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Don’t Be Ashamed!

February 25, 2018

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Second Sunday in Lent                             Trinity Lutheran Church

25 February 2018                                       Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Mark 8:27-38


Ashamed of Jesus? Embarrassed by Jesus and of His words? Do you think you have better words than Jesus? Peter and the apostles are all red-faced. After all, Jesus harps non-stop about having to suffer, be rejected, killed and then rise again after three days. What kind of Christ is that? What kind of Christ would talk like that? It’s as if He has a death wish. A suicidal mania. It’s like He has some kind of mental illness. Suffer, die and rise again? Good grief! Should those things ever happen to the Christ? Can you have a kingdom of God like that? Can God save sinners and an entire sinful world in that way? Can you trust that kind of Jesus? Or are you ashamed of Him and His words?


Peter is. Jesus embarrasses him.   So the apostle tries to take control, have the say so and save Jesus from this pathetic vision that He’s cast for Himself. The apostle will have no more suffering, rejection, murder and rising from the dead sermon. He’s going to nip all that in the bud! He categorically gives Jesus a thoroughgoing rebuke. A verbal tongue lashing! The apostle has better words than the Lord so that he won’t be embarrassed anymore. “Stop it Jesus! You’re embarrassing us. In fact, you’re embarrassing yourself. We won’t let you be the Christ that way. You’ll be a laughingstock. We just can’t have that. You will not do a Holy Week, a Good Friday and an Easter Sunday. I forbid it!”


When you have better words than the Lord regarding His doing the salvation of sinners job – when you insist that Jesus cannot do a Good Friday or an Easter Sunday, well … you’ve become an instrument of the devil. “Get behind me Satan!” That’s Jesus’ quick response to red-faced Peter and his shameful posse. “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting you mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”


You’re salvation depends on Jesus categorically being the Christ in the way that He preaches it. The way He says it. Suffering. Rejection. Killed. Rising on the third day. He is the Christ and He is the Christ only in that way – AS HE SAYS! He has the say so! Don’t pull a Peter and try to silence Jesus when He salvationally preaches suffering, rejection, dying and rising.


After all, the suffering, rejection, dying and rising Jesus the Christ does FOR YOU! He willingly sacrifices Himself into death FOR YOU. That’s the cross. It’s what God salvifically promised Abraham in Genesis 17. Good Friday and Easter Sunday Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promise. All nations are blessed – SAVED – only by the descendant of Abraham: JESUS. St. Paul preached it this way: “Since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


Through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus God gives you salvation. You are reconciled to God. “Justified by his blood.” “Saved … from the wrath of God.” There’s no doubt about it. That’s why Jesus kept preaching it over and over again. Mark records the Passion Sermon of Jesus three times. So that you believe it! And by believing it you have it! Perhaps Mark does that exactly because Peter, when push comes to shove, when what Jesus preached happens, emphatically denies Jesus three times.


Does Jesus still embarrass you? Are you ashamed to be in His presence? Well, you’d better hear the rest of what Jesus the Christ says. He says that to be His disciple – which you are – it means that you will suffer. Again, listen to Jesus. Let Him have the say so. “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”


Jesus makes His way to the cross the pattern of your way. You, His disciples, are to be ready to “lose your life” in the service of Christ in order to “save your life.” Yes, it doesn’t get any more radical than that. “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”   To be a Christian means that you deny yourself! You don’t indulge yourself. You don’t trust yourself. You don’t worship yourself. You trust only in Jesus. That means denying self. Dying to self. Dying to your own words that contradict His! It’s costly to follow Jesus. It’s costly to confess that He alone is the Lord. You may lose a lot. Maybe even your life.


Last week Nic Smith and Michelle Platt promised at their confirmation that they would be faithful in their confession of Jesus as their Savior and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from Him. They promised to hear His Word in all its forms: the Bible, the preaching, the absolution, and the Supper. That’s quite astonishing! Really it is!


