O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Suffering is Glory
"Suffering is Glory"
Based on Mark 10:35-45
Preached on March 25, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, have you got your seeds ready? Because Spring is finally here! As of Tuesday this past week, we have been enjoying the fresh season of Spring. The birds are coming back. The trees are starting to bud. And that means it is almost time to begin gardening. I'm sure all of the green thumbs have already planned which seed goes where, and they are looking forward to getting them into the ground. We may have to wait an entire month or two yet, but we are used to waiting, after all that is what gardening is - you sow now and you reap later. You plant your flowers in hopes of seeing them bloom. You sow your seeds in the ground in hope that they will grow into fruit and vegetables that you can eat and share. Sow now, reap later.
We tend to understand this whole process when it comes to gardening. There are few people who expect to crunch into a nice cob of corn the day after they planted it. We are even sometimes able to understand how this process is the same for other parts of daily life - you know, you put in your time at work and eventually you will get noticed and promoted and given something more glamorous to do. But when it comes to our eternal life with Christ in His kingdom, it seems like we suddenly forget how it works. How often are you actually considering how your actions will impact all of eternity? How often do you remember that the seeds you are sowing now will be the fruit of forever? Sow now, reap later. Certainly we do not earn our salvation. Entrance into heaven is a free gift from God - but Christ will have different rewards for each of us when we get there. He is prepared to share His glory with us according to how we have sown here on earth. Sow the seeds of service and sacrifice, and reap the reward.
Let's take a look at our text to get a fuller picture. In our Gospel reading, the two brother disciples, James and John, come up to Jesus and ask that they might sit beside Him in His glory. Pretty bold - but look what happens. The disciples ask Jesus for glory, and what does Jesus talk about? Suffering! They ask to share His glory, and He talks about His suffering. Jesus asks them, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?" He is referring to the cup of suffering - the cup of wrath that He would ask His Father to remove from Him in the garden of Gethsemane. The cup that He would ultimately drink. "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?"
What an incredible question!? Jesus is revealing an amazing reality. The path to glory is suffering. It is not victory. It is not success. It is suffering. As the Psalmist proclaims, "those who sow with tears shall reap with shouts of joy!" Those who have sacrificed and suffered for Christ and His kingdom in this life, shall be rewarded in eternity. Rewards that will not fade or spoil. There can be no comparison between the brief sufferings we face here and the glory of our eternal reward. This is why St. Peter says, "Rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." Or St. Paul when he admits, "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ - that I may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Sow now, reap later.
By now you're probably thinking - oh man, I have been sowing. Do you know how... Do you know how... Do you know how... Well, I may not. But Christ does. He knows exactly what it is like. For when you suffer, Christ suffers. When you hurt, Christ hurts. When you weep, Christ weeps. For that is what He swallowed on the cross. That is His cup of suffering. That is what He agreed to so that He could comfort you. So that it wouldn't suffer for nothing. You are not alone in your pain, and it is not pointless. Christ is with you, and He sees what you are enduring. This is why He tells His disciples, "The cup that I drink you will drink." As disciples of mine you shall share in my sufferings. You shall taste a little of my cup, but I promise to reward you for it in my eternal kingdom. You may sow in tears, but you shall reap in shouts of joy.
How? How can this be? How can there really be joy in suffering? Jesus gives you the answer. "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Christ gave up His glory for you. That is why He came. To pay your ransom. To give Himself into your punishment. To take His hidden heavenly glory into the deepest, darkest, saddest suffering and plant it there. Christ has planted Himself in your grave so that you may have the glory of eternal life. As He said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, you may rejoice in your suffering for Him. For Christ has planted His glory in suffering - He has not planted it in massing wealth - He has not planted it in becoming famous - He has not planted it in anything comfortable - He has planted it in His suffering and death on the cross - His sacrifice - And this is the salvation story at work in your life - Christ sacrificed for you, so that you may now sacrifice for others - not so that you to keep it to yourself - to selfishly eat the fruit of your faith, but to let it fall to the earth and die so that it may not remain alone, but may bear much fruit.
Yes it means sacrificing the things which make your family so comfortable. Yes it means giving your time to others that you would rather keep for yourself and your family. Yes it means bearing the cross that Christ gives you in the present moment because this is how Christ continues to work through you - this is how He uses you to save others.
There is no time to waste thinking about how you've failed to sacrifice in the past. You are forgiven. Repent and start sowing. Start planting now. For you will find Christ working in all of your service, in all of your sacrifice and in all of your suffering. And His glorious rewards awaits you in His kingdom. Christ has planted Himself in your grave, now go, and use every moment He gives you to serve those around you.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr