Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
As I come to this week’s message, I continued to recall a time in my life when I had gone to see the Christian comedian Mark Lowry. I must have been only 7 years old as I remember so little about this night of fun and laughter. However, it’s interesting to me that throughout that entire show, I laughed, I had fun, but the only thing that I remember about that show was no joking manner. Mark had done a bit in his show about the life of a Christian. And from everything I had heard that night at his show, the only thing I remember now when I am 24, was that the Christian life is no easy life. The Christian life is a life while on earth that often results in making a sacrifice, suffering, and taking up a cross.
Let us for a moment take a step back and before we begin to really hash out this Gospel lesson today, first realize that our Gospel lesson today is following directly after Peter’s great confession. Last week we may remember, Jesus asking his disciples who do you say that I am, and Peter exclaims the unheard of in a foreign place, he professes Jesus as the Christ, the anointed, the Messiah that the Jews have so longed for. Jesus then goes on to praise Peter and not only praises him, but tells him that he is the Rock on which he is building His church.
This lesson today is still the same narrative and we have not left Caesarea Philippi. Jesus after telling them not to tell anyone about his identity yet, continues on to tell them more. Jesus says that he MUST go on to Jerusalem. Now it’s interesting here, because there are not very many things that any MUST do. There are a lot of things that we should be doing, but Jesus began to SHOW them, that he MUST go to Jerusalem. Now as I read this scripture, I picked up on two very key words here that I found very interesting. The first is this word show. Typically when someone shows them something, it often is showing them some type of object or show them how to do something. If someone is just talking, we often would say that, Jesus began to explain to his disciples. However, Matthew uses a particular word to mean “to show”. As I looked into this wording in the Greek, it was the word “to show” and in Matthew’s letter, he uses this word only two other times. Once when he told a leper who he had healed, he had told the leper to go and show himself to the priest. And the other time was, and this is the instance that I would like for us to recall, is in Matthew 4:8 when Satan shows Jesus all of the kingdoms on the top of the Mount of Temptations, trying to tempt Jesus to not do what Jesus knows that he must do.
Now this leads me again to the second word of great interest to me. “From that time on”, meaning this is the first time Jesus has ever divulged this information to his disciples, which as we will see he mentions three other times AFTER this occurrence, Jesus began to SHOW his disciples the he MUST go to Jerusalem to undergo great suffering…killed, and raised, and so on. Jesus has already refuted Satan once at the mount of temptation of accepting all of the kingdoms of the world in exchange of him worshipping Satan. And Jesus rebuked him with Scripture saying, “ Worship the Lord you God, and serve only him”. And it says that Satan left him and the angels of the Lord waited upon him. And now, we have Peter maybe in some ways reminding Jesus of these temptations of Satan. After hearing what Jesus is saying to him about having to undergo suffering, and death, Peter begins to rebuke Jesus. Could you even imagine, rebuking Jesus. But he does, He says God forbid it Lord! And Jesus’ reply again brings us for the second time back to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the wilderness. Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on diving things but on human things.” This response ties together both what was just said prior to this conversation in Caesarea Philippi and back to Jesus’ time in the wilderness with Satan. First, Jesus’ reply is Get behind me Satan! Again Jesus in essence saying, I know what I was sent here for, and this is something that I MUST undergo, and there is nothing in this world, no physical or spiritual being that is going to get in my way of the Grace I have been sent to release. And it reminds us of what was just said to Peter. Right after Peter made the confession of Jesus’ identity, Jesus’ reponse was that flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. Peter had put his mind on divine things and was able to profess something that his flesh and blood could have never professed. Now that Peter is thinking again with his flesh and blood and begin to rebuke Jesus for saying that he must die, Jesus confronts Peter head on and says you are no longer keeping your mind on the divine as you had, but now you are thinking again as a human would. How do humans think? Well from the time of Adam on, humans think only about themselves, selfishly. We always think in our own perspective and often try to make things, even if they are not, like us.
