A sermon on Mark 8:31-38 for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, February 25, 2018.
A parent and child cannot agree. All the child wants is to go out with their friends and have a little extra time added to their curfew. In their mind it is no big deal. All the friends will be doing the same. The parents hesitate. They know their child is trustworthy; however they still have some reservations. The final answer comes as a no. Same curfew. Same rules. All the parents want is the safety of the child. The child becomes upset. The child responds, “Why can’t you just see things from my point of view?” The parents wonder the very same thing, why can’t the child see things from our point of view?
It is difficult to see things from someone else’s point of view. We do not understand where they are coming from, nor do they understand where we are coming from. The person’s intentions, although good, seem unfair at the moment. In the heat of the moment anger prevents us from considering the point of view of others in an objective manner.
Even though it is hard, we need to see things from the perspective of others. The same can be said when we consider God’s perspective. So often we neglect God’s point of view. We want to put our thoughts and concerns above him and his plans. We need to slow down. We need to understand God has a plan. Jesus teaches us this very lesson today.
We Need to See Things From God’s Point of View
What would Jesus do next? He healed many people of their illnesses. He revealed himself as the promised Messiah who came in fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. He preached as one with authority. The disciples learned so much from Jesus. The people stood in awe of him. Jesus’ popularity could not get any higher. So many sought him out to sit at his feet and learn from the Master.
Everyone waited to hear what great words Jesus would proclaim next. “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Jesus’ teaching took a much different turn from what many expected. Jesus started to emphasize his death.
For the first time Jesus spoke very specifically about it all. He explained how he would be rejected, not by the vile Romans, but by his own people. The religious leaders, who should have known all the better, would hand him over to be killed. To be fair, Jesus did say he would rise again after three days. However, the disciples’ ears closed as he spoke about his death.
This news would have been very hard for his close friends to process. We do not like to hear when death is close for someone. A medical professional brings the news that time is short. Months, maybe a year, are all that remain. At first we do not want to give up. We will exhaust all possible medical and various alternative treatments. We want to hold onto the person for a little bit longer. We know the time is coming close to death, but we want to squeeze out every last second with that person with the person.
“He was speaking plainly to them. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32). Jesus had no problem speaking about this. He wanted the disciples prepared for what would come. It should have been the foregone conclusion of all his followers. Jesus came to suffer and die. Various Old Testament prophets foretold about this. They pictured the suffering servant who came to offer his life for many.
Peter, who at this moment forgot all of that, wanted all talk of Jesus’ impending death to cease. He gently took Jesus away from the crowds. He wanted to set Jesus straight on what would happen. Peter did not do this in a gentle way. He started to rebuke Jesus for speaking about his death.
Talking this way would not be a good way in gaining a following. The crowds would not follow a Savior who would succumb to death. Jesus could not die. He had so much more to do on the earth. The sick needed healing. People had to be instructed. Not to mention the disciples wanted Jesus to stick around. They needed a strong leader. Jesus had to teach them so many more things. All this talk of being killed needed to stop. If Jerusalem meant trouble, they would go in a different way.
How could Peter speak in such a way? Just prior to this section Jesus asked the disciples who he was. Peter gave a wonderful confession of faith. He boldly professed that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus praised Peter for such a response. Now, Peter rebuked Jesus. Peter, how could you be so dense?
Peter’s picture of the Christ differed from the mission of Christ. In Peter’s mind the Christ needed to be this powerful earthly leader. The Christ would lead the Jews restoring national pride setting up an earthly kingdom. Peter wanted to see the glory in this world. Rejection and death would not bring glory. Peter only saw things from his own point of view.
How often do we want to follow Jesus only for earthly gain as well? We think that just because we follow Jesus our life should be filled with nothing but joy and happiness. We should have success. We should have fortunes. All the glory and riches will fall into our lap. We will never suffer a setback in life again; we will live on easy street. We follow a Savior expecting only glory now!
Or maybe during this Lenten season we get a little embarrassed of all the things Jesus underwent. As we read through the Passion History on Wednesday, do our heads hang a little bit? On Good Friday we do not want to come and hear about the death of Jesus. We only want to focus on the positives. We desire to only see the power of Jesus, and his betrayal, suffering, and cross portray anything but power.
Jesus quickly corrected Peter’s thinking, “But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mark 8:33). Jesus turned his back on Peter. If Peter thought the Savior should not suffer and die, many in the crowd believed the same thing. Jesus had to set the record straight. In a harsh rebuke Jesus called Peter Satan.
