"Thrown into the Arms of God"#85-29
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 18, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 10:32-45
Life is a journey. As I get older, I look back at my own journey with some warm memories. One comes from fourth grade. Every week in fourth grade our teacher, Mr. Clifford Braun, taught us new music, or at least he tried to teach us. One piece of music he did get into in my head and heart was the hymn, "Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus." Today in our time together we will eavesdrop on Jesus and His disciples when they were journeying to Jerusalem. My prayer is that our walking with Jesus will in some way be a blessing to you.
"Let us ever walk with Jesus, / Follow His example pure,
Through a world that would deceive us / And to sin our spirits lure.
Onward in His footsteps treading, / Pilgrims here, our home above,
Full of faith and hope and love, / Let us do the Father's biding.
Faithful Lord, with me abide; I will follow where You guide."
Lord Jesus, we pray that You teach us how to walk with You. Give us grace to follow You on the way to everlasting life, and as we follow You, inspire us to help and serve others. Amen.
I think we all want to be in a safe place, and not just a place that is safe. A jail cell is safe. You want a place that is safe, but also a place where you can be away from the nastiness of real life. Real life is filled with things that are disagreeable, repulsive, disgusting. Who doesn't want to get away from all that? Watch television commercials for cruises. They promise you'll be happy, not bothered by the realities of daily life. Or see commercials for resorts in warm climates. "You'll have the time of your life," they sing. Psalm 90 says the days of our life are "toil and trouble," so yes, we all yearn for a place that's safe, where all that is disagreeable, appalling, in short, all that is nasty, is behind us. That was one of the topics of conversation as Jesus and His disciples journeyed toward Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Mark reports, "They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid" (Mark 10:32). Jesus was "walking ahead of them," leading them, just as He wants to lead us forward in the journey of our lives. Strangely though, St. Mark says the disciples were "amazed" and "afraid." Why? Let's eavesdrop and find out why. Jesus says, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise" (Mark 10:33-34). They were afraid because Jesus was leading them into an unpleasant, deadly situation. It's as if Jesus is saying, "Let Me tell you what's ahead of us. You're following Me to suffering and death, but on the third day I will rise again."
Two-thousand years later, we may think we understand. After all, we've lived through many Lents and many Easters, but when Jesus predicted His passion and resurrection, two of the disciples didn't understand all that Jesus was leading them into. Listen. "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.'"
Have you ever had someone come up to you and say, "I need you to do me a favor"? Red flags go up right away, don't they? "And He said to them, 'What do you want Me to do for you?'" (It's like, "Okay, I'm listening.") "And they said to Him, 'Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.'" Did they think there was going to be a revolution when they arrived in Jerusalem, and in a few days Jesus would become an earthly king? James and John had seen Jesus in His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Was that in their mind? I don't know, but they certainly were preoccupied with glory. They wanted a safe place. They wanted to be done with the nastiness of life. They saw Jesus as the One who could give them what they wanted. They wanted to win the divine lottery and settle into their dream home.
"Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' And they said to Him, 'We are able.'" When Jesus asked about His cup and baptism, He was talking about the suffering and death that He was about to experience, something only the divine Son of God could endure. Preoccupied with themselves, James and John didn't understand the profound suffering Jesus would go through to bring eternal life to sinners. Do you and I understand the depth of our sinfulness that God's Son should die? "And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at My right hand or at my lift is not Mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'" Hmmm, we do have a communication problem here. All too often we sinners fail to hear the message correctly. James and John, you and I, understandably we focus on the safe place. We want the nastiness of this toilsome life behind us. We yearn for the glory. In other words, we want Easter before Good Friday.
Let's keep eavesdropping. "And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John" (Mark 10:41). Of course, they were upset! Here they are, the 12 disciples, a band of brothers following Jesus, and two of them try this end-around. They sidle up to the boss and ask for a promotion. They make themselves more important than the other disciples. Well, I guess the rest of us don't matter as long as you two get your glorious safe place. Isn't that the way the world works? You see it on television shows all the time, each one out for his or her own advantage. You see it at work: career-climbing. You see it sometimes in politics. And sadly, you see it in the church, in the band of brothers and sisters today who are following Jesus. I've got a great story about that in a minute, but for now we're eavesdropping, listening in on real life. Trying to finagle their own glory, James and John ticked off the other disciples. When people find out you don't care about them, division follows. We can't change the ways of the world, but as brothers and sisters following Jesus we need to learn that it's not about me and my glory but it's about Jesus. And if it's about Jesus, then it must also be about the people journeying through life with us, people for whom He also died.
