Monthly Archives: March 2012
Reading: John 12:112-16
You can’t have Palm Sunday without this reading. Simple really – only John records that they waved Palms. As a Palmer I am very happy to be celebrating this day!
There is something ominous about it though. Something that worries me.
I know that you know that it wasn’t long before the crowds were baying for his crucifixion – his death!
We know that people are fickle – they change easily. And we can easily find fault with the people of the day – who were not very good at resisting peer pressure – they went with the crowd.
There’s something scarier though:
WHEN WE HEAR CROWDS AND SMELL SUCCESS AND ADULATION
– There is something in us that resonates in a bad way. Our culture has trained us – infiltrated us – to want it so badly.
That’s us! Not that we don’t believe we would have been caught up with the masses! We know that we are no different!
WHAT HASN’T CHANGED SINCE LAST EASTER – and the 24 before that I have been doing this kind of thing – reflecting on this story – is us!
We prefer the rejoicing and the celebrations!
We want EVERYTHING to be like Palm Sunday!
The WOW factor – which even in the church can mean WATCH OUR WORSHIP! Look how we do it!
And our visitors (apologies if you are one today – I’m sure this isn’t you!) – come to shop around for a church that looks successful! We’ve all been badly acculturated.
We live in this world of unbiblical values – and like a goldfish in a bowl can’t get the idea that we should talk about the water we swim in.
And it’s poisoned and polluted – it will eventually kill us.
WE TRY TOO HARD!
And we often try TOO HARD – because perhaps there is still the little child in us waiting to hear the absent or silent parent’s voice – WELL DONE!
And for those of us in the ministry we so want to please others – whatever the cost!
But worse still we are Adam and Eve in the garden – listening to the snake – who offers us the opportunity to BE LIKE GOD! To take His place – He is the only one who should receive honour and power and dominion and praise! So if we are thanked for something – we can and should simply say PRAISE GOD!
Jesus needed voices of affirmation too – at his Baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration, and definitely in the Garden.
And on the cross it must have been tough – because the sin of the world and all our rubbish was so abominable – so terrible – that he would have felt alone and forsaken.
And yet even in his darkest our –his dark night of the soul – he can still say MY GOD MY GOD…
WAS THE VOICE SILENT ON PALM SUNDAY?
Perhaps the voice was silent on that day! Perhaps God said nothing. Not that He should have – not that He didn’t know that this was a temporary glitch that would end with the reality of suffering and blame! Recriminations! Guilt! Embarrassment! Imagine how Jesus’ closest friends felt after his death? We get a glimpse of this in the two on the road to Emmaus.
As elders in training recently we read a short extract from a manual on leadership which talked about success and its trappings. I think success is a subtle slave!
Yes we want to do it right – to the best of our ability – we want to honour God! That’s subtle and tricky! Flash preachers say that too on TV!
But will we obey Him?
Will we like Jesus set our faces resolutely towards Jerusalem? (Luke 9:51).
Will we be resolute? Determined? Passionate enough about God’s Kingdom and wanting it to happen on earth just as it is in heaven SO MUCH that we would die for it?
I am intrigued at the hype over the latest Hollywood movie craze – the Hunger Games! If you don’t know the story – it’s based on a trilogy of books for teenagers. A post-apocalyptic dystopia – is the phrase used – a repressive society with a gladiator-type competition where it’s kill or be killed! And of course there is the character who sticks up her hand and volunteers to replace her little sister who is chosen to participate in this futuristic gladiator rumble created as a reminder of the control exerted by the state (not unlike the way the Romans used crucifixion).
I had a discussion with one of our youth leaders about the movie. There are good questions that come out of it for this generation!
The best question is this: IS THERE ANYTHING IN THIS GENERATION WORTH DYING FOR? And for our young people: Are you as hyped up about Jesus as you are about the Hunger Games and the number of days until the release of the sequel? 600 days is it?
Great questions. And of course – is there anyone really worth living for? Yes of course! The one who died for us is the one for whom we live. The question is – are you really prepared to follow this Jesus? Are you prepared to set your face resolutely towards your Jerusalem – whatever challenge God is calling you to? Look where it landed most of his first followers!
These are good questions. Let’s take some time to reflect on them now!
On your own (I) or in groups (II)
- Who would YOU die for?
- Who are you really LIVING FOR?
- What do you think should CHANGE in your life for you to be more like Jesus?
