SERMON: FINDING LIFE
Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
Have you seen the movie, Finding Nemo? In this story, a father is looking for his son, named Nemo. Nemo, a clown fish has disobeyed his father and gets caught by a dentist and put into the dentist’s aquarium. Nemo escapes the aquarium and his father finds him in the end. It is a very cute story that has many amusing moments in it. It has this spiritual quality when you think of God the Father looking for us, while we like Nemo are simply trying to find life!
Most of us here today have spent time trying to find life. It’s not that we not alive physically, but as the Bible reading for today says, ‘What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself” (from The Message by Eugene Peterson).
There is more to life, isn’t there, than the acquisition of ‘things” We all know that fact, even as we go for the ‘gett(ing) everything you want.’
So often when we finally ‘get’ what we want or worked for, it is like winning the game, or the state or national championship. Wonderful, then what? The new season starts in several months and the whole work of winning begins again! You can’t rest on your laurels, even for a moment
There is a ‘trying to find life’ that continually haunts us, measures our present situation and levels the gavel with the verdict: you haven’t found it yet. And the worst nightmare is that we may never truly discover life when the end comes, but simply have gone through the ‘motions’ of living.
There is a whole way of thinking that ‘you better enjoy it now before it is too late.’ Too late to enjoy, too late to experience, too poor to indulge, too weak to participate in and experience. All of which means: we’re trying to find life and hope that somewhere along the time frame granted us, we will find life.
Now this is a religious setting we are in today, and so it would be well to look at what this person Jesus said about finding life. For a moment, give up the many paths to life, to real living that are thrust in front of us daily. Listen up to the events in the life of Jesus. Discover what he says life is about. Evaluate what he says. See if it holds water for you or is a leaking sieve.
There is simply no doubt about it. We want to live. We want to live now. We do not want to miss life now, today nor at any time in the future. So we look at today’s narrative from the life of Jesus.
Looking at What Jesus Is Looking Forward To
Jesus is at the time in his life here with people where he begins to explain to his followers what is ahead for him. He’ll go to the capital city of Jerusalem. He’ll suffer a lot at the hands of the religious leaders, the moral teachers, the worship leaders. He’s going to be killed, and he’ll be raised back to life on the third day. There is a compulsion about all of this: it is a ‘must do’ for Jesus.
Now you have got to think about that for a few moments. You’ve been following this person Jesus as your mentor for some time. You’ve hooked up with this teacher, Jesus, and, at least in part, it was by your own choice. Now you know he is more than simply a good teacher.
He has all the qualities which the ancients had predicted would be in the special person from God, called the Christ “the anointed one”. This Jesus, for you (and I hope it is true for each of you), is your hope, your star to which you have hitched your present and future. Jesus is taking over your life in a way that is the most positive experience you have ever had.
Now he talks about suffering, about getting killed (not just dying) as the result of some kind of confrontation with the religious leaders. This is a ‘must do’ thing for him. Why? Certainly other alternatives are possible. Jesus hasn’t thought this whole thing through very well. Can’t we his followers prevent this? Surely this doesn’t have to happen.
Our Response; the Disciple’s Response
If you could have prevented Jesus from going through all he went through, wouldn’t you have made, at least, a small attempt to talk him out of it, get him to see other ways of becoming what he really is ‘God’s Savior for people’ You bet you would. That’s exactly what Peter thought, and he thought just like you and I would have thought. ‘No way, Lord, never, never, never. This stuff is not going to happen to you!’
Well, after such a loving response to Jesus’ plans, you could expect a word of praise, even if you had to go through with the original plans. Some kind of a ‘Thanks, Peter, but no thanks.’ Now remember we’re looking at the subject: trying to find life. Peter had an insight into life for Jesus, and, no doubt, for himself that didn’t include suffering, pain, or getting life taken from him.
Jesus’ Response to the Response
Jesus looked directly at Peter and said, ‘Get out of my way, Satan! You are trying to block my path and cause problems. You’re thinking the way people think. You don’t think the way God thinks.’ Well, what would you expect’ Peter is a person, thinks like a person, acts like a person, like you, like me, like us. Of course, we want to avoid suffering, pain, and everything that causes problems in life. What’s so wrong about that’
The only problem is that if we are serious, really want to find real living in this world, we are going to have to think like God thinks and act like he acts! Listen to this Jesus, who is the Son of God.
