Monday, March 28, 2016, 12:18 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” Speak, Lord your words to my heart. I read John 19 (select ESV). They Mocked Him (vv. 1-6) Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” Many people tend to oppose, mock, and/or make fun of what they don’t understand, or what appears strange or unlike them. Television promotes such mockery so much so that many Christians who are avid TV watchers may find themselves regularly laughing at those who are different from them, including treating other believers in Jesus in such a manner as this, too. Thus, these mockers are being regularly entertained at the expense of others. They didn’t get Jesus. He was strange to them. He didn’t do things their way. He didn’t follow all their rules and customs. Some thought he was crazy. Others may have considered him too radical for their tastes. Some felt he was blasphemous. There were those who were jealous of him because of his popularity among the people. They felt threatened by him, and believed their own positions of power and influence among the people were in jeopardy. Many hated him, though some loved and admired him. Many turned against him, though there were those who truly followed him, but even some of them abandoned him temporarily. Jesus said that in like manner as he was treated, we will be treated also. No Authority Unless Given (vv. 7-11) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Satan and humans have no power over us, though, unless it is given to them by God, and for his divine purposes and glory. So, we never have to be afraid. God is completely in control over all things. Nothing escapes his notice. Nothing surprises him or takes him off guard. Just as the Father in Heaven allowed Jesus Christ, God the Son, to suffer all he suffered for you and for me so that we could be saved out of our sin, he will allow us to go through hardships and persecutions, too. We will be hated just as he was hated, and there will be those who will want us dead or gone, too, so that we no longer pose a threat to them and to their earthly kingdoms, or to Satan and to his followers. If laws do not already exist which they can use against us in some way, they may create new laws to justify getting rid of us. I believe some new laws may be in the works right now, and that there are earthly powers who are presently creating situations in order to justify the persecution of followers of Christ, even here in America. World leaders, both in government and in the church, are pushing for a one world order and a one world religion, and they are already working to outlaw the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. They consider the true gospel and its adherents to be prejudicial, hateful, unloving, bigoted, unwelcoming, and intolerant, and so we must be targeted for removal. Peer Pressure (vv. 12-16a) From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. Pilate was pressured into handing Jesus over to be crucified, although he found no fault in him. And people today, even among those who call themselves Christians, will try to pressure us into rejecting the true gospel of salvation, too, and its messengers. They will use all kinds of pressure tactics, such as trying to shame us into rejecting the true gospel by trying to convince us that it teaches works-based salvation, and that if we follow it that we are actually opposing Jesus instead of following him. They will try to persuade us to accept that the true gospel is hateful and that it does not represent the true character of Jesus, and thus it must be abandoned in favor of a more tolerant Jesus and gospel which embraces all people and all religions and all walks of life. We must guard our hearts against this. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Jesus died, not just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). And, he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives after the Spirit, for if we walk after the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14). So, if someone tries to convince you that this teaching is works-based salvation, don’t listen to them, because they are telling you to reject the Word of God in favor of the teachings of humans. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue walking in the darkness (in sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). When we believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ of the Spirit in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ of the Spirit in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). God’s grace to us in saving us from our sins is not a free license to continue in sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). The Christian life is a crucified life. Yet, when you believe and share the true gospel of salvation, expect to be hated and rejected just as Jesus was hated and rejected. But, keep on obeying Jesus with your life. Bearing His Cross (vv. 16b-22) So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we follow him wherever he leads us. And, where he leads us will often get us rejected and hated, because we stand in opposition to the things of this world, because Jesus called us out of the world, to be separate from (different, unlike) the world of sin, because we are becoming like Jesus. This is what it means to be holy as God is holy. And, this is our calling as disciples of Christ. Yet, we must be willing to suffer disgrace for the sake of the gospel so that others might be saved and have eternal life with God. We must not shun the cross in order to gain popularity and acceptance among the people of this world, including within the worldly church. We must stand strong on the truths of God’s Holy Word, and be intentional about sharing the gospel with others so that they, too, can know Jesus as Lord and as Savior of their lives. Many will be those who will not acknowledge that we are followers of Christ, and they may assign us all kinds of false motives for why we do what we do, but that is ok. We have to know who we are in Christ, and we must obey God rather than humans, if humans ask us to do what is contrary to God and his Word. Following Christ will have its hardships, but greater are its rewards and blessings. Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken / Henry F. Lyte / Mozart/ Arr. Hubert P. Main Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee; Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be. Perish every fond ambition, all I've sought, and hoped, and known; Yet how rich is my condition, God and Christ are still my own! Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too; Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue; And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, Foes may hate, and friends disown me; show Thy face, and all is bright. Man may trouble and distress me – ‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast. Life with trials hard may press me; Heaven will bring me sweeter rest. Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me; Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee. Go then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn, and pain! In Thy service pain is pleasure; with Thy favor loss is gain. I have called Thee, Abba, Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee; Storms may howl and clouds may gather; all must work for good to me.