There's a lot of discussion today about what things are really essential, and the criterion we use in making those determinations are important. Certainly we would deem grocery stores as being essential, because we need to eat. But everything we would like to classify as "essential" may not really be necessary in a time of crisis. Consequently, as I mentioned previously, the criterion we us in making our classifications are important, and the criterion is often swayed greatly by the interjection of a "crisis."
In crisis, we are first seeking a solution, and when the solution fails to be easily established, we then seek comfort. What's essential in our life is often determined by the things that stabilize our ability to feel comfortable. Is your mobile phone essential? If it is essential, is it placed in that category because it can connect you to your family and emergency services, or is it primarily essential because it connects you to social media on demand? If the latter is the case, it's more a device of comfort and distraction than safety and necessity.
What's really essential in our life? What things bring with them the sheer weight of absolute necessity for our survival, both physically and emotionally? That list would be much shorter than our predilection for total comfort would allow, but they would be the things that are truly essential.
Let me just speak of One...
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." – John 1:14 (ESV)
Jesus is essential, and He's certainly essential for more reasons than I could ever express here, but lets name a few...
As I close, let me briefly discuss the last bullet point, because it's important for today.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Jesus is essential, because He offers peace, hope, and rest...
COVID-19 has not only peaked our concern about the immediate availability of toilet paper – it's done far greater damage than that. COVID-19 is a stark reminder that life is not only fragile, but our health, freedoms, finances, employment, travels, purchases, graduations, and "necessities" of comfort can all be changed in only a moment. Life can be uprooted and thrown completely out of balance. Future plans can be destroyed, and fortunes can disappear in the blink of an eye. Peace, hope, and rest can take a position far outside of our ability to recognize where they even exist, but Jesus offers them daily. He says, "Come to me..." He also says, "...learn from me..." There's something greater in our current situation than surviving a pandemic; there's an opportunity to learn from the God of all creation about His willingness to be involved in our fear, our insecurities, and our inability to find peace and rest.
It is here, in the rubble and debris of everything we deemed "essential" falling completely apart, that we are forced to examine the criterion of what's truly essential. Is Jesus essential to your life? If living in peace and security are essential, if rest is essential, then Jesus is certainly essential. He calls out to us, not from the periphery of the crisis, but from His position right beside us, in the middle of it all, to come to Him and find what the government and medical science can't provide. He's not looking to provide us with a cure for a virus; instead, He's offering Himself...and if you will accept His offer, you will find He's more than enough.
"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us,
we have to see it as something done by us.”
– John R.W. Stott –
At times, I get along pretty well with my sin nature. Don't you? I'm sure I'm not alone.
It's often way too easy for me to walk comfortably through my day and not even think about my very large predisposition to sin, and when I say large, I mean it's huge...really, really big. You know...just like yours. I fight it frequently, but I don't fight it constantly. I guess it's just a sad fact that my focus isn't always on what's been done for me; instead, my focus may just be fixated on the beauty contained in the "results" of what's been done for me. However, we shouldn't just live in the "results." The results (in this case, forgiveness, redemption, and grace) aren't fully appreciated unless the effort put forth to enable them has been identified and thoroughly examined.
What's been done for us is both sad, violent, shameful, and yet, still beyond precious...all rolled into one. What's been done for us was the passing of our guilty punishment onto the life of an innocent – an innocent who willingly took our place. Our spot on the cross was assumed by another. The price for our sinful rebellion was paid in full by the blood of a Savior. It was our cost to pay, but He took our blame. Ultimately, we hold the responsibility for the activities that took place on Calvary that day. We did it.
In his quote above, John Stott had it correct, "Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us." That's a hard truth, but the dark reality of our guilt stands in stark juxtaposition to the beautiful, redeemed innocence we enjoy through the blood of Jesus. The two stand side-by-side as further proof of Christ's great love for us...both His guilty executioners and His forgiven children.
Our lives are far from perfect, and they are often imperfect because we choose to embrace that sinful imperfection over God's will. Christ was sentenced, shamed, beaten, and ultimately killed for the same imperfections that we gravitate to in our unchecked, and often shamefully ignored, sin nature. Let's not make a claim to the "results" of what He has done on our behalf without first taking complete ownership as the cause. We may find it helps our focus to remain on the One who took such punishment for transgressions He could lay no claim to...but claimed all the same.
Jesus didn't really choose the cross. What Jesus did was to definitively choose us, while accepting the cross as part of the process. When He made that choice, the cross was inevitable, but He made the choice anyway. What a wonderful Savior!
This Easter, as you will most likely be sitting in front of a screen watching your church, take ownership of the events that happened to Jesus. It's only then that we can begin to fully understand and appreciate the depth of what was really done for us.
Calvary, the pivot-point where justice met grace. I thank God for the cross of Calvary, and I thank Jesus for draping His innocence upon that cross to stand in my place.
It's Friday on the hill of Golgotha, and Jesus is dead, but the tomb won't hold Him very long. Resurrection and redemption is on the way. But what was necessary has been accomplished. It is finished...well, almost. Sunday is coming...
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!