Do you ever have those moments when several things you’ve been reading, hearing, thinking about, meditating on, all come together at once in a crystal clear and profound way? And in the midst of all of that lucidity, you get all teary and feeling grateful and everyone around you is probably thinking, ‘What’s with her???’ Well a beautiful thing like that happened to me this weekend, right there in my church pew.
Here are all of the things going through my head in that moment of profundity. Maybe they won’t even fit together for you. Maybe you’re still interested in hearing them anyway.
We were singing, “My Savior, My God,” which has been around for quite awhile now, but this part especially never gets old to me:
“That He would leave His place on high,
And come for sinful man to die –
you count it strange, so once did I
before I knew my Savior…”
I love picturing perfect, strong, honored Jesus, living and working safely nestled in the community of the Trinity when, one day, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit come to Him. “The time is coming, Jesus. For You to go. For you to put the Plan in motion. Are you ready?”
“Yep!” Jesus nods, knowingly, yet resolvedly.
I was reading a book recently in which the author said he sure was glad that, when it came time to leave Heaven and put Himself in an obedience role to the Father, Jesus didn’t say:
“That’s fine; I’ll go. But, just for the record, I don’t do nativity scenes. I don’t do sick and needy people. And I certainly don’t do crosses.”
I laughed out loud when I first read it. But mostly because it isn’t funny at all – it sounds like me when God asks me to follow Him even in the stupid little things in life.
Then, at Cru conference last week, Tim Muehlhoff, a professor at Biola and one of the main conference speakers read Hebrews 12:1-2:
“..let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Tim said that you and I (and the love and relationship we can share with God because of Jesus) are the “joy set before [Jesus].” And Tim’s take on “despising the shame” is that to “despise” means to “think little of.” So, when Jesus “despised the shame [of the cross]” it meant that He looked at the cross, knowing full well what it would entail from beginning to end, then waved His hand in dismissal, and said with absolute confidence, albeit wistfulness, “Done!”
“Excruciating in the moment, but totally worth it.”
I have always sensed that Jesus must have felt at least a little bit that way. Maybe you think it sounds unempathetic to say so. But of any person who ever lived on this planet, who more than Jesus lived out of a beautiful, painful, selfless Plan for the world even though He had to lay aside any personal plans He might have hoped to accomplish? Who more than Jesus did His important Job in the world only because He chose not to pursue His own personal career? Who more than Jesus lived out of a vision greater than His own personal wants and rights? Who more than Jesus could see joy beyond temporary pain and self-sacrifice? The Jesus I’m getting to know wasn’t self-pitying and He never took on victim-mentality, though He had more justifiable reason to do than anyone else who has ever lived on this planet. And so, on my behalf, so that He could have a greater joy through relationship with me and so many others, He was able to say, “Done!”
Oh Lord, teach me to say, “Done,” when you ask me to do painful, sacrificial, invisible things — even when I can’t see the joy beyond them.
So there’s Jesus on December 24 (or something), circa 4BC: Suitcase packed full with the Heavenly versions of modern-day inventions that really would have made His first century AD journey on earth more comfortable and convenient. Knowing He can’t take them. Ready to be physically made into the reduction of a helpless baby. Hands on His hips. Deep, thoughtful sigh. Standing between the Father and the Spirit. Looking over the Ancient Plan again. Fingering the Plan with His Heavenly version of fingers. “So… virgin’s womb; birth canal (God, I hope I don’t remember that!); manger; listen, obey, and honor my imperfect mom and stepdad; younger siblings – all without an iPhone escape (Yikes!); family carpentry business; baptism by John; 12 disciples; lots of Pharisees; betrayal by an intimate; abandonment by all my friends; false accusations; a court appearance in which I must keep my mouth shut though it be the most unjust, underhanded trial ever litigated; resist reaction when I’m spit on and whipped by wimpy, ignorant bystanders; The Cross; submit to physical death. And then – they joy that will make it worth it all! – escape the grave; tell death to kiss my @** – and everyone else’s – and forever We get to introduce them to the immersion and intimacy of knowing and loving and being known and being loved. Done! Ready. Let’s do this.”
I still can’t even think about it without tearing up.
Amen! Thanks, Jesus.
*I have no doubt that, if you were looking for it, you found some heresy. Sorry. Next time just don’t look for it; honestly, it’s really a bad habit — especially considering that we all have some lurking somewhere.