There are people who say, �I�m going to give Jesus a try� in hopes that he will make their life easier or happier. But that�s not what Jesus taught.
Today on Truth For Truth, I�m going to give Jesus a try. Now, some of you were clearly reading all of the plus-side words. In other words, they had a kind of selective listening, which in part they could be forgiven for, because their expectation of triumph and of victory and of the overthrow of oppression beat within their hearts for down through the centuries of their Jewish thinking. But for Jesus to stop in the middle of the proceedings and say, �So far so good, but the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected, die, and be raised again.� They didn�t have categories with which to process this information. For example, the concept of the resurrection itself. If your Bible is open at chapter 9, you can look without turning to anything, but in verse 9, after the transfiguration, as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen. You see, here we go again. �Until the Son of Man had risen from the dead, and they kept the matter to themselves, discussing what quotes �rising from the dead� meant.� It�s so good, isn�t it? Mark has it here, warts and all. If this Gospel was an invention, he would have had, �You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.� Full stop, go to the next good part.
But he doesn�t. He has, �You are the Messiah,� and then he has, �Oh, I have to rebuke you, Jesus, for what you�re saying.� He has the Mount of Transfiguration, where they have this great encounter with God, but he also follows it by saying, �And when they came down from the mountain, they all sat around, saying to one another, �What does �rising from the dead� mean?� Now, you see, Peter was totally unprepared for the radical nature of Jesus� teaching. Doesn�t sound so long ago and far away now, does it? Here we have a well-heeled, 21st-century congregation contemporaneously listening to the story from 2,000 years ago. We stand in the same place as Peter, and we know the end of the story.
I suggest to you this morning that we are totally unprepared for the radical nature of Jesus� teaching. It was going to become some time before Peter would reach the point where he is able to write to the scattered Christians of his day, �Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.� Then the penny had dropped. Post-Pentecost, he had been there.
He had heard the story of the recounting of the message again after the resurrection of Jesus at the end of Luke chapter 24. But at this point, Peter sees the statement made by Jesus here, not in terms of a mission accomplished, but he sees it in terms of a mission defeated. The whole notion was inconceivable to Peter.
He didn�t get the must. He didn�t get the sense of divine necessity. This was a comprehension that was only there, grounded in the will of God and made clear in the minds of those who would submit to that same will. Well, we need to hasten on, and you will notice that Jesus does not answer Peter by saying to him, �Oh, come on now, Peter, let me explain all of this to you. Let me explain how it works.� No, he responds with a sharp rebuke himself. And when he turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked, �Peter, get behind me, Satan.� Wow!
What a change in such a short period of time! �Peter, you are the Christ.� �Well done, Peter. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven, therefore don�t get a fat head. You are the mouthpiece, but God is the revealer of all truth. Just take your chest down a couple of notches, Peter.� Nice work, Peter. �Peter, get behind me, Satan.� Oh, how could that possibly be?
You haven�t been there? You haven�t walked out of the middle service on Sunday morning with this great affirmation of faith and sinned your soul within forty-five minutes of walking out of the door? You haven�t found that even in your expressions of praise, some of the foulest thoughts can come into your mind simultaneously, as if you were involved in a continual irreconcilable war that was satanic in its impact? No, Peter represents something here. And it�s almost as though Jesus is saying to him, �You know, Peter, I�ve heard this kind of stuff before.
You�re sounding a lot like someone else who tried to tempt me to think wrongly about the kingdom.� That�s the satanic element, isn�t it? But at the end of Matthew chapter 3, following the baptism of Jesus, there�s an announcement from heaven, remember? �This is my beloved son.� A voice from heaven said, �This is my son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.� So you have this great declaration from heaven concerning the identity of Jesus, followed immediately by the activity of Satan to try and divert Jesus from his progress in the fulfillment of the kingdom plan of God. Once again, Mark chapter 4, in the progression of things, you have this great declaration from heaven because the Son of Man has been revealed to Peter by the Father in heaven. You are the Christ, you are the Messiah of God, and what do you have immediately following it?
The exact same thing. You have the activity of the evil one to hinder and to thwart the unfolding plan of God�s kingdom. That�s why when Jesus told the parable of the sower, and he said, �The seed is the word of God, and the hard path, and the birds of the air come along.� And he said, and this is similar to the activity of the evil one who seeks to come and steal away the seed of the word of God even as it is falling into the soil. That�s why you may be finding yourself in a battle, in a strange battle. You think it may be a psychological battle as you listen to the Bible, and you just seem to be moving towards it as if somehow laying a hold of its truth, and as if from nowhere it�s gone, and your interest is gone. Somebody said something or somebody asked a question, and your mind was diverted, and you went out and into another week or into another month, and you remember fondly the tenderness of that moment when the word of God seemed to fall like seed into the soil of your heart, and it was gone in an instant. What happened?
