Friday, August 29, 2014

Proper 17

Proper 17
31 August 2014
Matthew 16:21-28
The ultimate sacrifice, which Christ demands

Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come.”

Jesus begins to show His disciples what He must endure to win salvation. For you. For the entire world. “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things.” (v.21)  This is not a theology of glory. It is a theology of the cross. According to Jesus, suffering is a part of the Christian life. He is willing to be cut off from the Father. From the cross Jesus will cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Last week. Peter made a good confession. Now we hear his great rebuttal. Today Jesus says, “You are a scandal. You are not focused on the things of God.”  Before, his confession came from God. Today, it comes from Satan. Then, he was a rock. Today, a stumbling block, Then, he made a good confession. Today, a denial of the Father’s purpose. Then, he was following the will of God. Now it was man’s will and human desires. Then, he spoke from the vantage point of faith. Now, a lack of faith. Then, it was Jesus on the Father’s terms. Now, it was Jesus on man’s terms. Then, Jesus said, “Follow Me!” Now, He says, “Get behind Me!”

The ultimate sacrifice, which Christ demands.

1.       Consider Christ’s demands.

A.      Denial of self. “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests, also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” Mark 15:29-31

B.      Take up the cross. A cross? Peter knew what that meant. Roman execution. The most horrific kind of death imagined. Carrying a Roman cross did not sound like the Messianic kingdom. It sounded like death. The picture of a man, already condemned, required carrying the beam of his own cross to the place of execution. The disciples knew what this meant, for hundreds of men had been executed by this means in their region.

C.      Follow the will of the Father. When He was twelve He explained, “I must be about My Father’s business.”-Luke 2:48 By embracing the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end,” –John 13:1 for “greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 In Jesus’ suffering and death, there is salvation and life. Out of love for His Father and for men, Jesus freely accepted His passion and death. “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I lay it down and I take it up.” –John 10:18 He became the suffering servant. Silently He allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter. He bears the sin of men. He becomes, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”-John 1:29

2.       Consider the Christian. A “little Christ.”

A.      Deny yourself. It’s a hard life. Any death is hard. Especially the death of self.  “  1 Peter 4:12 Forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of yourself and your own interests.

B.      Take upon yourself your own suffering – the cross. The cross is more than a thankless job, a nosy neighbor a nasty mother-in-law. Even a physical illness is not necessarily a cross. Taking up your cross and following Jesus means literally dying to self. It’s a call to total surrender. It’s a call to following Jesus. Even it means losing some of your closest friends. Even it if means alienation from your family. Even if it means the loss of your reputation. Even if it means losing your job. Even if it means losing your life.  In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. The issue is, “are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you. But are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life, where you are faced with a choice – Jesus or the comforts of this life –which will you choose?

C.      Follow Christ. Join Jesus as a disciple. Siding with Him. Follow Him. Continually, cleaving steadfastly to Jesus. The road that Jesus pointed is a narrow road. Someone walks a road not by keeping his life but by losing it. It is the road of the resurrection.

3.       Consider the stakes. There are high stakes in life in terms of winners and losers.

A.      Saves his life – gains the whole world. Loses his life – loses his own soul. Can’t buy it back – what can you give as an exchange for your soul?

B.      Loses his life for Christ’s sake. It may be that the crucifixion of the old man, the self, brings pain, but crucifixion is always followed by resurrection. Finds his life. We do not want to avoid the pain of the crucifixion, for without crucifixion there is no resurrection.  What more can you win? We do not want to have the old man living in our hearts, but the new one, the resurrected Christ. Daily through contrition and faith, the old man is drowned and dies. The new man. He is our alive example and the one to whom we look. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “ Hebrews 12:1-2

The hymn for this day, “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus” (LSB #531), connects the suffering of Jesus with your salvation. It shows that the glory of God is revealed in the suffering and death of His Son. ‘Worship, honor, power, and blessing…Thou art worthy to receive’ because Jesus suffered to release us…Jesus bears our sin and shame.

Words –1,171
Passive Sentences -5%
Readability –80%

Reading level –4.5

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