One thing I (sometimes) forget about Jesus

I love Holy Week.

I love the opportunity to take a fresh look at the journey Jesus took as he headed towards the cross. I know this may sound a bit silly, but because Jesus was fully God, I sometimes forget that He was also fully human. It’s a hard mystery for us mortals to get our heads round – that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.

But when I look at his time in the Garden of Gethsemane I am struck more than anything by His humanity.

He wants His family – His disciples – to stay awake with Him. But all they can do is fall asleep.

And He prays that prayer. It’s a prayer that says “If there’s another way – if there’s another way to get your children back, then please take this suffering away from me.” The agonising reality of what is to come hits Him in full force – all the punishment will be laid upon Him, and He’ll be separated from the Father.

It’s agonising.

And yet He then utters some of His most powerful words: “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 

your will not mine

 

Your will, not mine.

“This isn’t about my immediate pain, my immediate reality, what I’m experiencing right now. I’m trusting you Father, and whatever you say I will do.”

“Whatever you say I will do.”

I can’t imagine those words would have rolled off His tongue. These were weighty, measured, full-on words: “Whatever you say I will do.” The words in the New Living Translation say “He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” These weren’t roll-off-the-tongue-kind-of-words.

But when I read the account in Luke 22, I’m amazed to see that as He uttered those words “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.”

In that moment, where Jesus fully embraced the reality of what was to come, the Father sent an angel. I wonder how the angel strengthened Him. Some commentaries suggest it was  physical strengthening because His body had become so weakened with sorrow –  He needed strengthening  so that He was physically able to go to the cross.  I don’t know. One day I’ll ask the Father and I’ll know, for sure.

But I love the fact that this fully human Son of God was given strength to continue in obedience.

None of us will ever face anything like this. But if we’re following Jesus there will certainly be time where we too will utter those words “”I want your will to be done, not mine. Whatever you say I will do.”

But as we utter those words we will also be given what we need by the Father to continue in that path of obedience, the  path that takes us towards the cross. There’s always a channel of grace offered to us as we walk in obedience.

We may receive a scripture, an encouragement from another, an increase in joy, maybe even an angel…. whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter. Because it will be enough.  It will be enough to physically, emotionally or spiritually strengthen us, to keep us going on the path He calls us to walk. That’s the kind of Father He is.

 “I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 

41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Luke 22 (New Living Translation)

“He knew it was time for him to die. They had planned it long ago, he and his Father. Jesus was going to take the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or ever would do.

‘Papa! Father!’ Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. ‘Is there any other way to get your children back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?’

But Jesus knew – there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into hs own heart.

God was going to pour into Jesus’ heart all the sadness and brokeness in people’s hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus’ body all the sickness in people’s bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.

But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran way from God, they lost God – it was what happened when they ran away. Not being closes to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment.

Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his father – and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two.

Violent sobs shook Jesus’ whole body.

Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. ‘I trust you, Papa,’ he said. Whatever you say I will do.’ ”

A Dark Night in the Garden, The Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Is your life successful?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if we had a new definition of success?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our definition of success was not determined by what others thought of us, by what we owned, produced or amassed,  by our popularity, or any other external factor?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our view of success was in line with our Father’s view of success.

Wouldn’t that be liberating?

I wonder what the Father really thinks is successful.

I look at the topsy-turvy nature of the Kingdom and I wonder.

I look at the life and journey of Jesus as he headed towards the cross. I look at the punctuated moments of “success”  – the popularity, the crowds, the healings. And then I look at the many other moments of apparent “failure”. Born in a stable amongst cows and sheep and mess, Jesus was despised, mocked, whipped and suffered death on the cross.  Betrayal, rejection, humiliation – He experienced them all.

I wonder what success looks like through the eyes of the cross. I wonder how the Father views success in the light of what we see lived by his very own Son, Jesus.

Maybe He doesn’t define success in quite the same way that we do. 

Of course, we know the other side of the cross – Easter Sunday  – with death defeated and sin overcome.  But without the obedience of Jesus there would be no death on the cross. And then there would be no resurrection, no death defeated, no sin forgiven and no freedom purchased.

I wonder how Jesus could keep going on that path towards the cross when the path of obedience was SO costly to Him. I think some of the answer lies in the fact that He knew His Father, and He knew who He was. He knew He was the son – the one whom the Father loved.  And so obedience to the Him, though it came at immense personal cost, was a love response, as He trusted in the Father.

Obedience through gritted teeth only gets us so far. But when obedience is an expression of who we are –  kids of  the most trust-worthy heavenly Dad  –  well, then we’re prepared to lose our lives for the one we love. And in doing that we’ll actually find our lives. This kind of love-response is what we see in the life of Jesus.

obedience pic

 

Maybe success doesn’t necessarily look like a well-paid influential job, academically-flourishing-children or a large congregation. Maybe success isn’t actually about results.

Maybe success is actually quite simple.

What if we took the Jesus-view of success?

What if success was merely about obedience to what the Father asks?

Then success would actually be about obedience to what He’s asked me to do. The end result would then be in His hands – not mine.

Wouldn’t it be liberating to live in that way?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if I lived the life the Father had asked me to live, rather than feeling inadequate because my life doesn’t look like yours. Or yours.

What if we stopped caring about what made us look successful? What if success wasn’t based on our exterior?  What if we didn’t allow success to be measured by other people? What if we turned down those voices a little, and turned up His a little bit more?

what if...

 

What if money, clothes, appearance, jobs, houses, congregations, family, marriage – none of those things were the hallmarks of success?

What if we bought into something bigger than we can see in our lifetime? What if we chose to sow into the next generation, and the one after that and the one after that?

Maybe like those heroes in Hebrews we won’t even see what’s been promised.

Those people, were glad just to see these things from far away.. they agreed they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth..they were looking forward to a better home in heaven….

(Hebrews 11)

If we know who we belong to, and if we know what He’s asking us to do then whether or not we get the credit, whether or not we get to see the end results, doesn’t really matter.

The thing that matters is whether or not we’ve done what He’s asked us to do.

Sometimes you’ll look at my life, and  it might seem hugely successful. Sometimes I might look at yours and think the same. Sometimes I’ll be understood and sometimes I won’t. The same is true for you. Sometimes in the seemingly successful moments we’re not actually doing the thing that the Father has asked us to do. And the same is true in reverse. In the hidden moments, the seemingly insignificant moments, the moments of despair – sometimes in those moments we’re doing exactly the thing that the Father has asked of us. It just won’t always appear successful.

I want my life to be defined by living two sides of the same coin – continuously asking the Father “What have you said to me?” and “Am I living that out?”

 

That’s the kind of successful life I want to live. 

where I learn that integrity is not the same as perfection

These last few weeks there’s been a whispering in my ear, words spoken softly in the whir of everyday life. They were brushed off, silenced by busyness.  But seven simple words planted somewhere in my heart eventually pierced through: Continue reading