Crucifixion was a method of execution so horrific that Roman citizens were spared from it. It is where we get the term ‘excruciating’ – two Latin words which mean ‘out of the cross’. Jesus’ whole ministry had the weight of the knowledge the cross threatening to crush Him, yet the psalmist wrote concerning the Messiah “…therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than your companions” Psalm 45:7 (NKJV).
Despite the devil’s relentless efforts, Jesus remained joyful; if He had felt self-pity about the cross or had an outburst of unrighteous anger once – only once – He would have been an inadequate sacrifice. Yet in His three years of ministry with the cross always before Him, He did not live a bitter life but was utterly victorious: He attended the menial proceedings of a wedding by turning water into wine; He forgave tax collectors and prostitutes; He patiently fed the thousands who harassed Him; He wept with Mary and Martha over Lazarus; He washed His disciples’ feet knowing they would leave Him to die alone; and as the devil spat in His face in a final attempt, He cried victoriously back “Father forgive them…” Luke 23:24 (NKJV). Christ knew He was secure in His Father’s love, His ministry beginning with comforting words “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”
Richard Wurmbrand who was himself tortured over fourteen years, showed himself to be empowered in the love of Christ:
“My last deed before leaving was to go to the grave of the colonel who had given the order for my arrest and who had ordered my years of torture. I put a flower on his grave. By doing this I dedicated myself to bringing the joys of Christ that I have to the communists who are so empty spiritually. I hate the communist system, but I love the men. I hate the sin but I love the sinner. I love the communists with all my heart.”
Notice that Richard’s supernatural power to forgive sprung from “the joys of Christ” that he personally experienced. The greatest joy we have is the knowledge that we are perfectly loved and taken care of by our Father through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul commanded, not suggested: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” Philippians 3:1 (NKJV). Notice that for Paul, rejoicing is ‘safe’ or a ‘protection’ against fearing that our own needs will not be met; only once we have conquered this fear by the love of Christ can we recklessly proclaim the Gospel and make radical decisions for the persecuted church.
This month’s challenge: Would people describe you as joyful in Christ? Or is your fear preventing you from making bold decisions for your persecuted brothers and sisters? If Jesus could be so generous despite the looming cross, we have no excuse. This month rejoice in the real treasures of Christ so your earthly treasures can be used for the persecuted.