Saturday, February 28, 2015

B, Lent 2 Mark 8:31-38 "Letting Christ Be Your Christ"

During these forty days of Lent we reflect on Jesus’ walk to the cross.  This cross is the cross of shame, the cross of humiliation, a cross of disgrace, remorse and alienation.  Jesus walk to the cross and death was a walk of loneliness, being alone, being set apart from the pack and picked on for being different… and for being the same.

Last week, the first Sunday in Lent, Jesus was baptised and set apart as God’s beloved Son.  With him God was well pleased.  But Jesus immediately finds himself out in the wilderness, literally a lonely place.  Here Jesus felt the full impact of being alone as a human being... the same as you and me!  He was lonely, he was in need, and just like you and me, just like Adam and Eve, he was tempted by the devil to look after his own interests and status. 

The course Jesus chose here is good news for us who struggle being alone with ourselves, desperately wanting to alleviate the loneliness of longing, pain, and suffering by being relevant, by being wanted, and by being popular or well liked.  Rather than the fear of being left out not knowing good and evil, as did Adam and Eve, Jesus did not succumb to his isolation and loneliness but remembered the promise of his Father, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 ESV)

Where you or I fail miserably forgetting God’s promises, where Adam and Eve thought they were left all alone, where we as humanity don’t seem to be able to look past our immediate fickle reality, Jesus saw the bigger picture and turned his face from fame, fortune, and favour and rejected the tempters lure to save himself. Therefore Satan couldn’t accuse him of doubting his Father or not fulfilling his mission to be our Messiah. 

Out in the wilderness Satan’s ultimate goal was to isolate Jesus from the Father cutting him off from God — alone, ashamed, lonely and without hope.  Just like us when Satan uses the shame of our sin against us, and as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Now this morning we here Peter rebuking Jesus, in the wake of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Messiah”, the Christ, the anointed one!  Jesus announces that his messianic mission, his Christly commission, his anointed assignment was a lonely walk to the cross – into death.  And not just death, Jesus’ rejection by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, was a separation from the mainstays of society — not being wanted, or relevant, or well liked.  But like Jesus’ rejection of Satan in the wilderness, his lonely walk is good news for you and me, just as it was for Peter.

But Peter didn’t see it this way.  Like you and me, Peter feared being found to be irrelevant, unpopular, or unliked.   You see he thought Jesus’ messianic mission meant something very different to what Jesus was announcing.  If Jesus wasn’t going to assume his kingdom with glory and prestige and popularity, it meant Peter was going to be left all alone to address the shame of Jesus’ death at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes.  He would be ashamed in amongst his community, a Jewish outcast, and he would be remembered and written about as a follower of failure.

No wonder Peter took Jesus aside. We would do the same.  In fact you and I do the same when the loneliness and the horror of our helpless humanity is forced upon us when we are required to stop see our reality.  “No Jesus, surely you’re not going to be anointed like this!” Peter begins accusing Jesus of taking up the messianic mission the wrong way! 

Here again we find Satan back on scene.  In the wilderness Jesus rejects Satan’s offer of relevance, popularity, and prestige, and now Jesus having begun to reveal actually what was to happen Satan seeks to cut Jesus off again.  Every time we take God’s will off the table and replace it with our own relevance, popularity, and prestige we fail as did Peter here,  and again when fear  saw Peter deny Jesus before the rooster crowed, as also did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  But not Jesus and that’s very good news for humanity.

Only Jesus bore the weakness of humanity without succumbing to the weakness which failed Adam and Eve, Peter, you and I.  Just like Peter, we willing confess Jesus to be the Christ, but when we’re shown that Christ goes and leads the way of the cross the fears and loneliness of the old self sees us duck for cover and hid once again in the shame of our original sinful being and the sin that happens as a result of us being sinful.

  So Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, and then rebukes Jesus for not being the type of Christ Peter would have him be to hide his weakness, shame, and ordinariness. What Peter is saying to Jesus in his rebuke is this:  If you are going to teach me that you must suffer, be rejected, be killed and then be raised then you are not the Christ, but you are an anti-Christ.

This is why Peter received such sharp words from Jesus when he says, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  (Mark 8:33 ESV)  Jesus heard clearly the accusation from Satan himself, and he rejects Satan again.  The name Satan means to accuse and Peter’s accusation and rebuke of what the Messiah was actually anointed to do shows humainty’s hearts and minds to be set on the things of men rather than on the will of God.

After Jesus reveals the heart of Peter, whose heart is the same as all of us, he takes the opportunity to teach.  And it is in these words of Jesus which I invite you to meditate upon in these days of Lent, to the glory of he who walked the lonely path for me and you!

Jesus said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34–38 ESV)

If you choose to deny yourself and follow Jesus, of what can you be accused?  Can Satan make you ashamed of Jesus and his lonely way of the cross?  Can he accuse you of your sin if you take it to the cross, can he really make you alone even when you feel lonely after Jesus has already taken the shame of your sin on himself on the cross?  And further more won the battle over sin death and the devil in his resurrection from the dead!

In our loneliness we seek to build our own little kingdoms, but they are fragile houses of straw which Satan can huff and puff away in an instant leaving us exposed and ashamed of who we are and what we try to be without Christ.

The good news in all of this is when we’re shown for who we really are, naked, ashamed, humiliated, broken, weak, ordinary, and unpopular with ourselves, Jesus has already become all these things for us on the cross in our baptism.  He chose you and took your cross and made it his cross. So it’s time to, stand fast, remain in him and choose to throw off the things that only make us lonely in this world and can give Satan access to make us ashamed of Jesus and his word. 

The good news is now that Jesus has won the victory in the cross we can stick our backsides in the face of the accuser and say, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And pray, “I believe Lord Jesus Christ, save me from my unbelief, Amen.”