Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jesus' Cross, Our Cross

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-1       Psalm 22:22-30        Romans 4:13-25       Mark 8:31-38

The history of the Jews is a tale of constant suffering. The Scriptures provide little explanation for why. Sometimes it is a punishment for sin, but there is also persecution and innocent suffering. The prosperity gospel, promising blessings on the faithful, is in tension with another revelation about the pain of being faithful.

When Jesus tells the disciples that the son of man will be rejected, suffer, die and rise again, He speaks as the Messiah. His divine power and authority as ‘Son of Man’ gets a shocking twist. It is so horrible that Peter does the unthinkable and rebukes his master. ‘Rebuke’ is a code word for exorcism in the Gospel. Does Peter think the Master has a demon? Peter’s rebuke brought shame on himself and shame on Jesus. The Lord, in response, rebukes Peter. Jesus looks to the other disciples calls Peter Satan. Peter's mind (nous) is still dark and his heart is ruled by sinful passions. Peter thinks like a human and not with a mind and heart united with God. Peter is afraid. Peter is me and you.

The suffering messiah is a mystery. Why have the Jews suffered so? Why must Jesus suffer rejection, suffering, and death to be God's salvation? Why? Obviously it is the nature of creation—truth beyond science and human reason—but we have no explanation. There is much we cannot see or understand, so we must trust.

Jesus speaks of suffering often. He tells us that we must suffer as well. We must carry a cross and follow Him. It is hard to keep it all in balance. Jesus dies to save us from our sins, He does it for us. Yet, He tells us that we must suffer and die as well. It is a painful mystery and a terrifying mystery. How many of us pray that we can die peacefully in our sleep? How many say we are not afraid of death, but we do not want to suffer. We claim to follow Jesus, yet leave own cross out of the discussion.

White, middle class Christianity has generally been a pleasant practice. The growth of aggressive anti-Christian sentiments has surprised us. Whatever the future of the church here, however, in many parts of the world carrying the cross as a disciple is the norm. Right now more people are martyrs for the faith than at any other time in history. Today, Christians are persecuted, tortured and killed for Jesus. Around the world these Christians faithfully follow Jesus to their own passion and death.

Like Peter, we recoil at the thought of such discipleship. We think like rational humans and we are often tools of satan. Our Gospel is infused with Americanism--a gospel of personal freedom and prosperity. The cross is a symbol of servanthood and loss of power and control. The cross is self-emptying, suffering love in union with our Lord and His Father…

Lent is a time to leave “peter” behind and get a new mind (nous) and new heart. Our doubt and fear is the fertile ground for all the deadly sins to flourish. We must forget ourselves and turn from our fear of suffering and loss. We must embrace Jesus and follow him. Our Lenten discipline must be a dress rehearsal—combat training in self-denial and death. It is said that Peter was crucified in Rome several decades later. He repented. Do we love Jesus enough to repent and follow Him, where ever He leads? 


"pascho" is the Greek word and it means "to undergo and experience (good or bad), feel, passion, suffer, experience in the body" The Hebrew word, pecach (Passover, Passover sacrifice) is also translated as pascho in the Septuagint.

The Word pascho occurs forty two times. Many refer to Jesus' own suffering, but some to ours.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. [1 Peter 3-5 has ten uses of the term. Calling us to suffer for the right reasons and not for sin, reminding us that suffering can free us from the power of sin]
revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Acts 9:1 The Lord sais "he [Paul] will suffer for my name
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
2 Timothy 1:12 and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 1 Corinthians 12:2 reminds us of our bond with the suffering Christians "[because the church is one body] if one suffers all suffer together."
2 timothy 1:12 and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

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