Sunday, June 4, 2023

Jesus carried His cross for
the sake of the world. Will we?

Even though I’ve read the passage many times, I’m still shocked by how fast the enemies of Jesus looked for opportunities to kill Him. Jesus had just started His public ministry when the Pharisees began to conspire with the Herodians about how to kill Jesus. They didn’t try to find a way to answer Jesus or debate with Jesus. They jumped past all of that and went right to executing Him. In Mark 3:6, the fate of Jesus was sealed.
What had Jesus done? Let’s stick with Mark. In chapters 1 and 2, Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man, raised a lame man to walk again, healed a leper, and debated with the religious leaders about fasting, keeping Sabbath, and who had the power to forgive sins.
It wasn’t the healings that got Jesus in trouble; it was the debates. More specifically it was the authority in which Jesus answered the questions of the religious leaders that pressed His enemies to the conclusion that something would have to be done about Jesus. It was either Him or them. Their world wasn’t big enough for them both. Someone would have to go, and those in power decided Jesus would be the one to go. From the earliest moments of Jesus’ ministry, there was ominous music playing in the background that let everyone know something bad was going to happen. Sooner or later, Jesus would make enough enemies. Sooner or later, their plan would come together. Sooner or later, Jesus was going to die.
And yet, while everyone may have seen it coming, no one could have expected the way things played out. There had been other messiahs. There had been other claims to God’s authority. These pretenders had been efficiently dispatched and never heard from again. The death of the imposter may have been noisy and bloody, their disciples may have rioted in protest, but sooner or later, things settled down. Nothing changed until the next messiah-wannabe came along and the hateful cycle was repeated all over again.
But with Jesus, it was different. There was something about an innocent man dying — a man everyone knew was innocent, even Pilate — dying while the truly guilty taunted Jesus in His death. Even the Roman centurion attending to the death of Jesus knew something was different. There was something strange about Jesus hanging on the cross. He didn’t die like other men. The witnesses of His death saw it and reported it. There was something mysterious in Jesus’ death, maybe even divine. There was something glorious in His death.
All of these years later, we’re still trying to fathom the depths of the cross. We’re still sifting through the scattered fragments of truth and righteousness thrown throughout the universe by the collision of justice and mercy, grace and righteousness on the cross of Jesus. Like some cosmic atomic collider, elemental particles have slammed together and melded into a new reality of grace.
Funny thing is, everyone saw it coming, but no one saw it coming like this.
During Lent, we’re reminded that Jesus calls us to pick up our own cross. And, when we do, we have to know what’s coming. If they killed the Shepherd, what will they do to the sheep?
Here’s something no one will tell you. When you are living with the world, everything the world has is flowing with you. When you repent (remember, the word means “to turn around”) and begin to follow Christ, you are now walking against the current of the world. All of that stuff that was once flowing with you is now flowing at you. Sooner or later, something in that current is going to take you out. We should know it’s coming.
This is what love looks like in the real world. Sinners need to be forgiven. Wounded people need to be treated and cared for. The lost have to be found and brought home. And the guilty have to be released. Remember Barabbas? He was released — a known terrorist — and Christ died in his place.
What happens when Barabbas is your neighbor? What happens when someone hurts you, betrays you, disappoints you? What happens when it’s not fair, not right, not just? What happens when you are called by Jesus to love someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved? What happens when grace and justice intersect in your own life? Or on the cross you carry?
The way of Jesus isn’t easy. There is a cost. During Lent, we think about the cost paid for us and we count the cost required of us. We pick up our cross and, when we do, we have to know what’s coming.
Jesus did. Now, you do too. Jesus carried His cross for the sake of the world. Will we? Even when we know what’s coming?
(As published in the Jesus Creed)


Repent at leisure

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