“Somber Shadows of the Cross”

All of us are commanded to make disciples. Whether that be on our campuses, in our workplaces, among our families, wherever we are, Christ’s command still stands: Go and make disciples. For some of us, this command brings with it fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, maybe even fear of physical harm. For some reading this right now, maybe you are sitting in a place where there is much hostility in regards to Christianity and the gospel. Maybe others of you are reading this from the comforts of your home or workplace, but you are starting to sense a call from the Holy Spirit to pack up your things and family and move to an unreached people group in some other part of the world. Wherever you may be, the command to make disciples of all nations applies, and for many of us, although we desire to fulfill that command and honor Christ, when the opportunity arises for us to share our faith with an unbeliever, our tongues stick to the roof of our mouths, our palms become clammy, and the moment is lost because we are afraid and nervous.

John Stott in his book, Christian Counter-Culture, expounds the truths Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount. While unpacking the famous lilies and sparrows passage in Matthew 6:19-34, Stott reminds his readers of Romans 8:28, that God works everything for the good for those who “love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Stott then tells a story that I hope we will find very comforting as followers of Christ.

“This was the assurance which fortified Dr Helmut Thielicke while he preached a course of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount in St Mark’s Church, Stuttgart, during the terrible years (1946-1948) which immediately followed the second world war. He often alluded to the scream of the air-raid sirens, alerting people to yet more devastation and death from allied bombs. What could freedom from anxiety mean in such circumstances? ‘We know the sight and the sound of homes collapsing in flames…Our own eyes have seen the red blaze and our own ears have heard the sound of crashing, falling and shrieking.’ 

Against that background the command to look at the birds and lilies might well have sounded hollow. ‘Nevertheless,’ Dr Thielicke went on, ‘I think we must stop and listen when this (Jesus) man, whose life on earth was anything but birdlike and lilylike, points us to the carefreeness of the birds and lilies. Were not the somber shadows of the Cross already looming over this hour of the Sermon on the Mount?’”

“In other words,” Stott goes on, “it is reasonable to trust in our heavenly Father’s love, even in times of grievous trouble, because we have been privileged to see it revealed in Christ and his cross.”

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