Return to Sermons | Home

“Questions at the Cross: Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me?”
John 13:38


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday in Lent—February 24, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

During Lent this year, for both our special evening and Sunday morning services, we are considering “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  The entire sermon series is listed on the back of today’s bulletin.

So far we have looked at the question Jesus asked in preparation for the Last Supper, “Where Is My Guest Room?” The question Judas asked just before his dastardly deed, “What Will You Give Me If I Betray Him?”   And the question Jesus asks Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could You Not Keep Watch with Me?”

This morning we continue with a question Jesus asks Peter at the Last Supper: “My children,” Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little longer. . .” “Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’  Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’”

Today’s “Question at the Cross”: “Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me?”

“I am the Good Shepherd” Jesus says, “and I lay down MY life for the sheep.”  Jesus laid down HIS life you.  As Paul writes, “He loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God.”  “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Jesus laid down HIS life you, a sacrifice for your sin, to pay the price of your guilt.  As Paul says in Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”  Through faith in him, YOU are justified, forgiven, made right in the sight of God.  Jesus laid down HIS life you--and how will you respond?  Paul puts it this way in 2nd Corinthians, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them and rose again.”

On Palm Sunday, 1842, the famous Lutheran pastor Dr. C.F.W. Walther preached a sermon for Confirmation: “You have declared yourselves ready today to swear eternal faithfulness to your Savior. But ah, already many a person has knelt at this altar . . . and with trembling voice and tear-filled eyes has declared: Yes, I will remain with Jesus, with his word, with his grace, with his church, nothing . . . shall separate me from him. . .  But what happened? Where are they now?  Even before the next Palm Sunday they had already left their Savior. . .  The fire of faith and love kindled in them has died out.”

“Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me?”  That is the pledge made in your Baptism, your Confirmation, every time you confess your sins and receive through the pastor the Lord’s Absolution.  Like Peter at the Last Supper, when you kneel at the Lord’s altar to receive from Jesus his body and blood, you are once again pledging, “Lord, I will lay down my life for you.”

“Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”  Has the fire of faith and love in you died out?  Do you hear the rooster crowing in your life?

“Will you really lay down your life for me?”  On the Sabbath Day the church bells ring calling out Jesus’ invitation: “Come unto me!”  But, do we heed faithfully his call and come worship in his house?  Or are we missing from the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day?  Seeking the refreshment of extra sleep or some recreation, instead of spiritual refreshment from the Lord?  Perhaps doing something “important”--but is anything really more important than worshipping your Lord?  “Will you really lay down your life for me?  Then start by laying down your Sunday mornings to worship me!”

A pastor tells a true story about visiting a family in his congregation.  While sitting at the kitchen table he notices a note for that day on the family’s calendar: “Pastor visiting; dust Bibles.”

Paul says in Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  But, does God’s word dwell in us richly?  Do we attentively listen to the preaching of God’s word and strive to apply it in our lives?  Do we take advantage of opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  Do we have the habit of personal Bible reading and devotions, perhaps with Portals of Prayer?  Or, do we let our Bibles gather dust?

Did you know that many entire books of the Bible are equal to only one or two pages of a newspaper?  It only takes a few minutes a day to read a chapter or two of the Bible and a psalm.  “Will you really lay your life for me?  Then lay down time in your life to search the Scriptures and listen to my voice!”

Jesus promises, “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you.”  But, we are tempted to forget our Lord’s precious promise, and put prayer on the back burner of our lives.  There is a poem I like which says it all: “I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day.  I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.  Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task.  ‘Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.  He answered, ‘You didn’t ask!’  I got up early this morning and paused before entering the day.  I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.”  “Will you really lay down your life for me?  Then lay down a few moments in your day to speak to me in prayer!”

Peter says, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.”  But, we fall prey to the temptations of the devil, the world, and our flesh, gratifying ourselves with sinful activities and indulgences.  “Will your really lay down your life for me?  Then whatever sins you are entangled in, lay down for me that part of your life too!”

In the Upper Room, Jesus said to his disciples: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  That is probably the hardest thing to lay down for Jesus: anger, bitterness, seeking revenge, holding a grudge.  It is so hard for us to give up because in such situations we usually feel that we are in the right, justified in our actions and attitude, because of what someone else has said or done.

But Jesus says, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. . .  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re in the right, it doesn’t matter even if you really have enemies who mistreat you.  Remember how Jesus prayed even for those who were nailing him to the cross: “Father, forgive them.”  “Will you really lay down your life for me?  Then lay down for me your anger and bitterness, your grudges and revenge.”

“He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them and rose again.”  Jesus doesn’t want just part of your life, he demands all of it: “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength.”

“Will your really lay down your life for me?  Then lay down your Sunday mornings to worship me; lay down time in your life to search the Scriptures and listen to my voice; lay down a few moments in your day to speak to me in prayer; lay down for me that part of your life occupied with sinful activities and indulgences, and instead live for me a holy and godly life; lay down for me your anger and bitterness, your grudges and revenge.”

“Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me?”  “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.”  Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts