Summary: Surrender, sacrifice, discipleship
INTO THE DEATH ZONE
Luke 9:23 (p 733) February 20, 2011
"Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me"
Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, attracts many climbers from around the world to try and reach her lofty summit. Safety on a mountain like Mount Everest is paramount, one mistake and it could be the last thing you do. The climber will probably experience avalanches, hidden crevasses and extreme weather conditions while on the slopes of Mount Everest, all of which are beyond the climber's control. One thing that climbers can have control over is human errors brought on by the affects of high altitude.
The region above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) is called the death zone. The reason for this name is because nothing lives at that altitude or above and no human can survive long there due to the lack of oxygen in the thin air.
One famous climber, David Breashens from the U.S.A. stated that even using bottled oxygen, "standing on the summit feels like running on a treadmill and breathing through a straw."
People who die during their climb on Mt. Everest are usually left behind. About 150 bodies have never been recovered. It is not uncommon to find corpses near the main climbing routes, mainly because it’s impossible for others to help stricken climbers. If you cannot make it out on your own…you are in serious trouble.
Climbers who have gained the summit and arrived safely back home have written and shared the experiences. They have said that climbing Everest is not just an ordinary experience; it’s a life or death experience. No matter how good a climber you are, there will always be dangers up in the death zone that are out of your control. I do not believe Mt. Everest is the most difficult mountain to climb, I believe that Mt. Calvary is. No one climbs Mt. Everest knowing they are going to die for sure. Your hopes are always "I'll be alive after this journey."
Mt. Calvary is different when Jesus invites us to follow him up that hill into the unknown. He makes it plain, "you're gonna die". The life you had, the one you cherish will no longer exist if you follow me up Mt. Calvary into the Death Zone.
Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, the German theologian, knew this truth. During the Nazi regime he chose to minister to his people and was part of the resistance. His friends got him out of Germany in 1939, but he could not stay in safety as so many perished. So he returned and was imprisoned in Schoenberg where he ministered to his fellow prisoners.
Bonnhoeffer said, "To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ". On April 8, 1945 Bonnhoeffer held a last morning service for his fellow prisoners and then early in the morning of April 9th he was hanged. Bonnhoeffer’s final words to his fellow prisoners, "This is the end--for me the beginning of life…there is no greater privilege than answering Jesus' call to come and die."
Most of us will not face that kind of martyrdom. It amazes us when we hear stories of such faith and such courage. But the truth still remains for anyone who chooses to follow after Jesus. It’s an invitation to "come and die".
For real discipleship to take place in our lives….
I WE CAN'T PLAY DEAD
When Jesus says we're to "take up our cross" daily there is no doubt about the implication. If you saw anyone in first century Rome, or Jerusalem (which was under Roman rule) carrying a cross, they were headed to their death. Crucifixion was purely a Roman invention and it was used, not just for execution, but for effect. The crucified body hung on the cross. Sometimes until it was completely destroyed by birds and time. It was a gruesome object lesson. Disobey Rome, here's where you end up. Nobody played dead on the cross, despite what some would claim about Jesus.
He was scourged, punched, mocked. He carried his cross up the via Delarosa (the sorrowful way). They drove nails into his hands and feet, a spear pierced his heart. "He committed his spirit into His father's hands…and he breathed his last.” Joseph of Arimetha and Nicodemus handled his body for burial. Death is unmistakable when you’re that close.
So the invitation for anyone who would follow after Jesus to take the next step and follow him into the unknown is “Follow me and die to self.” Not play dead, not act like you’re dead, but die and according to Dr. Luke,"daily."
I was watching golf last weekend. It was the ATT & T celebrity thing at Pebble Beach. And after one of the holes they were interviewing Kevin Costner and one of the commentators, Nick Faldo, said, “Man, can you put me in one of your movies? and Costner said, "Every time I put one of my friends in a movie it’s a death scene and they always take too long to die.” Faldo said, "Is there a right way to die?” And Costner said "Yeah, my way."