Summary: A sermon about self-denial, taking up the Cross and following Jesus.
“Got to Choose”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Each week my friend John LeGault from First United Methodist Church sends me his sermon and I send him mine, via the email.
We read one another’s sermons, and critique them.
It’s a neat thing to have a friend and a colleague to do this with.
We’ve been doing it, for oh, probably four…close to five years now…every week.
Usually we are preaching on the same text, since we both preach from the Revised Common Lectionary.
With his sermon for this week, John wrote me this note: “A tough assignment text this week. Pray that the Gospel truth will come through this poor sinful preacher who has sometimes shunned the weight of the cross.”
How many of us have sometimes shunned the weight of the Cross?
The words of Jesus from today’s Gospel Lesson truly are very difficult to hear and especially difficult to do.
Just a few verses before our Scripture Lesson for this morning Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do people say that I am?”, and then He asks them: “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter is the one who answers:
“You are the Christ.”
I’ll venture to guess that most of us would agree with Peter’s answer.
But what that truly means…
…what that means in the lives of you and of me…
…what that means in the choices we make in this life…
…in how we treat others…
…in the lengths we go to spread and accept the truth of the Gospel is what Jesus deals with today.
After Peter says that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus goes on to describe to Peter and the rest of the disciples the grisly truth of what that means.
For Jesus, it means that He must suffer many things.
He will be rejected by the ruling authorities, the leaders of His very own religion…
… “the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law”…
And because it is true that Jesus is the Christ, “he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
But we see that, although Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ, he didn’t like the truth of what that meant!
It meant blood, it meant guts, it meant suffering in the most awful of ways.
So Peter rebukes Jesus.
In Matthew we read that Peter said to Jesus: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
But Jesus rebukes Peter right back: “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Peter wanted Jesus to be the Christ, but he didn’t want Him to have to live into what that meant.
How many of us find it very easy to let the words “Jesus is the Christ,” roll off of our tongues?
It’s not a terribly difficult thing to believe and it’s an even less difficult thing to say.
It’s quite another thing to face the truth of what that means for our lives!!!
Peter had a lot to learn when he rebuked Jesus.
How often do we rebuke Jesus?
Many of us prefer to have an idea of discipleship that leaves the Cross out of it.
That way, we can get on with our worldly ways and be Christian at the same time.
We can have our cake and eat it too….just so long as we leave out the Cross!
A famous man once said: “There are four things I hate: tobacco smoke, lice, garlic, and the cross.”
Without the Cross, Christianity can degenerate into what Paul warned Timothy about: “A form of godliness” that denies God’s “power.”
I remember in college meeting up with some pretty wild looking punk rockers.
I noticed that they all wore crosses around their necks.
I wondered why.
Could they be Christians?
When I asked them what the significance of their crosses meant, their answer was: “There’s no significance. They just look pretty.”
I remember hearing about a preacher who was proclaiming: “We need to get rid of this bloody Cross!”
And in many ways we have.
Jesus spoke plainly about the cost of following Him, but so often we don’t take Him seriously.
Instead we often mumble His words and slur them over.
So often discipleship has been presented as something that doesn’t matter very much.
It’s been watered-down, overlooked, ignored…
…and as a result…
…many claim to be Christians without living into it…without finding their lives by being followers of Christ.
So Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
It has been suggested that Jesus was saying to Peter: “Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It is your place to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way you would like me to go.”