The Cross Before the Crown.

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –  Matthew 20:17-28 ESV

Mocked, flogged, crucified, and raised.

For the third time, Jesus brings up the unexpected and unwelcome news of His impending arrest and crucifixion in Jerusalem. Matthew’s placement of this latest announcement is intentional, following closely on the heels of Jesus’ lengthy address to His disciples after their debate about which of them was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He has touched on the topics of pride and humility. He has addressed the need for childlike faith. He has exposed the dangers associated with a love of the things of this world. He appealed to them about the need for faithfulness in marriage and forgiveness toward those who sin against them. And the last words He spoke to them before bringing up his imminent death were, “So the last will be first, and the first last.

Everything Jesus told them was tied to life in the kingdom of heaven. And He had been trying to get His disciples to understand that things were not going to be as they expected. While they believed Him to be the Messiah, they were defining the term according to their own standards. In their minds, the Messiah would be a conquering king. He would come with power and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, from where He would rule and reign, placing Israel back in a position of political prominence. But here was Jesus, once again, announcing that His journey to Jerusalem would end with a cross, not a crown. And His death would be the direct result of His betrayal into the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, who would condemn Him to death. Rather than welcome Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah, they would hand Him over to the Roman government to be mocked, flogged and crucified.

While we know how this story turned out, the disciples did not. They were oblivious to the “good news” associated with Jesus’ death. In fact, it seems evident that they never grasped what Jesus meant when He said, “he will be raised on the third day.” The reality of the resurrection escaped them. All they heard was the shockingly bad news regarding Jesus’ death. And, as before, this news left them dazed and confused. But we know from Matthew’s account, that at least a few of them simply ignored what Jesus had to say, choosing instead to focus on their own self-centered expectations.

Both Matthew and Mark record an encounter between Jesus and the two brothers, James and John. At some point, not long after Jesus’ announcement about His coming death in Jerusalem, they approached Jesus in order to make a request. Matthew adds the important detail that they brought their mother along with them. These two grown men made a shockingly selfish and insensitive request of Jesus, asking, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37 ESV). And their mother put in her two-cents worth, asking, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21 ESV). Perhaps James and John thought that if Jesus refused their request, He would be swayed by the pleas of their mother. Whatever the case, Jesus responded, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:22 ESV).

He didn’t reprimand them. He didn’t express shock or disappointment at their insensitivity and selfishness. He simply let them know that their request was based on ignorance of the facts. They were thinking in terms of power, position, and prominence. They were hoping for glory. Their sights were set on an earthly kingdom in which they would rule and reign alongside Jesus. And, in their defense, they probably had the words Jesus had spoken to them earlier, still ringing in their ears:

Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Matthew 19:28 ESV

If anything, their request reveals a desire for even greater prominence. By asking Jesus for the privilege of sitting on His right and left, they were jockeying for position over their fellow disciples. It wasn’t enough to sit on thrones alongside their peers. They wanted positions of preeminence. In spite of what Jesus had said, they wanted to be first, not last.

When Jesus asked them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?,” they quickly responded, “We are able.” Most likely, they were thinking in terms of a victory drink, a toast to Jesus’ new kingship. But what He had in mind was His suffering. It would not be long before Jesus would find Himself in the garden, praying to His heavenly father, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 28:39 ESV).

On that same night, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter would attempt to protect him with a sword, but Jesus would tell him, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 ESV).

Jesus was going to have to endure the judgment of God in order to pay for the sins of mankind. The cross would have to precede the crown. His humiliation must come before His glorification. The agony of the crucifixion would have to take place before the glory of the resurrection. And Jesus informed James and John that they too would eventually drink from the same cup. According to Acts 12:2, James would become the first of the disciples to suffer martyrdom. John would later be exiled on the island of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9 ESV).

Jesus informed James and John that it was not up to Him to assign places of prominence in His coming kingdom. That was up to God. And God, in His predetermined will, had already made that decision.