John 12:20 – 33 (Sermon preached at Scots College in March 2009. I am not the preacher this week. This is from the archives.)
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
So religion is a bit of a pain for you. That’s the general kind of drift of the conversation these days. Why bother with all this chapel stuff? After all this is the 21st century. Who needs it – we’ve got the brains to solve it all – the intelligence to crack every problem. We are the intelligence of this universe – we will get there.
Religion seems a bit archaic to some – possibly even to most of you. The very idea that you should honour someone else – worship an unseen divinity – actually thank a Creator for the gift of life and love, is kind of dated.
Or is it?
I suspect that most of us who play the intellectual doubt game – who scoff at the Bible and its claims – who deride the church and its history, and even disregard the intellectual giants of history who have happily remained believers in this God – are really just ducking and diving.
I suspect that even if I was able to win the arguments thrown up and answer the pretend questions with logic and intellectual accuracy that would satisfy the hungriest of empiricists – that many would still not believe.
Simply because they don’t want to take the risk. There is always a cost.
I don’t believe that people really want to take the risk. They’re not brave enough.
The unnamed Greeks in today’s Gospel reading must have heard something that attracted them to this Jesus. They were probably just Gentiles of the day – perhaps people on a religious quest.
They would have heard of this Messianic person who had ridden into Jerusalem like a King. Even without email, internet, TV and text messages, people actually did communicate in those days – as bizarre as that may seem to you.
The word would have been out. It was news. Not bad news – we specialise in bad news and find it easiest to pass on rumours or criticism. It was good news.
For them it was news of hope in a difficult day – and they came with a serious request to Philip, a follower of Jesus: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
It’s to the followers of Jesus today that one hopes serious enquirers will still go.
The response of Jesus to this request is enigmatic and challenging – it’s the saying – the bible verse – that I’ve seen on many a cenotaph and memorial both in my home country and travelling around New Zealand – you find them in every town.
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (v24 NRSV)
It’s one of the sayings of Jesus that only those who were raised on the King James Bible would remember as a special saying of Jesus
Verily, verily, I say unto you. Literally – AMEN AMEN.
Jesus starts speaking the kind of language that most modern people want to run from.
Give up things – take risks – die to yourself – and you will find the real growth in your life.
For Jesus, it was a literal death. This is the Easter season – just around the corner we will remember his death and resurrection.
Serving Jesus – he tells these enquirers – requires following him. And a fruitful life, modelled on that of Jesus, is a life for others.
The man for others – that’s what my minister used to pray when I was a teenager. He was a terrible minister – he drank too much, which was a strong incentive for me to not drink. But he got that right – Jesus – the man for others.
Ghandi – a heroic and devout Hindu – admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
So you want to see Jesus? Would you come knocking on my door and ask the question: “Sir, we want to see Jesus?”
The journey with Jesus is a very meaningful and exciting one – and believe me, his presence makes all the difference along the road of life.
My apologies for his followers. I am one of them – and we don’t always get it right. All the more reason to work at it!
As Easter comes – consider the courage and commitment of a man who would die in your place had you been sentenced to death. Pretty radical, I think.
It is Jesus who says in this same passage – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
It is too the cross that Christians look at Easter. I trust that you will look in that direction as well – and reflect on this man for others.
I was watching the high jump the other day – and someone said – “Oh it all depends how high the bar is”.
Jesus sets a very high standard. It’s a challenge to us all to follow him. The sacrificial life goes way beyond just service each day – kind acts, hard work for others, earning points because we have notched up service hours.
It’s about a life with a different purpose altogether. Perhaps one of my students in life skills this week was right when he had to answer the question “what is the purpose of life?” In jest he said, “My purpose in life is to find the purpose of life”.
I’m pretty content with the purpose that Christ Jesus has given me. I used to argue and scoff too as a teenager. Until I began to explore – and decided to see for myself – like the Greek enquirers in today’s reading.
Sir, we want to see Jesus – is a great place to start.
Readings: Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21
Message for today:
Who’s your favourite prophet?
I’m thinking of the grumpy prophet who shows us what we’re all good at! Yes it’s Mr Mega grumpy!
- Who was ungrateful that he had been saved from being killed by sailors or eaten by sharks!
- Who forgot that God orchestrated a big fish to get him to land!
- Who was fed up when the people actually listened to his words and said sorry to God!
