Ashamed of Jesus? (February 25, 2018)
Ashamed of Jesus?
Shame is relative in our world. Feeling ashamed of something has a lot to do with your place in life. For instance, an old beat up car with high miles could be the shame of someone who was fired from their job and had to do a quick downsizing just to keep up with debt that is coming due. On the other hand, that same old, beat up car with high miles could be the pride and joy of a young adult who just got their license. Likewise, a weed infested corner of the yard could be the shame of a life-long gardener, who just hasn’t had the time to address the issue due to life’s circumstances at the time. On the other hand, that same weed infested corner of the yard could be a joy to a young couple who just purchased their first home – a bit of a fixer-upper.
But what about the cross of Christ? Is the cross of Christ something you are ashamed of? Or something you take pride in? Are you Ashamed of Jesus?
Well, we can start by taking a look at the reason Jesus died on the cross. The Bible declares that “the wages of sin is death” (Rm 6:23). Yet it wasn’t for his own sins that Jesus died. We just read last week that when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he did not give in. He resisted Satan at every point and conquered every one of Satan’s temptations. Elsewhere in the Bible it says that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet did not sin” (Heb 4:15). And we will hear once again in a few weeks that the Sanhedrin couldn’t pin any charge on Jesus for which he should be crucified. Even when they hired men to bring false charges against him, nothing stuck. The only charge that Jesus was convicted of, was being a king. His own actions and reputation testified to his innocence in death.
It wasn’t for his own sins that Jesus was nailed to the cross, but for mine and for yours. It should have been me. I should have been the one hanging there, and suffering an eternity in hell. In fact, one of our hymns that I came across recently caught me with a powerful line. It said that he was crucified upon my cross. The reason for Jesus being crucified, is my shame. And if that notice above Jesus listed my sins instead of his title as king, how long it would have been. A notice with my charges would have cascaded down the head of the cross, over the thorn-crowned head of Jesus, down his beaten body and who knows how far across the ground. Yet it wasn’t only my sins he died for. It was also for your sins, and the sins of every other person who ever lived or ever will live. The reason for the cross is clearly my shame.
As our Savior, then, Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mk 8:31). But what did he mean by “must”? It wasn’t at all that Jesus was taken prisoner by Satan and had to die as a trade or payment to Satan. No, Satan is under the same curse of sin we are. It wasn’t even that God the Father commanded Jesus to do this saying, “You must die for the salvation of all people.” The only thing that made it a “must” for Jesus is his own love for you. Love that is never failing. Love that is always abiding. Love that couldn’t have it any other way than for you to be reconciled to God and with him for all eternity. So because God is love, then he does what needs to be done to make you his own. Not because he has to, but because of his great mercy and grace.
It’s easy to see how off base Peter’s actions were after the fact – rebuking Jesus and saying this would never happen (Mk 8:32). By doing so, if Jesus would have been prevented from dying, Peter would also be preventing his own salvation. You see, although the things Jesus was describing – the suffering, rejection, and dying – although these things seemed like shameful things for the Savior, they are actually his glory! And not only his glory, but the glory of all believers! That cross and suffering are displays of God’s love for you. Proof that God will do whatever it takes to be with you and proudly claim you as his own! Jesus wasn’t ashamed of associating with sinners. He wasn’t ashamed to die for sinners. And on the last day, he certainly won’t be ashamed to welcome sinners-made-saints to their heavenly home!
Can we say the same? Are we bold enough or brave enough to do whatever it takes and proudly claim God as our Lord and Savior? Or are we ashamed of him? Are we ashamed of Jesus? I can still remember a day when I was on the bus coming home from middle school. Some kids were picking on my brother for being a Christian. I was trying to just keep my eyes forward and not get involved. But he must have pointed me out as another Christian as if stretching out his arm for help and support. I’m guessing he pointed me out because one of the kids came up and asked me if I was a Christian too. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as I shook my head no. Thankfully they left me alone. I found relief in that moment… but yet, that moment still sticks with me. I had a chance to stick up, not only for my brother, but also for my Savior, and I blew it. Can you think of a time where you have done the same? Does it still stick with you? Perhaps you found relief in that moment, but it continues to stick with you and haunt you because Satan will continually bring it up in your mind. He will keep trying to shovel that guilt right back in your face to make you feel ashamed of yourself and shy away from the burden of bearing your cross.
