Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23,24It is inevitable that we all physically die, but then again we may also experience a sort allegorical death in other things. In following Christ we may have to die to certain relationships or to our career or hobbies, and even at times to our ministry, as John the Baptist - "He must increase but I must decease." Death is a part of the Christian life. Paul writes, "I die every day." 1Co 15:31 What can we learn from the way in which Jesus handled his death?
The 7 sayings of Jesus on the Cross:
As we die to ourselves, we must put God's word - the Bible - above our own. We must identify with it and direct others to it. We must take care that the Christ we preach is the Christ of the Bible. Practically speaking, we should memorize and meditate on the Bible. If Jesus can do it on the cross, we can surely do it at our own convenience.
Within the Christian community we forgive those who admit their wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. But this cannot be expected from unbelievers. Paul writes, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?" 1Cor 5:12, and Jesus. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:44. Those outside are often blind to an extent to the sins they are committing. And it is on the basis of their blindness that he asks for their forgiveness. Yet it is interesting also that though they are blind, they are in need of forgiveness. Thus they are not completely blind, but rather suppress the truth in themselves, for Jesus also said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin" John 9:41 But they were guilty of sin and thus not totally blind, but rather walking in darkness.
In practice this means that we should have compassion on those who are so corrupted by their own sinfulness as to not recognize the truth of what they are doing. And this is particularly challenging when we are subjected to their persecution.
One said, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
This is a prayer of unbelief. The man had a sort of experimental faith found frequently in the Christian community, but which is not acceptable to God for salvation. For it is not a statement of conviction. Today many evangelicals will propose that those who doubt should simply pray a prayer to receive Christ and see what happens. That is not the gospel. It does not accurately represent the quality of faith that saves. For seekers I would suggest that they indeed pray in an experimental fashion and ask God to reveal Himself. But such a person is not saved until they have come to believe, which may take some time and convincing.
Futhermore, this man was not thinking spiritually. For he seemed to be looking simply for physical salvation, but was not concerned with the matter of God's justice and his sinfulness. As such he was not prepared to receive the gospel.
The other one responded, "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Notice the convictions of this man. He acknowleged God's justice and his sinfulness demonstrating him to be a man of truth and humility. He acknowledged Jesus' innocence, indicating that he had been observing him. They probably had spent time in jail together before the crucifixion and may have also been familiar with his years of ministry.
As for his final request, there is no set prayer for salvation. Obtaining eternal life is not a matter of ritual or technique. There is no prayer that you can pray that will guarantee your salvation. Nor does getting wet in baptism save you. This man hadn't gotten wet. Faith alone is acceptable to God for salvation. But then again, faith which is not expressed is no faith. Paul writes, "I believed; therefore I have spoken."2Cor 4:13 and "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:13 This man called on the Lord in faith simply by requesting that he be remembered. He also acknowledged Jesus as Lord in mentioned his kingdom. To be saved we have to by faith not simply accept Jesus as Savior only, but also as Lord.
Another aspect of this is that it is an application of Joh 12:24 "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Jesus' crucifixion immediately brought forth fruit even while he was on the cross.
Application: When you are going through experiences of death - whether physical, or death of the ministry or death to certain things - realize that how you respond to these communicates conviction, which can influence others. Having hope in a hopeless situation makes people take notice. But remember to use the Word of God - the Bible - in such circumstances. For it's not about you. It's about Christ.
Furthermore, delegating responsibilities is a part of passing on leadership to the next generation. Parents must do this with their children and Christian need to do this when their ministry is finished. Are you preparing people to pass your responsibilities on to?
"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." John 10:18
Jesus gave up his spirit only after being crucified for about 6 hours, which was unusually short for a crucifixion. Mark 15:44 records Pilate being surpised that he was already dead. And the those crucified with him had to have their legs broken to speed up their death, but Jesus was already dead. Having satisfied God's demand for a sacrifice of atonement, Jesus himself gave up his life. Jesus was not simply an innocent victim, but a willing sacrifice.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will." Rom 12:1,2
When we go through experiences of death in our lives, we need to come to the point of saying to God, "I commit this area of my life into your hands."
Verses quoted from the NIV version
The Berean Christian Bible Study