If any desire to follow behind me, let them disown themself, lift up their cross and let them follow me.
Again the season of Lent, living the life of a Christian. Now a question, have you ever thought you knew someone, then later find out you were wrong? A friend who disliked you, an enemy who became a friend. You thought you knew who they were, what they wanted, then something happens; you see them in different circumstances, they say something; and you see you were wrong. This is just what has happens to Peter. Immediately before our reading today, Jesus asks who people say He is and Peter replies, You are the Messiah! (Mark 8:27-29) Finally, after all the times the disciples fail to understand, particularly in Mark’s account, finally they get it! Jesus is the Messiah, Christ in Greek, the one anointed to save the Israelites and all the world!
But Peter didn’t really understand, he saw the truth but only in blurry vision, like the blind man Jesus healed earlier in the chapter (Mark 8:22-25). Peter still had his own idea of who the Messiah was and what He would do. Throw out the Romans, conquer the world, bringing all people to worship God the Jewish way at the second temple in Jerusalem, Israel. And yet Jesus openly tells them what He is going to do, what will happen. The Jewish leaders will reject Him, cause Him to suffer, Jesus would be killed and after three days rise again. But Peter doesn’t like that; he thinks he knows who the Messiah is, better than the Messiah Himself. No, says Peter, you’re wrong! Jesus turns to the disciples, No Peter, you are wrong! Get behind me Satan/enemy, you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.
A good question for us. Are you like Peter? Do you have in mind the things of God? Or do you fill your time and focus on finances, politics both state and street, gossip, worry, the things of this world? As we asked last week, do you treasure the things of this world or the things of God? Do you listen to Jesus, as God commanded at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7)? Or do you think you know who God is without His help? Do you know better than the one who made you? Trying to bring Him down to your level to serve you like a cheerleader, a schoolmaster, a genie. Do you try to make God fit the things of this world, the things of men? Or do you let God be God and tell you who He is? Do you let Him love you as He has promised? Do you have in mind the things of God, or the things of men?
This Lent, as we hear God’s Word, as you meditate on it and as you pray; what is he telling us about what a Christian is? Who is Jesus, what is this Messiah? A conqueror crowned with gold, beloved by all His own people, all Australians and all people across this world? No! He tells us who He is. He shows us who He is. He is crowned with thorns, rejected by His own people, ignored by most Australians, and even rebuked by many across the world. And yet, He took up a cross, that horrific tool of public, excruciating torture. He took up His cross, suffering that ridicule, rejection, even regret, on top of all the lashes and heavy nails. He took up our fallen humanity (Hebrews 2:14-18), He took up your sin (Isaiah 53:6), your guilt and failures onto that cross. And, just like every disease stops afflicting the person at death, there in His death, sin dies with Him. But sin does not rise from the grave.
And this He has done for you 2000yrs ago, He has promised this for you in your Baptism, and He promises that you participate in this in every Holy Communion. He disowned Himself, took up His cross, and died for you. This is His way of life, life everlasting. And Jesus tells His disciples, even His enemy of a moment, Peter, to get in behind. And for all who desire to live His life, to walk His way, to follow Him; deny yourself, take up your cross and follow the Messiah. The gifts God has given you, union with Christ Jesus, separation from sin, and life despite death; cling to these things of God, have them in mind as you continue through Lent. As we say of the Baptismal life in Jesus; die daily to your sin, rise daily and live with Him.
And the peace of God which surpasses all our understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the Final Resurrection. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.