Pledging Allegiance to Jesus

An exposition of Mark 8:34-38

In 2005 a book was published by Oxford University Press by two sociologists, summarizing their findings from five years of researching the religious perspectives of teenagers in America. The book was entitled Soul Searching, the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

The book was commenting on results from the National Study of Youth and Religion which interviewed hundreds of youth across various denominations and those outside of evangelicalism of the five-year period. One of the results from the study found that most teenagers in America identify themselves as spiritual, and would even call themselves Christians.

But the research went much deeper than merely statistics on labels. The study found that when asked to give a specific definition of what it meant to be a Christian, what it meant to know God, or even to describe God, the answers didn’t line up with the label. The researchers found, that on the one hand, American teenagers find a comfort in associating with religion, but most understand very little about it, and care about it even less.

In other words, when push comes to shove, their religious perspectives have little influence on their lives. Sure, they attempt to be nice, do the right thing, they are confident that God wants them to be good and do good. And God wants them to be happy, and to feel whole and complete. They pray to God when they need something, and they believe that being religious is the best way to make the most of your life.

But you know what is missing?

The evidences of true conversion. The evidences of a supernatural love for God and a devotion to Christ. It is Christian in name, but not in substance.

A follow up book was published five years later analyzing the same study titled Almost Christian. And although I wouldn’t agree with all of the conclusions in the book, the author’s main thesis is spot on, and here it is: the study on American teenagers who call themselves Christians is a telling reflection on the adults who are leading them.

For all of the studies and explanations of why teenagers are leaving the church in a mass exodus, the author of Almost Christian recognizes that teenagers are merely absorbing and reflecting what the adults around them are modeling. The powerless, religion practiced by many of today’s teenagers is modeled in their own homes and taught by their own pastors.

It is a form of Christianity that lacks any red hot to devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. It lacks doctrinal clarity and depth. It lacks definitiveness about truth. It lacks joy. It lacks an awe of God and a marvel at His transcendence. It lacks power over sin. And it lacks clarity on the very nature the Gospel itself.

Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issue, but ours. 

The National Study of Youth and Religion reveals a theological fault line running underneath American churches: an adherence to a do-good, feel-good spirituality that has little to do with the Triune God of Christian tradition and even less to do with loving Jesus Christ enough to follow him into the world. It is hard to read the data from the NSYR without the impression that many American congregations (not to mention teenagers themselves) are “almost Christian”—but perhaps not fully, at least not in terms of theology or practice.

What is the heart of this word "Gospel" we speak of so often? You know well that the gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. He sent Jesus Christ to be our substitute. He lived perfectly and died to bear the wrath of God for all who would trust in Him. He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and He ascended to heaven where He makes intercession at the right hand of the Father. 

That is a simple message. And yet as Paul told the Corinthians, he was fearful that they would be led astray from the simplicity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is working to distract and detract from this message of simple clarity.

Almost Christian. People who are attending churches, people who are giving financially to the ministries they are a part of. People who are labeling themselves as Christians, and yet their form of Christianity is less than biblical Christianity, leaving them not as weak Christians, but almost Christians.

There are far more issues to dive into in terms of cause-and-effect. There are antecedents that go back culturally many years. And yet this isn’t a new problem.

We are masters at fashioning ideologies and pontificating and coming up with approaches to life and even religion that are rooted in our own thoughts, not in God’s truth.

And this is nothing new. It was the problem the disciples had here in Mark’s Gospel where we will be today. As we studied last week, Jesus didn’t fit their mold. They knew He was the Messiah, but He wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were looking for.

You know what was missing? The death of self. The death of self. It was the costliness of following Jesus.

This is where we are going to camp out this morning. And by way of introduction I would ask you to consider for a moment, what have you left behind to follow Jesus? What has being a Christian cost you? Maybe historically and then right now today…

Are there things that come to mind?

Big things? Little things? Relationships? Reputation? Employment opportunities? Pleasures? Pursuits? Do you see where you have yielded your heart to Jesus and sacrificed for His sake.

If you are in Christ you know what these things are. They weren’t easy to give up. And yet there are still areas that are hard for you to follow Jesus.

These are areas that are so difficult to be obedient. Areas that you would rather not give up, but still want to hang out. And so, we rationalize, we ignore. We find ways to hang on to these.

