2 Lent Proper B2                                  
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 8:31-38 Sermon                                                  
March 8, 2009

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
510 "Take My Life And Let It Be"
451 "Teach Me My God And King"
370 "Just As I Am"
514 "Jesus And Shall It Ever Be"

TEXT:  (vs. 31-33) "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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 things of God, but the things of men.'"

One day, an elder in a congregation walks into the Pastor's study.  He said, "Pastor, I have some good news and some bad news for you.  Which do you want first?"

The Pastor thought a moment and replied, "Why don't you give me the good news first?"

The elder then said, "Your worst critic in the congregation is moving away."

"That's the best news I've heard all day!" the Pastor replied.  "So what's the bad news?"

The elder says, "Guess who has been elected as the new Bishop?"

And then there's the one about the lawyer who is talking to his client who is sitting in jail.  The lawyer tells him, "I've got some good news and some bad news for you.  Which do you want to hear first?"

The client, thinking that things couldn't be much worse than sitting in jail said, "Okay, I'll be brave; give me the bad news first."

The lawyer says, "They did a DNA test on the blood at the crime scene, and there is no doubt that it is yours."

"That's awful!" the man exclaims.  "So what is the good news in all of this?"

The lawyer replied, "The good news is, that your cholesterol is down to 140."

I know that we've all heard these "good news, bad news" jokes from time-to-time.  I've heard and seen my share of them.  And if you take the time to analyze most of them, like the two I just told you, the main thrust of the joke is the bad news part, and the good news part really isn't all that good either.  But it makes for a good joke.

As I sort of analyze my normal daily routine, I try to keep current on the news.  I try to catch both the channel 8 and the channel 10/11 newscasts.  I like to catch Charlie Gibson on the ABC national news.  And I try to watch such people like Bill O'Reilly and various others when I can.  I listen to the news on the radio while I'm in the car.  And in support of the fourth estate, I subscribe to the daily Journal/Star, where I will at least scan through what's there, and read in detail what interests me.  I also work the crossword puzzle, the jumble, the cryptoquote, and naturally I have to read the comics too.

There's a lot of stuff going on in the world, and a lot of it is bad news, especially recently.  Some of it makes me sad, and some of it makes me rather upset-sometimes even to the point of anger.  But there's also the good stuff and the human interest stories that help keep things balanced.

Regardless of whether the news is good or bad, I try to be realistic about things.  The importance of keeping up on current events was something even stressed while I was in the seminary.  As a pastor, it is important for me to apply all of the old truths to the current day.

There are those out there however that want nothing to do with bad news.  If something is bad, then they don't want to hear it.  They go through life, almost to the point of sticking their fingers in their ears and going "lalalalalalalalala" so they don't have to listen.  They would rather bury their head in the sand, than have to face the reality of the sinful world in which they live.

One business entrepreneur decided to cater to people like this, and so he started a newspaper entitled "Good News."  It was founded because it was felt that people were tired of reading bad news. The bi-weekly paper refused to publish any bad news and only printed the good.

It didn't last very long, however. After just 16 months in operation the paper closed down. But it stuck to its guns of publishing only good news to the bitter end, and refused to announce its own failure, as this would have been contrary to its policy to include no news but good news. The last issue featured the headline: "No war declared in 16 weeks".

People don't like bad news, and many try to avoid it, even when it is to their own detriment.  People will contend with an ailment for a long period of time and refuse to go to the doctor, for fear of what the doctor will say.  People will put up with a toothache instead of going to the dentist because they're afraid of what the dentist might do-he might even have to resort to an injection of Novocain; oh perish the thought of that!

And as it goes, people will so frequently exist with the attitude that if they can successfully ignore something, then it will go away.  And how incredibly stupid it is to buy into that line of thinking.

As we get into our text for today which is our Gospel lesson, we meet up with Simon Peter.  And as you might have guessed, Simon Peter is the type of person that doesn't want to have to deal with any bad news.  And Jesus is the one who has to deal with Simon Peter, as if he didn't have enough to think about already.

Our Gospel lesson opens with verse 31 of Mark chapter 8 which reads:  "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again."

Jesus was explaining some pretty heavy stuff to his disciples, and I'm sure that none of this was easy for him to do.  I don't know how lengthy Jesus' discourse was, but I am sure that it was far more detailed than the one sentence Mark uses to condense it all.  But even so, Mark is able to communicate the gist of exactly what Jesus was saying.

Now this didn't set well with Simon Peter at all.  He was a man who didn't mince any words when he wanted to say something.  He was a very blunt and direct type of person; and if you had an encounter with him, you would know exactly where you stood.  Furthermore, Peter's method of communication was very forthright; he didn't hide what he was saying under a mound of flowery and impressive sounding words.  He always said exactly what he meant in a way that could not be misunderstood. 

With this bit of information in mind, Simon Peter takes Jesus aside and has a private conversation with him.  Verse 32 of our Gospel lesson says: "[Jesus] spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him." Matthew chapter 16 verse 22 records at least some of the words of this rebuke:  "'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!'"

