Last night, Maundy Thursday, I had gone to bed as soon as I arrived home in the evening, exhausted. I slept a long night’s sleep, enjoying the rest. But as I woke up this Good Friday morning, I reflected on Jesus’ long night, knowing that, years before, He had spent the whole night after the Passover meal and His time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane being humiliated, mocked, spat at, beaten, whipped, taunted, interrogated, challenged, ‘crowned’ … Such injustice.
For Jesus, it was His last night on earth as a man. He was probably exhausted, too, being made to stay up all night by the Pharisees. Not only that, so many people had been demanding His attention, expecting Him to rescue them from the tyranny of the Romans, set them free from the harsh religious rules of the Pharisees, heal their bodies (which He happily did), perform miracles like a show pony, prove Himself over and over… He was misunderstood in His purpose and some were not happy with Him at all. He was a threat to their way of life. Others followed which ever voice was the loudest. One day it was “Hosanna!” The next week it was “Crucify Him!”
Yet He faced this final night with joy and courage, with love for His disciples and expectation for the future. He was happy to eat this last Passover meal with those who had followed Him.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Luke 22:15 (NIV)
“…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
He had the weight of the cross on His heart – the joy, the faithfulness to His Father – but also the pain and suffering to come – the physical agony, nakedness, the spiritual pain, carrying the punishment for all sin, taking on the curses, sorrows, griefs, shame and disease, and the separation from His Father. He faced the cross and the grave, the demons in hell, to win us back to the Father. Such love.
I wondered if He thought He might fail. This was hard.
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
He asked for a reprieve, at the same time knowing He had to do this. Such faithfulness.
And this faithfulness spoke to my heart, as I am one who fails often: who fails out of fear, procrastination, or avoidance altogether, and who fails due to my flesh rising up – sin. His faithfulness to His Father, and to me, sparked a courage in me again to seek to follow Him well, with a cry in my heart, ‘Lord, help me to be faithful. Help me follow You’.
The week before the Passover meal, after being welcomed to the festival by the great crowd crying, ‘Hosanna!’, Jesus speaks to the people,
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
John 12: 24
I believe He was referring both to Himself dying to produce a harvest of eternal life, as well as to those who would follow Him, that we would lay down our lives to serve Him (v25-26).
Jesus then speaks His heart, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name.” (v27-28)
Even in this week of anguish and trouble, leading to His death on the cross, Jesus’ focus was to bring glory to His Father. I’m sure there is much more to be said about this, but my heart wondered what God’s glory looks like. I thought of His love, mercy, salvation and redemption; His forgiveness, power, hope and victory! Is this what Jesus was referring to? Are these not glorious?! What a gift we have been given in these. Or perhaps, if I can appear bold, are we His glory? I wondered this and felt it as a great humility -that we might glorify God, bring Him glory in our believing, in our love and devotion, and even, in the sense of a child to His Father, be His glory, His precious children, His treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18) Please don’t misunderstand me. Just as ‘grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged” (Psalm 90:16), are we like that to God? I know that’s how I feel about my children. For God to allow His precious Son to die that we might be brought back, bought with His shed blood, redeemed by the power of the cross and resurrection, does not that tell us how much we are loved and valued? Like the man who found treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 14:44) and sold all he had for it, are we the treasure that the Father bought? In my morning meditation I sensed His joy, His deep passion for us. I was reminded again how great the Father’s love is for the sinful, broken, shamed, prideful and weak soul. That our Father would choose us to be His, love us enough to send Jesus to die a gruesome death, and rescue us from an eternity worse than death, is a wonderful gift.
And I pray with the Apostle Paul, that
“you will be empowered to discover…the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is His love! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding – this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
I’ve often imagined myself as the Samaritan woman sitting with Jesus by the well. Putting myself in the story of the Bible. Listening to Jesus. Other times I just imagine sitting with Him on a park bench and, in my mind’s eye, seeing what is before me, fields or meadows or flowers. I listen to His still, small voice, which, in a quiet heart, is like a booming burst of love and hope!
As I sat with Him recently, I was pondering being called the temple of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible thought.
“Or do you not know that your body is thetemple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
1 Corinthians 6:19.
In my heart I could see clouds, like a mountain valley full of mist.
Jesus reminded me that I’m seated with Him in the Heavenly places and what I saw was a view from heaven, looking out at the clouds. It was beautiful – like seeing clouds beneath you when you’re in an aeroplane. That sense of awe.