Well, let me encourage you that this morning, this text, this truth is going to be like wind in the sails of our obedience. See if you are a true disciple, then you are called to continue in the discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this should be an encouragement to you in that pursuit.

God is the one who is central in the Gospel, and that is misplaced in this vague, moralistic, therapeutic God.

The authors find that many young people believed in several moral statutes not exclusive to any of the major world religions. It is this combination of beliefs that they label Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

These points of belief were compiled from interviews with approximately 3,000 teenagers.


  • A wrong view of the Messiah’s ministry results in a wrong view of discipleship
  • We are going to spend most of our time on v. 34 because that is the main statement of this section… the other verses further explain or support this one main statement.

Jesus Gives a 3 Point Message on Denial & Discipleship

  1. A radical definition (34)
  2. A thorough explanation (35-37)
  3. A specific application (38)

Mark 8:34–38—34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 “For whoever wishes to 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 will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

(34) And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, 

Jesus summons a crowd...

If you have been tracking with us throughout the narrative in Chapter 8 then this is a little bit unexpected in light of the fact that Jesus has been on the countryside near the villages of Caesarea Philippi alone with his disciples. It has been private instruction.

Furthermore, this is a pagan area. Caesarea Philippi isn’t an area that we would expect there to be many followers of Jesus. It’s on the outskirts of Israel’s borders.

But God clearly has a wise plan here.

And so, Jesus calls the crowd to Himself. προσκαλέομαι... He sends for them. He requests their physical presence to be in his proximity when he teaches. 

When Jesus summons a group in the Gospels it is significant. It marks off something critical that He is going to teach.

So, ears should perk up when Jesus summons.

Here the instruction comes not just to the disciples, but to the broader crowd. This means that what he is about to say has universal application to all those who would follow Him.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, 

In language, the word if creates a condition. In this case Jesus assumes, for the sake of argument, something to be true. He wants to teach what is involved in coming after Him (or following Him).

There is no ‘then’ in the sentence, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s implied. You could read If anyone wishes to come after Me… then…

If anyone is desiring or wishing. This is a word of volition. It is a common word for wanting something. Think intentionality here. If anyone intends to follow after me. If anyone purposes in their heart to follow me. If anyone sees all that I’m doing and thinks: I want to follow that guy…

This conversation is so strategic. The timing is essential. What Jesus addresses here is connected to what just came before it.

In v. 33 when Jesus rebukes Peter he says (quite literally) go away… “ὀπίσω behind or after me.” 

In v. 34 Jesus says, if anyone is wishing to follow “ὀπίσω behind or after me.”

In v. 33 to Peter (and the disciples) go away behind me. You are opposing God’s plan for Messiah and I need behind me. 

In v. 34 now broadly to everyone within earshot (disciples and the crow): if you are desiring to follow after me, then listen and let me explain to you how to do that.

Jesus is speaking to people who are following Him. They are all listening to Him right now instead of doing whatever else they would be doing at that time of day if they weren’t listening to Him… working, fishing, hanging out.

Just burden isn’t to gain followers right now. People are following Jesus in droves. His concern is that they would understand what it means to follow Him.

Listen to a smattering of verses in Matthew that illustrate the prevalence of people following Jesus throughout his ministry…

Matthew 4:25—Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 8:1—When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.

Matthew 8:19—Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Matthew 9:9—As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

Matthew 12:15—But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all,

Matthew 14:13—Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

Matthew 19:21—Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

All these people were already following Jesus. Jesus is speaking to people that are following Him (they have gathered around Him) to tell them a message about following Him.

It was popular to associate with Jesus. They were interested, intrigued, but they weren’t committed. And simply being around people who are around Jesus, or even appreciating Jesus doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus. 

That wasn’t true of everyone. Some understood discipleship. When Jesus called His disciples to Himself He told them to drop it and follow Him, and the left it behind for His sake.

Matthew 4:20–22—20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Family. Career. Left behind to follow Jesus.

Mark 2:14—As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

Tax collecting business (very lucrative and profitable position)… done.

In the next Chapter Peter is going to cry out to Jesus and say…

Mark 10:28b … behold, we have left everything and followed You.

Jesus doesn’t correct Peter when He says this. He affirms and comforts Him by giving Him a promise that anyone who leaves everything behind for His sake will receive it back in heaven one day.

