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!
As I’ve been contemplating ‘Truth’ in the midst of these disturbing times, I’ve been reminded to keep my eyes on Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); to spend time with Him – in prayer, worship, and the Word, and to continue to join with other believers, whether in person (my preference) or through technology (sadly, my main option at the moment, though I’m grateful for that). Our hearts are revived and encouraged when we keep our eyes and hearts on the Creator and Saviour, the One who has all the answers. His truth trumps every other thing we read or hear. Even God places His Word higher than anything else!
“… For You have exalted Your word above all Your Name.”
Psalm 138:2 (MEV)
Such an incredible verse! His promises are backed by the honour of His Name. (NLT)
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how we see ourselves, and God, and why we think the way we do. Where we get our information from is critical. Truth is so important. It effects the path our lives take. You can read Part 1 here –
How we engage with His word and the way wereceive that Truth, will make a critical difference to how our life looks. This is described by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower.
“Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”
Jesus goes on to explain, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word they quickly fall away.” (v 20-21)
Rocky ground doesn’t have enough soil or moisture to sustain growth in a plant. It needs soil and compost to be added. It needs a source of water, and the rocks need to be removed for the garden to flourish, so the seeds can grow without hindrance.
It’s easy to see how this relates to our lives:
We might feel drained, like dry ground, and need a refreshing from Jesus, our Living Water, from the Word, or just some encouragement from a friend. Our hard journeys might need some TLC to keep us going – a revelation from Jesus, some worship, a fun activity that acts like ‘compost’ to boost us, or some counselling that is like fresh soil to our hard ground. Maybe poor decisions or life’s circumstances have you living on ‘rocky ground’ – distractions, hurt, sin, or unforgiveness. These may need to be attended to, put aside, removed, or forgiven, as a gardener would remove the rocks.
Or we may be living shallow lives – lukewarm, inattentive to Christ.
“But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
James 1 :22
We want to be authentic, not living in legalism or religious habits that have no lasting effect, not holding to traditions that bind us to the world, instead of setting us into God’s freedom. Nobody wants to be called ‘shallow’. Having a deep, authentic faith not only helps our lives grow, but it is also what the world needs to see and experience. Religious traditions that have outlived their ‘use by’ date, words without actions, preaching without truth and love – these ‘rocks’ need to be put aside for a true following of Christ and His Word.
“Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”
Mark 7:13 (NIV)
Sin, of course, is another rock to remove, along with the shame and guilt that comes with it. But how easy this is when we go to Jesus, the One who forgives, and bring our lives to Him, receiving in turn His mercy, grace, forgiveness and assurance.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
“…Instead with a sensitive spirit we absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature, for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us.”
James 1:21 (TPT)
“Prepare the way for the people, build up, build up the highway! Take out he stones, lift up a banner for the peoples.”
And what of our friends who are new to faith? We can be people who remove the ‘rocks’ which hinder their growth. We can speak words of hope to those who need encouragement, truth to those who are struggling with their self-image, like giving water to the thirsty. We can be forgiving, generous, and gracious to those who have a poor image of Jesus and His church, or do our best to remove offenses that block ears to the gospel. Just maybe, our love will gently remove a rock of condemnation in another’s heart, instead of having it hurled at us by someone who has only seen hypocrisy. (And sometimes they will be thrown in any case.) As believers, we want to bring a confident, trustworthy faith to those around us – to help build their own faith and trust, and to give them time to develop a deep, strong root in their hearts. This will help keep them grounded even in a time of testing, instead of withering or being scorched. We have an enemy and so do our new friends. Let’s help protect them.
It’s easy in these times to hear God’s Word and be encouraged for a moment – “it sprang up quickly… and at once received it with joy” – but unless we allow those truths deep in our heart, we may not see the changes we want. Jesus has asked us to act on His Word, to walk it out by faith, to allow it to renew our minds and transform our lives. What a privilege, and what a gift we have in His Word, the seed of God, that can do this.
I don’t want to just hear the Word once a week, ‘receiving it with joy’, but then do nothing to allow the seed to get planted deep in my heart. It takes time and tending, sun and water, protection from harsh elements for a seed to grow and flourish. Let’s protect the seed of God’s Word by meditating on it, speaking and praying it, digging deep into its meaning, thanking God for His promises, and responding by faith upon it. And we can help others to do the same through our encouragement, testimony, right living, and blessing upon them.
“Encourage one another and build each other up”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Ask the Lord who you can encourage today.
Praise and worship Jesus, and allow His Living Water to refresh you.
What truth in God’s Word are you struggling to believe? Where do you have doubt? Meditate on God’s Word in these areas and pray for strength and courage to believe.