “accidentally” happen do something, and another thing entirely to do it on purpose, and “call it” in advance.
For example, we watched the “Final Four” NCAA basketball championships at Orlando after David & Ashley put the kids down, and I remember at one point, in the middle of what was a very good game, one of the Kansas players hit a big 3-point shot — but he banked it in off the backboard. I think my son David said, “He didn’t call it!” He said that because guys will often “accidentally” hit a shot like that, not really meaning to hit it off the backboard — so when folks are playing HORSE, you have to “call it” it if you are going to use the backboard; in other words, you’re saying, “I’m calling this in advance; I am planning to do this. This didn’t happen by accident!”
And that’s how it was with Jesus and the Resurrection, wasn’t it? Jesus didn’t “just happen” to rise from the dead; He “called it” in advance. This is what He PLANNED to do, from the very beginning. And this week in our daily Bible readings, we came across actually THREE places in the Book of Mark where Jesus “calls” His resurrection, in Mark 8, 9, and 10. This morning we’re looking at the first of them, Mark 8: 31-38, where Jesus not only “calls” His resurrection, but tells us several important things about it:
I. The Suffering that Preceded it
Before the Resurrection, which is the heart of what we celebrate at Easter, first Jesus had to suffer, and He talks about that here. He says in :31, “The Son of Man (“Son of Man” was a term used in the Book of Daniel for the coming Messiah) “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed.”
He said, “The Son of Man MUST suffer many things.” The Greek word here for “must” is “dei”: a word that means “it is necessary.” Jesus said it NECESSARY for Me to suffer; I MUST do it. Why? He had to suffer in order to pay for our sins. This was His mission; this is what He came to earth for. Jesus said “The Son of Man has come … to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus specifically came to this world in order to die on the cross and pay for our sins. As we saw at the Garden of Gethsemane, this was the only way for that to happen. He HAD to suffer.
Now, Peter didn’t understand this (and to be fair, most of the Jews didn’t. They didn’t understand all the Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 53, that the Messiah, when He came, would suffer for our sins.) So in :32 Peter began to rebuke Jesus.
(Now, just as an aside: can you imagine the arrogance here: PETER is taking JESUS aside to “rebuke” Him for what He said? What in his experience could possibly make him think that HE knew better than Jesus?! I think we’d all say, that was just a wrong; and arrogant thing do, and we would never do that, right?
Or do we sometimes “take God aside” in a sense, and say something like:
— “Lord, are You sure You know what You’re doing here?”
— Lord, do you have the timing on this right?
— Lord I think I might have a better way?
What in our whole life’s experience makes us think that WE might know better than God?! This passage is just a good reminder for many of us, that we don’t need to be “pulling God aside” and telling Him how we know better than He does, in any area of our lives! He’s got going on just what He needs to, just when He wants to, and we need to trust that He knows what He is doing. He is God.
And the same thing was true here. Peter was trying to pull Jesus aside and say that He didn’t have to suffer. And he was wrong. The whole Old Testament taught us that the Messiah DID have to suffer: Isaiah 53 says “He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him; and by His scourging, we are healed.” God’s word said YES, Jesus DID have to suffer. Jesus recognized that what Peter said was only a temptation from Satan, to try to get Him out of the suffering that He knew He really DID have to face. There could be no salvation, and eternity in heaven for any us, if Jesus did not suffer. His suffering was necessary for our ultimate blessing. And that is how it so often is. You can’t “shortcut” the suffering. It has to take place.
While we were at EPCOT with our grand babies a couple of weeks ago, Cheryl found the neatest exhibition they had set up: it was basically a tent, full of butterflies, with plants for them to land on; it was full of thousands of butterflies. Also inside the tent was a couple of these hanging boxes with the butterflies slowly emerging from their chrysalis or cocoon. As you may know, the butterflies have to struggle over a period of days for this to happen. It is a vital part of the process; they can’t do without it. A few years ago, someone saw a butterfly going through this arduous process and felt sorry for it, so they thought they’d make it “easier” on the butterfly, and cut it loose from its cocoon, and they did. Unfortunately, that butterfly was never able to fly, and it died not long after. That’s because that struggle to wriggle out of that chrysalis fills the wings of the butterfly with the fluid necessary to develop them, and it makes its wings mature and strong. If you rob the butterfly of that struggle, you also rob it of its ability to grow as well. We can’t make it “easy” for them; it HAS to go through it … like the Greek says here, dei,” it “must” happen; “it is necessary.” It is incredibly hard, but it is necessary.
There’s several lessons for us there:
— for the sufferings in our own lives; God knows that suffering must take place in our lives for us to grow and mature spiritually. So don’t just sit there and wish you weren’t suffering; let the “fluid (of your suffering) fill your wings” spiritually and help you to grow closer to God and mature! He’s got you in that time for a purpose!
