Sermon: Pentecost 20C, Story Week 25, Sunday October 2nd, 2016, St Petri.
Losing and gaining
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’
These small band of followers had been on the road with The teacher for some time by the time we get to this moment up north in Caesarea Philippi. A big moment is coming. The teacher is going to burst their bubble, big time. He is going to challenge their expectations of him and of how God works to bring his story to completion. They will find his words tough to receive.
Jesus speaks pointedly about losing and gaining life – both his and theirs. He says for the first time of three times that he is willingly going to die.
Jesus speaks of losing and gaining life: I wonder whether you find yourself often thinking about what you are losing and gaining in life. I suspect we naturally want to lose less and gain more.
What do we want to lose more of? Weight, poverty, gossip about us, enemies that scare us, or who annoy us, trouble that befalls us, pain that hurts us, shame that depresses us, dislike that worries us…
What do we want to gain more of? Money, toys, people who make us laugh, people who inspire us, fitness, health, happiness, a good name, security, knowledge, our team to win, our marriage to last, our kids to win, …..
How do we get more of what we want and lose more of what we don’t want? Is this the secret to successful living?
Jesus speaks of losing and gaining on a deep scale. He speaks of the losing of one’s very own soul and the gaining of the same.
He says today that it is possible to actually lose our very own soul – our identity, our inner values, convictions; our “soul”. The way we can lose our very soul is in the attempt to gain it by ourselves on our own terms – not his. We have seen this in the greatest story ever told these 20+ weeks. God’s people have sometimes sold out and lost their very soul as they have attempted to gain everything – I think of King Saul, King David at times, Jeroboam, and the like….
What is this losing of which Jesus speaks? Is he speaking of selling out on our values in order to get ahead financially?
Is he speaking of selling out our deepest convictions about life and who we are as a person in Christ in order to get along in a situation – have everybody like me, avoid any conflict…?
Is he speaking of selling our very soul to gain something we think will enhance our life?
Maybe all of three things are on Jesus’ mind as he delivers hard news – the news that he will die at the hands of the hated enemy – and willingly! He also says that his death will not be his end, but it seems his friends just can’t hear or believe that at this moment.
What is he thinking? What are they feeling?
Confusion: Suffering and shame are not part of the deal for the Messiah and his heavenly followers! The Messiah is the new promised everlasting king David, the new divine power to change our stars, not die on us.
Fear: Death – what has that got to do with the Messiah – the Son of God sent from above? He doesn’t taste death.”
Rejection: We thought Jesus was on our side. We thought his kingdom is never ending. We thought he would be with us forever? He now says he has his own secret agenda and he will not be around forever. Where will that leave us? Nowhere!
Peter expressed the thoughts and feelings of the group: “Jesus, this is not part of the deal”. You are supposed to deliver the good life at minimal cost to us. You’re not supposed to talk about sin and death and judgement, and be so negative!
And this gets a stern response from Jesus. “Get behind me, Satan!” This is not meant to suggest that Peter has been momentarily demon possessed. No, it means that he is voicing a major temptation for Jesus – to give up his soul by taking the easy human option.
And this is the issue – the easy option.
- Use force to get my life where I want it to be. Manipulate circumstances and people and overpower them with whatever I can muster.
- Opt out of trying. Take a back seat and be passenger when it comes to making decisions, investing my time and my heart in things that matter for myself and my family and my community and country.
- Be super-critical from the sidelines of those who are on the filed doing their best. Be an armchair critic – of everything! Deliver stinging criticism while hardly ever offering any possible solutions and little encouragement to those who are engaged in serving others.
Powering our way through the challenges of life, sitting back and not engaging in the things that matter for others or judging others when they are attempting to serve others, are not the things of God according to Jesus this day.
Jesus tells Peter that his need for comfort over challenge, or self-focus over other-focus and unwillingness to live under the word of Jesus but rather make Jesus in his own expectations are signs that Peter has taken his eyes off the ball. Peter has focussed on the merely human reality of suffering and shame. “Peter, you have not got in mind the things of God, but only the human things”.
