All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.
In our baptism we confess Jesus Christ as savior and we promise to serve Christ as our Lord. I’ve often asked myself what it means to confess and promise these things: What does it mean that Jesus is my “savior?” And what does it look like to serve him as my “Lord?”
This morning in worship we heard about Jesus’ identity. At first we heard about what others thought of him. Some thought he was the reincarnation of John the Baptist - the preparer of the way and the one who could have easily been misidentified as an old prophet; other thought he was Elijah who called down fire from heaven to destroy the priests of Baal, who spoke such words to queen Jezebel that she wanted to kill him, and who did amazing signs and wonders. Then there were those who thought he was one of the great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and maybe even Ezekiel. It seemed like at every turn the focus was exclusively on the sign, wonders, and the strong teaching instead of what those things pointed towards.
Maybe this is why he asked them to be silent about who he was. If people found out that he was the anointed one of God all sorts of predisposed expectations would be added to the already crowded gossip mill.
What he made clear could be one of the most uncomfortable reality for believers today. To be the anointed one of God does not mean becoming royal figure with all the power, splendor, and wealth. To be the anointed one of God does not mean becoming one of the ancient prophets who called down calamity to all the enemies of God, including yet no limited to those within the people of Israel who did not follow the rules. To be the anointed one of God does not mean to become a powerful priest who performs the mandated sacrifices in order to appease a wrathful deity and due to the power and influence that such figure has to use it for his own benefit.
What it does mean? SACRIFICE
The kind of sacrifice that is centered on what it means to be truly human. Sacrifice that recognizes that the world does not revolve around us, what we do, our place in society, or what we can produce. Sacrifice that recognizes that we are made to live life in community with others and that only in that community can we see God. Sacrifice that forces us to forgive others as we are forgiven, extend grace as we have been extended it, and see the world with kin-dom eyes and not ours. This is also the kind of sacrifice, the kind of cross, that reorders our life, and that is unable to be lived into without the presence and power of Grace. In other words this kind of life means that we surrender to the presence and power of Jesus, allowing Jesus to live not just in us but through us.
No wonder Jesus told Nicodemus that we needed to be born again. This birthing takes time and is dangerous, fragile, and painful. It is easier to convince ourselves that we have arrived or that if we just work harder we can achieve salvation. It is easier to hold on to the life we have and try to make it sound like it is the way of Jesus. It is harder to allow ourselves to die again and again. Harder to surrender, let go, and allow the Spirit of God to transform us through and through.
Today we might find ourselves like the disciples long ago who declared:
This message is hard. Who can hear it?
Then who can be saved?
I’m with you, so often I have asked God the same. At times I’ve done so with fists up in the air. Me and my toxic obsession to earn everything and my struggle with letting go and receive. Me and my toxic control issues and difficulty letting go. Me and my toxic pride and individualism that often looks a lot like a God complex. It is at this point that I remind myself that there is only one savior and that I am not one. It is here that I remind myself that I am not the lord of my life, that I have given myself to serve only one Lord and that Lord is Jesus the Christ.
You, like me, might be thinking, but this seems impossible?
Jesus replied, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”