Jesus came to show us the heart of His father; our Father. He came to reveal to us “the only true God” so that we might know Him, the Father. (John 17:1-6) He “made himself nothing . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7-8)
Jesus knew in advance about the torturous whipping and the thorns cruelly wrapped around his head. He understood the path from the whipping post to Golgotha would sap every ounce of human strength and subject him to the vicious jeers of the crowd. Jesus willingly subjected himself to the brutal pain of spikes driven through his hands and feet and the ferocious ripping of muscles and joints when the cross was sadistically dropped into place.
Can we wrap our minds around the reality that Jesus fully comprehended the glory of the empty tomb and the resurrection and selflessly went to the cross first? Even though He could’ve called legions of angels to the rescue, Jesus suffered for you and me so that we, too, could share in the hope, joy and glory of the Resurrection.
In Matthew 16:24 he says to the disciples and to us: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
We exert tremendous energy and time and resources trying to be safe, reduce hardship, escape discipline, reduce the severity of consequences, and avoid pain altogether. But Jesus, who had all the resources of creation at his command, chose to suffer and says, “Pick up your cross and follow.”
· We run from pain – Jesus embraces suffering.
· We claim it’s our “right” to be comfortable – Jesus willingly allowed himself to be whipped.
· We demand respect – Jesus was mocked with a “crown of thorns.”
· We want everyone to like us – Jesus was hated by the masses.
· We want safety and comfort – Jesus endured hours of excruciating pain.
The Jews expected the Messiah to rout the Romans and re-establish the borders of King David’s Israel and rejected Jesus because, in their eyes, he failed to produce the utopia they thought they deserved. Are we much different?
Be honest! How many times are we disappointed in God because we hit that deer, or lost a job, or went upside-down on a mortgage, or a spouse died from cancer? How much is our relationship with God dependent on feeling comfortable, and safe and having a nice, easy life?
Why is it so hard to hear Jesus say, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Ministry is difficult for many these days: attendance is down, finances are tight, and the rumor-mill is running at top speed. Personal agendas and private preferences combine with strangulating traditions and produce untold stress and there’s no immediate relief in sight.
Rejoice! Be strong and courageous! The Resurrection is here! Celebrate the Risen Christ!
Jesus knew that the empty tomb was on the other side of the cross and he lived a life of victory and purpose. We, too, understand that a perfect body and perfect life await us in the presence of God where Christ-followers will spend eternity. Let’s live life in such a way that even in the difficulties and challenges, the pain and discouragement, the hope of Resurrection shines through.