Sentenced to Gitmo with Jesus

Jim Hamilton writes:

The word about taking up the cross to follow Jesus probably sounded like a call to risk Roman retribution when Jesus spoke it (Matt. 10:38). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, the word calls the followers of Jesus to lay down their lives by faith for others in obedience to God, just as Jesus did. Herein is the paradox that condemns all selfishness, and through judgment comes the salvation of living for others to God’s glory by faith: “The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life on account of me will find it” (10:39).

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. pgs 371-372.

I found this paragraph fascinating and troubling. It was fascinating for me because I had never really thought about the call to pick up my cross as a call to risk retribution by my own government. These would have been frightfully chilling words. Embrace revolution. Embrace radicalization. Uneducated though they may be, Jesus’ fishermen disciples knew exactly what He was calling them to do. Jesus was calling the disciples to a way of life that put them at odds with the most powerful military force the planet had ever seen. And not only that, but this life was also going to mark them out as the worst scum in the Empire. Crucifixion was reserved for only vilest of criminals. Rome would not even subject their own citizens to the punishment. However, the pain and torment of crucifixion was only part of the punishment. There was also a deep shamefulness associated with the cross. This is to what Jesus called his disciples. A life that would be marked by shame, humiliation and most likely death at the hands of your own government. Strangely, this is the only way to eternal life (Matthew 10:39). Against everything our natural inclinations tells us, embracing death really means embracing life. This is quite a paradox. One that only the Gospel can reconcile peaceably.

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

The troubling aspect of this paragraph hit me as I wondered how many in today’s churches would resign their membership if pressed to make such a commitment. Rather, I wonder how many would be willing to risk not only their lives, but also to be marked out as the worst sort of person. I wonder how many Christians would remain so, if it meant being associated with terrorists. Average Joe American hates nothing more than a terrorist. All the images of 9/11 coming flooding back at just the mention of the word. And I believe that if Jesus was here today, instead of calling Americans to pick up their cross and follow him, Jesus might say “risk being sentenced to Guantanamo Bay and follow me.” Now that would wake people up. Can you imagine their reaction? Our worthiness of following Jesus is tied up exactly in whether or not we think He’s worth terroristic associations and terroristic charges. If we take seriously our commitments to Jesus, it will not be a stretch for the world to label us as terrorists. For the sword we bear is capable of exposing the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) and darkness does not like to be exposed (Eph. 5:11).

The question that lays before us is, will we follow Jesus no matter what the cost? Will we follow him, even if the path to death led through Gitmo? I pray that answer is yes. For it is the only way to eternal life.


PS – One of my pastors (Pastor Jeremy Haskins) preached a great sermon on this passage after I had written this post. I highly commend it to you. You will be challenged and edified!

His Banner Over Us Is Death! The Sword of the Kingdom Kills Your Best Life Now (Matthew 10:34-39)

If you would like to hear more preaching like this, you can subscribe to my church’s podcast on iTunes or listen to more sermons here.

Dawn of a New Day

Osama bin Laden (AP File Photo)

Today, I woke up this morning to the news that Osama Bin Laden is dead. All the emotions of 9/11 seemed to flood back as I processed the news. A sense of joy began to rise in my heart. Finally, after all these years, justice is finally served. The evil mastermind behind that wicked act was dead. And not just dead, but killed at the hands of US Navy SEALs. We got our man.

Right now as I watch the news, joyous celebrations are erupting all over the country. From the White House to Ground Zero, people are joyously hailing the death of a wicked man. The Wisdom of Yahweh is confirmed once again. “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness” (Proverbs 11:10, ESV).

As I watched, an older lady at ground zero was interviewed and through tears of joy, she said that this was the “dawn of a new day.” Indeed, but not quite.

The victory is not complete. Murderous threats are still being breathed against us. Our security is not perfect or impenetrable or eternal. All this makes me long for the day when that evil snake will be finally cast into hell. Revelation 19 previews the scene:

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (Revelation 19:1-5, ESV)

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, andhe will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21, ESV)

I get chills every time I read this. For this will be the dawning of a new day. We will rejoice and sing “Hallelujah” in that day. The victory will finally be complete. The peace, everlasting. Evil utterly destroyed. The reign of Jesus finally consummated. Yes, this will be the dawning of a new day, the dawning of the New Heavens and New Earth.

Many have cautioned on Twitter that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Neither should we.  For the very Gospel we proclaim is that God died on behalf of his enemies! Treacherous rebels were redeemed! So, we should not revel in the fact that bin Laden is suffering eternal justice. But I do feel that many of these cautions may miss the point. While there may be some who rejoicing over the fact that bin Laden is in Hell (New York Daily News Cover), I think that most people are rejoicing over the defeat of evil. Osama bin Laden was the face of evil in America. And his death represents a victory of righteousness over wickedness. Could we not ask for a better context with which to share the gospel? We have witnessed the triumph of good over evil, however temporary. It is a microcosm of what God will do in Jesus Christ in the age to come. Good will triumph over evil, eternally. Evil will be done away with. In the words of J.R.R Tolkien, everything sad will come untrue.

So, let us rejoice! For a typological evil has been defeated. Osama bin Laden was a snake, just like his father. And one day, his father, the Snake, will be destroyed by the head crushing heal of the Son of Man.