Was that too harsh? Should Jesus have gently corrected Peter? Satan indeed lurked in those words from Peter. Another temptation was laid. Maybe Jesus should just skip Jerusalem. Jesus could have taken his disciples to another city and avoided all the suffering and death. Jesus could have set up an earthly kingdom, something which the Jews would rejoice in.
Get rid of those thoughts! God’s plan, his point of view, differs greatly from Peter’s and all others. Jesus did not come all this way just to skip over his death. It needs to happen this way. It is necessary for Jesus to suffer and be killed. For this reason Jesus willingly goes. He takes up his cross and carries it.
We need to keep this in mind as we travel through this Lenten season. Jesus did not take the easy way out. Jesus knows the fate awaiting him in Jerusalem, yet he still makes his way into enemy territory. As we read the Passion History, we lift our heads high. Jesus suffers all of this for me. As we come to Good Friday worship, we do so with joy. Jesus carries his cross for me. It is absolutely necessary for Jesus to do all these things. If Jesus did not, we would still be in our sins. Jesus needs to suffer and die, so that we might be forgiven. Jesus needs to go to Jerusalem to win the victory for us.
It is absolutely necessary for Jesus to suffer and die at the hands of the ruling authorities. God’s plan of salvation, laid out from before the beginning of time, calls for all of this to happen. Jesus needs to go the way of the cross, so that we might be forgiven. He is not the only one to carry the cross. Jesus calls for all his followers to do the same.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, Jesus went on, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Now Jesus got to the heart of the matter. The people better not get the wrong ideas of their life of service to Christ. Jesus’ followers would not receive seats of honor. They would not be living the easy life with all trials and troubles done away with. The followers of Jesus would follow where their leader went. They should take up their own crosses in life.
We tend to beautify the cross. We hang crosses in our homes. Children draw and decorate crosses. Pastors wear crosses around their neck. The people living at Jesus’ time would be horrified to see crosses hung in a home. A cross meant pain. The cross would bring to mind a condemned criminal suffering under the weight of the wooden cross upon their shoulders. The cross meant only pain, misery, and finally a horrible death.
With this in mind Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him. Are we always willing to pick up our crosses and go the way Jesus went? Our sinful nature desires to leave those crosses on the ground and run away. Our flesh wants only what is easy. The devil tempts us to only follow the way of glory and leave behind all that brings pain and suffering.
In our confirmation vows we promise to remain faithful to God, even if it means death. Do we understand the true meaning of those words? Do we only offer lip service to that part of the vows? Do we think it only means those in other countries who might have to suffer death for their faith?
We need to take that promise seriously. Death might come to us because of our faith. Although, we also need to be ready to carry our other crosses. How much will we be willing to suffer for Christ? The crosses will come. Friends question our faith. We want to fit in, so we hide our faith. We move away to college away from mom and dad’s watchful eye. All of a sudden church is no longer a priority. We stop going when our roommate gives us strange looks.
We struggle in bringing our firstfruits to God. We want a lavish vacation. We work hard for our money, and we deserve to buy ourselves something with it. We finally get ahead in life, and we do not want to bring our Savior any gifts. We deserve it all.
The test results come back, and they do not paint a glamorous picture. Our health, once so strong, all of a sudden becomes so weak. The doctor dances around the issue, but we know what he means. We face our own mortality. The questions come. Where is Jesus in all of this? I lived my life for him, and he abandons me when I need him the most.
The crosses will come. When they do, we need to make sure that we are willing to carry those crosses. Following God does not mean a life of fame and fortune. We cannot become despondent when those crosses come. “After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? If we want only glory, we will forfeit our soul. We will leave behind our crosses only to be written out from heaven’s book.
We will follow where our Savior went. Our crosses no longer seem as heavy when we consider the one Jesus carried. Jesus carried our sins upon himself. He had the weight of the guilt of the entire world upon himself. He felt God’s anger over sins. Jesus overcame all things by his cross. Once more the cross becomes a glorious sight. It pictures no longer pain and suffering but victory from our sins.
So, we carry our crosses. We know that Jesus will help with the load. He comes with us and lifts us up when our knees become too weak to go on. We also look forward to the day when we will lay all our crosses at Jesus’ feet. On that day we will enter into glory never having to worry about those crosses again.
God’s point of view differs greatly from ours. Our point of view would point us to the easy life. Our point of view tells us to follow the rich and famous of the world. God’s point of view points to something much harder for us to swallow.
God does not do things in the normal way. Jesus comes willing to bear his cross for us. Jesus comes knowing the suffering and death he will endure. He did it for us! He won the victory for us. Now, we need to take up our crosses, something we can only do with God’s help. It seems so backwards, yet we follow. We do so gladly. We Need to See Things From God’s Point of View. Amen.