I have been reading through the book of Luke for several weeks. It’s been a rich experience of reading several verses, then talking to God about what I am seeing. When I read the word of God in this way, as I approach the end of a book, I feel as if I am saying goodbye to a good friend. One whom I have spent many hours getting to know, one which I will return to visit again, but in the meantime will whisper to me in my daily life.
God’s word is alive and God is our friend. He shows things I would miss if I move more quickly. If you think about it, in the 24 chapters of Luke we cover more than 33 years. Luke begins before Jesus, with the birth of John the Baptist. Then we have the story of Jesus’ birth and the many people who were part of that miracle. It documents the life of Jesus for 33 years — his words, his teachings, his choices, his pattern of living, the people and stories whom Jesus surrounds himself with, the miracles of Jesus that demonstrate his heart, the many hard sayings of Jesus, the words and actions of his enemies, which seek to trap, criticize, reject, undermine, and murder. I experience how he walked with those he loved up to his departure. I experience their own confusion and fear at the things he says and does; and finally I experience his final days ending with his resurrection, more teachings, and his final ascension to heaven. There is so much treasure here. Each time I visit this friend, it has new heart lessons to teach me. I pray this will be everyone’s experience of reading the Bible. There is so much to ponder and respond to in every book of the Bible. So much to talk to God about. Each book provides a feast for prayer.
My friend, Pat Larson, was noting this morning from Proverbs 8:34 – 35, that wisdom is always calling out to us from God’s word. The passage she mentioned says, “Joyful are those who listen to me, watching daily for me at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” I love that image of us watching and waiting at God’s gate for what he might say to us. It describes perfectly the attitude God rewards as we listen for his Voice.
I’m near the end of the book of Luke and Jesus is about to die. He has been falsely accused, brought before Pilate, questioned by Herod, been told that Pilate and Herod have found nothing worthy of death, yet Pilate gives in to the shouts of the crowd and releases a criminal and murderer so that Jesus might be crucified in his place. (Jesus the sacrificial lamb, how fitting is this?) He is mocked and beaten, nailed to a cross, yet Jesus has prayed, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”
Something that struck me in the description of these events, is the words that were thrown at him by the crowd, religious leaders, soldiers and one of the criminals who hung at his side. “He saved others, let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen one.” “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself — and us too, while you’re at it!”
Aren’t these nearly the same words Satan spoke to Jesus in the wilderness after he was led there for 40 days alone and fasting following his baptism?…These same words when Jesus was at his weakest and Satan came to tempt him? Prove yourself — act on your own (pride)! Yet, in spite of his weakness, Jesus understood the desire of the Father both in the wilderness and at the crucifixion. He was to prove GOD to be true and to live out to the end a relationship of love and obedience to his Father. His obedience allowed God to release salvation (humility).
Jesus had tried to warn his disciples of what was to come not just for him but for them as well. In Matthew 16 he told them of his coming suffering and death. Peter took him aside, and reprimanded him. Jesus turned to him and said, “ Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap for me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
What becomes a trap or temptation for us? Jesus tells Peter it is to see things merely from the a human perspective, rather than with God’s perspective. Jesus then describes God’s perspective: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (V23-26)
If only we all understood that to follow our own way means we will lose our soul! The secret to saving our soul is dying to self and living to Christ. It is there we will find fruitfulness many times over. This can be hard to do, because, like Jesus, we say is there any other way? Unlike Jesus, we often decide on the other way! Praise God for repentance and forgiveness.
I may be wrong but I believe Jesus’ last act of “embracing” rather than holding onto his own life, was in the Garden of Gethsemane, not when he got to the cross. When he said; “If there is any other way let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done,” this was his moment of decision. He was saying, here’s my perspective, but your perspective is higher. I have decided to walk out the way of obedience! The cross was the outworking of that decision. We can decide ahead of time for obedience so that when our moments of cross bearing come each day, our decision is pre-determined. When the voices of pride come to taunt us, they don’t find the same foothold in our heart.
“Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone, but its death will produce many new kernels — a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me,” John:12:23-26. God is not interested in our comfort, he is interested in our dying to our self and the resulting harvest. Adam and Eve decided to do it their way; what came was terrible. What Jesus has restored is our ability to choose God’s way. He needs laborers not afraid of giving up their own way. He wants us to be fruitful.
This made me stop and ask God, is there a place in my life where I am not seeing things from your perspective because I am trying to hold onto my life? As my friend Pat once plainly stated it, “Is God’s will really central with me? Am I rotating around him, or do I try to make him rotate around me.” I think this is a perfect season for taking time to ask this question. We know that things will never be the same in history. We know God is stirring up changes. This is really big, and it’s worldwide. Are we ready to die to our own way. Will we take up our cross and follow Him. Will He be central to all we do? Will we see the harvest that our own death to self will bring? These are questions I think about as I consider the story of my Lord. May you be blessed as you also consider these things. In Jesus Name – Amen.