And “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in the adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:14-18
This scripture presents a critical directive, two dire warnings, and a paradoxical promise. It speaks of the cost of discipleship and the exponentially greater cost of failure to “come after Christ.”
The Command – Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me – To follow Jesus, you must deny yourself – acknowledge that you are not capable of righteousness on your own and to resist worldly desires of immorality. And you also must take up your cross – willing to suffer, even martyrdom, for Jesus. It is also seen as crucifying your old corrupt self and instead pursuing the will of God as a reborn child of God. To follow Jesus is complete obedience to his will. To “deny yourself,” “take up your cross” and “follow me” is something that we must do daily. Our instinct is to serve ourselves and we will struggle with this all our days here on earth.
Warning #1 – Whosoever will save his life shall lose it – this is the great warning – hold on tight to your life, pursue your desires and things of the world and you will perish.
Warning #2 – Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. – Reject Christ and he will reject you. To dismiss the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our sin will not end well. Without Christ’s substitutionary atonement, fools will rely on their own righteousness when they face God’s judgment. The result will be condemnation. In retrospect, when the influence of the world and the lies of Satan have passed away, that choice to reject Jesus will surely be deemed insanity.
A Promise – Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake (Jesus) and the gospel’s sake will save it. – Give your life to Christ, and you will be saved from the wrath of God that is coming. This is the dramatic paradox in God’s word. Those who love their life and live for their own desire will perish, those who surrender their life to God will enjoy eternal life.
A Rhetorical Question – For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? What a terrible, tragic choice it is to hear and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, to instead live for yourself, even if you attain all that you want in this brief life, and then spend an eternity of agony in hell.