Since the earliest days of the church, Christians have commemorated the death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus of Nazareth at this time every year. And there has been plenty of argument concerning the purpose of those events.
We agree that Jesus died for us, but what does that mean, really? Too often we assume that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins . . . and leave it at that.
But when Jesus gained victory over death itself, he claimed authority over our very lives.
Bearing our crosses
In his book Pro Rege, Abraham Kuyper, the nineteenth-century Dutch journalist and theologian turned Prime Minister, says:
People will comment that ‘everyone has their cross to bear,’ complain about ‘the cross that we just have to bear,’ or say about those with a tough lot in life that they pass through life ‘under a cross.’ . . . In accordance with this usage, any who, despite their harsh lot in life, find peace in that lot—who endure the disasters that overcome them with a steadfast spirit and do not succumb to them in despair, but find secure refuge in God—they are considered to have fulfilled Jesus’ command. (2:39)
Do you agree? Then think again:
If the world sees that you are loyal in confessing your Savior and witnessing for him, it will try and make you pay for it. . . . Matthew 10:38 does not refer to our common suffering, but only to our suffering for the sake of Christ. Moreover, it is important to realize that the suffering thus depicted lies not in that we will have to bear our cross, but in that we will be nailed to it. . . . What Jesus pronounces with ‘whoever does not take his cross,’ is not a friendly word of comfort for the hardships and sorrows of life. It is a most solemn announcement that those who confess him and witness for him must always be prepared to die for him.
Loyal subjects of a living King
Unlike believers in other parts of the world, most Christians in my country (the United States) haven’t experienced the worst horrors of Hebrews 11: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.” (Heb 11:35–37)
As a turn of the century European aristocrat, neither did Kuyper. Nor was he in a place to see the atrocities of two world wars. But he understood the claims Jesus makes on all of our lives. The Easter message is one of hope and love. We are forgiven by the King of Glory. We are now his friends and heirs. But we are also his servants, and since he is King, we are his subjects. The King’s death and resurrection was so much more than a victory shout. It was a war cry, his proclamation that Satan no longer has authority or any claim to rule.
And Kuyper reminds us that Jesus’ authority extends to the life—and death—of every Christian.
Pro Rege volume 2 is now available in both print and digital formats! Dig into its theological riches this Easter. You may find yourself disagreeing with Kuyper, but you certainly won’t be left without food for thought. Get it now.