Reblogged: He Did Not Look Like a Savior

I originally posted this on April 3rd, 2015.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 3:5

Hanging on a cross. A man who is exposed, bleeding, and dying. A man who is facing a death of humiliation. A death of a criminal. A sign hangs above him full of sarcasm, “Jesus, King of the Jews”. A man who was chosen to be crucified while allowing the freedom of a murderer. A man who had to do everything he could just to take in another breath. A man who is completely helpless. Here hangs the savior of the world.

He didn’t look like much of a savior. He certainly did not look like any messiah the world expected. He was not a military leader. He did not possess the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel to freedom like a Moses. He did not reign over Israel into an era of prosperity like a David. Jesus appears to be the least of the bunch. Let’s face it, this man hanging on a cross does not seem to look like a savior.

What is a savior? Is a savior one who comes in the form his subjects demand? Does he simply try and meet the needs of those who ask? Maybe a savior is meant to be something more. Perhaps this savior hanging on a cross is more than He appears to be. There is a story behind this man’s life that you may not have known if you were simply passing by. This man claimed to be the son of God. He didn’t look like any son of God we would have imagined.

The greatest hope of the world did not look like any sort of hope at all. A helpless man hanging on a cross. A man destined to die a painfully excruciating death. Abandoned by his disciples, denied by his closest friends, and alone on a cross. No, wait, not entirely alone. Two men are being crucified with him. Two common criminals hang on crosses next to this savior of the world.

One criminal can only see what hangs in front of him. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior to this man. He looked like a helpless criminal on a cross. This common man mocked and ridiculed this “Savior of the world”. This common criminal played a crucial point in the telling of the story. He was pointing out the clear truth of the situation. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior this world needed.

The second man saw something different. He was another criminal who had earned his punishment on a cross. He recognized something in Jesus. Perhaps he looked past the mere image he saw before him. Perhaps he simply realized some innate truth residing inside the core of his being. The truth set him free. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

It is true Jesus did not have the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel into freedom like a Moses. He did not reign on a throne in an era of prosperity like a David. The only thing he had in common with these other men was death. This common criminal noticed the true diversion of the similarities though. He grasped that even in the one common thread between Jesus and these great men there was a huge difference. Samson, Moses, and David all died as sinners. They were some of the greatest heroes of Israel, but they each had huge flaws. Jesus was facing death, but he was facing death as an innocent man. He was facing death as a sinless man.

Jesus did not look like a savior, but he was the very kind of savior the world needed. A savior does not simply give what others think they want. A savior meets the core need. Jesus was the savior the world needed, but never realized. That was what this common criminal saw. A common criminal who realized the need for a true savior. The kind of savior that was required to look nothing like Samson, Moses, or David. He realized he needed a savior of souls.

You need to understand the need for a savior in order to realize that Jesus was a savior. Without knowing the need you will never fully see Jesus as the perfect savior. He was the perfect savior because he was the perfect sacrifice. He paid our debt for our sin. He brought peace between God and humankind.

Thank God Jesus did not look like a savior.

Advertisements

My Hill or His Mountain?

“And he said to all ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24)

I’ve been thinking a great deal about Jesus disciples during the days leading up to the crucifixion, and the reaction of fear and terror that surrounded them. I’ve also been thinking a great deal on my personal commitment to Christ in every aspect. On top of all that I have begun to wonder how so many groups on various opposing sides can seem so willing to use the teachings of Christ that defend their view, but can also seem so blind to opposing opinions on other topics where Jesus also has a great deal to say. In other words, why do I and everyone else seem to cherry pick what we want out of Scripture?

I should preface that I write all of this about myself first and foremost. Some of the things I say may make people upset. It’s not my intention. I know it might bother some people. It bothered me as well. The truth can do that though. The truth can be uncomfortable.

Deny everything you are. That is the overall message here. We often look at this in the negative. Deny worldly pleasure, deny your sinful ways, and deny the things that would make you a “bad person.” This is definitely a primary view of what Jesus is saying. He is talking about dying to the old self. However, where things get complicated is the parts of our old self that still seem to be very good. There are parts of our old self that genuinely seem to mean well, and yet can still miss the big picture.

