My sermon this week is entitled The Less Traveled Road. My scripture text comes from Mark 8:31-38Robert Frost wrote:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both. And be one traveler, long I stood, And looked down as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth;Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as far that the passing there, Had worn them really about the same. And both that morning equally lay, In leaves no step had trodden back, O, I kept the first for another day! Yet, knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence; Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
You know the less traveled road can be the more difficult road, but at the same time it can be the most wondrous road. The less traveled road can be filled with wonder as only a few have seen what lie in its path. The less traveled road can be filled with excitement as the unexpected can lie beyond each bend.
Jesus is talking about the less traveled road in our gospel lesson this morning. Jesus begins teaching the disciples about what is going to happen next in his ministry. Jesus tells the disciples that the son of man, Jesus himself, must suffer many things, be rejected by all the religious rulers and die and then rise on the third day.
This was the less traveled road of the cross, of suffering, of dying. This is the less traveled road of the theology of the cross. This is the less traveled road of dying for the sake of the good news.
And then Peter stopped Jesus in his tracks and said “Wait a minute. This can’t be right. You can’t be telling us that this is the way of God.” Peter is saying this because he has traveled the wrong path, the path that says success, power and glory are the way of the world and the way of God. Not death, not the cross!
Walt Wangerin in his The Book of God describes this event from Peter’s point of view, as follows:
"He [Jesus] said, "Things are going to change now." He heaved a sigh. We all were moving with him now toward the little spring of water. He said, "I have to go to Jerusalem. When I get there, I will suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and the scribes. I’m telling you now so that you need not be surprised when it happens. It will happen."
Jesus knelt down by the spring, cold from the earth. He made a cup of his hands and scooped water. Just before he started to drink, he said, "I will be killed in Jerusalem, and on the third day be raised --" I spoke again. I said the most natural thing there was to say. Well, my feelings were so hurt by Jesus’ words. Be *killed*? Was this the gloomy thing he’d been thinking about all the time? I grabbed his wrist and shouted, "No!" The water splashed from his hands. "No, God won’t allow it!" I cried. On account of my feelings, I was gripping him with all my strength. But he started to pry my fingers from his wrist. He had terrible power in his hands. I blustered on. Surely he knew that I was arguing out of love for him! "O Lord," I said, "this can never happen to you!"
After Jesus criticizes Peter, Wangerin emphasizes these thoughts in Peter
"No, but I do care for the things of God! And I love you, Lord Jesus! This is so confusing. One minute I’m Peter; the next minute I’m Satan, but I didn’t change! How can plain love cause such outrage in the Lord?" Peter loved Jesus but could not understand this untraveled road Jesus was to embark. He could not understand that suffering was the way of Jesus. For the road that Peter traveled and wanted Jesus to travel was the road of glory, success, power and might. Jesus was supposed to be a conquering Messiah, not a dead one. And then just as Peter is trying to understand this, Jesus turns to all of them and says: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Verse 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Jesus is telling the disciples that now they have to travel that less traveled road of sacrifice and cross bearing. Jesus is telling them to leave the worn path of success, of power, of prestige, of glory and to follow the path of sacrifice, of loosing oneself to Jesus. Jesus is asking the disciples to loose their lives in Him and in that they will find their lives.
C. S. Lewis puts it this way, "Christ says: give me all. I don’t want only so much of your time or money or work, I want you. No half-measures are good enough. Hand over the whole self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as theories you think wicked--the whole outfit. And I will give you a new self instead,"
Jesus wants us to lose our lives in him and in so doing he will give us a new life. But what kind of new life?
Some would say a life of glory and success. Some would say that if you are right with God everything in your life will be glorious. The gospel of the twentieth century would be pleasing to Peter. We have become convinced that God has only blessings in store for us. Success without suffering; promise without pain.
We have been told, "Only believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and all you have ever dreamed of will be yours." According to Mark, Jesus has one word for these dream merchants— these preachers of a painless gospel— and that word is "Satan!"
What would this new life be like? It was will be a life of self -sacrifice, a life of giving to others, a life of putting my needs second to the needs of the suffering in this world.
Peter had it all wrong. Many in today’s churches have a mistaken idea of what it means to be in Christ. It means letting go of self and living for Christ and for our neighbors.
Living for Christ and in Christ does not necessarily mean that everything in your life or my life will be glorious. For what happens if your life is not glorious? What happens if you don’t succeed as some would have us believe is the way of the gospel? It leads to guilt, to thinking that my faith is not as good as anothers. Do we measure faith by our successes, I think not.
Faith is not measured by us or for us, but is a gift from God to be used. Our standing in life, whether we have health, wealth or prosperity is not a measure of our faith.
Faith is living by the cross and in the cross and through the cross which leads to the resurrection which gives my life meaning and purpose.
Which road will you chose on the path of life? The road that Peter wanted, or the road that Jesus taught in today’s gospel lesson?
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Amen