Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 2nd Sunday of Lent (February 25, 2024)

To Follow the Lamb
By Bishop Chris Giesler

Preaching Text: Mark 8:81-38

Not too long ago, things were perfect, and Peter knew it!

    • Not too long ago, there was a long line outside Peter’s house with people waiting to see Jesus (Mark 1:29).
    • Not too long ago, Jesus was so famous he could no longer travel the busy streets of the towns and villages for fear of being mobbed (Mark 3:7).
    • Not too long ago, after returning from a trip on a boat, a large crowd had gathered to hear him speak at the lakeshore, and one of the leaders of the Synagogue, Jarius, asked him to come and heal his daughter, who was close to death, and the crowd followed him along the way (Mark 5:21).
    • Not too long ago, Jesus named his 12 disciples—a group dedicated to helping him and learning from their master (Mark 3:13).
    • Not too long ago, Jesus had fed thousands of people, beginning with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Not only was there enough food, but baskets were full of leftovers (Mark 6:30).
    • Not too long ago, while the disciples were being tossed about in their boat by a horrific storm out on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calmed the storm, and when they got to the other side, people were gathering from all over with their sick to be healed by this miracle worker (Mark 4:35).

Not too long ago, things were perfect – And Peter knew it. This might explain why Peter spoke up when it seemed as if Jesus was ending this run of fun.

He was objecting, of course, to what Jesus had just told them that he must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days, rise again.

In his mind, Peter is wondering – What about the long lines outside my door, what about the walking on the water, what about being able to calm the seas, what about feeding so many people with so little food?  Peter wants “that” Jesus back, not the one talking about being arrested, suffering, and being killed.  After all, compare that ugly scene with walking on the water.  Which one would you want?

So, Peter decides he needs to talk some sense into Jesus, takes him aside, and the text says that Peter rebukes Jesus. After all, Jesus has just let the wind out of Peter’s sails. He seems to be snatching defeat right out of the jaws of victory! No, Jesus, you can’t go to Jerusalem!

“Rebuke” is not a word we use in everyday language today, but in its use in the Bible, it generally refers to the process of exorcizing demons.  In other words, it is a loaded term.  So, when that word is used to describe Peter’s response to Jesus, it means that Peter was furious at Jesus.  He got in his face and told Jesus to take it all back.

But the confrontation only escalates as Jesus rebukes Peter for his comment and then ups the ante by saying that in this regard, Peter is Satan’s mouthpiece, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  WOW!

This must have been a very intense scene! Perhaps we should take a deep breath, step back, and look at what is happening here.  This pivotal point in the narrative takes us from Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee region to his journey to the cross.  The Transfiguration, which takes place immediately after this text, is crucial to this process for Jesus. But we are not there yet, so I believe Jesus is in a very fragile place.

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry says that after Jesus had stood up against all of Satan’s temptations, Satan left him to look for a more opportune time. Fast forward to our present text; I believe the time has just come.  Jesus knew that Peter’s bold statement did not come from Peter; it was Satan.  So, Jesus looks Peter in the eye and says, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but human things.”

Monopoly is the best-selling board game of all time.  It has sold close to 300 million copies with over 2,00 different editions.  It is a popular game. And what’s the point of the game? Finish with the most money and property.  The rich and famous win the day.  Truth be told, the game matches the core values of Western society.   We all want more. Ask just about anyone for their perfect dream life; it is a life without financial worries or wants.  Who among us has not spent time daydreaming about what we’d do if we won the lottery and had several million dollars dumped into our bank account?  I know I have! That is the way our world figures it. It’s the human way of thinking. It is not the divine way.

Here is Jesus’ invitation to the divine way:  “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

To follow Jesus is to get behind him and let him lead the way.  Jesus is not asking us today to take up an actual cross and follow him.  Jesus is asking us to give of ourselves as we can, putting our own needs and concerns as secondary.  It means to be willing to serve others without counting our cost.

Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow him.