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Whose Will Are You Following?

Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" ~ Mark 8:27-36 (NLT)

When Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah, I’m sure all of Heaven stood and rejoiced.

Why? Because up until then, the only ones who saw Jesus as the Messiah were the demons He was casting out! However, Heaven’s rejoicing wouldn’t last long, for in the proceeding verses Jesus paints a gloomy picture for His followers, telling them that He would be arrested, beaten, and killed.

We are then told that Peter, who just called Jesus the Messiah, takes Him aside and rebukes Him for saying such things. I can just picture Peter grabbing Jesus by the arm and leading Him from the eleven other disciples. The big fisherman pulls himself close to the Lord and says, “Jesus, come on now. You’re scaring the others. Let’s not talk about dying. We’re just getting started. The crowds are building. You’re on the verge of being crowned king!”

You see if Jesus dies, Peter’s dream shatters. He doesn’t want to surrender this dream. He’s one of just twelve men hand-picked by Jesus. Not only that, he was one of Jesus’ inner three. As Jesus gains in popularity, Peter gets all the residual benefits. When the crowds follow Jesus, they are following Peter too. If Jesus becomes king and ruler, Peter will gain power as well. Surely, Jesus would make him ruler over some province.

The death of Jesus would mean the death of Peter’s dream. To all of this, Jesus says some words that I’m sure were burned into Peter’s mind. "If any of you wants to be my follower," He told them, "you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?”

Peter, and all those listening in, would have known exactly what Jesus meant by “shoulder your cross.” Death on the cross was a form of execution used regularly by the Romans. A prisoner shouldering his cross was a picture to all on-lookers of submission to Rome’s power. Jesus used this symbolism to signify His followers’ need to surrender to Him and His will

In essence, Jesus was saying to Peter, and all of us, “If you say I am the Messiah, the Son of God, your Lord and Savior, then you must live like it. If you want to follow Me, if you want to truly experience all that I have for you, then you need to surrender yourself to Me fully.”

Jesus says that if we try to keep our lives for ourselves (that is, if we try to live “unsurrendered”) then we will eventually lose our life because real life is found only in Him. But if we give up our life, if we surrender to Him, then we will find true life. A life beyond anything we could ever imagine.

For those who think that surrender is too high a price, Jesus reminds us, “What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul in the process?”

In other words, is that relationship, that job, that hobby, that sport, that website, that grudge, that movie, that dalliance, that dream, that whatever, really worth your soul? I don’t think so.

Are you ready to take that thing you haven’t surrendered and lay it at Jesus’ feet? Can you give it up? Will you put aside the temporary and gain the eternal? I hope so.

Whatever we have on earth is only temporary. What God offers us through Jesus Christ is eternal. Jim Elliot, the famous missionary who died for his faith at the hands of Auca Indians, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He’s right.

Don’t fight God. Don’t write “Never surrender!” on your heart.

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