September 19, 2021
Pastor John Hering
27 Jesus went away with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
28 They told him, “John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others say one of the prophets.” 29 “But who do you say I am?” he asked them. Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again. 32 He was speaking plainly to them. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Wanted: Team player for a challenging, permanent and often chaotic job. Must be able to work with little sleep, gifted in conflict resolution and janitorial work. Must be able to juggle schedules and often be the recipient of anger and frustrations. Requires 24/7 on call readiness with no paid holidays. Must pay all food & travel expenses. How does this job description sound to you? Any takers? Truth is that as hard and demanding and unpleasant as this job sounds, there are millions of people who have this job, and do it willingly with excellence. It’s called “being a parent!”
When the Lord blessings a couple with the gift of a child the parents probably aren’t thinking of all the difficulties in raising a child, but what a blessing it is to have a child. If you were invited to apply to a business, factory or office job that was famous for ridicule, persecution and suffering you probably wouldn’t be too interested in the position. Truth is, we want to be comfortable and life to be easy.
The Word of God before us today will challenge your heart and faith. If you want to be one of his own Jesus says, “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Now think about this. We have a cross hanging in the front of our church, some of you may have a cross hanging around your neck and on your walls at home. Doesn’t this seem strange when the cross is a symbol of burden, suffering and death? That’s not comfortable or easy! And that’s exactly the point. Jesus teaches that becoming a Christian is easy but living and loving as a Christian isn’t easy. His words are clear:
Carry Your Cross
Because Jesus Carried his Cross for You
The disciples have been traveling with Jesus and the crowds and learned so much about Jesus. He was healing the sick, providing for the hungry and teaching them about God’s kingdom. “27 Jesus went away with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They told him, “John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others say one of the prophets.” Jesus already knows what the people are thinking about him. They loved Jesus. He was important and special to them. And while Jesus used his miracles to back up his teaching and preaching, many were confused about Jesus‘ purpose. They had many ideas about just who Jesus was, but none of their answers considered Jesus more than just a man. So, Jesus takes his disciples away from the crowds to teach them once again just who is was and what his mission was all about.
Jesus directed this question to the disciples: “29 “But who do you say I am?” he asked them. Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” This is a good answer. Peter and the other disciples believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and not just a great teacher, prophet or the new and upcoming guy everyone wanted to hang around. They believed Jesus was the promised Savior who came to rescue the world from the curse of sin and power of the devil. Peter was right. Jesus was the Lord God who took on flesh to be our Savior.
But, as perfect as Peter’s answer was, it was sort of like an answer written down on paper, but he and the disciples didn’t really know what this meant for Jesus. So, Jesus explains: “31 Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again. 32 He was speaking plainly to them.” This was not what the disciples expected—it was like a punch in the stomach! Here was the leader, their dearly loved friend telling them all the horrible things that he was going to go through. Here was the issue: They believed Jesus was their Savior, but they had a very different picture and expectation of what the Savior would do. Their Savior wasn’t supposed to suffer, be on call 24/7, and be ridiculed and put to death! These things should never happen to Jesus! “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Can I share some advice: Don’t ever reprimand Jesus.
Peter and the disciples were wrong. “33 But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.” The “things of men” are having a comfortable and easy life. But the “things of God” was a plan to save the world. Ever since the Fall into Sin every person has been infected with sin, our world is groaning with the effects of sin. But, God made a plan to save us all. Jesus knew his Father’s plan would include rejection, suffering and carrying his cross to death. Jesus had to die to crush Satan’s power and pay the penalty of our sins. Isaiah had prophesied, “but it was because of our rebellion that he was pierced. He was crushed for the guilt our sins deserved. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Summarize what Isaiah said and Jesus fulfilled: Jesus had to Carry His Cross For You!