After all, how many have stood in front of this altar over the last 125 years, made the same promises, call themselves Christian but are unwilling to suffer anything at all? I can’t count. There’s too many who are not willing to suffer the loss of their sin in order to give it to Jesus. Not willing to die to their own words when they contradict His. Not willing to suffer any kind of inconvenience for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in order to hear Jesus’ words and to eat His most holy Body and Blood in the Sacrament. After all, they might be late for something. That, of course, would be the end of their world. Too many are not willing to take the time and make the effort to get out of bed or to make plans accordingly in order to hear Jesus’ salvific Word. It’s just too inconvenient. Jesus says, “Eat and drink,” but too many tell me: “Life is just too hectic Pastor!” Why? Because their words are always better than Lord’s! Aren’t they?


And here is precisely where the church, the church in general, and our congregation here at Trinity, is at the fork in the road. We are at a place of salvific decision. Which road will we take?  Will we faithfully confess Jesus as the Good Friday and Easter Sunday Christ or will we compromise or deny Him in the face of any little aggravation, annoyance, nuisance, embarrassment, suffering — bearing the cross? Will we choose worldly success and the justification of the self at all costs or we will choose the way of suffering for Jesus’ sake? Will we simply be a religious country club for the comfortable or will we be the church Jesus founded on His suffering, death and resurrection? Will we receive Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, for salvation, Sunday after Sunday or will we give outsiders the impression that this Jesus isn’t worth our time? Like we’re embarrassed to be in His presence to hear His words? We will deny ourselves and die to our sin? Or will we continue to indulge ourselves to death with puny cares – even to eternal death?


The world and our old Adam promise everything. Success. Glory. Wealth. You name it. All you have to do is one little thing. Deny Jesus. “Save you life!” the world shouts. “Think of yourself!” “Reach your potential and enjoy a life of ease!” the world and the old Adam advise. “Deny Jesus. It’s no big deal to be ashamed of His words. Go with your words. They’re better!”  


No they’re not! Jesus is quite clear. He knew the temptations that would come to us. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” The church or the Christian that is not willing to bear the cross, “to suffer all, even death” – the church or the Christian that would rather than fall away from confessing Jesus – has simply ceased to be the church and be a Christian.


The way of discipleship is the hard way of the wood, the nails, and the blood. The cross is the difference between the disciple and the crowds – the church and the world. The crowds followed Jesus only when it was “cool” to do so. Only a few disciples followed Jesus to His death. Many today claim to be Christian, but only a handful take up His cross. Only a few cling to Jesus who promises forgiveness in Word and sacrament.


Suffering is a mark of being a Christian. If you refuse to take up your cross and submit to suffering at the hands of men for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s sake, you forfeit your fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow Him. However, if you lose your life in His service and carry your cross, you will find your life again in the fellowship of the cross with Jesus. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed — ashamed of Jesus, His words, His cross and all the offence and scandal that go with it.


I remind you one more time of what Jesus says to you today. He preaches: “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life for my sake will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”   In other words, love your life apart from Jesus and His promises of salvation and you will lose it forever. Lose your self-justifying life now, in the wounds, death and resurrection of Jesus and you will live forever. To follow Jesus means nothing less than to suffer and die with Jesus. And to live a new life! That’s the life of FAITH that clings to Him in His Word and sacrament Sunday after Sunday.


There you are safe and sound in His Good Friday death. “It is finished!” You’re safe and sound forever in His rising from the dead on the Third Day. The most difficult suffering has been done – BY JESUS – FOR YOU! You are died for! You have peace with God. You are reconciled to Him. You have access to Him through Jesus. What remains is easy – your daily death to sin, trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and leading a holy life according to Jesus Word. And then on the Last Day the resurrection of your body from the grave.  St. Paul put is this way in today’s Epistle: “How much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through Christ’s life!” Indeed!


In Jesus’ Name.



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