|APrayer of Jesus||I
thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden
these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
THE GREAT PRINCIPLE
THE PURPOSE OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS
(Explanation of the Chart)
The left hand column, under "TOPICS" describes the content of the text listed in the four columns to the right, showing parallel passages from the gospels. These topics are individually explained here.
I. INTRODUCTION TO THE HOUR OF HIS SUFFERING AND DEATH.
Jesus is teaching his disciples what is the most critical element in his entire message to the world. He is about to be arrested, tried and condemned, crucified, and resurrected, and he wants his disciples to know precisely why all this is taking place. He knows they are not yet fully prepared for this and will accept and understand it only with great difficulty. As the Fourth Gospel has it, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." The hour has come, the time has come. The "glorified" part they can handle, but not that part about being "killed."
II. SIMON'S REBUKE
Simon, the impetuous one, shooting off his mouth as usual, speaks for all of them; indeed, he was speaking for all of us, when he voices his strong objection to the very idea. "God forbid, Lord, this shall never happen to you!" as Matthew has it. Simon thus reveals that he hasn't the slightest idea what Jesus is all about, and his objection is nothing less than a rejection of the paramount will of the Father, which is the core purpose in his sending Jesus to the earth. His Lord must have told him many times, but he yet does not have a clue. It was and is hard for any human being to hear these words of the Great Principle. You see why we must listen? Simon hadn't heard him yet, and even today very few are listening.
III. JESUS REBUKES SIMON
Jesus of Nazareth was a real human being, no less than you and I. His hands got dirty, his feet blistered, he coughed and spat, and when he was cold his nose dripped on his beard. He knew those nails were going to hurt and he didn't want that any more than you or I would want it. He knew that he was going to die, and he did not want that either. Therefore he was at every moment being powerfully tempted by Satan to avoid the whole thing and live out his life like any other human being. Simon's words were precisely tuned to the sentiments of Satan, for whom he was the speaking instrument when he said, "This shall never happen to you!"
Jesus recognized this, and thus addressed his words accurately when he responded, Get behind me Satan! Then he explained, For you are not on the side of God, but of men. That is why we must reckon with the fact that Jesus was a man who, at this point, was being powerfully tempted to do what any other man would do under similar circumstances -- save his life! To save one's life is man's thing; to give it up so as to go to the Father is God's thing, and this single issue clearly defines the core difference that separates men from God. It is the most fundamental issue of life and death, in which men are on one side, God on the other. Satan, always God's adversary, naturally sides with men, as Simon was doing.
IV. THE ONE CONDITION: FOLLOWING
There was only one thing about this that Simon and the others (and we likewise) liked to hear, that part about being raised! As the Fourth Gospel has it, The hour as come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Every man jack of us wants to follow him into the glory of his Father's house. Very well, we can do it. To lead us there is precisely the purpose of Jesus. So Jesus here states exactly what each of us must do to get there. As Matthew has it, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
What's this? Each man must take up his own cross?
Precisely. The cross of Jesus won't get you there -- it only got him there. It gets us there only if we imitate him and bear our own crosses along the Way. He only showed the Way -- we get there only if we follow him bearing each his own cross. He did not mean that we must be actually nailed to a cross until dead. This is clear from Luke's version of his statement, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Couldn't do that daily, but what we can do daily is deny ourselves this human thing of saving our lives from every threat so as to avoid going to the Father.
V. THE GREAT PRINCIPLE
But why? Why must Jesus give up his life on the cross, and why must every one who would follow him to Glory also bear a cross?
Because, as Luke has it, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Jesus was simply explaining to them why he must die on a cross. He must lose his life so as to save it. Had he yielded to Simon's admonition, and saved his life, he would have lost it. He would have been as lost and dead to the Father as any other person on earth. And we . . . we would also have been dead and lost and without hope, having no one to lead us to the Father. If no one follows Jesus, his mission and his suffering is all in vain; therefore it was necessary for him to demonstrate the Way to the Father in a manner the world could never forget. Jesus on the cross was a demonstration of the Great Principle in action.
Do you see now why men are on one side, and God (and Jesus) are on the other?
VI. THE PROFIT
It is worth the cost! We all must lose this life one way or another, one time or another. If we give it up willingly, as Jesus did, in order to go to the Father, we will keep it for life eternal. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? To be prepared for this every day, to truly desire it in God's good time, that is what Jesus meant by bearing your cross daily.
But why the Great Principle? To answer this question and explore its implications for the duration of our lives in this world is the purpose of this site -- that and urging every person to listen carefully to Jesus as he speaks to us from the Gospels. The current state of Christendom shows clearly that men today, like Simon then, have not heard him.
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