Suffering and a cross or glory?
Romans 4:13-25 and Mark 8: 31-38
For a Christian, glory is a constant temptation. Who doesn’t want glory? Who wants suffering and a cross?
What do you want in your life? How do you want God to work for you? Do you want suffering and a cross? Or do you want glory?
The problem with wanting glory is it can end up being all about me – all about you. What you do and what I do! Our performance, our results – the quality of our works. But then we’re then living under the law.
But as we heard in the reading from Romans: we aren’t heirs of the promise – we don’t receive the promise – because we live by the law! We don’t receive Jesus because of our works! We don’t receive salvation, righteousness and eternal life because of anything we do!
“The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace”! We’re saved by grace through faith!
I can resonate with Peter! That was some kind of rebuke by Jesus! It’s kind of funny that Peter tried to silence the One who silenced the religious leaders, the demons and basically everyone else!
Poor misguided Peter who didn’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of humans–who wanted not a suffering and dying Saviour but some kind of glory story! Jesus didn’t mince words with him! Isn’t that one of the things we have to do as a church? Not mince words and dance around what we hold to be true? Maybe here we could learn a bit from the Muslims who tell it how it is!
I’m not saying we be insensitive – but if we’re too scared of offending people and we try too hard to water things down and make them palatable to unbelievers – we shoot ourselves in the foot! Christianity can then so easily become about what we do – our good works, our love for one another!
Yet we need to speak the truth in love – by nature we are sinful and unclean. Sin has affected everyone and the end result, without Jesus, is eternal punishment. We can’t dance around that forever – and let’s face it – who, without the Holy Spirit convicting them of the truth, is going to want a cross – and a tortured, humiliated, mutilated and crucified Saviour?
When we try to make sin and guilt or death and hell palatable and acceptable; when we try to make the suffering servant and the bloody cross palatable – we’re doing a Peter and we need to be pulled into line!
Peter wanted a way other than the way of suffering and the cross – he wanted glory. Anything but suffering and the cross!
But Jesus sets Peter and the others straight. “Hey you might be looking for a Saviour who’s going to give you a glory story, kick out the Romans and set you up on thrones –but you’re thinking Satan’s way! You don’t even know what you’re on about! You’ve gotta die!”
All of your ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong – they’ve gotta die. All of your ideas about what you can achieve for Me and how it can be achieved – they’ve gotta die!
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 and for the gospel will save it.
Jesus is saying nothing less than you’ve gotta die! All of our ideas about what’s glorious. All of our ideas about what we can do, what works we can do – our righteousness, our piety – all of that has got to die! So that in the end – all we have, all we see—is Jesus!
In other words – Jesus tells us: “my way of salvation is the way of death! As your sinful nature drowns with me in baptism, as I declare worthless, and kill your best “works of the law with my absolution, as I strip you of all your pride and all your efforts and all your good ideas of how I should operate! And I leave you with nothing you can contribute – by simply giving it all through a horrible cross – through things like words written on a page, water from a tap, humble bread and wine!
That’s how the power of God is on display!
When it comes to receiving the promise of Salvation, righteousness and eternal life, all our glory stories, our works, our striving – are put to death by the cross upon which everything was done for us! All our efforts at repair, improvement, positive thinking –all “works of the law” are killed by the cross – so that all we have is Jesus! And the new life He gives!
As Christians we’re passive recipients – “passive” is from the same root as “passion” and literally means the same as suffering! We suffer as all our sin and our pious works, get stripped away and all we have left is Jesus! All we have left is naked trust in the mercy of God – displayed and given so surprisingly through our crucified and risen Lord. It’s then we realise that even our good works aren’t our “works of the law” – they’re Jesus’ works of grace done through us!
Our lives as Christians aren’t about glory! We’re called to deny ourselves and take up our cross. I think we’d all much rather glory, comfort, recognition, rewards – but as Luther said, on good biblical grounds, “whoever does not know God hidden in suffering does not know God at all”. And it’s only through suffering and the cross that sinners can see and come to know God!
If we’re honest—don’t we still like a bit of glory? That’s the nature of the old Adam, still at work in us. I don’t know if I could ever say “this suffering is from God and it’s good” even though we call the day on which Jesus died horrifically on the cross “Good Friday”.
It’s not a nice feeling when God operates on us – convicting us of sin – and reducing our works to nothing – so that all we have is Jesus and the cross. It’s not a nice feeling to realise God has to do it all – to be rendered totally passive. It’s not nice being slapped down – having our wills killed so that God’s will can be established in us.
But it’s the only way that leads to true glory!
We can thank God that we’ve been set free from the “works of the law”! Striving to perform, striving for success and glory in order to be sure of God’s love – that’s finished!
God is present with us here and His power is on display as He strengthens our faith –stripping away our sin, our pride, our striving and thirst for glory – so that it’s only Jesus! For us and through us!
Only those who believe in Christ, who are blessed with faith, are righteous before God – it seems so incredible and getting used to that is part of the dying process Jesus calls us to. Christ and His cross leaves nothing for us to do!
As an heir of the promise simply look to the promise – the cross and the crucified One.
See there your righteousness and the love of God for the whole world!
See the One who will one day share true glory with you, and with all, who do nothing more or less than believe! Amen!
This Sermon from The Lutheran Church on Australia is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church. You can read the original at Sunday by Sunday Sermon Lent 2B. If you have prayers or concerns please email Pastor Taglauer: [email protected] A Pass it on Project