The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“The Would-ah, Could-ah, Should-ah vs the Done and Done”
September 3, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 16:21-28
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
So, what is up with the title of this sermon? I wasn’t going for my longest to date (although it may very well be).
It incorporates two phrases that one may hear now and then. The first is “wouldah, couldah, shouldah” referring to any time that we would have done something, could have done something, should have done something, but what? We didn’t do it. I am sure any one of us can look back on our lives and recall certain times when we “wouldah, couldah, shouldah” … but didn’t. And there may be more than just a few regrets attached to them.
The other phrase is just a simple way of proclaiming, making it known, that we have accomplished something, finished something, as we emphatically say, “Done and done!”
In many ways, all of the “wouldah, couldah, shouldah’s” in our life stand juxtaposed to the “done and done’s.” It is like taking a piece a paper, making two columns and on one side adding up in our life all of the “Didn’t’s” and on the other, all of the “Did’s.”
Tying all of this to our Gospel text, we begin by noting that the portion of St. Matthew’s Gospel before us this morning is a major turning point in our Lord’s ministry… in our Lord’s mission to save us and all the world.
We read, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21)
With His divine face steadfastly focused on Jerusalem, toward Jerusalem, our Lord now, more than ever, engages in “cross talk” … that is, in Him going to the cross and all it will mean including His innocent suffering, death and resurrection.
Peter will have none of it. And yes, we are talking about the very same Peter, the very same Apostle who, shortly before this, made the great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is just that Peter didn’t like this plan for Christ. He may or may not have had his own ideas of how things would go, should go… but it certainly didn’t involve death and a cross!
You know our Lord’s stern reprimand of Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)
You see, the “things of God” … in particular, our salvation, most definitely involved a cross. The things of God involved the Son of God going to the cross, being nailed to the cross, suffering terribly on the cross, dying there on the cross. These are the last things, however, that Satan wanted as well as misguided Peter who gets so upset with this cross talk that he actually rebukes his Lord and Master. He rebukes Jesus.
Our Lord then uses this opportunity to help Peter, the other disciples and all of us to set our minds where they should be, even though it’s the last place we want THEM to be… the last place WE want to be.
Our Lord uses this opportunity to help Peter, the other disciples and all of us to set our minds not on the things of man, but on the things of God… not on the things here below, on the worldly… but on the things above… on the heavenly and the divine.
And amazingly, we see that the cross talk continues as our Lord makes the transition from what He will bear… to that which all who follow Him… all who are His true disciples, will bear.
We read, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.’” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Depending upon how much the disciples were picking up on all that our Lord was saying, they could have easily wondered “What just happened here? Our Master was talking about Himself going to the cross and now He is talking about us taking up our crosses and following Him? One minute the Master is talking about giving up His own life for others and now He is talking about those who give up their life for His sake?
Yes! Exactly! Welcome to what the true Church and all true followers of our Lord know and embrace, namely, the “theology of the cross.” And it is a simple concept really… a simple fact that our life in Christ all centers on the cross. It revolves around the cross. We would have no life if it wasn’t for the cross and what Jesus Christ did upon it for us and all mankind! The cross had to happen! There WAS no getting around it. There IS no getting around it.
Our Lord in His humanity fervently prayed to His heavenly Father at Gethsemane saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) The “cup” of God’s righteous wrath that our Savior would drink… what He would completely consume… every last, bitter drop of it… on the cross a few hours from then.
So, it is true, my dear brothers and sisters, that there is no getting around the cross for you… for me… and all who would be Christ’s true disciples… all who are His faithful people.
In our case, regarding our crosses, they have nothing to do with our salvation. Jesus secured and procured that on Calvary’s holy mountain.
No. The cross that we individually bear is simply the life of being a Christian in this world and what that means… what that will bring… what our faith will bring… what our making the good confession in the public square that “Jesus is Lord” will bring us at the hands of sinful man.
You and I living in a sinful world, hostile to Christ… hostile to His Word… hostile to the Truth. Do we as Christians think that we can dodge the same? Be exempt from the same? The hostility that has always been there for Christ and His followers? The hostility that is greatly increasing in these latter days, in these last days before Christ’s second coming?
Well… actually… you can dodge it all… avoid it all… or… at least, in part… by doing what many do. They are Crypto-Christians to varying degrees, hiding their Christianity, their Christian faith and even try to hide Christ. They are oh-so careful and judicious as to whom, when and where they share their faith… share God’s truth… and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord… if they do it at all. How is it with you?
You know, all of this is reminiscent of a previous discussion we had quite a few weeks ago regarding an earlier portion of Matthew’s Gospel. What our Lord said then fits perfectly into what He says now (I know, what a shock!).
Christ declares, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:32-38)
Now… NOW in our Gospel text Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Well that is sobering. And it should be. It needs to be. Add to that, the fact that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, is coming soon.
There is no time to waste and the million-dollar question is… Will His coming… will your standing before the judgement seat of Christ be for you a “wouldah, couldah, shouldah” moment in regard to your faith and the living out of the same?
Will your standing before the judgement seat of Christ be for you a “wouldah, couldah, shouldah” moment in regard to your denying yourself and conversely you confessing Jesus to be Lord again and again in your life even though it cost you dearly in terms of worldly things and worldly relationships?
Will your standing before the judgement seat of your Sovereign Lord be for you a “wouldah, couldah, shouldah moment in regard to you having taken up your cross in your lifetime and following Him… following Jesus? And this, as opposed to you having followed your own selfish desires or that of the world.
How much better it is that these questions are asked now. How better it is that all of us give the utmost attention to the same now and in the hours and days ahead, not knowing how long all of this will go on?
How infinitely better it is that there is for us now the precious opportunity to confess our sins, all of our selfishness and shortcomings. And to receive the blessed and full forgiveness that is here now, for a little while now in this time, in this “day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). And for us to change our ways… to truly deny ourselves… take up our crosses and follow Jesus as never before. Before it is too late.
That for us, it will not be a “wouldah, couldah, shouldah,” but rather a “done and done” all by the Holy Spirit working mightily in us and through us. And that at last, on the last day, we may all stand before our Lord and Master and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew. 25:21 KJV) Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The Wouldah, Couldah, Shouldah vs the Done and Done” 9/3/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL