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Who Is Jesus? What Do You Say?? Lent 2B

March 4, 2012

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St. Mark 8:27-38


Today Jesus gathers you and the disciples around Himself.  He asks you two questions.  The first is:  “Who do people say I am?”   Loads of different answers there!  Depends on whom you ask!  The opinions vary.  John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the OT prophets!  Quite flattering!  Admiring!  Appreciative!  Who wouldn’t want to be compared to a prophet? 


Then comes the second question.  And, to be quite honest, this is the most important question you can ever be asked in your life!  Seriously!  More important than:  where you want to go for college?  More important than:  how are your investments doing?  More important than:  how is your health? 


Because this second question from Jesus is the eternal life or death question!  “But what about you?  What do you have to say about me?  Who do you say that I am?”    


There’s no escaping this question!  You can’t run from it!  This question draws a line in the sand!  A line that separates!   The question determines whether you’re a disciple who believes in Him as the Savior or whether you’re just an admirer for whom Jesus is ultimately a nothing.  This “Who do you say I am?” question is a for better or a for worse question!  Either you will be bound to Jesus in faith for eternal life or you will separate yourself from Him in apathetic unbelief for eternal death! 


So:  “ What about you?  Who do YOU say that I am?” 


Am I hearing crickets?  Are we now a bunch of Quakers?  Cat got your tongue?  The silence is deafening!    


Thank goodness for Peter!  He breaks the silence!  He has an answer!  He barks it out!  “Jesus, you are the Christ.”


Yes, that’s right Peter!  That’s what we wanted to say!  “Jesus, that’s our answer too!  We’re with Peter!  You are the Christ!  The Messiah!  The Promised One!  THE DESCENDANT promised to Abraham by whom all nations on the earth are blessed!” 


Good!  Now that we’ve got that straight – that Jesus is the Christ — He commands us to be quiet about that fact!  And then He’s off to the races with another sermon!  And when He preaches we’d better pay attention.


Quite a sermon from the Christ, Jesus!  Very plain!  Very upfront!  No holds barred!  About what it means that He is the Christ that we together with Peter have just confessed! 


Jesus ratchets it up!  Not only is He the Christ!  He is also the Daniel 7-heavenly-eternal-everlasting-all authority and power-Son of Man-God in the flesh King that reigns on the earth! Listen.  Jesus says:  “I, the Son of Man must …” That’s the Daniel 7 “Son of Man!”  I.E. God Himself!  “I, the Son of Man, the heavenly, eternal, everlasting, all authority and power God, MUST … suffer many things.  All the religious big wigs, seminary professors and spiritual authorities will reject me, the Son of Man Christ!  And more!  I will be … killed!  Dead as a doorknob!  Graveyard dead and buried!  And then after three days I will rise again!”    


Really?  Can you have a Jesus the Son of Man Christ like that?  Is Jesus the Son of Man Christ supposed to act like that?  Allow that to happen to Him?  It’s one thing for Him to be the Christ – the Son of Man Christ!  But it’s quite another for Him to be talking like this!  Suffering?  Murdered?  Resurrected?


Are you ashamed of this Jesus?  Red faced?  Embarrassed at His words?  Scandalized?


Peter is!  He won’t be having a Jesus like that!  No way!  No how!  All this suffering, death and resurrection talk is for the birds!  Peter will have Jesus as the Christ but not in the way Jesus says! 


Peter is quite emphatic about it.  He takes Jesus to task.  Rebukes Jesus the Son of Man Christ!  “Look here Jesus, you mean well and all!  But you seem to be quite confused theologically!  What did you miss at Synagogue School?  So I guess I’m going to have to say it.  Here goes!  I won’t be having you talk like this anymore!  I may be just a fisherman but I do know this!  The Son of Man Christ doesn’t suffer!  The Son of Man Christ CANNOT die! THAT IS SIMPLY OUT OF THE QUESTION!  Therefore the Son of Man Christ will have no need for a resurrection! So I, Peter, here and now, will make sure to keep you as far away as possible from suffering, death, and an empty tomb!  You’re not going there!  Ever!  You will be the Christ the way I say so!  So be a good boy Jesus and be the Son of Man Christ that I tell you to be!  No suffering!  No death!  No resurrection on … what did you say? … the third day!”


Brilliant Peter!  Mega Dittos!  Way to go!  You sure told Him!  It really is best that we keep Jesus from such scurrilous and scandalous events!  You’re right Peter!  Jesus can’t be allowed to suffer all that nasty stuff and still be Son of Man Christ!


And that’s when Jesus whips around, gets in our faces, to reprimand Peter and all of us!  “Won’t be having me do a Holy Week, Good Friday or Easter Sunday?  Well, then you don’t have a Savior! You’ll still be in your sins!  You’re faith is me is worthless!  You’ll die and be damned in your sin!  Is that what you want?  Really?  Do you know what you’re saying folks?  You don’t!  You’re all possessed!  So get behind me Satan!”  


