Friday, March 23, 2012

Dying with Christ

Mark 14:26-31 (ESV)
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. [27] And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' [28] But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." [29] Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." [30] And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." [31] But he said emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Peter said this, so did the rest of the disciples. Perhaps every man of faith has said this at one time or another. And many Martyrs have managed to die rather than deny when all the chips were on the table. Peter was serious about it at least. He drew his sword, he would not have lasted long. Jesus spared him had other things for Peter to do then die that night. When he couldn’t go out in a blaze of glory, he denied him three times. Yet he still died with Christ.
I wonder about such things. No one wants to be guilty of denying Christ. But I think Peter’s story is ours. So often we do deny him. We deny him in small ways hardly noticeable to us. Avoiding the topic for the sake of friendship. When we sin against others rather than loving them as we love ourselves. Skipping church on Sunday morning. I mean a person could just go down the list of the Decalogue and find so many ways in which we deny Jesus Christ in our day to day lives. It could be quite shocking for a grandma to understand that holding a grudge against her neighbor’s granddaughter for shacking up is perhaps a denial of Christ, even as much as being permissive about it, and not letting her contempt for the situation be known is. Sometimes it is the reason we are upset that is more the problem than being upset, or the situation that has caused us to be upset. I somewhat preach to myself here, and it probably does me less good than it does you. I’m the last one to talk to another about holding a grudge. I hold grudges I know are hurting me and holding me back. Strange thing all that. Sometimes it is hard to overcome our weaknesses, our sin. Impossible really. It is why we need to die with Christ.
We do. It is how we become Christian. We die with Christ. We are buried into his death in baptism. And yes I mean that thing done with water when you are just born, or perhaps later in life if your parents weren’t Christian. (I’ll just leave that like that. Christians do as Christ commanded, they suffer the children not and bring them to Christ. They baptize them realizing that this promise is for them and for their children. They bring them up in the ways of the Lord and do not despise his gifts.) In baptism we die. We die with Christ to be raised to walk in the newness of life. Now we walk in forgiveness. Now we walk in Life and love. We don’t overcome sin, or tame it. We kill it. Well not us but God does in baptism. He does it with his word. He does it when he gives us his Holy Spirit. He kills. The Holy Spirit kills. He kills that which denies Christ so that finally in the end we die in Christ and come to know the full consummation of all that happened in Baptism, the full glory of the newness of life in Christ as we enter the heavenly gates. Not because we stood strong, but because though we denied Christ, he forgave our sins and had us die with him to bury our sins in a tomb he no longer uses.

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