Taking a Step Toward the Cross

This sermon was preached by Dr. Brent Beasley at Rising Star Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas on March 18, 2018.

An excerpt:

How did Jesus respond when his internal warning system sounded that told him he was getting too close to the cross? He said: Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.

He keeps going. He ignores the warning and embraces the consequences. And we are faced once again with the scandal and the crisis of the cross.

Jesus said disconcerting things like Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Instead of teaching how to be
successful and content,
well-adjusted and happy,
he said things like, Those who love their life, lose it.

And then, incredibly, he
put it all on the line,
walked directly into danger,
walked willingly—apparently—to his death,
died, even though he did not have to,
did, that is to say, that most counterintuitive act
imaginable: he laid down his own life.

And did you notice—and here’s the really disturbing part— this isn’t just about Jesus?
After Jesus says his hour has come, and
after he tells them that a grain of wheat must fall to
the ground and die before it produces fruit, and
after he says that those who love their life will
lose it and that it is those who hate their life will
have eternal life—
after all that, in verse 26 Jesus says, Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Those who want to follow Jesus will be asked
to drink the same cup Jesus drinks,
to carry the same cross,
to make the same absolute surrender to God.
The cross is an amazing grace but also a demanding grace.

Here’s the thing. Most of us, most of the time,
we walk right up to the edge of the precipice,
right up to the edge of following Jesus all the way,
we come right up to the edge of the cross.
We get close enough that the alarm in our head starts going off, that alarm that says, Please step away from the cross. And we take just one step back. Close enough that we can still see the cross, admire the cross. Close enough that we can still see Jesus. But not too close.

Because we’re afraid.
Because we are holding on so tight to our lives. Because we have so much stuff that we’re trying to manage.
Because we have too much to lose.
Not too close.

….

Palm Sunday is next week. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. We’re getting closer and closer to the cross. And that alarm in our heads is starting to go off: Please step away from the cross. Please step away from the cross. Careful. Not too close.

But there is another voice—calling you not to step away from the cross but to take a step toward the cross.

I was going to end my sermon there today. With that challenge to count the cost of following Jesus—of going with him to the cross. But I have this devotional book that I have been reading. And it has these reflections it, and there is one in particular that I read Thursday and Friday and spoke so forcefully to me.

It’s about what happened at the cross. What it means for me that Jesus went to the cross. Jesus is taking a step toward that cross today, and inviting us to go with him. What will we find there?

I have faced my own weaknesses over these last several years in ways I never had before.

And this is the reflection in my devotional that spoke to me so powerfully this week:

“Jesus became a sacrament for me, the cause of my salvation. He washed me patiently in the waters of baptism, he filled me with the exhilarating joy of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, he nourished me with the bread of his word. Above all, he forgave me, he forgot everything, he did not even wish me to remember my past myself.

“When, through my tears, I began to tell him something of the years during which I betrayed him, he lovingly placed his hand over my mouth in order to silence me. His one concern was that I should muster courage enough to pick myself up again, to try and carry on walking in spite of my weakness, and to believe in his love in spite of my fears. But there was one thing he did, the value of which cannot be measured, something truly unbelievable, something only God could do.

“While I continued to have doubts about my own salvation, to tell him that my sins could not be forgiven, and that justice, too, had its rights, he appeared on the Cross before me one Friday towards midday. I was at its foot. He remained there for three hours until he expired.

“I realized that he had died in order that I might stop turning to him with questions about justice, and believe instead, deep within myself, that the scales had come down overflowing on the side of love.”
 — Carlo Carretto

Here’s what happens when you get too close to the cross: you will find yourself bathed by the overflowing love of God.

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