Summary: Lenten thoughts as we contemplate the sacrifices we make for Christ and compare those to the sacrifices he has made for us.
In the lesson that we have read there were huge crowds
of people following Jesus. They were listening to his
sermon, hanging on his every word. Some of them were
listening intently betting their souls on him and still others were listening to him and waiting for him to talk himself right into a political trap so that they could accuse him and find fault with him. Some of them were following him because he was offering them a new kind of life. There were others following him just for the sake of the miracles and signs that
he performed. To these people Jesus was sort of a religious side show, and they were enjoying the adventure.
For one reason or another, they were all following
Jesus, but if any of them had known Jesus’ destination, and if they realized where following Jesus would take each of them, probably none of them would have followed Jesus at all.
Eventually, following Jesus would lead them to a hill
called Calvary, because Jesus was walking towards a cross to die. This is why he was teaching these people, on this day, the terms of personal sacrifice. He said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them, for then you have NO reward from your Father in Heaven.” This is what I am talking about today. I am talking about balancing our practice of piety, the sacrifices we make
with the call from God to give of ourselves without regard to what people think and how it looks before the rest of the world... concerning ourselves with what God would have us to do instead. taking up our cross if you will and following Jesus.
This next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning
of Lent. The Lenten season is designed so that we can
prepare ourselves for what is going to happen to Jesus. We spend 6 weeks, 42 days, getting ourselves psyched up for the 6 hours that Jesus spent on the cross. And I don’t think that we really do this preparation the justice that it deserves.
In some other Christian churches the people spend the
season of lent fasting. When people fast as our scripture for today commands, they give up food in order to become more spiritually prepared and disciplined. We also read in scripture that Jesus fasted as a way to keep himself disciplined.
People all around the world will be giving up things for Lent that mean relatively little to them in the first place. Giving up small things, even if we do enjoy them, in no way measures up to the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for you and me. As I Listen to some people speaking about what they are giving up for lent two words come to my mind... CHEAP GRACE! Self denial for the sake of Jesus’ Christ should cost
us more than fast food or candy bars or things that we should be giving up anyway for the sake of our health.
Giving up those things may teach us something, but
simply giving those things up for a few weeks out of the year does not compare to what Jesus did for us. Christ’s way of self denial and suffering cannot be measured in terms of the few things that we might deny ourselves today.
If you begin to see my point you will see that what most people call self sacrifice is not really a sacrifice at all. What we call self denial doesn’t even come close to Jesus call to us today.
In Just a few weeks Good Friday will be upon us. In
Just a few weeks we will remember that Jesus was betrayed, arrested and tried for crimes that he was not guilty of. When the stress came, afraid for their own lives, all of his friends abandoned him and ran. Jesus was beaten and sentenced to death. He was given a cross to carry through the city streets to a hill on the outskirts of town called calvary. There, he was crucified while people mocked him and gambled for his clothes.
And never once did he defend himself. When the
religious leaders asked him if he was the Messiah, he only said, "If I tell you, you will not believe." When Pilate asked him if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus only answered, "you say so." without attempting to explain. When Herod asked him questions Jesus gave no response at all. They dressed him in a purple robe and put a crown of thorns on his head and Jesus was as silent as a lamb being led to his slaughter. Even when he was dying, he could have called 10,000 angels to set himself free, but he chose to die there. Denying life itself for people like you and me.