Thursday, September 11, 2008

how to follow JESUS [the Southern Baptist preacher]

We have four gospel accounts. Three are very similar. Thus, they are called the synoptic gospels. They share many similar stories and parables, etc. Some of the details, verbiage, and language used in these are slightly different, but it is clear that each gospel writer is retelling the same story. However, there is one particular passage that each of synoptics have that has ravished my attention as of late. Here it is in all three:
  • Mt 16.24-27
  • Mk 8.34-38
  • Lk 9.23-27
Jesus is primarily defining one thing is these texts - what it looks like to come after Him. He says, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." It kind of appears that there are three parts to this thing:
  • Deny yourself. Well, that stinks. I really like feeling nice. But I don't think it means "Go Ghandi" and pleasure is for wimps. I'll go with Dr Piper and say that earthly pleasures will burn and true delight is denial of self and taking great happiness and pleasure in God. That is denial of yourself.
  • Take up your cross. Dang again. This is equivalent to "Take up your noose" or "Take up your electric chair." The cross was an instrument of execution for criminals. Also, because this imperative comes from the lips of our Lord, some think this should/could mean to "embrace your purpose" because Jesus' purpose was the cross. Whatever it implies, it most assuredly includes a furthering of self-denial, a firm grip on the reality that the road will not always be pretty, and a contrite elation that "whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well. It is well with my soul.'"
  • Follow me. St Paul said that his friends should imitate him. That Greek verb is where we get our word "mimic" from. But never could he use the word that Jesus uses here. This kind of "following" encompasses imitating, a joining with, and accompaniment with whom you are following. If we unite the self-denial with the cross-taking and the following of our Lord, we have then arrived at what discipleship looks like. Obviously, this will be easier said than done and will work so much better in theory than practice. But here it lies - true discipleship.
So, here's the really cool Southern Baptist part. Like I said, the gospel writers are pretty much united on the general details of the stories they tell. But there is something that must be brought forth from these three passages about what, how, and why Jesus says what he says.

The three verbs he uses [deny, take up, follow] are the same in all three synoptic gospels! Each gospel writer has their own flavor and writing style, but this amount of linguistic agreement is hugely exceptional! But better yet, all three verbs in Greek begin with the same letter [aparneomai, airo, akoloutheo]. All the while Jesus is dissecting for them the intensities of discipleship, he is also employing the rhetorical device of alliteration so that they can remember what he said.

So, like a good Baptist, Jesus makes each point start with the same letter. Apparently, the gospel writers left out his standard poem or tear-jerking story that goes after the three points and before "Just as I am."

At least Jesus didn't forget the invitation, "If
anyone wishes to come after me..."

1 comment:

gracelaced said...

This post is insightful--and really cracks me up, because my husband and I grew up in the SBC, and planted a church that is technically SBC, but he (hubby/preacher-teacher) is NOT any of the things you usually associate with being Baptist--at least not here in the SW. Judging from you influences and links--as well as your wife's (thanks for linking her to me!) we seem to be on much the same page doctrinally and scripturally. it's good to meet other solid folks...

Ruth