Of course, this little exchange didn’t remain a secret. Before long, the other disciples caught wind of what had James and John had done, and they were not happy about it. In fact, Matthew records that they were “indignant.” And Jesus, knowing what they were all thinking, responded:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave…” – Matthew 20:25-27 ESV

Once again, Jesus tried to help the disciples understand that the kingdom He had come to establish was going to be radically different in nature. It would not mirror the worldly systems of power and authority. It would not be based on the commonly held views of greatness that seemed to motivate everyone, including the Pharisees. In His coming kingdom, servanthood would take precedence over any thoughts of superiority. Greatness would be associated with humility, not pride. And Jesus let them know that His own life was an example of what it means to be great in the kingdom of God.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:28 ESV

As the Messiah, Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for the sins of mankind. His reign would follow His sacrificial death. His death on behalf of sinful mankind was a selfless act motivated by love. Our good took precedence over His own glory. And Peter would later encourage every follower of Jesus Christ to emulate His example.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8 NLT

Mocked, flogged, crucified, and raised.

These words were not what the disciples wanted to hear, so they simply tuned them out. The message of Jesus concerning His pending death was nonsensical to these men. It was repugnant because it ran counter to all that they believed about the Messiah and His mission. What good was a dead Messiah? How would the Jews ever regain their power and prominence if their King was killed before He had a chance to retake the throne of David? None of this made sense. It was madness.

But it was the will of God. It was the divine plan for bringing about the reconciliation of sinful men and a holy God. Before men could be made right with God, Jesus would have to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. As the author of Hebrews wrote: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). The penalty for sin is death. And Jesus came to earth so that He might give His life as a ransom for many. He came to die so that men might live. The one who deserved to be first was willing to make Himself last, giving His life in the place of those who deserved death.

…he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:8 NLT

All so that we might live.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Defend Like It.

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV

Suffering wasn’t just a possibility for the recipients of Peter’s letter, it was a daily reality. And Peter is attempting to get them to realize that their suffering was a natural byproduct of their faith in Christ. It came with the territory. Being a Christ-follower was not going to be easy. Being a member of God’s family, one of His chosen ones, was a status that came with some great benefits, but also some less-than-pleasant byproducts. Doing what was right in God’s eyes was going to produce a reaction among the lost, including unbelieving masters, spouses, friends, family members and co-workers. And those reactions would not always be enjoyable or positive in nature. But Peter responds, “even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats” (1 Peter 3:14 NLT). The thing Peter wanted his readers to recognize was that God’s approval meant more and carried more weight than the approval of men. The bottom line was that they needed to do what was right according to God’s viewpoint, not that of the world. Listening to His will brought a reward. Listening to the world might bring acceptance and immediate affirmation, but not peace with God.

For Peter, it all begins in the heart, where each believer is to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). That’s where we begin the process of setting apart Christ as unique and as a transformative presence in our lives. Peter refers to “ the hope that is in you” and wants his readers to know that it is Jesus Christ who has made it possible for them to have a right relationship with God and to enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ. Paul refers to this as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 ESV). And Peter states that, regarding that hope, we are to be ready at all times “to make a defense to anyone who asks.” We need to be able to explain why we have hope, both in this life and in the one to come. It is important that we be able to defend what it is that we say we believe, especially when we get push back from those who don’t agree. Of all people living on this planet, we should have hope, and that hope finds its foundation in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It is our hope in Christ, and the promise He offers of abundant life now and eternal life to come, that should influence our behavior. It should be the reason we give for the way we live.

But we are to make our defense with “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). Part of what we need to be able to communicate is the reason behind our willingness to suffer for doing what is right and good. While suffering, we are not to complain, get bitter, or respond in anger. Remember what Peter said in the last chapter:

if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you… – 1 Peter 2:20 NLT

And people are going to want to know why you willingly put up with suffering, shame, humiliation, rejection and persecution, all for doing what is pleasing to God. The average lost person is not going to understand that kind of mindset. If you say you are following the will of God and suffering as a result, they will have a hard time understanding what the motivation behind your actions might be. It will make no sense to them. They will find it hard to justify belief in a God who allows His followers to suffer.Who would want to worship a God like that? Peter’s answer would be simple. He would say he would gladly suffer for God and so should we, because of the hope He has brought to us. Our hope is based on a future promise, not immediate gratification. We don’t necessarily get our best life now, but the promise of a better life to come. In speaking of “those who revile your good behavior in Christ” (1 Peter 3:16 ESV), Peter says we are to maintain a good conscience among them, because we are suffering for the sake of Christ. Even if we are slandered, we can rest easy, knowing that we have remained faithful to Christ. And Peter makes it clear that “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” (1 Peter 3:17 NLT).

