“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38
We tend to think about this verse when we’re in a position to share with someone. We tell ourselves that if we don’t open our mouth, we’re ashamed of Christ.
And that’s good. But if we read this verse in context, it means much more. First of all, Peter had just rebuked Jesus for saying that he was going to suffer and die. So Jesus was telling his disciples that they shouldn’t be ashamed that he was going to take the way of disgrace and weakness.
Second, Jesus had just told his disciples that they should deny themselves and take up their cross. So Jesus was also telling his disciples that they, themselves, shouldn’t be ashamed of taking the way of disgrace and weakness.
A few years ago I studied the Bible with a Chinese student, Lin, who became a dear friend to me.
Lin loved God. We had so many good times reading the Bible together and talking.
But Lin had a hard time with Jesus. She literally said he was “weak.”
We forget what the cross looks like to an outsider. To her, someone strong wouldn’t have died. It wasn’t a example she wanted to follow.
What example are we not willing to follow? Being mistreated and wronged? Having people think badly of us?
Or maybe it’s more subtle. Maybe it’s hard to follow Christ when things don’t feel right, or don’t make sense. Think again of Peter. He gave up everything to follow Christ. But then he was queasy about the whole cross thing. Don’t we get queasy too? We start saying in our heart, “That isn’t the way it is supposed to go.” We draw lines, “Following Jesus doesn’t mean going that far.” Or we do follow, but we do it on our own terms. Or we follow, but inside, we’re grumbling and resisting.
Isn’t that also being ashamed? We’re not putting our heart behind Jesus and his mission.
I’m really convicted by the way Jesus followed God in “weakness.”
Jesus followed God in submission. He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:19) And also, “I have not spoken on My own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49)
Jesus told us, “Take my yoke upon you.” (Matt 11:29)
Wow. Do you think of Jesus being so submissive to God that he likened it to wearing a yoke? I haven’t ever led a team of oxen, but I have been on a horse. A bridle on is similar to a yoke. They both involve someone else being in control.
When I’ve ridden horses, I notice that they don’t like someone being in control of them. One time, when I was young, I was riding a little pony named Sweet Tarts. Sweet Tarts decided he didn’t like where I was going. He wanted to go back to the barn. He ran away with me and rode me straight into a chest high line of barbed wire. I grabbed onto the wire and slid off the back of the horse. I still have a tiny scar on my hand.
Well, like the saying goes, if you fall off a horse, you get right back on. I rode many times after that and stayed in better control. But the horses still fought me at times.
But isn’t that what we’re like? We submit to God and let him be in control, but sometimes we buck a bit, or want to go in a different direction.
I asked my aunt, who has lived all of her on a ranch with horses, if she had horses that didn’t fight her. She said she most certainly did. They key was that she worked with them regularly. Then they came to a point where they wanted to please and do as she asked.
Spending time with the master makes all the difference! The more we spend time with God, the more we will trust him and want to follow.
Do you know why I think Jesus said his yoke was easy? Because he didn’t fight God. He trusted God with his whole heart, and let God do the directing.
Let that be a lesson for us. We know the one who is holding the reins. He is a good master. He has taken care of us and shown his love in so many ways. We can relax, even through he is leading us in the valley of death. We can take the way of weakness and disgrace. We can stay the path, even when it feels wrong.
One more thing here. My aunt did tell me that there were some horses that never quit fighting her. “I just got rid of them and got another one,” she told me.
Yikes. Does that say something about God, if we keep being hard headed?
I want to close with a story of my friend Misha.
Misha’s dream is to coach softball. But it’s hard to find that kind of position. She started substitute teaching to make ends meet. This led to a wonderful thing. The school system hired her to work part time teaching coding to middle schoolers, and then to be an assistant coach for their high school softball team. It was a dream come true! It was even more a dream come true when the school system created a full time position with benefits for her the following year.
But the dream came with challenges. Misha was teaching 300 students a day, a different class every 30 minutes. She felt like she was drowning. She asked herself, “Is there a way I can do this and not grumble, but find joy?”
Misha wrestled with this, and found spiritual strength through her Bible and her relationships. She continued to be a light to her students, giving to them and encouraging them, and the administrators took notice. She was named the Teacher of the Month for October. They voted for her to receive the “I Make a Difference Award.” And then they awarded her with STEM Teacher of the Year.
“I am now content with where God wants me to be,” said Misha. “Seeing these kids strive to do good things, being able to make an impact, that makes it worth it,” she said. “Now I can see God’s plan a lot better. I’m grateful God has allowed me to go through all of that.” (If you’d like to read the complete version of Misha’s story, click HERE.)
Misha is a great example of someone who fought to follow God wholeheartedly.
Let’s wrestle to not be ashamed of Jesus on any level. Let’s take the way of weakness and disgrace without grumbling. And let’s learn to be joyfully submissive.
May the words of the old hymn, Blessed Assurance, inspire us:
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above;
Filled with his goodness, lost in his love. (From Blessed Assurance)