She said, “ I know you have a gospel for the poor, the hurting, the unhappy; do you have a gospel for the happy?”
I know we have a gospel for those weighed down with sins; do we have a gospel for those who aren’t burdened down with sins?
Is our gospel only one of assurance for the fearful, a promise of future deliverance to the captives and the oppressed; is it pretty much summarized in the old hymn, “We’ll understand it better by and by?
We do hear Jesus say, “If you’re weary and heavy laden come unto me and I will give you rest.” And there was the time (Luke 4) when he said he had come to free prisoners, to heal broken hearts, to deliver people from demonic bondage and to give sight to the blind.
Unhappy, sad people, and overburdened. We don’t need to apologize for such a gospel; He didn’t! He saw multitudes like sheep without shepherds and He had compassion on them.
But is that the entire story? Can you ever imagine Jesus saying, “Come to me if you’re energetic, happy and not a prisoner of besetting sins and I will give you a commission to match your blessedness? Something that will challenge you to use the joy and energy to oppose the hosts of wickedness in the invisible world in My name and for the oppressed.”
When people in their tens of thousands stepped out in faith to be baptized “into Christ…into His death” (Acts 2:36-38; Romans 6:3), what was that all about? They knew what the enemies of Christ had in mind when they put Him to death but the thousands who came in faith to be baptized into His death saw it as gospel. In faith they were saying to His enemies, “You saw it as shame you heaped on Him; we have come to know it is glory His Father heaped on Him (John 12:27-28; Colossians 2:15; Galatians 6:14). His death in His own eyes was many things and in the eyes of those who in faith were baptized into Him, it was glorious (Galatians 3:26-27;6:14).
It was glorious for many reasons and one of them was that it was the death of Death. Hebrews 2:14-15. That’s the death people in faith were baptized into—His death. Those embraced in Christ don’t die when they die. That’s what He said! John 6 & 11. Easy to say? For Him it was! He said Death had no power over Him, but how can we know that’s true? He demonstrated it by rising never to die again. That’s the death into which the early believers were baptized. (The Romans setting has an ethical thrust I’m bypassing for now.)
Christ’s death led to His resurrection, to immortality (Romans 6:1-11) and it’s that death, His death we’re baptized into. It is a death that is a prelude to life unending. But it was death. And so is our biological death. Jesus of Nazareth glorified biological death that is an expression of trust in and glad obedience to God. And so is ours, in Him!
We experience sadness at the death of our beloved ones—and we won’t apologize for it. But we will not live as victims of death. We are called to live in and as His image! Through His faith-filled followers He continues to share in the suffering of the human family and we too are to share their anguish in all its forms. Romans 7:17-18, 29, with the entire context that speaks of suffering while we wait for the glory that follows. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. We are not to seek exemption. Paul did not see himself crucified on his cross, but on Christ’s Galatians 2:19-20 (“co-crucified” is the Greek word). To see our death in Christ as less than glory is to rob ourselves or be robbed by our teachers. And indeed if we are baptized into Christ’s death we are baptized into the meaning and glory of His death and nothing less than that.
We refuse to be the prisoners of disease, old age, terminal wards, hospice care or old cemeteries! Nor despite our tears will we think of our beloved ones as slaves of any of these.
(Oh you mysterious, wondrous God and Father of mankind, thank you for making us conquerors in Jesus Christ come what may. This prayer in His name.)
Baptism Death Happiness Glory