The Second Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018
Jesus Confronts Shame
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.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Those are some of the most shattering words we can hear someone say to us. Those are some of the most shattering words we can speak to someone. What might cause us to hear or to speak those shattering words? If someone gets caught cheating or stealing they might hear those words. If we see someone do something or hear someone say something that they know is going to hurt someone, we might speak those words. No matter whether we are the one speaking the words or whether we are the one hearing the words, the words, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” strike at the very core of our being. The power of those shattering words is difficult to describe, but easy to feel.
Our sermon text for today gives us the opportunity to look at the subject of shame from a very specific perspective. Our theme for today is: Jesus Confronts Shame. Let’s look at two things this morning. First, let’s see how Jesus confronts the shame of the cross. Then, let’s see how Jesus confronts the shame that we are tempted to feel because of the cross.
Before we turn to our text let’s take just a moment to look at the larger context in which we find these words. In Mark 8:27-30 we find Peter’s bold confession of faith concerning Jesus, “You are the Christ.” From the Gospel of Matthew we know that Peter’s confession of faith is the “rock” upon which Jesus builds His Church— the Church which not even the “gates of Hades” will ever overcome. In the opening verses of our text Mark then tells us that Jesus went directly from that strong confident proclamation of faith to something His disciples did not want to hear. Mark writes, “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.”
The original Greek here is a little more forceful than what we find in the English. Very literally Jesus said to His disciples, “It is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer…to be rejected…to be put to death…and to rise.” Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection were not optional! Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection were not debatable! Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection were necessary — absolutely necessary for our salvation!
Peter, who had just made that glorious confident confession of faith, “You are the Christ” was absolutely stunned by what Jesus was saying. In fact, it seems that when Peter heard the words “suffer,” “rejected” and “put to death” in the very same sentence with, “It is necessary” he was so stunned that he completely missed the words “and after three days rise again.” So what did Peter do? True to form, Peter took it upon himself to take Jesus aside and “began to rebuke him.” In other words, Peter “scolded” the Son of God for what He was teaching His disciples!
Why, my friends? Why did Peter rebuke Jesus for so plainly talking about His suffering, death and resurrection? Because Peter had a far different vision and a far grander goal in mind for Jesus. Like many of God’s people Peter envisioned an unparalleled earthly glory and an unmatched earthly power for God’s Messiah, “the Christ.” Rejection by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law would lead to death at the hands of the Romans which automatically meant— crucifixion! (Pointing to the cross) There was nothing more shameful than death by crucifixion. To be beaten and scourged within an inch of your life, stripped of almost all your clothes, nailed to a cross and propped up on a hill so that everyone could mock you as you died a slow agonizing death— well, as far as Peter was concerned that was the very definition of shame not victory!
Jesus’ response to Peter’s rebuke was swift and clear: “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus instantly recognized that while the words of rebuke may have come out of Peter’s mouth, the author of those words was none other than Satan himself. Nothing would have pleased Satan more than to have Jesus focus on the shame of the cross and begin to think that maybe it was not “necessary” for the Son of Man to “suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed.” If Satan could use Peter to get Jesus to change His mind and avoid the shame and the agony of the cross— then Satan would win!
Praise God that Satan’s temptation didn’t work, my friends. Praise God that Jesus was not only willing to confront the shame of the cross, but He was willing to accept and endure the shame of the cross! And why was Jesus willing to accept and endure the shame of the cross? A clear and concise answer to that question is given to us in Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus was willing to accept and endure the “shame” of the cross because He knew the “joy” that it would bring for both Him and for us! The “shame” of the cross was far outweighed by the “joy” that Jesus would experience as He completed His Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world and then sat down in triumphal victory at “the right hand of the throne of God.” The “shame” of the cross was far outweighed by the “joy” that both Jesus and we would experience as He welcomed us into heaven as the forgiven redeemed children of God. Yes, my friends, the “joy” of our salvation is what led Jesus to willingly accept and endure the “shame” of the cross.
