A Religion Like No Other 3) Suffering Without Shame

Mark 8:31-38 ● 2024-02-25 ● Lent Series: A Religion Like No Other Listen

Have you ever wanted to hide something about your job? There are so many movie plots and storylines based around someone becoming embarrassed because of their job. In some places it can be devastating to be ashamed of your employment status. There are numerous articles that have tried to explain the heightened shame people have in Japan when they lose their job. Apparently, it is regarded as so highly shameful to be unemployed that many go on pretending to have a job just to avoid the stigma. They spend money, ride the subway, and put on a suit each day to avoid the shame of not having a job. And you see that flow into other cultures as well. How many Hallmark movies aren’t built around the plot of a man losing his job just before Christmas and the man hiding it from his family? Even those who have a job can be ashamed of it. How many drama movies are built around the plot of a man with a lowly job who lies about it and pretends to be some bigshot in a high-paying job? Job shame can make for some hard times for some people. Or at the least we can all laugh about how it plays out in the movies.

Being ashamed of your career or lack of it is one thing. But what about your religion? Might there ever be a time when someone is ashamed of some aspect of their religion? That happens and people try to hide it. And it even happens in the Christian faith. But today we see once again what makes the Christian religion unlike any other. We read in Mark 8 about one man who was ashamed of the path of his discipleship. But Jesus pointed him back in the right direction.

Jesus’ disciples were full-time students preparing to serve him. They had been following Jesus for almost three years. And so far, they had hardly faced much shame. They had witnessed Jesus performing amazing miracles. They were eyewitnesses of his power as he rebuked the storm. Jesus brought the dead back to life. Jesus was loved and popular with many crowds of people. Being a disciple was anything but humiliating so far. Peter, in fact, had just proudly confessed who Jesus really was. He proudly declared who he followed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Perhaps Peter expected clear roads and constant accolades in the days ahead. He hadn’t yet come to realize what following Jesus involves. So, Jesus plainly told him what to expect. It’s what we all should expect as we follow Christ.

On many earlier occasions Jesus had hinted at what was to come. And he says it must come because he knows the prophecies. But now Mark records that Jesus spoke plainly and openly to them about it: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this.” That was probably worse than a job loss for Peter. To Peter it had to have felt like he suddenly lost his high position and was being placed at the bottom. Peter went from follower of the Son of God to follower of a man of sorrows. He went from follower of a man who healed all ills follower of a man who would suffer many things. Peter went from a disciple of someone praised by many to a disciple of one rejected by the prominent leaders of the people. Peter found himself following the Son of the Living God who was about to suffer and die.

When you hear about a job loss or position change it alters your world. How about a total 180 perspective on your religion? Some Christians are caught off guard by this aspect of their faith. They hear preachers promise them a good life and blessings. They are told that if they just turn to Jesus their life will all turn for the better. Those poor souls are shocked when they don’t see the results and experience the opposite. What about you? When you face suffering as a Christian does it sometimes catch you off-guard? Or do you wonder what you’re signed up for?

Peter wouldn’t have it. He took Jesus aside for a quick conference. Peter didn’t seem to fully understand what Jesus meant. But he knew he had to do everything to stop it. He rebuked the Son of the Living God.

Jesus turned towards Peter and faced all the other disciples. And then Jesus in turn rebuked Peter with the harshest terms. “Get behind me, Satan, for you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” Jesus clearly intended his rebuke to reach the other disciples. When a leader in God’s church teaches that the Christian religion is only about success and acceptance and without suffering, they need a rebuke. Many will promise a religion of prosperity. But that is the religion Satan wants us to adapt. He wants us to shirk all suffering and avoid it at all costs.

And we also need the same rebuke when we seek to do whatever it takes to avoid pain or suffering. The devil wants to get us to avoid enduring shame and to avoid following a Savior who endured shame.

That is Satan’s plan. He wants all Christians to think that the very first sign of suffering is a sign that we’re on the wrong path. He uses shame and suffering to get Christians to abandon Christ. He points to the suffering and shame of Christ as if it is a bad and shameful thing. Satan would have the world reject and mock a Savior who suffered. And he delights in seeing Christian men and women abandon Christ in order to abandon all suffering and shame.

Jesus then called his disciples and all the crowds together. He knows not just Peter and the disciples need to hear this. All God’s people, including us, need to hear what he says about suffering and shame. Jesus began a lesson on discipleship. “You want to follow me? Then deny yourself and follow me. Take up your cross and follow me.”

