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The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

March 4th 2012 by Joshua Simons

In the Gospel lesson today we hear words that are good (Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ), bad (sin still infects us and get in the way of the life Christ desires for us), and beautiful (That Jesus would suffer and die for you and me). Listen or read to find out more...

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Lent 2B - "The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful" - Mark 8:27-38 - March 4, 2012

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, Jesus God, Lord of all, King of kings, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.

The title of today’s message, The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful is of course a play on the movie title, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The movie actually has nothing to do with this message, but the play on words is intentional. We’re going to see how something that seems ugly is actually beautiful.

In our text, Peter is certainly a prevalent character, but second to Jesus. As we explore Christ’s dialogue with Peter and the other disciples, we’re really going to find ourselves. And finding ourselves in this text is good, bad, and beautiful.

The Good: The “good” is faith. We see Peter’s faith specifically in the text. After the disciples tell Jesus who people say he is, he makes the question more personal; “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers with his well-known confession, “You are the Christ.”

Matthew’s more detailed account offers us additional insight. Matthew 16:17-18.

Peter’s faith comes from God, not by his own ability. And when Jesus says “on this rock I will build my church,” he is not referring to Peter himself, but rather Peter’s confession that Christ is Lord. Our faith is the same.

Almighty God is the author of our faith. God created all things out of nothing. He sustains and cares for all things, from the movement of galaxies to the life cycle of ladybugs. He is bigger than big, greater than great, perfectly perfect. Yet he intimately formed us in the womb smaller than the head of a needle. Then he brought us to the waters of baptism and through his Word and water he put a powerful, eternal faith in our heart . . . where sin had left nothing.

And because faith comes from God and is sustained by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Jesus’ body and blood at the altar, it is good. Therefore, our faith – founded and perfected by Christ – is the foundation of all things in our life.

Our relationships (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors) . . . and our endeavors (running a home, our vocation, serving our neighbor, serving our church) . . . are all built on faith. But this world is sinful; relationships get broken, endeavors frustrated. Faith in Christ is our rock in these times.

But sin still tests our faith. And the trouble is when sin turns our thoughts and hearts away from our loving Father, our Creator . . .

The Bad: [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan!”

You’ve been called names before right? Ever been called Satan? Ouch. Seems pretty brutal. But Jesus doesn’t insult; he teaches.

We see here the black and white, no gray area, finality of sin. If it’s not good, it’s bad. If something is not according to the Father’s will, or as he created it, then it is sinful. With God’s law, there is no in-between. Now God’s law is not bad – it is holy and good – but as we measure ourselves against it, we might as well all wear nametags that say “Satan” on them.

Then Jesus explains. Verse 33b. Peter had confessed his faith, that Jesus is the Christ of God. But he didn’t trust the truth that his Lord proclaimed. Though it didn’t sound like it to the disciples, Jesus was speaking good news, the gospel – that he must die and be raised. But because Peter framed Jesus’ words into his own human understanding, he became a stumbling block to God’s plan.

Peter’s faith wavered. Sin turned his heart from God to the things of men. In the face of what sounded fearful and challenging, Peter leaned on his own understanding . . . his own solution.

Sound familiar? It does to me. That’s the bad. That’s sin – mistrusting God’s will, doing our own will, because we don’t understand God’s will.

God has a plan for us. He has prepared good works for us. In our homes, at our jobs, around our friends and family, we are his tools. We are consecrated for his work . . . to do work . . . to advance his kingdom. His plan is good.

We don’t fully understand his plan, how he is working in our life and the lives of those around us. At times, the things happening in our lives don’t make sense or are, quite frankly, bad. We may be tempted to question God, but that is the doubt and mistrust of our sinful nature. And resisting the temptation to take matters into our own hands first, as Peter did, is very difficult. If Peter would’ve humbly approached Jesus, seeking to better understand his words, then the dialogue would most likely have been different.

God’s will is not always revealed. But as his disciples, we seek to discern his will. We approach him humbly, seeking to better understand his will. We spend time in his Word; we go to him in prayer; we worship him and come to his altar to receive his gifts. And as the Spirit works through these elements, he reveals God’s plan for our Christian life.

The Beautiful: In the last verses of our text, Jesus speaks of the Christian life. “Take up your cross.” “Lose your life.” “Do not be ashamed of me.” Sounds difficult. To really understand this we have to back up. We can’t do what Jesus is saying until the problem of sin is solved. Because our sinful nature is bad and we offer no good to God. “Get behind me Satan!” is the best we can do our own. We need the beauty of the gospel.

Butterflies are beautiful. Sunsets in the fall, miles of snow-capped mountains, a bed of blooming irises, a soaring bald eagle . . . all are beautiful. Yet none compare to the beauty of a blood-soaked, shamed, dying King on the cross.

Huh? That sounds ugly. But Jesus is beautiful on the cross. For it is on the cross that Jesus most clearly showed his love for us. His death in our place redeemed us, and our sins are forgiven by God’s grace. In his humility, he exalted us. It was all for us. Amidst the ugliness of death on a cross, Jesus was our Beautiful Savior. He made the cross beautiful by his love.

So having been saved by God’s great mercy in the giving of his Son, we are granted good faith. The bad of our sin has been reconciled. We are now recreated to be beautiful.

To “take up our cross” means to “be beautiful.” Jesus desires for us to follow him, to love as he loved. Because we are most beautiful to others when we serve them … when we raise them up … when we make sacrifices for them … when we set aside our selfish pride and hold them more important.

Is it easy? Of course not. It’s called “bearing our cross”. It involves sacrifice; it involves swallowing our pride; it involves rejection and persecution. But we come back to our source of strength made possible by the Spirit . . . our faith . . . our rock . . . our confession . . . Jesus Christ is Lord!

The Psalmist says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his,” (Psalm 100:3a). God created us . . . and he created faith in us. He reconciled us to himself by Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are his. He made something out of nothing. He made that which was ugly in sin, beautiful in grace.

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful. It is a picture of our Christian life. The Spirit grants us good faith. We still face the bad ugliness of sin. But by the cross, we are forgiven, made beautiful. And we are called to be beautiful, loving others as Christ loved us, counting them more significant than ourselves.

And we have peace, strength, and endurance by the foundation of our faith in Christ. We anticipate the Last Day, trusting and drawing strength from God’s plan – the promise of his Word that our Beautiful Savior will return. Then the title will change: The Good – only . . . the Bad – no more . . . and the Beautiful – forever. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, that which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

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