I found this comment about Lent this week:
William Willimon, a Methodist bishop in northern Alabama wrote years ago, “Go ahead admit it, preacher. You love it. Lent is your favorite season of the church year. Children love Christmas, missionaries love Epiphany, charismatics dote on Pentecost — but for preachers, nothing beats Lent. Here is the homiletical season par excellence, six weeks when we are given license to do what we would do all year if we could: breast-beating, belittling, berating. It’s a time of sackcloth and ashes, the long fast, self-denial, focus upon sin and its consequences.
Every preacher gets to play the prophet at Lent. And the beautiful part is, the people love it. ‘You are the overaggressive ones whose culpability made the cross inevitable,’ we preach. ‘All like sheep have gone astray,’ we cry, and the people in unison say, ‘You really stepped on our toes today, preacher. What a wonderful Lenten litany.’
Bishop Willimon continued – , ‘the prophet is sent not to scold but to save.’” Which is what Jonah took a while to figure out!
Last week we saw Jesus the prophet – engaging in prophetic action AND prophesying his terrible death.
Today we read about His saving purpose!
It’s a wonderful passage. “Jesus” – after all, means “God saves”. (“Joshua”)
Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day. Hurray for the Irish! Green shirt day! Yay! One can forgive the Irish parishioner who got excited when he heard John 3 read for the first time.
“An Irish Pharisee!” he exclaimed! “What?” said his priest. “Where did you get that from”? It’s John 3:1 – “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nic O’demus…” says he.
It’s all Nic O’demus’ fault this business. Creeping around in the dark wanting to see Jesus – wanting a private interview like an Irish scallywag!
Lots of theories about Nicodemus’ night visit. He was a student who studied late at night and HAD TO see Jesus ‘cause he couldn’t sleep! Nicodemus was being secretive – didn’t want others in the Jewish counsel to see him talking to this heretic!
It’s a good thing he went. We have the conversation that perplexes people who resist God and do the theological and logical ducking and diving. They talk about the Christians as the “born agains” as if that were a weird cult or strange aberration!
“He’s one of those! A ‘born again’!” My usual response is simple – IS THERE ANY OTHER KIND OF CHRISTIAN?
He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:2-3)
Born from above, Nicodemus!
The passage is rich in explanation and challenge. Just a couple of key points today:
- 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who brings us to the Kingdom!
Back to verse 14:
- 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
God had dealt with sin before. The grumpy grannies and grandpas, men and women in the desert who had left slavery in Egypt – sulked and moaned. And God dealt with sin – there was judgement through snakes!
In Numbers 21:4-5 we read: But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses.
Not a good thing to do! Speaking against God and his leader! The result was swift:
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.
And so the snake on a pole is given as a way to be saved – because they repented:
7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
- So that’s the link to this simile – this comparison between Jesus’ cross and Moses’ pole:
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
And it continues: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[b] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
We breathe a sigh of relief. This was a rescue plan! And: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (V17)
Are people condemned? When they reject this amazing deal – yes they are! Look at verse 18:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Not to believe in His name is to reject everything that his name stands for – the saviour and redeemer – and by implication to reject what he offers.
The condemnation is brought upon ourselves if we reject what is offered.
Instead of looking to the Son of Man lifted on the cross – we look to ourselves, the gods of Mammon (wealth) and fame. Or we want to be god ourselves.
And that makes us grumpy. You’ll never be satisfied until you look to the cross – until you turn AND FIX your eyes upon Jesus! Until you really give up your WHOLE life. You’ll always be grumpy! Cross about something. Dissatisfied with the government, your neighbours, yourself, and especially the church. There’s something weird that the people who try to live this out (the church) – and the poor preachers who try to spell it out – commonly are the target of disgruntled people – the grumpy club! “It was better in the old days back in Egypt” is their cry.
Martin Luther spoke of this verse as the gospel in miniature and said this: “If I were as our Lord God, and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world to pieces” Small wonder that Luther marvels that God should love the world at all. “God so loved the world” is a miracle in every sense.
And those that believe (which means trust – it’s not an intellectual agreement) HAVE eternal life! And “eternal life” is not heaven when you die.
It includes that. It is the age that they were waiting for – a future age where things would be right again. Sounds like the kingdom of God – the reign of God – this eternal life which Jesus explains later in this Gospel:
For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:2 -3). Not an idea (know about you) but an experience (know you).
Got it? Want it? Take it today! Follow Jesus! Look to Him on the cross and follow! Trust Jesus as your Saviour today! You can be born again. Born from above. Become a child of the one “above” – from a grumpy one to a gorgeous child of God!
