“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead” [Matthew 20:18-19, NLT].
Jesus foretold His death and resurrection to His disciples a few times before His arrest and sentenced to death. On one of those occasions, Peter declared, “I will lay down my life for thy sake” [John 13:37 KJV]. He wanted to follow Christ even to his own death, but Jesus knew the beginning from the end. His only companion would be the Father. Jesus said, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” [John 16:32 ESV].
At the foot of the cross, where Jesus bore all their sins and shame, only one of the chosen 12 disciples was present. John was there with Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was there to see Jesus nailed to the cross. He was there to see Jesus’ clothes torn and shared. He was there to see Jesus given vinegar to drink. And before Jesus declared “it is finished” [John 19:30], John was the one to whom Jesus entrusted Mary. John was there grieving, along with the other followers, when Jesus gave up the ghost.
But how could the disciples forget Jesus’ words? Why didn’t they remember that He said He had to die? Why didn’t they remember that He would rise on the third day? Why be sad if you have the inside information about how the story unfolds? Better question: would I have done differently?… Would you?
Upon His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples (twice) and imparted the Holy Spirit to them [John 20:22]. Yet we later find the disciples back at sea trying to catch Fish (and Oh how they were failing at it again!) [John 21:1-5]. Again, Jesus showed up to instruct them how to fish – for fish and men. At His word, “throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens” [John 21:6 MSG], they cast their nets and caught much more than they could carry!
So where is it that grace found you? Where were you stuck and hopeless when God’s word first spoke to you? That word that didn’t make sense but resonated so much with you that you had a Peter moment and said: “Nevertheless, at thy word I will…” [Luke 5:5 KJV]. At His Word, you let go of that relationship, that job, that addiction, that desire. You believed there was much more to/for you in this life. You believed in a brighter future – the perfect educational career, no extra years at any level; the perfect spouse with the perfect two kids, not forgetting the mansion with the white picket fence; that blossoming business with faithful employees/coworkers/employers, no layoffs; or the perfect retirement filled with travels to see family and/or the best sunsets of the world.
But then “life happens”. All of a sudden that class isn’t being offered for another year. That assured marriage proposal ends in a breakup… Something happens to stop you right in your tracks, and you wonder “now what?!”. You have a decision to make: stay in that place of pause, allowing it to become a stop OR keeping the engine running, ready to keep moving.
This Easter season, remember that Christ did not come only to die on the cross. He did not stay there nor in the grave. Rather, He rose from the dead and left us with His Holy Spirit so that we may be free from “a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death” [Romans 8:1-2 MSG]; be “[His] children…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]” [Romans 8:17 AMPC]; and be able to “do everything through Christ who gives (us) strength” [Phillipians 4:13 NLT]. Refuse to stay in that horrid and disappointing PAST. Refuse to stay in that murky PRESENT situation. BUT Aim to press on to the next level of a glorious FUTURE.
Say yes to the cross. Pick yours up and follow Him, even to the end of the ages, no matter what. It’s not over…