2 Lent Proper B2
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 8:31-38 Sermon
March 4, 2012
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
279 "Today Thy Mercy Calls Us"
342 "Chief Of Sinners, Though I Be"
390 "Drawn To The Cross Which Thou Hast Blest"
533 "Nearer My God To Thee"
DON'T OPEN YOUR MOUTH BEFORE KNOWING THE FACTS
TEXT: (vs. 31-33) “ 31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'”
When I have time to actually sit in front of a television and watch a show, I enjoy watching some of the crime/drama shows. I like NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, and so forth. Now I realize that the topics of these shows are not usually very pleasant, but that's not the reason I enjoy them. I like them because they are intriguing. I enjoy putting my mind to work as these actors go about the business of solving a crime, trying to piece together all of the evidence, and attempting to arrive at the same conclusion.
I know very good and well that these shows are dramatizations that have been concocted by the shows writers. But I also know that there is the strong element of reality. The writers make use of various advisors, which are people who are actually in law enforcement. This is done in order to keep the TV show from becoming a work of science fiction. So when they talk about things concerning department policy, and statute law, and crime scene investigation, and what they can and cannot do, they are presenting something that is factual.
There is one rule in particular that is the single most important thing for everybody to follow: don't open your mouth before knowing the facts. This is not only important for the writers of NCIS to remember, but every law enforcement officer is keenly aware of this too. A police officer or detective will be extra careful to have all of the facts in order before taking any sort of action.
Sadly, not every law enforcement officer remembers this. And when they don't follow this rule, guilty verdicts will get overturned in court, and criminals will go free. Or there are those times when innocent people are tried and convicted, simply because people didn't have their facts straight. And so often when this happens, people wind up with the proverbial "egg on their face."
Sometimes when there is a lot of pressure for somebody to be charged with a crime, the more unscrupulous people will plant evidence, hide evidence, or orchestrate things so somebody is convicted. To them, it doesn't matter so much if it's the right or wrong person, just so long as somebody is convicted. That's when things are reduced to political maneuvers, and the justice system is thrown by the wayside. If people would only take the time to get their facts straight, then a whole lot of heartache and embarrassment could be avoided.
In our Gospel lesson for this morning, we see part of a dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter. In this instance, Peter really sticks his foot in his mouth. Peter opens his mouth without considering the situation and the facts that had been presented to him. He makes what turns out to be a very foolish statement. And in effect, Jesus is telling him, "Peter, get your facts straight before opening your mouth. You don't know what you're talking about."
So let's have a look at what is happening in our Gospel lesson for today, and why things happened the way that they did. If we look back just four verses from our appointed reading, Jesus is asking his disciples who people were saying he was. People were guessing he might be John the Baptist, or Elijah, or any of the prophets. But then Jesus gets personal. He asks the question in verse 29, "But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Ding! Ding! Ding! Peter got the question right, without even a moment's hesitation. Peter knew the true identity of Jesus, didn't he? He would have won all the dollars if Alex Trebek had asked him that question in "Final Jeopardy." We get the impression that Peter had it all straight, and he was completely on top of things.
Jesus of course knew better. He knew what was on Peter's mind. He also knew that the other disciples were probably thinking along the same lines as Peter was. So in the next two verses, 31 and 32, we read what was happening: "31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly."
So here's Mark, cutting right to the chase again in his Gospel. He takes Jesus' explanation of the entire Passion and reduces it to just one sentence. But he emphasizes the whole matter in verse 32 where he says that Jesus "said this plainly." In other words, Jesus laid out the whole concept of his suffering and death in such a way that anybody should have been able to follow it. There were no parables, or metaphors, or similes. Jesus didn't soften any of the words. He wanted there to be absolutely no mistake in explaining what was about to happen to him. He wanted to be sure that his disciples would know in vivid detail what was going to happen to him, and what they should expect.
And so what happens? Along comes Simon Peter. And it's like he totally ignored what Jesus had explained to him in the past, even in the very last sentence he spoke to him! It's like Jesus was wasting his breath. Even though Simon Peter had correctly identified him as the Christ, it's obvious that he never fully comprehended exactly what that meant. His concept of what it meant to be the Christ, or the Messiah, was tainted with his own ideas of what that should be. And Simon Peter's ideas did not include the cross.
There's a situation that has happened to me quite a bit, and I'm fairly sure it has happened to you as well. Have you ever been having a conversation with somebody, where you patiently and clearly explain something, only to have them reply as if they hadn't heard a single word you said? It's like they're spending the entire time just giving you a blank stare, because their mind has already been made up, and you could be reciting, "Mary had a little lamb" for all the good it has done you. It's horribly frustrating!
I remember having a conversation with a woman one day, where this exact thing happened. I patiently and completely explained something; and by her reply, I knew she hadn't been listening to anything I said. So after she finished, I paused and looked her square in the eye. I then quietly asked her, "What did I just explain to you?" Silence followed. Then I asked her again in a more determined voice, "What did I just say?"
