By Verse : Mark 8:31-33 Topic :


This morning we begin our journey with Jesus to the cross. Like Advent, Lent is a time of preparation, a time to examine our spiritual lives. It’s the invitation that Jesus alludes to in Mark 8:34- “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Our choir has introduced our theme for our journey the next 6 weeks as they sang a medley introducing some of the symbols of the season of Lent, and those which Jesus had to endure. You can see some of them on the slide.
We don’t like to think of that last week of Jesus’ life very often. But that is what this cantata is all about. We always want to think of the joy, the great things that he did. We like to celebrate Advent because it is the Christmas season full of joy, full of excitement, full of anticipation of his coming to this earth. We decorate our houses, we buy special gifts, we send Christmas cards with letters letting friends and distant relatives know what’s been happening since the last year. We greet one another with a joyous ‘Merry Christmas,’ not “Bah Humbug!” and watch those wonderful movies that bring joy to our hearts. It’s a festive time of year as Christmas music is uplifting and joyful. It puts us in a joyful mood.
And then we have Lent, and there is a different feeling in the church. We don’t have many Lenten movies to watch. But there are a few like “The Robe,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” “The Exodus.” “Barabbas,” and “The Passion of Christ.” That one really can move you to tears. Not always uplifting but telling the story of Jesus that we all need to know. Music is different, singing lots about the cross, and the suffering Christ had to endure. And in the Christian calendar, Lent seems to come so quickly after Christmas. It’s like we just had time enough to see unwrap the Christmas gift that God gave us, and Lent is upon us which bring a different direction in the life and times of Jesus. All that to set us up for the real reason Jesus came.
It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Good Friday. But that isn’t the end. No! Far be it for God to leave us like that. No! we have Easter morning that reminds us of Jesus’ victory.
So, during Lent we prepare our spiritual lives for something that is very important to our faith. It’s a time of reflection, a time to think about our mortality, our eternal future, our salvation, and Jesus invites us to journey with him the whole way to the cross and beyond. During this time, we relive the agony of the cross, in anticipation of the resurrection.
The choir sang about the nails that they drove into Jesus’ hands and feet. The robe and crown that they put on him as they mocked him as king, as they beat him, and spit on him. They mentioned the cup and bread of the Last Supper as he prepared the disciples for what was to come.
All the elements of salvation are present. They are there for us to understand what it was that brought on the suffering so that we could appreciate what Jesus did for us. All these symbols remind us of the final week in the life of Jesus.
Why do we do this year after year? Let me put it this way. You can’t have the joy of Easter without the suffering of the final week in Jesus’ life. Think of it. How can we celebrate the victory of Easter without the war of the cross? “O that old rugged cross” the hymn goes, “so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.” Now get this… “For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above to bear it to dark Calvary.” “So Ill cherish that old rugged cross,” it goes on. Yes, we really, really need to remember what Easter is all about. The title to the cantata the choir is singing is an invitation from God to COME TO THE CROSS AND REMEMBER.
A few weeks ago, while Carole was out with Karen, I came across a movie called “Private Ryan.” It was a true story that happened during WW II about a group of soldiers given the assignment to find private Ryan and bring him home because his two brothers had died while serving and well, they didn’t want his mother to have to mourn the loss of three sons. The movie was the journey of those who were assigned to find private Ryan and bring him safely to the rear. The part that was very touching for me was the last scene or two, many years later when private Ryan and his family, all grown now, returned to the place where he had been fighting. This time, it was a military cemetery with all those white head stones of those veterans who died during the war. A civilian private Ryan, much older now, was standing before a headstone of a fallen soldier. That’s where the story began. Now, at the end of the movie he was standing there thanking the man who had willingly took a patrol, went through so much suffering and agony themselves, just looking for him. That soldier, and others in that platoon, died to free private Ryan. Now private Ryan had come back to tell this one soldier that through these years following the war he kept the promises that he made. He had lived a wonderful, productive life and now he wanted to thank this man by telling this soldier that he didn’t die in vain but wanted him to know how grateful he was that this man, and the others he led, would die to save him.
Maybe we could say that’s the story of lent. One man came to this earth with one assignment. “Do what you have to, to save my people.” So, humbly, Christ left his place in heaven and journeyed to earth and began his journey to the cross from a stable in Bethlehem
This morning we need to open our hearts and minds and be in tune to what God wants to say to us this season of Lent. Examine your spiritual life, your commitment to Christ, to this church, to your walk with God, so that you can grow stronger in your faith, in order to realize how blessed we are for what Jesus did for us on that old rugged cross. And I’m sorry to say, that even today, even in the year 2018 with all the churches in the world, all the technical ways of getting the message out, there are still many who still reject Jesus for salvation., They turn away from the God who gave them life in the first place, and who wants to give them eternal life through believing in his son. But they want no part of God, Jesus, the church, or religion in general. It’s sad.