— And this applies to some of the struggles we see our kids and other loved ones go through: maybe like that man who tried to “help” the butterfly out of the cocoon, we don’t want to see our loved ones struggle, but we need to realize that their struggle is part of what God is using to refine and grow and mature them. They HAVE to go through those tough times — just like you did in your own times like that! So don’t rob them of that; let them go through those times, and grow the way God wants them to.
And that’s how it was with the suffering of Jesus here as well. When Peter heard Jesus say He had to suffer, his first response was, “Oh, no, Lord, You don’t need to suffer! We’ll do something about that. You don’t need to go through that!” But Jesus rebuked him in :33. He said, “You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” WHY? Because Jesus HAD to suffer and die. “Dei,” it “must” happen; it was “necessary.” Easter wouldn’t be Easter without the suffering that preceded it first. This was God’s plan, His purpose. Jesus HAD to suffer, in order for our sins to be paid.
II. The Recognition That Accompanied It.
But in all this talk about Jesus’ suffering, Peter missed the last “little thing” Jesus added at the end: “and after 3 days rise again.” Jesus said not only would He suffer for our sins; but He would also rise again on the 3rd day. This is huge. The resurrection of Jesus would validate all the suffering that He went through; that there was a reason for it; a purpose in it; that He really did pay for our sins; and that He really was the Lord and God that He claimed to be.
See, Jesus isn’t the only person in this world who ever said He was God, or the Messiah, or claimed to have some special way to God.
— The Bible says in Matthew 24 that there are many false prophets and false christs
— All the Roman emperors claimed to be gods, and had the people worship them by burning a pinch of incense
— The prophet Muhammed said he had the exclusive way to God
— The Bab was a prophet who rose up in the 1800s, saying he was “the gate,” (the meaning of the word “bab”) or the true “door” to God.
— Joseph Smith arose in America, claiming that HE had a vision from God, and the “new revelation” that we really needed to get back to God.
People are always “popping up” at different times and places in history, claiming to be “god,” or the “messiah,” or the “last prophet” or whatever.
Don’t you wish that somehow, out of all these, God would just clearly say: “THIS is the right one; This is truly My Son”? Well the fact is, He DID!
While were at the Magic Kingdom park at Disney we took the grandkids on a lot of the little kids rides there: Dumbo the flying elephant; the carousel; the little “Barnstormers” beginner roller coaster. Over in that area, right in front of the carousel, there is the a little photo op: “The Sword in the Stone,” which comes from the story of King Arthur. You may be familiar with the King Arthur story, that whoever could pull the sword out of the anvil would be the next King of England. All the famous knights and lords tried to pull the sword out of the anvil, but none of them could. Finally, young Arthur came along, whom no one knew was the true son of the dead king — but when Arthur pulled the sword out of the anvil, everyone knew he was truly Uther’s Son, and the one true, rightful king. (So when I couldn’t pull the sword out of this stone, sadly, I knew I was NOT the next king of the land!)
But that “sword in stone” story is something like what God did with Jesus. There have been SO many, all through history, who have claimed to have THE way to God, THE one truth, to be THE son of God; or God Himself. Out of all this great crowd of claimants to the throne, how can we know who is the rightful king?
Well, in a sense like “the sword in the stone,” God said, I’ll show you who My true Son is: I will raise Him from the dead! An that is exactly what Romans 1:4 says, that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Though the Resurrection, God was saying, in effect: of all the so-called gods and prophets and messiahs and teachers and lamas and spiritualists all through history, how do you know which one is the true one? I will show you: I will put My “mark of ownership” on My One True Son, by raising Him from the dead. Jesus’ Resurrection was like “the sword in the stone.” The resurrection was God’s way of pointing to Jesus and saying “THIS One is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” So Romans 1:4 rightly says that Jesus was declared the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.
So Jesus suffered for our sins before His resurrection, and then He rose from the dead to prove who He really was. So what should our response to that be?
III. The Commitment Required From It
It is not insignificant, and we should not miss this in this passage, that right after Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection, He immediately followed up with His words in :34 and following: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me …”. Jesus is saying that what He was going to go through in His suffering on the cross, and in His resurrection from the dead, would call for a commitment from those who would follow Him.
We see a lot of people who do things in this life, and we think, “Oh, how interesting” — but it doesn’t really affect our lives in any significant way:
— We hear that Tom Brady is still playing quarterback at age 44 and we say, “Oh, how interesting …” but it doesn’t really affect us …
— We read that a man in Egypt last week swam over 56 meters in the pool using only one breath, the longest swim on one breath on record, and we think, “Oh, how interesting …” but it’s not going to change anything in our life this week, right?
There are a lot of things like that: we see them or we hear about them and we say, “Oh, how interesting.” But the resurrection of Jesus is not one of those things. If Jesus died on the cross and paid for our sins, and rose again on the 3rd day, it is not just “interesting.” It is life-altering. It tells us that this Man was and is God Himself, who came to earth, and He has the power to save us from our sins, and change our lives, and give us eternity in Heaven with God — and all this demands a COMMITMENT of our lives to Him. It’s not just “interesting;” we need to follow Him!
