“The Way of the Cross” (John MacDiarmid)

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Reference: Luke 9 v 18-27

Notes on Sermon preached at PCF 3 July 2011
Here we reach a crossroads in the ministry of Jesus. The Galilean ministry is drawing to an end and Jesus heads towards the goal of his ministry, the voluntary giving of himself at Calvary.
We will consider our thoughts today around three questions that could be asked of Jesus, that he answers here.

1.Who are you?

The perception that we have of the identity of someone is critical to the way we respond to them. If we believe that someone is a person of importance that will be reflected in the way that we deal with them.
So who do we think Jesus is?
Note that this exchange happens when Jesus is in prayer with his Father. Key moments in life will always be borne in prayer. Note also how Jesus draws a response from his disciples by asking them questions. The question ”Who are you” is a critical one, and there is no shortage of views on the identity of Jesus. The same is true today – there are no shortage of people who will give us a myriad of opinions on the identity of this remarkable man who has changed history. Eeveryone from Richard Dawkins to the Chief Rabbi has a view on the identity of Jesus – the question is, who has the true one? After an awkward silence Peter pronounces the verdict: “You are the Messiah”
It is difficult to overstate the significance of this moment. Jesus has never spelled out in so many words his identity. He has taught about God’s kingdom, carried out many miracles, but has never specifically told them about His identity. Now, suddenly, Peter has it! Jesus is the Messiah! He is One who God has sent into the world, who was His servant who would bring deliverance to all people and usher in a glorious kingdom of heaven.
We know from the other accounts of this episode that Jesus is excited that it is God himself who has revealed this to Peter. He knows that there has been a work of God done in Peter’s life that can never be undone, and that from this moment on, that revelation that Peter has will be the rock on which Jesus will build his church, which hell itself will not be able to defeat.
What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? If there is the conviction in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, then it is because God has done a work in your heart that can never be undone.

2. Why are you here?
The revelation of Jesus as the Messiah brings with it problems. The expectation amongst the Jews was that when Messiah came there would be ushered in a kingdom of peace, prosperity and righteousness, that God’s people would be vindicated and evil (especially the Roman conquerors!) would be defeated for all time. This is what was expected. Unfortunately this is not what they got! – at least not yet.
Jesus will deliver everything that was expected of him – however he had another pressing mission. The world had to be reconciled to God first before Jesus could take his rightful place. That meant his journey was not to be triumphal one – but one which would be exactly the opposite. From this point on, Jesus starts to talk about the cross.
In our first question we talked about the importance of understanding who Jesus is. Now we are faced with the importance of understanding why Jesus came. He came to take my sins upon him and to pay the penalty for my sin in its entirety. A Jewish lady is reported as saying that the reason she had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, was that Jesus was not the Messiah that she wanted. She had wanted a glorious king dealing in triumph with his enemies. What she got instead was a man dying on a cross. God works in amazing ways. The only way for me to be reconciled to God is by trust in his finished work o n the cross. Have we grasped that?

3. What Should I do?
Having spelled out who he is, and why he came, Jesus then leads onto the inevitable conclusion – what it means to be his follower.
Disciples may have thought then – and may still think today – that to follow the champion of the world – means to live in glorious victory over every enemy every day. The reality is quite different.
Jesus points to his own example, and says that if we want to follow him, it is by denying ourselves, as he denied himself. That means that to be a disciple of Jesus means that we say no to our own, goals, ambitions dreams and desires and allow them to be replaced with his agenda. It means that we pick up our cross- the symbol of a living death and follow Him wherever it leads. No one could ever accuse Jesus of not telling us in advance what it would mean.
He then goes on to point out that the surest way to lose everything is to refuse to give it up to Jesus. But the converse is also true! Those who do give up everything to follow Jesus will never be short changed by God (Luke 18 v 29-30).
Jesus finished with an address to three groups of people:
To the unbeliever: it is possible to gain everything in this world – yet to lose your soul in eternity. What have you gained? There is still time today to reverse that and to surrender to Jesus
To the uncommitted Christian: you have become a believer – but day to day you are ashamed, effectively of the words of Jesus. Because our salvation is assured, it does not mean that there can be no shame in the presence of Jesus. What a terrible thingg to experience! Paul talked about those who would suffer loss, and be saved through the fire. Don’t’ be one of them!
To the committed Christian: our hope is not only in eternity, but here and now as we experience the kingdom of God in our lives. Those who are living a life of surrender to Jesus, having given up everything, are the most fulfilled and happy people on earth. Don’t settle for anything less.

John MacDiarmid

July 2011

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