Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Insults In The Midst of the Storms

It is amazing but I have taken over 7 months now to blog through the gospel of Matthew, and I am not finished yet. I had no idea that I would have been spending this amount of time with it but it has been time well spent. Today is no exception as we consider Jesus on the cross.

Have you ever imagined what it must have been like? I'm not sure that we could understand because most of us do not have the maturity to restrain ourselves like Jesus did. You know, he didn't have to stay on the cross. It was a choice he made in obedience to our Father and out of love for us but the reality is that he could have come down at any point. Remember this from the garden, as he was being arrested:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? (Matthew 26:53-54)

That is an extremely powerful statement to me. As he hung on that cross he had a choice but he had taken it already, back in the garden, so now he was following it through. Now imagine how much more difficult it became when the people he was dying for were hurling insults at him. Have you considered those insults, the twisted truth, the facts that were spoken in ignorance as if they were some sort of lie? People were too blind to see and too limited to understand the things of which they spoke:

“You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!"

"He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him."

"He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Consider these for a moment. These people were insulting him with the good things he was doing. The temple was being destroyed and it would be rebuilt in three days but to save himself would undo all that was being done. They spoke in ignorance because they did not bother to seek the truth of what he was saying. There Jesus was, battered, beaten, nailed to a cross, dying and they were trying to insult him with the truth of his own words without understanding that he was doing exactly what he said he would do.

How cruel that they could not understand that in order to save others he could not save himself. That must have been so frustrating to hear those words. I would have been frustrated, sacrificing it all for others, having that sacrifice turned around as an accusation and then taunted with the words that, like the other insult, would undo everything that was being done. I am sure the words hurt more than the nails. Do you hear the enemies voice, the temptation being offered? If not you will hear it in the next insult.

Come down from the cross and I will believe. But Jesus knew that so many more would come to believe if he stayed on the cross. How many times are we tempted with immediate results at the risk of losing a full harvest? The temptation was an easy one. If he came down off the cross the whole city, maybe the whole nation would declare him as king, but that would only be for this nation and perhaps this generation and it would only be for this earth. God's plan was so much more encompassing and long lasting, but it meant that the immediate had to be sacrificed.

He trusts in God, let God rescue him because he says he is his Son. Yes indeed, Jesus trusts the Father and that is what kept him on the cross. All he had to do is speak the word and thousands of angels would be by his side, so yes, he could have been rescued but it would have been as the result of a lack of trust. The fact that Jesus chose not to call on his Father for rescue speaks eternally of his trust. That trust shows just what an obedient Son he is, obedience even to the point of death on a cross:

And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!
 (Philippians 2:8)

Now consider for a moment that you too are a child of our Heavenly Father. If he was willing to treat the first born in this manner in order to save the world do you not think he may ask us to make similar sacrifices for the salvation of others. I am not referring to being crucified because only Jesus' death could earn us our salvation. No one else could die in this manner for us, but we have been called to lay down our lives daily for others. In this same chapter of Philippians we read:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

And then we read:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Picture Jesus on the cross and read those words: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose". Only those words were not spoken of Jesus but to us. We may not have been called to make the same sacrifice as Jesus but we have been called to the same attitude of trust and obedience. We may not understand it but we can at least trust. Just as those ignorant people hurled those insults at Jesus, we sometimes hurl the insults at ourselves because we do not understand. But trust does not require understanding. Trust only requires love and obedience.

Instead of looking at your illness as a curse consider how God wants to use it to reach people who might not be reached without it. Instead of looking at your finances as a lack consider what God is doing through you because of it. Perhaps you are facing some great adversity, stop looking to yourself, look down on those who are cursing you and wonder what God is doing with all of this. Can you trust that he knows what he is doing even if you don't? Do you love him enough to trust him that much, to go all the way to the end with it? I hope so because he said we have to love him with a love of such intensity that everything else fades away in comparison. How do you think Jesus managed to make it through to the end? Because his love was so intense that everything else faded away, even the pain but especially the insults. Let's stop being so selfish and self-centered about our life and realize that God is wanting to use us, even our pain and suffering, for the sake of other people. Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who humbled himself and become obedient, even to his death on the cross.


justicek1 said...

Pastor Paul, why do you think it is so hard for the Church to trust God? You pointed out us trying to understand, focusing on the insults, focusing on the situation, and the lack of love....would you say this is the bulk of why it is hard to trust?

Pastor Paul said...

I think the reason the Church finds it so hard to trust God is because people don't really know him, at least not with the intimacy they are meant to know him. In knowing him we discover the depth of his love and forgiveness. Once we have experienced the depth of those we cannot help but share it with everyone, friends and enemies. We put most of our effort into conforming instead of allowing the Spirit to transform us. The answer is to surrender ourselves to the intimacy of being known by Jesus.

justicek1 said...

When you say conforming are you referring to conforming to what we think the Spirit wants us to be?

Pastor Paul said...

No, conforming to the expectations of people. Instead of getting sinners saved by the blood of Jesus Christ which transforms our hearts and minds, we train them in behaving properly, conforming them to what is acceptable in that church. We are no longer expecting or demanding the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as long as people talk right, dress properly and stay out of trouble. Last I checked, that is not what the gospel says.

justicek1 said...

AMEN! thank you for that! I just started following your blog and your entries have really been a blessing to me over the past few days. I thank God for what He is doing through you.