You Do Not Have A Crossless, Uncrucified, 'Precious Moments' Jesus

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel Reading we hear that the Apostle Peter certainly did not like the idea of the cross.  He did like Jesus though, for he was one of Jesus’ Apostles.  However, Peter, like so many others throughout the ages, basically did not want to embrace a bloody cross, due to all the dread and pain attached to it.  Simply stated, he wanted an uncrucified Jesus; he wanted a crossless Jesus.  “Give me Jesus, but a Jesus without the suffering, without the death, without all that anguish, and especially without all that dirty blood!”   

Peter is undoubtedly not alone in his hesitations, for there is definitely a seductive power at work in our day and age to have an uncrucified Jesus.  Yes, there is a large attraction among Christians—like you and me—to have a crossless Jesus.  “The seduction is not merely to be silent regarding the crucifixion; it is the temptation to avoid the cross [altogether].  [Preachers are tempted to] pretty up [their] preaching with a Precious Moment Jesus who just wants the world to have a group hug and get along.  [Parishioners are attracted to the idea of] lightening up [the] Liturgy with the feel-good music and language of the culture to make the Gospel more palatable to the taste of modern man.”[1]  This time of year there are some people who just wish the church could fast-forward through the dreary darkness of Lent or just skip Good Friday and go right towards Resurrections Sunday. 

Regrettably, like the Apostle Peter, we Christians all too often demonstrate our aversion to the bloody cross by wanting to have the Easter Season without the Lent Season and Resurrection Sunday without Good Friday.  It is true that we don’t like the dark valley of the Season of Lent; we don’t like the themes of repentance and sorrow for sin.  We don’t like sound of the whips, the shame, the blood, the tears, and the agony of Good Friday.  It disturbs our modern sensibilities.  We would rather hear stories of triumph and splendor, not loss and humiliation.  However, can we have Resurrection Sunday if we don’t go through Good Friday; can there be forgiveness of sins without a cross and without a death of the Son of God?

The harsh reality that Peter was confronted with some two-thousand years ago is that the Gospel that saves is a gory and painful Gospel.  Yes, the Gospel that saves is a message where Jesus is bloodied, beaten, mocked, and where He seems to lose.

This Biblical reality goes against our way of thinking, does it not?  Nobody likes being a loser and nobody likes being around losers.  Indeed, it would be better if there was no such thing as losers at all.  I mean, we want everyone around us to be a winner, for our natural way of thinking says that comfort, gain, power and an increase in status are good and should belong to us and those around us, whereas, defeat, suffering, pain, and shame are bad and should be avoided, or at least minimized in conversations.  We want things sugar coated and positive!  Thus, it goes against our common sense way of thinking and it goes against the chronic niceness embedded in our Midwestern Culture, when we hear about Jesus having to go to a cross to lose, that is to say, die on a cross between sinners. 

This simply did not make sense according to the Apostle Peter.  It did not make sense that Jesus was going to suffer and die, that He would apparently lose.  This was not pleasant news; it wasn’t positive and uplifting.  This did not sound like victory according to Peter.  He expected grand things from Jesus; visions of brilliance, success, and power, not rejection, suffering, and death.  He wanted the Jesus who cast out demons, rebuked the Pharisees, healed the crippled, and cleared the temple, but not the Jesus who would suffer, die, and lose.  Peter wanted a golden crown, not a crown of thorns.  He wanted Jesus lifted up on a throne, not a cross.  Furthermore, he surely didn’t want to hear about this gloomy news.  How could a cross be positive for the movement that Jesus had begun?  With all of this stated and as a result, Peter rebuked Jesus.  He chewed Jesus out.  He reprimanded Jesus for not being the savior that he expected and the savior that he wanted.  A suffering and bleeding Jesus was just too negative; the cross was just too scary and pessimistic.  Simply stated, Peter was attempting to separate Jesus from the cross. 

As Peter soon came to find out from Jesus’ reply to him, he was not thinking correctly, but doing the work of Satan.  Jesus said to him,

“Get behind me Satan, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Yes, when you and I reject the Jesus of the cross and when we reject a bleeding and dying Savior to suit our own fancy, we are actually doing the work of Satan.  Dear friends, bluntly stated, a Jesus without a cross and a Jesus who doesn’t bleed for mankind is no Jesus at all but a counterfeit jesus, a jesus fabricated from the lies of hell. 

