Jesus told his disciples and all would be followers that faith has a cost. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25) He also said that before making a faith commitment a person really needs to consider what that cost will involve. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him…. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:28-29, 33) To those who tend to make quick decisions before thinking it through he issued a word of caution. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
I am not quoting these words of Jesus to try and scare people away from making a decision of faith and becoming a Christian. In fact, the opposite is both my intent and the objective of Jesus himself. But a faith that only follows God on sunny days isn’t really of any value to anyone, either in this present life or in the one to come. Again the words of Jesus warned – Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
The pivotal story of Christian faith is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is told and retold every year during what is known as Holy Week or Passion Week. It begins with the account of the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches. Every Christian should take his place in the crowd as one who sings and shouts “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9)
But the parade of acclamation must continue with Jesus as he cleanses the temple of all sham religion. True faith sides with Jesus when his authority is questioned and when others sell him out for their own material gain or protected power. Yes, the faith that Jesus calls us to is one that accepts his challenging words about our failures and prays for the strength to endure what we don’t even understand. It is only those who walk this path with him and weep on Good Friday and ponder on Holy Saturday who can truly celebrate on Easter Sunday.
There is still so much that we don’t know about this walk of faith. We have no explanation for how a body can die and be resurrected. We don’t know what lies ahead for us from day to day although we have the promise of Jesus that he will be with us and bring us safely to a glorious end. Faith believes in the impossible, not as a blind wishful Pollyanna, but because Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
Again this year we will attempt to highlight the way of the cross for all Christians by observing every day of Holy Week. We have planned some brief times of thoughtful meditation and some evenings of teaching and reenactment. We encourage everyone to come to whatever events you are able to make in your schedule. But beyond the observance of these days is the crucial decision of faith, a faith that determines to live all of life with Jesus regardless of where that road leads. To be sure faith must travel the way of the cross, both in the acceptance of Christ’s death as the atonement for our sin, and in the commitment that takes up our cross in grateful obedience.
See you in Worship.