Peter will pick up this same theme in chapter four of his letter.

15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! – 1 Peter 4:15-16 NLT

You see, it is normal and natural, even among the lost, to suffer for doing the wrong thing. Bad people can and do receive punishment for wrong behavior, and so they should. But it makes no sense to the unsaved that anyone should suffer for doing what is right. It is unfair and unnatural. That’s not the way the world is supposed to operate. But for us as believers, it is to be expected. Jesus even warned us about it.

18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. – John 15:18-19 NLT

The world hates us. And the more we live for Christ and the more we live like Christ, the more intense that hatred will become. Jesus went on to say, “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:20 NLT). Not only that, He explains that “They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me” (John 15:21 NLT). God sent Jesus as the Savior of the world, and the world rejected Him. Jesus has now sent us into the world, and we find ourselves rejected as well. It is to be expected. It shouldn’t surprise us. And just like Jesus, we will suffer most for doing what is right and good. And when the lost around us see us suffer willingly and gladly, we must be ready to share with them the hope that is within us. It was Paul who said:

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. – 2 Timothy 2:8-10 NLT

Are you willing to suffer for doing good? Are you ready to explain to the lost around you why you willingly suffer for doing what God has called you to do? The only sane answer is that you have a hope, a living hope as Peter described it, reserved in heaven for you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… – 1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

 

We should be able to defend our actions and the suffering we endure as a result of those actions. We need to be able to articulate why we do the things we do, and why we are willing to suffer for having done them. It is because of our hope – our living hope based in Jesus Christ; our Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and King. And it is because of our hope founded on His promise of eternal life because He sacrificed His life for ours. We suffer because He did. We endure the shame because He did. We willingly put up with the rejection and ridicule, because He did. He has given us hope and we defend our lives like it.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

An Epic Fail.

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days. – 1 Samuel 31:8-13 ESV

What Saul feared in life, actually took place in death. Right before he took his own life, he had begged his armor bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me” (1 Samuel 31:4 ESV). He feared being mocked and ridiculed by the Philistines. The Hebrew word he used is `alal and it can mean “to act severely, deal with severely, make a fool of someone” (“H5953 – `alal – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 Feb, 2017). It carries the idea of mocking, as well as defilement. And that is exactly what happened. Saul’s death did not stop the inevitable. They stripped his body of its armor, then cut off his head; and the book of Chronicles says, “they put his armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon” (1 Chronicles 10:10 ESV). The book of Chronicles goes on to provide important insight into the cause behind Saul’s death:

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. – 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ESV

This had not been the only time Saul had failed to keep faith with God. He had personally offered sacrifices to God in direct violation of the law of God (1 Samuel 13). He had also failed to wipe out the Amalekites and to destroy all the spoil from battle, disobeying a direct order from God (1 Samuel 15). And Saul had continually ignored God’s clear announcement that he was going to be replaced as king by a better man. In fact, he had actually tried to stop it from happening by seeking to take the life of the very man God had chosen as his replacement: David.

So there were many reasons for Saul’s abandonment by God. In many ways, he is the one who had left God. He had chosen to live his life and rule his kingdom according to his own standards and based on his own wisdom. He had been rash, impulsive, prone to placing blame and reticent to repent, even when proven guilty. He was prideful, arrogant, self-absorbed and unwilling to humble himself before God. His eventual humiliation at the hands of the Philistines was his own doing. He had brought this on himself. And as his world came to a crashing end on the field of battle, he found himself severely wounded, his sons dead, his army fleeing and the Philistine troops closing in for the kill.

Saul’s decapitated body was hung on the walls of the city of Beth-shan. His head was hung in the temple of Dagon. His armor was put in the temple of Ashtaroth. All as a public display of his defeat and in an effort to humiliate not only Saul, but the God of the people of Israel. It was all very similar to when the Philistines placed the captured Ark of the Covenant in the temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5). The Ark, a representation of the God of the Israelites, was to the Philistines like an idol, so they placed it at the feet of their god in order to honor his superiority over Yahweh. So, in the same way, by placing Saul’s head in the temple of Dagon was a way to show that their god was greater than the God of Israel. In their minds, Dagon had prevailed over Yahweh. They had won. Saul and the Israelites had lost.

