In the greatest heavyweight boxing fight in history, Jesus was knocked out in the first round.
One of the things Christians fail to appreciate is that, in the kingdom of God, we win by losing. The true believer is not a winner, as popularly proclaimed. He is, first and foremost, a loser. If we are not prepared to lose, we cannot walk with God.
Being a winner in Jesus is completely different from being a winner in the world. In order to win in the Lord, we have to lose in the world. In order to win in the spirit, we have to lose in the flesh. That is the peculiar glory of the cross, and that is why many find Jesus’ approach to life so unattractive.
Jesus is “a stumbling stone” and “a rock of offence” because of his insistence that we carry our crosses. The cross requires us to lose and to accept our losses. It even prescribes sometimes that we be defeated. But carnal Christians don’t like to lose. However Jesus, our Redeemer, only restores what has been lost.
The champion must lose
There is a popular Christian film starring the gospel singer Carman called “The Champion.” The climax is a boxing match in which the good guy (a believer) knocks out the bad guy (an unbeliever). And when he lands the knockout punch and becomes the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, the Christian audience goes crazy with shouts of approval.
But the truth of the matter is that films like “The Champion” miss and undermine the fundamental message of Christ. The Champion appeals to the flesh. The “baddie” is given a thorough beating. But Christ does not appeal to the flesh. If “The Champion” had wanted to be true to the gospel, Carman would have lost the championship fight, and it would have been in losing it that he would have been victorious. That is the glory of the cross and that is why Jesus had to die.
Lambs do not fight
On the cross of Calvary, the greatest heavyweight boxing fight in history was practically over even before it started. Jesus was knocked out in the very first round. He himself proclaimed his own defeat. After he took the first few blows, he said: “It is finished.” Then he died and they carried him out feet first; dumped him in the grave and buried him. The thieves who were crucified with him put up a better fight. They took much longer to die. In fact, they had to break their bones to speed up their death.
Imagine this. One week before a major world boxing championship event, the Holy Spirit suddenly says he wants you to lose the fight through a knock-out in the first round. He does not even want you to throw any punches at all because the children of the kingdom of God do not fight. The Lord says the glory he seeks is in your defeat and humiliation; and not in your victory. That is kingdom dynamics.
Forseeing the travails of Jesus at Calvary, Isaiah observes that: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). Would we obey the Holy Spirit if he asks us to do likewise?
A forfeited life
Jesus’ ransomed life shows God has no regard for the vainglories of this world. On the cross, Jesus turned his back on this world and willingly departed from it. Therefore, Christians must also reject the “good things” of this life. We should readily endure tribulation, knowing that it is the process by which Jesus, our Saviour and fore-runner, overcame the seductions of this sinful world (John 16:33). Many, says the psalmist, are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34:19); and many are his reproaches in this lifetime (Matthew 27:39-44).
In the Old Testament, God asked Isaiah to go without his trousers for three years. He denied Jeremiah the glory of marriage. He asked Hosea to marry a prostitute. He took away Ezekiel’s wife, just as an object lesson to the Israelites.
Today, God requires nothing less than the total forfeiture of our entire life to him. He is not asking for a tithe of our possessions; he owns our possessions. He does not want our sacrifices. He wants us. He does not want us to worship him with our hands. He wants us to worship him in our heart of hearts. That is the message of the cross.
Jesus says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).