3/2/11

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

"When Jesus calls a man, He bids him to come and die." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The above quote is one of my favorites...it always makes me think, and more often than not, uncomfortably.

The Roman Empire adopted a form of torture/execution from the Phonecians, but they perfected it - it was called Crucifixion. It typically took between 3 or 4 days for the prisoner to die from suffocation. Nails were usually reserved only for the most heinous criminals, which did not necessarily mean rapists, murderers or the like. Often, in the eyes of Rome, the most heinous was the rebel, the revolutionary, anyone who set themselves against Pax Romana was an enemy of the state and was treated as such.

There were 3 types of crosses used:

Crux Maximus - typically the top of the cross was about 4 meters in the air. This was used on the worst of criminals so that all might see what a rebel will get from Rome.

Low Tau - this was much lower in height and the criminal was cramped up on this one. Usually the lowest class of criminal was on this one, in addition to the mentally handicapped.

An actual tree - if a tree was close by for an immediate execution and was shaped correctly, this was used.

The entire cross was not carried because the full weight would have been around 300 lbs. It was the cross piece that was carried (patibulum) and weighed about 75-90 lbs. In addition to having to carry the instrument of their impending death, if they were particularly strong and seemed to be lasting too long, the soldiers would perform the crucifragium. They would take a 2x4 piece of wood and lay it across the shins of the criminal and then take a mallet and smash the bones causing the criminal to drop painfully and suffocate even faster with their arms stuck over their heads. The criminals were also usually crucified naked.

Please notice how I used the term "criminal" over and over again. Please notice how I described that crucifixion was not only painful, but humiliating. Please notice how I showed the contempt held for those who were crucified. These things I mentioned...I mentioned for a reason.

With all this having been said, now consider the quote from Bonhoeffer. Jesus was not calling His disciples and us to a life as described by so many TV preachers. Think of it this way: "If anyone is to follow me, let them deny themselves and sit in an electric chair" or maybe, "If you want to be my follower, don't put yourself first and climb the steps of the gallows".

Now don't be discouraged...despite all this talk of death and sadness, there is joy found in Jesus. Life is hard whether you follow Him or not, but knowing that He is there with you through it all...knowing that this is not all there is...giving your love away freely to those who may not love you back; this is the Way of Christ, because He had a hard life...He knew His Father was with Him through it all...He knew that this life is not all there is...He loved freely with no promise of being loved in return.

Dying to self brings true life. And when there is no more self, there is finally room for Jesus.

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