But the story doesn’t end there. When the residents of Jabesh-gilead heard what had been done to Saul and his sons, they had to do something about it. So, at great risk to their own lives, they planned a nighttime raid and took the bodies of Saul and his sons from the walls of Beth-shan and gave them a proper burial. We’re not given a reason for why their bodies were burned. Perhaps it was because they had been so mutilated by the Philistines that they were beyond recognition. Or it could have simply been an attempt to prevent the spread of disease. But whatever the case, their bones were buried and a fast was held for seven days. There would be no great monument erected to Saul. It is interesting to note the difference between the death of Saul and that of a king like Asa.

And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. They buried him in the tomb that he had cut for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art, and they made a very great fire in his honor. – 2 Chronicles 16:13-14 ESV

It would become customary for the deceased kings of Israel to have elaborate burials and expensive tombs built in their honor. Such was not the case for Saul. He and his sons were buried under a tree in a non-disclosed spot. No pomp. No elaborate ceremony. No monument to mark their memory. Just like that, Saul was gone, his memory wiped from the minds of his people, but his legacy of faithlessness and disobedience left behind in the captured cities of Israel, the lost lives of hundreds of soldiers, and the demoralized remnants of the Jews who no longer had a king. But God was not done. This was not an end, but a new beginning. While all looked lost and the future looked dim, God had things right where He wanted them. The Israelites would not be without a king for long, and this time, they would find themselves with a king who was a man after God’s own heart.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Pervasive Presence of Pride.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. – 1 Corinthians 4:6-13 ESV

While some may have preferred the rhetoric of Apollos over that of Paul, there is little doubt that Paul had a way with words. He could craft a sentence with the best of them, choosing his words carefully and cleverly, to see that his point was clearly received. He was adept at using sarcasm if he deemed it necessary to get his message across. And in this passage, he wield his words like a sword to cut his audience down to size, because they had a formidable pride problem. Multiple times in this letter, he uses the Greek word,  φυσιόω (physioō), which means “to be puffed up, to bear one’s self loftily, be proud” (“G5448 – physioō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). The problem within the church in Corinth wasn’t just that they were taking sides by preferring one spiritual leader over another, it was that their motivation was based on pride. It was an inherent desire to see themselves as somehow better or spiritually superior to one another. The very moment they chose to follow a particular leader, deeming him somehow better than the other, they were guilty of judging one another. If a fellow member of the church didn’t side with them in their choice of spiritual leader, they would deem him as less enlightened. We already know that their factionalism was causing quarrels within the church. So Paul boldly and bluntly confronts their pride problem.

Paul says, with tongue planted firmly in his cheek, “You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us!” (1 Corinthians 4:8 NLT). They were acting as if they had already arrived. They had nothing more to learn. Nothing to gain. Rather than acting as humble servants and stewards, they were pridefully posturing themselves as spiritually superior over their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s words remind me of those spoken by Jesus against the church in Laodicea: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17 ESV). Jesus went on to tell them, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18 ESV). Like the church in Corinth, they had a pride problem as well

Paul goes on to contrast the attitude of the Corinthians with that of the men who had been ministering the gospel to them.

Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ!

We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed.

Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm.

We are often beaten and have no home.

We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living.

We bless those who curse us.

We are patient with those who abuse us.

We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment. – 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 NLT

In a way, the Corinthians were living as if their future reward was to be experienced in this life. They were acting as if they had already arrived spiritually. They saw themselves as wise and powerful. They put a high value in honor and esteem. Material things were important to them. And yet Paul paints a very different picture of what the life of a believer should look like. Our time on this earth should be marked by humility, service, and even suffering, as we follow Christ. Our relationship with Christ will lead to us being despised, rejected, and ridiculed. We will be misunderstood and misrepresented. Paul displays a high degree of transparency when he states, “ I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike” (1 Corinthians 4:9 NLT). He didn’t seen himself at the head of the parade, marching in triumph and being lauded as a victorious general, but as a captive prisoner, being dragged in chains and humiliation before the cheers and jeers of the enemy.

