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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Another Reason Christ had to die: His Example of Endurance

Sunday Morning presented a glorious opportunity for me to preach Christ Crucified from Mark 8:31-38. At the beginning of my message I mentioned seven reasons (!) as to why Jesus, whom Peter had finally confessed to be the One who can make all things right in God's sight (including us), necessarily had to die. Toward the end of the message I reasoned as to why embracing the cross is worth it. Actually it was Jesus' own reasons for why embracing His cross (and our own) is worth it. "There is a me at the end of every cross." With every cross we are called to take up, there we find at its end the greatest treasure of all - Jesus. And when you look a little more closely at the hardest statements of John 8:31-38, you'll begin to notice the many "me's" at the end of them (rising after three days, follow me , the built-in eternal potential to know me forever - called "a soul", the Son of Man who will return for us in the glory of His Father).

Here's one more reason why Jesus had to go to the cross and why His cross is worth embracing: The Example of Endurance using the Joy set Before us.

Here's the Scripture: 
"Let us fix our eyes our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men that you [likewise] might not grow weary or lose heart" (Hebrews 12:2-3).  
I've underlined above both why Jesus embraced the cross as 'worth it' ("for the joy set before him") and why this was necessary ("that you [likewise]" - the [likewise] being my parenthetical addition to help accentuate the author's point - the example). 

Here's why Jesus' embraced His cross: Jesus endures through every agony of His cross "for the joy set before him" (v.2). What joy is that? That joy is re-uniting with His well-pleased Father. To re-unite with the Father such that the Father would be 'proud' or 'pleased' with the Son. Consider what we hear when the Father speaks audibly in the Gospels: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). The Son lives to please the Father (see John 8:29; John 10:17). All of this parallels our own 'cross to bear' - the end of which is further fellowship with our Savior himself and a well-pleased Savior at that. 

Here is the main obstacle to Jesus' joyfully re-unititing with a well-pleased Father: The shame of the cross. There are many dark and difficult aspects of the cross that Jesus must endure - the physical pain, the forsakenness, nobody near who understood what he was going through. However, shame is the one agony of the cross that the author of Hebrews lists. And he says that Jesus despised it. An interesting word choice. Would you or I have chosen such a strategy to overcome shame? He overcame by despising it. Think: Mock, Scorn, Taunt, Turn up your nose at.

Jesus despised the shame of his closest friends abandoning him, he despised the shame of his reputation being mocked and an object of coarse humor, he despised his appearance being stripped down to nakedness, he despised the torture that tore apart all peace, he despised the demonically-inspired mob chants of "Crucify Him," he despised the vinegar he drank and the spectacle made of his suffering.

How did He endure? He despised His shame in comparison to the joy set before Him of re-uniting with a well-pleased Father. He despised shame, saying to it, in effect:
"Shame, you think you are winning? Ha!! I have a greater crown before me - the joy of being re-united to my Father. You see that?! You can't take that away. Compared to the joy I'm about to encounter, the Father's smile I'm about to feel, the Paternal embrace I'm about to experience, your nakedness, your cruel comments, your abandonment, your reputation-marring - these are nothing. I despise you and you are about to die with my death."
What is the joy set before you?   Shame and humiliation are inevitable for the true Christian (Mark 8:34). Here are five joys set before you as you obediently endure suffering:

1. Greater knowledge and revelation of the Son (John 14:21). 
2. Christlikeness (Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:38-39).
3. Commendation ("Well done" Matthew 25:21).
4. Multiplication of Encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25)
5. Bathing in the same Future Glory as Jesus Himself (Romans 8:17)

How you might likewise despise the shame of your cross: 
1. "What you might do to my bank account and trimmed-back lifestyle while I give to the cause of Christ is nothing compared to the joy set before me"
2. "The funny looks I get when I talk about my Savior are nothing..."
3. "The cold shoulder returned when I invite someone to church are nothing..." 
4. "How you alter my reputation for standing up for what's right...pssh...who cares compared to the joy set before me."
5. "The lack of invitation because I'm a 'churchgoer' and a 'killjoy', you think that's going to slow me down, shame?!"
6. "All the misunderstandings and unintended hurts because I prioritized my church and now used to shame me by family and friends. You'll have to do better, Sir-Shame, because I have ahead of me my Father's commendation, the glory and the likeness of Jesus, the multiplication of encouragement when I return to fellowship, a deeper knowledge of my Savior! All of this awaits me."

Final Takeaway: Use the joy set before you to despise, scorn, mock whatever shame you must endure for the Cross of Christ. Jesus died to give you this Example of Endurance.

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