Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carrying Your Cross

The scourges with which Jesus was beaten

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25

Remember that when Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” the “cross” was not some sanitized, gold-plated piece of fashionable jewelry. The cross was a horrifying symbol of a tortuous, shameful death. So, what Jesus was saying was that to be a Christian is to embrace that which brings you shame and death in this world.

This is a far cry from the idea that to be one of God’s people means peace and prosperity in this world. The Pharisees taught that worldly prosperity was a sign of God’s favor and poverty and disease was a sign of God’s disfavor or even wrath. The present day descendants of the Pharisees still teach these lies, and I’m not only referring to the Jewish descendants of the Pharisees, but also those “christians” who teach the same thing. This teaching* is one of the main reasons why the Pharisees rejected God and conspired to kill Jesus – they were afraid to take up their cross and follow Jesus.

Jesus prayed, 'My Father, if this [suffering] cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.' Matthew 26:42

Christians are not afraid to take up their cross because we do not fear death nor shame. We do not seek shame and death, but neither do we seek to save our own lives or seek our own comfort in the face of persecution (except in our sin.) Because of Jesus neither death nor shame has any power over us.

The death and resurrection of Jesus has destroyed the power that death has over those who trust in Him for forgiveness and salvation. Death cannot harm us because even if we die Jesus will raise us up and give us a perfect life which has no end. Likewise, the shame of putting our trust in a savior who was crucified, died, and was buried is completely overwhelmed by Christ’s promise that in the last judgment He will stand upon the earth in all His divine glory and proclaim that all who belong to Him through faith are completely forgiven and blessed forever. When God calls you forgiven and blessed, then all the shame of sin is gone forever, and no one can say anything against you.

* See first comment below.

Saint Paul wrote, 'For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.' 1 Corinthians 2:2

1 comment:

Rev. Paul Wolff said...

The Pharisaic desire for worldly confirmation of God's favor such as prosperity, comfort and security is one of the reasons why Calvinst and Reformed Christians and others who are prone to works-righteousness such as Papists are more susceptible to fall into the lies of Marxism and Fascism than faithful Christians. However, this is a topic for another time.