8/30/20 – Pentecost 13 – “Be A Christian” – Matthew 16:21-28

“’But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God…” “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

What our Lord ‘BEGAN’ to show his disciples is just how true Peter’s confession was – “You are the Christ…” Though out the entire Old Testament, the word and promise of God was that God would send a ‘Messiah,’ a ‘Christ,’ into this fallen and broken world to renew and restore it. But rather than welcoming Him and thanking Him, it would despise and reject Him and cause him to suffer many things and be killed. But ultimately, the Messiah would accomplish the purpose for which He came – for even death would not be able to stop Him.

When Jesus ‘BEGAN to show his disciples that He must suffer, die and be raised on the third day,’ He was simply confirming His identity as “the Messiah,” “the Christ” to whom the Old Testament had pointed.

He is the “offspring of the woman” who “will bruise the serpents head while having his heel bruised.” (Gen.3:15).

HE IS THE INNOCENT, PASSOVER LAMB who will atone for the sin of ALL by His sacrificial death and blood poured out on the mercy seat – one Lamb of God for all people – believers/unbelievers; from the 1st day to the Last day.

HE IS THE SCAPEGOAT onto whose head the sins of the people are placed and led away into the wilderness – as far away as the east is from the west, where even God Himself cannot see them.

HE IS THE SERPENT HANGING ON THE POLL who takes the very form of that which kills us – that by looking at Him they may be healed. (Numbers 21)

HE IS THE ONE of whom the prophets spoke, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not… But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53:5).

When Jesus ‘BEGAN to show his disciples that He must suffer, die and be raised on the third day,’ He was simply confirming His identity as the “Christ,” “the Messiah” – the ‘Promised One’ who has now ‘appeared’ because ‘the time had fully come.’

All of this is summed up so neatly in those words we just confessed in the Creed – “He was crucified, suffered and died and was buried and on the 3rd day, He rose again – ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.”

That word ‘began’ is important. “He ‘began’ to show his disciples,” means that this was just the beginning of announcing and proclaiming explaining this message. What Jesus ‘began’ to show His disciples, He continues to show to this very day and will continue to show until the Last Day comes. Because every day, this fallen and broken world produces a fresh batch of fallen and broken people who need to hear again, the Good News that Jesus is the Christ who has made all things new BY His suffering death and resurrection on the 3rd day.

“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’”

A new phrase that has just recently made its way into our vocabulary is – ‘CANCEL CULTURE.’ A ‘CANCEL CULTURE’ wants to ‘CANCEL’ what it disagrees with – by peer pressure, censure, force if necessary. Here we see that there is nothing new under the sun. Peter disagrees with what Jesus BEGAN to show His disciples and wants to ‘CANCEL’ it.

Peter BEGAN to rebuke Him – and the ‘rebuke’ of Jesus, the Christ, continues to this day and will continue until the Last Day.

The way of the cross as the way of God, is so utterly absurd to us that it is OFFENSIVE – and what is ‘OFFENSIVE’ must be ‘CANCELED.’

Jesus tells Peter that his “mind is not set on the things of God but on the things of man” – to which the Peter in all of us responds, ‘well maybe so, but we believe that the things of man are right and the things of God are wrong.’ That’s how that word ‘rebuke’ should be heard.

All of this tension between the “things of God and the things of man” might have been safely assigned to Peter and his weak faith – and the church could simply ‘CANCEL’ him and move on, but Jesus draws us all into the crisis by expanding the audience to ‘ANYONE’ and ‘WHOEVER.’ “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 will find it.”

What Jesus is proposing both for Himself and for His followers is ‘scandalous’ to people who consider ‘SACRIFICE’ a bad word and to be avoided at all costs. The way that “the Christ” announces that He is going to go and that we should all follow is ‘insulting’ to people who live in a culture that’s all about doing what ‘feels good,’ and who expect God’s primary job is to ensure our happiness.

Isn’t this the reason we’re so confused about how to tell others about Jesus? Dare we tell them that He is the ‘rejected,’ ‘suffering,’ ‘crucified’ One who says “if anyone would come after me let him take up his cross and follow me…”? Who would ever expect anyone to say, ‘that’s just religion I’m looking for. How do I sign up?’

So we say that if you will follow Jesus, He’ll fix all your problems and give you your ‘best life now’ – whether we really believe it or not, because the truth is just too absurd.

To be sure, when Peter responded with his “GOD FORBID IT,” it wasn’t out of ill will or hatred for Jesus – as it would be later for Judas. Peter speaks with the firm conviction that “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” His intentions are only good and well-meaning and filled with love for His Lord – he only wants what’s best for Jesus – TO THE POINT THAT, which of us isn’t at least a bit startled by the bluntness of Jesus’ reply to His disciple – “Get behind me, Satan”?

The devil is so clever in concealing the apostle’s apostasy in love and kindness, and ‘I was only trying to protect you Jesus’ – just as he does with us.

What Jesus BEGAN to show His disciples “from that time,” He continues to show us today. And what Peter ‘began to rebuke” continues to be ‘rebuked’ to this day. And for the Christian pastor, this ongoing battle between these two opposing forces means – ‘JOB SECURITY.’

Men and women, boys and girls in every generation will always have “in mind the things of man rather than the things of God” – and ‘pastors’ will always be needed to hold up God’s Word as the mirror that shows us the truth about ourselves and our ways – and the gospel that shows us the heart of Jesus and the love of God for you.

For the past 27 years, it has been my calling to both expose ‘the things of man’ and proclaim the ‘things of God’ to you from this pulpit, in the classroom, in your home and wherever the opportunity has presented itself – at baptisms and confirmations, weddings and funerals, private confessions and conversations, campfires and council meetings.

I’d like to say that it has been ‘all joy.’ But that’s not true and you’re not that naive. But I hope you will believe me when I say there has been A LOT OF JOY. And I thank you all for that.

Together, I believe that we may have discovered a deep mystery about this life of faith that confesses Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, denying ourselves and taking up our crosses and following Him. And the deep mystery that we have discovered together is this – there IS ‘joy’ in it. Following Jesus is really not so terrible as it’s sometimes made out to be. In fact, over the last 27 years together, there have been lots of times when it’s actually been ‘fun.’ And we can all say – ‘thanks be to God’ for all of that.’

Peter had in mind the “things of man and not the things of God.” But you, my beloved, “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col.3:1)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

As it turns out, our Lord has established a ‘CANCEL CULTURE’ of His own, “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14). This is the cross that was ‘signed’ upon you in your baptism – the cross that cancels your all of sin – so no wonder there is ‘joy’ in bearing it.

The last thing I want to say to you all is simply, BE A CHRISTIAN. Be who you are in Christ. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of it. DON’T TRY TO CANCEL IT. Be a Christian. Don’t just bear the cross, but EMBRASE it in everything and everywhere and all the time.

In our epistle reading, we heard St. Paul express how the ‘WAY OF THE CROSS’ is actually carried out in everyday life. It is my plea to you. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Live in harmony with one another… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom.12:9-21).

Make my joy complete – be a Christian.

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