“What Do You Expect?” (Mark 8:31-33)

Second Sunday in Lent – February 24 / 25, 2018

Sermon Audio

It was NOT what they expected: Peter and the disciples understood all too well what Jesus was saying! “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him…” (verse 32, 31)

I can certainly understand Peter’s repulsion at Jesus when Jesus was “plainly telling them that He was to suffer and die. Peter’s expectation was that Jesus was going to be the promised Messiah and set up an earthly kingdom in which he and the other disciples would be in great places of honor! IT REALLY ISN’T any surprise that Peter “took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him.” That’s what Peter thought friends are for, to “straighten us out” when we “start believing some radical ideas!” – And that’s exactly why JESUS straightened out His friend, Peter, and all His disciples!

Again, Jesus “spoke plainly,” seeing that it wasn’t just Peter, but all His disciples who weren’t accepting this truth. Jesus once again gave the “clear rebuke” (as He had done in the Wilderness temptations), “Get behind Me, Satan! (as this time Satan was speaking the temptation through Peter), you do not have in mind the things of God, (you do not expect the things of God) but the things of men.” (verse 33) The “things of men” have no room for suffering, sacrifice, service and especially not death!

“Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after Me (be My disciple), he must deny himself, take up his cross & follow Me.” (verse 34)

When the disciples had “left all and followed Jesus,” they had not “bargained” for such things as suffering, rejection, and certainly NOT “taking up a cross!” They were willing to follow a Jesus who served, but not One who suffered! They wanted to follow a Jesus who they saw as powerful; Who would fulfill their dream of overthrowing the corrupt political system of their day, and ruling along with Jesus – sitting at His right and left hand, in a new earthly kingdom! Peter and the disciples were willing to follow a Jesus who “served their interests,” but not One who would suffer, be rejected and killed!

And so, in His great love Jesus was “talking plainly.” There’s definitely a stark contrast:

  • our permissive, commercialized society says “indulge yourself” – Jesus plainly says, “deny yourself”
  • our selfish nature says “avoid pain at whatever cost” – Jesus demands, “take up your cross”
  • we so easily “do our own thing” / follow the latest fad – Jesus says, “keep on following Me.”The “things of men” / our sinful nature, have no room for “sacrifice, suffering and serving others” – we demand “no wait service“, “medicate the slightest of pain” and “fix” whatever is wrong with us. When things go wrong in our lives, like Peter, we “rebuke” God, asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” / “Why is God doing this to me?” God, in His Word, tells us plainly, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3b-5)            The greatest good for us was accomplished only by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for our sins. Thank God that Jesus did not rebel against suffering, but “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)Are these mere words, like Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ” (Mark 8:29) and then his rebuke of Jesus when Jesus talked of His suffering, rejection and death? Are these mere words, like Peter’s boast on Maundy Thursday, “Though they all fall away, I will not.” (Mark 14:29) and the subsequent denial three times in the courtyard of the High Priest? Peter was “ashamed” of being associated with Jesus! And Jesus plainly says, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His father’s glory with the holy angels.” (verse 38)Who among us is not guilty (at times) of “being ashamed” to be associated with Jesus and His Word? We know all too well that openly obeying and confessing Jesus and His Commandments is not welcomed in this world. Speak up to correct someone’s cursing, swearing or excessive drinking and be prepared for retaliation! Refuse to obey your boss’s orders to “bend the rules a little” and “your job is on the line!” Speak up in defense of a person being slandered or defamed and watch how the group shuts you out! Speak out against couples living together before marriage; against pornography and violence; against “gay rights;” abortion on demand; capital punishment; gambling – any of the other issues where God’s Word demands “denying self,” and don’t expect agreement, nor applause! Peter and the disciples didn’t hear everything that Jesus said: “Jesus spoke plainly… that the Son of Man must suffer… be rejected… and that He must be killed and after three days rise again.” (verses 32, 31)   We read it also in today’s Epistle reading: Rom.5: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, peace and the blessed hope in the midst of suffering as God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.Back to Mark 8, isn’t it interesting what Jesus says to Peter, and then to all His disciples – As Jesus responded to Peter’s rebuke, Jesus said to Peter: “GET BEHIND ME… you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (verse 33) – and in speaking to all His disciples, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and (keep on FOLLOWING) Me.” For Peter, and for you and me, as Jesus’ disciples, we dare NEVER “get in front of Jesus” – trying to “lead Jesus” – although that is our natural instinct – but properly denying ourselves fixing our eyes on Jesus and like Peter after the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too are empowered to “deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus” in a life of service.Praying that you’ll be with us in worship this Wednesday for our 3rd mid-week Lenten service and next weekend for worship and the new quarter of Bible Classes, as we daily follow Jesus!
  • Pastor Myers