Following Christ is not about pride and prominence. It should not lead to arrogance and a sense of having arrived. Our journey to heaven will be marked by pain and suffering, even loss. Like Jesus, our glorification must be preceded by humiliation. Suffering must come before glory. But the Corinthians had chosen to reverse the order. They wanted to lead the parade. They desired to be recognized and rewarded now, not later. They were choosing honor over humility, present recognition over future reward, the praise of men over the praise of God. Which brings us back to the words of Jesus spoken against the church in Laodicea:

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”  – Revelation 3:15-16 NLT

Their love for God was lukewarm. Their attitude toward their call as followers of Christ was apathetic. Like the Corinthian believers, they had become dangerously satisfied with who they were and how far they had come. But Paul, like Jesus, was not willing to allow them to remain in a state of spiritual complacency marked by misplaced pride. He desired more for them. He demanded more of them. Because God was not done with them.

Day 83 – Luke 14:1-24

The Attitude of Jesus.

Luke 14:1-24

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.– Luke 14:11 NLT

One of the amazing things about Jesus was that His message and His lifestyle were never out of step. He lived what He taught. It is easy to say one thing and do another, which is one of the primary characteristics of hypocrisy. But hypocrisy was never something with which Jesus wrestled. He was not someone who sought out the places of honor. He was not one who craved recognition or sought the affirmation of men. Yes, He longed for men to recognize His status as the Son of God, but not for selfish reasons. He simply wanted them to see Him for who He was in order that they might experience all that He came to offer. No, Jesus was anything but selfish and self-centered. So when He spoke about humility, He knew what He was talking about. He lived it. The apostle Paul reminds us, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God,he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:5-7 NLT). Jesus didn’t pridefully hold onto His well-deserved place as the Son of God, and refuse to lower Himself to human standards. No, He willfully walked away from His position of privilege and power, and took on the lowly character of a man – a baby in fact. All so that He could serve mankind by giving His life in our place.

So when Jesus gives the people at this dinner who are jockeying for positions of prominence a piece of advice, He speaks from experience. He tells them, “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!” (Luke 14:8-9 NLT). Instead, Jesus recommends that they take the lowest seat at the foot of the table. Practice a little self-humility. Rather than risk being humiliated, humble yourself. Of course, Jesus is talking about much more than just an earthly wedding feast. He is talking about the Kingdom of God. Those who enter into God’s Kingdom will be characterized by the nature of Jesus Himself. They will be humble, not prideful. They will have spent their lives seeking first the Kingdom of God and leaving issues of honor, recognition, and reward up to Him.

Over in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made some significant statements regarding rewards and recognition. He said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get” (Matthew 6:1-2 NLT). In other words, their reward will be the recognition they get on this earth. It won’t last long. But if you give in secret, not worrying about what men think, God will see it and reward you richly in His Kingdom. Jesus also said, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get” (Matthew 6:5 NLT). The praise of man is the only reward they will get. But those who pray to God in private, so that no one can see them or pat them on the back for their spirituality, will be rewarded by God Himself.

It is so easy to seek recognition and to crave reward for our service in this lifetime. But it doesn’t last. It is fleeting, fickle and short-lived. If we seek the praise of men, we are missing the point. Jesus didn’t come to receive praise. He didn’t come to receive honor. He came to humble Himself and serve. He came to give His life as a ransom for the sins of men. He came to die on a cross so that we might live. He healed the lame, the blind, and the sick, knowing that He would receive ridicule and not reward. He spoke the truth of God, knowing that most would reject it angrily, not receive it gladly. He came to hang on a cross, not sit on a throne. He came to wear a crown of thorns, not one made of gold. He came to die a criminal’s death, not live a king’s life. And yet, Paul reminds us that God saw the actions and attitude of His Son and rewarded Him accordingly. “When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:7-11 NLT). The attitude of Jesus should be the standard for every believer. An attitude marked by service and humility, obedient to the will of God and focused on the Kingdom of God to come.

Father, help me to seek the attitude of Jesus. Open my eyes and help me see the pride that permeates my life. It is so easy to become a seeker of rewards in this lifetime. I find it so easy to want my rewards now, rather than later. The praise and recognition of men can be an alluring thing. But it breeds hypocrisy and feeds the dragon of pride in my life. Yet You reward the humble. You exalt the lowly. You oppose the proud and favor the humble. Never let me forget that. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org