John Bell, pastor of New City Baptist Church in Toronto, preached a great sermon this morning entitled “Messiahship and Discipleship” from Mark 8:22-38 – the famous passage where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” John’s intro is worth considering:
On the 9th of April, 1940, Adolf Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg attack across Europe. In less thanthree months, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France were all under the Nazi yoke. The Allied troops had been pushed to the English Channel, waiting what looked like certain annihilation on the beaches of Dunkirk. But English fishermen and tugboat captains crossed the channel in their vessels and evacuated 338,000 troops while the RAF kept the Luftwaffe at bay in the skies overhead.
Great Britain and her commonwealth countries – including Canada – now stood alone against Nazi Germany. The odds were overwhelming. Great Britain was outmatched in every way.
This was a time for a strong national leader – a man who could unite the nation – a man witha clear militaristic vision – a man who could instill confidence and pride in a nation that had just been soundly defeated, as well as bolster a fearful civilian population.
Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister, was such a man. In his most famous speech – and perhaps the most memorable speech of the 20th century; a speech which he delivered over BBC Radio after the miracle of Dunkirk – Churchill told the nation of Great Britain and the world,
“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to out live the menace of tyranny . . . if necessary for years . . . if necessary alone. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government – every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip ofthe Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
That’s the kind of leader a nation needs in a time of war! I get choked up reading that speech. All those “rally- the-troops” movie speeches, like Mel Gibson’s “freedom” speech in Braveheart,or Gerald Butler’s “tonight-we-dine-in-hell” speech from 300, pale in comparison to that! “The odious apparatus of Nazi rule.” That’s the real deal right there!
And Churchill, as the leader of a nation at war fighting for its survival, was very consciousof his public image. He was Great Britain personified –defiant in the face of adversity andoverwhelming odds! Churchill was like an English bulldog, always chomping on a big cigar with a twinkle of defiance in his eye.
And that’s the kind of leader the world admires – all glory, no shame. there’s a man who can rally people to his cause!
The Messiahship of Jesus stands in direct contrast to such a notion:
Mark 8:31-35: “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this…Then he called the crowd tohim along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Christian, there’s your leader. There’s the rousing rally-the-troops speech that’s supposed to transform our thinking, our entire worldview, as we engage in battle with the “odious apparatus” of Satan and his demons.
Unbeliever, there’s your eternal soul’s only hope – a Palestinian carpenter robed in shame and weakness, dying naked on a Roman cross.
We must be so, so careful! We must not allow Messiah Jesus himself to become a stumbling block. We must not stumble over our Messiah’s cross. We must not view our discipleship to Messiah in terms of worldly victory, success and power. Winston Churchill could speak of fighting on the beaches and in the streets and make it sound glorious. He had British housewives saying, “Bring it! We shall NEVER surrender!”
Jesus speaks of picking up our cross – an instrument of torture, execution and deepest shame – he wants us to pick up our cross of death and follow Him. We’re not dying for an ideal like “freedom” or “democracy” – we’re suffering shame and counting everything loss for a person – for Jesus.
Friends, our understanding of Jesus’ Messiahship must impact our understanding of discipleship. The kind of life we live must be based on the kind of death our messianic leader endured. It must be so – anything else is satanic. And if we’re ashamed of our Lord, and refuse to follow after Jesus in his death, then Jesus will be ashamed of us when he returns to consummate hiskingdom.
All of us – believer and unbeliever alike – need to pray to God for eyes to see this truth.
If you can, listen to the whole sermon, I was deeply encouraged by it. Thank God that I can confess with Peter, only with greater understanding, that Jesus is the Messiah!