The word "rebuke" is an interesting one because it carries a lot of emotion with it.  When someone is rebuked, they are reprimanded or scolded or sharply criticized.  Simon Peter took Jesus aside and gave him a very serious tongue lashing, almost like a parent scolding a naughty child.

Consider for a moment what happened just prior to this event.  Peter had just made his famous confession of Jesus:  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" Peter knew exactly who he was speaking to and who he was scolding!  What kind of a man has the audacity and the temerity to approach God himself, and scold him about something! 

This is probably the biggest example of back-talking that any of us could ever imagine.  If you've ever talked back to a parent, or grandparent, or a teacher and have gotten in trouble for it, just think of what kind of trouble you would be inviting upon yourself if you were to take God to task!

Well, that's exactly what Peter did.  And as you might imagine, it got him into trouble too.  After Peter rebuked Jesus, Jesus went and turned the tables back on him.  Jesus really put Simon Peter in his place.  How dare he contradict the very Son of God!

Verse 33 of our Gospel lesson today records how Jesus upbraids Simon Peter:  "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 things of God, but the things of men.'"

Simon Peter at least had the decency of taking Jesus aside and saying what he did privately.  However when it's time for Jesus to do the scolding, he does it in front of all the disciples.  Does he do this to embarrass Simon Peter in front of his peers?

Jesus didn't set out to embarrass Simon Peter, however all of the disciples needed to learn the same lesson Peter did.  Even though they weren't so bold and brazen about it, they were harboring similar feelings.  They certainly didn't want Jesus to have to be arrested, tried, suffer, and die.  That was not what they expected out of their Saviour.

Simon Peter, along with the other disciples didn't want to have to deal with all of this bad news.  The whole thing sounded like the worst nightmare anybody could ever imagine.  And for them to hear Jesus talk about it was almost more than they could bear.  This is bad news!  Let's not talk about it!  Let's ignore it and maybe it will go away!

The harshness of Jesus' rebuke is seen in the phrase he uses in speaking to Simon Peter:  "Get thee behind me Satan!  You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

As impending as the news of Jesus' immediate future sounded, it was still God's will that it happen.  Jesus had to make that sacrifice in order to pay for the sins of the world. 

Certainly Satan didn't want Jesus to do this.  People would be condemned for all eternity without a Saviour who would be sacrificed on their behalf.  So for Peter to object to the will of God, this automatically put him in line with the will of Satan.  Jesus wasn't calling Simon Peter himself Satan, but rather his logic and thinking didn't reflect the salvation of all mankind.  Simon Peter wanted Jesus to save his own skin, and not our souls.  And so when Jesus began to explain the doom and gloom of things to happen, Simon Peter regarded it as bad news, as negative thinking.

I read an article not too long ago that criticized various types of Sunday School material.  The critics were afraid that talking about Jesus' suffering and death did not put Jesus in a very positive light.  They felt that such teachings were too much for small children to grasp, and far too graphic and gruesome.  They objected to teaching young children about sin and how they were sinful, and what Jesus did to save them.  All of this was way too negative.  The line in the Sunday School song that goes:  "Jesus loves me, he who died, heaven's gates to open wide, he will wash away my sin, let his little child come in" was not conducive to building a child's positive self-image.

Do you think that this is the type of thing Simon Peter was rebuking Jesus about?  Can you see how Satan has influenced some of the more modern-thinkers in the same way?  And the truly sad part of it is that the parents who object to Jesus' death being too graphic and gruesome are also the same parents that don't think twice about their children spending hours in front of the TV playing violent video games.  Go figure, huh?

Bad news and good news.  We know the things that happened to Jesus at the hands of those who persecuted him and sought his death could be considered bad news.  That's the way Peter saw it, and that's what he objected to.

But we know about the good news too.  When we look at ourselves, we know that we've listened to Satan far too many times.  We've used Satan's logic in so many areas of our lives. 

Knowing this, we realize that what Jesus did for us is indeed good news in every sense of the word.  Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death for us, so that we might be saved.  Jesus' love for us is what took him down that road to the cross, where all of our sins have been crucified right along with him.

When we accept Jesus through faith as our Saviour, all of the bad news is completely gone, and all that's left for us is good news on the road ahead.  Jesus has opened the gates of heaven for all believers, and has assured us a permanent place in the paradise of heaven. 

Simon Peter objected when Jesus told him what was going to happen; but Jesus straightened him out.  What Simon Peter didn't want to happen and what he didn't want to hear about was what God had prophesied in the Old Testament.  This is what would have to happen to redeem sinful humanity, so that it would take nothing more than faith in Christ alone to make salvation an individual reality to each and every believer.

In our world today, there will always be good news and bad news.  That's the reality of things.  We can't just pretend that the bad stuff never happens, or that by ignoring something it will just go away.  Burying our head in the sand isn't going to accomplish anything.

When we see the bad news of what sin has done in our lives, then we need to focus even more on the good news of what our Saviour has done for us, and the heavenly reward that is ours through faith alone.