Living and Dying
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” — John 21:22
The context of this verse is a conversation Peter is having with Jesus. Jesus just told Peter that he would “stretch out his hands . . . and another would carry him where he did not wish.” This signified that Peter would die on the Roman cross of crucifixion. Peter immediately pointed Jesus to John and said, “what about him?” Then, Jesus said the statement that I chose as our verse for this week.
It is amazing to me how different following Jesus looks in different countries. In most of the Middle Eastern countries, following Jesus can actually mean physically dying for Him. The decision to follow Christ is quite different in countries such as Syria and North Korea as opposed to the United States of America. We struggle to explain Luke 14:26 here in the U.S: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” I desire to raise my children and enjoy retirement with my wife. I’m sure that husbands and fathers in the Middle Eastern countries do as well. But, as of right now, following Christ for them means going against what the majority of their families believe, and could cost them immediate death.
How many Americans who say they are Christians would continue to call themselves Christians if the roles were immediately reversed? A quick Google search tells me that 83% of America is “Christian,” whereas 5% of the Middle East is Christian. Why the vast difference? Well, cultural differences make it easy here, but hard there. There, a public declaration could well likely lead to your brutal execution, or at the very least your excommunication. Here, a public declaration will get you “likes” on Facebook.
Really think about this. Read the Gospels and the book of Acts and ask yourself, “What does it look like to really be a Christ follower?” If it came down to Jesus or your own livelihood, could you stand true? “Well, I have a family to provide for.” So do the vast majority of the people who will die today for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial, dying daily to our own desires, and a true commitment to following Him and His ways. We must evaluate what is clearly stated in the Word of God and decide what we have taken “off the table.” If I’m honest, at one time my relationships were “off the table.” I was going to be friends with who I wanted to be friends with, date who I wanted to date, and do what I wanted to do. My money at one time was “off the table.” I was not going to give any money, much less 10%, to that church with that preacher who “just wanted my money.” In fact, I thought I could talk like I want, listen to what I want, watch what I want, and basically do what I want.
And I could have, and did . . . for a while. Then, I began to wonder why I didn’t have the peace that a few quiet, Godly men had on their lives. I figured out that they loved God. They didn’t give stuff up because they felt like they had to; they gave it up because they wanted to. They saw Jesus as their most prized possession, whereas I saw Him as some genie in a bottle. If I could do just enough to make Him “happy,” he might somehow superstitiously “bless” me.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records a legend about Peter. It said that Peter was leaving Rome to escape persecution. On his way, He sees Jesus appear to Him. “Lord, where are you going?” Peter asked. “To Rome to be crucified once more,” Jesus replied. Upon hearing this, Peter knew it was time, and walked back into the city to surrender his own self to be crucified. “Crucify me upside down,” he said, “I’m not worthy to die in the same manner as my Lord.”
Would to God that you and I would have the same resolve to be obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. After all, what makes a man think he would die for Him, when he won’t live for Him?
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save It.” – Luke 9:24