But Jesus says deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me (Mk 8:34). At face value this looks like a threefold command that actually makes the burden of being a Christian even heavier. I have to give up the things I like. I have to endure the weight. I have to live a life of “WWJD” doing exactly what Jesus did. That’s impossible and undesirable! But take a second look at it. “Denying yourself” isn’t giving up the things you enjoy and living a miserable life. It’s giving up the Old Adam. It’s losing the sinful self and being found in Christ! What could be better than not having to struggle so much with sin day in and day out! It’s possible for those who deny themselves and wrap their lives in Jesus.
“Taking up your cross” isn’t always easy. It’s true that you will be singled out at times. It’s true that people will at times dump on you all their anger of Jesus and the guilt they would rather forget but that God’s Word keeps trying to address. Taking your cross can be hard. But do you know what the apostles did after they were thrown in prison and flogged? They “rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for [Jesus]” (Acts 4:41). I know that sounds kind of strange, but perhaps an illustration from Jesus will help us understand.
Jesus once said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29). I’ll admit, I didn’t understand this for a long time. Taking up a yoke, that sturdy harness used when oxen pull a heavy plow, does not sound like rest to me! Not until it was explained to me how young and inexperienced oxen were trained to pull a yoke. This is how it works. A young and inexperienced ox is yoked together with a strong, steady, and experienced ox. And for the first few times, it’s really the strong experienced ox that does all the work. The young ox is basically just along for the ride, there’s the rest. As the young ox learns and gets more experienced, it gradually takes on some of the load as it works with the stronger experienced ox.
That’s the situation. Now picture yourself being yoked with Jesus. Only when you are ready does he allow you to feel some of the pressure of that yoke. And that’s what the apostles rejoiced in! They were counted worthy and ready to bear some of the weight of being Christian! So when it comes time to take up your cross in life, and you feel the pressure of the yoke against you, remember whom you are yoked with. He will never give you more than you can bear. And he is always bearing the brunt of the burden. His cross removed the eternal, unbearable burden of your cross.
The last command is “follow me.” It’s more of an encouragement really. Jesus has gone ahead and blazed the trail. Jesus went ahead and stood up against Satan as he was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus took a stand against death on the cross. And Jesus takes a stand against the sin in your heart. He asks only that you follow. Follow in the strength he has given you because he has removed the shame of following him.
It’s really a flip-flopped world we live in, isn’t it? I mean, the very fact that Jesus had to address this (and that we are still addressing it today) is a testament to how backwards our sinful world is. Sinful people find beauty in the things we should be ashamed of and find shame in the one we should rejoice in. It’s nothing new. Adam hid because he was ashamed. The disciples fled when Jesus was arrested because they were afraid and ashamed. Today people take those things that we really ought to be ashamed of, put it on display for all to see, and then come up with reasons why we shouldn’t be ashamed. Certain art galleries or movies that are much more revealing than they need to be are praised as beautiful art! Lifestyles that are opposed to God’s Word and clearly not following him are praised as forward thinking and cultural! And it hits home too. We use excuses of work to condone missing worship again and again until we are nothing but “Christmas and Easter Christians” and eventually fall away completely. Or we give our hobbies and interests precedence even when they interfere with devoting time for refreshing our souls.
But Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mk 8:36-37). Thankfully, this truth still has an impact on people today. Even in a worldly sense, most people know that there are things that money can’t buy. There are more important things than just all the stuff we acquire. Perhaps a good example of this comes from people who have survived a house fire or even a flood. What is it, often, that they miss most. What item in their home carries the most value? Often, it’s the photos that were lost or damaged. Often, it’s worthless things that have memories attached to them. It’s the intangibles that are the most valuable. Well, Jesus says that even more valuable than photos, memories, or other intangibles is your soul. In fact, he says, “The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Ps 49:7).
Ever since sin entered the world, souls have been lost. Every single one of us is conceived and born sinful. And it would have stayed that way if God was ashamed of us; if Jesus was too ashamed to associate with sinners. But that wasn’t the case. Jesus walked and talked with sinners. He even stayed in their homes and ate with them! Like a shepherd goes after one lost sheep, Jesus seeks after and gathers his sinful sheep one by one. Then, to flip-flop our condition, he became our sin and gave up his life in place of ours. The ransom for a life is costly, yes. But Christ paid the price and gives you back your life free of charge when he died on the cross! Ashamed of Jesus? Not a chance. He makes the cross of persecution I bear a joy – as he allows me to bear the name “Christian.” Will I stand by with indifference as others defame my Lord and Savior? Not a chance. He took away my shame and became the one I’m most proud of.