Have you ever had to walk into a situation that you knew was going to be painful or difficult and chose to do it anyway? When I read of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, I am astonished by the courage of those men who were sent onto the beaches into a storm of bullets! They knew that death was possible, that they had to step off of the landing craft and fight their way under machine gun fire, through barbed wire, and among the chaos of war. And, they did it!
Jesus knew that when He went to Jerusalem for the final time that death was ahead for him. Repeatedly He told the disciples that He was going to die. He did not shrink from His call, find an excuse, or take another road – though He had that choice! Isaiah wrote of the torture the Lord’s Servant faced and of His faithfulness – “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7, NIV) After the tumultuous welcome into the city on Jerusalem, Jesus returned to the city on Monday.
Did He keep a low profile, avoiding the religious authorities who were determined to be rid of Him? Not at all. “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.” (Matthew 21:12-15, NIV)
He had to know that this provocation would only increase the rage and fear of the leaders, that they would desire His death even more. Yet, He was determined, steady, ready. Why? How did He face the inevitable with such courage? Hebrews 12 explains – “for the joy set before Him, he endured!” He looked past the pain and saw the reward. That passage continues – “He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus could be faithful because He knew His mission and the reward.
Today, we will be faced with choices, too. Will we serve faithfully, even at great expense to ourselves? Will we ‘die to Self’ willingly, even though we know it will be painful to set aside our desires to embrace the Way of God? How can we remain steady and ready? We must keep the Kingdom mission in mind and our Eternal Home in sight! If we know why we serve and where we are going, we can find JOY in the journey. Discipleship need not just be a grim slog along a miserable road. Jesus told His friends, “I am going to die” but I don’t get the sense that He was grim and dutiful.
Yesterday, I watched teams serving in our local church, some investing hours in their work each week. Those musicians who prepare and help us to sing in worship, do it – not because they do not have anything else to do – but because they know the amazing privilege of lifting people from preoccupation with daily life into the Presence of the Lord. The team that invests hours each Sunday afternoon with our Awana kids, could find others ways to spend Sunday afternoon, but they are intent on planting the Word Seed in young minds, loving and leading those little ones with the prayer that the results will be a new generation of Christians, solid in faith. Yes, they know their mission and they glimpse the reward.
Do you know what God has called you to do? Are you looking past the inconvenience, the sacrifice, the self-denial to the reward that awaits? Jesus did! We must.
Here is a word from the Word, the last thoughts of Paul, as his life was coming to a close. I love these words for the hope they include. “I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, The Message)
Father, lead us on a faith walk with Jesus this week.
As He made His way to the Cross, purposefully, joyfully, with intent;
So may we walk the pilgrim’s pathway, without whining,
Full of courage, singing as we go.
Holy Spirit, put eternity in our hearts.
Renew our vision and call.
Let Your kingdom come in us.
We pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.