Dr. John Bowling, President of Olivet Nazarene University, wrote in the Wesleyan Preaching Annual (CSS Publishing, 2001) a sermon titled "Where Luther Stood -- We Stand" (p. 89). He writes in the sermon conclusion: "The picture of salvation that was prevalent in Luther's day was that of a man who was trapped at the bottom of a great cavern or well. And God through Christ came to save you but he came only partway. It was necessary for man, by good works and indulgences, to raise himself sufficiently so that God might then be able to save him.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.