Title: What does it mean to follow Christ?
Text: Mark 6.1-33
What does it mean to follow Christ? Mark 8.34 says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
So, just what does it mean to follow Christ? And, Is the call of God to follow different for everyone? Is the call different for anyone? What does Christ mean here: “If anyone would follow after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Most of us read the passage and we identify these remarks as being for someone else: someone who is called to a special ministry. We don’t normally associate these words with becoming a Christian. Do you agree?
Oh wait! We do – like when we witness to someone. But once someone becomes a Christian, we don’t think it really applies anymore. Do we?
Do we? Really? Think about that… let that simmer on the back burner for a while.
This morning we’ll take a look at some different ‘ministries’ in Mark. These stories are similar and yet, very different.
- We have Jesus – the ultimate authority on ministry – and the rejection of those who knew him as he tried to minister to them.
- We’ll look at his disciples who go and expand his ministry.
- And we’ll look at John. John demonstrates for us someone who was called and suffered for his ministry.
- Finally, we’ll look back at the report of the disciples and the attempt for rest after ministry.
Transition: let’s begin with a quick review of last week’s message.
I. The Ministry of Jesus (1-6)
exp.: We don’t need to repeat this message, but I wanted to include it here because it seems to clearly fit the emphasis of the cost of discipleship. Even Christ was rejected when he did ministry.
- The Pharisees rejected him earlier (3.1-6).
- His family rejected him, too (later in ch. 3).
- His hometown rejected him, as well.
Isaiah said of him: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
app.: The summary of his ministry there is found in v 5:5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And, in this we find a warning: no student is above his teacher, no servant above his master. We must remember this as we move into v7.
t.s.: with this experience of rejection fresh in the minds of his disciples, Jesus sends them out…
II. The Ministry of the Apostles (7-13)
exp.: rd v 7;
- He summons: called them to him (προσκαλέω; Summoned them, called them to himself)
- He sends: began to send them out two by two; to send is the Gk word for which we get apostle: it means commissioned or sent with a mission. And this mission comes out in giving them authority.
- He gave them authority over unclean spirits; You’ll see them exercise this authority when we get down to v 13.
- He charged them to trust God for their provision: their orders; rd v 8-9;
- Basic necessities – food, clothes, money.
- Basic etiquette rd v 10;
- Knowing when it’s time to go; rd 11
app.: They did what Jesus sent them to do; rd v 12-13; this was the purpose all along: Mk 3.14-15 – 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.
t.s: Now these twelve have gone out by the authority of Jesus. We come to this interlude (that is, we’ll pick up this story down in v 30) and we hear of another ministry.
III. The Ministry of John (14-29)
exp.: i.e.: John the Baptizer; This story of John is born out of a need for explanation. Herod is questioning who Jesus might be. Maybe this arises from the Apostle’s who’ve been commissioned by Jesus through his authority. Who is this Jesus? Maybe they are asked by what authority they do these things. Their answer of course would be: Jesus. Herod seems to be thinking something similar: Who is this Jesus? Herod thinks he could be John, the baptizer whom he had put to death earlier. This would not make sense to the reader because nothing has been said about John since chapter one. So, Mark educates us with his story:
Now listen carefully, I’m going to make this simple: Verse 16 says Herod had John beheaded. Herod didn’t really want to kill him. He did it at the request of Salome – But she probably didn’t want it either. You see, it was really her mother, Herodias, who was Philip’s wife. Well, she was his wife, but now she was Philip’s brother’s wife. Evidently there was some shady stuff going on there. So, The reason is because his step-daughter, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, his new wife, or she was his niece because she was the daughter of his half brother Philip who was at one time married to Herodias, or maybe we should say Salome was his grandniece because Herodias, his wife, was also his half brother Aristobolus’s daughter. Anyway, that lady, she’s the one who had asked for John’s head on a platter. Clear?
