Explore The Bible Study: Followed

10:30 AM

Many adults find it difficult to let someone else lead. There is a sense that they are giving up some of their autonomy. They feel as if they can’t control things, and adults are increasingly pursuing the desire to be in control. When control or being the leader isn’t possible, the path many prefer is a neutral position. When given the options to “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” some would choose the latter. In the Explore the Bible Study: Followed, Mark provides some lessons from the life of Jesus and the disciples regarding what it means to follow Christ.

Mark had learned a lot about following and leading. He was accompanied by Barnabas (his cousin; Colossians 4:10) and Paul during their travels together (Acts 12:25). Yet, he eventually deserted Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:38) on their first missionary journey, which led to a rift between him and Paul. Yet, as all stories of relationships among those who follow Christ should be, Paul and Mark obviously reconciled (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark had matured in his faith through the years, resulting in Paul now considering him a valuable companion. Mark had learned many lessons about following Christ during that time.

This same Mark is the one who God chose to capture the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Chapters 1-8 of The Gospel of Mark focused on Jesus revealing to His family, the crowd, the religious leaders, and His own disciples, who He really was. Mark tells us of Jesus’s works of healing the sick, feeding the thousands, and demonstrating His power in amazing ways that continually revealed Jesus as the Son of God.

Now Mark brings us to a turning point in his writings and in Jesus’s life. It begins with Peter’s confession of Christ as the Messiah in Mark 8:27-30 while Jesus and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi. From this point on, Mark’s Gospel prepares us for Jesus’s death. The journey leads from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem and to Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. As the journey continues, Jesus begins to teach His disciples what it truly means to follow Him. Jesus begins in Mark 8:31-33 by revealing to them that one can’t follow without being obedient.

Following Requires Obedience to God’s Plans—Mark 8:31-33

With the word, “Then,” Jesus’s attention is turned toward Jerusalem and the path to the cross that lay ahead. Peter had made his confession regarding Jesus being the Messiah, and now the lessons would begin. He had so much to teach, and so little time left. The first lesson revealed to them the importance of obedience to God’s plans.

Imagine you were Peter. You have just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus has affirmed that your response is correct. Now Jesus tells you that He is going to suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then rise “after three days.” Why did Peter rebuke Jesus for saying this? What do you think was included in Peter’s rebuke (read between the lines)? Would you have responded any differently than Peter did?

Peter could not comprehend a Messiah who was going to suffer, much less die.  

“Jesus’s teaching that the Son of Man must suffer corresponds to Daniel’s prophecies that God was in complete control of the plan for redemption: The Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26); there would be a period of trouble (Daniel 9:27); and the king would come in glory (Daniel 7:13–14). The suffering also recalls Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. The fact that He was rejected looks back to the rejected “stone” in Psalm 118:22. Jesus was following God’s plan.” [Source: Bruce B. Barton, Mark, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), 236.]

One must assume that, while Peter was the one doing the rebuking, the other disciples would have shared the sentiment.  The Greek word for “rebuke” is one of a strong admonishment. It means to warn or to criticize sharply. While we don’t know the extent of the rebuke, we know it was harsh based on Jesus’s response. Jesus linked Peter’s “concerns” with Satan.

What is Jesus communicating to Peter when He says, “You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

Both Peter’s rebuke and the temptation in the wilderness that Jesus experienced were attempts to get Jesus to quit following God’s plan for His earthly mission of dying for the sins of all humanity.  Jesus’s response to Peter was extremely severe and emphasized that there would be no shortcut to salvation. 

No one was going to stand in the way of Jesus following His God-given mission. The Father’s plan was totally different from their expectations. God’s plan was the way of the cross.

Do believers today assume that suffering is not part of God’s plan? What if we knew what Jesus knew about His suffering and death? Would we continue to follow that path of obedience?

Now Jesus turns to the disciples and the crowd that was “following Him.” He relates what He has just said about death to what everyone must do to follow Jesus.

Following Requires Death—Mark 8:34-38

Jesus had just described how He was going to suffer and die, yet He would live again. Now He tells the crowd that if they want to be His followers they must do the same.

Had you been in the crowd, how would you have interpreted what Jesus was saying? Based on your understanding of Scriptures, what do you believe He was saying? What elements of this teaching points back to Peter’s rebuke and what we know Peter would eventually do prior to Jesus’s death?