Deny yourself? That means forget about your own comforts and interests and think about what God considers best. Just think about how Peter would later fail to deny himself. How far he went putting himself and his own interest first! In order to avoid suffering because he followed Jesus, he denied Jesus! “I don’t Know the man… I don’t know the man. I don’t know the man! …because I don’t want to suffer too.” This brought him to a pitiful state of tears when he realized how he failed to deny himself and ended up denying his Lord!

When we fail to deny ourselves, it is often for fear of bearing our own cross. Jesus uses the term “cross” here to refer not to just any suffering, but suffering because you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. We all carry our cross, the hardship and pain that is ours for following Christ. Picture Jesus Christ suffering the greatest pain on the cross, and a long line of every single believer carrying their own cross, suffering because they look to Jesus as their Savior. You are in that line carrying your cross. Some bear heavier crosses than others, but we all bear our own cross.

Our confession brings a cross and suffering. Satan says: “Isn’t is it embarrassing to even talk about Jesus Christ crucified outside of this building? It’s better not to mention Christ crucified to that family member or relative so that you can better enjoy temporary worldly peace with them. Isn’t it sometimes best to just avoid entering the conversation at work when it might involve a bold presentation sin and grace? Isn’t it easier to pretend that all Christian’s believe the same thing? Don’t your silly fellowship practices and attempts to keep doctrinal purity only bring needless suffering?”

Our Christian living can bring suffering. Satan says: “Isn’t it easier to let your children listen to and watch movies that stand against all that is Christian and right in God’s eyes because then their friends will think you’re the cool mom.” And isn’t Satan right when he tempts the teenager, “Just break your connection to Christ. Let it go just for once and your life will run much better.”

How do we answer these questions? We all know the answers to these questions with “the things of men” on our mind. Yes. It is easier. Yes, I avoid suffering. Yes, I can set aside my discipleship to avoid uneasiness and pain. And add onto this: Yes, the unbelieving world around me doesn’t seem to be plagued with these troubles and difficulties. Satan would have you carefully ponder potential cases where you must carry your cross. You start to become anxious when you consider your life following Jesus. His lies slither in: “God wants you to take the hard way! Don’t you see!”

Praise God that although we may fail to keep in mind the things of God, Jesus never did. He didn’t waver from God’s plan of saving the sinner! “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Ph 2:8) Yes, he knew the many things that he would suffer. Those things included shame, ridicule, and mockery. “Hail King of the Jews!” they mocked. And this suffering included what we all deserve! God the Father turned his glorious face away from his own Son. Jesus suffered the horrible pain of rejection, not by the Sanhedrin, but by God himself! God forsook Jesus. You could say he denied, yes, disowned Jesus as he took our place on the cross.

This all was part of the divine plan of salvation for sinners. Jesus, because of his great love for the sinful world, said “The Son of Man must…do these things.” Jesus did not give in for a single moment to the worldly thinking of “me, me, me.” In perfect and immeasurable love Jesus put the sinner first “for them, I will … suffer, be condemned, die.”

But God’s plan doesn’t end there! In remarkable plainness Jesus spoke of his resurrection to life! He even indicated that he would rise on the third day! Proving himself victorious and defeating Satan and all his lies Jesus again took up his position of glory with a glorified body risen to life. There is no shame in one who suffers and receives life and glory!

Jesus told his disciples they live in a wicked generation. It despises the suffering of Christ. And it considers all who follow him to shamefully deserve mockery and suffering. But all will see Jesus come again. And he who died and rose will not come back to suffer. He will come in his glory. He warns all who are ashamed of him today that he will be ashamed of them when he comes again. There is no other religion, no other way. They all end in shame.

But ours is a religion like no other. We have nothing to hide, no shame in Christ who suffered and no shame in suffering as we follow him. We can suffer without shame because we know Christ suffered for us. But he also rose. And he also comes again in glory! There is no shame in suffering for following him! There will be glory!

Because of Jesus, our focus is no longer on self. To our very selves which so tightly cling altogether to the things of this world we say, “I don’t know you.” We put Christ in place of self. Our life is no longer seeking to remove all discomforts for ourselves but bearing all suffering for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. Forgetting ourselves we cling to Christ. We understand what Peter wrote just before he suffered and died for the sake of Christ. “But even if you should happen to suffer because of righteousness, you are blessed. Do not be afraid of what they fear, and do not be troubled.” (1 Pt 3:14) Ours is a religion like no other. We suffer without shame. And we look forward to the glory that is ours when Christ comes again.