In the early 1970’s Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice created the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It was a tremendous sensation and several songs became top 40 hits. This was the same time that the musical “Godspell” hit Broadway, and its’ hit song “Day by Day” climbed to number 13 on the Bill Board Top 40. This was also when the “Jesus Movement” was sweeping across North America, Canada and Europe. The cover of Life magazine from June 30, 1972 had photos of young people and the caption ‘‘The Great Jesus Rally in Dallas.” This six day rally was called Explo 72 and it drew literally hundreds of thousands of Christian youth. In music, the rock group Ocean recorded “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” which reached number 3 on the Bill Board. The Doobie Brothers version of “Jesus is Just Alright” reached number 35. Throughout most of the 70’s Jesus was a big hit.
In our text today, Jesus is a hit sensation in Palestine. Despite his best efforts to keep people quiet about his miracles, everyone knows that he has driven out demons, opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead. The people know that he has miraculously fed thousands. Even without the help of mass communications, Jesus was indeed a superstar. Jesus and his disciples were becoming well known and crowds pressed in on them wherever they went. Even when Jesus tried to get away to be alone, the people would find him.
It was in the midst of this “Jesus mania” (“This Jesus Must Die” from Jesus Christ Superstar) that Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, “Who do people say I am?” Today he might have asked, “What do the tabloids say about me? What about People and Us Magazines?” The disciples had been among the crowds and they had heard what people were saying: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” This is interesting and given the people’s messianic expectations, their answers were not surprising. Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” To which Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
At this point in their conversation Jesus began to explain to them what this truth meant for him. He told them that he would be rejected, suffer and be killed, “and after three days rise again.” This greatly upset Peter, because this is not what happens to a superstar. In his mind and in the minds of many, the Messiah was to be a glorious and triumphant figure destined for power and glory, not suffering and death. Jesus rebuked him and let him know that this suffering and passion is indeed what it means for Him to be the Messiah. Then he told Peter and the others what being a disciple of the Messiah would mean for them.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” What is this that you are saying Jesus? This isn’t the trip I signed up for. You are a suffering Messiah and you are calling us to deny ourselves and follow you in suffering service? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (German theologian who was martyred by the Third Reich) wrote the following in his book, The Cost of Discipleship: “The Cross is laid on every Christian…When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die…in return he is given the only true life there is.”
“Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus
Take Up Your Cross Every Day
Don’t Be Ashamed To Say That You Know Him
Count The Cost, Take Up Your Cross And Follow Him” Ray Boltz