Listen, this is a tangled web of men named Herod. These guys all were all related to each other by their father. Their actions were sinful and John’s call was to call them to repentance. John does just what Jesus has called others to do…he calls Herod and Herodias to repent of their sinful behavior. People don’t like that. People don’t like to have their sin called out.
- If you are meeting up with a woman who isn’t your wife – that’s adultery!
- If this person you’re hooking up with is of the same gender – that’s Homosexuality and according to Scripture, it is sinful behavior!
- If you were born with a certain genitalia, then you’re a man. If not, you’re a woman. If you have trouble with this, get some help. Pretending to be something you’re not is sinful and harmful.
- If you feel like you are a cat or a dog – that’s not natural. You need help.
When you call people to repentance, it is offensive. People don’t want to repent. Ok, John is standing under their balcony calling them to repent. I’m assuming others can hear this preaching of repentance. If someone is in sin and doesn’t want to repent, he or she will get angry and defensive. That’s exactly what happens to Herodias. And we’re just like she is: We all want others to embrace us in our sin. Tell us it is ok, so we can keep doing it.
John will die because he refuses to back down from the calling of his ministry. He gives us a foretaste of what Jesus will endure because he will not back down from his ministry.
Before we leave John, I’d like to look at some parallels between Jesus and John. In these 1st three points we have the ministries of Jesus, the disciples, and John. John, however, isn’t to be compared with the disciples, but rather with Jesus.
ill.: There are many parallels between Jesus and John.
John is not just a model “follower” of Jesus. He’s different than the disciples who go in Christ’s authority. These are baby steps for the disciples. In a couple of years, the mantle will be laid upon them and they’ll go pro. But, for now, they still have training wheels on. John is in the Big Leagues. Listen to Craig Blomberg, how he parallels the ministry of John w/ Jesus’: John is the forerunner of the Messiah, and his death serves as a foreshadowing and preview of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Both Jesus and John are arrested for challenging the powers that be. Both are put to death by self-seeking rulers who know their victims are innocent but vacillate under pressure and choose expediency over justice. The bodies of both are taken and buried by sympathetic followers. After John’s death, rumors arise that he has risen from the dead. But Jesus actually does rise from the dead!
These implicit parallels between John and Jesus in Mark find similar expression in the other gospels. In Luke, for example, the births of Jesus and John are paralleled, heralded by angelic announcements and miraculous conceptions (Luke 1). Yet in this parallelism, Jesus is shown to be the superior. John’s birth to a barren woman is a miracle (like similar births in the OT), but Jesus’ birth to a virgin is unprecedented. While John is “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76; cf. 1:17), Jesus is the “Son of the Most High” (1:32). John’s role is to prepare the way for the Lord (1:17, 76); Jesus is that Lord—the Savior, who is Messiah and Lord (2:11; cf. 1:43).
This theme is carried forward in John’s public ministry. John says that the one who will come after him is so much greater than he that John is not worthy to unlatch his sandals. While John baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:7–8). Jesus must increase, while John must decrease (John 3:3). Here we find the true essence of discipleship. It is following Christ’s model, but always in service to him. It is a willingness to give up one’s life, not for our own glory, but for the glory of Christ.
app.: that’s what we se in v 27ff; rd 27-29; as we read v 27-29 we are saddened. Jesus was, too. In each of the Gospels Jesus seeks to get away after the story of John is told. It isn’t as clear in Mark as it is in Matthew and Luke and John.
t.s: But even then, as Jesus tries to get his disciples the rest and refreshing they need, even as he tries to get the rest and refreshing he needs…they keep coming.
IV. The Call to Ministry Persists (30-33)
exp.: Read v 30-34; His compassion compels him to care for their needs.
app.: Sometimes as a servant, you’re pushed. Maybe I should say often times. You may want to get away, but you can’t. The calendar won’t cooperate. People have things for you to do. They need you. This doesn’t diminish the need for rest and refreshment, but it might need to wait. My guess is the Christ is teaching his disciples of this important part of ministry: retreat, refresh, and repair.
