2nd Sunday in Lent (B)
February 28, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel from Saint Mark.
When we’re kids, we’re in such a hurry to grow up. “I can’t wait until I’m 16 and can drive. I can’t wait until I’m 18 and can vote. I can’t wait until I’m 21 and can drink. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to get a place of my own.” Then what happens? You become an adult and realize there are costs associated with growing up. When you’re a kid, you don’t see the bills that come from the doctor, the phone company, or all the other expenses it takes to be an adult. When you finally move out and see your first electric bill, there’s a bit of sticker shock, right? You think you can finally afford a house, until you learn about property taxes, mortgage insurance, and upkeep and suddenly you wonder if you can afford it after all.
As Christians you know, or I really hope you do, that Jesus saved you from your sins. Do you realize what it really cost though? If you were to see the bill, would you think “that’s reasonable”? Or instead think, “It couldn’t possibly have cost that much!” The idea that there is a cost associated with saving us is one we’re familiar with, and yet, too often we don’t really look at the bill. And if someone is not a Christian they’re shocked at the idea that a price had to be paid to save them from their sins.
Since before God created the world, before God saw it ruined by Sin, the Son of God knew the sticker price for salvation. In teaching the disciples, He says, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, be killed, and after three days again.” When we get to Good Friday, we’ll hear about these things, but they’re not only for Good Friday. Isaiah tells us that Jesus will be stricken, beaten, and tormented. Mark says how Jesus was spit on and mocked. And the greatest portion of the price to be paid was when He endured complete abandonment by His Father. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A terrible price to pay!
I used to think that God could’ve found another way to save the world, surely as God He could’ve come up with an alternative. I’ve come to see that there was no alternative to Christ’s death. Oftentimes, when Jesus references His death in the Gospels, He uses the word “must”. God is holy and demands that someone must be punished for the sins of the world. Sin must be punished and, out of His great love, God sent His Son to make the ultimate payment.It’s not that He might need to suffer. He must suffer. It’s not that He will probably die. He must die. Jesus even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that His Father would another way. But He fulfilled His Father’s will and did what His Father said must be done. You’d think that if there was an alternative God wouldn’t have let His Son be whipped, crucified, and endure hell while hanging on the cross. But there was no other option. He suffered so you don’t have to. He was abandoned by His Father, so you won’t be. Paul says the wages of sin is death, your sin and your death. There is no easy way out. Only through death does life come to you.
The opponents of Jesus, the elders, the scribes, and the chief priests rejected Jesus for so many reasons, it’s hard to pick just one. He embarrassed them when they tested Him. The people loved Him because He loved them. He was compassionate and forgiving. Pretty much the opposite of His opponents. Most of all, they rejected Him because He claimed to be God, and this was blasphemy. They believed that salvation is only found by keeping the Law perfectly. It’s only achieved by being better than everyone else, never daring to be polluted by the sinners around them. This is what’s really cheap: that they thought they could please God with their sinful works and as long as they did all that, they were good to go. They couldn’t have been more wrong! They needed Jesus to die for them too!
His death wasn’t the only thing that must be done to pay the price for your sins; for after three days, He must rise again. What a comforting promise after all the death talk, but the disciples for some reason didn’t hear that part. Or maybe they just didn’t understand. Either way, all the focused on what the price that Jesus was saying He was going to have to pay. This is shocking because everything Jesus had done so far was successful. He had healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, sent demons back to hell, now He’s saying that He must die? It’s no wonder Peter was upset. Matthew wrote that Peter said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Peter’s comment reveals the very reason the cross was necessary. He just didn’t get it so Jesus says, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Men see glory, not suffering. Men see themselves as fairly good, not as sinful. Men see sin as being not all that bad, and certainly not bad enough to pay such and exorbitant price. Sure, we do things that are sinful, we call them wrong, we also do a lot of good things which surely offset the bad. I may sin, but I don’t steal or kill or hate. I may sin, but so and so is way worse.
One of the things I love about the liturgy is that it is familiar. We know what’s coming, there aren’t any surprises and when the mind begins to slip, the liturgy often sticks around. One of the first things we do is confess our sins. Confession points us to the truth of who we are and what we do. We’re poor miserable sinners who must have God’s help.
When Jesus calls Peter “Satan”, it’s a bit jarring. Peter is just making a mistake, right? Well, yes and no. Peter is misunderstanding what Jesus says, he’s also being used as an instrument of Satan to tempt Jesus to go another way, the thoughts of man’s way. That doesn’t work because our thoughts are rarely like God’s. As God said in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Only God himself could have come forward with this perfect plan of salvation. When we act like we’re good enough to be saved, when we act like all our good works offset our bad, we’re playing Satan. Not that we’re possessed! Rather, by doubting the full payment of our sins by Jesus, two things can happen. One is that we puff up with pride because we think what we’re doing will save us. When that happens Jesus isn’t necessary anymore. the other option, and one I think is more common, is that we despair or be afraid or even reject our faith in God because we fail to live up the standards we think He has placed on us.
Don’t do that! Don’t think that! The price was necessary, it had to be paid, and it is paid! The blood of the Son of God was sufficient price to pay for the sins of the whole world. You are forgiven and you have eternal life, and it’s yours because the Father had no alternative plan. Which is the Good News I want you to believe. There is now no price demanded of you. No hidden charges when you die. No unexpected bills. You are saved because your debt, your bill, was paid in full by Jesus.
Electric bills are shocking. The cable bill is outrageous. As a kid you probably didn’t appreciate all the bills your parents paid. The price for the forgiveness of all your sins while shocking was already paid. You may not fully grasp the extent of what had to be paid to satisfy the Father’s requirement that sin be punished, but as a Christian you know He did it for you because you never could.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen