the one where Jesus is known...
September 14, 2015, 9:14 AM

Sermon from September 13, 2015

Sermon text: Mark 8: 27-38

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our rock and our redeemer; amen!

We all want to be identified don’t we? Growing up, you want to be known as ‘you’ over anyone else. You want to make your mark; you want to set yourself a part from those around you. You want people to be able to say, “Yeah – that’s YOU man!”

As the college and pro football season ramps up and the baseball season reaches its exciting end, there are so many people who do ‘comparisons’ with current players. That guy runs like Rodgers back in the 80s. Oh man, that dude plays like a young Montana. Wow, are we seeing the second coming of Aaron now?

So many comparisons are made and lauded upon players, mostly they want to be known as themselves so they can tell their own story and make their own marks. I think this is something each of us wants for ourselves as well.

And we come to our gospel story this morning with that sort of identity seeking in the works. Jesus asks his disciples who the people are saying that he is. They give him a whole hosts of different answers – John the Baptist, Elijah, maybe one of the other prophets.

Either way, the people know that there is something special about Jesus, but they only use the references that they have available to them. I’m sure some are flirting with the same proclamation that Peter will soon make, but many are probably thinking, “Surely, he can’t be the one. Right?”

Yet, that identity is soon laid upon Jesus. The information we’ve known as the reader of this Gospel has finally caught up to the individuals in the story. We’re all working from the same page now. Jesus is the one, he is the messiah as Peter proclaims to all who are around him.

Yet, there is something about identity when others say it – the title and claim we lay on others is wrapped up in what we expect of that individual. Sure, you’re ‘you,’ but you’re ‘you’ in how I see you and experience you.

For just as Peter claims that Jesus is the messiah, Jesus then proceeds to tell the disciples – and us – what that will mean. And what being the messiah means is quite different than what we would expect – than what Peter would expect.

Up to this point, there had been many who theorized who and what the messiah would be like. Would he be a cosmic figure descending from the heavens for all to see and worship? Would he be a battle hardened warrior and keen strategy maker to lay waste to the oppressors of the children of Israel? Would he be a political savant who would rise through the ranks and be able to swindle and deal to put God’s people into a more prominent position?

Well, the messiah isn’t any of those things. In fact, the messiah that we get – from the outside – isn’t very impressive.

Poor, not well-known, no formal education, a person who will suffer.

As I was reading and preparing for this sermon, I latched on to that word and experience. What does Jesus mean that the messiah must suffer? Jesus as our messiah – the messiah of the world – doesn’t suffer because suffering is good. Jesus isn’t some masochist looking for ways to continue to suffer because it gives him pleasure in some way.

A commentator I read this week talked a little about one of my favorite movies and characters when discussing ‘suffering.’ He mentioned the woe-is-me robot of the Star Wars universe – C-3PO. Threepio is a bit of a whiner, but he has a point when he states in the original Star Wars, “We [droids] seem to be made to suffer; it’s our lot in life.” Threepio and other droids suffered and were treated harshly because they are machines which ultimately makes them ‘afterthoughts’ to the living beings around them. They are just things. The attitude that Threepio takes on and lives out is one in which he expects suffering because he knows – to those around him – he is not really worth all that much.

This is not the suffering that Jesus is talking about. Jesus doesn’t suffer because he is worthless to those around him. He doesn’t suffer and die because suffering is good.

Jesus suffers because of the way he lives his life. The way he lives his life that goes against the social and religious norms of the day. The necessity of Jesus’ suffering is reflected through the words and actions that he partakes and participates.

He reaches out to those who are ostracized. Like when he interacted and helped the man who was ravaged by demons and lived out in the tombs. He spoke and touched the unclean with no regrets and fear, like when he cared for Jairus’ daughter who had died and the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Or as we saw last week, he reached out to those who even he would initially throw to the side because they were outside the nation of Israel.

The way in which Jesus lived his life – a life proclaiming and living into God’s kingdom is one that brings suffering because it doesn’t not compute with the way that the world works.

So, we come to this Sunday and we too ask the same questions that Jesus is seeking answers to. Who is he? Who do we say he is?

And when we ask those questions, we too are asking the question that Peter doesn’t say out loud – when we say who Jesus is, what are we expecting?

Because really, that’s what identity is about isn’t it? When we are able to set an identity – either for ourselves or for another – we are doing so with a set of expectations. There are probably days, probably way more than a few – that we want Peter to be right and we want Jesus to be wrong. We don’t want our Lord to suffer and die because we don’t want to live with the reality that we are called to follow.

But, it isn’t so much that we ‘suffer’ for suffering sakes with a woe-is-me attitude of a droid that complains incessantly, but our suffering is tied into how we follow the one who has suffered for the world. Where we too reach out to be with the hated, the tainted, and the disregarded. Where because of how we live into the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims with our actions and our words that we change the thought on what many expect us to be because we say we follow Christ.

What does that look like for Redeemer? What does that look like for you and for me?

Jesus was the first person to tell us that living the life following him wouldn’t be easy – but, that it would be difficult and could lead to ‘death’ in so many ways. We don’t live this life so that we suffer with Jesus because it makes us feel good somehow. But, we suffer as followers of Christ because what God proclaims to us and calls us into through our baptisms and nourished at the table is counter to how the world operates and expects.

We take up our cross – the cross of Christ – not so that others can see us suffering, but we take up the cross knowing that it will lead to suffering because it means putting others first, it means helping those in most need while others ignore them, it means proclaiming Christ above what the world shouts about.

It means that we lose the life the world says that we should want to have, but that we gain the life that we need that God has given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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