The evil one stole it away. You see, this is not an exercise, the preaching and teaching of the Bible. This is not an exercise whereby a man who has a product seeks to overcome consumer resistance by the forcefulness of his personality or the power of his language so as to bring consumers who are reluctant to buy into a position where they reluctantly acquiesce and say, �Okay, give me the encyclopedia. Just shut up.� That would be relatively easy.
I�m prepared to go with most in terms of the challenge of getting encyclopedias into the houses of people that don�t really want them. I�ll take on that challenge, and we�ll go and see how we do. That would be easy. This is impossible.
This is impossible. Because the evil one comes, snatches up the seed. Now, says Jesus, �The fact is, Peter, that you�re not thinking God�s thoughts. You�re thinking men�s thoughts. If you were thinking according to the mind of God, you would realize that my suffering, my passion, my death, and my resurrection are in the very will of God.
But as it is, you�re not thinking that way. You�re thinking absolutely wrongly.� And then, as it were, while that is settling in the mind of Peter and the disciples, he says to the crowd, �Why don�t you come here, along with the disciples, and let me say something to all of you while you�re within earshot. Let me just let you know something.� And then he does this dramatic thing, a shocking statement from Jesus. This is not in the small print as it were at the bottom of the document in terms of the kingdom of Jesus.
This is right in bold letters, right at the head of the material. �If anyone would like to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.� Do you see what Jesus is saying? He�s saying, �If the way of the cross, the way of suffering, the way of rejection is my way, then that�s the way for my followers too. If you are going to come and march with me, then it is a march into death.
I�m not inviting you to take a pleasant afternoon stroll. I�m asking you to walk into death�s door with me.� So that when he talks about taking up the cross to follow Jesus, we can be perfectly certain that he isn�t thinking about giving up chocolate for Lent. I mean, do what you like about that, but the fact of the matter is, well, I�m taking up my cross.
Oh, what is that? Well, I�m not eating chocolate between now and Easter. Please don�t trivialize the message of Jesus. Well, my spouse drives me nuts, but we all have to take up our cross, don�t we? Please don�t trivialize the message of Jesus.
These folks knew what he meant. The person who took up the cross beam on their shoulders and walked towards the place of execution said to all who observed, �I am never coming back. I am never coming back.� Everyone that saw him walk down the street said, �He is walking away from himself. He is walking away from life.� That�s the picture which Jesus employs. It is a horrifying picture. It is a march to death. How different from our attempts to offer people the gospel!
The series of contrasts says it all. We don�t have time to work through them, but look at the contrast between saving a life and losing it, gaining a world, losing one�s soul, the prospect of shame now and honor later, or honor now and shame later. You see, the disciples, not unlike many of us today, had their minds full and understandably full in one sense of power and glory and triumph. Come on, we�ll get with Jesus. He does miracles.
Blind people see, and lame people walk. Let�s go! We had a great afternoon the other afternoon.
Everybody was starving, no food anywhere. Boom! Fabulous! Five loaves, two fish. Fantastic!
Let�s go! And Jesus constantly, in the course of his ministry, arrests the crowd, and he says, �I just want to say to you, what I�m actually on about is not what you think I�m on about.� And when in John chapter 6 he explains to them the nature again of what it means to be his disciple, the crowds begin to drift away, first of all on the fringes, then in the concentric circles coming in towards the middle, until eventually John records that Jesus turns to the twelve. He�s down to twelve now, and he says, �What about you folks? Are you planning on going away?� You see, we have domesticated the story of Jesus in our Western culture. You know, you don�t have to go too far back in Western culture to go back to people who are hounded and imprisoned and killed and burned for their faith. And certainly we don�t want to despise the benefits that we enjoy of freedom and opportunity such as is ours, but it is surely wrong for us to baptize them into a form of biblical orthodoxy and to say that when you get this right, as we apparently have it right, then you�re able to speak in terms of triumph and glory and victory and so on.
Well, go ahead! But to whom are we unable to speak? To those who know what it is to face suffering, rejection, the reality of death, disfigurement, and the marring of their various souls. And is it any surprise to us that such individuals often listen to our little story and it just sounds so twee.
It just sounds so trivial. It sounds as though the invitation to the kingdom is to somehow or another just add a few little bits and pieces to your life. Somehow or another, just add the Jesus factor. But in fact, what Jesus is saying is this. You need to have a radical shift in the very center of gravity in your life.
The move is from self to God, a sustained no to self and a yes to God. I want to apologize to anybody who�s been coming here routinely and has picked up any notion of following Jesus as being like a very lame cream cheese. I mean eating a very lame cream cheese. If you like cheese, you need to have cheese that does something to you.
But when you get the pungency of that stuff that calls to you from the cabinet, that beckons you, you know this is going to be a different kind of experience. Suddenly, this is not your dad's cheese. What has that got to do with anything? Well, I apologize to anyone who has bumped up against some well-meaning Christian, perhaps here at Parkside, perhaps even listening to me. And the reason that you have so far rejected the claims of Jesus is just for that reason.
