Tucked between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day, the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his Triumphal Exit from the grave, is the event that put him there: the Crucifixion.
And, as we know, it wasn’t a mere event that put Jesus on the cross, but sin, and that not his own, but of the people he came to save. And, because all of this was part of God’s redemptive plan, we might say that God put Jesus on the cross because of the sin of man.
Jesus had, before Palm Sunday arrived, told his disciples enough to know that palm branches and hosannas would not spell the end of his mission, but that suffering and death would accompany events in Jerusalem.
Back in Matthew 16 we read of the Great Reveal, in which Peter correctly, supernaturally, identifies Jesus as the Christ. Jesus tells them that he, the Christ, would build his church but shhh!, don’t tell anyone yet, because his suffering, death, and rising were crucial to a proper understanding of how he would save and build (Matthew 16:21).
The flow of Jesus’ revelation goes like this:
- Jesus is the Christ
- Jesus, the Christ, will build his church
- Jesus, the Christ, must suffer and die and rise to build his church
- Those who join him must suffer and die and rise
In other words, Jesus said he will build his church with the people who join him through a radical reorientation to his cause (church is people, after all). Jesus’ recruiting technique was radical, and he was calling for radical recruits.
Four things would characterize these radical recruits:
- Altered Consciousness (a new mindset)
- Abandoned Comfort (a new mark)
- Adopted Cross (a new means)
- Adjusted Course (a new mission)
People have always sought to achieve an altered state of consciousness, through meditation or medication, drugs or pain or funny mushrooms. But what Jesus referred to here was not a changed mental state that was the result of tuning out or tanking up, but a mind changed by a different point of focus.
Peter told Jesus “far be it from you” (Matthew 16:22), but if he was like you and me, he very likely meant “far be it from you or for me, because recruiting people to follow a dead man is not how you win friends and influence people, and telling people that the way to glory is through the valley of death is not how you gain a worldwide following, and I didn’t sign on for this, thank you very much.”
Jesus called him Satan.
The one who had just supernaturally identified the Messiah was, by that Messiah, identified as his sworn enemy from Eden.
Jesus declared that Peter, and all those who would follow Jesus, must do so “setting their minds on the things of God,” (Matthew 16:23), and aversion to suffering and death was worldly, earthly, the “things of man.”
The radical recruit of Jesus has his mind changed and his consciousness altered.
To this point, the disciples had left their jobs, their families, their homes to follow Jesus, who was prone to announce to everyone that he had no house, no bed, no money, and that those who followed him should expect nothing better and maybe worse. They had walked, wandered and wondered with Jesus for going on three years, picking heads from grain standing in the field to silence their rumbling bellies.
What more could Jesus expect by saying that they must “deny themselves” now? (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus was appealing to a self-interest, of sorts, when he acknowledged that some would “come after” him. The disciples had not followed Jesus for nothing. What Jesus was openly declaring now was that those who have their true self-interest in mind know that their interest is not served with mere temporal, material things.
The radical recruit of Jesus has his mark (target, purpose) changed and satisfies his self-interest with heavenly things.
Jesus was not telling people that they would have a “cross to bear,” in the sense that everyone must endure a cranky co-worker, belligerent boss, or difficult day (”I guess that’s just my cross to bear”).
Jesus said his followers must take up an instrument of execution. Daily, Luke adds (Luke 9:23). Plug in the electric chair. Sit down. Shave your head. Strap on the wet sponge. Flip the switch. Die. Every day.
Wait a minute! We say. Jesus only died once. Is he asking us to die more than he did?
Sort of. Jesus’ death alone provides us a permanent place with God, and it also gives us the means by which we put to death the sin that remains in us until we finally come to God, through Christ, when we die or he returns. Thinking God-things, denying self, following Jesus, will be to our natural selves a death, of sorts, as the new man daily gains increasing power over the old.
The radical recruit of Jesus has a new means (of living) by killing his sinful self daily.
The natural course of our existence is the “good life” as defined by the world. Graduate. Get a degree. Get a job, a wife, some kids. Retire and watch the grandkids play ball at the park. Keep a house, a car, and your head attached to your shoulders (not like that John the Baptist, who gave up the good life to howl at the moon in futility and an ceremonious beheading).
Follow me. To God’s will. To self-denial. To death. To radical service to God with your whole life, and radical service to other in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit.
The course of the natural man’s life is set on fire by hell by way of the tongue (James 3:6), but the course of the disciple’s life is set by death, burial, and re-birth in identification with Jesus Christ.
The radical recruit of Jesus has his mission changed for a God-pleasing course.
Do you receive Jesus as King? Would you be able to acknowledge his reign over you with palm branches and hosannas? If so, then you will display an altered consciousness, abandoned comfort, adopted cross, and adjusted course.