These last few weeks we have been faced constantly it seems with very difficult news of senseless, sometimes brutal killings.
Just this past week we heard of the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christian men by the Islamic terror group ISIS. Coptic (“Egyptian”) Christians originated in Alexandria and name John Mark, the writer of the gospel of Mark, as their founding missionary. They were recognized as a separate group in the 5th Century and have much similarity to the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches.
Whatever their particular beliefs, these men claimed to be followers of Christ and worshiped Jesus as Lord.
And that is exactly why there were butchered.
The video posted by the Islamic terrorists announcing and showing the beheadings included the headline, “a message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.”
There can be no doubt that the reason they were targeted and ultimately murdered is because of their devotion to Jesus Christ, because of their Christian faith, because of the cross.
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:22-26)
These words of our Lord remind us that He too was killed by murderers who sought power without any regard for the righteousness and justice of God.
But His words also call on us to take up our crosses as well. Every day.
For Jesus, His devotion to the Father brought about a death sentence and nailed Him to the cross.
For these 21 brave souls, their refusal to worship any other Lord but Jesus Christ carried a death sentence as well.
The cross is not just the place where our salvation is bought. As we note this Sunday, it is what empowers us in our daily walk with God, and enables us to minister to others in our worship of Christ our Lord.
And in doing so we are called upon to deny ourselves—to place ourselves upon our own crosses—so that our will can be lost in the Father’s will.
Just as the will of Jesus was.
Thankfully, our service and devotion to Jesus as our Lord does not carry a physical death sentence. Yet.