The Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Discipleship

What does the Cross have to with Discipleship?
 
As a church, we focus on being and making disciples of Jesus; because that is what Jesus did and what He commanded us to do.
 
However, to those that are new to us or to discipleship, it may seem that we do not speak on the cross and the empty tomb as much as other churches do.
 
And you would be correct; we probably don’t talk about the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as much as other churches do.
 
But I would argue that it is not because we are neglecting them, but rather that other churches probably don’t talk about what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple as much as they should; and as a result, they are often just filling the dead space by repeating themselves about the cross and the empty tomb simply because they don’t know what else to talk about.
 
But this doesn’t mean that as a church that we downplay the Crucifixion and the Resurrection either.
 
This is why we normally observe communion at least once a month and we emphasis that taking communion is a reminder of Jesus’ body being broken and His blood being spilled on the cross for our sins; and that this was the price that had to be paid to free us from our sins so that we might be able to become His disciples.
 
But what I really think is not being spoken about enough is the connection between the cross of Jesus, His empty tomb, and imitating and obeying Him as His disciple.
 
Too many times I have heard pastors and churches act like the two things are at odds with one another; when nothing could be further from the truth.
 
The truth is that the crucifixion, the resurrection, and imitating and obey Jesus are all part essential parts of the Gospel.
 
You cannot have discipleship without the cross and the empty tomb; but neither do the Crucifixion and the Resurrection mean anything unless they are connected to imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple.
 
This is because it is only through imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple that we are able to bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God that we were originally created to be.
 
But in order to do so, we must first be purchased and freed from our imperfection and fallenness by the death and resurrection of the only perfect of image of God that ever lived.
 
In Galatians 6:14-15, Paul wrote:
 
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.”
 
Paul wrote that he only boasts in the cross; but then also immediately wrote that it is through the cross that he is dying to the world and being re-created.
 
It is only through the cross of Jesus that we die to the fallen world and that the fallen world dies to us. And it is through us dying to the world and the world dying to us that we are re-created into the image of Jesus, the image of God that we were originally created to be; the new creation.
 
In the beginning, God’s creation was in a state of perfection and order. This perfection and order reached its climaxed with the life of the first man and woman who were perfect images of God who reflected and magnified His glory. They were then to further magnify God’s glory by filling the earth with more perfect image bearers.
 
But man’s failure, disobedience, rebellion, and thus sin, introduced imperfection and chaos into God’s perfect creation; which in turn led to the breakdown and the destruction of life: that is, death.
 
Rather than immediately punish the first couple with death for their disobedience and failure; God instead allowed them, and all of creation over which they had been given dominion, to begin to die.
 
And all of mankind that followed them became willing prisoners, captives, and participants in and of that death, sin, and fallenness.
 
And all of us therefore face not only the physical penalty of death for our fallenness, but eternal death as well.
 
Someone, somehow, must free us and then remake and restore us to what we were originally created to be.
 
Much attention is often given to 1 Corinthians because of the practical topics it covers; and as a result, 2 Corinthians is often overlooked.
 
This is unfortunate because there is an extremely important theological treatise that spans from 2 Corinthians 3 to 6:2. This treatise explains the relationship between the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and disciples of Jesus rendering glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God (that we were originally created to be), through being conformed to the image of Jesus.
 
While we do not have the time to cover the whole section, here are some highlights:
 
“If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” (2 Corinthians 3:9-11).
 
“[…] Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
 
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
 
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).
 
“We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:14-17).
 

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2).
 
Jesus entered into the fallen world as both God and as a man.
 
As a man, He first demonstrated to us what it truly means to be the perfect image of God; and then He invited us to follow, imitate, and obey Him by faith.
 
However, as God, He was rejected and crucified by mankind.
 
But at the same time, as the only perfect man, He was our representative and champion before God. And as such, He was spiritually destroyed and forsaken by God in our place for mankind’s disobedience, failure, and rebellion.
 
And then, as the God-man, the only perfect image of God to ever live, He resurrected Himself from the grave; taking upon Himself a perfected resurrected body like the one that He will one day give to everyone that follows, imitates, and obeys Him by faith; dying to their fallen selves, and being re-created into His image by imitating Him as His disciple through the supernatural empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
 
And then on that day, we will be completely re-created and resurrected into perfect images of God through Him and in His likeness, and will live as such for all eternity.
 
Christ physically died on a literal cross, and was spiritually crushed by God for our sins. In return we must by faith, spiritually die on a figurative cross for Him and be resurrected by the Spirit of God into His image; trading our lives for His, just as He traded His life for ours.
 
Preaching and teaching this Gospel of Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Discipleship is the ministry and message of reconciliation that we have been given by God to faithfully discharge.
 
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
 
May God continue to empower and enlighten us through the power of His Holy Spirit in order to do so. Amen.
 
 

 

For more information on why it is so important to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, start here and follow the links the end of each article:
 
 
 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash