Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 10th chapter (Mark 10:32-45).
Beloved in the Lord,
Jesus Goes on Ahead of Them
“And they were on the road going up to Jerusalem.” The Savior is walking His way. It is the Narrow way. It is the way of love, the way of salvation for you and me and it is the way of suffering for Him. It is the only way.
He goes to Jerusalem, the city which kills the prophets and stones those sent to her. Like a bridegroom darting from His chamber to claim His bride, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. And He goes on ahead of them. “and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” They were amazed because He goes to Jerusalem. They were afraid because He goes into death. This is His way, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of salvation.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and spit upon Him, and scourge Him and kill Him; and after three days He will rise.”
Jesus goes to Jerusalem, walking His way to the cross. He goes ahead of the rest. He goes into death. He goes first that all who follow Him, though afraid, may receive eternal life. Yes, beloved, our Lord goes up to Jerusalem to die as a servant, a suffering servant, to give His life as a ransom for many, as a ransom for you. This is His Way. It is the only way. It is the narrow way. It is the loving way.
Do For us what We Wish
But James and John have their own ways in mind. So it is with fallen humanity. We cannot fathom a way that leads to suffering, surrender, and death as a way to peace, freedom and life. We are consumed with ourselves. And the way of ourselves is the way of power, manipulation and taking advantage of every opportunity to get a step ahead (actually above) our neighbor.
Thus James and John attempt to seize the opportunity. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” . . . “Grant us to sit, one on your right hand and one on your left in your glory.” James and John were walking with Jesus but James and John were going the wrong way. They were seeking position of power and glory imagining Jesus to be ascending to His throne in Jerusalem, imagining a very different throne than the one He actually receives.
When the self beholds suffering and affliction, be it in the body as illness or frailty or in our vocations as husband, wife, child or parent, — Old Adam seeks a way around. We go the wrong way, we go the way we think is best for us, to save us, to preserve ourselves, to stand up for ourselves. And how many of us justify such things by saying, at least in spirit if not in words; “I must do what’s best for me, myself and I. After all, I can’t love others as myself if I don’t love myself first!” Love of self is the wrong way and the wrong way leads away from Jesus.
So, James and John ask, But James and John don’t know what their asking for. And we . . . we don’t really know where we’re going do we? We think we’re going the right way, the way that seems right to us, the way that feels right because it will lead us around the hard work of love or lighten the difficult burden that is to be endured. Doing what’s best for “me, myself, and I” is idolatry and it’s the wrong way. It is the way of the world. It is the way of destruction. It is broad and unloving, selfish and manipulative. This way hurts others, those whom we’re called to love, and it fuels anger in our hearts, as well as despair, and hopelessness in the soul. There is no life this way.
What His Way Accomplishes
Jesus is going to Jerusalem. He is going His Way, the narrow way, the way of love and the way of salvation. And He is going on ahead of you. He is going before you. He is going first that you may follow Him and live. As St. Augustine says, “For the homeland is on high! And the way to it is lowly. The homeland is life in Christ; the way is dying with Christ. The way is suffering with Christ; the goal is abiding with Him eternally.” The time at hand is not the time of crowns, not power, nor glory, not exulting nor exalting, but it is the time of thorns; of weakness and humility of suffering and affliction. It is the time of love. The way is not the way around but through. It’s not the way of peace but struggle, not the way of ease but of bearing burdens. For we dwell in a land of thorns and thistles, and in a world of hearts grown cold where sin abounds and sin’s wages prey upon every one of us.
There is no going around and surviving. There is only going through, and one must go through with Jesus. Jesus goes on ahead. He goes to Jerusalem. He goes to the cross. It is His way, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of salvation. Therefore Jesus humbles Himself. He goes the lowly way. He is rejected. He is scorned. He is mocked and spit upon. He is despised by the very ones He loves and is working to save. Yet He goes on, He presses on. He bears the burdens of others not Himself. He loves with an enduring, serving, offering and sacrificing love. Thus He takes the thorns. He receives the stripes. He carries the wood to the mountain of the Lord. And there the Lord provides for you and me and the world a way through death, a way into paradise, a way prepared for each and every one of us by the very blood of the Son of Man, the only-begotten of God. It is a way through because on the third day He rose from the dead. Jesus goes into death and destroys death. He carries our sins and nails them to the cross. He enters our grave and sanctifies it with His three day rest in the tomb. And then He breaks the shackles that seek to bind us forever by stepping out of death. He is risen and His way is the way to Eden, to peace, and joy and life and love, and glory for all who believe and are baptized.
Baptized with His Baptism (Baptized to Serve)
We cannot do what Jesus has done for us. But we can receive the baptism with which He was baptized. The right way of our God comes to us through means. He waters you with His Name. He gives you to eat and drink of His resurrection. He forgives you on account of His cross. He preaches into your ears and His Spirit takes root in the depths of your heart. He makes you new in spirit and in life towards God and He promises to raise your lowly bodies on the last day.
Trusting the Lord, receiving His love, you then love those whom the Lord has given you. You bear the burden of love, the cross if you will, when you serve and love your husband, your wife, your children, your parents, your neighbors, and your enemies. It may indeed, no – it most certainly will – hurt. But you are to present yourself as a living sacrifice and doing so you sacrifice the god of self in the waters of your baptism. And then you determine in heart and mind to follow the way that doesn’t seem right, the way that feels awkward, and that proves to be an affliction. You go this way because your Jesus has first gone on ahead of you. You follow HIM and leave it to Him to make all things right, to make all things new.
Thus, beloved, the way to eternal life is narrow and lowly. Our God saves us from beneath us. He bends the knee, washes the feet, enters the vocation of a servant and does the work of love for us. Baptized into Jesus we are baptized into His Way, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of salvation. You need not fear for yourself when bearing the burden of love towards your neighbor, your husband or your wife, your children or your parents or enemies. You need not fear when bearing the frailty of your flesh, when facing suffering and affliction, even death. The Way through is the way of Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfector of your faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 NKJ)
Jesus Goes on Ahead to Serve
Beloved in the Lord, our Redeemer did not become less by going to Jerusalem. Rather, His humility earned for Him “the Name that is above every Name, that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.” Cling to His Name given you in your baptism. Do not fear the narrow way, the way of love, the way of suffering and affliction. Jesus goes on ahead of you. He clears the way, blazes the trail, marks you with His cross as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom.” This is His way, the way to Jerusalem, the narrow way, the way of love, the way of salvation. God grant us all to joyfully walk this way by faith. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI