READ: Psalm 108, Micah 6, John 12, Philippians 2
One of the ironies of the crucified life is that it so easily leads to arrogance. We can be so proud of our sacrifice that we nullify it. Jesus humbled Himself in obedience to the point of death, making Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7-8), while we use humility to build our reputation. We want to be known for being unknown. There is a troubling tendency in ministers to use sacrifice and self-denial as a subtle way of “seeking our own” (v. 21), a ministerial ambition that needs to be throttled. As Tim Decker wryly says, “We need to die to Live Dead!”
Appearance of self-denial and actual crucifixion are two very different things. Neither Micah (6:8) nor Jesus are impressed with those who are outwardly mortified and inwardly arrogant. Jesus does not want us to walk right up to the precipice of humility and surrender, only to falter through a half-death. Resurrection is only real if death is complete–and make no mistake, resurrection is the goal not death. Live Dead might be better phrased Live Dead Live. Crucifixion was not the ultimate goal of Jesus–it was resurrection. The cross is meaningless without the empty tomb, even as the empty tomb is impossible without the cross. Humility and lost reputation were not the final goal of God. Even now He reigns in splendor exalted over every principality and person. God’s final goal is His own glory and the radiance of Jesus celebrated verbally and wholly by every people. The goal of Live Dead is life, not death. We just have to fully die if we are going to richly live.
In John 12:11, we are told that many of the Jews believe in Jesus on account of Lazarus. Lazarus’ death was not remarkable; all kinds of men and women died during the lifetime of Jesus. It was the resurrection after the comprehensive death of Lazarus that was revolutionary. John 12:17 puts it this way: “Therefore the people who were with [Jesus] when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness.” Lazarus’ life was remarkable not for its death but for its resurrection–and it will be our resurrection that bears the grandest witness of Christ.
Many people can suffer and be afflicted, but few there are who can rise up after their crucifixion in life and light and joy. Jesus is most exquisitely magnified not when His children suffer, but when they rise up after suffering sweet, gentle, joyous, shining, gracious, thankful, merciful, forgiving, and kind. It is resurrection, not crucifixion, that gives Jesus the greatest glory. It is life, not death, that Jesus designs for His followers. It is in our living that we bear the greatest witness, and we don’t fully live until we completely die.