This past week, I read a sermon from a good friend of mine and he had been using the same text of Jesus in Caesarea Philippi, and he had preached about how we as people always like to make Jesus out to be someone like us. He had used the example of Ricky Bobby praying to 6lb 8oz baby Jesus. While his friend thought of Jesus as a guy wearing a tuxedo t-shirt with a mullet. To him Jesus is a guy who is formal in the front and party in the back. The point though of his sermon was that we cannot make Jesus out to be like who we are, but Jesus is Jesus. We cannot simply begin to re-create a Jesus we want, but we must accept who Jesus is. And right here, in this passage, Jesus has made it clear to Peter and to us that Jesus is not mere human, but truly divine as he does not think about what is best for himself, but places others better than himself. He is self-less, He is humble, and He is willing to suffer and die for our sakes.
This past Friday I had gone to see Doyle in the hospital and he and I began to get into a conversation about Jesus’ death. And well anyway during this conversation he brought up a very good point to me that I would like to share. He said I have a thought provoking question for you, “Do you think that Jesus would have gone and died, if it were just for you?” It was a very simple question, and one that sent shivers down my spine because I knew the answer. Jesus was fully human, but yet fully divine as he was truly a self-less human being.
But Jesus does not stop there. Jesus does not say, well I have died, I have taken your burden, go on and have a happy good life. NO! Jesus says this. “If any, ANY, want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Let me re-phrase this is a 21st century way if that doesn’t get the point across of what Jesus is asking of us. If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their electric chair and follow me. This is precisely what Jesus is saying. He is saying follow my example. Now I want to turn the tables here and take Doyle’s question and turn it around on us. Do you think that you could go and take your electric chair and die, if it were just for some back-stabbing, no good, sinner? (Pause)
Oh….well now that you put it that way, it begins to really really make sense of how great the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is. I don’t know about you, but that makes me really stop and cause my heart to cry out to God for forgiveness. It makes me physically hurt inside to think about what Christ did and what he has now called us to do.
Paul’s letter to the Romans are practical ways of what Jesus has called us to. I would like to just pull out two sections of this piece. In reality I could speak a whole other sermon on just the reading from Romans, but I want to pull out two sections that are practical of how we understand what Jesus has called us to. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers” This first section is about Loving God and Loving neighbor. We as the church are to rejoice in the hope of our Lord Jesus, be willing to suffer for it, and be a praying church…And also then we are to contribute to the needs of those who we call brothers and sister in Christ and to those who we do not know. Finally, the second section is from 20-21. “No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by dong this you heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do no be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are not to think nor be like the rest of this world who takes someone who is evil and hate them and try to solve our issues with our fists. We are to love them, as Christ took up his own cross and loved those who had rejected him and His Father’s kingdom.
As I close today, I would like to pull it now all together. Let me close by asking what is a fruit? We this past summer had an entire VBS on the fruits of the Spirit. And something I felt like screaming out as loud as I could is “What is a fruit?!” A fruit is the end product, the harvest of a plant. Jesus is the self-less fruit. Jesus is the end all, the alpha and omega of what we are to be. Our goal, our life-long eschatological goal. That big word I just used is just to mean the end of times. Our all in all end goal is to love God like God loves us and to SHOW that same love to all.
At this time I would like to invite Diana Hackett to come forward to respond to this message with a reflective reading from the hymn of Charles Wesley. I invite those of you who are visual learners if you would like to follow along to page 342 in your hymnal. If you simply would like to listen, I invite you to close your eyes as we hear these words from brother Charles.
Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?
O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which Thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
Blessed with this antepast of Heaven!
And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear His gifts to own?
Unmindful of His favors prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse His righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?
Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads His arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives;
No need of Him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.
Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin,
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in;
He calls you now, invites you home;
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!
For you the purple current flowed
In pardons from His wounded side,
Languished for you the eternal God,
For you the Prince of glory died:
Believe, and all your sin’s forgiven;
Only believe, and yours is Heaven!
Written by: Charles Wesley