Shane and Shane (my favorite Christian band) captured perfectly both the attitude of those Palm Sunday Jerusalem crowds and the me-first bent of my own heart in their song “Crucify Him” . . .
“I sing Hosanna when I want it all
Then I crucify the Son of God
‘Cause He isn’t who I always thought
Not what I want but what I needed.
I sing how great and mighty is the King
Just as long as He considers me
High above every other thing
Even His glory . . .
. . . . It’s packaged differently than Pharisees
Wrapped in sing-a-longs and Christianese
Empty alleluia’s to the King
When my heart is loving idols . . . “
Again, Jesus came to be the Messiah, but I try to turn Him into a ME-ssiah who will serve my me-first agendas. Look again at John 12:23-26 . . .
Jesus: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified . . . “
Disciples: Here we go guys! It’s time! Let’s get ready to rumble, ’cause the King is about to bring it right here, right now. We can finally show Rome who’s boss. It’s time to make Israel great again! It’s time for a new Hebrew century!
Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life . . . “
Disciples: Wait, hold on a second. What’s Jesus talking about? Die? Hate my life? Lose my life? No, we don’t get delivered by dying. We don’t win by losing. Do we? He’s talked like this before. Remember He said something about going to Jerusalem to die? I’m not sure I like where this is going.
Jesus: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Disciples: Follow Him where? He means follow Him to victory, right? Follow Him to the throne? He’s talking about the honor of getting our place, our power, and our prestige back . . . isn’t He?
Jesus’ mission was not what they wanted, but what they needed. Jesus came to be crucified so that He might rise again, to fall dead into the ground like a grain of wheat so that He might bear fruit, to lose His life in order that sinners might gain eternal life, to serve in humility in order to secure honor from His Father.
And He calls all of His disciples, including us, to follow Him in this self-denying life of submission and service . . . “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.” He is calling me to stop trying to customize Him and civilize Him, to stop demanding that He be the King I want Him to be, and to submit to Him as the King He is, to stop complaining that He’s not ruling and running my life the way I want Him to and begin trusting that He’s ruling and running my life the way I need Him to.
Again, Shane and Shane capture the heart of the Jerusalem crowds and my heart, too, with these words . . .
“A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief
He had no form, He had no majesty
How could He have the audacity
To ask me to give Him my tomorrows?”
In his short book What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me, David Platt explains . . .
“We pick and choose what we like and don’t like from Jesus’ teachings. In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us. But Jesus is not customizable. He has not left himself open to interpretation, adaptation, innovation, or alteration. He has revealed himself clearly through his Word, and we have no right to personalize him. Instead, he revolutionizes us. As we follow Jesus, we believe Jesus, even when his Word confronts (and often contradicts) the deeply held assumptions, beliefs, and convictions of our lives, our families, our friends, our culture, and sometimes even our churches. And such belief in Jesus transforms everything about what we desire and how we live (pp. 26-27)
Someone has said, “If your Jesus never corrects you, never challenges what you say, think, do, or desire . . . then he’s probably not the real Jesus, but one you’ve made in your own image.”
And so I find myself confronted by the Jesus in John’s gospel, the Jesus who says that living in His Kingdom, under His rule and blessing, means I will have to bury my life to see it bear fruit, to stop pursuing a life bound to earth in order to live a life bound for eternity, to humbly serve rather than seek honor from others.
To serve this King, I will have to follow Him through loss to life, through the cross to the crown.
What will those losses be? We’ll look at 3 of them in the days to come.