"Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!" (Luke 22:49 NLT)
Fighting seems so natural. Why let the bad guys win?
Losing is not a popular idea today. It's definitely not a very American concept. As George Patton famously remarked, "Americans love a winner. America will not tolerate a loser." We all want to be on the winning team, don't we? That's why millions of people filled out their March Madness brackets this week. We want to be able to say, "My team won it all." Nothing seems more un-American than choosing to lose.
But that's precisely what the followers of Jesus are sometimes called to do. In Christ's kingdom, the values of the world are turned upside down.
He that would save his life must lose it.
Take up your cross and follow me.
What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
He who would be first among you must be the servant of all.
Whoever loves his life loses it.
Whoever loses his life saves it.
Sometimes when you follow Jesus, you have to lose in order to win. That's what Jesus meant when he said to Peter, "Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). Brute force does not advance Christ's kingdom. We cannot accomplish God's work by bullying people into submission. When we try that approach, it may produce short-term results but it always backfires in the end because the appeal to brute force means that we don't really believe in God. If we did, we wouldn't try to take matters into our own hands. "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). Twelve legions would be at least 72,000 angels. Do you think 72,000 angels could handle the soldiers that came out to arrest Jesus? But if Jesus had that sort of power at his disposal, why didn't he use it? Verse 54 says that Jesus refrained from calling on those angels because he knew that his arrest was necessary to fulfill God's plan. "It must happen this way," Jesus said.
Jesus doesn't need our help.
He doesn't want to be rescued.
Jesus can take care of himself. What seems to be the cluttered rush of events turns out to be the plan of God unfolding to bring salvation to the world. When evil seems to be winning, Christ calmly submits, knowing that in the end, God's will must be done.
J. C. Ryle puts this in perspective:
He did not die because he could not help it; he did not suffer because he could not escape. All the soldiers of Pilate's army could not have taken him, if he had not been willing to be taken. They could not have hurt a hair of his head, if he had not given them permission.
An old hymn reminds us that sometimes we must "learn to lose with God." And in losing our power, our significance, our place in the lights, our fame and fortune and all that we hold dear, especially our reputation in the world, in giving all that up, our losing with God wins for us a blessing the world can't match and does not understand.
Lord Jesus, you won the greatest victory by submitting to the greatest evil men could conceive. Through the treachery of the wicked, you won salvation for all who believe in you. Grant us a willingness to follow you all the way to the cross. Amen.