Readings: Exodus 20:1-17 and John 2:13-22
SERMON – STORY
So Jesus comes to town – and finds priests selling forgiveness of sins – indulgences that free people from hundreds of years of purgatory and speed up their painful journey into heaven.
- What does he do?
He gets hold of an interesting character – a priest called Martin Luther – and makes him zealous for truth! The guy posts the most radical ideas on the internet of the day – by nailing his ideas to a door of a building.
Ta-da! – a Reformation. They try to kill Luther of course. But he changes the world.
So Jesus comes to the temple at Passover – and finds tables where people are selling things – important things for the sacrificial system – and he challenges the system – the religious people who made a living from it – and the political authorities who were the backers of the system as they kept the PAX ROMANA – the peaceful stability of Roman Empire.
- What does he do?
Call a board meeting? Nope. Preach a sermon? Nope. He engages in prophetic action. He turns the tables over and uses a whip to drive the sheep and the cattle out. And the doves. He makes a right mess. He comes across as a zealous religious crazy man!
“Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” he says. And his followers suddenly remember something he said about how all consuming his zeal for His Father’s house was. (Psalm 69:9)
So Jesus walks into this Presbyterian church. And these lovely local people have a sales table – selling delicious jams and spreads, right there at the door of the church. And cakes and cookies!
- What does he do?
I have absolutely no idea. Buy some marmalade?
But I tell you this. Those religious guys in the temple had it all sorted. Good systems people they were. And yes it was helpful. People couldn’t carry cows for miles. And they had to use temple money – so they made it possible to exchange Roman money (with an image on it) for the image-less temple coins. Everything was in its place. And they were so used to it that it never occurred to them that it might be all out of balance. Wrong. Off centre.
It takes a new person in town to see things sometimes. By the way – some of the best people to talk to about how effective a local church is – are people who are new. Ask them what they see!
Well I’m not new anymore. It will be a year at the end of this month since we arrived here.
First question today:
- Are there any tables that need to be turned over?
- Any sheep and cattle to drive out?
- Any whip to be produced?
I don’t know actually. There are these theories about change – about moving the piano across the room six inches a week. About the new broom sweeping slowly. People expect change when a new pastor shows up. I’m not sure they want it though.
Lucky for you I am not Jesus. But I am called to speak for him. It’s a scary thought and a terrible responsibility. And I mess it up at times – because there’s too much of me and not enough of Jesus!
But at the heart of our traditions – Jewish, Catholic and Protestant, there is this command which we heard today:
3 “You shall have no other gods before (besides) me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
In the Protestant tradition they form two commandments. In the others they are regarded as one.
GOD ONLY! GOD FIRST! No substitutes!
You can’t have anyone else in God’s place – no other god (they had options in those days it seems) – and no substitutes for God (idols – things you make or put in his place!)
Maybe that was part of Jesus’ zeal for the temple. It was about honouring God – not making a profit at the expense of the poor. Not missing the point of worship (like I suspect we do today). Not creating idols in the system or of the system.
The church today as an example (including ours) measures success in terms of its balance of payments. That’s a mistake.
What really matters is what’s on the table! What do WE focus on? What consumes US? What gets in the way?
And some of our tables may have to be overturned.
That’s the next question.
In Jesus’ time on earth, the temple was the place where God was expected to be. But even in this passage Jesus opens up a new way of seeing thing.
Reading on in verse 18 and 19:
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
So what’s the new thing here? Anyone? (Ask questions – take answers!).
Yes of course – he’s shifting the focus from a building to himself.
You can imagine the hoo-hah when they hear he’s about to demolish the temple – their cathedral, so to speak. (Ring any bells? Christchurch cathedral?).
20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Aha! They got it. Later of course!
Reminds me of another encounter in John’s gospel – the woman at the well. (John 4). Great story – he sees through her pretense, her theological posturing and debate, to her real issues. Some tables in her life – too many men. A whole string of husbands and then a partner!
And on that occasion – when she starts the discussion about which temple (The Jewish or Samaritan options) – Jesus says this:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Verses 23 and 24)
And how do we get spirit and truth? How do we find it? The conversation continues:
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you–I am he.” (25 and 26)
Jesus is the focus – the new location for worship. The one who gives the spirit – the one who is the truth!
And our bodies are temples too – of the spirit. And we as a community form a temple too.