Truly, “Hell is just as happy with those who believe in a fake jesus as with those who believe in no jesus at all.  There is no difference.”[2]  A fake jesus standing far off in the distance cheering you on like a mascot while you attempt to enact your own supposed spiritual powers towards manmade endeavors, is no real Jesus at all, but a crossless and bloodless jesus.  An Americanized jesus who promises you health, wealth, and happiness if you only do ‘this’ or only do ‘that,’ is no real Jesus at all, but a crossless and bloodless jesus.  There is only one Christ and one Jesus: the Jesus who would undergo great suffering, rejection, and be killed and rise again after three days.  Yes, there is only one Jesus, but there is a world full of imitations, imitations created in the image of what we want Jesus to be for us. 

The tragic reality is that each of these fake Jesus’, which are masks worn by demons, “will gladly take you by the hand, walk with you and talk with you, and lead you safely through 
this world until you hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful fool.’ 

The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature will do anything and everything to get the cross out of our lives.

Brothers and sisters, repent of your false jesus’ that you have created through the imagination of your own minds or by the caricatures of what society wants Jesus to be.  Repent, for your mind has been set on human ideology!

Thank goodness that Peter was rebuked by Jesus in our Gospel reading from today.  Thank goodness that you and I are rebuked from God’s Holy Word today as well.  Jesus doesn't beat around the bush.  He used stern words with Peter and He uses stern words with us.  However, these words are not designed to drive us away.  They are designed to place us back where we belong.  To put this in another way, the counterfeit jesus that we desire is the very jesus that we don’t need.  Conversely the Jesus that we most want to resist is the very Jesus that we most need.  In other words, both Peter and you do not need a crossless and bloodless Jesus, for a jesus without a cross and a jesus who doesn’t bled for you, accomplishes absolutely nothing for you.  Seriously, if Jesus would have gone to Jerusalem to conquer the Roman Empire and would have avoided the cross, what would have this accomplishment for mankind?  Otherwise stated, if Jesus was a god who simply came to make you healthy, wealthy, and happy, what would this accomplish for you?  A jesus who primarily is for helping your children get on the honor role, a jesus who is mainly for helping you run your business or is chiefly for helping your marriage and sex life to be great, is a fake jesus, a fake jesus that is powerless to deal with the real and most important  issue of your sin. 

You, who have ears, hear.  You need a Jesus who has a cross and who bleeds for you, for a bleeding and dying Jesus is the only Jesus that forgives sins, defeats death, defeats the devil, and satisfies the wrath of God.  Yes, you need a bleeding and dying Jesus. 

My friends, the good news of the Gospel is that despite your failures like Peter, you ‘have’ a bleeding and dying Jesus!  Yes, even though the devil, the world, and our sinful nature would do anything and everything to get the cross out of our lives, Jesus still went to the cross—for you.  Jesus did not heed to Peter’s rebuke and He doesn’t succumb to our wishes and/or demands.  You see, there was nothing that would or could keep Jesus from the mission of the cross, a mission that was for you.

Hear o sinners, with me, our life is in the bleeding and suffering Savior upon the cross.  It was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer.  He had to suffer and die—for you and for me.  The love of Christ knows no other way of rescue.  Therefore, bring on the Lent Season.  Bring on Good Friday.  “Bring on the sweat like blood, the vinegar and the [wounds].  Bring on the hands that bind, the hands that slap, the hands that nail, the hands that bury.  Bring on the lies of the priests, the mocking of the crowd, the silence of heaven.  For the joy set before Him He endured it all, all for you, for your salvation is His only joy.  Let Him be rejected by the chief priests for in His rejection by them is your acceptance by the heavenly Father.  Let Him be killed for in His death is your life.  Let Him be buried for in that tomb He will break the stranglehold of death.  Yes, let sin and death and hell have their way with Him, for in so doing He paves the way to absolution, life, and everlasting bliss for you and for the world.”[3]

This is the Gospel, the Good News of Mt. Calvary that is for you.  Yes, Christ went the dark way of the cross—for you.  He bled and suffered—for you.  His body and blood are for you.  The plan of salvation is for you.  He had to go to the way of the cross—for you.   He did this to fulfill His mission—for you. He did this to declare you a blessed Saint and gift you eternal life.  He chose the cross and chose the suffering—all for you. 

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Chad L. Bird, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons (Copyright 2014 Chad L. Bird), 103.

[2] Ibid, 102.

[3] Ibid, 104.

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