Taking the Easy Way Out

Theme: Discipleship is not easy - Second Sunday in Lent
Object: A deck of cards and perhaps a book on magic tricks.
Scripture: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mark 8:31,34 (NIV)

I have a really cool card trick to show you this morning. (Shuffle the cards a couple of times.) First, I need a helper. (Choose a helper and continue.) I want you to pick a card out of this deck. Don't show it to me, but you can show everyone else. I'll cover my eyes so I can't see it. Now, I want you to carefully slide that card right into the middle of the deck. Don't let me see it! Now,this is the amazing part. I am going to snap my fingers, and the card that you selected will move from the middle of the deck to to top of the deck. Are you ready? (Snap!) Here it is! Here is your card right on top. (Pick up the card and show it to your helper.)

That is your card, isn't it? It isn't? Well, I don't understand what happened. I bought this book to teach me how to do this trick and it didn't work. It said I should let you choose a card and put it in the middle of the deck and when I snapped my fingers it would move to the top. Oh, there was a bunch of other stuff I was supposed to do, but that stuff was all too complicated. I skipped over that part. It is supposed to be a magic trick, so I thought it would work at the snap of my fingers.

That was pretty foolish of me, wasn't it?  Well, sometimes we think life should be that easy too, don't we? We think that everything should happen at the snap of a finger. When life is hard, we look for the easy way out.

That isn't anything new. People were like that in Jesus' day too. One day Jesus was talking to his disciples and he was telling them all he was going to have to suffer to save the world from sin. He told them how he was going to be made fun of, beaten, crucified, and buried, but that he would rise again on the third day. That was what his Father had sent him to do.

Peter had other ideas. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that wasn't what he wanted for Jesus. There had to be an easier way. Well, it is true. There was an easier way. Jesus had the power. He could have taken the easy way out. He could have set up his kingdom right here on earth with the snap of his fingers. But that was not God's plan.

Jesus turned to Peter and scolded him. "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus said to Peter. "You don't have your mind on the things of God, you have your mind on the things of men!"

Jesus wasn't interested in taking the easy way out and he doesn't want us looking for the easy way out either. He said, "If anyone would follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy. It doesn't happen with the snap of our fingers. It isn't easy, but the reward is great!

Father, help us to be willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We know it won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Amen.

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