The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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     “If everyone obeyed the 10 Commandments, we would have no 10 o’clock news”  was presented on the marquis of a fuel mart on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans several years ago. While some folks might be prone to agree with that statement presented within the context of New Orleans, the truth offered by the statement is not limited to a particular place or geographical region. Rather, crime and those who commit crime permeate society both historically and in the present.
     The amount of crime that surrounds us can be overwhelming and the egregious nature of some of these crimes is beyond comprehension. The incessant manner with which newspapers, television newscasts, and Internet articles report on murder, robbery, theft, assault, and other wrongful acts seem to indicate that crimes of abuse, covetousness, and violence are as prevalent today as they were centuries ago. Perhaps the only difference is the modern-day ability to communicate these crimes to the world through mass media.

     Similar to the kinds of crimes outlined above, some of the crimes of the cross are crimes of commission. I think, for instance, of the Craving of Judas (whether a craving for money, a prideful craving for recognition as one capable of delivering Jesus over to the Jewish leaders, or a craving to force Jesus to take a stand as a political Messiah), the Covetousness of the Jews (“out of envy,” Matt.27:18), and the Compromise by Pilate (Matt. 27:24-26). The opposite of crimes of commission are crimes of omission.  Folks who are guilty of crimes of omission could be convicted for what they did not do rather than for what they did do. One such crime of the cross in the “omission” category is the:

  • Crime of Miscalculation. Jesus developed a large following throughout his earthly ministry. Large crowds would often gather to hear him teach or to witness his healing miracles. For those in the crowd, Jesus offered both encouragement and hope.
     Although coming from different backgrounds, twelve men were selected by Jesus as his followers and special helpers. These disciples enjoyed a unique vantage point for ministering to others as they served alongside Jesus. Unfortunately, they were guilty of the crime of miscalculation having failed to count the cost of following Jesus. For example, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver which was the price of a servant at that time. In the Garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus was praying in anguish, the disciples were sleeping. At the time of Jesus’ arrest following the kiss of betrayal by Judas, the disciples deserted Jesus (Mark 14:50) when faced with the pressures of the world. Peter later denied any association with or relationship to Jesus after his earlier confession of Jesus as the son of the living God. With his denial, Peter fulfilled Jesus’ prediction (Mark 14:27-30).    
     These twelve men, selected by Jesus to serve with him in a special relationship, were guilty of the crime of miscalculation inasmuch as they were not willing to count the cost of following Jesus. Taking a stand for Jesus Christ tends to be followed by persecution and criticism. True followers of Jesus Christ are those who “swim upstream” while counting the cost of following him even though decisions they make and actions they take will often be unpopular with others in society.

     When you sing “I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back” (and) “Though none go with me, I still will follow” (and) “My cross I’ll carry till I see Jesus,” are you merely offering lip service or are you serious? When the heat is on, be reminded of Jesus’ words “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; Matt. 16:24).

     Another crime of omission that goes hand-in-hand with the Crime of Miscalculation is the…

  • Crime of Misrepresentation. Jesus charged his followers to be “salt and light.” Furthermore, love for neighbor highlights one’s love for God (Matt. 37-40; Luke 10:25ff, John 13:35) and is underscored by the manner in which others are treated (Matt. 25:40, Luke 6:31).

     A young man stopped by to visit his mom one afternoon to find her feeding a homeless man at her kitchen table. She had met the homeless man at the corner market not far from her house and had witnessed to him. She found him to be not only in significant physical need but also in desperate spiritual need. The son overheard the homeless man say, “I wish there were more people in this world like you.” The mom replied, “There are, you only have to look for them.” “But lady,” the homeless man responded, “I didn’t look for you, you looked for me.”      Christians must continuously be alert and sensitive to opportunities to be representatives of Jesus. Too many times, however, we shy away from being salt and light, from being a good neighbor, and from reaching out to the down-and-out. The apostle Paul asserted, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors (representatives) as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Followers of Jesus Christ must stand ready to represent Him with both a verbal and visible witness and “…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

     In addition to the crimes of Miscalculation and Misrepresentation, perhaps the most severe crime of the cross is the…

  • Crime of Misidentification. The Jews anticipated and longed for the coming of a great political and military Messiah to lead in the overthrow of the Roman government. Jesus’ arrival, however, was not well-received even as John recorded “He was in the world, and the world was made by him and the world knew him not. He came unto his own and his own received him not.” (John 1:10-11).
     Inasmuch as he did not lead with military might, Jesus was not identified or accepted as the Savior. Although he performed great and mighty acts in the name of God the Father, Jesus was accused of being a blasphemer. Having found no fault with Jesus at his trial, Pilate’s appeal to the crowd “What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” was met with the wholehearted and unequivocal response “Crucify him!” As they went about their duties of escorting Jesus to Golgotha and placing him on the cross, the Roman soldiers were among the last individuals who were in close proximity to Christ. Despite their proximity, however, the soldiers failed to identify Jesus. Then, as if to put an exclamation point on the crime of misidentification, these soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing at the foot of the cross.    
     Despite Jesus’ assertion that “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me,” people both then and now refuse to identify Jesus as the Savior thus refusing to identify with the Son of God. Jesus said, “If anyone declares publicly that he belongs to me, [confesses me before men, KJV], I will do the same for him before my Father in heaven. But if anyone rejects me publicly [shall deny me before men, KJV], I will reject him before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33, TEV). Within the context of opposition faced by the confessor, these verses imply the identification of the confessor with the One being confessed. Denial is the response of cowards who are not true disciples of Jesus. Why? Because a true disciple cannot help but identify with and be a confessor of Jesus Christ while a denier is someone that Jesus has never known. Each will receive their respective reward with the confessor being confessed and the denier being denied.

     What about you and your follow-ship of and fellowship with Jesus? Have you calculated the cost of following Jesus? Are you serving as his ambassador in such a manner that others identify Jesus as being in your life and identify you as belonging to him? As with Peter and John, do folks with whom you come in contact take note that you have been with Jesus (Act 4:13)? If you were arrested for the crime of being a Christian, would the available evidence be sufficient enough to convict you?

O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to thee. For thou, in thine atonement, didst give thyself for me. I own no other Master, my heart shall be thy throne. My life, I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for thee alone.  Amen.