Jesus listed a series of requirements for those who would follow Him. As noted, He wasn’t just speaking to the apostles in this setting. He was offering an open invitation to anyone who was willing to become His disciple. 

  • Denying self: Focuses on renouncing something or someone. It means saying no to your own plans and desires.
  • Taking up your cross: It would remind the listeners of a disturbing image. It’s the image of condemned criminals who were forced to carry their crosses to their own execution. As we take up our cross to follow Christ, we demonstrate our humility and our submission to God just as Jesus did.
  • Following Jesus: Emphasizes allegiance to Jesus regardless of the cost.
  • Lose your life: Those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him, will find true life. 

Jesus’s teaching connects directly to His previous interaction with Peter as well. Peter had encouraged Jesus not to deny self but to take the path of self-centeredness to avoid the cross. Peter could not imagine Jesus taking up a cross like a criminal, yet Jesus was willingly following God’s plans to do just that. Jesus was going to follow God’s plans even though it meant losing His life.

Peter was encouraging just the opposite. He was not being a very good follower of Christ at this point. Then, later, Peter would have one more lesson to learn as he committed the final act of disobedience. He was so ashamed of Christ that he denied Jesus three times when Jesus was arrested. Perhaps these words of Jesus were on Peter’s mind after He looked into the eyes of Jesus upon his final betrayal that night (Luke 22:54-62).

How would you personalize each of these requirements for yourself—deny self; take up your cross; follow Jesus; lose your life (because of Jesus and the gospel)? 

Finally, Jesus’s lesson on following Him comes to focal point as He teaches the crowd something about life after death (both physical and spiritual).

Following Jesus Results in Life—Mark 9:1

Mark did not offer any explanation to Jesus’s statement. Jesus was addressing both His disciples and a crowd of other followers.  While there are multiple ways people have interpreted this passage, one must look at the larger picture to possibly understand what Jesus was saying. This larger picture takes us to what takes place at the transfiguration.

Three of the disciples would see Jesus’s transfiguration and later provide testimony to His glory (Mark 9:2-8; 2 Peter 1:16-18). On the mountain, Peter, James, and John saw God’s power and glory in a way no one could imagine. Also, many in the crowd would serve as witnesses to Jesus’s resurrection and the Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost, which were powerful demonstrations of God’s power and glory on earth. 

Likewise, we can affirm that God’s power still moves in the lives of people. Every time someone accepts Jesus as Savior, He reveals His power. And perhaps Mark is reminding us that, when we follow Jesus, we are promised eternal life and the ongoing presence of Jesus in our lives. We will taste physical death, but the one who follows Christ will experience the power of the kingdom of God now and for eternity in ways one can’t imagine or even explain.

Are you really following Jesus?

We began with Peter not considering God’s purposes, but only his own natural human desires and feelings. His was a self-centered reaction. He desired a conquering king and not a suffering Servant as prophesied in Isaiah 53. He desired to experience the glory of following the Messiah but rejected the thought of persecution.

Make a list of ways in which people try to “gain the whole world” instead of following Jesus? Are there any of those ways that are a particular temptation to you? Ask God for the strength to turn away from them.

According to Jesus, what sort of attitude and behavior characterizes the person who “wants to save their life” (Mark 8:35)? Consider people you know who reflect this lifestyle and consider ways in which you can pray for them.

Bruce B. Barton states: “The Christian life is not a paved road to wealth and ease. It often involves hard work, persecution, deprivation, and deep suffering. Peter saw only part of the picture. Don’t repeat Peter’s mistake. Satan wants to deter us from sacrifice and service by telling us that our difficulties are meaningless, our pain is futile, and that evil will win anyway. Instead, focus on the good that God can bring out of suffering and on the resurrection that follows crucifixion.” [Source: Bruce B. Barton, Mark, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), 238.]

When we give our lives completely to following Christ, we will discover the real purpose of living.

Downloadable Teaching Helps 

Includes additional ideas and my plan I use to teach my Bible study group.

Download PDF Version

Download Word Version

LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

You Might Also Like


Popular Posts

Like us on Facebook

Latest From Twitter