Choosing the Narrow Way (Mark 8.34)
“When [Jesus] had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me,
- Let him deny himself,
- And take up his cross,
- And follow Me.”
Jesus calls the people with His disciples. The way of discipleship was not exclusively an apostolic way. It is the way for all faithful believers across every culture and generation. It is the way as in it is the only way. It is the truth. It is the life. If I am to enter the narrow gate and traverse the narrow way, I must be saved. Then, I must choose to become a disciple of Jesus. He tells me what that choice looks like in Mark 8.34.
- I must deny myself. This means no more narcissism. Choosing the narrow means choosing a path that continually leads me away from the idolatry of being self-centered.
- I must take up my cross. This means I will not deny Jesus or deny the suffering and shame that characterize daily discipleship. I am willing to suffer for Jesus and for others.
- I must follow Jesus. This means I follow on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I must press on in my follow-ship under His leadership. He is heading toward Jerusalem and death in Mark 8. If I would follow Jesus, I must also face death figuratively speaking. I must experience death to self. I follow Jesus and depart from my own path. This is a daily choice I make.
Facing the Consequences (Mark 8.35 – 38)
Jesus now lists three consequences of accepting or rejecting the narrow way of discipleship.
- “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
- For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
- For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Whoever desires to save his physical life will lose the true meaning and essence of life. His life will not have an eternal quality to it. Conversely, whoever loses his physical life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake will find the true meaning and essence of life. That is, he will live a life that has eternal quality to it.
- Unbelievers will lose eternal life in the sense of experiencing ultimate separation from God in Hell.
- Believers will lose out in the sense of a loss of eternal rewards. They will miss out on the full inheritance God intends for them and Jesus won for them.
If I want to control of my life, I must be prepared to suffer loss of something far more valuable in the future. That’s the consequence of living for the here and now. However, if I give up control to follow the path God has for me now, I will gain something far more valuable in the future.
There is no profit in gaining all the world has to offer and lose my soul in the process. It is unfathomable that I would exchange my soul for possessions, position, power, and pleasure in this life. However, if I do, then it is because I have made this choice. I will not be able to reverse course once Jesus returns or I die. I alone am responsible.
Whoever, believer or unbeliever, is ashamed of Jesus and His words, of Him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
- Unbelievers will know acute shame for rejecting Jesus. They will be finally and ultimately rejected.
- Believers will be ashamed and suffer loss of reward.
Either I am genuine with a faith that follows the narrow way of the cross or I live a life concerned only with my goals, dreams, and aspirations. Jesus is the Suffering Servant that will occupy the throne of judgment in power and glory with the Father. I am His disciple. It would be good for me to come to grips with that and bear my own cross daily.
The way of faith believes and then sees. The way of the world sees and then believes. There is the gentle, gradual progression of faith for which I owe gratitude to Jesus, my merciful and loving Savior. There is the way of cross-bearing as it develops a faith that truly follows. It is a way of suffering. It is not comfortable. It is the way of discipleship. It gives my life eternal purpose and quality. I trust that God will teach me to exchange my priorities in life for His. True satisfaction belongs to a faith that chooses the narrow way and faces the consequences of that choice.
Jesus, And Shall It Ever Be – Joseph Grigg, 1765
Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?
Ashamed of Jesus! sooner far
Let evening blush to own a star:
He sheds the beams of light divine
O’er this benighted soul of mine.
Ashamed of Jesus! just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon;
‘Tis midnight with my soul till He,
Bright, Morning Star, bid darkness flee.
Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His name.