During the Holy Week of Passover/Easter, we concentrate on the glory of the Son of God who suffered horrendously on our behalf so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Our Home Church gathered together and studied the different accounts of Jesus's Resurrection and Ascension in each of the four Gospels. It was amazing to see the subtle distinctions of each version, and we appreciated how much each gospel added to the fullness of Scripture.
Afte reverent reflection, I find myself contemplating those days that led to my Lord's crucifixion and what His experience was like. Yes, His resurrection revealed that He was truly the Son of the Most High God, just as He said He was. But prior to the moment He declared, "It is Finished", Jesus lived His life as a man; a human being just like you and me, facing all the attendant issues and matters of the flesh. Sure, He knew He was the Son of God, and could call down a legion of angels at any moment to change circumstances in His favor. But He refused to exploit His relationship with the Father for His own advantage.
From the moment He began His ministry, He experienced His assignment for the Kingdom of God as a man, not as God. I cannot even imagine the consternation and dismay that must of caused Him! Knowing that He created the earth and the people to whom He came as a servant, how it must have grieved Him to see the state of both so corrupted from what He intended. And I don't think we 21st Century believers have given much thought to the world that the Christ child would be born into, and what He would have to navigate throughout His life.
First of all, John the Baptist appeared on the scene and began to preach and teach repentance from sin and turning back to God ... Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In effect, John was preparing the way for the appearance of the Lord. We forget that before Jesus was born, God had not been heard from for 400 years! YHWH had been silent since Malachi had prophesied that He would send Elijah the prophet as a forerunner [to prepare the way for the Messiah,] over 400+ years prior. John the Baptist was that forerunner.
But by the time Jesus arrived on earth the people of God had suffered greatly through those years of silence. Having come out of exile in Babylon, they would endure under the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires; see their faith outlawed under Antiochus Epiphanes; witness the Maccabean revolt; and see the emergence of rival religious groups [Pharisees, Sadduces, Essenes]. By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire had ruled for half a century. There were obvious political tensions between governors (supported by a Roman army) and the Jewish "puppet kings"; religious tensions between the various Jewish sects; and social tensions between the impoverished and the wealthy. Yet He came to save all who would believe in Him, and carry on His work.
So, imagine the frustration of trying to bring the love of God, the Father, and to restore harmony and relationship between God and humanity. It must have seemed hopeless, yet He continued to pursue His goal, the fulfillment of His mission. So, He is intimately familiar with what many of us feel as we look upon our world today. Like us, Jesus [as the man] instinctively knew the world wasn't as it should be. Today we see the massive corruption and greed, the unpredictable and illogical violence, and the shocking number of deaths in the wake of the pandemic ... and we are acutely aware of suffering and evil in the world. Jesus can identify with that.
I recently read an article on Christianity Today, in which the author, Chine McDonald, wrote, "Like many other millennials, I have been gripped by an acute sense that the world is getting worse, with disaster around every corner. From climate catastrophes to polarization and political unrest to economic uncertainty, we have been forced to confront our own helplessness". That sense of helplessness is not limited to one age group. There is a very real sense of unease, despondency, depression, and a sense of things being out of our control across all generations. Yet, like Jesus, we must continue to rely on our Father in Heaven. We must continue to hope in His omnipotence; His unlimited and very great power to rectify all things unto Himself... to make things right and resolve the problems of the world.
But even as the Son of God, yet fully man, Jesus wept. He personally knows our human emotions and sensibilities. He identifies with our feelings and stands alongside us in the midst of the world's turmoils. Remember, as a man, He spent an anguished moment in the Garden of Gethsemane asking His Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him -- if it was the Father's will. And then He shed tears of blood; evidence of the tremendous spiritual pain and despair He knew He was about to face -- as a man. There is nothing we may face in this world that He is not able to recognize or help us through.
Therefore, we must cling to the model Jesus has set before us as we prepare for wherever this world is headed. He never gave up hope. He endured incomprehensible physical harm, never abandoning His relationship with the Father. He didn't give in to the schemes of the devil to enslave Him to the world's kingdom of darkness. Instead, He trained and equipped competent disciples to know the truth of who they were -- ambassadors and representatives of the greater Kingdom of God. He did all this for our benefit; to show us that we can endure and persevere through everything He did, and do everything He accomplished; and as He says in John 14:12, "even greater things".
I will admit, I am growing tired of seeing the deterioration of the world and humankind. But I know I am only temporarily "in the world", and I will not submit to the powers and spirits "of the world". When I discern that the world is becoming a drain on my connection to Jesus, Father, and Holy Spirit, I remember that He has shown me how to walk this out. He has shown me that I always have a connection to Him in the spiritual realm. I can talk to Him and hear from Him and Father and Holy Spirit, just as He did. He knows what I'm feeling and what I am capable of doing, because He experienced it first. I will be obedient to follow in His footsteps, and I am committed to training up new followers for Him so that there will never be a generation that doesn't know Him.
It must have felt like the darkness won, on that day of His crucifixion. But He showed us that His Light is eternal, and will always shine into the darkness to reveal the true Kingdom of God, His righteous power, and the splendor of His glory; and the reality of Heaven for all those who choose to follow Him. There is no greater example and He is my everything!
Hebrews 5:7-9 In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him...