Sermon by Pastor Gus Schutz at Tabor Lutheran Church
Mark 8 : 31 – 38 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
Here we are in the second week of the season of Lent.
We all know very well what that means, don’t we? We know what is coming. In four more weeks we will be in Holy Week, preparing for Good Friday and Easter. Acknowledging the crucifixion of God’s own Son, Jesus, and then, joyfully celebrating the glorious resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
We have done it so many times before, haven’t we?
The danger of repeating this every year, is that we can miss the enormity of the event. The trouble for us can be that we already know the ending before the story actually unfolds. Yes, we know that Jesus must suffer many things, but we also know that he will rise again. So, the significance of Jesus suffering and death can be overshadowed by the resurrection. The ending of the story can easily sugar coat the trauma of what goes before. The need for him to suffer and die so that we can be rescued from being held captive to sin and its consequences – our death and destruction.
When Jesus first predicted his suffering and death, it was all still ahead of him!
Just imagine that! You are telling your friends and followers that you will be betrayed by one of them. You will endure the sham of an unfair trial. You will be mocked and ridiculed. You will bear the public shame and humiliation of being strung up on a cross. You will suffer there in agony, hanging between heaven and earth. Then, you will die and be buried like a common criminal.
Imagine that! Jesus is speaking about all these things. But they are still to happen for him. His followers are yet to experience all this!
No wonder Peter protests!
The message is clear for him and the others. But they cannot fully understand why this must happen and what it will look like. Are we sometimes a bit hard on Peter? Wouldn’t we also object at this?
Just think about it!
Imagine something awful is going to happen in your life. It is still ahead of you. Something that will be an incredible loss for you. It will cause you intense heartache and pain. It will seem to you to be something more than you could imagine, let alone possibly bear.
Wouldn’t you also object? Wouldn’t you want to bypass such pain and be relieved of the suffering?
But the truth is some of you have already had such experiences, haven’t you?
For this can be the journey of our life. Perhaps you have endured the agony of watching and waiting, helpless, but knowing that you would lose a loved one who was battling an incurable and terminal illness. Some of you have also been through the tragedy of having someone you loved dearly snatched from you through an accident. There was no getting around these things. You simply had to get through them!
You hoped to avoid the experience, but just like it was for Jesus, it was also a real part of your journey.
Jesus is clear when he says, “the Son of Man must suffer many things,”
Yes, “he must (even) be killed and after three days rise again.”
That word ‘must’ is a very strong word, isn’t it? It allows for no other options. This is the way it has to be! It’s set in concrete! It’s a done deal! For what God says – goes!
Jesus knows that. For this is the Father’s plan for him. For the world. For you and me. He has to go through with it. For this is God’s will for the world. He is sending his Son, Jesus on the greatest rescue mission this world ever has and ever will know. Calling it out of captivity to darkness and destruction. Bringing it into light and life. A light and new life which comes only through the forgiveness of sins.
This is a light which beams with glorious resurrection hope – for us!
Jesus spells it out for us … “and after three days (I will) rise again.”
We are God’s people living with the resurrection hope and power of Jesus to inspire us in our journey. This is what gets us through our deep and dark moments, isn’t it? It is what gets us though those awful experiences we would rather not have to go through. It’s what gives us the strength to carry on after our every heartache in this life.
Because we have the resurrection power of Jesus, we know that it doesn’t end with our personal Good Fridays. No matter how deep and dark they may be. There will always be a glorious Easter sunrise dawn to greet us. God’s love for us in Jesus guarantees it!
But the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not just for us personally.
It gives power to our lives so that we can be making a difference for others.
After predicting his death and resurrection, Jesus went on to say: “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 the gospel will save it.” (v. 34-35)
Isn’t Jesus inviting us to be living for something bigger than ourselves?
Don’t you think this is what he means? When we live for those things that are bigger than us, we are not missing out at all. We are actually benefitting and enriching our lives, aren’t we?
Just think it through. When you are weighed down by the worries and burdens of life or when you are devastated by a personal loss, you can do one of two things ...
1. Firstly. you can withdraw and retreat.
You can cut yourself off from everyone and everything. This is the easy thing for you to do.
But what will happen to you if you do that? You will end up drowning in your own misery and self pity. You will be overwhelmed and paralysed by the tragedies of life.
2. The other thing to do, is to immerse yourself in the lives of others.
You can reach out to serve them in their needs.
That can be the harder thing to do. But if you do it, what will the outcome be for you? It will help you to put the bad things in your life into perspective. You will see that you are not alone in your suffering.
So, as you see and respond to the opportunities to serve others, the burdens of your own life will in some way be lifted from you, won’t they? They won’t seem to be so large and heavy. They won’t crush you like they do when you withdraw and retreat from others, stewing on your situation.
But there is even more than that!
You will receive the joy of serving. You will literally ‘get your life back!’ Doesn’t God’s word tell us that it is “more blessed to give than receive?” (Acts 20:35)
But I’m sure I can add with confidence that you already know this, don’t you? Because it is what you have been doing in your life. God has been blessing you with servant hearts, so that in love you can reach out and make a difference for others in their needs.
This is not just for the good of others.
It pleases God and honours him. Because it hears the invitation of Jesus and follows his example.
Jesus is our ‘suffering servant.’ He shows us the way. He chose the cross in love for us. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. His death and resurrection has sealed the forgiveness of our sins giving us peace with God. This frees us not just to be his people but to be his servants in the world making a difference for others.
So then, by the mercies of our God, be who you are. His people living to bless others.
God give you joy as you follow him to his glory.