Sunday, January 10, 2016, 8:43 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 20:17-28 (NASB). Mock, Scourge and Crucify (vv. 17-19) As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a young woman, and was born as a baby, i.e. he took on human form. When Jesus walked this earth he was fully God yet fully man (human). He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are tempted, yet he was without sin. When he was around the age of thirty he began his ministry on the earth. He called twelve disciples to follow him, to learn from him, and to join him in the work of his ministry. He healed the sick and afflicted, fed the hungry, raised the dead, delivered from demons, comforted the sorrowful, and encouraged the weak and oppressed. He also preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God in heaven. Jesus preached the gospel of our salvation, that he would have to be crucified but that he would be raised from the dead. He taught that if anyone would come after him that he must deny self, take up his cross daily and follow (obey) Jesus. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose our lives, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. [His NT apostles taught the same message.] He confronted sin in sinful humans, warned of divine judgment, and called people to repentance and faith in him. Repentance literally means a change of mind, but in most all biblical references it refers to turning away from sin, being changed (transformed) in heart and mind, and turning to God/Jesus, to follow him in obedience, and in surrender to his will for our lives. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not like him. In fact, they hated him, were jealous of him and were resentful of him. They were threatened by his popularity among the people for they feared their own positions of power and influence over the people were at risk due to Jesus Christ’s ministry - his teachings and his healings. They didn’t like it that he confronted them with their sins, and that he told it like it was, i.e. he was honest. As well, they were offended by the fact that he claimed to be God, which is who he is. They were also insulted that he did not follow their religious rules and regulations, i.e. their traditions handed down to them from the elders, and that he healed people on the Sabbath, even though they had no problem rescuing a lamb on the Sabbath if it had fallen into a pit. So, they plotted his death, and handed him over to non-Jews to have him beaten and crucified. When Jesus died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us. He took on himself the sins of the entire world. When he died our sins died with him, and were buried with him, but when he rose from the dead, he conquered sin, Satan, hell and death. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be delivered of our sins (both the penalty of and bondage to), be transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and be given new lives to be lived for Christ in his holiness and righteousness, all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us. Coming to Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, no longer walking according to our sinful flesh, but by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and now walking (conducting our lives) according to the Spirit of God. Drink the Cup (vv. 20-23) Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” James and John, or perhaps just their mother, aspired for themselves to be given seats of honor next to Jesus in his kingdom, but Jesus responded by telling them that they did not know what they were asking. Then, he asked them if they were able to drink the cup he was about to drink. It is obvious from what transpired at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion that they really had no idea what he was asking them, but they evidently thought they did, for they responded in the affirmative. Jesus did not squabble with them concerning their response to his question, but he did affirm that they would indeed drink his cup. So, what is this cup that he was about to drink and that he said they would also drink? It was the cup of his suffering and death, which included rejection, false accusations, persecution, false arrest, mocking, beatings, abandonment, betrayal, and denial of him. Jesus told his disciples at other times that they would be hated as he was hated, and that if he was accused of being of Satan, so would they. He told them they would be falsely accused, arrested and brought to trial because they believed in him, and for their testimonies for him and for his gospel of salvation. And, his NT apostles taught the same things to us concerning what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. We should expect that if we are standing firm on our faith, and if we are sharing the full gospel of salvation, that we will be hated, persecuted, falsely accused and even killed for our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, many people today are not preaching this message. They are preaching a softened or diluted gospel which reduces what Jesus did for us on the cross to merely an escape from hell and a promise of heaven when we die. Yet scripture is real clear in its teachings that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us; and that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14). The Christian life is a crucified life. It is a life submitted to Jesus Christ and his cross (the cup he drank). It is a life which honors God as the holy God that he is, that forsakes a life of living for sin and self, and that is surrendered to Jesus Christ and to his will for our lives. Because of this, we will be hated and persecuted, and some of us will be put to death for our faith in Christ. Be a Servant (vv. 24-28) And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” What Jesus was saying here, in essence, is that it is the way of the world to have worldly leaders over the people who act superior to those underneath them, and who often use their positions of power and authority over the people to lord it over the people, i.e. to exercise dictatorial (tyrannical; oppressive) rule. A dictator is “a ruler who is not effectively restricted by a constitution, laws, recognized opposition, etc.” (thefreedictionary.com). The people of the world are presently experiencing such a tyrannical rule from what is commonly referred to as the New World Order, which is a conglomerate of world powers, the elite, the wealthy, bankers, and CEOs of corporations, etc. who are the ones effectively ruling the world. This is being realized in a one-world dictatorial government and one-world religion, which are still in the process of being formed. In other words, the beast of Revelation is rising and it won’t be long before all the world comes under its power. Yet, this is not how followers of Christ are supposed to behave toward one another, though many who call themselves Christians do act just like this, and that is very sad indeed. We are to be servants to one another instead. We are to be humble and to be willing to help others in need, and to do what is loving and kind towards others. We should never see ourselves as superior, but as servants of the Lord in ministering his love and grace. Near the Cross Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane Jesus, keep me near the cross; There a precious fountain, Free to all, a healing stream, Flows from Calvary's mountain. Near the cross, a trembling soul, Love and mercy found me; There the bright and morning star Sheds its beams around me. Near the cross! O Lamb of God, Bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day With its shadow o'er me. Near the cross I'll watch and wait, Hoping, trusting ever, Till I reach the golden strand Just beyond the river. In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.