WORSHIP VIDEO LINK (linked after 10:45 AM Service)






Lent 2 2024
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 25, 2024
Gen. 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 5:1-11, Mark 8:27-35

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


            As a pastor, one thing I get to do is be with people as they are approaching death.  This is never easy time.  Death tears apart families and those left behind are broken hearted.  For those who have gone through the death of a loved one, I think most would agree, it is one of the most difficult times of life. 

            Is there anything worse than death? 

            There is a game the kids sometimes play called “would you rather.”  Would you rather cut 40 acres of grass with a push mower, or one acre with a scissors.  Would you rather gain 75 pounds or lose your job.    Here is one for you today.  Would you rather die or die?

            For there are two deaths we face; physical death and eternal death.  Would you rather face physical death or eternal death? For worse than physical death, much worse, is eternal death.  Eternal death is to be forever separated from the light and love of God; to be forever in torment and suffering.  It is something you do not like to think about because it is too horrible to picture, worse than anything that you can conjure up in your imagination.

You also don’t like to think about eternal death because you know that you deserve it.  God demands perfection and you cannot deliver.  The wages of sin is death; eternal death.  Eternal death is horrible, and it is what you deserve. This is a terrible problem.  It is a grave dilemma. 

            The good news is that God provides the solution to this dilemma.  God demands perfection and God provides the perfection. God the Father sends his only Son to become like you; to take on human flesh and live with you, God with us; Immanuel. As true God, Jesus, the Christ, lives a perfect life and is the sacrifice without blemish.  He comes as the sacrifice for sin.  He comes to suffer and die and rise again.  He comes to take your sin upon himself and carry it to the cross and pay your penalty.  He then takes His perfection and gives it to you to make you perfect in Him.

Jesus comes to suffer and die and rise again.  This is His mission; His destiny.  But when he shares this with his disciples, Peter wants to stop him.  Peter rebukes Jesus.  Peter, the rough, tough fisherman will not let Jesus suffer or die. 

Jesus is on a mission to save you and Peter wants to stop him.  Jesus doesn’t put up with that and rebukes Peter, “Get behind me Satan.  You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” 

You too are infected by the thinking of men.  You don’t want to think that Jesus had to suffer and die.  You don’t want to think that all people are sinners and deserve punishment.  You want to believe that there is another way to avoid eternal death.  You yearn for another way.  But there is no other way.  You are left with Jesus on the cross.  You don’t even want to raise your head to look because it is such a horror.  And even more horrible than the scene itself is the knowledge that you are the cause of His suffering.  You are the cause of his pain.  You look up at the cross and see Jesus’ bloody face and his bloodshot eyes looking down and his eyes meet yours.  And you see the look in his eyes.  It is not a look of anger, or accusation, or bitterness.  It is a look of love.  He is up there for you.  He is suffering and dying for you.  He gives up His breath so that the breath of God, the spirit of God, can fill you. He goes into the grave to sanctify your grave, and rises again to enable you to rise on the last day. 

In baptism you are made one with God. You are sealed in His name.  The Holy Spirit fills you and your body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit; you become one with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  You become His disciple, a follower of Jesus.  He is your Lord, you are His servant. 

            What a glorious thing to be a servant of Jesus, the Christ.  But thinking on Jesus’ life you see that being one with Him will not always be easy.  Jesus was whipped, they slapped and punched His face, and they hung him on the cross to die.  As His follower these things can await you too.  The world hated Jesus, the world still hates Jesus.  As His follower, the world will hate you because your life is bound to His life.  You are one with Jesus. 

            After rebuking Peter, Jesus calls the crowd to himself along with his disciples and says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 

            Deny yourself?  In a world full of people seeking self-fulfillment and self-enrichment, Jesus tells you to deny yourself.  Give up on yourself. 

            Don’t follow every whim of desire for comfort or happiness.  Following Jesus means giving up on yourself and looking to serve others. 

            Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  If they want to kill me they may also want to kill you.  Being my follower means being willing to follow.  It means offering your back to those who would beat you; offering your face to those who slap you, opening yourself to mocking and spitting. 

            Now, in this country, we are blessed with freedom and the persecution of Christians is generally minor, but there are Christians all over the world that are imprisoned, beaten and killed for being followers of Jesus.  In Iran, on Sept. 18, 2023, Pastor Anooshavan Avedian, who is 61 years old with a wife and two children, was summoned by police to Evin prison to begin a 10-year prison sentence. Pastor Avedian was arrested on Aug. 21, 2020, when approximately 30 security agents raided his home while family and friends gathered to pray and worship. The group met in his home because the government closed their church several years earlier. Government agents confiscated Bibles and mobile phones and now have taken Pastor Avedian and two Christian converts to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.  These things are happening in many countries and as the Western world more and more rejects Jesus, it appears to be getting worse closer to home. 

What if it were you in the position to face the choice of physical death or eternal death?  

There is a knock at the door; a loud insistent knock.  You look at the clock and see it is three in the morning.  You pull a pair of pants on over your pajamas and go to see what the problem is.  You look out the window and see four police cars out front with lights flashing.  They pound on the door again.  “Police, open up!”  You open the door.

           You pray that you have the strength to say, “Yes!  I am a follower of Jesus.”  Despite the consequences.  “Yes!” 

            Six men rush in and slam you against the wall and frisk you for weapons and then cuff your hands behind your back.  Someone spits in your face and you can feel it run down your cheek.

            A policeman in plainclothes speaks, “You have been accused of being a follower of Jesus who believes the Bible is the Word of God.  No one can be that stupid anymore, but that’s what we hear.  Is it true?”  You turn to face them.  One of them has a taser ready to fire at you.  “Is it true?”  You know that if you say yes, they will fire the taser and then beat you with batons and take you to jail, and then prison.  It has happened to others.  Not only will you lose your freedom, you’ll lose your job, your house, all your possessions, you may never see your family again.  And the pain… the taser, the beatings, the torture, execution.  You’ve heard the stories.  You’re very afraid.  The man gets right up in your face and you can feel his breath. “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?  Tell me now!” The man with the taser gives you an evil smile.  What do you say?

            You pray that you have the strength to say, “Yes!  I am a follower of Jesus.”  Despite the consequences.  “Yes!” 

            The fear is that you will be weak.  That you will be like the disciple Peter who denied Jesus three times to avoid trouble.  You fear that you will fall away.  You fear that you have already denied Jesus, not in a direct confrontation, but in smaller ways.  Denying Jesus by your actions -- going along with the group when you should flee.  Denying Jesus by remaining silent when you should speak or saying something when you should remain silent.  The fear is you will be weak.

            In your weakness, return to the cross, the source of your forgiveness.  Remember who you are, not from your strength, but from the strength of the almighty.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are a follower of Jesus; one of his disciples.  Remember, Matthew 10:28 (ESV) 28 … do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

Get on your knees and pray for strength to persevere through trouble and hardship.  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.  Cling to the cross of Christ.  Be faithful unto death and receive the crown of life; eternal life. Eternal life with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, where there will be no more hardship, no more trouble, no more tears, no more sickness and no more death.

            As a pastor I get to be with people as they approach physical death, but I also get to be with people at their baptisms when they receive the gift of eternal life.  I get to walk with you on your journey as we follow the Lord Jesus together and await His return.  If Jesus does not return soon I may get the privilege to sit at your beside as a fellow disciple as you prepare for death comforted by the peace that passes understanding knowing you will receive the crown of life prepared for you by Jesus.  Amen.