Paul puts it like this:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is speaking of the church as a group here.
And then speaking about us as individuals Paul also says:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
WHICH TEMPLE does he want to cleanse?
Where will he find the tables that need turning over and the livestock to chase out with a whip?
It’s not the “church” that needs fixing alone (and when we say “the church” we usually refer to the minister and leaders or paid people who need to do things – when we are the church together).
It’s all of our lives! Church – family – work – individual lives!
Jesus wants to call in!
His Zeal for his father’s house was zeal for the honour of God’s name and position – for his position of priority!
Do our lives honour God? God first? Really? Are you sure?
I don’t know. I think that there are some tables that are in trouble. What’s on them – the things we hold dear – may well be scattered – smashed as idols should be.
Watch out. Jesus is coming. In fact He is here. Today! Right now!
Sermon Second Sunday in Lent
Gospel Reading: Mark 8:31-38
We sorted out Good Friday on Tuesday. Had a meeting of pastors and people. And the minutes or notes from the meeting were out within minutes!
And I noticed in the minutes that someone was appointed to carry the cross.
All done and dusted. An Anglican too! Amazing!
We will take the cross from the Community centre to the square – and then carry it up here to our place where we will feed a few hundred people coffee or tea and hot cross buns.
I think it’s wonderful! We are at the heart of this community! Having them here on Good Friday is just perfect! I hope you’re not all going away for the Easter weekend!
The thing is – carrying the cross – symbolically – is one thing!
Jesus’ cross was something else altogether!
And all the nice tea and cookies we enjoy here each week (ours are the best you know!) – trivialises if you like – diminishes the most awful truth about this business – that our founder and many of the key people in the organisation – died for what they stood for.
Bit of a failed cause if you lived in those days.
Can’t blame Peter for trying to put a spanner in the works – “don’t do that Jesus – you’re no good to us dead!”
Remember they were from Galilee – the hot bed of anti-Roman feeling and expectations that the Messiah would be a military leader. You can see that in the sword incidents – chopping off peoples’ ears and so forth.
This Christian faith story requires people taking sides – making choices – that can end your life! Or at least in this generation end your life as you know it!
I have an old colleague from a school in SA – who contacted me this week from Korea – asking me who I was supporting in the cricket – black caps or green flower people (New Zealand were playing South Africa, known as the Proteas).
I told her my heart was torn. And that the best thing to do in these situations is to avoid the choice – and support Korea. Of course Korea was not playing cricket here this week – but my friend lives in Korea at the moment so it seemed a good call. It’s called compromise. Fence sitting!
Jesus is not into compromise. I like compromise – keep the peace etc. I’ve discovered that being a leader means you can’t generally. You have to make decisions. Choices. And they’re not always easy. I’m more likely to open my mouth and put it in my foot – as my Mum used to say!
And so listen to the Gospel passage again:
Jesus Predicts His Death
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[a] 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.”
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE CHOICE WE MAKE
1. If you try your own way – you’re doing Satan’s work! Like Peter. (v33)
The word “rebuke” here is pretty strong. Jesus rebukes demons, unclean spirits, and the sea. The disciples and the crowds rebuke overeager people seeking help. And here we have the disciple rebuking the teacher – the rabbi.
One thing is easily overlooked.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter…
Can we really assume that Peter was the only one thinking this? Unlikely. He was the one who was more likely to say something about it!
Jesus’ response is also dramatic. Peter is speaking for the great deceiver. And Jesus knew him – the deceiver. In fact Jesus had spent 40 days OE in the wilderness dealing with him as he had to figure out what it meant TO BE JESUS.
I don’t suppose Jesus wanted to hear those voices again! (And we should be spending these 40 days in Lent trying to figure out what it means to be Christians!)
Of course Peter would have been blinded by his prejudices, convictions, and presuppositions.
And we are too – in so many ways! We would never rebuke Jesus would we?
Probably just neglect His business, His word, and his people – with our indifference. Or remain silent.
Which leads us to the next interesting point…
2. Do you really want to come after Jesus? If so – you have to
- Deny yourself (v34)
- Take up your cross and follow him (v34).
We’ll carry that large cross on Good Friday.
Taking up our own cross is another story.
Denying our self and our preferences and pleasures is part of the Lent journey. But chocolate and TV are symbolic really. Like our offerings – they are really saying that we can’t really lay claim to any of this.
