Other sermons in this series
WINNING & LOSING
They say winning isn’t everything. But I wonder if you’ve experienced losing lately.
If you know my family, you might be aware that a few weeks ago we had a very public experience of losing.
And one thing I’ve learned is that there are at least a couple of different kinds of losing.
Sometimes, losing is just losing.
While other times… your loss… can be very much someone else’s gain.
I’m talking about Family Feud, and if you’re one of the very few Australians who didn’t get to see our humiliation on February 16, I’ve got some highlights to show you.
Or more accurately lowlights. Take a look at the screen….
Cucumber sandwiches were my idea.
Totally blew it.
But look, here’s the point. Sometimes losing is just losing.
And other times. Your loss. Can mean someone else wins a Mitsubishi Pajero.
Or something even better than that.
Which is exactly what I want to suggest is the kind of losing that’s going on at the first Good Friday in the passage we’ve been reading through the service.
Familiar words perhaps, from chapter 15 of Mark’s gospel. As we look at little bit closer at Jesus on the cross. Every bit, it seems, a failure. The one who claimed a kingdom, stripped naked; nailed to wooden crossbar and then pinned up on display like the worst of criminals. The one who called himself king. Crowned with a crown of thorns.
And look, nothing makes his loser status more obvious than the insults of the people around him. First of all the soldiers. Who are spitting on him and paying mock homage in verse 18 of our reading that you can follow again on the sheet.
They’ve already dressed him up in a second hand purple robe like a mock king, and rammed a crown of thorns on him. And now they’re calling out to him in verse 18,
Hail, king of the Jews.
They don’t mean a word of it. And they’re hitting him on the head with a staff and they’re spitting on him; they’re having a laugh. Before they crucify him.
KING OF THE JEWS
There’s a sign above him in verse 26 spelling out the charges against him. But it’s laced with irony as well. It says, The King of the Jews.
See, if he is that, why isn’t he doing something? Why isn’t he looking like a winner?
And the irony’s not lost on the people walking by either. When he’s nailed up in verse 29, people are walking by hurling insults at him. Ordinary people. Shaking their heads, saying, you with the big claims. You said you were going to bring down thetemple. Look at you now. Take a look at their words on the screen.
So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!
Come down now from the cross. And save yourself. That’s the challenge. That’s the taunt.
And the chief priests, the archdeacons and bishops in their robes and funny hats, they’re mocking him among themselves the same way. Have another look at their words. Verse 31.
He saved others,” … “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.
Come down and prove it. Save yourself for a change. You reckon you’re so good at saving everybody else.
And you know what? Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Three crosses, and Jesus is the biggest loser of all.
He saved others. But when it comes to the crunch he can’t save himself.
CAN’T OR WON’T?
But you know what? Unlike the Campbell family on Family Feud, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jesus has actually got the choice. It’s not that he can’t save himself. It’s that he won’t save himself.
You might be here this morning, and you might be skeptical. You might be tuned in to what the new atheists are saying about Christianity, and what the media is saying about Christianity, and what Ricky Gervais is saying about Christianity, and you might be here with your family this morning and you’re just highly dubious. And think that Jesus had no option but to be a loser.
But will you concede at least that the writer – we’re in this part of the Bible called the Gospel of Mark – and as Mark’s crafting what he tells us, at least Mark himself is persuaded that Jesus has got a choice. About whether to come down from thecross or not. Because you just have to turn back a few pages, and Mark’s got this same Jesus calming storms with a word. Mark’s been stringing out for us non stop the way this Jesus has given sight to the blind; and made quadriplegics danceagain; that he’s even raised the dead.
In Mark’s mind, this Jesus can do anything, including coming down from the cross and saving himself. If he wants to.
In Mark’s mind, this is a choice. And Jesus just hangs there. Mocked from every direction. Resolutely not coming down from the cross and saving himself. It’s not because he can’t. It’s because he won’t. Because saving himself is not what it’s about.
And by verse 37, he’s dead. He cries out to God in despair. And he breathes his last.
Look, here’s the thing. And it’s just the one simple point I want to make on this Good Friday. And that is, sometimes losing is just losing. Other times, one side losing can mean someone else gets to drive off in a brand new car.
Which kind of losing is it? As Jesus stays there on the cross?
And who are the potential winners?
I want to put it to you this morning, it’s people like you and me.
Or it can be.
See, in one way the mockers are right. He has been saving others from day one. If you haven’t got a bible, feel free to take one home this morning and step back through Mark’s gospel and see it for yourself. Or read it online at biblegateway.com. Or take a copy of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Easter.
Look at the lives he touches along the way.
And now he’s actually showing he’s a king expressly by the fact that he’s not saving himself. But giving up everything. To save people like just us.
You shouldn’t really be surprised there’s a turnaround like that on a day called Good Friday; the day we celebrate the execution of the leader of our movement. And call it good. Because this is the king who said the first will be last and the last willbe first. This is the King who said the greatest among you is the one who serves. The one who said he who humbles himself will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be humbled.
And now he’s modelling it. And so the winners as he loses are the ones he saves by staying there on the cross taking on himself the just punishment for every sin of yours and mine that we ever longed could be forgiven. So they can be.
That he stays there on the cross and takes on himself the judgment of God for every wrong word you’ve said at the wrong time, for every wrong motivation; for every selfish action; for every mis-step and misdemeanour and misjudgment. For every bit of anger and avarice and greed and lust and licentiousness. I dunno, I’m just using a lot of old words for sins we don’t even know about any more. But they’re still there, aren’t they? If you stop for a moment of honesty.
Nothings our fault any more. That’s what we’re meant to think. That’s what our culture keeps telling us. There’s a red light blinking on your dashboard, just disconnect the wires and the problem goes away. That fixes guilt, doesn’t it?
Let me tell you, if you’ve got to the point where you know the problem hasn’t gone away; and you know there’s a whole list of issues between you and God… you can, right now, walk away a winner.
Exactly because Jesus chose to stay on the cross. And make himself a loser. Later on the New Testament says this. They’re words of his disciple Peter. Who stood at a distance, and watched it all happen. Peter says,
23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
It’s as simple as that. He took it. So we don’t have to.
His wounds. Our healing.
Him losing. Us winning.
Can I urge you this morning, if you haven’t already. To take that step. Of returning to the overseer of your soul. Turning back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul will make his loss your win. And that will make this a very Good Friday indeed. Because you’ll finally understand how good it is that he didn’t come down from the cross and save himself. But stayed there. For the express purpose of saving you. And when you realise that, you’ll realise other kinds of winning don’t matter as much as you might think. Because already, you’ve got the biggest win of all. At his expense.