I would like to make one final point before moving on, and it is a critical point in understanding this area of our motivation to take up the cross.
Jesus could not succeed and win over the religious and political leadership in Jerusalem in the first-century…because the gulf between worldly conventional thinking and a God-composed journey of faith…is a gap too wide to bridge (Jn. 8:43).
The religious leaders in Jerusalem unwittingly fulfilled the messianic prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 in crucifying Jesus…precisely because of the historic, unchanging reality of this wide gulf.
They could do no other than to reject the lowly yet miracle-working Jesus of Nazareth, because their mindset and hearts were stuck in the flat-line status-quo realm of worldly expectations alone, worshipping at the safe idol of conventional normalcy rather than the risk-filled, Abraham-style adventure of faith.
By contrast, in Luke 10:17 the story is told of the returning seventy disciples sent out to minister two-by-two: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through thy name.”
These ordinary, common-folk disciples are seen here as excited and overjoyed at the possibilities arising in this new elevated realm of faith in God and in beneficial service to mankind.
Counterintuitively, the leading Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers in Israel in the first-century couldn’t care less about the teaching or the miracles of Jesus. They did not care about healing the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, and those afflicted with leprosy (Mt. 9:12-13).
They only wanted to know from Jesus: “what are you going to do about the Romans occupying our country?” and “what are you going to do about our economy…about improving trade and business…and especially about peace and an eternal kingdom in Jerusalem?”
These religious leaders basically said through their words and their actions throughout the four New Testament gospels: “we do not care about your Sermon on the Mount or raising Lazarus from the dead…we care only about the horizontally conventional aspects of worldly political power” (Jn. 11:47-48).
A God-composed journey of faith life-script, following God by faith according to the uniquely singular Jewish tradition of Abraham, was oddly and disappointingly the farthest thing from their hearts and minds (Jn. 8:23).
When Jesus stands before Caiaphas and the religious leaders at His night trial, the basic question at issue about the ministry of Jesus is: “whom makest thou thyself?” (Jn. 8:53).
The messenger was being attacked (ad hominem) rather than the message.
The cross, the resurrection, and Pentecost had not happened yet.
The resurrection, which would change everything from that time forward for all eternity, was yet four days away.
Jesus was being unwisely judged solely by His lack of worldly status up to that point in time.
The wide gulf between “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33) and “what do you plan to do about the Roman occupation of our nation Israel?”…in other words Isaiah 9:6-7 as interpreted by these religious leaders…was center-stage and fully on trial…as it still is to this day.
Spiritual vision…the ability or inability to see Jesus for who He is…is the real issue that was on trial that fateful night two thousand years ago.
The main point here is expressed by Paul (someone personally and intimately familiar with the basic issues in question) in Romans 8:6-7…”For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
If we attempt to follow the Law through our own self-directed carnal mind…if we attempt to save ourselves through our own good works…without the benefit of a new spiritual heart that enables us to enter into a divinely crafted journey of faith…we will fall short.
Jesus was considered a failure and was crucified, by the religious leaders and a portion of the general populace…because He was operating far above the horizontal realm of worldly conventional thinking and living.
An elevated journey of faith powered by God, and carnally-minded conventional thinking, are incompatible at a lethally explosive level when perfectly expressed through Jesus Christ the Son of God walking through this broken world…which is blindly lost in sin.
If the life of Abraham was about fulfilling horizontally conventional normalcy, Abraham could have stayed safely in Haran.
Abraham courageously journeys out into an adventure of faith following God into the Promised Land.
The cross at Calvary not only epitomizes the rejection of Jesus Christ, but also a rejection of a God-led, Abraham-quality expedition of faith central to Judaism and Christianity.
When Abraham walked the earth he was not only the father of faith…but also the sole entirety of the Jewish nation.
A journey of faith after the pattern of Abraham is therefore exclusively Jewish by origin and definition.
When the leaders in Jerusalem rejected Jesus in favor of continuing worldly conventional normalcy in the political and religious realms (Jn. 11:48), when they rejected an adventure of faith patterned after Abraham, they were in the most profound and concrete way being un-Jewish (Rom. 9:6-7).
The rejection of Jesus as messiah is an emphatic endorsement of worldly horizontal, conventional normalcy because it is a rejection of the bold and liberated adventures of biblical-quality faith starting with Abraham.
Acts 13:27 reads: “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”
Their tragic vision was so horizontally limited they could not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…right before their very eyes (1 Cor. 2:6-8). They were stuck in the self-autonomy mode of going our own way.
This is why in the area of motivation it is imperative that Spirit-born Christians take up their cross and “enter in at the narrow gate” (Mt. 7:13-14) of our God-composed adventures of faith.
Every Spirit-born Christian is in the narrow gate and no longer on the broad road to destruction. The new covenant promise of God is that all believers will know Him from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:31-34). The way of the cross in a journey of faith is the God ordained route to rise above worldly conventional thinking and into the realm where all things are possible with God.
We cannot possibly write the life-script of experiences that will bring us into a personal relationship with God. We cannot possibly know ourselves well enough in-the-moment, using divinely wise foresight like God possesses, to be able to craft a life-plan that will actualize our individual destiny.
We cannot creatively imagine a life-script for ourselves to match the innovative brilliance of life-plans like those of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Daniel, Peter, James, John, Philip, and Paul…producing personal character growth and at the same time filling a cultural and historical niche in time that is outside of the range of our short-sighted, wide-angle vision.
This is why the Spirit-born Christian today must abandon self-sovereignty, take up their cross, and begin their journey of faith following Jesus Christ…building a backstory of faith-generating experiences that form the basis for overcoming faith as described in Hebrews chapter 11, Ephesians 6:11-18, and Revelation 12:11.