The Cross and Christian Ministry, part 3

It’s possible to know what Jesus did on the cross and even teach about what Jesus did on the cross without really appreciating the implications of that for the way you attempt to serve God. 

We have been looking at the disciples in Luke 9 in a series of posts where we have seen two symptoms you may have loss sight of the cross.

First, there is the way you think within yourself.

You are comparing yourself to others and you are all about looking important.

The. second, there is your attitude towards other believers.

You are jealous and you are wanting to be the center of attention instead of them.

Now third, it shows up, in, the way you respond to unbelievers.

You want judgment.

Not mercy.

Verses 51 to 56.

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up…”

And Luke’s probably talking about Jesus’ ascension, actually. You remember after he was raised from the dead, he ascended into heaven? Luke often describes that as Jesus being taken up. And this was on God’s calendar, obviously, in that Luke, speaks of it, as the days drawing near.

It’s like each day was one day closer to this glorious ascension that God had planned.

And Jesus knew it, which is why, Luke tells us.

“He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Which is a way of speaking.

Set his face. That means, he made a decision.  This was like a firm resolution. I am going to Jerusalem. And so to get there he has to go through a place, where there are lots of people called Samaritans.

And the thing you need to know now about the Samaritans, is that there was a lot of hostility between the Samaritans and the Jews.

This was a racial thing.

And Jews, usually hated Samaritans, and felt superior to them, which is maybe why Jesus, is going through Samaria, because he wants to help break this attitude down, in his disciples, because they are going to take the gospel out, throughout the world, and that world, is going to include, people like the Samaritans. And so He sends some of his disciples ahead of him, into a town to get things ready, as they pass through, because there are a lot of them, travelling together, and so obviously, preparations would have to be made.

And I am guessing the messengers Jesus sent, were not expecting this to go down well. 

And it didn’t happen here either.

Verse 53, “But the people did not receive him.”

And the reason they did not receive him wasn’t because they had heard his message, and rejected it, or because they didn’t want anything to do with the Messiah. These people were pretty much ignorant when it came to all of that, instead the reason they didn’t receive Jesus, was, Luke tells us, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. They hated the fact that he was a Jew going down to Jerusalem, to worship in the temple, that Herod had built.

This was a very sore spot for them, because their temple had been destroyed, about a hundred years before, and it had never been rebuilt, and so they were forced to worship outside, when the Jews, had this amazing, place to worship God, and that’s what was making them upset here. This wasn’t anything doctrinal or theological, this was just like, totally racial, they didn’t want to make Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem easy for Him.

Which obviously, made the disciples angry, especially James and John, who were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder, and they came to Jesus and they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’”

Which sounds over the top, but I guess, they would have thought they had justification, because this is what Elijah did, when he was being attacked by the King of Israel, and Jesus is more important than Elijah, and of course, we know there is a time coming when Jesus is going to come and judge those who refuse to repent, and submit.

But the fact that Jesus came to suffer and be rejected and be killed, means that time is not now.

Now is the time of salvation.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

And, as his followers we obviously, should be longing for that which is why Luke tells us Jesus turns and rebukes them.

Verse 55.

And there are so manuscripts, that means ancient versions of the Bible that add, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.”

Which may or may not be something Jesus actually said, because it is not in all the ancient manuscripts, and yet, it certainly is something Jesus could have said, because it is true. If we can look at all God’s done for the salvation of sinners, the patience of God, the mercy of God, the sacrifices God has made for sinners to be forgiven, the lengths he’s gone to, to make it possible for people to have a right relationship with Him, and go away and be cold and unmerciful and hard on people, and just write them off, without longing for their salvation and being willing to do anything so that they can be made right with God, we are definitely not understanding what Jesus was doing on the cross.

Which, I think, is pretty scary.

Because it’s just so common.

It is so hard for us to ever think we are missing the cross because we are sure we understand the cross. But obviously it’s one thing to be able to explain the meaning of the cross, it’s another to apply the implications of the cross, to the way we are living life.

And I guess sometimes I think this is where we are missing it.

Our lives haven’t been completely reoriented by the cross.

It’s possible to be around Jesus, and want to be a follower of Jesus, and know some things about Jesus and yet not really get the heart of God as it is revealed in what He’s doing through Jesus on the cross. To speak the right theology about the cross, without being what Luther called, a theologian of the cross.

To try to follow Jesus without actually following him.

In fact I was listening recently to the principal of the Moore Theological College in Australia, give a lecture called the Theology of the Cross for Today.

And he began by saying, he assumed everyone at the conference, he was speaking at would agree, that the preaching of the crucified Christ persistently addressed the churches pretensions, self-satisfaction, and its accommodation with culture.

Which I’m assuming as well.

As we look at churches out there, and think about the message of the cross, we see the way so many churches have compromised and become distracted from their purpose. 

We can talk about, the danger of the prosperity gospel, for example, all day long.

But you know.

He asks.

“Would we be a little more uncomfortable with the suggestion that the preaching of the crucified Christ persistently addresses our pretensions, our self-satisfaction, our easy accommodation with culture?”

In other words, while we are good at seeing how churches out there have lost sight of the cross, can we see ways, we may have, as well?   

He goes on.

“But we might protest our churches have the cross of Christ at their heart.

We take the cross of Christ very seriously. We read books about the cross. We preach the cross.

But, “might it just be possible” and this is key, “to do all these things and not be shaped at a profound level by the theology of the cross?”

And the thing is, I think it is.

And Luke 9, is giving us some signs, we can use to evaluate if we’ve lost sight of the cross.

It shows up.

One.

In this compelling desire, to be seen as special, and important, and great.

I like how, J.I. Packer once wrote, “Being special is the Achilles heel of many churches today. They want to stand out and be noticed. This passion to be special is what drives them.”

It’s how people pick pastors, pick churches, think about worship, using the same standards of the world, of what seems important and powerful.

It shows up.

Two.

In the way people think about success in ministry.

So often it’s about our ministry, the promotion of our skills, our talents. And as a result, we become more concerned about using people to push our own agendas than we are about really, seeking the good of other believers and the cause of Christ.

And.

It shows up three.

In.

A lack of passion for the lost.

We can know, we’ve lost sight of the cross, when our hearts have stopped breaking for the lost, and when we are unwilling to make great sacrifices to see them come to Christ, the way Christ made great sacrifices that we might belong to Him.

As churches, as Christians, Jesus wants us not just talk about the cross, but apply its significance, to our lives and to our ministries.

Which is why I am praying we’ll be people who are willing to repent when we are motivated by what motivates the world, fighting against putting self at the center of our Christian life and commit ourselves to picking up our cross, becoming people who don’t really care if people think we are important, and who are reaching out to the least of these as a result, and who aren’t trying to make our names known, but just want the gospel to go out, and who weep and pray and make as many sacrifices as we can, to take the gospel out to people who hate us, reject us, and who don’t know Christ.

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