Take Up Your Cross, and Stay There

“In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him and saying, ‘He saved others;  he cannot save Himself.  He is the King of Israel;  let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.  HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM;  for He said, “I am the Son of God.”‘” (Mt 27.41–43)

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. A man walks into Rome claiming to be God’s Son.

To Israel’s leaders, the cross was the punchline to a joke that had gone on far too long.  For three years they’d endured the holier-than-thou Jesus slighting, shaming, and stumping them.  It might’ve been cute when he was twelve (Lk 2.46-47).  But now the people gave them the side eye and fawned all over him.  They had better do something before the scales tipped for bad.

No more cat-and-mouse games.  It was time they remind everyone Jesus was just a carpenter’s son who got too big for his britches.

So there hung Mighty Jesus, impotent to save himself.  Some Son of God he must be.  God wasn’t lifting a finger to help him.

Their taunting reprised that of Sennacherib before Hezekiah and Judah.

“Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you, saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’  Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?  Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?  Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?  And when have they delivered Samaria from my hand?  Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD would deliver Jerusalem from my hand?'” (Is 36.18–20)

You think you’re Yahweh’s people?  Who is he?  Where is he?  What makes you think he stands any better chance against Assyria than all the other gods we’ve demolished?  Stop trying to fool the people.  You think Yahweh’s on your side? Have you ever considered he might be on ours? (v10)

And there was Jesus–the New Israel and True Israelite–suffering the same taunts. He’d talked a big God game but Yahweh wasn’t coming this time.  Stop kidding yourself, Jesus.  Did you really think you were God’s Son?

Jesus stayed on the cross.  But, he didn’t stay in the grave.  Yahweh wasn’t doing parlor tricks.  He was “freely giving us all things” through his own Son whom he did not spare (Rom 8.32).

The taunts are not over.  Any follower of Jesus “must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Lk 9.23).  There is no other sort of Christian life than the cruciform one.  To follow Jesus is to take up the cross.  To take up the cross means enduring the world’s mockery with all dignity.  Jesus spared us God’s wrath, not the world’s.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously; and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Pt 2.21–25).

So here hangs the Mighty Church.  The world has had just about enough of her and her holier-than-thou bigotry.  The joke’s over.  She might have been cute at one time but her message is played out.  Now she’s a nuisance.

Homosexual agendas, militant Islam, gender-abolitionists, corrupt church leaders, and faux-gospel churches all taunt her.

You think God is on your side?  Who is he?  Where is he?  Tell him to show up and we’ll believe you.  You are on the wrong side of history.  Not even g/God is on your side.  Lay down your cross and save yourself.  You cannot stop progress so why become empty martyrs?  In fact, have you ever considered g/God might be on our side?

Sennacherib by any other name.

“He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering.  God can be found only in suffering and the cross” (Martin Luther).

And the world will bury us, finally done with another silly agitator.  But, the day will come when the sons they buried come back to life.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8.11–14).

The temptation is strong.  But Jesus is stronger.  We will keep the cross because the cross keeps us.  As surely as Jesus entrusted himself to the Father, we entrust ourselves to the Guardian of our souls.

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

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