So, Gareth Southgate’s or Alex McLeish’s team reach a World Cup Final. Soccer despisers, please hear me out. They come into the dressing room at half time 3 – 0 up, on the threshold of Glory and Legendary Status. ‘Football’s Coming Home!’ Naw, No it’s not, ‘Intimacy with God, Transformation & Eternal Life’ are Coming Home; Something much bigger and more revolutionary is at stake!
3 – 0 ahead, 45 minutes left to play, surely it’s ‘in the bag’, but heads and hearts turn summersaults as coach tells them to go out and lose, to score own-goals and ensure that seeming victory belongs to their opponents. Imagine being in that ridiculous team talk!
Now, remember Jesus addressing his team of followers, shortly before the final whistle in Jerusalem. Team Captain ‘Peter’ has declared Jesus, the Messiah Manager of all time, the one to deliver them from all their fears and bring in an age of prosperity. They’re on a roll, people signing up to Jesus Way in droves, but they are bamboozled as Jesus teaches his ‘losing tactics’ and how he must be cruelly crucified, die and rise again. There’s something much more important than winning a World Cup, ‘Winning Forgiveness and New Life for The World’. Then he spells out what being in Jesus Team involves:
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Mark 8:34-37 / MSG)
Peter takes Jesus to task and tells him straight how silly he sounds. No way can Jesus die now, they’re 3 – 0 up at half-time against The Roman Empire & Religious Leaders’ Select! But, while winning a memorable victory over another team can bring great national pride and right some wrongs of history, Jesus’ death and resurrection opened blessing to people of all times and places, worldwide. And Jesus still calls us to follow him, to let him save us ‘his way’ by letting him die to wash away our sins and dismantle the walls of independence that stop us loving God with our all and neighbour as self.
Beware, those closest and dearest to us can be the ones to tempt, distract and derail us in following Jesus. Peter understandably wanted Jesus to be safe and recognised as the World’s Saviour, but couldn’t contemplate the road of sacrifice it would involve. Jesus tells Peter “Get behind me Satan! You don’t have God’s Ways in mind.”
‘Oh, it’s the cross I have to bear.’ is a phrase used to describe our ailments and disabilities. Such handicaps are better described as ‘thorns in our flesh’ pointing us to God for strength in our weakness. Corrie Ten Boom asked, “Is Jesus the spare tyre or steering wheel in your life?” So, what does believing and receiving the New Life Jesus died to give you look like? ‘The Cross’ we’ve to bear is made up of ‘daily choices to sacrifice self for the sake of others’. Who does Jesus want to bless through you today, at home, work, play, church, holiday? I.E. Be Blessed & Be A Blessing!