One last word: Some years ago, many years ago, a man came to me and told me of a need. There was a organization that he was a part of that met regularly. This group, I believe, was all men. It wasn’t that women couldn’t be a part of it, I guess it was just that women weren’t interested in that line of work. Anyway, This man in my church thought it would be the perfect place to start a Bible Study. I have to say, I think he was right. The problem was, he thought I should start that Bible Study. I told him that I didn’t have any time to do so, but that I would help in whatever manner I could.
That’s pretty much always been philosophy on ministry and service. My job is to equip you to do the work of the ministry – not to do the ministry for you. He didn’t like that. He felt that it was my job to start a Bible Study in his organization. That ministry never got started. I wish I could have thought to say to him, “Jesus did not call me to take up your cross and follow after him.”
Same church, a couple of years later: I had a lady who wanted to start a ministry. I asked her what she needed and how I could help her get started. She said, “I need some rooms and permission for you to turn me loose.” I gave her the rooms and turned her loose. She never wanted me to do the ministry for her, just to equip her. That ministry just exploded. She saw a need and rose to the challenge to serve people through meeting that need. She has since moved on, but that ministry continues, because others have seen the need and stepped up to serve.
You can go on line and look that ministry up on the Calvary website… it’s called Bridgemark – a school for children who suffer from dyslexia.
So, what are the applications for us as we consider just what it means to ‘take up your cross and follow Christ’? I have chosen four.
- Summons to Ministry: this is different for each one called. No one is called to sit on the sidelines. If you are a believer, then you’re called to be a witness for Christ. But, your call is different. You must seek out God’s will for your life and follow in obedience. You can’t live out someone else’s call. And, BTW: you can’t just go…you must be sent out in his authority. You don’t just think to yourself: ah, I want to see the world. You must be summoned by Christ and sent out in his authority.
- Service in Ministry: Each of us is called to different types of service. No one is called to exactly the same thing. I think of even my wife, whose calling is very similar to mine; however, it differs greatly. As for you, I can’t tell you what that is. I think you discover your area of service by trial and error. You sense a desire to serve here or there and you follow that passion. God opens and closes doors. Consider your unique position. Retired individuals have more time – not being held down by a job. Young people have energy, stamina and health on their side. And, BTW: don’t consider your area of service based on money or supplies. You don’t just think: well, I don’t have the money so I guess I can’t go. The charge is the same: don’t worry about food, clothes or money. God will provide for you as he sees fit. I can’t say this is always the case, but I see God wants you to learn to trust him to provide for you in miraculous ways. That is how you learn to trust him in the ministry.
- Sacrifice in Ministry: You can’t surrender to ministry without offering a sacrifice at some level. Some, however, give more than others. John the Baptist demonstrates for us a willingness to remain faithful to his calling. The spiritual gift of Martyrdom is a one-time gift. The call of God on your life might mean leaving the place you live and work. It might mean leaving your family and friends. The call of God on your life means you must sacrifice your desires and follow His. It’s funny though how your desires change… how you desire the things of God as you follow him. It might mean being educated. It might mean changing professions. I don’t know what God has in store for you. But, I know from experience: your life is no longer your own. You are bought at a price. You now belong to him – and what he says for your life – that is what you must now do.
- Success in Ministry: I hate that we (and I include myself in this) judge people in their ministry as successful or as a failure. We see larger churches, bigger youth ministries, larger and more dynamic worship programs and we measure all others by that standard. I wonder how many ministries we would label as success and try to emulate, when Christ would label that ministry a failure. Was John’s ministry a success? How so? His final place of ministry was a prison cell and from there, he was beheaded. How do you measure success? Is the pastor who works in a small church his whole life unsuccessful? What if he remains bi-vocational his whole ministry? Ultimately, success is measured through obedience.
What is your ministry? What has God called you to do? What does it mean for you to follow Christ?