"And Jesus called to them and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'" (Mark 10:42-45). There is a safe place, heaven, but not yet. It will be a glorious place, the safest of all places, and it's promised because Jesus suffered and died so that you and I can have forgiveness, life and eternal salvation. But children, we're not there yet. Service and suffering wasn't a welcome prospect when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36). The Father willed that His Son should be a suffering Servant before the Father received Jesus into eternal glory. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Should we be any different than the Savior we follow?
Do you want to grow in your faith? Do you want to grow closer to Jesus? The way forward is to follow Jesus' example of service and even suffering. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all." The title of today's message is "Thrown into the Arms of God." I took that from something written by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I said before I had a story I wanted to tell you. This is it: the safest place for you is not a cruise or a resort. Your safest place here and now is not getting away from the disgusting, repulsive things of life; although, to be sure, we dislike all the nastiness. On this side of heaven, your safest place is in the arms of God. Listen to what Bonhoeffer wrote.
"I remember a conversation that I had in America 13 years ago with a young French pastor. We were asking ourselves quite simply what we wanted to do with our lives. He said he would like to become a saint... At the time, I was very impressed, but I disagreed with him, and said, in effect, that I should like to learn to have faith... I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one... I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world-watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is repentance, and that is how one comes a man and a Christian."
Those words are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison.
Facing the problems of life head on, disagreeable as they may be, increases your yearning for the Savior and His Word of help and hope. In serving others, even to the point of suffering ourselves, we experience firsthand how sinful this world is, how fundamentally flawed we ourselves are, how we also hurt others despite our best intentions. In short, when you give up being preoccupied with yourself, the way James and John were, and instead become occupied with real people and real problems, then you start to get it. More and more, it gets into your head and heart how desperately all humanity needs a Savior. In lives of service, we see firsthand the necessity of repentance and feel the Savior's compassion for all people.
For 12 years I was privileged to serve as Speaker of The Lutheran Hour, serving along with Dr. Wallace Schultz. The Speaker before me was Dr. Oswald Hoffmann. He was an amazing man who communicated the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear, inviting way. He once told me about a trip he made to Vietnam during that war. He was scheduled to preach to the troops, but he said he was having a tough time coming up with what to say. Of course, he wanted to tell them about Jesus, but how? What's the most insightful way to arrange the message? Every preacher knows the feeling. With this problem in the back of his mind, he was visiting casually with some of the troops. One of them said, "I can't wait to get back to real life."
"That's it," Dr. Hoffmann said. That's the way to present the Good News of Jesus. What you're experiencing now, as terrible as war is, is real life. It comes from the sinfulness of this world, and sin is real. So also today. What you are experiencing in your life is real life. Don't wish for an alternate reality. Are you a parent struggling with a child? Are you a caregiver running on fumes? Are you a teacher in a tough school, and underpaid at that? Are you a minister worn down by your congregation, discouraged because they're not showing the love and joy of the Gospel? Are you a social worker or a volunteer at a food bank? Are you in jail? You're experiencing life, real and nasty, in this world of sinful people. Jesus comes to bring redemption and hope to you and through you to the people you serve. In the midst of the day's problems, throw yourself into the arms of God. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).
Like those first disciples, we're walking with Jesus, walking to His suffering and death, and each of us should be making our way in repentance and sorrow for sins. Lent comes before Easter, but the eternal Easter will come. "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5). That's promised to you by Jesus, who also says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3).
"Let us suffer here with Jesus / And with patience bear our cross.
Joy will follow all our sadness; / Where He is, there is no loss.
Though today we sow no laughter, / We shall reap celestial joy;
All discomforts that annoy / Shall give way to mirth hereafter.
Jesus, here I share Your woe; / Help me there Your joy to know.
Let us also live with Jesus. / He has risen from the dead
That to life we may awaken. / Jesus, You are now our head.
We are Your own living members; / Where You live, there we shall be
In Your presence constantly, / Living there with You forever.
Jesus, let me faithful be, / Live eternal grant to me. Amen."
Reflections for MARCH 18, 2018
Title: THROWN INTO THE ARMS OF GOD
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Dr. Dale Meyer. Pastor Ken Klaus joins us now with some reflections on today's message. Hello, Pastor Klaus.