Jesus spoke here in Mark 8 about the kind of commitment He expects from His followers:
— He said, just as I am going to suffer on the cross and die, so YOU must be willing to take up YOUR cross and follow Me.
— He said in :35 if you try to save your life (keep it as it is) you’re just going to lose it; but if you’re willing to lose your life for His sake, you’ll really find it!
— He said in :36 what does it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?!
— He said in :38 that you need to stand up for Him: that if you’re ashamed of Him and His words in this evil culture, that He’ll be ashamed of YOU when He comes!
Jesus says that what He did in His death and resurrection, and who He proved Himself to be, calls for a total commitment from us:
— to suffer for Him
— to give up our our lives for Him (in ways large and small)
— to stand up for Him and confess Him
— to follow Him
“Follow Him” means that we will do whatever He tells us to do:
— When Jesus called His first disciples, He told them to leave their jobs and follow Him — and they left them and followed Him.
— He told them to instruct a crowd to sit down and get ready for dinner when they didn’t have any food, and He expected them to do it.
— He told them to go into a town and tell a certain man they hadn’t seen to prepare a room for them, and they went there and did it.
The first disciples “followed” Jesus; they DID what He told them to do.
And the definition of following Jesus has not changed in our day. To follow Jesus means to obey Him; to DO whatever He tells you to do:
— It means that you go to Bulgaria if He tells you to go to Bulgaria
— It means you go to the Port Ministry if He tells you to go to the Port Ministry …
— It means that when you feel like going off to one of these places, but He tells you to stay HOME like He did the Gerasene Demoniac, and witness to your neighbors (which we all know is a much harder thing!) that you stay home and do that!
— It means you give something when He tells you to give it
— and it means you forgive someone whenever He tells you to forgive.
It means that you do whatever He tells you to do. You don’t come to Jesus and say “I’ll give my life to You, but …”. There’s not “buts.” There’s no exception clauses. Committing your life to Jesus means you sign your whole life over to Him, to do with whatever He will.
George Whitefield was the young English preacher God used greatly in revivals all through England and America in the mid-1700s. Many credit him as being “Americas Spiritual Founding Father,” who set the spiritual tone for the American Revolution which would come not long after his ministry. But at one point early in Whitefield’s ministry, just after he had begun to preach, Whitefield was doing what we might call a “prayer walk” in the woods outside of Stonehouse, England, and he was worshiping God. At one point he said, he just threw himself on the ground and told God: “I give You my soul as a blank in Your hands, to write on it what You please.” (Thomas S. Kidd, George Whitefield, America’s Spiritual Founding Father, p. 46)
THAT is the kind of commitment that the resurrection of Jesus requires from us. A blank check, total commitment of our lives to Him, to do whatever He wants us to do.
Do you see how that kind of commitment to Christ is different from what passes as so-called “Christianity” in a lot of places today?
— Many people today think being a Christian means you “make a decision” and get baptized, and then show up at church a couple times a month. That’s not the kind of commitment Jesus talked about here, is it?
— Others think of Christianity as Jesus helping you be “the best you can be,” and helping you “reach your dreams.” But real Christianity is not God helping you reach your dreams, it is you allowing God to RE-WRITE your dreams. To replace your dreams with HIS dreams. This sounds bad to us, because we like our dreams. But the truth is, God is the One who made us. He knows what He made us for, and what we can do. His word is our “owner’s manual.” If we are wise, we will gladly trade in our dreams for His plans (He says “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.” He has good things in store!) But the whole question involved is this: WHO IS GOING TO BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE: YOU, OR GOD?
This is the heart of it, right here: To genuinely commit your life to Christ means you give control of your life to Him. You “deny yourself,” you take up your cross, you “cash in your dreams,” and you follow HIM. You say, But it will cost me all my dreams! It will. I’d be lying to you if I said it wouldn’t. But He will replace all your broken, imperfect dreams, with His better dreams — the dreams He designed and created you for! That’s what it means when it says: if you lose your life for His sake, you’ll really find it. If you’ll give up your imperfect dreams, He’ll give you His far better dreams, dreams that He perfectly designed you for.
But you’ve got to make that commitment to Him to get in on it. And it is nothing short of a total commitment. And really, a total commitment is the only commitment worthy of Jesus:
— He is God Himself who left the glory of Heaven for you!
— He suffered the agonies of the wrath of God for YOUR sin on the cross
— He rose from the dead in power and glory proving who He was
What are you going to do in the face of that? You can’t just sit there and say, “Oh, that’s interesting!” No, you’ve got to commit your whole life to him. It is just like the old song says: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my ALL!”
The Bible says Jesus “called” His resurrection, in advance, which means He really is Lord and God, who deserves your full commitment. Have you ever made that commitment to Him? If not, today — this Easter Sunday morning — is the perfect day to do it.