What is Jesus talking about? I thought I was supposed to honor my father and mother? Aren’t I supposed to love my siblings, even though I don’t always get along with them? Doesn’t Dr. Luther teach us that everything we have comes from God? He taught me to say that God has given me my body and soul and then follows a long list of everything God gives me. Didn’t he also teach me that daily bread includes everything I need for this body and life, and that even includes good weather and good government? What is Jesus talking about?
Here’s the clue: He doesn’t just tell us to hate our family and get rid of our stuff. He tells us to hate our own life. So what does it mean to hate your life? Does it mean you wish you weren’t alive? You might think sometimes that might be nice, especially if you’re getting really tired of something. But our times are in His hands. He decides when life begins and ends, and we don’t. So what is Jesus talking about?
He’s talking about The First Commandment. What is it? You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. But everybody does that. Everybody fears, loves, and trusts their god or gods above all things. So which God?
Jesus is speaking. And without this Man there is no God. I’ll say it again: without this Man Jesus there is no God. The true God is The Baby in The Manger Who died on The Cross. If you don’t fear, love, or trust Him, you don’t have the true God. The true God is Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father sent His Son into the world. The Son died for you and rose again. The Spirit delivers to you the fruits of Jesus’ Bloody Passion. He gives to you His forgiveness and eternal life. Without Jesus there is no God, for without Jesus there is no salvation. And “[your] God desires the soul’s salvation, [you] also He desires to save” (TLH 529:5).
So hate everything else. Consider them nowhere near as important as Jesus. Put Him on the pedestal in your heart and take everything else off. Make Him #1 in your life. Day in, day out, remember Him. Remember His Death and Resurrection. Remember why He died and rose. Give Him thanks for it. Pray Him for His grace, both for you in your life and for those around you, in this place, in our community, our state, our nation, our world. And bear your cross.
Now that does not sound fun. Yet The Cross is front and center in our lives. It’s really a strange thing, a cross. It’s a decoration these days, and we all suspect some people treat it like a charm or a decoration that means nothing. In reality, it’s an instrument of extreme torture unto death. Who would want to look at one? Yet we come to church and can’t miss the crucifix, and there are more crucifixes and crosses in our buildings. Why?
We have this large beautiful crucifix to remind us why we’re here. We worship Christ Crucified. He’s no longer on The Cross, but He’s still The Crucified One. We’re here precisely because He was crucified. If it didn’t happen, we’re wasting our time. We put this big 3D picture over The Altar because that’s where God comes to us to give us our salvation. Here we receive the very thing He sacrificed for us. We receive His Body and Blood, born of Mary, crucified by Pilate. We receive with It the things He won for us with His sacrifice: forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Some churches also put a crucifix near the pulpit to remind both preacher and people “We preach Christ Crucified.” That’s why this cross is standing here. Indeed, The Gospel pictures before you Christ Crucified for your salvation. Anything that does not focus on that Cross or flow out from that Cross is not the preaching of Christ. When we see The Cross anywhere in this place or in the school, we are reminded that we are here to proclaim The Cross and receive the saving benefits of that Cross. That’s what Christian preaching is all about.
You can also put a crucifix in your home. Some pastors encourage their people to put them in every room, or at least bedroom, or at least the main room. Why be reminded of Jesus Christ and Him crucified every day in the home? “Home is where the heart is,” and if the human heart likes sin, then that’s where sin will happen. A glimpse at Christ on His Cross may rescue you from temptation as you remember what He did for us. Remember the way of escape St. Paul speaks of? That can be looking at Christ Crucified. But then there’s this: When you do sin, look to Him on that Cross to be reminded why He died for you. He died to forgive you. Confess your sins to Him, and He will not disappoint. He will forgive you. When we see His Cross, we remember He died for us to free us from sin. That freedom looks like this: He declares us not guilty of our sins and He enables us to do what is good. So let your home and heart be where the crucifix is.
So put up a cross. And take up your cross. That’s another thing looking at a cross can tell us. We will have crosses in this life. Let’s face it: this world doesn’t like us. It doesn’t like that we are “counter-cultural.” It doesn’t like that we uphold God’s design for marriage. It doesn’t like that we uphold God’s design for life’s beginning and end. It doesn’t like that we uphold God’s design for faith. The world wants to focus on what we feel. Does it make you feel good? “Just do it.” Does it make you feel bad? “Stay far away from it.” Does it oppose you and contradict you and claim there’s such a thing as absolute truth? “Loudly reject those who confess it and mock those who talk that way if they’re faithful Christians.” We hear these things and begin to wonder whether we should change to be like them.
But the world comes after us other ways. It may tell us we’re wasting our time coming here. Once we’re here, it may make fun of the way we worship. People want what’s fun, we’re told, and singing old hymns and liturgy and hearing some guy talk about serious things from a pulpit while not telling you how to better yourself or what’s going to happen in the election isn’t fun. And why does he dress so funny? No, better to get rid of all that stuff and make things light and without substance. And then we begin to wonder whether we might be more successful if we changed to be like that big church over there that seems so much more popular and doesn’t preach Christ.
So how do we respond? We remain faithful. Our worship teaches us about Christ. We remain faithful to God’s Word because that’s what saves us. If we join the world in paying no attention to Him, we will not confess our sins, and if we do not confess our sins, we will not be saved because we won’t be forgiven. It feels good to join the world in disobedience. The flesh loves to disobey God. That’s the crux of the crosses we bear: we must fight against devil, world, and flesh to remain faithful to Christ. It’s hard. It’s a war. But your salvation was purchased at a heavy price, and you believe that if you remain faithful to Him and His Cross, you will be saved eternally. And He keeps His promises.
That is what this crucifix is all about. That’s what God intends to teach you with the crosses you bear. His Son suffered greatly for you on The Cross. He is conforming you to Him. He is making you more and more like Him. After all, you will be with Him and see Him forever, so you might as well learn about Him and be with Him now where He may be found. Be with Him. Embrace Him. So now come to His Altar, for here you receive the strength you need for the war.