The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about worship is: God. This isn’t surprising. After all, God is the receiver of our worship. The triune God, three-in-one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, revealed to us in Jesus Christ is the object of our affections. I often worship God as the Almighty God, the unchangeable, powerful creator of the whole universe. It is true that God is mighty and powerful, but I also need to see God in another light, which brings me to my understanding of worship.
In Mark 8:27-38 Jesus asks the question of his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” They give varied answers based on who they thought that Jesus was. Peter, however, being quick to speak and somewhat overly self-confident exclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. After this Jesus sternly told them not to tell anyone about this. He also went on to say that he would be rejected, suffer, die, and rise again . Now, Peter didn’t want to have anything to do with this and rebuked Jesus. Jesus then said to Peter the ever-so-famous line, “Get behind me Satan!” Then, Jesus finishes with this teaching:
34 “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mark 8:34-36, NRSV)
So…what does this mean?
Why does Jesus tell them to be silent about his Messiahship?
I think it’s because Jesus knows that the disciples and Peter do not know what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah. To them, the Jewish messiah is a military hero and a strong leader who will lead Israel to victory over its foes. Jesus, however, has another things in mind.
In Jesus Christ, God is revealed to us as the suffering God. The God whose sacrificial blood is poured out on the cross for the salvation and freedom of the whole world. God suffers with humanity in the person of Christ Jesus. Through Christ God feels the pain, sin, and shame of humanity. This God whose mighty strength is revealed in the cross, revealed in the suffering… this is the God that we worship.
So how do we worship this suffering God? Jesus gives us the clear teaching at the end of this passage. To be a follower of Christ we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Following Jesus is self-sacrifice. Discipleship is self-sacrifice. Worship is self-sacrifice. Giving your life for others. Experiencing the suffering of others. This is where life is found and this is where we truly worship God.
Take up your cross. Lose your life. Worship the Triune God.