Our minister writes a weekly column for our local newspaper, the Roanoke Beacon. Here is one of the latest columns.

Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s plan.

Mark 10:32-34 (NIV) reads, “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Notice, “with Jesus leading the way.”  Jesus knew what was going to happen when He arrived in Jerusalem. He told His disciples very specific details about what lay ahead.  They might have been dismayed, but they should never have been surprised. Despite knowing what was coming, Jesus was still “leading the way” toward it. Luke 19:10 explains that “… the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” If death on a Roman cross was required to save mankind, then Jesus would face it, “leading the way.”

Romans 5:8 reveals Jesus’ motive: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus died for us because He loves us. He faced the cross for us because He didn’t want to face eternity without us. If a hero is someone who does what needs to be done despite the personal cost (Isn’t that why we call  nurses, store clerks and truck drivers “heroes”?), then Jesus is the Hero of all Heroes!  He died so that we wouldn’t have to die an eternal death!  Because Jesus loves us, He saved us from ourselves, from our sin, and from Hell.

While it’s accurate to say that “Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to,” it’s just as accurate to say “Jesus died so that we would die.” 1 John 3:16 reads, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Jesus’ followers should be the heroes moving toward the trouble and pain – the ones serving the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the incarcerated and housing the homeless.

I’m guessing that you already knew that!  And you’re planning to do that, just as soon as the kids are grown, or as soon as you get through this busy period at work, or when you retire and you’ve got a little more time at your disposal.  None of us, you see, want to disobey the call of God.  We’re planning to answer it—later!

That’s why we need to go back and re-read 1 John 3:16 and let it sink in: “…we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  Dying is required.  Dying to selfish priorities and a selfish schedule. Dying to a selfish use of resources. Dying to “later” and facing “now.”  Remember, Jesus went “up to Jerusalem, leading the way.”

Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten says that he placed a picture of a woman who was not his wife on his bathroom mirror and, every morning as he shaved, he looked at that woman.  She was a small, humped-over woman in sandals and sari and she’s receiving the Nobel Prize.

Mother Teresa.

For decades Mother Teresa worked amid the poverty and filth of Calcutta’s slums, caring for those dying of HIV, leprosy and tuberculosis, running orphanages, schools, soup kitchens and clinics.  Like other Orders within the Roman Catholic Church, those associated with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience.  But Mother Teresa’s associates made a fourth vow: “to give wholehearted, free service to the poorest of the poor.”  They vowed to go in where others wanted to move away! 

When reporter Malcolm Muggeridge expressed admiration that Mother Teresa would face those difficult circumstances year after year, she responded, “It is my privilege to be here. These are my people. These are the ones my Lord has given me to love.”

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  Jesus loved you and died for you.  Who are you dying for?