PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXVIII
The Zebedees were not the only ones with preconceived ideas what it meant to partner with the Spirit of Christ and with God. It was and it is still difficult to hack into a fixed mind, that has a set perception, based on an antiquated idea that through a man like Moses and David, God would again reign in Israel, and in the world. When God handed over the management of the world to man, that idea died with Adam, whom God had made in “His Image and His Likeness” by putting “His Breath and His Spirit” in him (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:7). God, Himself, is Spirit (John 4:24), and the only way God can assist managing the world is when man’s spirit allows God’s Spirit and God’s Laws impact man. Jesus the Christ had not come to replace the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Romans. The Son of God was not sent into the world to impose another theocratic system on the Jews and the world. Instead, Jesus came to help man free his spirit from being barred to communicate with the Spirit of his Creator! And together they could/can improve their lives; and therefore, they can make a better world to live in. It was now up to the disciples to continue the process of regeneration the human spirit by allowing the Holy Spirit to resume a “God-man relationship,” more or less a partnership.
Partnering in the building of the Kingdom and the Church, without the physical presence of Jesus, became an enormous burden and task for the disciples. Both, the Kingdom and the Church were and are built on earth and not in heaven. All the labor and all the energy are physical, and not just spiritual. In fact, the Holy Spirit cannot function without the human bodies. Christ was and Christ is, no longer, in a human body to invite people to come to Him, so He could ease their burdens (Matthew 11:28). Now, the followers of Jesus, in order to fulfill their pledges to Christ, had to and still have to carry each others burdens (Galatians 6:2). On the day Jesus informed his disciples what He had to do, in order to keep the doors of the Kingdom for the redeemed open, He also warned the disciples that they too would face a journey like His. There would not be a smooth transition between Jesus and his disciples because of their preconceived idea of what the Messiah was to do. Jesus could not and would not do anything without them or anyone else.
THIS WAS WHAT JESUS EXPECTS FROM EVERY ONE WHO WANTS TO BE A DISCIPLE
And He (Jesus) called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
And He (Jesus) said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:23-27).
WHY DID JESUS DEMAND THAT EVERY ONE WHO WANTS TO BE HIS DISCIPLE HAD/HAS TO CARRY HIS OWN CROSS?
To begin with, the cross was a means to punish criminals, who were, in the minds of the judges, guilty. Jesus confessed that He was the Son of God! And Jesus did, with that confession, invoke the Law of Moses, which stated that, “there was no one else but God!” Therefore, Jesus did take His punishment (John 19:7; Exodus 20:3). The criminal had to carry his own shameful cross. However, Jesus needed help; and therefore, Simon of Cyrene was induced to carry the cross of Jesus (Mark 15:21; Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26). On the part of the Roman soldiers, this was an act of mercy. And therefore, this act of mercy is also expected of Jesus’ followers to be merciful (Luke 6:36). The Evangelist John had Jesus bearing His cross alone, as the “Lamb of God” taking away the sins of man (John 19:17; 1:29). John’s concept became the favorable view in Christendom, but not in the Synoptic Gospels.
All three Synoptics agree that Jesus demands that everyone, who wants to follow Him, must carry his own cross, meaning that every disciple must accept the responsibility for what he/she does even death on a cross like their Lord. Unless man confesses and accepts responsibility for his transgressions and his guilt, he cannot be forgiven or restored to his community. The person who does not see him/herself for what he is and what he/she has done does not give a judge a chance to judge him/her. Even the Gospel writer of John subscribed to that fact (John 3:20-21; 9:40-41), and so did the Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:7-10). Jesus was crucified with two criminals, and the one criminal, who accepted being guilty and rightfully executed, went to paradise with Jesus. However, the one criminal, who did not accept his responsibility for his evil deeds, did not end in paradise (Luke 23:39-43). Two men prayed to God in the temple, a self-righteous Pharisee and a sinful tax collector. The Pharisee saw nothing wrong with himself and what he did, but the tax collector, with his pleading for mercy, went home alone justified, in the eyes of Jesus (Luke 18:9-14). The Apostle John wrote this reminder, and the brother of Jesus issued this:
This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (I John 1:5-10).
Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:13-20).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TAKE UP THE CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS?
The cross, for Jesus the Christ, was the ultimate goal of securing salvation for anyone who believes, who repents, and who accepts the cross. But, to make salvation available for anyone, that availability required a sacrifice like Christ’s. And anyone who takes up the “cross of redemption” must be prepared to lose his/her life, in order to make salvation available to others. These cross bearers are the dispensers of grace and truth; and as such, they put their lives in constant jeopardy. It is the message they must preach, which sinners find offensive; and therefore, the sinners even retaliate with harm and violence to the messengers. Now, this should shock us, for the preachers in the Bible, including Jesus, did not tell the people that God would make things right because man simply could not. Those of us who have the tendency to use grace, to set man free from his accountability and responsibility to make things right in his life, condemn him and ourselves (Ezekiel 3:17-210). Israel discarded God’s directions; and therefore, Israel was scattered, as Moses had warned what God would do (Deuteronomy 4:25-31; 28:58-68). It will not do us any good when we call Jesus, “Lord,” but do not obey His Commandments and do not the Will of God (Matthew 7:21-23; John 13:34-35; 15:12-17). Are we willing to pay the price for being a disciple and do what Jesus did and what Jesus endured?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my ame, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you (John 14:12-17).
“If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciples. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciples. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he send an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).