The story begins this morning with the disciples. This fine bunch of men have been with the Master for around three years. Man, they have witnessed so much that Jesus did. He calls these fishermen to come follow, and they drop their nets, leave their families, their jobs and they begin to follow him. Only one promise has been made. “Come, and I will make you fishers of men.” The journey will take them through villages, towns, sea sides. It will take them to different kinds of people, many who have been turned aside by society, but not Jesus. They had no idea where this journey would lead them. They had no clue what Jesus expected of them. All we know is, when Jesus issued the invitation, they followed. And that journey was full of twists and turns, many ups and downs.
And so, their journey took those twists and turns, and so did their faith. They had highs and lows along the way. They marveled at some things and questioned some others. They even had their doubts. But that day in Caesarea Philippi when they were huddled around a camp fire eating lunch there came a change of heart for most of them. Well, at least 11. You see, that is when Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was. When they told him some thought of him as a prophet or a teacher, maybe even Elijah who came back to life, Jesus asks the more important question. “And who do you say that I am?” And all became quiet. They reflected in their own mind about the things they saw and heard these past three years. Who did they think Jesus was? He was a great teacher and preacher that was for sure. He touched lots of people, so he had lots of compassion on people he met. He had no fear. He never seemed to lose patience with his disciples nor those who he talked with, even the religious leaders. So, who really is this man that is sitting across from them and is waiting for their answers? It was Peter who finally lifted his head and looked straight at Jesus. “You, you are the Christ, the Messiah.” And all the others lifted their heads and their eyes fell on Jesus as they agreed with Peter’s assessment. He is the Messiah!
Now, just a little while after that confession, we come to this morning’s passage. This is the pivotal point in Mark’s gospel as Peter and the disciples have just proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah. Perhaps building on that confession, knowing that the disciples have finally grasped who he was, Mark records in 8:31-33 this:
“(Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, and chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
What message does this have for us this morning? Well, these guys had a difficult time understanding what was going to happen to Jesus. It wasn’t as if Jesus spoke in code that shook them up. Mark records “He spoke plainly about this,” that is, about what he was about to face. He was telling them what his future looked like, and it wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t what they were expecting. You know what they did? They said, “This can’t be.” Peter, who must have been upset, even took Jesus aside, perhaps put his hand on Jesus’ shoulder and began to rebuke him saying it will never happen. Checking out the word ‘rebuke’ in the Greek context in this passage it has a stronger meaning. It means to ‘forbid.’ In other words, Peter was forbidding Jesus from talking about all this stuff. Maybe we can go further and say Peter was forbidding Jesus to go where danger lurked. He and the disciples didn’t want to hear any of that stuff. They wanted the good things that Jesus was doing to last and last. They weren’t following someone who was going to die. They were following the Messiah who was going to lead them to victory. They had seen how much power Jesus had. They had witnessed it repeatedly, so him talking about his death, well, no way, no how would Peter, nor the others allow that. They aren’t words full of hope, but discouragement. Peter could not see the whole picture. He could only see the now. He couldn’t see beyond that. Sounds like us and many others in the world, right? Many have a hard time with thinking about the afterlife. So, when Jesus began to speak about rejection, suffering and even dying, well that blew his mind, as well as the disciples. Peter, being spokesman, is trying to keep this little band together and those words must have made them think why did they give up on things they had enjoyed and did and for three years followed this guy who was going to die?
But the other thing that is in this section that needs to be mentioned is that Jesus spoke about the resurrection. Why didn’t Peter ask him about that? Why didn’t he ask Jesus to explain himself? What did he mean in three days he would rise again? No wonder Peter was mystified.
But we, on the other hand, have the rest of the story. Sure, we have listened to his journey. Yes, we have heard what happens to Jesus in the end. It was true that Jesus was rejected, beaten, whipped, scorned, crucified and died. The disciples had scattered and went into hiding. We know all that. But we also know the outcome, for we also know that three days later, like he said, he had risen and lives today.
That is what we remember each Lent. That Christ believed we were worthy of his going to the cross in order to free us from our sins so that we could be free and find salvation.
Peter and the disciples didn’t seem to get it. But I hope we get it. For though you many not think so, Jesus died that you might have hope and life.
You are on the journey. We are on the journey together to come to the cross and remember. May these songs the choir sings, and the messages from the cross challenge our faith walk, our lives, and may, our hopes, and our salvation be strengthened as we remember that Jesus did all that for us. And when we come to Easter morning may we be thankful as we rejoice that up from the grave he arose in victory so that we too might live. Amen!

Happy Birthday Larry Wise

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