th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) Aug. 30, 2020
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
Which Jesus do you want? Jesus tells Peter and the Apostles that he is now on his way to Jerusalem to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed, and on the third day rise again, and Peter says, Not so fast. That’s not the Jesus I want.
The Jesus who feeds four thousand hungry people on the side of a hill with seven pieces of bread and a few small fish, the Jesus who walks on the water, the Jesus who before that feeds five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, the One who gives the man with a withered hand a healthy hand, who gives sight to the blind men, makes the lame walk, gives a voice to a mute, who before that cast out demons, who stilled the storm with just a word—that Jesus, Peter was there each time, Jesus did it right in front of his eyes, that’s a Jesus Peter can get behind and follow.
But to this Jesus who’s going up to Jerusalem to be humiliated, to suffer, and to die? “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Peter wanted Jesus without the cross, and to be sure Jesus can be preached without the cross. It’s actually still done today, all the time. It’s Old Adam’s default way of preaching and teaching. It’s also the great temptation of the church: take the Jesus you want, use that Jesus for your life.
It’s as if you had people sitting around the dinner table, and one wants to pray to the Jesus who does miracles, another wants to pray to the full-grown Jesus with a beard, and another wants to pray to the baby Christmas Jesus.
You can do that, take the Jesus you want, but the Jesus you end up with is the one YOU design. That Jesus is actually an idol. Because, he fits just what you want him to fit, just what you need to make your life what you want it to be, and that’s an idol.
So, in the church, Jesus can be preached without the cross. That’s not the true church, of course. That’s not the church being who she truly is: the Bride of Christ who would never misrepresent her Groom. But it is the great temptation: to have Jesus as you would want him.
So Jesus is turned into a great lawgiver. That’s the Jesus our world can understand and even tolerate and like.
That’s the Jesus we, ourselves, in our sinful flesh would ALWAYS have: Jesus teaching better ways to live, Jesus teaching how to please yourself, how to have a better future, how to be the best you now, how … whatever. Jesus as Lawgiver, as new Moses; Jesus as your life-coach. The world, and our own sinful flesh, has no problem with a Jesus like that.
In this way, any text in the Bible can be turned into a text of Law, of how to be a better Christian, of how to improve yourself. The Ten Commandments? They’re changed to principles for successful living. The Beatitudes? They’re downgraded to list of ways to live a more blessed life. The dinners eaten by Daniel and his friends in Babylon? That’s changed into a Daniel diet for the Christian family. A little prayer prayed by a man named Jabez? That’s changed into a law about how you are supposed to pray if you’re a good Christian.
Any text in the Bible can be changed into a text of Law, of methods for living, of so-called spiritual principles. And Jesus is now a law-giver. The new Moses. The teachers reducing Jesus to being a law-giver will always be able to claim they are Bible-teachers. For, after all, they are preaching from the Bible. As also did the Pharisees—they taught from the Bible. But they used the Bible for Law and methods and principles of living, rather than as the revelation and delivery of Jesus Christ crucified for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
They just teach the Bible. Bible only: to the Pharisees, add the elders, and the scribes, and the chief priests—they’re ll Bible teachers ever last one of them.
When years later Paul—after Peter had rebuked Jesus, telling him he should not go to the cross—when Paul was defending the church from those who wanted to turn the Gospel into a new law and a method for living, Paul said,
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.
[1 Corinthians 1:23]
I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
[1 Corinthians 2:2]
Paul started out as a Law teacher, a Pharisee. He really knew how to preach the Bible. BUT. Now he preaches Christ crucified for the sinner.
Even in our own day, everyone is ready to say they preach only the Bible. The trick is to find not someone who preaches the Bible—that only means that they are in league with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who have always preached the Bible—but rather to find someone who preaches Christ crucified.
And the trick to that is, it is possible to preach the Bible and end up preaching nothing but law and methods and principles and purposes for living, for the Bible does, indeed, reveal the Law. In short, false preachers can always claim they are “preaching the Bible”—this includes Paul before he was called by the Gospel; it includes Peter when he told Jesus not to go to the cross; it includes every Bible preacher today who thinks that the pulpit is a podium for a life-coach or a Ted talk. False preachers can always claim they are preaching the Bible.
But, the preacher of Jesus Christ and him crucified, he is preaching the Bible. For the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, all Scripture reveals him, delivers Him and his salvation, and you can’t preach Christ crucified except from the Bible. For it is only from the words of Scripture that the crucified Christ is known.
So, Which Jesus do we want? Peter’s Jesus, refusing to go to the cross, refusing to be known as the suffering Servant? The Jesus Paul preached before he was called, the Christ of those who teach the right way to live? The Jesus we ourselves might prefer, who will make our lives work right and show us how to improve? The Christmas-baby Jesus, offensive to no one?
There’s only one Jesus. The one who went up to Jerusalem to suffer and die for sinners. The one who brings the Body and Blood of the cross to the people he gathers into His church now. The Jesus who is the suffering Servant who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. The Jesus who said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter had never heard words more kind than these. In those words, Jesus refused to be the Jesus Peter wanted him to be. He rescued Peter from creating his own Jesus. And he insisted on being the Jesus to redeem Peter from his sins.
The Jesus Peter wanted, the one who didn’t go up to Jerusalem to die, that Jesus could not forgive sins and save the sinner. That Jesus could not bestow upon us his righteousness in Baptism, if he had not first died on the cross to make us righteous. That Jesus could not bring to us his Body and Blood, if that Body and Blood had not first been crucified on the cross. But the Jesus who would refuse to go up to Jerusalem to die, that’s not the Jesus he would be to Peter. He rescued Peter from having a Jesus designed by Peter.
He rescues us, too, from creating our own Jesus. In our sinful flesh, we want a Jesus who will show us how to live a victorious Christian life, a Jesus to give us the methods, principles, and patterns of how to improve ourselves—we want a Jesus who is the new law-giver. For then, by following his commands, we could have something to do with our own salvation. But that’s our sinful flesh.
He rescues you from that. He goes up to Jerusalem. He dies with your sin on his back. He sheds the righteous blood you could not. He cleanses those who could never cleanse themselves. He makes himself your Lord. For that’s what he went up to Jerusalem to do.
From the Catechism we hear:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.