Summary: A sermon on the Cross-centered life.
“Sometimes We Think WE Know Better Than The Lord”
by: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace UMC, Soddy Daisy, TN www.graceumcsd.org
History is filled with examples of women and men who, by throwing away their lives, gained life eternal.
Late in the 4th Century there was a certain monk who had made up his mind to leave the world and to live all alone in prayer, meditation and fasting—so that he could save his soul.
That was his only goal.
But in doing this, he felt like there was something wrong or missing from his life.
One day as he rose from his knees in prayer, it suddenly dawned on him that his life was based on a selfish, not a selfless love for God.
Have you ever felt that way?
Have you ever wondered if your faith is here to serve your needs and interests only, or to serve the greater good of all people?
Anyhow, this monk came to the conclusion that if he was going to really serve God he must serve others.
So he said “good-bye” to the desert and headed for the greatest city in the world—Rome.
There was still an arena in Rome; there were still the gladiator games—Christians were no longer being thrown to the lions, but instead, they had to fight and kill one another…and the crowds loved it!!!
It was like NASCAR or March Madness in college basketball for them.
This monk found his way to the arena.
There were 80,000 people there.
The chariot races were ending; and there was an excitement in the crowd as the Christians prepared to fight.
The fight was on and this monk was appalled!
People for which Christ died were killing each other to amuse the crowd.
So he leapt over the barrier and got between the two fighters…
…and for a moment…
…they stopped fighting.
“Let the games go on,” roared the crowd.
They pushed the monk aside, and again he got between the fighters.
The crowd hurled stones at the monk, and they urged the fighters to kill him and get him out of the way.
Then the commander of the games gave an order…
…the gladiator’s sword rose and flashed…
…and the monk lay dead!
Immediately the crowd was silent.
They were suddenly shocked that a holy man should have been killed in such a way.
We might say, they became “convicted.”
Suddenly there was a mass realization of what this killing really was.
The games ended abruptly that day—and they never began again.
That was the end of it.
The monk, by dying, had ended them.
One author writes, “His death was more useful to [humankind] than his life.”
By losing his life, he had done more than he could ever have done by living it out in lonely devotion to the Lord in the desert.
God gave all of us life to spend and not to keep.
If we live, always thinking of our own gain, ease, comfort and security…
…if our single aim is to make life as long and as trouble-free as possible…
…if we make no effort except for ourselves…
…we are losing life all the time…
…and not in a good way.
But if we live our lives for others…
…if we forget wealth and comfort in order to do something great for Jesus and for others…
…we are winning life all the time!!!
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, Jesus makes His first prediction of His up-coming trial and death.
And when Peter hears this, he thinks Jesus is insane and needs to have an exorcism.
We are told that Peter took Christ aside and “began to rebuke him.”
The verb for “rebuke” is the same word used to silence demons.
Only a few verses back in this chapter Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ.
Apparently, Peter had a definition of the Messiah that was different from Jesus’ own definition.
Peter wanted Jesus to be a sort of a “Jewish Caesar.”
This kind of Messiah would call his disciples to position, power, privilege, power and prestige.
Yet Jesus is talking about suffering and dying!
And because of this, Peter tries to set Jesus straight.
But Jesus will have none of it.
Jesus comes back at Peter with the same intensity that Peter had aimed at Jesus.
“Get behind me Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Confronted with the necessity of suffering, most of us react exactly like Peter.
In a ‘pain-killer’ culture, its hard for us to understand suffering—even for the right reasons.
But Jesus gives us the challenge to think like God thinks, not as we human beings normally think.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
Jesus’ healing miracles and Jesus’ compassion for the crowds at the feeding miracles make it clear that God does not delight in human suffering.