Loving the Losers – 4/5/20

April 2, 2020


Everyone loves a winner. We are drawn to people who are successful, talented, famous, and powerful. We ourselves strive for success, to be number one, to overcome, to accomplish, and to win.

We dislike losing so much that calling someone a ‘loser’ is one of the worst insults. It implies that the person has little value or worth—because we assume that a person’s value and worth depend on their actions and their effort. We might even defend a person by saying, ‘At least they tried.’

But here is Jesus, doing nothing, not even trying. When Jesus is arrested, he does not fight back. When Pilate questions him, he doesn’t even speak up for himself. He doesn’t even try. He simple lets the world defeat him—he loses.

And when Jesus loses, his followers leave. After Jesus tells them to put away their swords in the garden, it says that all the disciples deserted him and fled. When they realize that Jesus is not going to fight to win, they are gone. Nobody wants to stand with someone who isn’t even going to try. Nobody wants be on the team with the loser.

Except Jesus. When Jesus is crucified, he is there with two other losers, two other people who were defeated and found to be of no value. They were criminals who were being executed and disposed of. And Jesus is there with them.

On the cross, Jesus identifies himself with those whom we devalue and find worthless: people who don’t do enough to improve their lives. People who don’t contribute to society. People who are used and abused, beaten down and then cast away.

As I wrote in my letter to you all this week, this time of separation is an opportunity for renewal. Much of the non-essential is stripped away, which can help us to see more clearly what is important.

One of the things that is stripped away is the number of people in worship on Sunday. We are tempted to measure the success of our congregation by how many people show up—our crowd.

When Jesus dies, the crowds are gone. Some of his followers are there. A few people stand at the foot of the cross, but it is nothing like when Jesus fed the 5000, or when there was such a crowd that people lowered a man through the roof to be healed by Jesus.

Jesus’ death is an event that was poorly attended. If it were a church service, we might say, ‘Maybe we should cancel it. People don’t come.’
But this poorly attended event, where the main character is humiliating defeated, is the most important thing that has ever happened.

We will not be having a service for Good Friday this year. We will not have the pageantry and pomp, the drama and production. There will be no crowd. And in a way, that is appropriate. Perhaps it will help us to face the utter defeat that Jesus faces at his death.

Now, of course, the crowds do come back. After Jesus is raised from the dead the Holy Spirit gathers people in a crowd again.

But this only happens after the disciples realize, ‘Oh, we had it all wrong. We were looking for the wrong kind of savior. We were looking for the wrong thing.’

The same is true for us. We look for the wrong things. We look for what is popular and grand and we are drawn to places and people who are successful.

When Jesus dies on the cross we realize, ‘Oh, we had it all wrong. We are looking for the wrong thing.’

Then we find that the people who are losing are the very ones that Jesus comes for. We find that God is at work among the least, and the last, and the lost. We find that being devoted to Jesus means being devoted to a losing cause.

So let us look for the losers. Let us look for those places and people that seem so unimportant to this world. And especially, let us look to Jesus who dies on the cross, who loses it all, for you.