“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin…”
Jesus did not shed blood like we do when we give a small portion at a doctor’s appointment or at a blood drive. He shed nearly every single drop of his blood leading up to and upon the Cross. Isaiah tells us, “So His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men.” The torture He went through was likely unprecedented in human history, with the beatings, the scourging, the crown of thorns, His beard being plucked from His face.
We see in chapter 10 that the Hebrews had endured public humiliation, but they had not even endured even what some of the early martyrs such as Stephen and James had, giving up their very life blood for their Lord.
When we live in a culture where bad traffic is some of the most difficult circumstances we face from day to day, Paul’s rebuke here is sobering. In the best of circumstances, the recipients of this message had nothing like the creature comforts we have today. We even have a term, “comfort food.” And we would be hard pressed to meet anyone who has been imprisoned for their faith, much less shed blood.
Jesus said (in Matt. 16), “Take up your cross and follow me.” This is imagery that has become disquietingly familiar to us in the Church, but to His listeners they knew first hand that taking up a cross meant not only public humiliation but painful execution.
Paul was addressing in the previous passage “growing weary and losing heart.” The other part mentioned in the context of “taking up the cross” was denying ourselves. Self-denial for higher causes is unfamiliar to secular society. The self-focused tone of our culture was emphasized in 1979 when the magazine “Self” was started. Here was “self” deified. In our culture we have whole institutions focused on ourselves that never existed just a few generations ago. In researching gyms and fitness centers there are over 30 within 5 miles of my home (I quit counting at 30; there are many more.) We have myriads of drugs and multiple types of therapy and surgery designed to enhance our self, our appearance, and our well-being.
Some commentators look at the “mark of the beast” (666) noted in the book of Revelation as symbolic of man (noted by the number six, the day in creation mankind was created) lifting him/herself to the place of God (three sixes, symbolic of the triune nature of God). Sadly, there is little in our general culture that expects, much less encourages, self-sacrifice.
We have an example, however, of what true sacrifice is, in what Jesus did in His ultimate sacrifice. We have a picture of true Love, in paying the ultimate price. And we have a picture of what Jesus calls us to do in following Him.