Jesus is definitely calling for a very different approach to living. He pictures life as the gaining of the Kingdom of great value. We want to gain that! But he speaks of this gaining by calling us to lose. He says that we gain him as we carry something we don’t want to carry – a cross.
What a thing to carry! The cross is instantly known as an instrument of all the bad things – suffering, shame and death. And Jesus calls for a carrying of that in life? He calls for his followers to grab these things with both hands and walk on. He does not say avoid these things, dismiss these things, escape these things, but carry these thing behind him – following his voice.
He calls Peter and the others to look to him for the way through these things. Jesus holds up himself, his word, his life and his promises as the light in any tunnel we may be walking through.
Peter speaks for any confused and suffering sinner who comes to the realisation that this Jesus is life itself when he responds to that question Jesus asks all of us – “Who do you say I am?” “Jesus, you are the Son of the Living God”. This confession of faith is the thing upon which the whole community of Jesus has been and still is built.
Our desire is to hear these words spoken from our own lips in happy and sad days. Our heart’s desire as a Christian is to hear these words spoken in earnest by a friend or stranger who have come to experience Jesus as their only hope and their only joy for living.
That is why our mission as a church is to share this love and hope of Jesus with everyone!
In this cross and the carrying of it, in whatever form there is life now – for those who trust the presence and promise of Jesus’ cross there is the gospel – the Good News – God is here, God is full of grace and power and love for people. God suffers with me, God suffers for me and for others. God kills death. Brings victory over shame, belonging over loss, new character over testing. By faith in this man on that cross we are healed, restored, saved, empowered and sent.
So, go today. Don’t take the easy options. Warmly embrace this Jesus and live this faith in words and actions for others.
Jesus is in and beyond our death and sorrow. He is our soul, our life, our now and forever.
Praise to his name.
Chapter 25, Jesus, the son of god
Timeless Truth: He is I am
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
Who do you say I am? It was the most important question Peter was ever asked. People did not know what to make of this Jesus. He was like no other rabbi. His claims about Himself were outrageous and way out of line if He were merely human. Two thousand years had passed since God promised Abraham that through his seed all nations would be blessed. A thousand years had passed since God promised David that his descendant would reign forever. Now, in Jesus, God’s marathon plan of redemption was sprinting toward its climax. Peter’s answer to the question would change his life forever.
“You are the Messiah,” Peter confessed. Then Jesus began to teach His disciples that this messianic mission included suffering, death, and a resurrection from the dead. They objected to this idea of a Messiah, but Jesus rebuked them. His mission was set and no one could come between Him and the cross. In fact, He taught His disciples that they too would need to lose their lives to save them.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain and gave them a glimpse of His future glorification. When He was transfigured before their very eyes, they fell face down in fear. Jesus had often made “I Am” statements connecting Himself to the name YHWH or “I Am.” Then a voice from heaven stated that Jesus was the Son of God, thereby confirming His assertions.
I AM the light of the world. I AM the bread of life. Jesus declared that failure to believe in Him would have eternal consequences—you would die in your sins. But the Pharisees knew full well the weight of the “I AM” statements – and Jesus’ claims to be God were, to them, nothing short of blasphemy. From then on, their hatred of Him ripened into an assassination plot.
I AM the resurrection and the life. Despite getting word that His friend Lazarus was on his deathbed, Jesus delayed His journey. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been entombed for four long days. Sisters Mary and Martha mourned their brother’s death, disappointed that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him, but Jesus assured the women that His delay was for divine glory. At His command, Lazarus walked out of his tomb, vindicating Jesus’ assertion that He alone is the Source of life.
The march toward Jerusalem continued. His time was fast approaching and He had to prepare the disciples for what lay ahead. He told them that the kingdom of God is accessible to those with childlike trust and humility, not through performance. Along the way, Jesus met a rich young man who had performed well since childhood. Jesus told him that discipleship, for him, would mean giving away his riches. Unable to part with earthly wealth, the young man walked away from Jesus’ offer. So strong is the lure of riches that, as far as the gospels record, this is the only time Jesus’ offer was refused.
