“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. (John 12:27 ESV)
Jesus could have saved himself. He didn’t have to suffer for us. He had a choice. However, as the Son of God he chose to bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth. He chose to become the mediator. The Way.
As he told his followers, it was “for this purpose” that he has come. Not to be a good moral teacher. Not merely to perform miraculous healings. And not to stir up the religious elite. He came for the express purpose of restoring humanity to the relationship God intended.
Have you ever set out to do something with a purpose? Have you ever let something interfere? I know I have, and often do. The truth is that we’re not quite on par with Jesus. We’re pretty far off the mark.
But he maintained. He persisted. To the point of death. He knew his purpose, he embraced his purpose, and he fulfilled his purpose.
We can find our own purpose in this life. Chances our that the seeds for God’s great purpose for your life have long since been planted in your soul. Look for your purpose, embrace your purpose, fulfill your purpose.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)
We hoard. We gather. We save. We are trained, and intrinsically inclined, to get as much as we can of something we deem valuable and keep it close to us. So, when we fall into that age old pit of aggressively embellishing our own self-worth it becomes second nature to want to maintain our comfortable status quo, reduce any risk, and seek after people and pleasures that reinforce our false self-opinion.
Jesus set a different standard and humanity has spent the last two-thousand years missing the mark. I constantly miss it. It is hard for someone like me. The problem? I like myself too much. Because a lot of the time I think I am much more awesome than I actually am.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that we all have value, we all have worth, and we are all of us deeply loved by God. But the problem is that sometimes we love ourselves in all of the wrong ways. We love ourselves, but not enough to embrace truth. We love ourselves, but not enough to put God first. We love ourselves, but not enough to make the hard choices, even when they will be the better choices.
I am not one that thinks Jesus is looking to martyr every believer, but I do believe that every believer has to be willing to measure the potential cost of following Jesus. You can not live the fully devoted Christian life and love yourself more than you love your Savior. If and when you find yourself in that dangerous place you have become your own savior, and a poor one at that. Love life. Love it enough to hate it.
…and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 ESV)
Experiencing the love of another is a special thing. Something that nearly everyone longs for. However, the sad reality of our world is that not everyone goes through life feeling the love of another person. Human families are sometimes fragile, relationships are often messy, and the profound difficulty of tragic circumstances can make for some lonely situations.
The story of Jesus’ baptism is one of my favorite moments in the Gospels. It is packed with insight into the nature of Christ. And the closing verse is one of the only moments in the Bible that records a direct interaction between God and Christ that other people were able to witness.
God declared that Jesus was His beloved Son. The truth of Jesus as the Son of God is an essential element of Christianity. But something that can sometimes be easily forgotten is that we are also sons and daughters of God.
Jesus’ sacrifice made it so that we can be restored to our place in the family of God. We are indeed coheirs with Christ when we experience the power of transformational salvation. Jesus is the beloved Son, and in him each of us can know what it is like to be loved by God.
And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matthew 21:19 ESV)
Every summer for as long as I can remember my dad has grown watermelons. He grows them by the thousands to sell in the communities nearby. And without fail, when I make a trip to the family farm during July I will be able to see them as I drive onto the property. Why? Because at a watermelon farm I expect to find watermelons.
The story of Jesus and the fig tree can be confusing. Why would Jesus curse a tree for not having fruit? People a lot smarter than me could probably explain it in grandiose theological terms, but I think there is a simple principal to learn. Jesus expected a fruit tree to bear fruit.
Fruit is a word often used to describe the good qualities that result in someone’s life as they mature in their relationship with Christ. It is a natural part of Christianity, as natural as finding watermelons in a watermelon patch. When I read about Jesus’ frustration with the fruitless fig tree I can’t help but think about people claim to be Christian, but evidence no fruit in their lives.
Jesus’ expects his followers to demonstrate the attributes that identify them as his followers. Not because by performing or acting a certain way we can earn our salvation, but because being a Christian should cause change in us over time. Just like a peach tree grows peaches, an apple tree apples, or a fig tree figs, Christians should demonstrate the Fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Where is your fruit?
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)
Forgiveness is essential. Without it we remain dislodged from our intended relationship with God. Primarily we need to seek forgiveness from God himself, but we must also extend forgiveness to those that have wronged us. According to Jesus our willingness to forgive others actually in as the ability to interfere with the forgiveness God extends toward us.
It almost sounds backward to think that you cannot receive from God won’t you are unwilling to first give away. That kind of thinking goes against my nature. Perhaps, however, that is because my very nature itself is in need of divine repair.
Like many things in the life lived for Christ, forgiveness is something that Jesus wants his followers to readily give away. It is not always easy. In fact, I think it almost never easy. When someone sins against you, it can be dreadful to let go of the pain and anguish that is often associated with that injustice.
Our act of willing forgiveness is powerful. By letting go of the ways by which we have been wronged we begin to experience freedom from our own sinfulness. Why? Because forgiveness is about learning to let go of our attachment to sin. When we are wronged it is easy to dwell on it, and when we have committed grievous sin it is easy for the enemy of our soul to use it against us.
The clear path is to let go. Extend grace to those that wrong you. Even as God offers grace to you. Forgive.
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:14 ESV)
Throughout their history the Jews had worshipped through song and sacrifice. King Solomon oversaw the construction of the first temple, where as Herod the Great was the steward of the last Jewish Temple. It had been intended as a place for the people to connect with God in profound ways. It had become something else entirely.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple it was chock full of money changers, merchants, and other swindlers. He would not tolerate it. So he threw them out in a moment of truly justified righteous indignation. The Temple had become something other than a place for repentance and prayer, but Jesus restored it to its intended use.
As he sat and taught his followers amidst the purged Temple grounds people began to bring the sick and the lame and he healed them. It was a complete turnabout for the Temple. The religious focal point of Judaism, it was no longer defunct, it was no longer a money trap meant to make the powerful wealthy, it was truly a place of connecting with God.
The Temple no longer stands. It was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. However, the time had already passed for the usefulness of a material temple by then. Jesus had changed that.
Today we can connect with God anywhere we like. We are no longer limited to only visiting a holy place. In fact, Christianity has no holy places, only the holiness of God, the Son, and the Spirit. When Jesus cleansed the Temple he demonstrated that it is his work and person by which we connect with God. It is by his death. By his love. And by his strength.
The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:18, 19 ESV)
For about three years Jesus had travelled the countryside. He was preaching, performing miracles, and turning the people toward the truth of the Kingdom of God. The sick, demoniacs, outcasts, crippled, and even the dead—all kinds of people were dramatically impacted forever by the ministry of Jesus. As he made his way to Jerusalem, the final destination of his public ministry, his reputation preceded him.
The religious elite didn’t know what to do with him. He operated from an authority they refused to acknowledge, and failed to comprehend. He performed miracles that both baffled and humbled them. Their pride, their wallets, and their power were in trouble.
The reputation of Jesus still precedes him. To the hurting, the outcast, and the needy Jesus is still the answer. Those who hear and comprehend the full measure of his work are irrevocably changed by it. There is no going back. Jesus’ impact on lives initiates a passionate focus for the Kingdom of God that religion cannot contain, mankind cannot fathom, and the forces of hell cannot deter.
It is the reputation of God who became a man by virgin birth. A lowly carpenter who became an authoritative teacher and preacher. A perfectly holy life lived in selflessness. A man who was crucified for the sins of others. A death that was temporary. A resurrection that was real. A reign that is eternal. Jesus’ reputation is reputable, it is rare, it is reality. And it will change your life if you let it.