Summary: A sermon about the cross-centered life.
“Get Behind Me, Satan”
I’ve read that marketing firms have now learned how to make money from churches.
One congregation sent a glossy advertisement out describing their “casual, creative, contemporary church.”
They listed five reasons for people to “come and check them out”:
1. Jeans and t-shirts, no suits and ties
2. No guilt; leave your wallet at home
3. Positive messages you will enjoy
4. Awesome programs for kids and teens
5. Pop, rock, country—our band rocks!!!
Another congregation invited people
to come for four special Sundays.
The first Sunday was to feature, “possibly the funniest guys on the planet.”
The second Sunday would have a
jazz trio playing “possibly the best jazz on the planet.”
On the third Sunday they would hear “possibly the best singer on the planet.”
And on the last Sunday Chaggy the Clown and Leno the flutist will lead “possibly the most diverse service on the planet.”
A third church promises, “We won’t make you listen to organ music; it won’t take more than an hour; we won’t visit your home unannounced; we will let you remain anonymous; we serve espresso drinks.”
It’s been said that the “cotton-candy, give me what I want, name it claim it, gain is godliness sales gimmicks might draw a big crowd, but so does Britney Spears.”
As we see in our Gospel Lesson for this morning, selling God like we sell cereal doesn’t appear to be Jesus’ technique.
Instead Jesus began to teach the disciples that He will be rejected, will suffer greatly, and will be killed.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Jesus goes on to say that Jesus’ followers must also take up the cross, must lose themselves for the sake of the gospel, and must be prepared to die.
Well, Peter was the one who understood church marketing.
He realized that entertainment is always in style and sacrifice is always out.
Talking about taking up crosses is no way to sell a church.
When Jesus starts preaching about suffering, rejection and death, the disciples do not want to hear it.
So, Peter taps Jesus on the shoulder and motions for a word in private.
I mean, you might as well have had a football captain tell the team that he was going to let the other team score ten touchdowns right away!!!
This wasn’t what Peter and the rest had in mind.
They may not have thought of Jesus as a military leader, but they certainly didn’t think of Him going straight to His death.
As Charlie Brown once said, “Winning ain’t everything but losing ain’t anything,” and Jesus seemed to be saying that He was going to lose.
Worse yet, He was inviting them to come and lose alongside Him.
We are told that “Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him.”
Perhaps Peter said something like this, “Jesus, what are you talking about? Your popularity is skyrocketing! You don’t need to talk about dying.
Suffering, rejection and death are not on the agenda!!!
Prestige, power, and dominion are the agenda.
We signed on for a crown, not a cross!!!”
Jesus’ response to Peter is equally dramatic.
Jesus hears Peter out.
Then, turning and looking at all the disciples, Jesus rebukes Peter.
And what a rebuke it is!!!
Peter is speaking for Satan, the great deceiver.
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Satan was out to change Jesus’ course, to turn Him away from the Cross.
Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness were temptations to avoid the Cross by being another kind of Messiah, a temptation that Jesus faced again, that last night in the Garden before His arrest and brutal death.
But without the Cross there would be no ransom paid for our lives…
…without the Cross, the full extent of God’s love for humanity would and could not be revealed…
…without the Cross there would be no salvation…
…for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins…
…without death there is no life; no Resurrection!!!
When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”…
…Peter got the title right, but the essence of what that title means and is…
…well, he was a bit fuzzy on that.
And aren’t we all a bit fuzzy on “Who Jesus is” and what it means that “Jesus is Lord, Savior and God”?
Thus, like Peter, we all fail at times to respond fully to Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?”
It’s easy to get “caught up” in what we think we want in a god or how our human minds expect a god to act in the world.
Makes sense though, we are all sinners who fall so short.
I mean, who would think that the God Who Created this universe and everything in it would willingly suffer, be rejected and die the most gruesome and horrible of deaths?