Summary: A sermon about God's Way versus our way.
“The Way to Life Goes Through Death” (A number of themes and ideas in this sermon come from N.T. Wright)
In the words of the late American news commentator Paul Harvey, this morning’s Gospel Lesson is “the rest of the story.”
It is a continuation of what we talked about last week.
Jesus had asked His disciples: “Who do you say I am?”
Peter gave the correct answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And from that point on, Jesus began to teach them what that means.
And what that means is completely different than anything they could ever have imagined.
It’s kind of like trying to think inside out, and the disciples find it completely impossible.
After having settled on the fact that Jesus is God’s King, the Messiah the disciples natural next move is to want to sit down and plan their strategy.
I mean, if Jesus is King, then the disciples are going to have to figure out how to get rid of the current kings and priests that are misruling Israel.
And the obvious solution is to march on Jerusalem, pick up supporters along the way, choose their moment, say their prayers, fight a surprise battle, take over the Temple and install Jesus as King!
That’s how humans do it, right?
What Jesus is proposing, though, is the exact opposite—it makes no human sense—it’s inside out!!!
“Yes,” Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God is coming, coming soon now.
Yes, the Son of Man will be exalted as King.
But the way to this Kingdom is by the exact opposite road to the one the you guys have in mind.
It will involve suffering and death.”
Jesus will indeed confront the rulers and authorities—the chief priests and legal experts in Jerusalem; but they, not He, will appear to win the battle.
Jesus will be raised from the dead—so Jesus says—but neither Peter nor the others can figure out what in the world He might mean by that.
All they know is that He is talking nonsense—dangerous nonsense.
And so, Peter grabs Jesus and shouts: “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
But Jesus calls Peter “Satan” and a stumbling block to Him.
That’s some pretty heavy stuff.
And it’s true, human concerns and God’s concerns are diametrically opposed to one another.
God sees everything inside out; or, perhaps we should say, God sees everything the right way round, whereas we see everything inside out.
It’s like right is wrong and wrong is right.
Up is down and down is up.
Bad is good and good is bad.
If we want to follow Jesus we must learn the Way of God…rather than our way.
…and if we DO follow Jesus…
…REALLY follow Jesus we will learn the Way—it will take a lifetime and then some, but we will learn the Way every step along the Way.
Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Boy, the Kingdom of God sure sounds, to our human ears, like some kind of bizarro world, does it not?
Whoever wants to secure their own life, will lose it.
But the one that actually loses his or her life, is the one who finds it.
When Peter said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
Peter was speaking the words of temptation, of Satan of the world which says, “Why should I have to deny myself?”
“My only concern is to look out for me, myself and I”
“The person who dies with the most stuff wins.”
“Those who hoard and live in castles while the masses starve outside their doors are doing just fine!”
“Those who think only of themselves, bully others into getting their own way, wield all kinds of worldly power—having stepped on a million souls in order to grab it are the REAL WINNERS in life.”
Well, that is a lie!!!
And, that way of thinking is the greatest stumbling block we humans face when it comes to seeking to follow Christ and living as the people of God.
“Take the easy way out.”
“Do whatever feels good.”
“Don’t worry about others.”
That is the way of Satan, and the human mind falls prey to that way very easily.
Satan tries to convince us that God’s Way, Jesus’ Way is a miserable burden…
…that God is a kill-joy…
…and that true happiness is found in self-indulgence rather than self-emptying.
But the truth is the opposite.
As a matter of fact, the cross that Jesus talks about in Matthew isn’t a burden to bear.
It isn’t a punishment, but instead it is an invitation that is handed out—an invitation to dine at the Table of the King!!!