Lenten Series: A Season of Decision,
A Season of Victory, Part 2:
Let's Carry Our Cross Bravely
March 4, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Mark 8: 31-38
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." 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. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
This morning we are continuing the sermon series that we began last week called, A Season of Decision, A Season of Victory.
Our Prayer Project
Last week we talked about doing a prayer project together during this time of Lent. We talked about taking time to consider ten things. Ten things that you are grateful for, you can count them on your fingers. It is a handy way to do it.
Last week, on my day off, I went down to the Jersey Shore. I stood on the beach and thought about my ten thanksgivings. A lot more than ten came to mind. One thing that I was thankful for was that I could see the cresting waves on the ocean. I was thankful that I could breathe in the magnificent fragrant salt air. That I could hear the waves crashing and fading, and crashing again. I could feel the peace of the shore in my heart. I gave thanks that I am blessed with a loving family and friends. That I am blessed to lead a wonderful congregation. These blessings and so many more came to my mind.
How about you? Can you think of ten things to be thankful for? I'll bet you can. Name them, won't you, in your heart before the Lord. You can make up a new list every time you pray, or keep a "Prayer Journal" of your list, and add to it anytime.
Jesus' Prediction and Peter's Rebuke
Letís explore the Gospel before us this morning.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him..
What was going on with Peter? He took Jesus aside, he didnít want to embarrass Him. He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. Can you imagine that? Peter was rebuking the Lord, Jesus! If we put it in modern times it was like Peter put his arms around Jesus and said, ďLook, man. This kind of talk will only get you into trouble, big trouble. Let's get out of here until this thing blows over. I have a car with a full tank of gas and $200.00 in cash. We can make it to Egypt by nightfall.Ē (Congregation laughs) ďJesus, get in the car.Ē
Peter was being protective of Jesus. It is probably what I would have done if I heard that kind of talk from this wonderful person I loved. But how did Jesus respond?
33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
Can you imagine? Peter was on a mountaintop from all the previous good things Jesus had said to him, but then Jesus turns around and calls Peter "Satan."
Peter must have been devastated.
He probably felt like sliding between the cracks on the floor.
Seems a Little Edgy, No?
Now, doesn't this seem a little extreme to you?
Doesnít Jesus behavior seem a little bit rough?
Couldnít Jesus have been a little more, well, gentle?
This behavior somehow seems uncharacteristic of Jesus.
It was edgy.
But of course it was edgy!
Jesus was scared. Jesus is revealing to us His humanness.
His humanness is one of the reasons we love Him so much.
Here is one of the reasons He came to earth:
To tell you and me that He is like us, and that God understands what we are going through.
Why did Jesus call Peter "Satan"?
Did He think Peter was "possessed"?
I don't think so.
"Satan" was a term used to describe a "challenger" - whether person, place, or thing.
When was the last time Jesus used that term?
It was when He was out in the wilderness and was tempted.
What was going on? Why was Jesus so extreme and edgy?
Because He really was tempted by Peterís "car and money" escape scheme.
He was really tempted to get out of there!
What He was facing was very scary to Him.
But He meant to tell Peter, "Donít take my eyes off the goal, Peter! Donít shift my focus! This is what I was born for. I was born to go to the cross to prove Godís understanding love. Please donít tempt me otherwise, Peter!"
For This Was He Born
Jesusís destiny was to go to the cross. There were two reasons for this.
First, to make us right with God. To give us that righteousness (moral and spiritual perfection) that we canít earn by ourselves. Because of Jesus' saving act upon the cross, He brings us to a point where we can stand before God and say not of our own perfection or good works but that of Jesus Christís, we can stand before God blessed and whole. This is called salvation.
Second, so that Jesus could prove to you and to me that God understands. He knows that we carry a cross. Jesus knows that you are dealing with something difficult. He knows that if He didnít go through it, He would never be able to say, "I understand." God identifies with what you are going through. Jesus tells Peter not to take His eyes off His destiny that is the way for Him. We can call this, "Divine Empathy". God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. He was also in Christ reconciling Himself to the world.
What About the Cross You Carry?
The passage goes on to say, 34 If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
He was saying, I know you have a cross to bear. I know you have something difficult to deal with in your life. Follow Me, do as I do. Donít run from it, I will be with you. Take it up bravely. Have the strength to carry your cross with blessing, with honor and with love."
I donít know what form your cross to carry takes. But may I suggest that we take up our cross bravely in the manner of our Lord and follow Him.
Three Thoughts on Carrying Your Cross - Bravely
Let us be brave as we take up our cross. There may be things you have to do that you would rather not. I have things that I would rather not do. But let us do them bravely.
I call this kind of bold, decisive action "walking into the lionís mouth". If there is a scary situation that you must face and can no longer avoid, approach it bravely and intelligently. Straight on, focused, and calm. Face it in a determined way, clearly, and confidently.
And when you're done, you may amazed to find that you are safer than you ever thought you would be, and more peaceful in the heart. You will find that you are protected and accompanied in that situation, even as Daniel was as told in the story of the lion's den. Let us take up our cross bravely as Jesus did.
Let us take up our cross lovingly. There are things we do out of love that we would normally not choose to do. They may not be the most pleasant tasks, but we do them out of love. I know people who care for loved ones who are in difficult situations. It may not be the easiest thing in the world but we do it graciously and we welcome it because we love. Love transforms whatever it touches.
Let us take up our cross confidently for the simple reason that we are not alone; Jesus is along with us. Remember that you are not alone. The strong faith of the People of God - people like you and me - throughout the ages is that the God we worship is with us always. Sometimes we sense that presence in the midst of the most difficult and challenging times. We are not alone.
Our Project for This Week
Here's our Lenten project for the week ahead: think in your private prayer time of ten things that bring you strength. Ten things that help you bear your cross in a brave way. Could it be prayer or the presence of the Lord Jesus? Could it be the church or a person who is a role model to you, and who inspires you with their courage? Letís think about that together, and make our list this week.
Ten power sources for you, ten sources of strength. You have them. May they help you carry your cross, whatever it may be, bravely and triumphantly.
God loves you; I do, too. I wish you a blessed week, my Friend. Amen.
© 2012 Anthony J. Godlefski