It just seems like a very bad cream cheese. It just seems like the story is somehow or another, why don't you come along and enter God's kingdom? All you have to do is make a few minor adjustments to your everyday life. I apologize if what it has sounded like is this. We invite you to meet a God who has pledged to indulge you. Since you live in a culture of entitlement, we want you to know that you're entitled to all kinds of things if you'll sign up for this. I apologize to you if that's what you've been hearing, because the God of the Bible is not a God who comes to indulge us. He is a God who makes demands upon us, and He is the God who in Jesus turns to the disciples and says, if you want to be serious about Christian living, take up your cross, die to yourself, lose the world, gain your soul, shame now, honor later. It's a radical message. Here's something worth living for. Here's something worth dying for. I say to you this morning, we are as justly condemned by Jesus' rebuke to Peter as Peter himself was.
What did He say to them? You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. Man-centered preaching, man-centered Christianity, man-centered singing, man-centered appeals, appealing to people's affections, appealing to their felt needs, appealing to their sentimentality, appealing somehow or another for them just to come and join this little bandwagon, join the gospel express, and off we go. But no, it won't work. It won't work if we keep reading our Bibles, and it won't work if we keep living our lives.
Because sooner or later, every last one of us will run up against at least one of those experiences which says, unless I have a Christ who knows what it is to suffer and to die and to be rejected, I do not have a Christ who knows what it is for me to experience what I am experiencing right now, this day, this week. I got a letter this week. It arrived on Friday. It's not an uncommon kind of cry that comes out of the radio program. This is from somewhere in Virginia. It reads, Dearest Reverend Begg, I lost my 24-year-old son Ben in a car accident on March the 4th and have since been in a total state of despair. I constantly ache to see his face or touch him, looking for him on the street, waiting for him to pull in the driveway or to get a call from him. I turned to my favorite book on suffering, Nicholas Walter Storff's Lament.
You can read just about any section of it. What do you say to someone who's suffering? Some people are gifted with words of wisdom. For such one is profoundly grateful. There were many such for us, but not all are gifted in that way.
His 25-year-old son died in a climbing accident. Some blurted out strange inept things. That's okay, too. Your words don't have to be wise. The heart that speaks is heard more than the words spoken.
And if you can't think of anything at all to say, just say, I can't think of anything to say. But I want you to know that we are with you in your grief. Or even just embrace. Not even the best of words can take away the pain. What words can do is testify that there is more than pain in our journey on earth to a new day. Of those things that are more, the greatest is love.
Express your love. How appallingly grim must be the death of a child in the absence of love. But please, don't say it's not really so bad, because it is.
Death is awful, demonic. If you think your task as comforter is to tell me that really all things considered is not so bad, you do not sit with me in my grief, but place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close.
Come, sit beside me on my morning bench. I know people do sometimes think things are more awful than they really are. Such people need to be corrected gently, eventually. But no one thinks death is more awful than it is.
It's those who think it's not so bad that need correcting. Some say nothing because they find the topic too painful for themselves. They fear they will break down. So they put on a brave face and lid their feelings, never reflecting. I suppose that this adds new pain to the sorrow of their suffering friends. Your tears are salve on our wound. Your silence is salt. And later, when you ask me how I'm doing, and I respond with a quick thoughtless fine or okay, stop me sometime and ask.
No, I mean, really. Isn't it great that we have the words of Jesus, who by the time the writer to the Hebrews takes all of this unfolding drama, he says, and we have in Jesus a great high priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Someone to whom we are able to go, who has walked the path of suffering and rejection and death, and has come out victoriously on the other side, and invites those who will follow him to take the same journey that leads eventually and ultimately to victory.
It might be really painful en route. Following Jesus means we have to take up our cross. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.
Alistair will return to close today's program in just a minute. Now for those of us who are parents or grandparents, it is always helpful to find books that help explain the gospel to our kids or our grandkids. So if you have a child or grandchild who is preschool age or maybe a little older, be sure to request the picture book titled His Grace Is Enough, How God Makes It Right When We've Got It Wrong.
This is a hardcover book. It makes understanding the grace of God easier for children under the age of seven. It uses rhymes and relatable characters and teaches that when Jesus is our friend, God will always forgive us, even when we make bad mistakes. Request your copy of His Grace Is Enough when you donate to Truth for Life today at truthforlife.org slash donate or give us a call at 888-588-7884. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Father, it just seems so ill-conceived of Peter to rebuke Jesus in this way, and yet we recognize how quick we are to do the same, to try and explain away the hard and difficult side of things, to try and minimize the impact of the demands, largely because we don't want to face them ourselves.
Why would we tell others about them? But we thank you that the sufferings and the death of Jesus are not some meaningless, tragic destiny, that the sufferings and death of Jesus are the very means of accomplishing His mission. So then will you help us to bow our lives before the wonder of Christ's grace and love? Will you save us from superficialism? Will you help us to be gut-wrenchingly honest about faith and what it means to follow Jesus? And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God our Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. You know, as Jesus spoke about the suffering and death He was to endure, His disciples were jockeying for positions of honor. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but find out tomorrow why we shouldn't be too quick to judge them. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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