One cannot but feel for Peter and the disciples, and how they must have felt when we hear Jesus words to them “Get behind me Satan”. I’ve been called many things that haven’t always been pleasant, but thankfully that is not one of them.
But to Peter and the guys, “Satan”. The same guys who we know from earlier, when meeting Jesus for the first time: seemingly didn’t think twice- just gave up everything and followed him.
Starting Mark chapter 1, verse 16: “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. ‘Come, follow me’, Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men’. At once they left their nets and followed him.
But now, looking at Peter Jesus says “get behind me Satan”, and in what seems like a stern lecture, follows with “you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”,
and then to the crowd as well “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it”.
Seriously, they give up everything, then when trying to talk Jesus out of knowingly and purposely, like a lamb to the slaughter walking into a situation, where he’ll be set up, tortured and killed.
They get mentioned in the same breath as “Satan”.
Fair dinkum, in all seriousness, what do you think might be your response?
For me, maybe the term “thanks for nothing” might come to mind.
(and) in thinking that, right there, Jesus has got me-and anyone one else that may have felt the same way.
Our logical human response shows our focus, our focus on ourselves, or at the very least, we are thinking like Peter in human terms.
Human terms that appeal. Last week we heard in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert.
But Mark did not tell us of what the temptations were. Matthew does, and they don’t seem blasphemous or openly evil. But they are, because the devil is in the detail, or better said, in the subtlety.
Jesus is hungry, so is tempted to “tell these stones to become bread”. In our lives this equates to doubt sown about our physical needs, our retirement, our financial needs.
These needs are real, but doubt is sown to separate us from trust in God-to create a barrier.
Next, Jesus is tempted to deny the Word of God. After taking Jesus to the highest point of the temple overlooking the city, the devil says “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written that He will command his angels to lift you up in their hands so you will not strike your foot against a stone.” This is like a dare with logic.
For the Church today, this can be seen when we put our logic before the Word of God. So much so that the Word is not preached, taught or acted on in its totality.
It’s the temptation to not trust or depend totally in God’s ways, but ours.
Lastly we hear that Jesus was ‘offered’ “all the kingdoms of the world, if only he bow down and worship him”-the devil. Firstly it is ludicrous because it was not his to offer, but his temptation is against God himself, to defy God.
This temptation involved the purpose of Jesus actual coming into the world. Jesus came to redeem people, not to rule them. Satan’s suggestion to Jesus, and still followed by many today, required no suffering and death. Thankfully, Jesus chose God’s way, the way of the cross.
The path of Glory rather than that of a suffering servant.
I don’t think we need any examples of how that works out in our society, or we might be here all day.
These temptations appear attractive and “natural” and appeal to all “natural” human instincts and that is why they are so dangerous.
The ways of the world appeal to us naturally, the ways of God don’t, and left to our own devices, as God knew, that’s how it would have remained.
Something has to give in this stand-off, and someone did. God did.
God gave himself, His Son Jesus. Jesus, fully divine, yet fully human. Jesus the messiah, our Saviour, the divine one. The Son of God, yet the Son of God who felt hunger, pain and temptation. The Son of God who in the Garden asked “is there another way”. The saviour who had his mind on the things of God, our Saviour who denied himself and willingly walked to the cross for us that we may live, to re-unite us with the Father.
To not leave us to our own devices, but to leave us to his devices. His strength and His gifts.
The gift of Holy Communion. Where we receive the true body and blood of our Jesus Christ to strengthen our faith, to bring forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
The gift of Baptism. To deliver us from death and the devil, to bring us forgiveness and grant salvation to all who believe as the Word and promise of God declare.
In Romans 6:4. St. Paul writes, “We are buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, that we too might walk in newness of life”. Did you hear that, “newness of life”?
What is this “newness of life”? The small catechism tells us clearly, that ‘It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new person should come forward daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God’s presence”.
Daily sorrow and repentance, and the new person come forward daily.
