Sermon On The Gospel Of Mark For The Sunday After The Exaltation Of The Cross (Mark 8:34-38 and 9:1)

Obedience and Submission to Christ with Self-Denial and Self-Sacrifice

Man is a free will. The word of God is to him the light and the guide according to which he ought to think, to act, and to behave. He must not have a will of his own, opposed to and contrary to the will of Cod. He must freely and voluntarily follow in the wake of the divine word of Christ; he must abjure and forgo his own selfish will, and must gladly and cheerfully obey the will of God and submit thereto, and to accept and execute it even though it involve the loss of his bodily life. This obedience is a case of man bumbling himself toward God with superb humility arising from an inner and firm recognition of the divine as the supreme law and highest ruling authority, in accordance wherewith he must think, wish, act, and behave under all circumstances. When he exhibits such obedience and submission a man is praised and admired, as having the highest virtue of self-denial and of self-sacrifice, by reason of which he denies himself and his own wishes, and accepts and does the will of God at the sacrifice of his own life.

Christ recommended this self-denial and self-sacrifice to His disciples by telling them these sublime words: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Will, denial, self­-sacrifice – this is the road leading to Christ which every Christian ought to travel in order to become worthy of everlasting honors. I wish to behave precisely as Christ lays down the law to me, and, denying my own wishes, I submit wholly to the good and man-saving will of Christ, and I patiently endure every temptation, and scorn every danger, while, on the other hand, I risk my life, and I die faithful and obedient to the will of Christ! I take up my cross, and follow Him. For, if I wish to save my transitory bodily life, and avoid the risks required by virtue, the afflictions, the reproaches for the sake of Christ, and death itself, and I deny the will of Christ, and behave according to the sentiments of my love of life and with a view to preserving my earthly life, it is certain that I shall lose my soul for ever by being condemned by divine justice as a coward, as a renegade, as a betrayer of the truth, as unworthy of Christ and of the kingdom of God, because I made a bad choice, stupidly preferring what is worse to what is better, what is transitory and ephemeral to what is everlasting, and what is vain and useless to what is true.

But if I disregard all things that are vain, and even risk my very life on earth and lose it, for the sake of Christ and of the Gospel, or, in other words, for the sake of the Christian faith and righteousness and love, and I become a witness of the Christian truths in word and in deed, by obeying the will of Christ perfectly, I save my soul for ever in the future, rejoicing and exulting in the kingdom of Christ. This is what Christ means by saying: ”For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35) Where, then, is our everlasting salvation? Christ tells us: in perfect obedience to Him with self-sacrifice and self-denial. But where, on the other hand, is everlasting perdition of the soul? Christ tells us: in disobedience and disrespect to Him, and in our living after the flesh! When we obey Christ and execute His wishes even in the face of death, we are therefore of Christ. But when we show disrespect to Christ and give in to our own impulses and desires and selfish wishes, we are manifesting opposition to Christ, and are entering into a close alliance with the Devil, for we are executing his will.

But what profit have we, even though we gain the whole world – that is to say, even though we enjoy all terrestrial, or earthly, blessings and boons – ­if we lose our immortal soul – that is to say, if we be condemned for ever as unworthy of God and of Christ, and be excluded from the delightful enjoyment of the everlasting blessings and boons What profit have we if we prefer on earth the life of the body and transgress or disregard our Christian duties, deny faith and love to Christ out of fear lest we lose our earthly life and opportunity for enjoyment in trying to retain the right to life everlasting, and if after death we be condemned for ever, and incur everlasting punishment? or what can we then give in exchange in order to acquire a right to everlasting life, after having been judged by divine justice to deserve everlasting perdition? That is what the Lord meant when He said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).

Whoever understands the value of Christ, makes His words his rule of conduct, of life, and does not feel ashamed to confess before other men the fact that he is a Christian, that he believes in the words of Christ, and to reproach or rebuke the cunning and wicked world by means of the light derived from the words of Christ, to censure Satanocracy by means of the idea of Christocracy, to discredit false religions by exhibiting the truth of the Christian religion, to refute false philosophies by means of Christian philosophy and science, and to denounce the false political systems by means of the Christian political state. In censuring the Satanocratic world he rejoices, for he is conscious of doing the most sacred duty, because he is confessing Christ before other men to be the Son of God, and the Son of man, the Origin and Governing Head of religion, of the political state, and of philosophy. He manfully and bravely and patiently endures every temptation that is raised up to thwart him, and every danger that presents itself to deter him from doing his duty, and, finally, he dies a martyr to this sacred confession of the Truth.

So it is safe to say that Christ will not be ashamed of this open and unashamed martyr to the Truth to confess him before God and the Angels on that glorious day when He comes to reign as king and rides in triumph over all. Quite to the contrary, He will then put to shame and cover with disgrace openly those who have been deniers and recreants out of fear lest they lose human honors and glories, or out of desire to avoid jeers and reproaches, or with a view to preserving their earthly life, and who have been ashamed to confess Christ before other men! That is what the Lord meant when He said the following words: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8: 38).

Hence it is to be logically concluded that we who believe in Christ ought also to obey Him, and to execute faithfully His laws and His commandments, abjuring entirely our own personal will, and subjecting ourselves completely to that of Christ until we die and even in the face of imminent death. Complete obedience to Christ even to the point of self-sacrifice makes us fearless in the face of death, and courageously steadfast in opposing temptations and in facing dangers, fearless in open and frank confession of the name of Christ before the eyes of the cunning and wicked world, and clarion-voiced censurers of Satanocracy with the avowed object of abolishing it altogether, but, on the other hand, confessors and workers for the purpose of enabling Christocracy to be established in the world. So, my dear friends, let us put on the robe with faith in Christ and perfect obedience to Him and discipline with self-denial and self-sacrifice, in order that we may save ourselves for ever and become saviors of others by means of our open and outspoken confession in favor of Christ, the Truth itself. Amen!

This lesson is from the book titled “Kyriakodromion (Sunday Sermonary)” by Apostolos Makrakis, republished into English in 1951 by The Orthodox Christian Education Society

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