David Kolander

Taking Jesus Aside

by David Kolander on February 25th, 2024
Mark 8:31-38

Don’t you just have to ask the question, “How dare he?” When you see what the disciple Peter did and when you hear what the disciple Peter said, don’t you just have to ask, “How could Peter dare to do what he did to the Lord Jesus Christ?” Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things… and be killed,” and St. Mark records in his Gospel in verse 32, “He (Jesus) spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” How dare Peter take the Son of God aside and rebuke him for what he said he would do to save the world from its sin?

How dare we, right? And, maybe better yet, how could Jesus possibly keep doing what he said he was going to do when we end up daring to do the same thing Peter did – in effect, taking Jesus aside and rebuking him, maybe not so much for what he was doing then, but what in your and my life, he is doing right now. These words which Jesus then went on to say to Peter and to us about “denying ourselves” and “taking up our crosses” and “following him” are words that I pray will help us maybe spiritually pinch ourselves and think a little bit every time we find ourselves “Taking Jesus Aside.”

What always seems interesting to me is that in these dramatic words of Jesus, in which months before it would happen, Jesus predicted how he would suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed, but he also said he would after three days rise again – what always seems interesting to me is that Peter and the disciples didn’t at this time ask him about that – this rising again. They only asked about the suffering and dying part. In fact, St. Luke in his Gospel tells us that one other time when Jesus said this same thing to his disciples, the disciples did talk among themselves, trying to figure out what he meant by that, but they didn’t ask him. Wouldn’t you think that if Peter was going to take Jesus aside, maybe he would rebuke him for what he said he had to have happen to him, but wouldn’t you think he would also ask with the spirit of a little child, “How are you going to rise from the dead, Jesus, and what that does mean for me?”

Isn’t that the problem, really, for you and me, too, when we are tempted to take Jesus aside because of something we are going through? It can be so easy to forget about Easter. It can be so easy to forget what his rising from the dead means for us. When we take Jesus aside and say, “Lord Jesus, why is this happening? Or, Why is this happening again?” When we take Jesus aside and say, “Lord, don’t you know that I love you? Or, Don’t you know that I am trying my best?” When we take Jesus aside and say, “Lord, where are you right now? Or, I don’t feel like you are with me or on my side right now.” … When we take Jesus aside and ask questions like that, can’t you almost imagine Jesus doing to us what verse 33 says he did on that day back then, “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said, ‘You don’t have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’” Sometimes that rebuke is a very harsh one when we are challenging God. “Who are you to question me about what I the Lord God who made you am allowing to happen to one of my own creation?” Sometimes that rebuke is a very gentle one when we are falling on our knees in tears before God. “Remember, dear child, you are my special creation – and, since I did rise from the dead after all I went through, all will be well with you after all this is over, because the exact same thing will happen to you. It’s all under control.”

All the times we take Jesus aside, whether we are challenging him arrogantly or crying out to him humbly, truly are under his control, because what led up to his resurrection from the dead also was under his control. Jesus willingly went through the blasphemy of that suffering and rejection and death, because that was the only way we could know that all was under his control when everything seems out of control. That’s what important to keep in mind when we see Jesus then call the crowd together that was surrounding the disciples and tell them in verse 34, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

What does it mean to deny yourself in the way Jesus means to deny yourself? There are many ways we may deny ourselves, obviously, by, for example, using our inner strength to deny ourselves that extra helping of food or that purchase of something extra that we probably really don’t need, but when Jesus is saying “deny yourself,” he is talking about something much, much bigger and something much more substantial than that. He’s talking about it in the way he talked to Peter about getting behind him, calling him Satan, because he had in mind not the concerns of God, but merely human concerns. In other words, to deny yourself means to look at life in the way God does and not in the way your sinful human nature does. 

That, for example, is why so many people cannot accept that all this suffering and death of Jesus was all that necessary, if even necessary at all, because they haven’t denied themselves. They haven’t denied their own sinful nature inside them that says they really don’t need Jesus or his forgiveness, or they really don’t need him all that much, because the bad things they have done really aren’t that bad. That’s why you and I also need to have this same continual reminder, because we are continuously attacked by thoughts inside us and opinions outside us that make us wonder about it ourselves, or even behave at times in the very same way as those who may seek to gain the whole world, but, as Jesus warns here, are forfeiting their soul.

That  is also why it is such a blessing to know that when we listen to Jesus when we take him aside in his Word, he in turn takes us aside, and, yes, speaks to us whatever warning and rebuke we need, but he also speaks to us whatever comfort and encouragement we need to keep trusting what he says because he did do what he said he would do, and to keep entrusting ourselves to him, as we bear whatever earthly crosses he lets us carry as we follow him. Jesus knows us so well, that he knows that if we didn’t have some earthly crosses and difficulties in what he here calls “this sinful and adulterous generation of this world,” we would be overcome with the temptation to want to be part of this world and end up having the Son of Man ashamed of us when he comes in his Father’s glory with all his holy angels. But as we keep taking Jesus aside in humility and faith in the midst of those crosses, he rebukes those crosses, and he tells Satan to get behind him – to get out of here – because this boy, this girl, this man, this woman – this is my son, this is my daughter, and I will help them to keep denying their human way of looking at things so that they can instead keep looking at my blessed cross and my empty tomb and keep awaiting the time I will not be ashamed of them at all, but will invite them to join me in enjoying what I have been enjoying for myself – and preparing for them – from all eternity.

In a few minutes we will sing these meaningful words:“What God ordains is always good; his will is just and holy. As he directs my life for me, I follow meek and lowly. My God indeed in ev’ry need knows well how he will shield me; to him, then I will yield me.”  You and I can yield to the direction God has given for our life, because Jesus yielded to the direction his Father had given for his. Without the shedding of his blood and the payment of his life, we simply would not stand a chance in life or in death. Without the forgiveness of our sins, all we could say about life, whether things were going wonderfully or horribly, is “What does all this really mean?” And all we could say about death, while shaking, is “I’m scared to death,” or, with a totally false bravado, “Let it come. There’s nothing more out there.” But because Jesus – just as he said he would — did go to that cross as your and my substitute and Savior, and because Jesus — just as he said he would — did come out of that tomb as your and my living Lord and almighty God, we can know life has total meaning and purpose, as we bear whatever crosses Christ has laid on us, and we can say to death, not with the pretend bravery of our human heart, but with the complete confidence of the risen Christ, “Death has no power over me, because Jesus is at my side, and Jesus has promised that he has taken my side – and that is what I am so thankful he always told me in his Word every single time I took him aside.” People of God, take aside the Son of God every day in that humble and wonderful way. Amen.

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