Surrender: “Let’s Go Die with Jesus”
Reading: John 11:9-16, 25-26 <> Psalm 31 <> Luke 9, 14, 22
The past few days I’ve been thinking about what it means to “surrender” to Jesus. I wonder about how surrender might be defined. It seems, in our society, there is a desire for this word to have cultural impositions placed upon it. Sometimes I get the impression from the words of others that “surrender” is similar to tolerance. Other times I get the impression that surrender is conditional and given only until it reaches a certain point of a person’s predetermined limitations; “I surrender this amount of me or I surrender only certain of my rights.” It seems rare that I encounter the idea of surrender being full and unconditional.
I wonder how Jesus interpreted and defined surrender.
We have the Bible to provide us with what Jesus said and while his words seem indisputable, they must be… disputable, because there are so many variations and degrees to how people interpret them. We have interpreted “Carry your cross…” from the wearing of a tiny charm/pendant to literally nailing ourselves to wooden crosses and everything in between those extremes. We’ve interpreted “Deny yourselves” from not eating chocolate to punishing, deathly ascetic lifestyles and every point in between those extremes. I’m reasonably sure other instructive commentary from Jesus; “You must lose your life to save it” and “Follow me…” have equally colorful interpretations as well. So, the question remains; “What does Jesus require with regard to a surrendered lifestyle?”
Over and over again, I am reminded of how Jesus emptied himself and provided us with the ultimate explanation and visible expression of surrender. I find these defining moments in many places throughout Scripture, but I think a few of the primary passages that bring substance to “surrender” can be found in the following:
- Luke 9:22-26
- Luke 14:25-33
- Luke 22:39-44
- Philippians 2:5-8
- John 11:9-16, 25-26
- John 12:24-26
All of the above verses represent a very radical commitment to the way of following Jesus, and in many cases, can be very different from what is taught to people attending Christian churches in North America. It is not my intent to slam or criticize anyone or any organization, but the message of radical surrender to the person and mission of Jesus Christ as Jesus described, taught, and modeled is a rare message in our churches today… even more rare in our society at large.
I don’t know what “surrender” means to other people, but when I read the call of Jesus from the Gospels, I cannot come to any other definition or meaning other than total and complete loss of and abandonment of self. Not only do I find his words crystal clear, but the example shared by the apostle Paul (Phil. 2:5-8) is difficult to argue against; “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The MSG Bible)
Surrender is what I encounter when I look upon the night of Jesus’ arrest as he prayed earnestly to his heavenly Father; “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want… Again, he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’” (Matthew 26:36-46 NRSV).
“Those who in fact risk all for God will find that they have both lost all and gained all… Everything other than pleasing God is nothing” -St Teresa of Avila
I think when it has all been considered… maybe Thomas had it pretty well defined. Jesus had announced to his disciples that he was heading back to Judea (where he had been threatened by stoning)and his disciples tried to change his mind, fearing for Jesus’ life and their own… I’m sure. After a few more words, Jesus is undaunted and begins to head back to Bethany… and Thomas adds; “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” (John 11:16) NLT. Surrender. I think this captures the definition as well as can be described. Surrender is to “go too—and die with Jesus.”
I suppose the question we live and die with is whether or not we are truly willing to surrender according to Jesus’ definition and terms or do we constantly excuse ourselves from surrender with efforts to redefine what it really means?
It’s a tough call…but in the end, these are His words; “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me…” (John 12:24-26 NRSV). Maybe even more specifically, I should ask what losing my life looks like as I live my life for Christ day to day.