You get a sense for the weight of discipleship when Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection in Luke 24. The text says that the men were troubled. Why were they troubled? Jesus was all they had, and He is dead.

You hear kids going to college with a ‘fallback’ plan. If career option A doesn’t pan out I will do __ as my ‘fallback’.

There’s no ‘fallback’ plan for the disciples. There’s no going back. They’ve thrown their hat over the fence. All their eggs are in one basket. They are fully leveraged. Fully vested.

To follow Jesus is the shorthand term for the discipleship of the Lord Jesus… to follow after, to come after. 

Mark 10:21—Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

This language is so familiar we almost lose the significance. This is discipleship language. To follow Jesus is to come under his yoke. It is to willingly subject yourself to His demands. 

With that said, understanding what exactly is required in following Jesus is pretty critical. People who follow Jesus love Jesus and will be in heaven with Jesus. People who don’t follow Jesus do not love Jesus and will not be in heaven with Jesus.

So, what does it mean to follow Jesus? v. 34…

[a disciple] he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 

This is the opposite of easy believe-ism. This is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

A disciple must deny himself. A disciple must renounce his claims to his own life. He must be willing to say “no” to his own desires and goals and dreams and outcomes for his life.

He must disregard himself and reject living life for his own satisfaction. 

This is an immediate decision. It is a permanent decision. And it is an ongoing daily decision.

One author described self-denial as…

a sustained willingness to say no to self in order to be able to say yes to God

And this is impossible in the flesh. This is not our natural bent. We want to live for ourselves. This is the human heart at its core. Self-interest. Self-preservation.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ just consider your before-Christ condition:

Ephesians 2:3—among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

2 Timothy 3:2—men will be lovers of self… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

It is impossible to love yourself and live for yourself and deny yourself all at the same time. They are opposites. Mutually exclusive. And you can’t see this apart from God’s grace. Our culture has this entirely backwards…

There is a program that helps people lose weight, and one of their premises is that people need to deal with what’s on the inside first. They must be transformed on the inside before they will see transformation on the outside.

I’m fascinated learning what the prescription is for inner transformation. A coach will come and encourage one of these people and it usually goes something like this, “you have been too focused on other people your whole life… it’s time to finally, for the first time do something for you… you need to start paying more attention to yourself.”

This is a lie. It’s a wicked lie. First that we aren’t living for ourselves, and secondly that there is nothing wrong with it. And we don’t need any encouragement to live for ourselves.

Christianity is the radical call to abandon these things.

And yet it is important that we clarify something here… you don’t earn the ability to be a disciple through this self-denial. Rather this is the fruit and the evidence of a genuine turning to God in saving faith.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture captures the essence of self-denial as it relates to the Gospel. It illustrates this point so well. Self-denial in the discipleship of Jesus Christ isn’t some rote grit where you just suppress your desires, but rather the picture is of self-denial for something better…

2 Corinthians 5:15—and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Well, Jesus goes on to further describe what it means to be in his discipleship.

and take up his cross and follow Me.

Take up his cross. Same word used of Simon carrying Jesus’ cross on the road to Golgotha. Literally pick up his cross and come after me.

Obviously, Jesus hadn’t been crucified yet. We know looking back the details about the Passion Week, and the rejection and crucifixion and resurrection. But to these hearers they didn’t have that context yet. In fact, even Jesus’ closest disciples didn’t understand His Messianic mission. Peter just demonstrated that the disciples didn’t understand the Messiah’s future suffering.

So, what did the crowd think about when they heard this expression ‘take up your cross?’

An image of extreme repugnance, the cross was an instrument of cruelty, pain, dehumanization, and shame. The cross symbolized hated Roman oppression and was reserved for the lowest social classes. It was the most visible and omnipresent aspect of Rome’s terror apparatus, designed especially to punish criminals and quash slave rebellions. 

The cross was an instrument of torture for serious offenses. There were three basic forms. A vertical pointed stake, or else an upright beam with one going above it (like a T) or on of two intersecting beams of equal length.

Crucifixion was first invented by the Persians as a mode of execution. Probably to keep from defiling the earth with the body of the person being killed. Later it was used by Alexander the Great, by whom it came to the Romans.

It was such a defiling form of execution that even the Romans had boundaries. It couldn’t be used on Roman citizens. Only slaves and aliens could be crucified. Even so, Roman governors ignored this when it came to dealing with rebels who opposed the government.

