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W.D.J.D. - What DID Jesus Do? He Talked the Talk, and Walked the Walk

Mark 8:27-35

Sermon Text (New International Version (NIV))

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

28 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

29 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Predicts His Death

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

The Way of the Cross

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

SERMON

"Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand; I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand precious Lord. Lead me home."

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now….facing trials that have you tired, weak, and worn. And whether you’re facing extremely difficult circumstances right now or not, it’s hard not to be moved by a song like this one. Because life has crosses to bear. So when we sing a song like this, we can't help but let our minds go to the difficulties we’ve faced—whether they’re present circumstances, or circumstances of days gone by. And when we face trials, it sure can be difficult to keep our perspective. It can be difficult to trust in God and his goodness. Sometimes it seems like it’s all we can do to halfheartedly say, "Lord, take my hand and lead me on."

Today we’re going to talk about carrying our cross. Carrying our cross includes two different things: we carry our cross when we face persecution, and when we face trials. As Christians we speak a lot about trusting God in the midst of trials and persecutions...but that can be difficult to do. So how are we to deal with trials and persecutions? How can we as Christians not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk? That’s what we’re going to think about today as we go back through the gospel.

You have to love Peter. When it comes to Peter, Scripture doesn’t leave anything out. Sometimes we see him acting in heroic ways. Sometimes we see him giving beautiful and bold confessions of faith. But other times, we see him doing absolutely silly and foolish things. He’s a person who’s a little raw and sometimes rough around the edges. He really knows how to put his foot in his mouth at times. And we have one of those instances in front of us today.

There Jesus is with his disciples and he decides to ask them who people say he is. They come up with a variety of answers… then Jesus turns the question on them. Who do YOU say I am….? He’s testing his disciples. He’s trying to prepare them for what is to come. And Peter gives one of those beautiful and bold answers. He proudly states, "You are the Messiah." It’s one of those moments when you want to applaud Peter for his confession of faith.

But in the verses that follow, we see that, although Peter gave that beautiful and bold profession of faith, he may not have fully understood the implications of his answer. He may not have fully understood just what it meant that Jesus was the Messiah. We can say that because of the interaction that follows. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he will suffer and die at the hands of men—ultimately that is his role as the Messiah. But when Jesus tells the disciples that, Peter tries to rebuke him! The strong words Jesus used against Peter are understandable because Peter was foolishly trying to distract him from his mission of paying for the sin of the world.

Whenever you come across this story, maybe you can't help but think, "Come on Peter, what a foolish thing to say!" But it’s important for us to understand something. That was the mindset of the culture in which Peter lived. The Jews had, for the most part, and wrongly, come to think that the Messiah was an individual who would come and set up a kingdom on earth. They thought the Messiah would deliver them from all the oppressive nations around them. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Jesus didn’t come to set-up an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to take care of the problem of sin, and establish a spiritual kingdom.

And now we’re up to the section we want to spend our time on today. After everything that has Just happened, "34 [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

When Scripture speaks about Christians carrying their cross, it refers to a couple different things. Firstly, taking up one’s cross means to fearlessly face persecution. And secondly, taking up one’s cross can also refer to patiently enduring the troubles we face in this life. And those are the two things we spoke about at the beginning of the sermon today. And at the beginning of the sermon we also alluded to the fact that we often times struggle to pick up and faithfully carry our cross. It’s because it’s difficult. It’s because it’s painful.

When it comes to that first definition of carrying our cross—fearlessly facing persecution… we don’t see a lot of physical persecution here in America, rather, we see more verbal or emotional persecution. Maybe you’ve experienced persecution of that nature before (or maybe you haven’t). But we’ve heard about. Maybe we’ve seen it. And whether we experience, or hear about, or see that kind of persecution, it can cause us to become fearful and timid. Let me ask you this: have you ever found yourself shying away from a conversation or a witness opportunity where you could share your faith because you are afraid of what might go wrong? Or maybe you’re afraid of what that conversation might result in? Or maybe you’re afraid of how that conversation will cause the other person to view you? When we do that, what we’re doing is running away from even the idea or possibility of having to carry a cross.

Now that second definition of carrying our cross—patiently enduring the troubles we face...that’s a tough one as well. Nobody likes troubles and trials. They’re difficult, devastating, and painful. And when we face them, Satan would love nothing more than for us to begin questioning God’s goodness and love for us. And so often we do begin to do just that. Rather than patiently carrying our cross with a heart full of trust in God, be begin to question him. We begin to grumble against him. And when we do that, we’re really kind of falling into the same trap that Peter (and many other Jews) did. We’re looking for Jesus to be our personal little miniature king. We’re hoping that God will help us set up our perfect little kingdom here on earth where nothing ever goes wrong and where Jesus just snaps his fingers and makes all our problems go away.

If we take an honest look in our hearts, we have to admit that we often times fail at faithfully carrying our crosses. But there is good news for us today. Jesus didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. When Jesus told us to pick up our cross, his words were not empty. Jesus wasn’t just some good man who spit out proverbs about how suffering produces character…. No, Jesus walked the walk. He modeled what it looks like to take up the cross to the point of death. While on this earth he endured ridicule, persecution, and sufferings. He let humankind place him on THE cross and kill him. By carrying THE cross, dying for us, and rising again, Jesus paid for every single sin. That includes the sin we spoke about today. Jesus paid for every single time that we have failed to take up the crosses that God places in our lives. We’re forgiven for the times we have shied away from difficult conversations or shied away from witness opportunities. We’re forgiven for the times we question God’s goodness and love when we’re faced with trials. And may we never forget that forgiveness we have in Christ. And may we never forget it is God himself who strengthens us to carry the crosses in our lives.

There was a man, his name was Thom. Thom was a musician that grew up in Atlanta and moved to Chicago in 1915. While living and working in Chicago, he found and married a sweetheart. Her name was Netti. Tragedy struck a few years into their marriage. The following is the account from Thom himself,

"Back in 1932 I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s Southside. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist. I didn’t want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. . . .

". . . In the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. . . .

"When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him any more or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. . .

"But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Frye, who seemed to know what I needed. On the following Saturday evening he took me up to Malone’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys."

As that evening, as Thomas Andrew Dorsey played, these were the words he sang with the tune he played...This is the song he composed.

"Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand; I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand precious Lord. Lead me home."

So brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow recipients of grace and forgiveness. May we go out boldly in that forgiveness. May God strengthen us to receive the crosses that he allows to come into our lives with joy. Because when we receive those crosses, we are following in Christ’s footsteps. Thomas Dorsey struggled. We too struggle. But God strengthens his children to receive the crosses he places in our life with a heart full of trust. And as we carry them, God teaches us to better keep our eyes on him. God teaches us to let go of the things that this world considers valuable, and instead cling to that which he tells us is valuable. May we face the crosses in our lives with the strength, boldness, and fearlessness that Christ himself gives us. What did Jesus do? He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk...and he strengthens us to do likewise. Amen? Amen.



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