Another Kind of Loser
Aug 26, 2013 2211
by Edwin Zackrison, Dayton Community Chapel, September 7, 2013
TEXT: Mark 8:31-38
PROPOSITION: Losing one’s life for Christ’s sake is the greatest win possible in this life.
Last month I gave a talk entitled “Does the Loser Get Anything?” This morning I will pursue the “loser” theme a little bit more and I have entitled my talk, “Another Kind of Loser.” I have chosen for my text, Mark 8:31-38.
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
* * * * * *
Most of the people we look up to in history are people who have lost something dear to their hearts.
In 1869 a baby was born in India who was destined to become a loser. For a while he was successful—he became a lawyer and practiced law in South Africa. Then something happened and he started to lose. He gave up his western way of living, returned to India in 1915, and began to fight the British Empire for the independence of India. He united Muslim, Christian and Hindu ethics and used passive resistance to gain his ends.
By all standards he was a loser. He was jailed many times. He resisted the war and was incarcerated for that. He became a leader of the resistance and instead of resorting to violence he fasted and visited troubled areas of the world.
On one of his prayer vigils he was shot to death by a fanatic from one of the religions he was defending. Here was another kind of loser. We look back at Mohandas Gandhi with great admiration because he was another kind of loser.
A baby was born in South Africa. He lost his father at an early age and was raised by a guardian in his tribe. When he turned 21 he ran away to a big city and studied law. In 1964 he was found guilty of plotting against the all-white government of South Africa and he was sentenced to life in prison. They caged him and threw away the key.
In his own defense he said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. . . . It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
For 27 years he rotted in jail. As time went on, he was promised release if he would not agitate—he refused. In 1990 he was released, and he started his work again. Four years later he became president of South Africa. In 1993 Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela was another kind of loser.
Jesus was another kind of loser
We often dwell on the sufferings of Christ. In the wider Christian seasons this is called Lent and we see the price Jesus paid for being a loser.
The Jews believed that God was sending a Messiah, an anointed one, who would deliver them from the power and steel rule of the Romans. Sometime, rent the DVDs of some of the classic movies made a few years ago; movies like “Ben Hur,” or “The Robe,” or “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and see if you can feel the kind of power that Rome exercised. It is horrendous. Conformity was the highest morality of the day, and on the moral maturity scale that’s not very high.
It is little wonder that the Jews were pleading for relief. They had gotten it before. In Assyria, in Persia, in Babylon, in Egypt. All of these were places of captivity and God sent great men to deliver the—Ezra, Nehemiah, Moses, Judas Maccabeus, even some of the greatest prophets. But now nothing. It was like God was dead.
The disciples were attracted to Jesus by mixed motives. They felt the spiritual nature of Christ’s work, but they also felt the iron rule of Rome. We are attracted to people who can bring us relief. But they saw him suffering and it caused them great confusion. They refused to accept it. And when Jesus began to tell them about what was going to happen, Peter, the acknowledged outspoken on the 12, thought he was just depressed. And he essentially said to Jesus, “Snap out of it!”
The text said he “rebuked Jesus” for what he was saying. Peter was no different than us. He saw such talk about suffering and death as talk about losing. Suddenly he was viewing all his dreams and wishes and he realized they all hinged on Jesus.
His future kingdom was to be glorious and Peter was to be part of it. His victory over Rome would be sure and Peter would be there celebrating at all the victory feasts. And Peter said the most natural thing: “Snap out of it! We’ll get through this—stop talking despair!”
Jesus appeared to be capitulating and that seemed to be losing.
Suddenly Jesus recognized in the words of Peter, the words of the tempter. It was like he was standing before the tree with Eve. He was back in the wilderness with the wild beasts. And the most surprising thing was that the words were coming out of the mouth of Peter, a trusted insider.
This was the man who was about to walk on the Mount of Transfiguration. He will want to build shrines for Moses and Elijah. But he is missing the point there all along.
This was the man who would walk anywhere with Jesus, even on the water. He boasted of his courage.
This was the man who was known as the “great fisherman”—the man who could withstand the storms of Galilee and bring the shipping craft back to shore.
And he looked through Peter and saw the old snake again.
Eve should have looked through the snake and seen the tempter.
Adam should have looked through Eve and seen the tempter.
Where our first parents failed, Jesus once again succeeded—he looked through Peter and saw the tempter and he responded, not to Peter, but to the temper who was using Peter in all his naiveté: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
By all human standards Jesus was another kind of loser. He volunteered to head down the path of loss—to give his life for the sake of the gospel.
He had come to ratify the promises of the Old Testament.
He had come to define the gospel for us.
He had come to live and died in our place and now the death was imminent—what Christians would come to understand as the “atonement,” was just now being witnessed by the disciples and they didn’t like it any more than most of us do.
At first glance the gospel is the story of losers and we like winners. We like the winner who beats the opponent to the pulp. We like the team who wins the most games. We like the coach who whips that group into shape and marauds around the field.
Winning and losing must be defined by God’s standard.
Accepting the old deception that the one with the most toys “wins,” Peter rebukes Jesus. But in so doing he betrays his own lack of trust in Jesus.
As we look at Mandela, we have a unique view of a loser. Courage, personality, character, and strong belief all fed into his determination. Twenty-seven years in a cubicle with bars. A piece of meat every other day, the rest of the time corn porridge. Permission to write two letters a year, to see two visitors a year. He believed that one day he would be free to fight again. Today he is seen as a winner. But many ditched him in prison.
As we look at Gandhi, we see little evidence of a winner. He has a determination that bespeaks a great moral courage but what was it accomplishing? Finally, the people became convinced that this was their hope and future and independence was theirs. Had it not been for him they may still be lost in their fog.
“Another kind of loser” is the kind that sees beyond the law written.
She sees that sitting in the back of the bus because your skin is a different color is wrong.
He sees that drinking from a different water fountain because you are black is wrong.
He sees the oppression and discrimination and prejudice of all types is wrong.
She sees that there are eternal moral principles even when they are beyond the law.
Jesus saw the oppression of the Romans but he saw beyond it.
He saw the man on the bed by the pool, but he saw beyond it—he saw what put the man there.
He sensed the suffering of humankind all around him but he saw beyond it—he saw the power of the tempter and he came to break it.
He saw the ignorance of the people but he saw beyond it—he saw the power of sin that blocks God out and keeps us in stupidity.
So who is the real loser—the one who gets the most toys at the expense of his soul? “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
How much is your life worth? A million dollars? Ten million dollars? Everyone has a price, they say. What is yours?
And Peter is astounded. What kind of man is this? Peter has just made his confession. We have all made our confession. Now are we sure of the commitment we made?
That confession is to motivate and move us: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would give his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels.”
I suppose no one likes to be around a loser. And Jesus experienced that when he died alone on the cross. A handful of disciples were there but most everyone had fled. Today millions recognize that there is another kind of loser: one who loses his life in the cause of the gospel.
This morning I am proud to be “another kind of loser.”
I am thrilled to know more every day what it is to lose one’s life in the mission of the gospel—to be one who can see through the storm to the victory at the end—to be one who can see the tempter when he comes even through friends and fellow travelers on the journey.
In the eternal scheme of things the loser is the one who yields to the tempter. But there is another kind of loser who yields to the guidance of God and that is the person who lives by faith, the person who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the person who sees the eternal principles of goodness and justice and metes out mercy to all around us.
I am excited to be with you, for you too are “another kind of loser.” This is our mission. This is our challenge.