Roger's Postings

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mark 8:31-38. Take up the cross!! 8/3/09

(31) He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. {32} He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. {33} But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." {34} Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {35} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. {36} What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? {37} Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? {38} If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

Here today in the midst of Lent and facing Easter, God has an important message for us today. In fact, it is a critical issue for the Christian Church today and for us as individuals. Absolutely critical! For today, there is that very real temptation for us to do ‘a Peter’ and try and avoid the cross: And thereby to suffer the rebuke of our Lord.

Think about it: right across the scene today; even the church scene; there is the temptation to take the easy and popular road in life. In our owns personal lives even, we are more and more looking to ourselves and our own wants and needs; to hang with anybody else. We expect and demand that everything go well for us. We want and expect a health system and a finance system that will give us the life that we want. We do not want to accept the fact that meaningful life in a sinful world is tough and that we will have to face all kinds of difficulties and trials in it. We want the perfect life here on earth without any real commitment on our part. And it just will not be! Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; says the Lord Jesus.

But even more particularly, the same applies when it comes to our spiritual lives. Even there we want it all handed to us on a plate without us having to give up anything. Too often, we would sooner enjoy a long weekend doing something else other than going to church. We want our church to give us what we want and what makes us feel good, rather than hear what God himself wants us to know. We do not want a Jesus on the cross, and therefore a focus on our sins and the fact that there is nothing good in us that makes us acceptable to God. Instead, we want a miracle worker who will allow us to sit back in our own little selfish world doing our own thing. To this, Jesus says; "Get behind me, Satan!"

But what is of even greater concern is that the churches teachings and doctrinal scene today is encouraging this thinking. More and more it seems that we are pandering to this consumerism thinking even in our spiritual lives. There is more and more a move away from the centrality of the cross, to our lives: from a focus on repentance and the forgiveness of sins; to us and what we think, do and feel and the power of positive thinking and that kind of thinking. To grow the church the emphasis is not on the cross; or Law and Gospel preaching; instead on methods of entertainment to get them in and so focussing on feelings, experiences and giving people what they want. We twist the Scriptures to enable women to be ministers, and to enable us to be accepting and tolerant of all religions. We disregard the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s Law and focus simply on the gospel, which we have changed to simply mean that ‘God loves us’ and we are free to do as we please. Thereby the gospel becomes no Good News at all. To which Jesus responds; "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Yes, here Jesus very strongly rebukes this kind of thinking. In fact, he sees it very much as Satan driven thinking. Here he pulls no punches. He tells it as plainly and simply, yet as strongly as he possibly can: that it is absolutely necessary that he must first of all suffers much and be rejected by the highest church council on earth; and then be put to death, and then three days later to rise again. This is not optional thinking. There is no other way of salvation. Jesus absolutely must die as punishment for our sin if we are to be saved and be enabled to be with God in heaven. Jesus’ death and resurrection alone are the means of salvation for us.

Jesus then goes on to say that those who seek to follow him – that is claim to be Christians – must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. This is not some nice, easy, feel good experience that we are called to; where everything goes well for us and we are free to do our own thing; focussing on ourselves and our wishes. We are to remember that we are sinful: So bad in fact that that there was no hope for us. That sin is what put Jesus on the cross. So all we can do is to disown ourselves and cling to Jesus and the cross as our only hope. For through his giving of his life, we can now look to him and know that he has life for us; and he has a way for us to live as we follow Jesus. As we give up completely on ourselves, he tells us, there is life – real life.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Then he concludes with these words: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels

If we are ashamed to stand up for Jesus and the importance of his death on the cross; the truth of his Word; he will be ashamed of us on the Last Day. If we simply want to turn him and his Word into something nice and acceptable to our adulterous and sinful generation, then we are in trouble. If we are going to think that it is our thoughts, methods, entertainment and experiences that are going to grow the Church then we are walking a disastrous path.

No, we are called to, deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow Jesus. That is God’s call for us. It is not one option amongst many. There is no other choice. It is Jesus and the cross, or it is Satan and Hell. As The Christ had to suffer and die, so are we to give up on ourselves and follow Jesus’ way, making his cross our focus. Knowing all the while, that through Jesus and his death and resurrection, our following in his way leads to eternal life. By losing our life for Jesus and for the gospel we will find that our life has been saved. No more than that! No less than that!

Our assurance that this is the right way for us is to look again and again to Jesus. Remember here he said that he would suffer and die on the cross, but also that he would after three days rise again. And that is exactly what happened. It was not just that he would suffer and die and that was it: But that he would rise again, and thereby that we would also rise to life also.

So we can now deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow Jesus, knowing that because of Jesus there is new life and eternal life beyond the cross, for Jesus and for us. So we can go through this Lenten season and the rest of our lives, acknowledging that we are worthless sinners; but forgiven sinners, full of hope. Because our Lord Jesus has risen from the dead, and through our baptism we have been joined to his death and resurrection, we can go the way of the cross knowing that we have life; guaranteed.

So we pray that our Lord will give us a special measure of his Spirit, so that we do not continually succumb to the temptation to avoid the cross and to deny the importance and power of Christ death on it: Instead to keep ever before us, the absolute necessity of the cross for our forgiveness and salvation. We also pray that he will enable us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in our life as his people and so to follow him. All so that the power of Jesus’ cross may be known by all, and that all glory and honour may go to him who is our Lord and Saviour. To him alone be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

1 Comments:

  • Thanks for your posts, I am looking forward for future posts. Certainly I have become a big fan of yours and waiting for new posts. Your blogs are like risk free day trading. Please share new post on your blog that would be very helpful for me and other visitors.

    Scott

    By Blogger Scott Davidson, at 11:30 pm  

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