Bearing The Disgrace Of Jesus
By Dave Butts
The author of Hebrews gives us an amazing, humbling command: "Let us, then, go to Him [Jesus] outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore" (Heb. 13:13). The great strength of the Book of Hebrews is the way it helps us to understand Jesus in relationship to the main tenets of Judaism. In the thirteenth chapter we learn that in the same way that the sacrificial animals were taken outside the camp (city) to be burned, "…so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood" (Heb. 13:12).
Jesus suffered great disgrace in the process of bringing us to salvation. Taking our sins upon Himself, He experienced physical pain, emotional turmoil, social rejection, disgrace, and spiritual anguish. Perhaps the hardest thing for us to hear today is that when we come to Jesus, we are called to bear His disgrace.
The great heresy for many Christians today is to believe that the Christian life is an easy, respectable way of life. Rather than respectable, the very name of Jesus is increasingly becoming an offense to people. And, in reality, the Christian life is difficult! So difficult that without the working of God’s Holy Spirit within you, you cannot live that life. It involves suffering. It is not comfortable.
Part of our problem today in the church in many places is that Christianity is presented as easy. The early Christians knew nothing of this type of faith. Theirs was a hard life that demanded sacrifice. I would suggest to you today that nothing has changed. Real Christianity is just as hard as it has ever been. It is just as demanding, requiring just as much sacrifice as it did in the first century.
We are followers of Jesus…the Man of Sorrows. We are still commanded to bear His disgrace. The shame of the Cross is still ours. The suffering is still ours. Those who argue differently need to listen to the Apostle Peter who said, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).
Listen to the words of Jesus to the church at Smyrna: "I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:9-10). Jesus was aware of the trials of the Christians in Smyrna. The word used for "afflictions" is also used to describe the crushing of wheat under huge millstones. It is real pressure. The kind of pressure and trial is specifically referring to that suffered for the sake of Jesus.
Anyone can get into trouble and suffer for it. Jesus is speaking about persecution that Christians suffer. Isn’t it good to know that Jesus knows? He is aware of our troubles and struggles. Though the world may not know what we endure, Jesus knows. He is here to help us as we labor and struggle for Him.
The Smyrnan church experienced great times of persecution. In the second century, Polycarp, the old bishop of the church, was hauled before the authorities and asked to renounce his faith. They tied him to a stake and lit the pile of wood about him. As the flames began to engulf him, the authorities cried out for him to recant. Polycarp cried out from the flames, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never wronged me. How then shall I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
Did you notice that Jesus did not say to the church at Smyrna that He was going to take away persecution? He did not offer to deliver them from violence. He did promise, however, to reward them. His call is to be faithful in the midst of suffering. His promised reward is the crown of life.
There are many places around the globe where the church understands through hard experience the truth of what Jesus said to the Smyrnan Christians. Their faith is being refined as by fire through times of persecution. They are gladly bearing the disgrace of Jesus.
For those of us in the part of the world where we do not experience that kind of overt persecution, we need at least two responses. First, we need to pray for our brothers and sisters who are undergoing this fiery trial. Our prayer support is crucial for their endurance. The second thing is the most difficult. We need to change our expectations of our own faith. It is time to put aside "lite" Christianity. Our faith must mean making hard decisions and turning from an "easy" faith that demands nothing and costs little. It is time to quit whining about personal preferences or services that last too long. Jesus does not call us to convenience or comfort, but to the Cross.
Brother Andrew, the author of God’s Smuggler tells of an encounter that should call us all to the consecrated life. He states, "My last meeting with Iranian pastor Haik Hovsepian-Mehr was especially memorable. For many years he had served as a shepherd for the churches in Iran, always declaring the Gospel wisely but openly. As we parted we shook hands and he said to me, ‘Brother Andrew, when they kill me it will be for speaking and not for being silent.’ He said, ‘when.’ He did not say ‘if.’ He knew he would be killed. The next month he was murdered. He had suffered for his faith for years. He was killed for his faithfulness to declare it. He was a rare and precious man, but he was not alone. There are millions of beleaguered Christians living in areas where their faith costs them greatly. It costs them most when they proclaim their faith."
We must join our brothers and sisters in prayer and in proclamation of the faith – regardless of the cost. Without heeding the consequences of possible suffering, the church must shake off its lethargy and move ahead in the power of the Spirit of God. We must shoulder the Cross of Christ, bearing His disgrace upon us, as we joyfully live out His life and proclaim His coming kingdom.
– Reprinted from an earlier issue of Herald of His Coming.