Posts Tagged ‘sermon for Pentecost 16B’

'Take Up Your Cross' photo (c) 2009, Godly Sheep - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/The Gospel lesson for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) is Jesus’ first passion prediction in Mark.  When Jesus told his disciples that he must die before rising again, and that they, too, must die and rise, it took their breath away.  The Way of the Cross is definitely the road less taken.  But are we being truthful in our Christian witness when we tiptoe around the pain and the demands of the cross?  Here is a sermon from my archives on this text. It contrasts the Way of the Cross with the way of self-fulfillment.

A Divine Mindset

A Sermon on Mark 8:27-38

Peter’s longing was the longing of all Israel.  Peter longed for the time when God’s anointed one, the Messiah, would take the throne himself, liberate the nation from oppression, and restore its power to what it was when King David reigned.  Israel would be in control of its own life again.  No more Roman procurators.  No more Pontius Pilate.  No more Roman soldiers.  No more Roman crucifixions.

The sight of crucified bodies was a common one.  At times the roads were lined with them, cross after cross, and the message to the people was clear: this is what will happen to you if you dare to challenge Roman authority.  How everyone longed for all that to stop!  How everyone longed for a new king, a righteous king of their own!

Peter was right—Jesus was the anointed one.  Moreover, he had reason to believe that Jesus would fulfill all their hopes.  He and the other disciples had witnessed Jesus casting out unclean spirits that fought against God and caused untold suffering.  He even made the wind be quiet!  That’s power!  They had witnessed many healings, even one in Peter’s own family, when Jesus lifted up his mother-in-law, as we saw last week.  That’s power!  Peter and all the rest were on hand and participated when Jesus fed 5000-plus hungry people with only a little food, and then did it again later for a crowd of 4000.  That’s power!  Yes, Jesus certainly had the power, and that made the victory they all longed for seem so close.   The crown seemed so close.  At last, everything was going to get better.  At last, everything was going to get easier.  Never again would their stomachs turn at the sight of a cross.

It must have felt like Jesus had slapped Peter!  What did Jesus say?  No, it can’t be!  No, Jesus’ journey can’t lead to a cross.  This road leads to a crown.  The Messiah must not die!  If Jesus dies, that’s the end of the dream.  Jesus will be just one more in a long line of failed liberators, and we’ll be right back where we started!

Jesus was talking foolishness, and Peter started to tell him so.  He rebuked Jesus.  Matthew tells us what Peter said.  “God forbid!” Peter exclaims in Matthew.  “This shall not ever happen to you!”  And implied is this: “And it had better not happen to us, either!”

It must have felt like another slap in the face when Jesus, with his eye on all the disciples, rebuked Peter in the strongest possible way.  “Get behind me, Satan!  Get out of my way, Satan!  You’re working for Satan.  You mind is on human things, not on the things of God!  You’re not set on God’s way.  You’re set on YOUR own way.  You’re set on what YOU want.”

And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus gathered the crowd around him along with the disciples and told them all, “The cross is the way.  If you want to be my disciples, then the cross must be your way, too.  You must deny yourself, put your life on the line, shoulder up your cross, and follow after me.  For those who seek to save their own life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Jesus calls his disciples to accept the pain that comes from trying to do the will of God, the conflict that so often gets aroused when you obey God.  The accusations that Jesus endured would be theirs—this one for example: what on earth are you doing associating with THOSE people?

Jesus calls us to come with him and die and then to let God raise us to new life.  The center of our concern cannot be me, mine, we and us.  Serving ourselves and keeping ourselves alive cannot be the goal.  Our heart, soul, mind and strength must be set on the things of God, the will and the way of God.  (more…)

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