Sunday Sermon 4 March – Crosses to Cushions

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:

Mark 8:31-38

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?

No never!

Probably just neglect His business, His word, and his people – with our indifference.  Or remain silent.

Which leads us to the next interesting point…

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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.

Simple.

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.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on March 3, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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