Formations Lesson for March 13- Gaining and Losing
March 2 2011 by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Matthew 16:21-26

George Bernanos, French writer and soldier during World War I, once penned these words of challenge to his nation: “Do we wish to ‘influence’ the world or have we seen something that has hit us and overpowered us and to which we must bear witness no matter what it costs?”

This noted writer posits a paradox much like Jesus’ paradox in today’s reading — influence or sacrifice, an earthly, comfortable crown or a brutal cross?

Jesus had questioned his disciples concerning the talk among people as to the Son of Man’s identity and more directly their thoughts to which Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (16:13ff.) Then followed a brief description of what being Christ meant — sacrifice, betrayal, death and resurrection! A paradox — Jesus presents a Messiah (Christ) as one who gives up his life loses it in order to gain his life. Peter, who moments before speaks the divine reality, now has to correct and refocus Jesus’ ideas “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” For Jesus those words of disagreement and dismay are not beneficial, but a hindrance, a scandal (stumbling block)!

As if Jesus’ words were not paradoxical enough he gives them another one — If you will follow me, you must deny yourself, die to yourself (take up your cross) and then follow me (16:24).

When did we lose our way? When did Peter’s words of rebuke become our theology and not Jesus’ words (and example)? In the guise of taking up crosses we merely redefine our unfulfilled wishes as sacrificial living for Jesus. Rather than open ourselves to being His loving generous presence, we dictate a plethora of rules and regulations. This becomes a paradox of service given in the name of God’s Servant rather than service required.

A number of years ago I came across this short note by Heinz Zahrat (I cannot remember the source):

“I am constantly reminded of the spectacle of two men on a scaffold at the top of a cathedral spire, violently arguing over whether the last bit of ornament should be turned to the right or left, both of them looking as if they were about to plunge to the street. “Down below people stand, looking up and have no idea what it is all about. And because they do not understand it, they turn away shaking their heads.”

The final paralyzing paradox is that in the name of God’s kingdom we create mini-kingdoms based on Peterine rebukes and influence and lose the very ones that that Kingdom receives — no matter the costs.

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3/2/2011 1:10:00 PM by John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments

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