Mark 8: 31-38

The Road To Victory

Nobody enjoys the pain of losing. We long for glory and the freedom from being a plain person living a plain life. As a result we all strive to align ourselves with winners or at least potential winners. We are willing to give praise and support to winners. In return we want to share in the glory of winning as if it’s our own. And that makes us feel good. This is how we are. It is part of our human nature.

When it became clear that Team NZ were going to win the America’s Cup, more and more supporters arrived at the Via-Duct wearing their red socks. Many New Zealanders have been following the yacht racing and cheering Black Magic on to the finish line. They felt proud of their great achievement and parties followed to celebrated the occasion. All New Zealanders could share in the glory and boast about their achievements.

New Zealanders are also good at rugby. This has led them to become international winners with a whole nation as keen supporters. There has been glory and rejoicing for years.

There are other examples, indirect ways in which we seek glory and to be somebody special:
Fashion
Movie stars
Smoking
Big houses; Fast cars

Everyone is doing it. Everyone is active in becoming a winner, someone special or at least sharing in a glory brought to them. All of these examples have been brought to us as temptations. They came to us as Indirect and crafty ways. No one spoke plainly about smoking cigarettes, especially about their disadvantages. The approach has always been crafty and suggesting promises of a better life. In fact, all talk that is not plain aims to deceive which in essence is simply the art of lying.

Our life has been flooded with suggestions pointing to a better life. All the previous examples have been responses to suggestions, or subtle approaches tempting us to another way of life. We have been made to believe this is the way to a better life. We think nothing of it and our responses have become automatic. Go with the flow and follow the crowd. We want to be on the winning team and share in the glory. Whoever is winning we’re there.

This is nothing new, people have behaved like this since Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden as recorded in the book of Genesis, human nature is revealed in its basic form. There, Satan in the form of a serpent craftily suggests, promises, and tempts Adam and Eve into believing they too could share in the glory with God. They too could be like God if they would only eat from the forbidden fruit in the garden. Satan lied to them. We are very much like Adam and Eve in that we also listen to false promises and short-cuts to glory.

Does this thinking carry over into the life of the church? Yes it does. Church leaders everywhere and all those concerned about church growth constantly are focusing on those churches that are winning. They ask questions like: What are they doing that is successful? What are they doing that is different? Why are people joining that church? These questions arise out of the need to be winners. As a result, worship and other church activities are modelled like that of other churches in order to share in the glory. When answers can’t be found, people leave to join the “winners”.

Although we are Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ, we continue to live in this world and tempted by Satan. Our thinking and behaviour is very much like that of everyone else. St. Mark writes in his Gospel text that such thinking belongs to the way of the world and not to the way of God, nor the way of Christ.

St. Mark points out in his Gospel that there is another way to glory and that is the way of Christ. Therefore, what does the ‘way of Christ’ mean, and what does being a disciple mean?

St. Mark has shown Jesus, the Son of man as resisting the way of the crowd, not going with popular thought or behaviour because it was often influenced by Satan. Jesus stepped out from the popular idea of what a winner ought to be and turned to help the loser. By that very movement Jesus immediately put himself at odds with the crowd, with everyone. That meant being rejected and subjected to suffering.

Jesus, the Son of man went about to those who were also rejected. He preached and taught them about the glory of God. That is, the way to personal fulfilment and joy through a relationship with God, through Jesus. He went about healing and feeding the poor. Jesus worked miracles in people’s lives. To the lives of the people he touched he was a winner and they shared in that glory too. Those people’s lives where changed, and isn’t that what we all desire?

Jesus, the Son of man didn’t leave heaven to join a winning team on earth, but to join the losers. Although we don’t think of ourselves as losers and oppose the whole idea Jesus nonetheless continues to make us winners his way. We will continue to argue with the Word of God, reject the Word of God, and cause Jesus to continue to suffer. It is just as well that Jesus doesn’t give in at all and continues to work in our lives, to lift us up as winners and share in his glory.

The way of Jesus, the Son of man is not a short-cut to victory as we understand winning, but the way of rejection, suffering, killed and raised from death. That simply means, that he gave of himself so much so that it cost him his life so that we can have life. Jesus shone with victory and glory from God the Father because he gave himself for others. He has done this for us all, so that we can share in his victory and glory.

Jesus, Son of man has called all of us to follow him on the true path to victory and glory because he wants us to share the same. It doesn’t mean we immediately subject ourselves to suffering and pain by abandoning our cars for bikes, our houses for caravans and give the money to the poor. God will present us with many opportunities through life and daily opportunities as well where we will be challenged to follow Christ.

When another nation calls for our troops to help maintain the peace, will we send them, or tell them that it’s not our business to intervene? If you see a car broken down on the intersection, will you stop to lend a hand, or drive around them to get to your destination on time? If you see someone being bullied and hurt at school or someone at work will you help to stop it or look the other way? When mum and dad are busy will you help them in some way or go on watching TV? Will you give up some of your time to teach religious instruction at schools? Will you stay to support a losing team?

All of these examples are about giving of self and we can be confronted with these challenges everyday. This is the way to follow Jesus, the Son of man. In all these challenges when we are called to give of ourselves, it will cost us something. Our action may cause people to object and reject us. We may find some suffering and some may lose their life. But, as we continue to give freely of ourselves we will find fulfilment, victory and glory in our life. It is God that gives us this victory and allows us to share in the glory of Jesus.

We can take confidence in following Jesus, Son of man because in the end he was raised from death to full glory. He’s a winner. And remember what Jesus is calling us to do is a reflection of what he has already done. That is, he has given himself for us. St Paul sums it up this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…….” (Gal. 2: 20).  Amen.

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