The bottom line is – this Gospel is about the cross of Jesus. Paul writes this in I Corinthians 5: 18 and 19 – that “God gave us the ministry of reconciliation – that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
How? Through the cross.
There are many modern hymns about the cross. There are also some classic ones – like “Cross of Jesus” from Stainer’s crucifixion – profound words which capture the depth of what Christ has done:
Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!
Here the King of all the ages,
Throned in light ere worlds could be,
Robed in mortal flesh is dying,
Crucified by sin for me.
O mysterious condescending!
O abandonment sublime!
Very God Himself is bearing
All the sufferings of time!
Evermore for human failure
By His passion we can plead;
God has born all mortal anguish,
Surely He will know our need.
This—all human thought surpassing—
This is earth’s most awful hour,
God has taken mortal weakness!
God has laid aside His Power!
Once the Lord of brilliant seraphs,
Winged with love to do His will,
Now the scorn of all His creatures,
And the aim of every ill.
Up in Heaven, sublimest glory
Circled round Him from the first;
But the earth finds none to serve Him,
None to quench His raging thirst.
Who shall fathom that descending,
From the rainbow circled throne,
Down to earth’s most base profaning,
Dying desolate alone.
From the “Holy, Holy, Holy,
We adore Thee, O most High,”
Down to earth’s blaspheming voices
And the shout of “Crucify.”
Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!
Peter wanted to avoid this. And we do avoid it!
Many Christian theologians baulk at it. We find ways to tone it down in our mad political correctness. No one believes in capital punishment today. Why should the central symbol of our faith be a symbol of execution?
It’s the same as carrying a mini- gallows (if you are of French decent) – or a mini electric chair, if you have American connections.
We have these polished ones. Smooth varnished wood. Shiny gold and silver.
The real deal was agonising.
And if we are to take up our cross – we then would have to surrender control of our lives.
The verse is interesting – verse 34 – we don’t have the words to translate it – so that some translations end up with this:
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
In fact the 1984 NIV and the latest NIV differ too.
Mar 8:34 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. (1984)
Mar 8:34 then 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. (current)
If you want to become a follower/disciple (not become a Christian or join the family of the church but FIRST do this) – if you want to become a follower then
- Deny yourself (die to self)
- Take up your cross (die to self)
- And follow (the crucified one!)
And of course Jesus is telling the disciples how to be real disciples!
It’s all sacrifice! It’s all movement in a new direction? Ring any bells about the meaning of the word REPENT in the Old Testament? SHUB – means to TURN – to change direction. METANOEO in the New Testament – implies a change of mind.
And Jesus doesn’t stop there: Verse 35 continues:
3. The values are all upside down (v 35)
35 For whoever wants to save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Interesting here that Jesus is talking to the disciples and the crowd. This is not for the religious nutters who give up flash careers and incomes to “enter the church”.
I had an aunt who when she heard I had given up a lucrative career path (all paid for) to study for the ministry declared: “waste of a good brain!” I think she overstated the brain bit at least.
The crowds are told the same thing. You can save your life (and then lose it). Or you can lose your life FOR ME AND THE GOSPEL – and you will save it.
It’s for all the followers. The people of the Way.
Can we therefore ask too much of you?
Maybe that’s the wrong question. It’s not about the church asking you to do things sacrificially. It’s about being open to God speaking to you about turning your values upside down.
35 For whoever wants to save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
4. The stakes are high (v 36 and 37)
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?
5. You can’t afford to be ashamed of Jesus! (v38). You have to own him!!!!
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.”
These days if someone “owns” someone (in teen speak and gamer speak) it means that you are totally done for – defeated – beaten – or beaten up. “He owned him!”
We have to own Jesus – or disown him – in the more traditional sense.
If we are ashamed of Him – when it comes to the day that really matters – He will be ashamed of us.
No real need to discuss this.
That’s why when we welcome new folk into membership –at adult baptism or confirmation – we ask people TO OWN AND CONFESS ANEW JESUS CHRIST AS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOUR.
Ministers do that at ordination and inductions – as do elders.
At Baptism you have to declare your allegiance to Jesus! Unashamed! And then we need to own the Gospel. Listen to Paul in Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
And then we hear this great hymn from Hebrews chapter 2 – verses 9 to 11
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer;
Perfect God on thee has bled!
We are far from this – so often!
Billy Graham put it this way:
We in the church are making a great mistake by trying to make Christianity popular and pleasant.
We have taken the cross away and substituted cushions.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.