Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
+We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him – so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals – So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it. Who would have believed what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 52:13-53:7
Being a follower of Jesus is not for the faint of heart. I’m not talking about being a Christian of social convention. Calling oneself a Christian, then shaping your identity, your values, your priorities and your life’s direction on what is important to the dominant culture is easy. In fact, it’s rewarded. Everyone admires a Christian who doesn’t take his or her faith too “seriously.” They are lauded for thinking for themselves, for not being closed-minded and intolerant. It’s assumed that Jesus, since He loves everyone, is tolerant of all varieties of human convention and life choices. Jesus doesn’t judge, after all, which means He doesn’t care. He only wants you to be happy. Christians who only want their fellows in this temporal realm to be happy in this temporal realm are esteemed as “true Christians.” Like Jesus, supposedly, they love everyone and loving everyone means not caring whether anyone actually makes it to the Kingdom, only that everyone is happy in this temporal realm – whatever that means (and, be assured, it means something different on nearly a daily basis!).
Following Jesus, however, means being faithful to Jesus. If Jesus managed anything during His journey as God-made-man on this planet, He surely didn’t manage making people happy. Of course, there were the lame, the blind, the deaf and the mute who could walk, see, hear and speak after their encounter with Jesus. They were happy, one presumes. But, even some of these weren’t necessarily happy enough with Jesus to bother thanking Him or giving Him the praise that was His due (Luke 17:11-19). Most others who encountered Jesus, even those inspired by His preaching and miracles, were not so inspired as to stand by Him in His hour of need. Those in positions of power, of course, who felt threatened by Him, were determined to destroy Him.
Just so, those who follow Jesus today will often cause others to feel threatened. The choices people make will be questioned and not automatically affirmed by those who follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22). The priorities people choose will be challenged by those who follow Jesus (Luke 9:57-62). People will be told the truth by those who follow Jesus, even if they don’t want to hear it (John 4:4-18). Those who follow Jesus will say things and make claims others don’t want to hear, or can’t accept (John 6:22-66). As such, those who follow Jesus will be accused of hatred, of intolerance, of not loving like Jesus loved and, worst of all, of caring that others hear the good news about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus loved everyone, which means He was willing to embrace them where they were, in their sins and in their brokenness, but not leave them there. Rather, He called them to be more. He called them to be faithful, to turn their backs on their sins, to care about others and to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Is it any wonder He ended up carrying a cross, falling to the ground under the weight of that cross, yet lifting it back up and going to His death for the sake of the world He loved, a world that did not love Him. To follow Jesus and expect otherwise is foolish. “Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. … I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 15:29, 16:33).
Father, Jesus did not choose the easy way of appeasement. He challenged others to turn their backs on sin and worldly entanglements and, instead, choose the Kingdom. May we find encouragement in the promise of Jesus to fight the good fight, to resist the temptation to make others happy when doing so means sacrificing the good and the beautiful and the true. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.