Summary: Why would Jesus use an instrument of death to represent His kingdom and His power? And how do I "carry" my cross daily?
OPEN: The year was 1889 on the continent of Africa.
Menelik II became emperor of Ethiopia and reigned for 20 years. He was a powerful ruler who transformed his country from a collection of semi-independent states into a united nation.
As part of his efforts to modernize his country he ordered 3 electric chairs shipped in from New York, but when they arrived there was a problem. Back then Ethiopia didn’t have electricity. Now he had a problem - he had 3 electric chairs that he couldn’t use.
How would he solve his problem?
Apparently he had a stage built and had one of the electric secured to it… then he used it as his throne.
(C. Barry McCarty The Lookout 4/16/2000 p. 7)
APPLY: That’s odd isn’t it?
The symbol of the power of his kingdom was an instrument of death.
When Jesus established His kingdom, He did the same thing.
He deliberately used an instrument of death as the symbol of His kingdom and His power.
One of the most peculiar lessons Jesus ever taught His followers is found right here in Luke 9. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
In Jesus’ day people didn’t wear crosses on their bracelets and necklaces.
They didn’t use them to decorate their homes and their car bumpers.
The cross was a tool of death.
ILLUS: Caesar Augustus bragged about capturing 20,000 runaway slaves, and those who were not claimed - were crucified.
The movie Spartacus tells the true story of an army of rebellious slaves who revolted against Rome. Six thousand (6000) of them were crucified on the Apian Way – the major road leading into Rome.
At another time 2000 people in Palestine were crucified for their rebellion against the authority of Rome.
Though crucifixion was a horrid way to die, for a Jew the cross represented an even worse kind of pain. To be crucified, in the eyes of a Jew, meant that you had been cursed by God. If you lived in the early first century, the cross would be a symbol of shame and terror for you.
ILLUS: In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey observed that other world religions are known for their brightly painted images and gold covered statues. But at the center of Christianity rests a cross - simple, stark and solitary.
“What” he asks “possessed Christians to seize upon this execution device as a symbol for faith?”
It makes no sense!
It’s an upside down way to run a kingdom.
And yet - as we examine Jesus’ ministry, we find that that’s exactly what makes Jesus’ teachings so intriguing.
Over the next few wks we’ll be examining the “upside down” doctrines of Jesus such as:
· He taught that the first would be Last.
· That slavery leads to freedom.
· That weakness can make us strong.
· That if you lose your life for His sake, you will save it.
· That life can be found in death.
· And – of course – that the symbol of His power is an instrument of death.
Jesus’ teachings were upside down to the way people ordinarily look at life.
But that’s always been true of God. God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9
"… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
At the very heart of the upside down nature of God’s plan for us is the Cross.
And this teaching about the Cross is so difficult for people to wrap their minds around that Paul tells us “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” I Corinthians 1:18
I. But let’s back up a minute and examine the setting of our text this morning.
Jesus has taken His disciples aside for a private time of prayer. When He’d finished with His prayer time, He seems to almost casually turn to His men and asks a question:
“Who do men say that I am?”
They respond: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.
All these men were dead, and you can imagine why the crowds visualized Jesus as being one of these great men risen from the dead. He did things no mortal man could do –
· feeding thousands with only a small amount of food
· He heals the sick, the lame and the leper.
· He even raises people from the dead.
No mortal man could do such things (they reasoned), so He must be one of the great men of the past come back from the dead.