Cross Marked And Anchored
February 24, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
Verse: Romans 8:31–8:38
Mark 8:31-38 ~ Cross Marked and Anchored
Lent 2-B, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, OH, 2/28/18
~ In Nomine Iesu ~
~In the name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit ~
Dear Cross-Marked and Anchored Followers of Christ:
A simple test for whether something is Christian is whether you can hang it on a cross. Word and Sacrament, body and blood, YES...Promises of great prosperity, secret formulas to gain inner spirituality, speaking in strange tongues with private messages and claiming that God speaks to me in special ways through means other than His Word and Sacrament are not for the follower of Christ.NO, these do not come hung on a cross. Any Christ who comes without a cross, is a false Christ—not the Christ for you.
“You are the Christ”, but not a crucified Christ Peter said. That wasn’t Peter talking. Peter was echoing the diabolical voice in the wilderness, tempting Jesus not to be the suffering Son of God. Jesus say to the chief of His disciples: “Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind God things but man things.”
A cross-less Christ—that’s what the devil wants. No suffering servant stuff … no bloody sacrifice … no vicarious atonement … just power and glory and fame and celebrity. That’s the satanic way. It’s also man’s way—our way—the way of the winners and … please, no crosses! Crosses are shameful. Losers hang on crosses. Resurrections are cool, but there’s a catch: you must die first. There can be no Easter without Good Friday, not matter how hard some pseudo-believers try to have it that way.
Have a cross-less church and the devil couldn’t be happier. And I don’t mean a church without a cross symbol or a crucifix, (though the absence does make you wonder a bit) I mean a church that can go on as if Jesus hadn’t suffered for the sin of the world. That’s what I mean by a “cross-less church.”
Why do you think people want to rid the world of the symbol of the cross? Why do you think a crucifix is so offensive, even to some Christians? It really isn’t political, though it often gets politicized. The cross is the big scandal of Christianity. It’s what makes Christianity the great non-religion in the world of “religions”.
Look and see … God-in-the-flesh hung on this shameful Roman instrument of torture to offer up His life to save a world that didn’t ask to be saved.
A truth about false religion is that it’s conveniently all over the place, especially on social and news media. Some of it even sounds vaguely Christian. It’s a bit like having junk food lying all over the house and then wondering why you’re never hungry at dinner time. It’s a powerful temptation for many of the baptized to become so bloated by snacking on religious junk food, that they no longer hunger and thirst for the real thing.
When St. Paul came to Corinth, he had come from a rather unsuccessful speaking engagement before the philosophers of Athens. He came to Corinth with the intensefocus of knowing nothing and preaching nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Jews of Paul’s day had a need for signs and wonders that glorified their self-righteousness. The Greeks had a need for wisdom—smooth, persuasive preachers who could entertain them with enticing sentences. (Luther writes in his Galatians commentary: “Nothing fights harder against the Gospel than Law and Reason.”)Paul’s preaching of the cross simply bored them to death with the death of Jesus.
The goal of God’s Word is not that we feel good about ourselves but that we deny ourselves … not that we be uplifted in ourselves … but that we be lifted up on the cross, to die to ourselves in order to live in Christ. The goal of preaching is to unleash the Spirited killing—and life renewing—Word of God, to afflict the comfortable in their comfort, and to comfort the afflicted in their affliction. The clear truth of God’s Word nails us to the death and resurrection of Jesus with the nails of faith, so that when the devil, the world, and our unrighteous flesh mock us and tempt us to come down from the cross and save ourselves, we stay put.
The apostle Paul said: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We need to have this crucified way of speaking ringing in our ears in an age when the church is being pressured to conform to the shape of her culture instead of to the cross. We need to have God’s sure Word anchored in our heart when the evils of worldly men and events cause us to cower and doubt. “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” And what does it profit a preacher if he gains a huge following and doesn’t preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus? And what does it profit a congregation if the budget and membership grow like crabgrass, yet she forfeits the very Cross that is her life?
What the world and its religions call life, God calls death. What the world calls foolish and weak, God calls wise and strong. What the world calls failure, God calls victory. For Jesus to be the Christ, He had to be crucified. God deals with death not by pushing it down from above with power and glory, but by dragging it down from underneath, by becoming sin for us, by dying our death, by being damned with our damnation. God nailed our sin to death in the body of Jesus with the hammer of His Law, and said to the world, “Amen. Finished. Reconciled. Forgiven.” Then He raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of glory so that He might lord His death and resurrection over us through the Cross. Note, all this God did while we were yet His enemies.
Through the Cross is how God deals with us. It is a common distortion of the Gospel to say that because Jesus suffered we are supposed to be spared suffering in this life. Do we imagine that we should get treated better than God’s Son? The cross is not the way around suffering and death. It is the only way through suffering and death that leads to eternal life. Jesus did not do away with suffering, death, and the grave. He sanctified them. He made them holy, so that as Paul says,“we rejoice in suffering,” knowing that through suffering God is working endurance, character and a hope in Christ that does not disappoint.
A visitor to a church asked, “If Jesus rose from the dead, why do you have a cross with Jesus still hanging dead on it?” The host answered: “It’s because we haven’t yet risen from the dead. That’s not how Jesus looks now. It’s how we look now, and God loves us when we are nailed to Jesus’ cross.”
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin.”
Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him is a call to repentance and faith. It is a call to give up scrambling to save our lives through work, play, andcross-less religions. It is a call to lose our lives in the life of Jesus, to be crucified with Him, like the dying thief who said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” and to whom Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
You are baptized. You have been crucified with Christ, nailed to the cross of Jesus with the nails of faith. You bear the mark of the cross on your forehead and heart. This cross cannot condemn you, for “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God has provided a death in which you die before your physical death—a death that brings life both now and forever. You no longer live, but Christ lives in you, and the life you now live in your flesh you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.
That means freedom. Freed from ourselves and from the Law’s condemnation we are free to live before God boldly and confidently, with crucified confidence and baptismal boldness. Since we’ve already lost our lives, what’s left to lose? The cross means that we boldly face the diagnosis of the Law and confidently confess our sins to be forgiven. Then, instead of making piddley excuses or kicking religious kitty litter over them to try a coverup, we call our sin—sin. It means that we boldly and unashamedly confess this crucified Christ to be our Savior from sin. It means that we boldly and confidently come to God through the Cross as dear children come to their dear Father and pray together with Jesus, “Our Father.” It means that we boldly face suffering with patience, and our death and the grave confident that even there the word of the Cross still says, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
With such crucified confidence and baptismal boldness we are here this morning to feast on heavenly food, Calvary’s Passover Lamb, the communion meal of HisCross. Eating and drinking of our Lord’s Body and Blood, we show forth His death which has become our death, until “He comes inthe glory of His Father with the holy angels” to raise our bodies from the dead.
Being crucified with Jesus may not be the easiest way to live this life. But it’s the only way to die and live forever.
~Amen~ ~Soli Deo Gloria~