She just stammered a bit of nonsense in reply. Of course she couldn't tell me, because she hadn't been listening. Her mind had already been made up, and she couldn't be bothered with anything that might change that. It was an embarrassing moment for her, I'm sure. I didn't say it, but I certainly felt like getting about three inches in front of her face and telling her, "Don't open your mouth before you know the facts!"
I think that this is similar to what Jesus was experiencing with Simon Peter. In Peter's case however, I don't know if it was so much that he didn't hear what Jesus had been saying all along. For some reason, he felt he had better ideas. Even though Jesus had plainly told him and the rest of the disciples that things had to happen this way, Simon Peter actually scolds Jesus for allowing this to happen. Simon Peter didn't have all of his facts straight before he opened his mouth.
So Jesus hits him with some very strong words. Even though Peter scolds Jesus in private, Jesus scolds Peter in front of the other disciples. He does this so they can learn the same lesson that Simon Peter did. Even though they didn't say it, they would have been having thoughts along the same lines.
So Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Wow. Talk about strong words! Jesus called Simon Peter "Satan," one of his own beloved disciples. Peter, most likely without realizing it, had adapted Satan's philosophy. He had the mind of men, and not of God.
So what does Satan have to do with it? If we look back to last week, where Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan for 40 days, Satan was making every attempt to derail Jesus' journey to the cross. The journey to the cross, which would be necessary to redeem sinful mankind, would be the journey of defeat to Satan. If Satan could convince Jesus to take a different, less difficult route, then there would be no hope for all of mankind. The price for sin would not have been paid, and all of humanity would have nothing to look forward to, except for eternal death and damnation.
The cross is the problem Simon Peter had. Indeed, many in this world have the same problem. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 23-24: "Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." And then in chapter 2, verse 2, Paul continues: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
It is hard to deal with the cross of Jesus Christ. After all, the cross is an instrument of torture and execution. Rome used the cross as an instrument of deterrence. That's why they crucified people on a hill like Golgotha, where everybody could see them suffer and die. It was Rome's way of saying, "Look at this poor guy on this cross. You really don't want to do whatever it is that this guy did."
Our modern society often finds the cross to be offensive. It is gruesome. It is 'R' rated for violence. It is hard for us to understand its shame and cruelty. Many will try to bury the cross's message. But Jesus loves these people too much to let them get away with it. Today's Gospel speaks to those who wish to hide the cross and says, “Get thee behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
It is Christ on the cross that is the ultimate expression of God. It is his ultimate expression of love for us. It is his ultimate expression of grace. It is his ultimate expression of forgiveness and salvation. In order to pay the price of humanity's sin, and redeem all people from death and hell, Jesus plainly taught Simon Peter and all of the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again from the dead.
The price has been paid. Through faith, we accept this truth. Jesus Christ is our personal Saviour from sin. There is a popular poster I've seen that pictures the cross. Underneath are the words; "It wasn't the nails that held Jesus to the cross, but his love for you and me." Anything less than what Jesus did on the cross will not save us. There is nothing else you, or I, or anybody could have done or ever do that will ever take the place of what Jesus did for us when he subjected himself to the punishment of sinful man and died the sinner's death. To suggest that there is any other way of salvation is not the way of Christ.
Simon Peter had trouble understanding the wisdom of the cross. We have that same problem too. We love the charm of Christmas. We think about the baby in the manger, the angels, and so forth, but we often forget that the Son of God became a human baby so that he could grow up to die on a cross. We love hearing about the miracles, such as curing a sickness, driving out demons, raising the dead, and all the other things that Jesus did, but we forget that these miracles are only signs to show us that the person who died on the cross is both true God and true man. The way of the cross wasn't pleasant, but it was very necessary.
Some years ago, there was a radio show and later a TV show called "Dragnet." On that show, actor Jack Webb who played Sergeant Joe Friday would often question people. When they would start getting off on a tangent, he would pull them back with his monotone voice and say, "Just the facts, ma'am," or "Just the facts, sir." He did what every good law enforcement officer does. He got his facts straight before he opened his mouth.
Simon Peter made a mistake we all make. He opened his mouth before he knew all the facts. He had his own ideas. Unfortunately, his ideas differed from God's ideas. Had Peter gotten his own way, sinful mankind would have been forever lost. That was Satan's way, and not God's way.
The facts are simple. The cross might not be the most pleasant thing to think about, but it means forgiveness, life, and salvation for all who believe in Jesus their Saviour. That means we will have an eternity in heaven. That's what Jesus came to do, and that's what God wants.
Now that we have the facts of the cross straight, we open our mouths. We come to him in prayer, we sing his praises, and we tell others about the way of the cross. Jesus came to save sinners the likes of you and me. And that's a fact.