The date: May 21, 1946. The location: Los
Alamos, New Mexico. The experiment: To determine the amount of
U-235 necessary for a chain reaction for the atomic bomb.
In his effort to discover the amount of uranium it
takes to produce the “critical mass,” scientist Louis Slotin would
push two hemispheres of uranium together. At precisely the right
moment he would interrupt the chain reaction by prying the two
spheres apart with the common screwdriver. But not on May 21 for just
as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped. The
uranium hemispheres bounced to close together and instantly the room
was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. All Slotin would have to do
is duck and he would be saved, but instead he tore the two
hemispheres apart with his bare hands and interrupted the chain
His unselfish act saved the lives of the seven
other individuals that occupied that room. The chain reaction did
not instantly kill him. As he waited for the black sedan that would
whisk him away to a local hospital, he said to his companion, “You’ll
come through all right. But I haven’t the faintest chance myself.”
His prediction came true for in less than two weeks later he died in
Two thousand years ago, Jesus, whom Mark calls,
“The Son of Man” walked directly into the most concentrated radiation
of sin’s power ever and allowed himself to be touched by its curse,
and let it take his life. By that selfless act he broke the chain
reaction . . . he broke the power of sin!5
The text centers on the priority of the cross and
the words of Jesus that state, “If anyone would come after me, he
must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34
I. The Cross Changes our Understanding of Jesus. Mark 8:31-33.
Our understanding of Jesus is that he is the
suffering Savior. The truth is evident that he must suffer under the
persecution of the “Elders . . . chief priest and the scribes” (v.
31). He will go to trial and his Lordship, Sonship, and Sovereignty
will be totally rejected (v.31). Not only will he be rejected, but
he will be “killed” (v.31). As crucial as the cross of death is it
only serves the purpose of human redemption. The life giving blood
that will flow down the wooden cross will only drip into the lives of
anyone who will accept the truth.
Our understanding of Jesus must also recognize the
powerful Savior. His suffering sustains the truth that the blood of
Jesus paves the way for the Resurrection of the Son of Man as proof
positive of human redemption and eternal life. This power of
redemption is in no other person.
II. The Cross Rebukes the Plans of Satan. Mark 8:33.
The cross looms large in the mind of Jesus. He
knows that the time is fast approaching when God the Father will ask
Him to climb upon the cross to suffer and die. As a dear friend
Peter rebukes Jesus for insinuating that he must die because Peter
envisions Jesus as a secular successful monarch. A few words
strategically placed could assure Christ of a following that could
wrestle power out of the hand of Israel’s ruling party and possibly
out of Rome’s grip. Jesus needed words of forceful power to set
Israel aflame with passion. Jesus, however, understands that
spiritual life is at stake, not the materialism of secular society.
It is a matter of eternity, not the temporary struggle of today.
Heaven not hell should be humankind’s destiny and the Cross will rebuke
the plans of Satan to fool people into thinking “live today for
tomorrow may never come.” Jesus sees the real issue of the heart
and lifestyle of people. Sin must be overcome and the way of the
cross is God’s plan. David McKenna pointedly states, “Slow to
recognize the Person of Christ in the healing of human hurts, Peter
reacts with lightning speed against the Purpose of Christ in the
righting of human wrongs. Do we share his guilt in confessing the
Christ who serves us while rejecting the Savior who suffers for us?”
III. The Cross Calls for Disciples. Mark 8:34-35
After the rebuking of Peter, Jesus turns to the
other disciples and those in the crowd to say, “If anyone would come
after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
This is not a call for the weak hearted. It is a
challenge to live life to its fullest. Jesus came to make people
reach their potential not to make life easy. In so doing we say “no”
to self and “yes to Jesus. Our actions are now God centered, not
self centered. As a follower of Jesus we are prompted to live the life
that Jesus calls us to . . . a life of purpose, service, freedom and
spirituality. It is on the highest level of life that the call comes
to be a disciple of Jesus . . . but it will cost us our own cross!
The priority of the cross is you! That’s why Jesus died . . . for you!
Sermon brief provided by: Derl
Keefer, Adult Development Ministries Coordinator in the Sunday School
Department, Nazarene World Headquarters, Kansas City, MO