Summary: What it means to deny ourselves, take up our Crosses and Follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Predicts His Death
31He 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. 32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33But 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."
34Then 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. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If 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."
Today’s sermon is a hard one to preach. The reason I say this is a difficult sermon has little or nothing to do with a complicated theology or confusing words in the passage. I’m not struggling with this message because it is hard to understand…..on the contrary. I found this passage difficult because it’s message is clearly understood. This is a message of suffering, rejection, persecution, hardship, and even death. I am just not comfortable talking about these things. This may have something to do with the way I was raised.
A friend of mine shared with me a conversation he had with his father some years back. My friend had recently began attending a United Methodist Church. He had grownup in another denomination. He said that during this phone conversation, he shared with his dad that he had visited a Methodist church in his neighborhood. His father responded “Aahh the Methodist…..that’s the you’re OK, I’m OK, everybody’s OK church.”
Now, I had never heard our denomination explained in that manner. I do not think that is an accurate or fair description. But I can understand where the stereotype is rooted. Modern Methodist typically gain their motivation for discipleship from the Hope, Joy, and Love that is the message of Christ.
This past week I had a talk with someone here at St Paul. We were talking about our memories surrounding the moment we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. My friend told the story of sitting in church one Sunday morning listening to the preacher preach, bursting with authority and confidence. The sermon was on “the consequences of Sin.” He listened to the description of what happens to people who face the final judgment without giving their lives over to Christ. He was warned of an eternity of constant pain, forever living engulfed in flames, burning in the deepest and darkest pits of Hell.
I can imagine a stampede of people elbowing their way toward the alter in order to make the commitment.