Twice last week friends sent me Romans 5:1-5; such a powerful and wonderful chapter. (Really, they all are!) So, I knew there was a message for me in there. And I loved the new revelation that dropped into my heart. I always marvel at how the Holy Spirit highlights truths I’ve read before and I get to see them in a fresh and exciting way.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
One of these highlights was in verse 5, that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. That really struck me. We don’t have to seek Him ‘out there’, far away. He is in us, right here. Close. When we seek Him, it is not us going somewhere, working at finding Him, slogging to see Him, sense Him, know Him. It’s so much more precious than that. Seeking Him is but a prayer, a breath, a turn of our heart to know He is there. He is in us. Of course, we want to pray and study His Word, to hear His voice, to seek Him. But it is from a place of ‘here’. God with us. How wonderful.
If you are His, bought by His precious blood and saved by His great love, if you are reconciled to Him through His own death on the cross, then know that God’s love has been poured out into your heart! And if you desire this love of God in your heart, you just need to ask Him. Give your life to Jesus and follow Him. It’s His promise to pour His love out to you.
We certainly understand ‘poured out’ at the moment.
Rain! Constant, soaking, flooding, even destructive, as it builds and flows, taking over and building new water courses. Overwhelming.
War. Greed, evil, misunderstanding, fear and stubbornness in poor leadership (world-wide) causing such disaster, heartache, and unnecessary pain. Too much sadness poured out into our world.
But God’s outpouring of love is definitely not destructive or selfish like floods and war. Though the imagery is powerful. How immense is God’s love for us. So overwhelming that it can even wash away the biggest difficulties in our life, it can move our hearts to where he wants them to go, it can create such a shift in our world that we will never be the same. And who wants to be the same? I want to be like Him. I need to be changed, healed, victorious, courageous… These shifts are not usually instant, of course. ‘Suddenlies’ usually come after time and patience, trust and faith. But He is a good God worth all our faith, all of our life, all of our hope. More than a hundred years ago, Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God.” It is still a saying that gives me courage and joy.
Here is a small glimpse of God’s character: His love is patient, kind, everlasting, unfailing, faithful, sacrificial, powerful, cleansing. On any page of the Bible you will see His goodness and grace, mercy and love. We have the privilege of receiving it.
“God is love”
1 John 4:16 (NKJV)
And so, I receive this love poured out. God Himself! That is worth pondering and believing. God, who IS love, lives in me.
This knowledge wasn’t new to me, but it was fresh. And it brought hope. This is the beauty of the Living Word of God.
Like many of us, I have found these last two years difficult. Covid, cancer, fires, floods, mandates, more floods, loss, war… Watching our world disintegrate around us has made me consider and question my place and purpose, my understanding of being God’s person in this world. In some ways I feel helpless. Will God answer my prayer? What can I do to make a difference? What evil is afoot? These questions are good to ask. They refine us, cause us to seek God for deeper answers and meaning. Doors have closed, so what’s next? How do I reconcile God’s goodness with such pain? How do I live a blessed life here while others are suffering? These are questions that have been asked since the beginning of time. And I certainly don’t have all the answers.
But another fresh revelation from Romans 5 also gave me great hope. Even a bit of grunt and excitement to keep trusting God.
“…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)
As I journalled, I called it the ‘Harvest of Suffering’. I love a harvest, seeing the fruit (or vegetables) of my work in the garden, the dust over the plains as the combine harvesters do their job, the loads of sunflowers growing by the edge of the road. This is what our suffering produces – something worthwhile.
Suffering produces perseverance, making us strong and resilient, which then produces character – faithfulness, being trustworthy, compassion, kindness, courage… Making us like Jesus. Character produces hope – the confidence we have in God’s Word and His faithfulness. Trusting that God will come through for us at the right time. What a joy to know that God uses all of our hard days, all of the trials, our developing perseverance, and our growing character to bring about a harvest of hope. Hope, like faith, is not seen. It is used, like a muscle. It is a foundation to stand on. It is strength to our circumstances.
“And hope does not put us to shame…” (v5 NIV) We don’t have to carry shame – wondering if He will answer us, doubting His love, thinking we are not good enough for his attention and love because of our mistakes. Hope, instead, will wash away any inferiority, fear, disappointment. Verses 6-10 reassure us that God knew full well who we were when He died for us. “Christ died for the ungodly” (v6) “While we were still sinners…” (v8)
This is His great love.
And it is this great love that is in me, poured out through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So we can stop striving to find, earn or even feel God’s love. Child of God, He is already here. He is in me. He is in you. What an honour. What a privilege. His love, poured out into this temple of the Holy Spirit.
Actions: Read these verses to see some of God’s incredible character: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 100:5, John 15:13, Romans 5:35-39, Ephesians 316-19, 25-27
In which circumstances will you hope in God? Tell Him. Write your vision and thank Him.