Everyone has that hill they are willing to die on. Many of these are good hills. Equality amongst sexes/races, the fight against poverty, love and tolerance towards opposing views, the safety of unborn children, freedom of religion, and a host of many others. Some might even have two or three hills they are willing to die on. Many of these hills can be supported through Scripture. We can have proclaiming Christians all standing on these different hills, and some willing to fight each other to protect their individual hill. This is how we get people so worked up over injustice through racism, and yet defend a woman’s right to abort her unborn child. This is why we can get people so willing to fight for the life of that unborn child, but hesitate to do anything for a young child living in incredibly poor circumstances. There are plenty of examples beyond this.

This problem does not encompass every single person of course. However, it has easily been true of me at times, and my guess is there are others who would be surprised to find it describes themselves as well. We mean well. The hills we are fighting on are a good hill to be a part of. They become a part of our identity. I am a Christian that fights for “fill in the blank.”

Jesus gives us a description. “You are my follower.” That’s it. I often say while defending my hill that I am a follower of Christ in those moments, but when I look around me I realize that I am not fighting on Christ’s hill. I am fighting on my own hill. My own little kingdom is what I am defending. Christ tells us to forget our own little hills. Instead we are called to come fight on His mountain. This mountain happens to include a lot of these hills we are fighting on. The problem is it also might include some hills that we are fighting against in favor of our own hill.

It is tempting to read verses like this while thinking of those other hills. It is easy to think Jesus is talking about those other people who have missed the things I fight for. When I do that I have missed the point. In this moment while reading these verses the only person Christ is speaking to is me. WHen I read these verses he is not calling those that come to my mind to deny themselves. He is calling me out. He is telling me to pick up my cross. He is telling me to die deny myself. He is telling me to die so that I can live.

He doesn’t want part of me. He wants everything. He doesn’t want my voice to speak out against one form of instance. He wants me to speak out against all injustice. He doesn’t want my hands to perform my work. He wants my hands to perform His work. He doesn’t want my feet to take my message. He wants my feet to take His Gospel.

When I fight on my own hill I fail to see the big picture. I fail to see the other problems in the world that Christ still cares about. I fail to be a follow of Christ. I fail to deny my own agenda in favor of His work. It doesn’t include everyone. Many do deny themselves to follow Him, but it does describe some. It described Peter in the past. A man so willing to speak out and die on his own hill only to run away while forgetting Jesus teaching when it seemed everything was lost. It has certainly described me at times. I’m going to hop off my hill. It’s time to go climb a mountain.

Enemy Confusion

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Philo of Alexandria.

My job necessitates speaking to lots of strangers every day. Some are pleasant experiences. Others are not so pleasant. Some are having a wonderful time with life, and others are going through an incredible difficult time. Some days I am easy to have a pleasant experience with. Other days it is harder. Some days I am experiencing a wonderful time in life, and other days I am going through an incredibly difficult time.

Some people call it “walking on eggshells.” With disdain in their voice. Other call it “politically correct.” Some people refer to it as being humble. Other might call it just being kind. Perhaps it is looking to see the best in someone, or maybe it is deeper. Perhaps it is searching deep down to bring out the best of you. Whatever you call it the message remains the same. Be kind. You never know what the person across form you is facing. You never know what hell they may be going through.

It is the nature of my job to occasionally (and I do mean occasionally in the grand scheme of things) to get people who are upset over things outside of my control. Sometimes it is over what someone else said or did. Sometimes it is over mistakes made. Sometimes it is over the chaotic life of the individual. It is also I the nature of my life to speak to family and friends who have a hard go of it sometimes. Once again I continually need to remind myself, “Be kind.” “Their fighting a battle.”

It’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that we aren’t fighting against mere flesh and blood. No person is the enemy. There is a greater threat out there. A threat with a far wider reach, and a far deadlier arsenal then we have witnessed against any mere human. He is stronger than any ruler. He wages war against humanity itself, and humanity is caught up in that war. People are hurt in the process. Hurt people hurt other people.

Maybe it’s time to stop focusing our energy on a mere mortal. Maybe it is time to stop thinking that if we just get that one person into the presidency our country will be saved. Maybe we should start considering that those people that hurt us are dealing with baggage we cannot see. Maybe we need to stop looking at the flesh with our eyes, and start have our souls look at the souls of others.

It will require long-suffering. It will require humility. It will take more than a president. It will take more than a few fancy words. It will take more than Facebook memes that guilt you into typing amen. It will take more than you expect it to. It’s time to level the playing field. The battle is not against those mere mortals. The battle is against something far great. The solution starts with kindness. It starts with mercy. That is how death is defeated. It was defeated through the mercy and grace of a cross. The sting is gone. The victory has been lost. Why in the world should we change up the strategy now?