The mode of execution was designed to specifically maximize pain and humiliation, while prolonging the time of death. In the process the condemned would be forced to carry the patibulum (cross-beam) to the crucifixion site. There the stake was already erected. His arms were then bound by ropes or fastened to the patibulum with nails. The beam was raised and attached to the upright post.

Crucifixion was regarded as one of the most brutal forms of torture and execution. Cicero called it the supreme capital penalty, the most painful, dreadful and ugly. Scourging often preceded it.

Everyone despised the cross.

Rome wouldn’t execute her citizens by crucifixion. Greece wouldn’t execute her citizens by crucifixion. To them crucifixion was reserved for second class people.

But Jews in particular viewed the cross as detestable. Beyond all of the human reasons for despising the cross, Moses taught in...

Deuteronomy 21:23—his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

In Jewish custom only idolaters and blasphemers were hung on a tree. And the hanging took place only after stoning. In other words it was a sign of humiliation to hang a corpse. They weren’t put to death on a tree.

This saying in Deuteronomy is later applied to death on a cross.

So back to our hearers. 

Take up your cross and follow me...

Willingly surrender to the point of being wiling to die on a cross for my sake. The original hearers would have found this message to be repulsive. Humiliating. Unthinkable torture. Defilement. And to top it all off accursed by God. This is the call to those who are wishing to follow Jesus.

The proper starting point is the carrying of the cross by the condemned man. This suggests a beginning of discipleship which then becomes a lasting state; the disciple of Jesus is a cross-bearer, and he remains this his whole life.

In other words ‘taking up the cross’ and ‘following Jesus’ include both the starting point and the continued following of his discipleship.

The image of the cross signifies a total claim on the disciple’s allegiance and the total relinquishment of his resources to Jesus (10:17-31). In Mark’s day that was not merely a theoretical truth, for the Gospel of Mark was probably written in Rome near the time of Nero’s crucifixion of Christians. Jesus’ call to self-denial and suffering by the use of this image would remind Mark’s community that their adversity under Nero was not a sign of God’s abandonment but rather of their identification with and faithfulness to the way of Jesus himself.

This obliterates any loose expression of someone saying that the air conditioner in their car is broken and it’s, just my cross to bear... that isn’t to say there isn’t further application beyond a literal cross and literal death...

To extend this sense to the loss of privilege, advantage, reputation, comfort, and the like may be legitimate in principle, but only so long as this primary and more radical sense is not set aside.

If we are honest, isn’t it such a challenge for us to get our minds around this primary and radical sense?

Our culture is so far removed from violent public death. Rome wanted to broadcast crucifixion so they did it where everyone could see. It was a teaching tool for them. They wanted people to learn from what they saw, and take it as a warning.

But even the word cross is so familiar to us. People where crosses on their neck, their ears, put bumper stickers on their cars. This isn’t wrong, but it’s so familiar, and yet so far from what it actually meant.

  • Be willing to give your back to scourge to be lacerated into unrecognizable flesh.
  • Be willing to stretch out your arms and have them nailed to a piece of wood.
  • Be willing to hang in excruciating agony as your limbs become exhausted and nerve pain courses through your body.
  • Be willing to slowly suffocate as you fight for oxygen.
  • Be willing to be exposed in degradation and public humility.
  • Be willing to die accursed by God. Be willing to die before you would naturally apart from this execution.

Can I interject here? This language is precise and exacting, but it is not harsh. Understand that the compassion and love of Jesus is so profound. He loved sinners in a way that no man has ever loved his enemy.

When he gives this explanation of true discipleship he is not being harsh, but loving and gracious. He is calling out to the crowds, summoning them, gathering them up... in order that He might spread the word to those wishing to follow Him that indeed they may follow Him, and if they do then this is what is required.

It is nothing less than what He Himself will do. It’s amazing, but Jesus using the same verb here... take out the middle and here is what you get...

If anyone wishes to come after me... [then] come after me...

Following Jesus means just that. Being like Him. He set the pattern, we follow in it. And if that seems like too great of a cost, He goes on to explain...

(35) “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it…

Jesus Gives a 3 Point Message on Denial & Discipleship

  1. A radical definition (34)
  2. A thorough explanation (35-37) of the abiding principle

Same word for wishing. The one who wishes to save his life (i.e. preserve it) will lose it (destroy it… it will perish… it will be ruined).

No doubt there were people in the crowd that immediately thought, “give me a break… I’m not going to take up my cross to follow you.”

I will take a day off from work to come listen to you. I will get a free meal if possible. I will take a healing if you are giving them out today.

But deny my life. Even give my life up. No way. I have goals. I have things I want to do before I die. I want to preserve and save my life for myself.

Jesus says, you won’t get what you are seeking. You are gonna lose it. This word for life is translated many times in the New Testament as soul. This is your substance. It isn’t saving your body or losing your body. It’s saving your inner substance or losing your inner substance.

But look at the precious promise…

but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

You lose it for Jesus and the Gospel? You save it. Sozo… salvation. Your soul will be saved. 

What a comfort these words must have been to the Christians in Rome reading Mark’s Gospel under the threat of upcoming crucifixion. Lose your life for Jesus and in the great paradox of God’s wisdom you actually gain back what really matters… life indeed.

This requires faith. You can’t see this outcome, you have to embrace it by faith. And when you have eyes of faith, the tradeoff is a no-brainer.

Jesus asks another question to support his main point…

(36) “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 

Jesus knows the human heart so well. He can hear the protest: Why would I give up all of the amazing things I have on this earth? 

In the human heart there is a battle for what will be the most valuable… remember the rich young ruler in Mark 10? After he boasts in his amazing resume of spirituality and religious fidelity Jesus calls Him to genuine repentance.

Mark 10:21–22—21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

When faced with the decision of what the world could offer or the discipleship of the Lord Jesus, the rich young ruler decided that it was too great a cost for him to pay.

Literally the idea here is what is the gain? What is the profit? How are you better off if you have acquired and gained the sum total of all that is in the world, but you lose your soul (same word for life in v. 35… syche).

The imagery of gaining the world is like gaining an investment. It requires effort and focus. This would include the love and approval of the world. This is a focus on what is temporary and gaining and securing that… doesn’t matter what it is. The concept is the things the world values…

Self-promotion, security, getaways, freedom from boundaries… marriage covenants, children, weekend responsibilities… the goal is living unencumbered to get maximum pleasure and maximum happiness in this short life.

But if that’s your investment. If your investment is limited to things under the sun then you will find the entire investment is worthless when it comes to what really matters. 

It’s like a giant Ponzi scheme. It looks good on the outside, but when the facts come out you find that there is no substance. There is no lasting value. It was too good to be true.

Notice that those who forfeit their souls (those who lose them) weren’t trying to do that necessarily. It was a consequence of what they were pursuing that this was the inevitable result.

I love nuances of language as it yields rich truths.

The verb for gaining κερδῆσαι is an active infinitive... the verb for forfeiting ζημιωθῆναι is passive... So the pursuit of the world is active and intentional, the corresponding reality is not pursued, but happens upon the one who was engulfed in the pursuit of the world.

It would be a poor trade to gain the world and lose your soul. This is worse than Esau forfeiting his birthright for a bowl of stew. 

Here’s the option: live for yourself now and then spend eternity in suffering and anguish separated from God… or surrender to God, live for Him now, and then spend eternity living for Him in eternal joy.

This forfeiting of your soul is unrecoverable…

(37) “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Another question to bring home the point.

What purchase money will man give for his soul? What price will he pay? What will he trade? This is substitution language.

It is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in the book for Ruth, chapter 4 verse 7. It’s here that Boaz purchases Ruth’s redemption and the transaction is confirmed by the ‘exchange’ (same word) of giving a sandal. It is used when Ahab offered money ‘in exchange’ for ownership of Naboth’s vineyard because it was better.

It’s absurd to think that you can ransom your own soul. You can’t pay anything to exchange your soul. There is no exchange price. 

Romans 6:23—The wages of sin is death…

You can’t earn your way out of the death penalty. Romans says it is only the free gift of God that brings salvation.

The Psalmist in Psalm 49 was contemplating the death of men, and in particular the relative value of wealthy and riches. He goes on to conclude that even the wealthy die and return to the earth like beasts. But he comments in the middle of the Psalm…

Psalm 49:7–8—7 No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him— 8 For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever— 

No man can redeem his brother. This is an incentive to give up your rights to your life on this earth and live for Jesus. He is the only one that can pay the price of exchange for your soul.

