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Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

St. Mark 8.34-38

Rev. Keith R. Weise

Lent 2, series B
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Mar 4, 2012 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[St. Mark 8.34b-35]

Whosover will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

1 Perhaps these words of our Lord are familiar to you.  Or maybe today is the first time you've ever heard them.  Either way, Jesus' words are shocking.  Think about what Jesus is really saying:

Deny yourself: Deny yourself what you want.  Deny yourself what you need.  Deny yourself what you think is best.  And put that all away.

Take up your cross.  Willingly take up the tool of your own suffering.  Knowingly carry around the device of your own execution.  Take it all the way to the place of your own death and never let it go.  Embrace it for exactly what it is, and exactly what it does—to mortify your flesh and bring it under control.

Follow me.  Follow me in the domain of the devil to do battle with him and his followers.  Follow me to the places where the prince of this world reigns, so we can teach, and preach, and fight for the souls of the saints.  Follow me into the sinister territory of the sinful flesh, and there stand firm for the sake of the Son of God and the gospel good news he brings.

Strive to save your life, and you'll certainly lose it.  Surrender your life for the sake of Jesus and for the sake of the Gospel, and you will find the life God has always intended for you.

2 Our sinful nature hears these words from Jesus and says: No.  NO.  NO!  It's all wrong.  It's all backwards.  It makes no sense.  Why should I deny what I want, what I need, and what I think is best?  Why should I willingly embrace suffering and death?  Why should I follow Jesus into harm, or danger, or anywhere for that matter?  I will not let go of my life.  I will not relinquish control over my own fate.  I will not.  I must not.  I can not.

3 The problem with that kind of response is that it hears Jesus' words only in terms of self.  It makes me the center of Jesus' message, and pushes Jesus right off the stage.  Such pride stops our ears from truly hearing what Christ says to us today.  Such pride hardens our hearts against the Word of God.  Such pride traps us in sin.  So lest we continue to harbor such pride within our hearts, lest we never truly hear what Jesus is saying to us; lest we find ourselves stuck in sin with stopped up ears and unclean hearts—today, the Spirit calls on us to repent of our sinful pride; to confess it to God and rid ourselves of it's deadly influence.  For by these words of our Lord, the Spirit invites us to embrace the grace of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  By these words, the Spirit reminds us that:

[Romans 5.8b]

while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

By his death Christ has cleansed our hearts and opened our ears and forgiven our sinful pride so that we truly hear, mark, learn, and take to heart what he says to us today.  By this grace, we hear rightly what our Lord says today when he says:

[St. Mark 8.34b-35]

Whosover will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

4 With hearts thus purified by the grace of God in Christ, we hear Jesus say:

Deny yourself.  Deny what you want and receive instead what Christ wants to give you—his very own life as your own.  Deny what you think you need and receive what Christ knows you need the most—his blessing; his mercy; his grace; his presence; his forgiveness in his blood.  Deny what you think is best and receive what is truly best and truly blest before the Lord—everlasting rest in the Kingdom of God; everlasting salvation for your body and soul; and everlasting life with Christ himself.

Take up your cross.  Embrace the suffering that comes upon you.  Embrace it as participation in the suffering of Christ.  The aches and pains that won't go away; the diseases medicine cannot cure; the injuries that therapy will not heal; the limitations placed upon us by broken bodies and failing minds: Embrace it all as a holy thing; as your taking part in the suffering of our Lord.  Take up your cross as God's preparation of your body and soul for everlasting glory with the saints and angels above.  For our sufferings are the tribulations through which the Spirit works patience, experience, and godly hope in our reconciliation with God worked by Christ. 

In the same way, embrace your death as death with Christ.  Die with Christ in a death like his.  Be buried with him in a grave like his.  Then rise with him in a resurrection like his.  Rise up in the glory of God.  Rise up transformed from glory into glory. Rise up into everlasting life in the glory of heaven to wear the crown of righteousness Christ has won for you by his saving death on Calvary.

Follow Jesus.  Follow Jesus now wherever he leads you in this life.  Follow Jesus into danger and darkness on earth, and still you will never lack the Light of God.  Follow Jesus and say what he says; teach what he teaches; live as he lives.  Be his witness and confessor every day.  Follow Jesus from your apartment, to the dining room, to the chapel and back.  Follow Jesus all over Ballwin, all over St. Louis, and wherever you go.  By faith, follow Jesus from Bethlehem to Egypt.  From Egypt to Galilee.  From Galilee to Jerusalem.  Follow him from the temple to the cross and from the cross to the tomb.  Follow him into the grave, and then by the mighty power of God, follow him right back out of it into the glory of the resurrection.  Follow Jesus out of death, into everlasting life, and up into the heavens to the right hand of the glory of God.

5 So do not fear to hear Jesus' words today.  Do not be shocked or fear to take them to heart and put them to use in your life, regardless of how difficult they seem to receive.  For they are his words of salvation to us, who take up our cross and follow him, that we may follow him from this life into the life of the world to come.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.



Feel free to use material from my sermons. No need to source the material, unless it's material I've sourced from somewhere else.



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