ASCENSION – WEEK 1 – MONDAY
LESSON: MATTHEW 16:24-28
“They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” John 16:2
The cross is pictured here in its true colors. To lie at home sick in bed is nothing compared to this, even though it is often regarded as suffering a cross. Christ is referring here to a very special cross, that of being persecuted, with the possibility of being put to death in disgrace. Not only so, but our persecutors receive praise and win renown. They seem to have right on their side and are honored. On our side, there is nothing but disgrace, shame, and injustice.
The persecuting world actually believes that it is advancing God’s honor. The world is also of the opinion that we are receiving our just deserts and that God, the Scriptures, and all the angels are against us. In the view of the world, we really have no grounds for complaint. We cannot lay claims to justice, but we are accursed and must be removed from the scene with shame and disgrace.
This is precisely what happened to Christ. He was subjected to a most scornful and disgraceful death, hung between two robbers or murderers, and regarded as an arch-criminal. Blasphemous words were hurled at Him. “He called Himself God’s Son; let Him help Himself now if He wants things otherwise!” And so, Jesus says here to His disciples that they will suffer death—not just simple death, but a disgraceful death—and the world will imagine that it is advancing God’s honor thereby.
In the face of such hard and harsh reality, one must still hold fast to faith and confess that God is gracious to us and is our Savior against the whole world, with all its glitter and empty show. We must confess our faith, no matter how hard and harsh the opposition may be, if we are really concerned about our true welfare.
SL 11:993 (4)
PRAYER: Grant us the needed grace, faith, and power, dear Savior, to bear whatever cross may come upon us and to confess our faith boldly before the whole world, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 3:244-254.