Our bible study in Luke’s gospel continues with Luke 20:17-39.
Author Archives: steve
This is the sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent. The sermon text is: Mark 8:31-38. The sermon theme is: Every Christian Says, “No.”
Every Christian Says, “No.”
Have you ever had to say, “no?” Now, here, when I’m asking this question, I’m not talking about the scenario when you’re stuffed with food and you are asked if you want more turkey or pie and you have to say, “no.” I’m not talking about the times when it’s easy to say “no.” I’m talking about the times when you have to say, “no” and it’s hard to say those words. Maybe you take the long trek into Pittsburgh to go to a restaurant. And when you get there you have to wait. And they tell you it’ll be a half an hour. But then there you are, still waiting after an hour and a half. Or you go to a movie and there’s a bunch of kids there being loud, making noises to each other and on their cell phones. You didn’t plan on being mean that day. But the circumstances drove you to simply say, “no!” That is the sort of context that we find here in these words from Mark’s gospel. We find people who are driven to say “no.” And so, in Mark 8:33 we read: “31 He then 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. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:31–32 NIV)
Sometimes people call John 3:16 the “gospel in a nutshell”—that if you wanted to condense and compress the entire message of salvation into a small statement, John 3:16 would be that verse to get the job done. I think this verse would be a better example. Just what exactly is it that Jesus does to rescue us from Satan and our own sin? He is persecuted in our place, put to death in our place, and rising in our place proving that we too will rise. You can’t get any more gospel truth than that.
But that’s not what Peter sees. What Peter sees is that his friend and his Savior tells them that he is going to die. And before he is going to die he is going to be tortured. And it might have been something that Peter could overlook. But Jesus kept speaking about it again and again.1 After all, if Jesus just mentions this in passing, Peter could forget it. But when Jesus says again and again that he would suffer and then die, the sheer repetition drove Peter to take action. It drove him to say “no” to Jesus. And that’s exactly what Peter did.
And very quickly we learn what Peter learned. It is neither good nor safe to say “no” to Jesus. In verse 33 we read: “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”” (Mark 8:33 NIV)
When Peter says “no” to Jesus privately, Jesus gathers a crowd around him and then says “no” to Peter. In fact, not only does he tell Peter, “no,” he also calls him “Satan.” It’s hard to say “no” more forcefully than that. And then right after that he answers the question, why? Why did Jesus speak so harshly to Peter? Peter deserved to be told “no” sharply and severely because what was important to him was what mattered to people, not what mattered to God.
It’s easy for us to look at Peter and be ashamed at his selfishness. It might even be easy for us to laugh at his stupidity a little. But if Jesus says, “Get out of my way, Satan” to Peter, then he has every right to say the same to us. For there are many times and ways in our lives when we say “no” to Jesus just as forcefully as Peter did. Jesus tells children to respect and obey their parents. And we say, “no.” Jesus tells parents to spend time with and love their children, and we tell Jesus, “no.” He tells us to read his word and pray. And so very often we say, “no.” He tells us to let go of our unfounded-fear and un-called-for anger. And we say to Jesus, “no.” And so what Jesus says to us is the same as he said to Peter, “Get out of my way, Satan.”
No, instead of saying “no” to Jesus, as Christians we need to follow a different path. Each and every one of us needs to say “no” to someone else. Jesus tells us: “34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38” (Mark 8:34–37 NIV)
Every person on this planet takes one of two paths. On the first path you say “yes” to yourself and every earthly pleasure you want. And then, when you die, you get what you deserve. Your soul is taken from you and sent to hell. That’s the first path. The second path is just the opposite. Instead of saying “yes” to all your sinful desires, you say “no” again and again throughout your life. And you give up this earthly life. But then when you die there is heaven waiting for you.
Do you get the point that Jesus is making? The person each and every Christian needs to say “no” to is not Jesus. Every Christian needs to say “no” to himself and herself. Individually, day after day, I say “no” to myself. When I am prideful, I say “no” to myself. When I am lazy, I say “no” to myself. When I am arrogant, I say “no” to myself. That is what needs to happen. But, as these words continue, there is one more person we need to say “no” to: “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.”” (Mark 8:38 NIV)
Every Christian says, “no” to himself. But every Christian also says “no” to the world. When I was a tiny child my parents brought me to school in an old, baby-blue Rambler. Many of you here this morning might not know what a Rambler is. But I’ll never forget. Picture an old baby-blue station-wagon with blue smoke coming out of the back of it to match the baby-blue color of the paint. And when I was a small child in school my classmates would make fun of that car. They would say, “Can’t your dad afford anything better than that?” And notice what was happening: they made fun of my dad by making fun of that blue car. And the same thing is true of our Heavenly Father, isn’t it? This sinful world we live in makes fun of our Heavenly Father by making fun of the tool he uses to get his work done. They make fun of the gospel. And you can see examples all around you. I was reading a book and the author made fun of the Lord’s Supper, calling it “Jesus crackers.” And people make fun of baptism the same way. They say, “You only received a water baptism. But I received a spirit baptism,” as if the bible speaks about several different types of baptisms. The sinful world loves to tear down our Father by tearing down the tool he uses to get his work done, the gospel. And sad to say, far too often, when we should have said “no” to the world, we became ashamed.
And that leads us to our final question this morning. If every Christian says “no” to himself and to the world, then how do we do that? In these words Jesus invites us to look at the gospel. That is the tool that gets his work done. When I was first in school I was ashamed of that blue Rambler. When it showed up in the parking lot I ran out to it and got in because I didn’t want anyone to see me in it or near it. But later on, I saw the truth. These same classmates that made fun of my father’s car had no home. There were many of them whose parents were divorced. And when the cold of winter came they spent cold nights in their mom’s trailer and then the next night in their dad’s trailer. And some nights they had no place to stay. But every day that baby-blue Rambler took me home. And it was a home where I was clothed, fed and was warm.
Jesus invites us to look to the gospel because the gospel is what he uses to take us home to heaven. And if we ask the question, “how do I know if I will be in heaven?”—look at the Jesus’ answer. Go back to that gospel in a nutshell. Jesus suffered for you. Jesus died for you. Jesus rose for you. And so, all the times you said “no” to Jesus are forgiven. And all the times you gladly said “yes” to yourself and to this sinful world are forgiven too.
But the gospel does even more than that. Through God’s word our Father gives us the strength and courage to say “no”—both to ourselves and to the world. Day after day, every one of us will be able to say “no.” That is a promise that Jesus gives to us here in these words. So then, since we have this promise from Jesus, let us take him up on his invitation. Let each one of us say “no.” Let us say “no” to ourselves and to this sinful world. Amen.
1 “ἐλάλει” (Mark 8:32 NA28-T)