So we’re in the aftermath of Remembrance Sunday, and so most of us have been doing a lot of thinking about war and death. The echoes of: “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” are slowly fading away in every corner of the land. And rightly so – ‘lest we forget’. But I’m starting to worry that for a lot of us all the focus on other people’s death helps us to forget about our own – it’s more like ‘lest we remember’.
I heard recently about a missionary organisation that would help send young people abroad to tell people about Jesus and to serve in the darkest corners of the earth. This is fairly normal. What was unusual was that when they put these missionaries on the plane, they instructed them to pack up their stuff in a coffin. Pack your stuff in a coffin, and write a letter to someone you love to be delivered in the event of your death. And these missionaries – twenty years old sometimes – would do this because they knew that they were going out there to die for Jesus. It might be a very long time, it might come quickly, but they knew that everyone dies eventually, and they were going to follow him for however long they had.
Scary stuff, right? But again, I’m letting myself get distracted by other people.
The point is that when Jesus said: “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, he wasn’t talking about soldiers in war. He was talking about himself – how he was about to lay down his life for us (his friends?!) But then, more controversially, he was asking us to do the same for him in return:
“If anyone wants to come after me, they must take up their cross and follow me.”
That means prepare to die. Prepare to take the long, painful, exhausting walk of a prisoner condemned to death. Prepare for absolute humiliation. Prepare for mockery. Prepare for torture. Prepare to die.
And he said that if anyone wanted to follow him they would have to be ready to do this.
So I just have one question for you.
Is anyone else surprised that people actually chose to follow this guy?
Image by Mateusz Stachowski via stock.xchng images.