This article/commentary addresses Jesus’ statement about being ashamed of Him from Mark 8:38. It answers the questions what does it mean and what does it not mean?
Have you ever been embarrassed by someone you are associated with? They did something or said something that was humiliating. As a result, you acted like you didn’t know who they were. Maybe they didn’t do anything or say anything wrong, but the people you were with didn’t like them, thought they were weird, and rejected the person for some reason and as a result, you were afraid if they knew you were close to that person they might reject you. Either way, have you ever felt ashamed that you knew someone?
This sense of shame is a strategy the devil will try to use on you when it comes to Jesus. It is subtle and very dangerous. Let me remind you that Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV). Your sinful nature, the world, and the kingdom of darkness are going to want you to be embarrassed about your relationship with Jesus and humiliated about what Jesus says is right and wrong. Jesus addresses this internal conflict. When Jesus talks about being ashamed of Him, He is not talking about those little moments when you are afraid to speak of for Jesus or are intimidated by others regarding your relationship with Him. He is talking about something deeper, much deeper.
Look at what Jesus says in Mark 8:34-38, “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (NLT). Wow! That is pretty strong language from Jesus. He is laying down the hammer when it comes to our relationship with Him. If we are ashamed of Him, then He will be ashamed of us. What does that mean? Let’s make sure we are understanding what Jesus is actually saying here.
Jesus begins by saying, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message….” Let’s stop there. Circle that word “ashamed.” What does that mean?
The word “ashamed” (epaischunomai) means to be reluctant through fear of humiliation. It is to reject, despise, and find unacceptable. This is another word for “unbelief.” The person who is “ashamed” of Jesus is the person who will not deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. They would be embarrassed if someone thought they were a follower of Jesus. To them, that would be shameful. This person does not want to have anything to do with Jesus. They are ashamed of Jesus and His message. They would be embarrassed if someone thought they believed in Jesus and believed in what He said.
This person is described in Philippians 3:19 which says, “Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame; and they are focused on earthly things” (CSB). One aspect of their shame is they take pride in the fact they are not a follower of Jesus and they do not want to be associated with Him in any way.
Let’s talk about Peter for a moment. Jesus has just been arrested and we pick up the story in Luke 22:54,
So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” 57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!” 58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. 59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. (NLT)
Peter denied Jesus three times! Three times!! Was Peter ashamed of Jesus? Was He embarrassed to be associated with Jesus? Yes! But he was not “ashamed” of Jesus in the way Jesus is talking about in Mark 8. The “ashamed” in Mark 8 deals with a person’s heart who has rejected Jesus outright. The denial of Jesus by Peter is done by someone who actually loves Jesus, but was afraid of what might happen to him with the guards standing there. Peter denied Jesus three times. The rooster crowed. Jesus looked at Peter. Peter remembered what Jesus had said earlier and it broke Peter’s heart regarding what he had just said and done so Peter left the courtyard “weeping bitterly.” Peter loved Jesus, but he immediately regretted denying that he knew Jesus.
It’s similar to the wife who says something to their husband that was unkind and rude and mean, but in reality they do love their husband. They only said it out of emotion and not what they truly believe. That was Peter.
So those moments where you don’t speak up for Jesus because of fear or those times you don’t defend God’s truth about something is not what Jesus is talking about in Mark 8.
of me and my message
So Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message.” Jesus mentions two things specifically.
- First, Jesus mentions being ashamed of Him. To be ashamed of someone is to be embarrassed by them and to be embarrassed to be associated with them. There is something about them you are ashamed of. Because of who they are and what they stand for you despise them, reject them, and find them unacceptable. So the idea of Jesus being the Son of God, the Messiah, God in the flesh, The Lamb of God or the Savior of the world is strange, odd, and embarrassing to you to the point that you reject Jesus for who He really is then Jesus has no alternative but to reject you when He returns. Paul told Timothy, “If we deny him, he will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12, NLT).
- Secondly, Jesus mentions being ashamed of his “message.” What is His message? Let’s go back to the beginning of Mark. The first thing Jesus says in Mark is found in Mark 1:15 where Jesus says, “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (NLT). The message of Jesus deals with repenting of your sins and believing in the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. Jesus is saying, “If you find my message unacceptable and reject it, then when I return I will have no alternative but to find you unacceptable and reject you.” Paul understood this, but he also understood the power of the Lord’s message. That’s why Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes” (NLT). Paul is saying, “I accept it, receive it, identify with, and am convinced that the Good News about Christ is the power of God and can save anyone at any time in any place.”
When Jesus says, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you,” He is not being mean or harsh. This is not said out of anger or disappointment. This is said out of love and compassion. This is a compassionate warning that He wants us to seriously consider.
In these adulterous and sinful days
Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days.” Whether it’s the “days” of Jesus or the “days” of today every generation lives in an “adulterous and sinful” generation. In the big picture of things Jesus is referring to spiritual adultery. Instead of loving God, we live in a generation where people are lovers of themselves. They become their own god, they love themselves more than God, and are committing spiritual adultery with themselves. Paul describes this generation in 2 Timothy 3:1, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (NLT). Every believer must learn how to love Jesus in the midst of a world that does not.
the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person
Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (NLT). Our response to Jesus today determines His response to us in the future. If we reject His love today, He must reject us in the future. Hebrews 9:27 says that “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (NLT). To help you understand what Jesus is saying, take the word “ashamed” and think “reject.” It reads like this, “If any rejects me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will reject that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels
Let’s look at this statement by Jesus one more time, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (NLT). The return of the Lord is going to happen. We don’t know exactly when, but it will occur. Every event about Jesus prophesied in the Bible has occurred regarding his birth, death, and resurrection. The only event left is the return of Christ. We don’t know when His return will happen, but it will happen.
I want you to listen carefully to what Paul told some believers in 1 Thessalonians 5 about the return of Jesus: “Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. 4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. 8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. 9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thess. 5:1-11, NLT).
- You do not need to be ashamed of Jesus in any way. He is Lord. He is awesome. He is wonderful!
- Even though you live among sinful people who reject and ignore Jesus, you can accept and love Him. You can be a witness to them of His grace and love.