Laying Life Down
Jesus speaking to the Pharisees in John 10:17-18 stated: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” The conversation surrounded the fact that Jesus came into the world as a shepherd and savior. As such, He would lay His life down for His sheep, those faithful to God (John 10:4). Unlike a normal Shepherd, Jesus stands out because of his authority over death. He could give up his life and yet, take it again.
The faithful of God do not have the power to take up their lives after death as Jesus did, however, they do have the power to lay down their lives so their Shepherd can lift them up. Jesus established man must lose his life to gain it in Matthew 16:24-25, “… If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Accordingly, the apostle Paul stated in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
It is apparent from the passages above that there are two lives being discussed. The first life is the ending of the physical life which all men experience. The second life being laid down is the sinful life of a man. As sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd and follow, the laying down of a sinful life is submission to Jesus. Jesus has the authority to lift up man from both deaths, but man must make the choice to lay down the second.
Paul’s description of the life in which he had been lifted up in Christ was characterized as one in which Christ lived in him. When Paul addresses the Romans he describes the laying down of the sinful life. “…How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:2-4) He further gives direction for that new life in Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
The choice of the faithful to lay aside a sinful life and seek things which are above (Philippians 4:8) provides the hope of promise. The promise is that the Jesus the Good Shepherd will lift the physical body of man up when He returns in the clouds (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).