2 Peter 2:20-21 “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
How often have you considered that the manner in which Jesus Christ suffered and died has been recorded that you might follow His example? The cross is the apex of everything. It is humility pressed to the farthest extreme. Selflessness poured out in blood. Forgiveness in the face of false accusations, ridicule, and torture. Trust in God even when His presence is not felt, even when it feels He has turned His back. Resistance against all temptations to escape the Father’s will when it is tremendously costly. It is love, with every stumble beneath the weight of a cross, with every pounding of the nails, with all that He fulfilled like a lamb lead to the slaughter who did not open up His mouth(Isaiah 53:7). It is the pinnacle of obedience and faith; You will not find a better example. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6).” Where do we turn when we feel like the cost is too high? When we want to give up? We look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).” We “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that (we) may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3).”
The cross is not only the place where we come to be saved, it is also the place we go to know how to live and how to die. How often do we think that way?
Do you know that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect?” Why? “So that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).”
We not only have His example to follow, but we have His mercy, compassion, and even sympathy in all our plights, because He Himself has walked through this sin cursed world and bore the impact of it to the fullest extent, yet remained “without sin (Hebrews 4:15).” And so the cross is not a place only to visit- it is a place to live. It is a place to die. It is a place to find all we need in the living person of Jesus Christ.
It is the most glorious and astounding place we could ever stand or fall. As Christians we thank God for sending His Son Jesus to die our death, to take our place and drink down the penalty that was due to our name. We rejoice in our forgiveness, in the fact that He died so we might live. But here is the challenge for us friends: Do we pray “that (we) may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).” Who wants to become like Him- like Him, mocked, scorned, lied about, bruised, stricken, killed- in His death!?
But may I put it another way? Who wants to become like Him- full of grace and truth, righteous, forgiving, loving, humble, obedient, trusting, pleasing to God, and with a faith that does not shrink back- just as He was in the example of His death?
What fellowship and oneness with Christ might we experience if we looked more frequently to the example of His sufferings? How much richer might our joy and our hope be? How much readier might we be to face trials, serve others, forgive, and preach truth?
The fact is that our lives are going to be shaped and influenced by something or someone. Of all people and events in history, I want my life to be molded by the life and death of Jesus Christ. His death wasn’t just an event, or a story to tell at Easter. His death made payment for my sin, and so I cherish Him there, at the cross. I see how much God hates sin, yet how much He must love me to send His Son to bear it all away. There at the cross I rest in full assurance. At the cross I see Christ display perfect submission, suffering, and love, so I cannot stop gazing at it or I will quickly forget what my Lord desires.
Well, may we fix our eyes on Jesus this day, and every day, until one day we say “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes,” and die fixed on that hope only to awake to the fulfillment of every promise kept by it. What a truly awesome Savior we live for. Amen.