The Way of the Cross (Lent 2) – Sermon 28th February 2021 (Mark 8.31-end)

Last Sunday we heard the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert which finished with the line “Satan left Jesus until an opportune time”.

The question occurred to me, when did Satan return? and I think we have that answer today in the gospel.

Here we are midway through Marks Gospel in ch 8 and Jesus is speaking about his destination to die in Jerusalem.

This is shocking for the disciples to hear, and Peter takes him aside to rebuke Jesus.
Can you imagine that a pupil rebuking a teacher, a child rebuking an adult, A vicar rebuking the Bishop.

It just isn’t heard of and yet here it is in the centre of the gospel Peter taking Jesus to task. In reply Jesus rebuked Peter strongly “get behind me Satan you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns“.

The enemy is always at work to subvert the truth. I’m sure Peter had a good motivation, but Jesus didn’t see it that way, Jesus knew that the enemy is active and has to be stood up against at every occasion.

For Peter it was indeed a stinging rebuke and comes after Peter has recognised Jesus as Lord. The highs and lows of living a life of faith are played out in the gospel and in Peter’s life.

Interestingly Mark identifies who Jesus is talking to, this first section is before the disciples, and the next section to the Crowd.

Jesus talks to the crowd about denying themselves taking up the cross and following him, we get the idea that being a follower is costly.

To the crowd, they knew what taking up the cross meant. They lived under Roman occupation and Death on a cross was a form of execution used by Rome for dangerous criminals.

Think about it – A prisoner was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution, thus signifying submission to Rome’s power.

And Jesus here uses the image of carrying the cross to illustrate the ultimate submission required by his followers. It’s not that He’s against pleasure, nor was he saying we should seek pain needlessly. Jesus was talking about the heroic effort needed to follow him moment by moment, to do his will even when life is difficult and the future looks bleak.

To be followers of Jesus we should be willing to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel, not because our lives are useless, but because nothing – not even life itself – can compare with what we gain with Christ. Jesus wants us to choose to follow him rather than to live a life of sin and self -satisfaction.

He wants us to stop trying to control of our own destiny and let him direct us. This makes good sense, because as the Creator, Jesus knows better than us what real life is about. He asks for submission, not self-hatred: he asks us to lose our self-centred determination to be in charge and submit to dying to self and living for God

As he reminds his disciples

36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Many people then, as now spend all their energy seeking pleasure. We’re told by the world, buy more, earn more, work more, play more – that way you’ll be happy. But Jesus says that a world of pleasure, centred on possessions, position and power is ultimately worthless.

As whatever we have on earth is only temporary, we can’t take it with us and it cannot be exchanged for our soul.

The call is to be more than consumers, we are to be witnesses to a better way of living.

The better way of living is to go as Jesus says in Matt ch7 he says, “enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.“

Lent is challenging us to find the narrow way, to carry the cross, die to self and worldly possessions and seek the way of Jesus.

I hope this week you will read this gospel each day I hope and give time to think what it means for us to carry the cross, what difference will it make to our lives?
How you will live, how will you use your possessions, what are your priorities,?

This is the challenge of Lent to put Christ first and to live in a way which is contrary to the world around us.

Today’s gospel is one of the most challenging we face and needs our attention to find another way in life which leads not to earthly glory but to the glory of eternity..

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