Sermon for February 28, 2021 — Don’t Miss the Point!
First Lesson: Genesis 28:10-17:
10Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Psalm 73 on Page 94 in Christian Worship
I am always with you, O Lord;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Second Lesson: Romans 5:1-11:
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Gospel Lesson/Sermon Text: Mark 8:31-38:
31He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Here is a little scene that repeats itself all too often in my house. My wife will come home from work or from running an errand or two and she will ask me if I made the appointment that she had asked me to. I look up, thunderstruck, and say no! I then will hurriedly grab my phone, look up the number that I was supposed to look up when she was gone, and try to make the appointment. While I’m doing that, I am conscious of the fact that my wife is a little miffed at me. So, while I’m in the process of doing what she had asked me to do, I look at her and say, “Don’t be mad at me. I’m doing what you wanted me to do.” She will look back at me and say, “You’re missing the whole point. I’m not mad that you didn’t make the appointment; I’m mad that, once again, you didn’t listen to me in the 1st place!” Missing the point is something that we do all the time in life. Another example is when you see some television commentator talking about something that a politician has done an completely mischaracterizing what is that he said or did. You wonder if the commentator saw or heard the same thing that you did, because it seemed as if they completely missed the point of what the politician was doing or saying. In this portion of scripture, we see Peter completely missing the point of what Jesus had just revealed to him. Let’s not make the same mistake.
Don’t Miss Jesus’ Point!
I. His cross doesn’t equal shame
II. Our cross doesn’t equal loss
This was getting to be close to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Up until this time, he had been dropping hints to his disciples about what he was going to have to do to accomplish his mission. Now, however, he got his disciples away from the crowds and went up to a largely gentile region just North of the sea of Galilee. While at that spot, in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, he asked them what the crowds were saying about him. The disciples reported that some of them thought that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Others thought that he was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament raised from the dead. But Jesus wanted to know what his disciples thought about him. Peter, acting as the spokesman of the group, made the bold confession, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God.” Jesus told his disciples not to let anyone know what they had just confessed, because so many of them would get the wrong idea of what his role of Messiah was supposed to be.
Of course, the disciples also didn’t get the point of what Jesus’ messiahship was supposed to be. We see that in our text because Jesus took that opportunity to explain to them exactly what it meant that he was the anointed one of God. He told them that he was going to go to Jerusalem, the leaders of the people were going to reject him as Messiah, they would condemn him, they would put him to death, and after three days he would rise again. This is a very terse, yet accurate, description of what he would have to do according to Old Testament prophecy. You would think that it would be difficult for anyone to misunderstand what Jesus had to say to them at that time. When you know what the Old Testament foretold about the savior, Jesus’ description of what would happen fit perfectly with those Old Testament prophecies. Isaiah had foretold a suffering servant would bring healing to the world through his wounds. All the sacrifices spoke about the shedding of blood to bring the forgiveness of sins , etc.
But, of course, we see the disciples missed the point entirely. We see that especially in the actions of Peter, who often acted as the spokesman for the group. Mark describes how Peter took Jesus aside at that time, rebuked him, and told him that this could never be. You see, he and the other disciples had in mind a glorious future For Jesus and for them. They all foresaw him taking the throne of his father David in power and in glory. They all for saw Jesus giving them power and authority in this glorious earthly Kingdom. They could not fathom that anyone would reject Jesus, especially after all of the powerful things that he had said and done during his ministry. They could not imagine that Jesus would willingly, given the fact that he had all that power and glory, give himself over to suffer and die.
It is at this time that Jesus review Peter. He spoke the rather harsh words, “Get behind me, Satan!” he told Peter that he did not have in mind the things of God, but only human concerns. Why did he call Peter Satan at this time? It could simply be that he was using the word Satan as a way of designating anyone who was an adversary, someone who was opposed to what needed to be done. However, Peter , without knowing it, had taken the position of Satan. Satan did not want Jesus to do anything that would strip him of his power. He didn’t want Jesus to pay for the sins of the world. When Satan tempted Jesus personally in the wilderness, all of his temptations were about getting Jesus to turn aside from his mission. This is why Jesus rebuked Peter so strongly. His words reflected the will of Satan.
Jesus wanted his disciples to know that his suffering and death was not something that was shameful period he wanted them to understand that this has been God’s will from the beginning of time. This was going to be the act by which Satan’s power would be crushed while his heel would be wounded. In this Lenten season, we look at Jesus’ suffering and death with mixed emotions. We grieve for what he had to suffer. We know from history that crucifixion was the cruelest of all capital punishments. More than that, we know that Jesus experienced not just the physical agony of the cross , but also the tortures of hell when his father forsook him on the cross. However, we also look at Jesus’ suffering and death as the most glorious event in all of history. It was at that spot we’re both God’s intense anger over sin and his unconditional love of sinners met in one place. The Romans had design crucifixion to bring shame upon the one who was suffering, but this was going to be a glorious death on the cross . This was going to be a death that would accomplish God’s purpose.
Now, after he let the disciples know that it was God’s purpose and plan to have him go through with his suffering and death, he let them know what their lives were going to be like as they continued to follow him. Remember, the disciples saw earthly glory not only for Jesus but also for themselves. They imagine that being a part of Jesus’ inner circle was something that was going to bring them the acclaim of all people and the life of power and glory. They had regular conversations about which one of them was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ Kingdom. They argued about who is going to sit at his right hand and at his left hand when he came into his Kingdom. They saw nothing but honor and glory for themselves as a part of Jesus’ inner circle.
Jesus, though, told them: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Jesus told them a couple of things that must have shook them to their very core. He told them that if they wanted to follow him, it was necessary that they deny themselves. What is Jesus mean by that, he meant that being a part of his Kingdom on earth meant that their primary concern was not to be their own self-interest. This is the natural inclination that everybody has. In our country, especially, we see the pursuit of happiness as being the greatest goal that a person can have in life. It’s one of those things that are even mentioned in the Declaration of Independence As one of the greatest things that people can have. Jesus, though, tells his disciples that this seeking after personal good had no place in his Kingdom. What he wanted them to realize was that being a part of God’s Kingdom meant that the highest goal that we have is bringing glory and honor to our God and to our savior. It means living and acting in such a way as to put God first and put ourselves last. This is not something that brings personal satisfaction to the human ego, but it is something that serves God’s purpose. Then Jesus tells them that in following him they are to pick up their cross and follow him. As I mentioned before, the cross was the most shameful thing that people could think of in their lives. They saw crosses occupied by the ones the Roman Empire deemed to be the worst of all criminals. For someone to end up on a cross meant that they had reached the lowest level of shame that they possibly could. What is Jesus mean by carrying a cross in life? He means that being a part of God’s Kingdom sometimes leads to harsh consequences that a person wouldn’t normally want to bring into their lives. It’s not talking about the general problems that we experienced in life because we live in a sinful world. It talks about those things , those unpleasant things, that come into our lives because we belong to Christ. In many countries around the world, it’s still quite literally means that a person can lose their life for the sake of the Lord. In our culture, it is a bit more subtle than that. It can mean being thought of as a fool in a world that loves human science. It might mean a loss of friendship. It might mean strife within a family. All of these things are things that we normally wouldn’t want to have come into our lives, things that we would want to avoid.
However, in saying this, Jesus is letting his disciples know that this is something that is actually a badge of honor in this world. It is a badge of honor because it is something that helps point people to Jesus and to his great and willing sacrifices for sin. It is one of those things that show the world that we know that Jesus is worth it. This is why we bear the crosses that we do. This is why we, in fact, welcome them. It is our service to the Lord who bore the ultimate cross for us. Amen.