I think that what Jesus did for us on the cross was incredible. It was the single most heroic and astounding act ever committed by anyone in the known universe. Mostly because the person committing this ultimate act of humility and sacrifice was God Himself.
He certainly didn’t have to go through this. No one forced Him to do it. He simply could’ve wiped out all of mankind and started over with a new group of humans instead of enduring the shame and agony of the cross. Better yet, He could’ve just avoided all of this by not creating anything at all. But, for whatever reason, God did create all of this. He knew that it would cost Him everything. He realized that this creation would require Him to leave His throne in glory and take on the form of a servant. Even the form of a baby, in a small stable, surrounded by smelly shepherds and barnyard animals. Worse still, He realized that this creation would compel Him to first suffer unbelievable rejection, humiliation, physical torture, pain, separation from the Father and physical death.
Would you have said, “Let there be light,” if you knew it would cost you all of this?
Yes, the cross of Jesus is miraculous and awe-inspiring. We don’t talk about it or meditate on it enough. It is the scandal of the universe that the perfect, pure Holy One became smeared with the filth of sin and shame … our filth, our shame. But we forget that Jesus offered us a cross of our own. Before He took up His cross, He called His disciples to take up their own cross and follow Him.
A.W. Tozer once said, "Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying." It troubles me that often we make the Gospel about His cross and not ours also.
We are called to die along with Jesus. His death was for our salvation, but our death is also necessary to the process. We must surrender our lives in exchange for the new life that Jesus died to give us. Jesus also tells us, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:24-26).
Somehow, in my walk with Jesus, I have forgotten to carry my own cross. Somehow, I have neglected to receive the words of my teacher, my master and my friend when He tells me that anyone who does not carry His cross and follow Him cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:27).
What is left for me is repentance and a search for the cross which He has set aside for me to carry. Jesus has left me with an example of what love is. He has called me to follow where He has already traveled. Our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus—as He humbled Himself, we are to humble ourselves; as He emptied Himself, we are to empty ourselves; as He took on the form of a servant, we are to take on the form of this same servant.
The amazing thing about the Gospel of the kingdom that Jesus came and died to preach and proclaim is that “the kingdom of God is near you” (Luke 10:9). This means that we don’t have to strive and dance around to get the kingdom to arrive or to make it go. It’s here. Right now. Jesus announced it. He invites us into the kingdom right now. Today.
What we often miss is that the pathway into this kingdom is through humility, servanthood and taking up our cross to declare Jesus as our Lord and King.
Jesus declared the kingdom was near to us. He demonstrated that it was true. He modeled for us how to enter the kingdom and enjoy the kingdom kind of life.
We’re left with little mystery then, as to where the kingdom is and how to enter it. What we’re challenged with is the cost of this great treasure. It costs us everything, yet in comparison, it costs us nothing at all. “I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old ‘I,’ but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
We’d love for there to be “another way” into the kingdom, wouldn’t we? Even Jesus, when faced with His own cross, prayed and asked if there was another way, yet He concluded by saying, “Nevertheless, not my will be done, but yours,” and He accepted this call to surrender unto death. Our temptation is no different. The lie of the enemy is that there is “another way” to partake of the kingdom and to follow Jesus besides the cross. We cannot allow ourselves to think that following Jesus is possible without dying to ourselves daily and allowing Jesus to be our Lord and King.
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ.” —C.S. Lewis, Counting the Cost
The cross of Jesus is a stunning and breathtaking act of love and sacrifice by God Himself for people like you and me, and the cross He asks us to carry is our declaration of love and gratitude to Him for this amazing sacrifice.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship