Matins Devotion: January 18, 2023
In St. Matthew’s gospel, Peter’s confession leads Jesus to declare how the Church is built—“upon this rock.” The rock, of course, is not Peter (as the Roman Catholic church teaches), but the confession of who Christ is and what he has done to win us back from sin, death, and the devil. But St. Mark’s gospel has a different emphasis surrounding Peter’s confession. Mark doesn’t give us any of Jesus’ follow-up teaching about the Church. Mark’s focus is much narrower—much starker. Mark wants us to see that confessing the truth about Christ comes with a steep cost—he wants us to understand that to make the good confession is nothing short of taking up the cross.
This is certainly true for Jesus. To be called the Christ is to be called to a cross. “Christ” means anointed one. At his baptism, Jesus is anointed with the Spirit for the purpose of being the sin-bearer—the lamb of God who would be slain on the cross for the sins of the entire world. Christ’s entire mission was to suffer, to die, and then to rise again after three days. While the ending is glorious, the path is certainly difficult and torturous. But Christ walked the road. He suffered the rejection, the insults, and the beatings. He endured every cost and every consequence that his confession incurred. He did it all for you.
Therefore, to share in that confession is to share in the suffering of the cross. To experience mistreatment at the hands of a world that hates the name of Christ. As it did for Christ, the cross of our confession will incur the cost of shame. Christians are constantly told that we should be ashamed of our confession. Of what our confession says about marriage. Of what our confession says about human sexuality. Of what our confession says about the unborn. Of what our confession says about all the gods of this age. Power. Money. Fame. Influence. Like our Savior, the way of the cross is full of pain and sorrow. And, also like our Savior, the devil constantly presents us with the temptation to lay aside the cross of our confession and pick up instead the treasures of the world. Sometimes this temptation comes to us in our wilderness moments, but sometimes it also comes to us through the ones who are closest to us—you can be sure that the devil knows how to make this temptation sound like he’s doing us a favor.
Yet, hear again the words of Jesus:
“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 and the gospel’s will save it.” (34-35)
These words are both a warning and a promise. By them, Jesus warns us not to believe the devil’s lies. He warns us not to believe that we can find life outside of the confession that calls us to carry a cross. Yet, Jesus also makes us a wonderful promise. That through the cross, we find life. Through death, we find resurrection. Losing your life for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel is nothing other than abandoning every other false god and resting all your hope in Jesus’ promise. In his promise to heal you from disease. In his promise to cleanse you from sin. In his promise to raise you on the last day. Confession comes with a temporary cost—but confession also leads to an eternal comfort. Confession begins with a cross, but it ends with a kingdom. A kingdom lived, not under a cross, but under Christ—the righteous king who will rule forever in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.