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Thursday, January 7, 2010

1/8/10- Mark 8:34-9:1- The Way of the Cross

1/8/10- Mark 8:34- 9:1- (pp Mt 16:21-26; Lk 9:22-27)

The way of the cross

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? 37 Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? 38 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." 9:1 And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

Calvin abridged: Christ had been talking of his future glory, but now he lets his disciples know what he must suffer, so that they too would be prepared to bear the cross. It was necessary to inform them that Christ must start his reign, not with gaudy display, not with the magnificence of riches, not with the loud applause of the world, but with an ignominious death. His saying about bearing the cross is not limited to the twelve apostles, but is the same law for all of us (“whoever”). No one can be reckoned a disciple of Christ unless they are true imitators of him, and are willing to pursue the same course. The self denial spoken of is very extensive, and implies that we ought to give up our natural inclinations and affections, giving our consent to be reduced to nothing- so God will live and reign in us. People naturally view themselves with blind love, and highly estimate themselves. But if we desire to enter into the school of Christ, we must “become fools that we may be wise (1 Cor. 3:18); and next we must control and subdue our feelings. “Take up their cross” – unless they willingly bend their shoulders to it, they are not said to bear the cross. A wild horse cannot be said to admit the rider though the horse carries the rider. The patience of the saints consists in willingly bearing the cross laid on them. “He who would save his life shall lose it.” It is consolation to know that those who willingly suffer death for Christ’s sake actually obtain life. Sometimes the irreligious out of ambition or despair despise life, and there is no benefit for them to be courageous in facing death. There is a contrast here between temporal and eternal death. “What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul.” The soul is of higher value than all the riches and enjoyments of the world; but yet they are so blinded that they knowingly and willfully abandon their souls to destruction. Let us remember the surpassing worth of our soul. 37- Our minds are so slow and sluggish that we need help, so Christ directs our attention toward heaven and the judgment. By the “The coming of the kingdom of God” we are to understand the manifestation of heavenly glory which Christ began to make at the resurrection. Bu these beginnings, he gave the people a taste of the new and heavenly life.

Thoughts: For Calvin, this verse is the essence of the Christian life- the killing of the love of the temporal life (mortification), and the living for Christ (vivification). Christians are called to lose the bonds of this life in order to be set free for eternity. The best illustration of this that happened this week is the death of Casey Johnson. Casey Johnson had everything this world offers (as heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune), but still craved more fame. She ended up embroiled in all kinds of sexual promiscuity, and was cut off from her fortune. The world without restraint is a harsh slavemaster. Yet many people have as their goal to have as much as Casey Johnson or as much beauty, fame and money as Anna Nichole Smith; or as much popularity as Michael Jackson. There is a message from the ruined lives of those who worship fame, fortune or beauty. But Jesus outshines them all, and encourages us to face our crosses and deny our pride and selfishness.

Prayer: Lord, we confess it is hard to believe the last shall be first. Give us grace to be more loving and patient, and less self-centered and proud.

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