September 16, 2018: 17th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in good times it is easy to pledge allegiance to the source of those good times.  As Christians, this means: we confess You to be our Lord and Savior.  But in difficult times, we begin to doubt Your goodness and sometimes even go back on our confession of You.  Lord, remind us again today that such fickleness is all the result of sin in our lives.  And also, move us to stay steadfast in Your mercy and focus on grace alone, even when doubts come knocking at our door.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!

TEXT:  Mark 8: 27-38

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

There is a dichotomy, a difference, between head knowledge and heart knowledge.  I know, both are a part of us.  After all we’re not two human beings, but one.  Yet, knowing something with your brain and knowing it with your heart are distinct.  I happens all the time—especially when you love another person.  Your heart loves a friend or a child—even when your head tells you: “They are lying behind your back, cheating you out of money, and spreading false stories about you.”  You may know all those things with your head, but the heart still pulls at you and influences how you treat them.  This dichotomy helps explain why an abused spouse continues to stay with their abuser.  The head says one thing and but heart says another.   Life is complicated, isn’t it?

Peter was a microcosm of this complicated dichotomy.  He was also a microcosm of us.  One minute he boldly confesses Jesus as his Lord and Savior and soon thereafter Peter attempts to persuade Jesus not to go through with God’s plan for that salvation.  He see-saws between extremes, and so do we.  This lesson was written by Peter and dictated to Mark, for us to learn to avoid the same mistake with its subsequent emotional upheaval.

I

It all starts out really well.  Jesus has just healed the blind man of Bethsaida.  The miracle worker has struck again!  Wow!  Everyone is excited.  After a few days, Jesus asked the disciples a question to ascertain what they have learned from all this.  “Who do the people say that I am?”  Where’s their faith?  What’s their attitude?  Peter speaks up by recounting some of the answers they have heard.  “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets (come back to life).”  Then Jesus probes a bit closer to home: “But what about you, who do you say I am?”  Again, Peter responds for them all: “You are the Christ.”

Here is a great confession of Jesus as the eternal Son of God, the long prophesied Messiah.  For that is what “Christ” means.  Peter did here what we did earlier in our service.  We, too, confessed openly to all within earshot that Jesus is God’s Son, our Savior, Who bestows complete forgiveness for all sins upon us as a gift and ultimately will take us to a heavenly home.  This ability to confess Christ from the heart is worked in us via the Holy Spirit.  Recall the passage: “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Ghost.”  What an emotional high this must have been for Peter and the others!  How sure they were of their faith.  After all they had heard and seen; nothing could dissuade them.  Their head knowledge and their heart knowledge merged together as one and they were content and confident.

II

But then, Jesus decides to lay out some hard truths for them.  This work of saving souls isn’t just about the crowd’s acclamation over miracles.  It’s going to take blood, sweat and tears.  He tells them about His coming passion, His suffering and His death on a cross.  Now, they should have known all this since it was part of the Messianic prophesies in the OT.  But apparently Jesus is very blunt with these truths.  “He spoke plainly about this.”  Now, however, Peter becomes conflicted.  Head knowledge and heart knowledge collide.  So, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”  Has this ever been you?  Have you or do you readily accept certain truths from God’s Word but reject or ignore others? –Especially ones that might seem more unpleasant or hard to understand right now?

Peter’s great confession withers on the vine in the face of difficult truths.  So, Christ rebukes him: “Out of my sight, Satan!  You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Satan is all about sowing seeds of doubt within us.  This is especially true when it comes to the fact that God loves us enough to send His Son of suffer and die to save our souls.  Yes, the Gospel cannot be understood with the head but must be apprehended with the heart.

III

Next comes a Godly explanation of this seeming paradox of how lost humans are saved.  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Our brains tell us that this is nonsense.  No sane person thinks they can save their life by losing it.  Likewise, we don’t imagine that by losing our lives we can save those lives.  But this is where the heart comes in.  The heart ultimately doesn’t care what the brain says.  The heart knows and believes that certain things are worth dying for.  Heroes on the battlefield put duty, honor, and country before their lives.  Certain things are bigger than we are.  And so it is with the Gospel.  The truth of God’s salvation is bigger than any of us.  Suffering for it is a privilege and not a burden.  Dying for it is an honor because thereby we’re linked to our Savior Who died to save us.

The soul cannot be quantified.  It cannot be dissected or totally understood.  Yet, all humans know it is their most priceless possession.  So, now Christ picks up on that fact and weaves it together with the importance of an honest confession of Him.  For after all, He came to save our souls eternally.  “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  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.”

The logic of that statement is impeccable.  The conclusion is inescapable.  And the point of it all is this: Confessing Christ alone as my Savior is great for the soul because it comes from the heart.  Moral to the story: We cannot think ourselves into heaven with our brains, but need to believe in Christ, instead……  Amen