31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.??32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ???Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.???
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ???If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.??35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.??36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life???37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.???
If you study Jesus and his teaching long enough, you see that there are times when he???s clear and there are times when he???s not so clear. ??Jesus often taught through stories, metaphors, illustrations, and parables. ??He was always using images. ??If you are a visual learner, then you probably love his metaphors and parables. ??I love it when I hear, ???The Kingdom of Heaven is like…??? ??But there are times when Jesus speaks openly and honestly about things and I find myself saying, ???Can that be right???? or ???Is that what he really meant????
In this morning???s text, Jesus is definitely open and honest about what is on the horizon for him. ??He says, ???that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.??? ??The scriptures says ???He said all this quite openly,??? v.32. ??The more literal translation here would be, ???And he said this plainly.??? ??When it came to the most important aspect of all that Jesus would do???his death & resurrection??? he would tell them openly and plainly.
But would they get it? ??Not at first. ??We very quickly see that Peter is completely thrown off by this statement. ??There are two possible reasons as to why they didn???t understand what Jesus was saying as he said it plainly… ??
1) They may have been looking for a metaphor in his speech. ??What could Jesus be really saying when he says he???s going to die? ??Surely he is talking about something other than this terrible thing. ??And so they spend time digging around for a hidden meaning, when in reality what Jesus meant is sitting right at the surface, waiting for them to take it and make it their own. ??
2) They may have heard something they didn???t want to hear. ??Peter gets upset immediately and attempts to correct Jesus. ??Apparently, Jesus was wrong in Peter???s mind, saying something that couldn???t be true. ??Jesus was working so hard and had come so far. ??It would be a shame in Peter???s mind for Jesus to go through something so vile and shameful as an arrest and a criminal death. ??But Jesus was speaking plainly and Peter wasn???t hearing it.
Whether they were looking for a metaphor or being stubborn about what they were hearing, both conclusions are a result of having our minds on the wrong things. ??If the disciples???especially Peter???had Jesus??? will at the center of their lives, they might have heard what Jesus was trying to tell them. ??It has always struck me funny that they didn???t comprehend or discuss the last statement he made; that he would be raised from the dead! ??But they were distracted by the idea that he might die, especially the manner in which it was going to happen.
The real issue comes to surface when Peter is accused by Jesus of having his mind on human things, focusing more on what he wants and not on what God wants. ??We can safely say that rather than hearing the truth, Peter is distracted by his own thoughts. ??Peter thinks he knows what is best: both what should happen and obviously what should not happen. ??But having our minds on divine things means that we focus not on the distractions that take away from God???s work, but rather on the things that contribute to God???s work. ??Knowing what God is doing means that we must know what it is that God wants to do. ??Ironically, Jesus is TRYING to tell his disciples what it is he wants to do, which is to suffer for their sakes and restore the world unto God.
Jesus says to the disciples and the group around them, ???If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.??? ??Becoming a follower of Jesus means following him in more ways then simply where he???s going. ??It means denying the things that you think are important and taking up the things that God finds important. ??Peter didn???t take the time to understand what Jesus was asking or what mattered to Jesus most. ??Jesus spoke plainly about what he was doing but it???s easy to complicate things when you???re heart isn???t in the right place.
Following after Jesus is about aligning your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength with his heart, his mind, his soul, and his strength. ??We do this by committing our lives to God, through our worship, our devotion, and our focus. ??It means taking the right amount of time to discern what God is saying to us when he says anything at all. ??If we have a knee-jerk reaction, like Peter does, we often miss the entire point. ??Peter was being asked to set himself aside and put God first. ??This is what Lent is all about, taking the time to put God first; to understand Christ???s suffering as he put God???s love first in his life.
Both Jesus??? disciples and us today desire to follow him in our steps, but the main ingredient is following him in our heart. ??It is the heart of Jesus that we must seek after, not just the physical acts or locations he went to. ??Once we follow Jesus in our hearts, we can follow Jesus wherever he leads, whether it???s next door, across the country, over the ocean, or even to the Cross. ??We are divinely prepared only when we have put God first, and this means putting him at the center of our heart. ??
Last week I mentioned that it was important to understand the suffering of Christ because our faith depended on it. ??Understanding what God has done FOR you through Jesus Christ is what makes the difference between you believing with a faith that understands and a faith that saves. ??A faith that understands says, ???Oh yeah, I get that Jesus died for me. ??What an awesome gift.??? ??But a faith that saves says, ???Yes, Jesus Christ died for me and I accept that gift and commit to living my life as a response to his gracious sacrifice.??? ??See the difference. ??This is really just a fancy way of distinguishing between knowledge and trust.
And so this morning, I speak plainly to you when I say this: ??Align your heart with God???s, understanding his will to be that each of us live a Christ-like life, putting down our burdens and taking up his. ??Understand the suffering of Jesus as a redemptive suffering, a sacrifice that through suffering and death, brings resurrection and life. ??Go from this place today having heard Christ speak plainly and respond by living plainly, openly for the world to see the love you have for God. ??Amen.
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church
Devotional Blog – http://devoblog.posterous.com
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