Satan?  Oh no!  Jesus didn’t just say that, did He?  He did!  He just pulled a Rick Santorum! Good grief!  How dare He!  How rude!  How uncouth!  What a hick!  What a hayseed!  This Jesus is certainly way too far to the right of most religious folks!  He definitely does not appeal to the people in the middle!  “Satan?”  That’s way too low-brow for all us high brow types who see Satan as only an allegory not a real creature that really want to do us all in!    


Jesus will not be cowed!  “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men!”  Yes, that’s right!  Keep Jesus from His Passion, a Good Friday, and an Easter morning and you’re in league with the devil himself!  You see what’s happening?  Satan is using an apostle and you as his instruments!  To tempt Jesus!  To get Jesus off track!  To prevent Him from taking all your sin and dying for it!  All that is satanic!


Jesus must suffer!  He must die!  He must rise again!  For your salvation!  It’s the only way!  He will do it!  In the face of immense temptation to not do it!  In the midst of Satan using bystanders who cry out:  “Come down from the cross and then we’ll believe in you!”  Even as He endures the eternal wrath of God on the cross as He bears the sin of the world!       


Would you still be His disciple?  Would you continue to follow this Jesus? The Jesus who not only believes that Satan exists but actually believes that Satan attacks Him?  And that Satan uses an apostle to keep Jesus from dying for the ungodly?


Jesus puts the pedal to the metal even more for you, Peter, and the rest of His disciples!   “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 


Here I believe is where we are at a crossroads as Christians in America.  Just as in every generation since Jesus first uttered these words.  Will we, as Jesus’ disciples will compromise our confession of Jesus or bear the cross?  Are we ready to suffer and endure all kinds of tribulation or even death because we candidly confess Jesus as the Christ?


I will say it again.  We Christians in America are at a turning point!  Here is the issue.  Will we accommodate with and give in to a very seductive, elite, aggressively utopian and pious idolatrous secular culture?  Will we cave?  Will we compromise the Christian faith, diminish and deny Jesus as well as His Gospel for the sake of a career, a retirement, a pension, amusement, pleasure, popularity, success, wealth, or power?   


Confess Jesus and receive His Gospel of forgiveness as if your eternal life depends on it and you will suffer for it.  Here’s how it goes these days.  “You’re one of those right wing self-righteous wackos!  You think that Jesus alone saves!  You have the nerve to maintain that good people who deny the Trinity aren’t Christians!  You think you’re the only people in the world who have the truth!  That Jesus is pro-life!  That Jesus is traditional marriage!  You bigots and homophobes!  You Christians are the enemy!  And you must be dealt with!”  I could go on and on with more examples. 


But to faithfully confess Jesus as the crucified and risen Christ for salvation, to live according to His Word and oppose the infallible dogmas of this sick, depraved but very pious secular culture could cost you your job!  Cost you your friends!  Even your own relatives!  Maybe even your own life!    


Jesus is quite blunt about it:  “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.”   


You can’t get any more candid than that!  Following Jesus means denying yourself!  Losing your life of selfish, idolatrous sin!  To be a Christian means dying to your self-absorbed, turned in on yourself, lived only for yourself Hollywood-like life!  To follow Jesus is to suffer whatever is laid on you for being a Christian!  For being a baptized disciple or faithful follower of Jesus! 


This is precisely one of the reasons why the sign of the holy cross was made over you at your Baptism!  The holy cross has been laid on you!  It marks you as Christ’s!  Do you think the world and (dare I say it?) Satan will leave you alone?  Not hardly!  Just as they    


Love your sinful life and live apart from a Jesus of whom you’re ashamed and you will lose it forever!  Lose your sinful life in the forgiveness and death of Jesus and you will live forever!  To follow Jesus means nothing less than to suffer and die with Jesus! 


Such suffering, as the Epistle from Romans 5 says today, produces endurance in you.  Suffering for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel disciplines you in the way of the cross.  In other words, you learn all the more how to depend on Jesus for everything!  You learn how important coming to church is to hear Christ’s promise of forgiveness!  You learn how important prayer is! You learn how important thanksgiving is.  Even in the midst of tremendous pain and persecution for being a disciple of Jesus.    


Patient endurance then produces character.  Character is the condition of having been tested.  People with character are those who have suffered deeply.  Shallow suffering produces shallow character — confession of Jesus without a backbone!  Deep Christian character is developed by long and patient suffering while at the same time relying only on God’s mercy, clinging only to Jesus’ promise of forgiveness and eternal life, believing only in the crucified and risen Jesus!


That kind of character, like that of Christ Himself, nailed to the cross of Christ by faith, brings eternal hope.  It is a “Christ Jesus crucified for you” hope that does not fail.  It is hope that lasts through suffering!  It is hope that does not fail even when the skills of doctors and medicines fall short, even when bank accounts and investments collapse, even though friends and family abandon.  The Lord Jesus does not disappoint.  He died for you!  He rose for you!  “While we were still sinners Christ died for us – for the ungodly.”   While we were God’s enemies Jesus reconciled us to God through His death!


The “It is finished” of Calvary covers you in everything!  Even when you suffer for being a disciple of Jesus!  After all, since you have been reconciled to God in Son of Man Christ Jesus you are saved!            


In the Name of Jesus.

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