‘If you want to follow me, come after me, be known as a Christian, you have to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.’
Do We Understand What He Says’
Is he saying, get rid of all self-interests, self-preservation, self-concerns, ego trips, your own pleasure’ What’s this cross he wants us to take up’ Follow where he went, to the cross, to death with no dignity, with no concern how his life looked to others. It appears that is what he is asking us to do “take up self disregard, burden yourself with the concerns of others (wasn’t that what His cross was all about’), go his way.
He tells us that ‘whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it!’ The person who wants to get the most out of every moment for himself, live life to the fullest, taste every flavor, indulge in every experience, use every device made by others for a person’s enjoyment, see all of this world’s sight and insights will have lost! Lost life! Missed living!
It’s not true, at least according to Jesus, that a good epitaph is:
‘He/she lived a long and full life.’ It’s not true that the man who has the most toys when he dies, wins! It’s true that if I live like the rich man Jesus spoke about, he was going to eat, drink and live it up, I have not really lived’ If I or you or anyone has succumbed to that well-known temptation Jesus faced early in his mission in this world, to have all the power of this world and all its fascinating splendors, then we have spent a whole life trying to live and have missed life totally.
Think about that. Think about that ‘what have I been aiming at’ A
comfortable life and easy retirement’ Able to do what I want in my leisure years’ And up to that time, able to have for myself and family (look how altruistic I am’) a decent home, good vacations, activities which develop our abilities and give us pleasure’ What are you aiming at’ Are you and I aiming at missing life’ Never discovering what it is’ How horribly disastrous!
Here’s How to Find Life
‘Whoever loses his life for me will find it!’ There is it, how to find life. You find life by losing for life for Jesus. Putting Jesus ahead of everything else. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We are to seek and save the lost. He came so we could have a full life. He has, he will and he has promised he will, take care of us and provide for all our needs, so our needs have been taken care of.
If we have prayed, ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ we have stated that we believe he will give us all the ‘things,’ the ‘stuff,’ the accruements of life, so that we can be servants to others, so that we can fight the good fight of faith, so that we can run the race that is set before us with perseverance, so that we can take his redeeming grace to people who are going down the broad and easy road that leads to destruction, that will never give life but only death.
In this country today, we think of ourselves a lot. Look at the cars we drive ‘were we thinking of pollution or how good we will look, and what a good deal buying this car is’ Look at the pace of our lives ‘hurried, so that we have no time to eat as family, eat on the run, have a good supply of the current antacid so that we can continue the pace. Are we thinking of others when we use telephones in our cars’ Are we thinking of others when we use our credit cards for all the stuff we absolutely, unequivocally believe is necessary if we are going to live’ In all our concern for material things, our physical health, a positive outlook and good self image, in all this and more, do we have in mind the things of God or the things of men’
How Will It All Turn out for Us’
Did you hear what Jesus said: ‘The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.’ What do you think that means’ Is he bluffing’ Is he kidding’ Is this true’ Will this really happen’ Is it any wonder people don’t want to believe in God, in Jesus because of
the reward each person believes he will receive for how he has lived’
Today may be a wake up call. Wake up to see how you treat others.
Wake up and see you are centered on yourself. Wake up and see that the misery of life you experience is because you are trying to find life in all the wrong places. Wake up and begin to live. And if this is a wake up call, forget about the past you have spent wasting your life. The cross of Jesus means that is past, forgotten in God’s eyes. Get on with losing your life for Jesus and his cause.
Jesus says what is going to happen to him and so it did because of wasters, scoundrels, profligates, prodigals like us. He came for us to live now and eternally. Don’t waste it with regrets. Repent, believe the past is forgiven, and live for Jesus!
The Found Life
Living as Jesus speaks of it is a pouring out of self for others whom Jesus loves. It is taking up the pain of having others think of you as not being with it. It is a following of Jesus who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for us all.
Give up trying to find life. And lose it, and discover what it means to live. Amen .
This message from Pastor Walter Harms is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project