Pew Sermon – Mark 8:31-38

Peter has just made that memorable declaration that Jesus is the Messiah.

His voice echoes the voice of God claiming Jesus as His Son, the Beloved.

Jesus now tries to teach the disciples what He understands the role of the Messiah to be; a painful understanding reached through hardship in the wilderness and a great personal struggle with temptation.

Peter hasn’t gone through this process as Jesus has. For him, and the others, it’s inconceivable that God’s Anointed One should suffer and die; it goes against everything they have always believed about the Messiah.

Now Peter’s voice echoes the voice of the tempter in the wilderness.

Once again, Jesus turns on the one we, and He, calls Satan, who is using Peter to undermine His integrity and strength of purpose.

Once again, Jesus insists that it is the things of God, the divine things, that must come first, not self-interest and worldly concerns.

Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me”

Especially in Lent we perhaps tend to think that ‘denying ourselves’ is something to do with giving up things that we enjoy, be it wine, chocolate, television, tea, coffee etc.

Or we might even think of it as some kind of punishment for our sins.

But perhaps there’s a different way of understanding it.

We don’t know what form ‘Satan’ took when Jesus was in the wilderness, but it clearly was something Jesus recognised as being in opposition to God.

In our Gospel reading it’s the voice of Peter that tries to pull Jesus away from His intended path.

Now Jesus is saying to those around Him, and to us, that if we’re serious that if we’re serious about following Him we are going to have to resist our own inner voice which tries to distract us.

Our own inner demons know only too well where our particular weaknesses are and they may have nothing to do with chocolate, wine or perhaps time wasting.

Perhaps our weaknesses lie in enjoying gossip, hearing and passing on rumours;

Making judgements without knowing the whole story;

Reacting with impatience when we are inconvenienced in some way, or breaking the rules for our own advantage.

We each have our very own temptations and failures and these are what we need to deny ourselves: the things we need to recognise and bring to God, asking for forgiveness, healing and the grace to begin again.

Jesus’ message is that having everything we want and having everything going our way id worthless if in achieving that we have sacrificed our integrity, our honesty and our identity as God’s beloved child in whom He is well pleased.

Similarly the message is that even if our lives in worldly terms seem lacking in achievement, possessions, or status, if we still have our integrity, are being true to ourselves and following what we believe to be God’s will for us, then we have a life caught up in divinity and the eternal kingdom of God.