|“Life In The Pressure Cooker” Mark 1:12-15
St. John’s - East Moline 02/22/15
Intro.: Do you ever get the feeling that trying to live as a Christian is like being inside a pressure cooker? Trying to stand up for what is right no matter the circumstance can get pretty hot. As a pastor who wants for his flock a lifestyle and world-view which runs contrary to the pattern of modern culture and a fallen nature, I feel the pressure. Living to please God, even when it means offending others and facing hardship can become burdensome. Such pressures tend to make our days long and laborious..
Children face the pressure of growing up and making tough decisions. Teenagers feel the preassure of trying to live their lives for the Lord, while the media and their friends push them toward a life without restraint.
Singles have the pressure of living in a narcissistic society and an immoral age in which sex is worshiped as some kind of perfect drug and the ultimate recreational activity.
Couples and parents feel the pressure of maintaining a home where love is nurtured and where Christ and His Church comes first.
For the aging the pressure may involve an ongoing battle against loneliness, a lost sense of worth, and an increasingly diminished capacity.
In whatever situation we find ourselves, pressures of living in this sinful, broken, god-forsaking world exert their forces. Life for believers is not a life free from pressure, but thank God through Christ we are given the help, hope and direction we need to survive: “Life in the Pressure Cooker.”
In today’s Gospel we learn that we will not only survive it, but triumph over it because....
I. Christ Endured It For Us. (v.12-13)
A. Out of love for us God placed His Son into the pressure cooker of this world to blow the lid off of it for us.
It may be difficult for some to imagine God’s Son actually being under pressure, but that is exactly what was happening when Jesus was driven into the wilderness. There for forty days, our Lenten season, he suffered deprivation and temptation for us. While Jesus was “Very God of Very God” he was at the same time “born in the likeness of men” In his human nature he endured everything we do and more. He was tempted as we are. He felt all of the real pressures of real life in a real world, and yet remained without sin for us.
In describing Christ's temptation Mark does not read some staged play in which Jesus runs through his lines with a fictitious devil costumed with tail and pitchfork. Jesus experienced life in the trenches battling hunger and thirst. He struggled with the harsh realities of life in a hostile environment.
He felt the subtle temptations of Satan, as he was offered quick fixes for His problems, if only He would turn away from God’s plan. Satan tried to convince Jesus that the need of the moment was more important than faithfulness to God. The devil offered him the world in exchange for just one act of disobedience.
B. This was not our Lord’s only test. His entire life was one lived under a pressure that we could never understand. In carrying out His Father’s plan for our salvation Jesus was, and in some instances remains the most despised of all men. His life was marked by loneliness, rejection, disappointment and daily temptation.
In addition to the trials we all face, this man bore the weight of all sin, and the burden for our salvation. Remember his weeping over Jerusalem, his bloody sweat in the garden, his betrayal with a kiss, his standing before the people he loved and hearing them cry out for his death. Remember his hours of agony hanging on that cross to be spit upon, taunted and cursed. Think of his sense of god-forsakenness and His final words for our assurance, “It Is Finished!” He endured life in the pressure cooker for us.
II. We Have Often Been Overcome By It. (v.14-15)
A. While none of us have experienced the burdens of our Savior, we know what life in the pressure cooker is like.
The first century Christians who would have originally read Mark’s Gospel experienced intense pressure. For them it sometimes involved persecution and even death. On top of the heavy taxes, crooked government, and difficulty in doing business in a corrupt world, they faced the hatred of others as they stood up for what the Lord had taught them and rejected the polytheism and immorality of their day. Many of them were arrested, unjustly judged, and condemned to death. Some were crucified, some dismembered, and others were clothed in animal skins and torn apart by dogs for the entertainment of the masses. At one point they were taken together covered with pitch, ignited and used as human torches for Nero’s garden. Their faith brought intense pressure, and great temptation to turn away from the Lord.
We also experience life in the pressure cooker. Our troubles, especially those brought on by our faith, are certanily not as intense as those suffered by the early Christians, but they still press in on us. And why should this surprise us? Jesus never promised us a life free from pain and sorrow. No, He promised us a cross, like his. He held up his life as a reflection of our own and told us: “Truly, Truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master.”