While there is so much more that we could say on this, let’s move on to the second part of our sermon. Let’s see how Jesus confronts the shame that we are tempted to feel— because of His cross. But what does that even mean? What shame might you and I encounter in our life because of the cross of Jesus Christ? Let’s turn back to our text. As he did with Peter, Satan might tempt us to be ashamed of a Savior who had to suffer and had to die. How could this be a source of shame for us? Look at it this way: Instead of seeing sin for what it is— shameful acts of rebellion against the God of heaven— the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh want us to think that our sin is not all that serious and certainly not that serious (Pointing to the cross). These three great enemies of our soul are constantly trying to convince us that we have the freedom to think and to believe whatever we consider to be right and to live our life in whatever way makes us happy— even if it means that we “sin.” At the same time, instead of depending on a Savior who had to suffer and die for us to pay for our sins, the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh want us to believe that as long as someone lives a relatively decent life and as long as they at least try to do some good in their life that should be enough to get them into heaven. Sadly, Satan is still very good at tempting people to think that it is “shameful” to say that the only way to be saved is through faith in a Savior who died a “shameful” death on a cross in our place.
Now look at verses 34-37 of our text. Here Jesus addresses the priorities that we have in our life. The priorities that Jesus wants us to have center on denying ourselves, taking up whatever crosses we may encounter as a child of God living in a sinful world and following Jesus wherever He might lead us. By nature our priorities are just the opposite, aren’t they! By nature our priorities center on indulging ourselves with the pleasures that this world has to offer, seeking to have the most comfortable life possible no matter what it might cost, and forging our own path through this world.
How do the priorities of our life tie in with the subject of shame? Look at what our Lord says to us in the closing verse of our text, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Have we ever been too ashamed to tell someone, “I’m a Christian and I don’t do that!”? Have we ever been too ashamed to ask someone to clean up their language when they are talking with us because the words they are using are offensive not only to us but to our God? Have we ever been too ashamed to stand up for God’s Truth and tell someone, “Yes, I do believe that the Bible is the holy, inspired, inerrant Word of God from beginning to end!”? Have we ever been too ashamed to tell someone that what they believe or what they are doing is wrong— not because we think it’s wrong, but because God says it is wrong? When you stop to think about it, my friends, Satan is very sneaky when it comes to tempting us to be ashamed of Jesus and His holy Word as we set priorities in our lives. Satan knows our weaknesses and he is never shy about exploiting those weaknesses!
How do we combat Satan’s temptations to be ashamed of Jesus and His Word? In a nutshell, we lift up our eyes to the cross. First, we lift up our eyes to the cross and remember Jesus “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” When we stop to both contemplate and appreciate the shame that the Son of God was willing to endure to save us from our sins, that motivates us to strive to overcome the temptation to be ashamed of Jesus and His Word. And if we do find that we have been ashamed of Jesus and His Word again we lift up our eyes to the cross, we humbly ask our Lord to forgive us and we relish the joy that is ours as Jesus wraps His loving arms around us and says, “You are forgiven, My child! You are forgiven!”
Second, whenever we are confronted with the temptation to be ashamed of Jesus and His holy Word we need to consciously take a step back and look at the “big picture.” As our Lord Himself said in our text, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” This world has a seemingly endless parade of pleasure and treasures for us to enjoy— but at what cost? If the cost of enjoying the things the world offers to us is the eternal salvation of our soul then we need to follow the example of our Savior and say, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” The “big picture,” my friends, includes asking ourselves what Jesus will say to us, what He will say to me when He returns to this earth “in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“Shame on you!” Those are indeed some of the most shattering words we could ever hear or speak. And yet, there are times when it is necessary for us to speak or to hear those words. My prayer this morning is that this portion of God’s holy Word has indeed led all of us to think very seriously about the subject of shame. May God grant that as we watch our Savior willingly confront the shame of the cross in order to save us from our sins, that His cross will motivate us to never be ashamed of Jesus or His Word!
To God be the glory!