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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Feb 25, 2018 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen
The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 2nd Sunday in Lent, Mark 8:27-38. There we read:
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen
The Gospel of Mark is sort of written as a mystery: not a whodunit, but a who-is-He? Who is this Jesus who is baptized by John in the Jordan, who teaches and works miracles, who dies on a cross, rises again and ascends into heaven? Its not a mystery to you: the first verse of the Gospel tells you who He is: it says, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
You know from the very start who He is: then, as you read through the Gospel, .....you watch for who people think He is, .....you watch for who people say He is, .....you watch for who gets it right and who gets it wrong.
After the first verse, do you know how many times Jesus is called the Son of God in Mark? Three times. Three times. Twice, its demons who got His identity right as they screech things like, "I know who you arethe holy Son of God!" This is an important point to know: its possible to know who Jesus is and still be lost.
The third time is the key to the Gospel: its a Roman Centurion who said, "Truly this man was the Son of God." He says it as he stands at the foot of the cross. He says it while he looks at the powerless, lifeless body of Christ hanging crucified. Thats an extraordinary confession of faith, to look at the corpse of Jesus and say, "I believe that He is the Son of God."
You see, throughout the Gospel, people kept getting Jesus wrong. Often, they got His personwho He waswrong: in this Gospel lesson, you heard that many thought He was John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the other prophets.
Along with that, they almost always got His workwhat He didwrong. They saw the miracles He performed, and they thought, "This Jesus came to work wonders and make our lives on earth better than they were before." Thats why Jesus kept working miracles all the while telling the people to be quiet about it. The more the news of the miracles spread, the more people got the wrong idea of who He was and what He had come to do.
It wasnt His fault: Jesus was faithfully doing what the Old Testament said He would do: He was preaching the gracious kingdom of God, He was working miracles, and He was making His way to the cross to suffer for the sins of the world.
But sinners always have skewed vision, and so they kept getting Jesus wrong, kept expecting Him to be who they wanted Him to be, not who He truly was and is.
Halfway through this "who-is-He" Gospel, we find the text for today, a milestone in this mystery. Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do people say that I am," and the disciples gave Him the range of answers. Then He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ."
Finally! The right answer! Peter got the person of Jesus rightHe is the Christ, the Messiah whom God has anointed to save.
Jesus then told the disciples to tell no one, because people would still get the wrong idea about what He had come to do. But for the disciples, its time for Him to fill them in; so He told them plainly that He had come to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
This might make perfect sense to you and me looking back, but it was a terrible shock to the disciplesso much so that Peter pulled Him aside and rebuked Him. Dying on a cross was just not the sort of thing that the Son of God did. Crucifixion was nothing but torment and death, and Jesus Christ was all about miracles and power right?
The shock continued: when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of this silly plan, Jesus rebuked him and says, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Jesus called Peter "Satan." That was quite the slap across the face, but consider: at this point, Peter shared the same confession of faith as the demons: they knew who Jesus is, but they didnt want Jesus to go to the cross.
Peters rebuke was really no different than the devils temptations for those forty days in the wilderness: both Peter and Satan encouraged Jesus to be Christ without doing the suffering. Now, Ive little doubt that Peters motives were better than those of the devil, but both he and Satan were trying to prevent Jesus from dying for the sins of the world.
But that is why Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. He didnt have to become flesh to give us His WordHed been doing that through the prophets throughout the ages. He didnt have to become flesh to work wonders, either.
He became flesh so that His flesh could be nailed to the cross, so that His blood could be shed, so that He could be the substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world. He became man to take mans place and be condemned for mans sin. His "defeat" on the cross is anything but: its how He undid sin, death and devil. Its how He freed you from sin and death and devil so that you might have life in Him forever.
That is why it is vital to believe and confess both the person and work of Jesus, to believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God made man who died on the cross for our sins. It is not enough to say, "I believe in Jesus." Many who believe in Jesus get His person or His work wrong.
You can find forces in the world today that want to redefine the person of Jesus into one god among many, one son of God among many, a life-force, a nice mere human who was mistakenly crucified, a life-coach or even the daughter of God. You can find many who want to redefine the work of Jesus so that Hes all about social justice, environmental justice, communism, feminism, feeling good or advocating immorality.
This is really no different than all the peoples wrong ideas in Mark: its to say, "we acknowledge Jesus to be powerful, but we dont want Him to be who He is and do what He does: we want Him to meet our desires and expectations and agendas."
If you get the person or the work of Jesus wrong, then you dont have faith in the Son of God who died for your sins. Hes not a piece of clay to be molded to your liking: Hes the Son of God to whom all will bow the knee.
That is why the creeds you confess are anything but old, dusty and irrelevant. In a world that wants to redefine the person and work of Jesus away from salvation, it is never more important than now to keep saying what the Church has always said, "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried," etc.
Each time you confess these creeds, you declare that Jesus remains the Christ, the Son of the living God, who died and rose again so that we might be forgiven. Each time you confess these creeds, you declare the Gospel. You evangelize.
Thats why you should give thanks that, in a world that so dearly wants to distort Jesus, He preserves His Word so that you might know who He is and what He does for you and for your salvation. You should give thanks for faithful preaching of "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." You should thankfully join the centurion at the end of the Gospel of Mark and keep pointing to the One on the middle cross and saying, "Thats my Savior. I trust in Him alone to save me."
Now comes the important question. Who are you and what do you do? You are a person created with certain gifts, skills, health, weaknesses and limitations. You have certain callings, expectations, good habits, bad habits, dreams and intentions. With who you are, you do certain things. These things identify you. As the philosopher said, its not [just] who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you. (Okay, it was Batman who said that. But its still a great line.)
A life well-lived is about taking who you are and making the best of it, minimizing the bad, avoiding the pitfalls, picking yourself back up, doing the best with what youve got and pressing forward.
Many dont live life well: its tempting to live a life resenting who you are, coveting who others are, getting bogged down by failure and using your gifts for selfishness and vice rather than satisfying service to others.
But if you want to find contentment, youll find that content people are happy with who they are and what they dothey like their person and work.
Whether you are content or extremely dissatisfied this morning, always keep the lesson of Ash Wednesday in mind: all that you are, and all that you do, is turning to dust. The biggest monuments and achievements eventually crumble and are forgotten. Those with the best self-image possible are still on the clock. The curse of sin remains, and the wages of sin is still death. The clock is on, and every setback, sin and problem robs you a little bit of who you could be and what you could do. That is how the things of man work.
Thats why you should give thanks that your person and work isnt determined solely by how you were created. When you find yourself thinking and acting as if your worth comes from who you are and what you do, repent and ask for forgiveness. Who you are and what you do isnt just determined by how you were created, but that you have been recreated and redeemed. Jesus said in the Gospel:
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Who are you? You are one redeemed by Christ. What do you do? Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. In other words, you confess your sinfulness which leads to death and you agree with God that you are in need of the forgiveness that Jesus has won for you by His death on the cross. And then take up your cross and follow Him, living life as a penitent Christian who looks to Christ for forgiveness and deliverance.
Know in your heart that Jesusthe Christ, the Son of Godwent to the cross and died so that you might live. Know in your heart that He keeps you in the grace first given you in your baptism as He feeds you with His Word and Supper.
Know in your heart that your person and your work are sanctified in Him, cleansed by His blood. And know that He declares, "I am not ashamed of you, because I forgive you all of your sins."
Christ is Risen.
|Christ Is Risen|
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