We have been traveling with Jesus, too. Most of us grew up in church and would be the first ones to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. But, you can also be tempted to have the wrong idea of what that means. Does Jesus being your Savior mean that you’d like for him to make your parenting job a little easier? Does it mean that you’d like for him to make your health better? Does it mean you’d like to focus on Jesus giving you the good stuff: food on your plate, stable relationships and a great paying job to enjoy? Does it mean you just want Jesus to make your life easier? Let’s be honest and confess that we want every good thing from Jesus often with thinking about the cross he had to carry to save us from hell. That means our focus is on earthly, human concerns and not the eternal concerns of God. Jesus had To Carry The Cross of Death For You to pay for your sins, to rescue you from the curse of hell. You need Jesus to be way more than a great teacher, prophet and provider. You need Jesus to Carry The Cross To Be Your Perfect Savior! And when we fear, love and trust in Jesus to Carry His Cross for us, then remember:
We Don’t Carry Our Crosses Alone
I don’t think God the Father prepared a Job Description for Jesus on a scroll in heaven, showed it to his Son and asked, “So, would you like this job?” No, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There was no other way. If Jesus had listened to Peter’s rebuke you would still be under the curse of your sins and carrying the burden of living in this sin-broken world all by yourself. But, Jesus did save you because he died and rose again. Jesus defeated death and won forgiveness for you. Because Jesus carried his cross for you, you are forgiven and eternal life is yours. You are redeemed, but, we’re not in heaven yet.
We are still living in a sin-broken world with hearts and lives infected with sinful thoughts, words and actions. It also means we are going to have troubles. That’s why Jesus said, “33 I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me” (John 16:33). Did you hear that? Jesus said we have peace in him! Really? I mean, if Jesus saved you from your sins, then why did Jesus say this: “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We’ve been reminded how we forget what all Jesus did to be our Savior, but how often we also forget what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.
The job description for a Christian doesn’t read like this: “If you’re a Christian then life will be easy, great and prosperous. Nothing will go wrong because you’re on God’s side.” You know reality! Bad things happen. The life of a Christian is not easy. It’s hard to witness your faith to others. It’s hard to hold the line and refuse to cheat. It’s hard to sacrifice our time, talents and treasures in faithful service to Jesus. That’s Jesus’ point and his warning—Carry Your Cross and Follow Him! I want to be clear, I’m not talking about suffering because we live in a sinful, broken world. Those are crosses, too. The cross Jesus is talking about is the burden we suffer because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Think of Jeremiah who was thrown into a pit because he proclaimed God’s Word. Think of Saint Paul in prison for proclaiming Jesus as the Savior. Or think of people all over the world who face suffering and even the threat of death for carrying their cross for Christ. These are hard crosses to carry and it would be impossible if left to ourselves. But, listen to Jesus, “33 I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are not left alone to carry our crosses, but Jesus promises to be our strength so God’s people never carry their cross alone.
God knows the crosses you carry for being his disciple, and he never will ask you to carry a cross that he doesn’t also give you the strength to carry it. Is it a cross to fight against your sinful nature and refuse to lie to your spouse, or be ridiculed for your faith by family and friends, or your desire to live a Christian life in line with God’s will instead of the sinful ways of the world? Then as you carry those crosses lean on Jesus’ promise that he has overcome all those crosses for you, forgiven you for the times when you dropped your crosses, and points you to every time he perfectly carried every burden you have to the wooden cross to redeem you back to a perfect relationship with his Father in heaven.
In conclusion, let me talk about your relationship with God. Jesus said, “35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” If we are so entrenched with saving our lives here on earth to the point that we forget about and reject our Savior, then we will lose our life in heaven. But, when we remember all Jesus has already done for us and prioritize our life here on earth as being less important than our eternal life in heaven, then we can Carry Our Crosses For Jesus Because We Know We’re Not Alone. It is far better to stand up for Christ and suffer the crosses we bear for Christ in this life, than to step away from Christ, drop our cross and lose our eternal salvation. Yes, Jesus is our source for patience, peace and strength to Carry Our Crosses because We Are Not Alone!
Is being a parent worth it? Yes, when sin messes up families and lives it makes life difficult. But, parents still love their children. Is being a Christian worth it? It isn’t easy to follow him. It isn’t easy to carry crosses for Christ. But, look what God promises through St Paul: “For I conclude that our sufferings at the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Yes, our salvation was free, but it sure wasn’t cheap. Dear Christian friends, Jesus Carried His Cross For You. The gracious reward is eternal life in heaven. What do you say? Let’s take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Amen!