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From Chris's Heart

August 2007
Taking Up Our Cross
by Nick Harris
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Reich’s Art Museum in Amsterdam. Many of the paintings that I saw there had a religious theme, and Jesus was depicted in many of them. As I stood and admired these paintings it occurred to me that Jesus was/is nothing like any of those images. Most of those paintings depicted Jesus as passive and totally unaggressive.

I ask myself why this was, and I came to the conclusion that these artists had their image shaped by three isolated episodes from the life of Jesus. The first episode was the command He made in the Sermon on the Mount telling His followers that they should turn the other cheek when they were assaulted. The second episode occurred when He refusal to fight back after being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The third episode was his refusal to defend himself before being flagellated in Pilate's judgment hall.

By focusing on these three episodes, rather than His entire life these artists missed the real point of these incidents. Jesus had a reason for choosing to quietly endure the abuse of others at these times in His life. He accepted this abuse because of the one, all-important focus of His attention. His focus was upon something that Jesus called "His hour" and Jesus would never allow anything to interfere with "His hour."

So what was "His hour?" This "hour" of which He spoke was his approaching passion, his humiliation and death. The passivity He displayed at times was not due to his being weak and mealy-mouthed. Rather, He used passivity to keep others from provoking "His hour," his death and resurrection, until the exact moment for that hour was revealed. When the moment arrived the passivity would end and the real fight would begin in earnest.

As I see it, his ability to remain focused in this way reflected the true greatness of Jesus. He was always willing to wait for His Father's perfect timing, and He often did it silently and alone. This was a man who was totally committed to His mission in life. In fact, when the entire life of Jesus is carefully examined, it becomes clear that rather than being a pacifist, every action in which Jesus engaged was a call to battle. His lifestyle was never one of passivity.

In one place in the Gospels, Jesus was passing through Peraea, and there He made an announcement that very nearly knocked his followers to their knees. That announcement is recorded for us in Matthew 20: 18-19. There, Jesus says this:

"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again."

As I read these words I can almost feel the chill settled upon the apostles. They knew that Jesus was right about one thing; they were aware that the hostility of the political movers and shakers in Jerusalem toward Jesus was at the boiling point. In fact, some of those powerful people were so angry that they had decided that Jesus would have to be killed, so they were waiting for Jesus to arrive in Jerusalem so that they could unfold their deadly plot.

The fact is, Jesus had discerned their schemes---He knew what they planned to do. But at that point in his life what the movers and shakers were planning to do no longer mattered to Jesus, because He knew that the hour for which He had waited was now upon Him. It was time.

So, in Luke 18:31, Jesus said to his disciples:

"I am going up to Jerusalem so that all things written by the prophets shall be accomplished."

I want you to notice that Jesus used the word “accomplished” in this statement, not “endured,” and there is a huge difference between those two words. Endured is an inert word, a passive word. But accomplished is an active word, an aggressive word. In other words, Jesus was not going up to Jerusalem as a weary martyr. He was a man on the offensive. He had a purpose for going up to Jerusalem.

And what was that purpose? It was simply this: to die in my place and in yours. That was what Jesus planned to “accomplish” in Jerusalem. The only reason Jesus could face this challenge with such resolve and courage had to do with his unrelenting faith in His Father. He knew that His life and his death were in His Father's hands.

We should all remember this. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said:

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Do we dare follow Christ to whatever Jerusalem is out there for us? Will we serve Him no matter what obstacles arise? His call is for us to take up "His" cross, and march with Him to Calvary and beyond.

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