B. And how have we held up under the pressure? If you are like me you are rightly ashamed of the many times when you have caved in, buckled under, and failed to stand-up for what is right and speak-out in faith. Few, if any of us, have faced torture and the threat of death the early Christians did, or for that matter that some of our brothers and sisters around the world continue to face. And yet how because of the weakness of our sinful nature we too quickly turn to mush under pressure. Know this, just as He tried to do to Jesus in the wilderness, Satan wants to crush us. Jesus’ warning to Peter is the same one that is offered to us, as we daily give into temptation, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”
Satan’s cunning has often gotten the best of us hasn’t it? For the sake of those tempting quick fixes, we turn away from our Father’s will. Husbands and wives cast their marriage aside for a fleeting moment of pleasure in the arms of another. People, young and old, wallow in self-pity because they are convinced that their lives are the most wretched. Under pressure we decide that the need of the moment is more important than faithfulness to God, and so we abandon our relationship with Christ, to have our “needs” met in some other way. Every one of us here this morning/evening have failed to hold-up under the pressure. On our own we are like the toughest vegetable turned to mush inside the pressure cooker.
C. And it is here in the pressure cooker that Christ finds us, and calls us to repent and believe the Good News. In today’s Gospel Jesus assures us that we are never alone in our battle. In the worst of times, when the pressures seem to be unbearable - God’s kingdom is near. Christ promises us that He will always be with us, and as he, Himself, experienced in the wilderness, He will send his holy angels to attend to us. Just as He was with the three men who for their faithfulness were thrown into the fiery furnace, Christ is with us. He is with us, along with His kingdom of grace and promise of victory.
If you are feeling the pressure, there is relief - repent and believe. Right here, right now confess your failures. Admit that you have been turned to mush. Lament the ways you have turned from the Lord to meet the need of the moment with quick fixes. And after you have cast those burdens on the Lord, believe that Christ has taken away your sin and given you the victory. Find relief from the pressure cooker in the strength of God’s love in Christ. God wants us to know that...
III. We Can Overcome It With Christ. (Rom. 8:31-39)
A. Any of you who have ever done any canning with an old pressure cooker know what can happen if you don’t watch the pressure. One lady once told me the story of how she was canning something and ended up ruining her whole kitchen in the process...the very pressure that was meant to crush the contents, backfired and blew the lid right off the pressure cooker.
This is exactly what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done to the pressure cooker of this world. In the wilderness and upon the cross Satan sought to crush God’s Son, and turn the plan for our salvation into mush, but Jesus blew the lid off of it and turned it into victory.
Jesus prevailed as He trusted in His Father’s plan, and leaned upon the power of God's Word. When challenged to turn stones into bread he responded with: “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” When challenged to test whether the Father truly loved him and would protect him he answered, “you shall not tempt the Lord, your God.” When tempted to exchange the worship of God for temporal power and glory he said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”
Our Lord never compromised with evil. He stood up under the pressure, and said, “NO, The honor and glory of God, His Will and Purpose to save His people is more important than the needs of the moment! I don’t need a quick fix, I will wait for my Father to do His thing!” For us Jesus endured life in the pressure cooker, and blew the lid off of it forever. His singleness of purpose was to remain obedient, even unto death, so that out of love He could save all of us who have been disobedient. First he lived the holy life for us, then He died the cursed death for us. And after rising again, He called us to share in His victory. Through the apostle He assures us, “if God is for us who can be against us?.... we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!”
B. With Christ, and the victory he has given us over death and the devil, we can now endure life in the pressure cooker and even conquer it. With a Savior like ours it is no wonder that those first century Christians stood up under the pressure of persecution and met death with words of forgiveness and songs of praise on their lips. Through Christ the kingdom of God was always near to them, and their hope was not in the quick-fixes of the moment, but in the Gospel promise of salvation to eternal life through Jesus. They knew who was in control all the time. It was not the madman in Rome, but their ascended Lord, Jesus Christ, who would never allow them to be separated from His love. There was nothing they could go through that He had not already been through and overcome for them. If the all the emperor had in his arsenal to pressure them with was death, then he had nothing over them. Christ had already swallowed up death in victory for them.
If your life is full of worries, hurts or temptations, look to your Savior who won the victory for you in the wilderness and on the cross, and never stop using the Word of God as Christ has taught you. Live in the full assurance that “in all things God works together for (your) good”. Repent and believe that Christ has blown the lid off of the pressure cooker for you. Amen.