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Baptized To Death

March 16, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Mark 10:32–10:45

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 18, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 5
Baptized To Death

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen. (2 Peter 1:2)

And they were on the road ascending to Jerusalem, and Jesus was leading them, and they were astonished. And those who followed were seized with fear. But taking the Twelve aside he told them the things that were about to happen, saying,

"Listen! we are ascending to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be taken into custody by
   the chief priests,
      and the scribes,
         and they will put him on trial
            and condemn him to death,
               and hand him over to the Gentiles!

                  And they will ridicule him,
                     and scourge him,
                        and spit on him,
                           and kill him.

And on the third day he will rise up again!

And James and John the sons of Zebedee approached him and said to him, "Teacher! We want you to do whatever we ask."

And he said to them, "What is it you desire from me?"

And they said to him, "Grant that one of us might sit at your right hand, and one at your left, in your glorification.

But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you are asking! Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with into the baptism into which I am baptized?"

And they answered, "We are able!"

And Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink, and the baptism with which I am baptized, you shall be baptized, but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it stands prepared.

And when the Ten heard it they became indignant with James and John! And so Jesus called them together and said to them, "You know how those who are considered lords over the Gentiles rule over them harshly, and their high officials exercise authority over them, but let it not be so among you. Instead, he who desires to be great among you must be the servant of all; and he who wishes to be chief among you, must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many. (Mark 10:32–45)

Scripture is not simply a report written to inform people about what happened 2,000 years ago; or to satisfy their curiosity. It does do that. It reports the facts of our Lord’s life, death and resurrection for the world’s salvation! It informs our faith, and satisfies our souls like no other food can do.

But Scripture is more than information. It is a word from God’s lips that brings every person who hears it to a crisis point which it is this: will I hear Scripture and dismiss it? Or will I answer the Call, and conform my life to it? Those are the choices, there are no others. (John 3:19-21)

And so today we must ask ourselves not only what blessed information do we gain from today’s Gospel But what does it require of us? What divine teaching must mortal men obtain from the church today?

First we learn that Jesus fearlessly ascended Jerusalem in order to complete the mission for which he came into the world. To offer (Hebrews 5:1) his life as a ransom for many - we are those many. From this we learn that there is no greater force in all existence than Christ's love for us. Evil is powerful, the devil never rests; and our consciences never stop accusing us! But the love of God that saves sinners is greater than all, for as Scripture says: “Where sin abounded, grace flourished all the more!” (Romans 5:12) And again: O give thanks unto the LORD for he is good, and his mercy endures forever. (Ps. 118:1)

These are the objective facts of which we are made wonderfully aware in today’s gospel. But we are also instructed by it! Instructed and enlisted into the hosts of God. That is what it means to be baptized. For in baptism we take up the cross and follow Jesus to death.

How does that happen?

We first die with Jesus sacramentally by baptism. But being “under the influence" as it were of Protestantism we should be sure to assert often that “sacramentally” does not mean symbolically, or in some way less than real.

When we enter the deadly water we die to sin, but when we emerge we are resurrected as surely as Jesus was from the tomb! We are begotten from above, of a heavenly Father, to Fresh and Blessed Life. Anyone who misunderstands this, or discounts the power and glory of baptism has no fellowship at our altar, but needs to learn his theological ABC’s.

Next we follow Jesus into death in our daily lives as Christians. We die to ourselves. In particular, hearing today’s gospel, we must give up our love of exerting our power over other people. Our love of being number one, and having the world line up behind us, and conform to our vision! This is sin, and your sin is what makes the world the disaster that it is.

Does that offend you? Is that too harsh a judgment? Soften it if you like, shoot the messenger if you must, but it changes nothing. It's what the unbaptized do, what the disciples did, and what we do, too. But the Lord’s words ring in our ears, “… it must not be so among you!”

And so today’s gospel calls all men, baptized and unbaptized alike, to stop sinning. To give up our “game of thrones,” and to become the servant and slave of all. Even as Jesus did who, though he had a Divine Right to be served, did not come to be served. But to serve you with the remission of sins by his sacrifice, suffering and death on the cross.

Next we follow our Lord into death factually. Remember, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” But the world is in denial. Of all known phobias, “thanatophobia,” the fear of death, is by far the greatest; affecting every man, woman and child. This is especially obvious in our day. Now that the gospel has been expelled from public life, and men have no hope, they are dedicated to living forever. They subject themselves to extreme fitness regimens, and take up FB nutrition with religious fervor, in hopes of living forever.

"But it must not be so among you." Indeed, it is the church’s job to prepare people to die! To die in baptism, to die daily by putting our power plays behind us, and then to close their eyelids in death, and to open them in heaven, and not in hell.

If you follow Jesus into death, you will open your eyelids in heaven. If you follow the devil, he will lead you to hell. But not straight to hell. He takes you on the scenic route, that delights the eye, and sends happy tingles up and down the spine.

Beware of that road!

Doubt the beautiful scenery.

And follow Jesus instead.

Follow him to death in baptism. Follow him by taking up your cross each day. And follow him by taking the confession of St. Paul as your own: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Amen.