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Lent 2 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 28, 2021
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 5:1-11, Mark 8:27-38

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            As a teenager I really enjoyed roller coasters.  I would wait in long lines for the Rebel Yell twin rollercoaster at King’s Dominion in Virginia.  This is a huge wooden coaster similar to the Racer at King’s Island.  It was a thrill to ride with the anticipatory clicking up the hill and all the shaking and rattling as it sped down the hill and through all the twists and turns.  After waiting in a long line it seemed the ride was over so quickly and I would be sad to hear the air brakes and feel the car slow down as it came back into the station. The ride was over too soon.  That’s what I thought when I was 14.

            Now, if I ride a roller coaster, there is no more welcome sound than the air brakes announcing the end of the ride.  Roller coasters now feel like they are rearranging my internal organs.  All I can think about when the car is moving is, “please let this be over!  I want to get off!”

            Peter and the other disciples think they have a pretty good thing going with Jesus. Jesus is amazing.  As Jesus tells John the Baptist’s disciples in the Gospel of Matthew, Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled.  Matthew 11:5 (ESV) 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.[1]  Jesus is the real deal. 

            Jesus is causing quite a stir in Judah and Galilee.  There is a lot of talk on the streets about Jesus. Who is He?  Where did He come from?  In our Gospel reading today we find Jesus and His disciples talking on the road to the Roman City of Caesarea Philippi about 40 miles north of Jesus’ home base in Capernaum on the Northern coast of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus turns the conversation to His own identity.  Mark 8:27 (ESV) 27 …. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”[2] The disciples respond, “Mark 8:28 (ESV) 28 … “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”[3]

            The people are obviously confused, they know that Jesus is someone special, but they are not sure who He really is.  The people are confused.  What about the disciples?  Mark 8:29 (ESV) 29 And [Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” [4]

            Peter and the disciples know better than the other people; Jesus is the Christ; the Messiah; the anointed one.  Jesus isn’t one of the prophets.  Jesus fulfills prophecy.  The disciples seem to be on the right track, but what does it mean to be the Christ? 

            Mark 8:31 (ESV) 31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.[5]

            Like Peter, lots of folks would rather skip the cross.  The cross is shameful, gory, horrible.  A bloody, beaten, naked man writhing in excruciating agony trying to breath while nailed hand and foot is a shocking sight. 

            This Jesus rollercoaster ride was going pretty good, but for Peter things just went off the rails.  No! No! No! No!  What kind of Christ does Jesus think He is?  This is not going to work for anyone.  A suffering Christ?  A rejected Christ?  A dying Christ?  I don’t think so.  And so Peter is going to set Jesus right.  This is not the ride that Peter signed up for so Peter takes charge and rebukes Jesus.  Jesus does not listen to Peter and instead Jesus rebukes Peter harshly, Mark 8:33 (ESV) 33 … “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”[6] Peter is trying to take charge of Jesus, so Jesus sets him straight.  Get behind me, which is, interestingly, the same word that Jesus used earlier when He called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, Mark 1:17 (ESV) 17 … “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”[7] Follow me, Satan.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. God’s ways are not Peter’s ways. God’s ways are not your ways.  Do not take charge of Jesus.  Do not try to lead Jesus.  Get behind Him.  Follow Jesus through suffering and rejection and cross and resurrection even though it can be a rough ride.

            Like Peter, lots of folks would rather skip the cross.  The cross is shameful, gory, horrible.  A bloody, beaten, naked man writhing in excruciating agony trying to breath while nailed hand and foot is a shocking sight.  It is something you want to turn away from; something you are tempted to reject.  This is a ride you want to get off of.  But it is in this suffering that Jesus shows His love for you.  The cross is love.  Jesus is dying for your sins.  Jesus is dying because of His unending love for you. 

            Peter got so side-tracked by Jesus’ suffering and death that he could not hear Jesus say that He would rise again.  Death got in the way of resurrection.  The awfulness of the cross got in the way of Peter understanding who Jesus really is and what He has come to do.

            Jesus’ teaching is not just for Peter but for all those who follow Jesus. Mark 8:34-37 (ESV) 34 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life?[8]

            Jesus calls each of you to take up your cross and follow him.  Christian life is not a promise of a smooth ride.  No promise of an easy, prosperous life. Suffering is a part of Christian life. St. Paul in our Epistle reading teaches that suffering is useful.  Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.[9]

            And what is God’s love?  The next verse tells us.  Romans 5:6 (ESV) 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.[10]

            You need Jesus’ cross in order to get forgiveness of sins and eternal life. You need Jesus’ cross.  This is a big problem for much of so-called Christianity today.  There are so many who are adopting a “Crossless Christianity”.  So many people want to reject the cross of Christ and create a new religion that is therapeutic and encouraging; a new religion that is all about success and happiness with no sacrifice; no suffering.  It’s all about how God loves you but silent about how God loves you through His suffering and death on the cross at Calvary. 

            I watched Joel Osteen’s sermon from last week entitled “Trouble is Temporary.”  Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston which had a pre-COVID attendance of over 50,000 people a week in person and 2 million online.  During COVID more than 4 million are viewing online.  This is awful.  Osteen is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  His is a crossless Christianity.  He preaches what people’s itching ears want to hear.  As usual, nowhere in the sermon itself does Osteen even mention Jesus, let alone Jesus on the cross suffering and dying to pay for your sins.  His emphasis instead is that you need to keep a positive attitude that trouble is temporary so God will grant you favor because of your faithfulness and obedience.  This is a crossless Christianity.  There is not a cross in sight at Osteen’s Lakewood Church visually, or in the sermon, just God helping you to succeed if you have the right attitude. 

            Jesus rebukes false teachers like Peter, like Joel Osteen, like you and me when we lose sight of the cross, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

            Jesus tells us all, quit trying to be the leader.  Quit trying to set the agenda.  Quit rewriting the rules.  Quit telling God how things should be.  Get behind Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. 

            “Deny yourself” is not a message of success and achievement.  “Deny yourself” means not indulging your sinful desires.  “Deny yourself” means remaining steadfast through daily temptations, tests and trials.  “Deny yourself” means not having God look to your faithfulness and obedience, but looking to God’s promises and faithfulness, and Jesus’ obedience.  It is looking to Jesus on the cross and not letting the horror of the cross prevent you from seeing the joy of the empty tomb.

            This life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns.  It is not easy going and it can feel like it is going to shake you apart.  Hang on to Jesus.  Do not let the trials, tests and temptations of this life including your own death keep you from looking forward to the joy of your own resurrection.  Follow Jesus all the way into eternal life with Him in the Heavenly City.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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