I suppose I should have used a title like “The Labors of Christ”. The text is what happens immediately after Peter’s confession of Christ. You have a confrontation over what that word means. Peter thinks it means something very earthly. Jesus corrects him. And then he invites everyone to see his definition. What is Jesus’ definition of the Christ? Suffering, death and resurrection. How are we invited? To pick up our cross and follow. Why would we do this? It is the only way past death. It is the only way we keep our life, to lose it. This is how God works. This is the labor of the Christ seen through the things of God, not the things of man.
We live in a time that definitions of words can’t be taken for granted. People use the same word but often have radically different meanings. That is the case in this text for the idea of Christ. Jesus and the Father have a definition that centers on the cross. Peter’s Christ can’t include the cross. That must be sorted out. Likewise understanding was The Cross means for Jesus and what it means for his followers is important discipleship stuff. This sermon attempts to make clear what Christ and the Cross mean for the Christian.
I had something to say here, but I don’t know if I got it across. Maybe that is because it is more of an intuition that something that can be fully expressed. If I try and summarize it:
1. Measurements temporal are like constant correction while driving, sure to get you in an accident. Only eternal guidelines keep you on the narrow way.
2. The happiness of God is to save sinners, which requires the cross. Christ was happy to walk to Calvary.
3. We have a God who can be found. The only place we find him is on that cross, and under the cross.
4. The paradoxical truth is that to find God, the only place we can be truly happy (have shalom, experience rest), is when we deny ourselves and take our place under the cross.
That might sound masochistic, but look at the world. Is anyone who chases their temporal self-actualizing goals ever really happy? Look at those who have given up claims to “my goals”, a) how happy are they and b) how often do they get everything else?
Worship Note: I left in our final hymn, LSB 333, Once He Came in Blessing. It is listed as an Advent hymn, but as I think I’ve stated elsewhere Advent is most akin to our experience and that section in the hymnbook is stacked. The four stanza progression is just a gorgeous simple statement of what the text was expressing.
Carrying crosses is a tricky subject. Or maybe I should write that discerning crosses is difficult. Sometimes what you think are crosses are just being a drama queen martyr. They could be avoided, but the scene is too desirable. Sometimes what we put as crosses are just common difficulties. A cross in the sense of the text is something forced on you by the world because you won’t put its priorities first. And more specifically, a cross is something you encounter because you specifically put Christ first. Jesus bore the cross, because he remained faithful to His Father. He would not give the pinch to the Sanhedrin or to Caesar.
This sermon looks at what are some very American or rich western crosses. It is tempting to dismiss them as crosses because of that adjective, rich western. But we don’t pick our crosses. Our trails are ours. I don’t say it in the sermons, but there is an old saying “those He wishes to destroy first he makes rich”. The deceptions of the world in the west are very attractive things. They are also often very good things, if in their proper order and time.
And that is the crux of crosses. They come not because the creation is bad. They come because Satan has marked his prey. They come because the ruler of this age wants you get things out of order. The faith of Jesus Christ gets things in the proper order.