Is this not what has been instructed in today’s Gospel. That “if anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. To have our minds on “divine things, not human things”.
These words from Jesus sound hard, sound impossible, sound like law, but come to life as Gospel. They bring freedom because they release us from ourselves. Release us from getting pulled along by the worlds offer and promise of self-gratification in “things”. Consumerism, that if not for Christ would imprison us.
In Adelaide, every Easter and Christmas there’s debate about opening the shops on day’s registered as public holidays. Comments like, we are backward compared to other states prop up every time.
Last year in the paper, there were numerous people who said they went on a trip interstate because there shops were open and Adelaide’s were not.
Seriously, is that where we are as a society?
In Christ we see these things-consumerism- for what they are. They are not what life is about. They are good servants, but not good masters. Christ is the life.
In Christ we are free and given life-he is our need and our focus.
So, is everybody ready to deny themselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus? To lose our lives for Jesus and the Gospel?
Well thankfully we’ve made a good start and there’s not a colosseum with hungry lions in sight.
You have made a good start because you have done it today. Because, if you had your sights on human things, you may have slept in, or gone shopping in instead of coming to church.
But you’re here, because your sights are on divine things. Today we join in worship.
We thank Jesus by accepting his grace in confession and absolution and the body and the blood of Christ in Holy Communion. These are divine things.
Even more, those who have children, children that God loves with a passion-you brought them here today, in Christ’s presence. Just like you did when you carried them to baptism. You are serving Christ and the Gospel as he has asked.
Unfortunately, there are others, others that Christ loves that are yet to know him. The people we meet and work with everyday. Play sport with, socialise with. Our friends, work mates and even those that we don’t see eye to eye with.
Each one loved by God. Each one that God wants that they know His peace and his love.
Keep our minds on divine things, and die to self and serve Jesus and the Gospel. That’s where it’s at-in the people he has brought before us in our daily lives. That’s our calling, that through us-they may hear of Christ, to be drawn closer to him.
It is amazing that sinners like us, in Christ are Saints. Forgiven.
(and) it is amazing that we, are living examples of God’s love and that we are involved with Him in his work. His desire to meet those he has placed before us.
But at times, serving those before us in and with the Gospel can seem like a very thankless task. And it is,
if our focus is on us getting or seeing the results. That’s the beauty of our Lord, we just go about our business endeavouring to live like a child of Christ, like the disciples, we don’t rush ahead of Christ, we follow Christ.
(and) in following Christ-we don’t see our love of all those we meet, we see Christ’s love of them.
Like the disciples, we follow Christ and we see him meet the hurt, the down and outs-the homeless, addicted, prostitutes and so forth. We see him meet these people-and see through His eyes. His eyes that look beyond their outwardly condition.
Whose eyes see and understand how easy it is for fragile humans to be caught up in ways of life and actions that “somehow” just seen to creep in. Through Christ’s eyes-we see what he sees-
not a looser, not a person that should just get over it, and not a person that’s got what they deserve.
We see him looking and seeing a beautiful child.
We see him weeping in sadness in their pain and loneliness,
and we see his happiness and his smile.
His happiness and smile, and the happiness of the angels and all the company of heaven when just one more person comes to faith. Faith in his promises.
Serving our neighbour is not a thankless task, because serving our Lord is not a thankless task. Not for the thanks he will give us in return for our service, but for the thanks he has already given us.
The thanks he has already given us?
But Isn’t it the thanks we give Christ?
It’s a yes to both.
In the film Jerry Maquire starring Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, after a break up in their romance, Tom returns, says hello and begins to apologise for his errors. Renee, stops him apologising and says “you had me at hello”.
She didn’t need the apologies. Just him returning was enough.
Following Christ and serving his people is not a task, it’s a response for his love that we have already received.
When one of his children return home, when one of his children bow down and ask for Mercy for mistakes, guilt, greed, mistakes and flaws. When one of his children ask for mercy during times of hardship. Christ says to them, says to us: thank you my dear child, but you had me at “Lord have mercy”. Amen. “