Summary: This sermon is designed to guide the members of the congregation to deny oneself, to take up ones cross, and to follow Jesus.
There are tremendous lessons in our Holy Scripture. There are lessons not only in the words, or the content, but that there are lessons for us even in the construction of the writing—there are lessons in the style as well as in the words themselves. For example, in Mark the disciples had been with Jesus as he healed people, as he feed the thousands, but in a minute I’ll read where “Jesus began to tell them…;” many translations read, “He then began to teach them.” It is striking to me that after all this time Jesus begins to teach or to tell them the things then needed to know and the lesson has to do with Who is leading. Listen to what Jesus started teaching the disciples, and us…
Scripture: Mark 8:31-38 NLT
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
This is the Word of God for the people of God.
There’s the story of a soldier frantically digging in during battle as shells fall all around him. Suddenly his hand feels something metal and he grabs it. It’s a silver cross. Another shell explodes and he buries his head in his arms. He feels someone jump in the foxhole with him and he looks over and sees an army chaplain. The soldier thrusts the cross in the chaplain’s face and says, “I sure am glad to see you. How do you work this thing?” (i) When Jesus tried to teach the disciples that he would die on a cross they didn’t understand. Peter didn’t know how to deal with the cross—he didn’t understand how it worked, so he tried to tell Jesus what to do. He had reached that stage in his spiritual development where he thought he knew more than the master. Peter wasn’t trying to be difficult; he was just convinced that Jesus shouldn’t have to die.
Sometimes we are too confident, too sure that we know how to handle our lives, so we tell Jesus the answer to our prayers. I will confess that there have been times when I answered a question before the person asking the question finished—then when I realized I answered the wrong question I felt silly. Have you ever done that? It is easy to be overly confident that we know what the other person is going to say and when we do, we are at risk of making ourselves look silly.
I suspect that some of us make a similar mistake when we pray. We try to tell Jesus how to answer our prayers. Like Peter, we are so sure we know how things need to be handled that we jump right in and tell Jesus how to handle our life. I read that there is one prayer that is always answered, and that prayer is, “Thy will be done.” If only Peter had listened to Jesus, then said, “Thy will be done.” I encourage each of us to listen to Jesus then pray, “Thy will be done.”
Not only did Peter fail to listen to Jesus, and not only did he try to tell Jesus what to do, he did all of this from an earthly, human point of view, and not from a divine, heavenly, God-inspired point of view. We live in a culture where we sing “I did it my way,” then we go to a restaurant and expect them to say “we do it your way” when they put a grease burger in front of us. It is hard for us to understand that we don’t always choose the way things work out; it is hard for us to give up control and to let Jesus lead.