LIVING A LIFE OF CONGRUENCE
Posted in Salvation
Dying With Jesus
“So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”….They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” Mark 15:8-9, 13-15
Excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s As Kingfishers Catch Fire: “We Christians die twice. The first death is when we set out to follow Jesus, deny ourselves, take up His cross, and choose to live obediently and believingly in His sacrificial company and not pridefully isolated in our own. … Death is a nonnegotiable element in being a human creature. It is also non-negotiable in being a follower of Jesus.”
Dying with Jesus…What does that mean? Looking at today’s passage from Mark, there is nothing appealing about it, at all. Jesus was at the mercy of a politician, who was apparently less interested in doing the right thing than in keeping the crowd at the festival happy. (Hmm, some things haven’t changed in 2000 years.) So, although innocent, Jesus was flogged, taunted by the Roman soldiers, spat on, and given a huge and heavy cross to drag up to the execution site. And THEN crucified, a horrible, slow, shameful death. Whew-no thanks! If that’s dying with Jesus, can I pass? But, thanks be to God, that’s not what we are asked to do; Jesus did it for us. And in the doing, he accomplished salvation, for everyone, in every time. Peterson says this is perhaps the greatest mystery in the cosmos, and that it shapes the way we Christians live and die.
How do we respond to salvation, eternal life, a gift freely given? Peterson says that our response, our “first death,” is “…when we set out to follow Jesus, deny ourselves, take up His cross, and choose to live obediently and believingly in His sacrificial company and not pridefully isolated in our own.” But really, what does that look like, that “first death,” that is, dying to self? Turning away from our Me First attitudes: I’m always right, I should be first in line, have my question answered first, my children are more special than any others. Dying to self is considering others’ needs before our own, considering others’ points of view, walking in their shoes before judging them–maybe just not judging them at all.
I read an article recently by a Methodist minister; it was about flags and statues and taking them down or leaving them up. He concluded that “Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, and, for some of us, that may mean dying to parts of our culture or heritage that do harm to our neighbor.” And if we’re honest, it’s not just about flags and statues but dying to anything we hold dear if it does harm to our neighbors. Rev. Peterson says that is non-negotiable if we are followers of Jesus.
Dear God, Thank you for loving us enough to give us the gift of eternal life. Thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus, who gave us such a beautiful example to follow in learning how to die to ourselves, so that we can live with you. Help us to do that and to follow you every day. Amen.
Submitted by: Julie McDaniel