Mark 8: 27-35
Second Sunday in Lent
March 1, 2015
TEXT: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For 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". Mark 8:34-35
In a parable of life, a man is rowing his boat on a lake. Inscribed on one oar is the word, "Faith." on the other oar is the word "Works." The oars are symbolic of our ministry as followers of Christ. If that man pulls on only one oar at a time, he will get nowhere. The boat will go around in circles.
In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" The Apostle Peter answers, "You are the Messiah" (Mk. 8:29). Peter was identifying Christ as the Messiah of God, his Lord and Savior. That's Faith! Then Jesus went on to teach the disciples that He "must suffer many things." He described His mission on earth as sacrificial. And He made it clear that the same would be true in the mission of the disciples. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves,” Jesus said. Let them “take up their cross and follow Me”. (Mk. 8:29). That's Works!
It is not a matter, on the one hand, of saying "You are the Christ" and on the other hand taking up your cross. Unless you are living your faith, you are going around in circles, faith and works must pull together, in this sense. They are inseparable.
Two seminary students were engaged in earnest conversation. With a perplexed look on his face, one said to the other, "What gets me about this place is that they want you to love people you don't even like!" Don’t you see, said the other student, that is precisely what must get to you if you want to follow Jesus.
In his famous book, "The Art of Loving," Erich Fromm says:
Mature love follows the principle:
I am loved because I love."
Immature love says,
"I love you because I need you."
Mature love says,
"I need you because I love you."
Jesus came as Messiah and Savior in the form of a servant who stooped to wash His disciples' feet. Jesus came into the midst of a people who were expecting a "survival of the fittest" Messiah. Elements within His people were desirous for a Messiah of vengeance. Jesus said to those people, "Turn the other cheek...go the second mile...love your enemies...forgive your persecutors." He told them -- and He is telling us now -- that anyone who deliberately sets out to save his or her own life, to the exclusion of others, will lose it. And anyone who loses his or her own life in the service of others, will save it.
A person who was driving home from church after listening to a sermon on today's text, said that for some unknown reason, she felt "strangely depressed":
The highway was packed with cars, and almost every car was packed with people, most of them going on vacation. It suddenly seemed impossible that God could really care about so many of these tiny, insignificant creatures riding around the surface of the earth. Did any of them really matter? Did I really matter? I felt abandoned.
All at once the cars ahead of me began slowing down. I could not imagine what was interfering with the flow of traffic. Then I saw it! A mother duck was leading her six ducklings across the six-lane highway, and they were now halfway across.
As we slowed down, it suddenly mattered to me more than anything else in the world that those tiny feathered creatures waddled across the road safely. When I had passed, I looked back and saw that all the ducks had made it across. I cheered aloud.
After that I found that somehow I could believe that we all matter - each and every one of us. God does not need ducks as reminders like I do. God's love never fails.
Early one morning, Francis of Assisi said to several of his followers, "Let us leave the monastery and go to the village over the way and preach." As they went, they met a weary pedestrian who was greatly burdened. Francis stopped, listened respectfully to the stranger's tale of woe, then made arrangements to provide assistance. When the village was reached, Francis talked one-by-one with the shopkeepers, again listening respectfully -- sharing in their joys and sorrows, and identifying with the problems. Then Francis took time to laugh and play with the children in the streets. On the return trip, Francis and his party met a farmer who was struggling with a load of hay. Francis lent a hand and the farmer was able to go on his way. It was almost dusk, and the group hurried to reach the monastery before dark. When they arrived, one of Francis' companions said, "Brother Francis, you said you were going to preach, but the day is spent and no sermon has been given." To which Francis replied, "But we have been preaching all the way!"
Why not go "preaching all the way"? What can you lose? Only your life, Jesus is telling us. "For whoever loses his life for My sake ...will save it!"