For the third time, Jesus told them that His work included suffering, death, and a resurrection after three days. Now it was time for Jesus’ grand entrance. He sent His disciples to fetch appropriate transportation and a colt was just where Jesus said it would be. He mounted the donkey and triumphantly rode into Jerusalem as people laid down their coats and branches on the road and hailed Him as the long awaited King, son of David!
Jesus was preparing to glorify the Father’s name. He continued to offer eternal life to all who would believe. The incensed Pharisees instilled fear in many; some who did believe kept quiet. But Jesus’ claims were non-negotiable; He was the only Source of eternal life, the climax and culmination of God’s redemptive plan. Who do you say I am? It is the single most important question that everyone must answer.
Icebreaker Question: What event in this chapter in the life of Jesus would you like to have witnessed? Why?
- Jesus said we must “deny ourselves” and “take up our cross;” and if we seek to save our lives we will lose them. (p. 353-354). What are the implications of these commands for your life, such as marriage, parenting, and career ambition?
- Jesus was transfigured on the mountain (p. 354). The Greek word translated transfigured is the root of the English word metamorphosis, which refers to a radical change. This same word is used in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. What do these verses teach us about the transformation of every believer?
- Look up 1 John 1:5-7 and 2:8-11. What did Jesus mean when He said that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (p. 357)? What does this look like for the Christian living a typical daily life?
- Look up Exodus 3:14, Isaiah 43:11-13, and John 5:18. Why did Jesus’ opponents try to stone Him (p. 358)? How might you answer the skeptic who says that Jesus never claimed to be God?
- Up to this point, Jesus had claimed to be the bread of life, the water of life, and the light of life. And here with Mary, Martha, the disciples, and a crowd of mourners, He claimed to be the resurrection and the life with another I AM statement (p. 359). What is the relationship between belief and life? Between belief and resurrection?
- Why do you suppose Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit,” “troubled,” and wept? Consider Genesis 2:17, Romans. 6:23, 1 Corinthians 15:26, Hebrews. 2:14-15, and I Thessalonians 4:13-17. How has your faith helped you deal with death?
- Three times Jesus predicted His death and resurrection (p. 353, 354, and 362; Mark 8:31, 9:30-31, 10:32-34) and followed each with a lesson on discipleship (p. 353-354 [Mark 8:34-38], Mark 9:33-37, Mark 10:35-45). What principles of discipleship did Jesus teach and why would He relate them to His Passion?
- After Jesus entered Jerusalem as the rightful King of Israel, He cleansed the temple because some had turned it from a house of prayer into a place of corruption (p. 364). Suppose Jesus walked into our own church. With what would He be most pleased? What corrections might He make?
- At what points was Jesus’ humanity most evident to you? His deity?
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.
Chapter 26, the hour of darkness
Journal your answers to these questions as you read through the chapter this week. You may wish to read one day and journal the next, or spread the questions over the whole week.
- While in the upper room with His disciples, Jesus knew his death was imminent. What was most important to Him (p. 367-371)? How would you spend the last day of your life and why? How might your answer shape your daily life now?
- In John 14:1-17 (p. 369-370), Jesus described His relationship with the Father and the Spirit. This relationship, referred to as the Trinity is foundational to our understanding of God. How would you describe their community?
- What did Jesus teach about the relationship of the Spirit to you personally?
- Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commands” (p. 370). Looking at your past week, in what ways have you succeeded in following Jesus’ commands?
- List some ways we see Jesus’ love for his enemies. How does this compare with your treatment of your enemies? Your loved ones?
- Describe Peter’s volatile relationship with Jesus. What lessons from him can you apply to your own relationship with the LORD?
- Jesus’ crucifixion happened in conjunction with the Passover. What does it mean that Jesus is our Passover lamb?
- “It is finished” (p. 314, John 19:30). During the time of Christ, this was the same word which was written across tax receipts and mortgages, meaning “paid in full.” What was finished? Look up John 1:29, Romans 5:6-10, and 2 Corinthians 5:21 for insight. Ponder for a moment your personal “debt” and your new “account status” because it was “paid in full,” then respond in appropriate prayer.
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