Well Jesus makes a final application here.

Jesus Gives a 3 Point Message on Denial & Discipleship

  1. A radical definition (34)
  2. A thorough explanation (35-37)
  3. A specific application (38)

(38) “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, 

This is a very specific application of the principle of discipleship. Not only does discipleship require the loss of your comforts and your self-will, but even more it requires the loss of reputation and status.

Jesus says that whoever is ashamed of him and his words… this is to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity or person. So, this is Jesus Himself, this is the testimony of Scripture.

Believers in Jesus Christ are urged throughout the new testament not be ashamed of the words of Jesus, of the Gospel, of witnessing of the Lord, of Paul when he was in chains. 

And there is great pressure to conform to those around us. Jesus refers to the generation in Israel at that time as adulterous and sinful. 

When he says adulterous he isn’t speaking primarily of marital infidelity, but of spiritual infidelity. People who have abandoned the pure worship of the one true God, and forsaken it for the worship of things more pleasing to their flesh.

So, what is the core issue behind being ashamed of Jesus… and of his words? In a word, pride. It is a love of being thought highly of by others. It’s a desire to looked up to and regarded and esteemed as being normal, mainstream, with it.

In case you weren’t aware, Jesus’ words aren’t popular. Especially in an unfaithful generation. These people, like an adulterer are always looking for false gods to worship in the place of the one true God.

To the Jews these words had a familiar context. Jesus wasn’t the first prophet to call them this. The judgment had been made to previous generations as well.

  • Hosea compares the apostasy of Israel against God to adultery (2:4ff; 3:1-2; 4:12ff)
  • Jeremiah makes the same comparison in 2:1; 5:7; 9:1… Israel breaks the marriage bond, and Jerusalem will bear the punishment of an adulteress 13:22.
  • Ezekiel interprets Israel’s history as a story of constant adultery in 16:32; 23:37ff
  • Jesus picks up the theme here
  • Jesus uses it in Matthew 12:39 to refer to those who have rejected Him
  • Jesus elsewhere refers to this generation as childish, perverted, unbelieving (Matt 17:17) they were murderous (23:29-36)
  • James calls love of the world adultery against God (James 4:4)

Why adultery? Because it involves the breaking of a covenant. It is the shameful disgrace of unfaithfulness. And so, it is the perfect analogy for spiritual unfaithfulness to God.

The world hates Jesus. The religious establishments of man-made efforts to find God hate Jesus.

So, for the ashamed one here is the verdict… second half of v. 38

the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

The correlation is inescapable that how you choose to live life now impacts how your life goes in eternity.

Matthew 10:33—But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

The only ones who will be united with the Son of Man on that day are those who are united with Him now. And on that great and terrible day surely all men will see their folly and it will be too late.

Jesus had to make the point so clear. He couldn’t let people follow him at a distance, and feel that they were spiritually alright because they were around Jesus, when they hadn’t actually left everything behind to follow Him.

This is piercing. And it is such a tendency of our hearts…

Romans 1:16—For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

And for our temptation to be ashamed of Him, if anyone was going to be ashamed of someone it should be Him being ashamed of us. Every time we poorly represent His love, or His holiness. Every time we dishonor His character. But…

Hebrews 2:11—For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 

This is such a clarifying test of where our hearts are really at… the reality is you cannot follow Jesus in a way that doesn’t cost you.

“There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough-a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice-which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”

I would imagine that these words of Jesus echoed in Peter’s mind as he uttered curses to God before a slave girl denying that he even knew Jesus.

Friends, this is the call of discipleship. It will cost you everything. And if you are struggling in your obedience in any area, remind yourself of this truth. If you laid it all down to follow Jesus, then continue in the discipleship that you began.

This is what we signed up for. And really, Jesus main point here is that He requires your exclusive allegiance. You have one master, one Lord, one savior, to whom you give all and receive all.

You had to make the decisive change, but now you continue to walk in it, daily denying yourself.

Matthew 11:28–29—28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

The discipleship of Jesus is costly, but it isn’t burdensome. It isn’t like trying to atone for your own sin. That is burdensome. Following Jesus is costly, but He carries the burden of your sin and you get freedom.