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. I appreciated Dr. Meyer's walk down memory lane and his tribute to Mr. Clifford Braun, his fourth-grade teacher and music instructor. Pam and I also had such an individual in our lives. Mr. Mel Rotermann was our fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, our choir director, and church organist.
Mark Eischer: Like many of our Lutheran parish teachers, he wore a lot of hats.
Ken Klaus: And he wore them well. Looking back, it's really not an exaggeration to say that if I know Bible verses, he's the man who was responsible. If I know a hymn verse, he's the fellow who really ought to get the credit. For festivals like Christmas and Easter, our choir memorized a dozen or more songs and presented them in four-part harmony. As I get older and I look back, I really want to say God bless such incredible, dedicated teachers. Mark, do you remember the hymn verse Dr. Meyer quoted?
Mark Eischer: Right, it was "Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus."
Ken Klaus: Well, I'd like to submit a poem of my own for discussion. This verse reads, "It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."
Mark Eischer: That sounds very familiar.
Ken Klaus: It's the last verse of William Henley's poem, "Invictus." Henley had a difficult life, including losing a leg to complications from tuberculosis. The poem, philosophically and theologically, pretty much stands in direct contrast to the sentiment shared in "Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus."
Mark Eischer: Nonetheless, it's been widely quoted; it's incredibly popular.
Ken Klaus: It has shown up in speeches by Winston Churchill. Nelson Mandela used it when he was in prison, but these were also the last words of Timothy McVeigh-you remember, the Oklahoma City bomber. He spoke in defiance just before he was executed. Depending on your outlook and perspective, those words cover a lot of humane and inhumane actions, which is why they seem to crop up everywhere. Mark, last month you remember the Winter Olympics that were on TV for weeks.
Mark Eischer: Right. From Korea.
Ken Klaus: In those shows, you would have seen human-interest background stories on several of the athletes. The Olympians were asked what they would say to the young folks who were watching them stand on the platform to receive the gold medal.
Mark Eischer: What did they say?
Ken Klaus: Usually something like "Never give up. If you dream something long enough and work hard enough, anything is possible."
Mark Eischer: Which is sort of another way of saying be the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
Ken Klaus: Now, I'm not suggesting that these athletes are anti-god or anti-Christian. Many of them worked very hard to be the best, and they're encouraging those who are coming after them to do the same. That's admirable. Even so, there is a problem with the sentiment.
Mark Eischer: What's that?
Ken Klaus: What do you know about the path most of these athletes took to get where they could stand on the podium and hear their national anthem being played?
Mark Eischer: Most start out as very young children, practicing many hours, oftentimes early in
the morning before school. The families get involved. They make a lot of sacrifices along the way. There are local and regional competitions, many tryouts and challenges to qualify for the Olympics. And, eventually, I guess you could say they were the masters of their fate because there they are, standing on the winner's platform.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, unfortunately, there's many who don't get to stand on that platform. And
when it comes to the Olympics, we saw all kinds of things happen. These folks are the best there is-men and women who are universally acknowledged as being the best in their sport, haven't lost in years. They run into problems beyond their control: skaters tripped up by someone else who was behind them or downgraded by a prejudiced judge or maybe their equipment failed at a critical moment. There have even been athletes who slept through an event because of a faulty alarm clock.
Mark Eischer: So, you're saying no one is totally in control of everything all the time.
Ken Klaus: Not even the richest, the smartest, the strongest, the most influential among us can always be masters of our fate or captains of our souls. That's true in this world and in the next.
Mark Eischer: Which is why Dr. Meyer said, "Throw yourselves into the arms of God."
Ken Klaus: Now the world thinks we are foolish for trusting in the Savior, for putting ourselves in His hands. That's partly because they think Jesus and His story of sacrifice is a myth, an old, made-up story. Without truly looking at the overwhelming evidence for the reality of the Savior's life, death, and resurrection, they disqualify Jesus from the competition and make light of anyone who would follow Him. But the overwhelming reality, and I say that again, the overwhelming reality is this: if Jesus rose from the dead-and He did-then He is the world's only Savior.
Mark Eischer: In other words, Jesus is the Master of our fate; He is the Savior of our souls. He's
also the willing Rescuer of all those who would, even now, deny Him.
Ken Klaus: You're right, and we don't have time today to give all the proofs for Jesus' physical resurrection, but that day of celebration is coming, and on that day we will all see who is the Master. But, before Jesus can rise from the dead He first has to die, and that is going to be the subject of our message next week.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"My Song Is Love Unknown" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)