Proper 17 (28 Aug—3 Sept)
Almighty God, Your Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption. Grant us courage to take up our cross daily and follow Him wherever He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Love covers a multitude of sins - In love Jesus predicts His death - Matthew 16:21-28
Peter tries to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem, but Jesus calls his disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him to death. We are still at Caesarea Philippi. Peter had just made his famous confession that Jesus is the Messiah. Thereupon Jesus announces that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again. For Peter this was a denial of Jesus’ being the Christ, Lord, and King. It did not fit at all into the concept of the Messiah who as God’s Son would be victor over any and all enemies, even death. But, Jesus saw in Peter’s rebuke a temptation of Satan not to fulfill His mission. He called upon His disciples to similarly deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him to death and resurrection. For the principle of life is to lose it in order to find it. When Christ returns, every disciple will be rewarded for what he has done with his life.
We have no difficulty accepting the fact that each life is a creation of God. But, we have trouble understanding the fact that God made each for a purpose. He sent us into the world, as Jesus was sent, for a purpose, to accomplish some work for God. Jesus knew why God sent him. At Caesarea Philippi the disciples through Peter confessed that he was the Messiah who was sent to redeem the world. Today’s Gospel tells us of the temptation not to fulfill the destiny and of the Christian’s similar destiny. The need for this sermon is rooted in the fact that many Christians have no idea why God placed them on earth; they are goal-less, without purpose in life.
God has a destiny -
1. For Jesus — the cross
— vv. 21-23. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.
Jesus felt His going to the cross was a divine necessity. God had a destiny for His life. He came to the world to save it. Since he was the Christ, as Peter had just confessed it, the world would be saved only by his sacrifice on the cross. This reminds us that the cross was not the work of man, a stroke of bad luck, or an accident. Since it was God’s intention for him to suffer and die, then we can understand why Jesus considered Peter’s protest as a temptation of the devil not to fulfill his mission. The cross was rooted in eternity, planned by God from the foundation of the world to redeem humanity.
Jesus know that His going to the cross was a divine necessity. The Father had a destiny for His life. He came to the world to save it. Since He is the Christ, as Peter has confessed it, the world would be save only by His sacrifice on the cross. The cross was not the work of man, a stoke of bad luck, an accident. The cross was rooted in eternity, planned by the Father from the foundation of the world – to redeem humanity.
Peter is both the mouthpiece of both God and Satan. After his confession Jesus called him “blessed.” Not Peter is Satan incarnate. Peter, leader of the Apostles, could be Satan’s agent. Satan can possess church members and even in the church Satan can be active. It is important to ascewrtain whether God or Satan is speaking when Christians speak.
2. For the Christian — cross-bearing
— vv. 24-26. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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 will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
As Jesus loses his life on the cross for the world to be saved, Jesus expects his followers to do the same. Life is meant to be given, expended, sacrificed for Jesus’ sake. Life cannot be “saved” or it will be lost. When we try to save our lives, we waste it on gaining the world. Here is a sound, universal principle of life: life is at its best, is most meaningful when it is invested in a cause greater than self, the cause of Christ. Giving one’s self to Christ’s cause takes us out of ourselves and we lose ourselves in the attainment of the cause. This results in happiness and purpose in life.
The path and journey of faith is to walk where Jesu has called us to be His disciples to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him to death of self and resurrection and new life in Him.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use