Darkness is a harsh term don't you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that's exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart
- Roll Away Your Stone, Mumford & Sons
I spend so much time thinking about The Gospel that I'm rarely surprised at what seemingly insignificant incidents bring it to mind. Last week, when I poured Maggie her first bowl of Lucky Charms, she immediately ate all the marshmallows and none of the "unlucky" cereal. She then asked if she could have more.
In the days that followed, I repeatedly preached to her that a true cereal connoisseur, like her father, eats the "magically delicious" Lucky Charms one bite at a time allowing the marshmallows to fall only by chance (or by luck!) into the spoon. Yesterday, however, I poured a bowl for myself only to find that this sneaky three-year-old had been working her way through the box digging out all the "marshmellow-y" goodness.
Loretta Lynn famously wrote and sang, "Everybody wants to go to Heaven - but nobody wants to die!" Indeed, Maggie is showing signs that she will take her place alongside the rest of humanity - only wanting what's tastiest while resisting what's healthiest.
Matthew records Jesus' temptation in the desert just before his earthly ministry began. Of the three temptations, Satan's final temptation was truly insidious. Scripture foretells of Christ's eventual and eternal reign as the "king of kings and lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16) but Satan tempted Jesus to embrace then and there what was only meant for Him in eternity and what could only be attained by perfect submission not through some Faustian exchange.
Author Russell D. Moore writes in Tempted and Tried that "what God had veiled in future promise, Satan sought to uncover in present observation. We must see why we want to exchange the end-time exaltation by our Father for the right-now exaltation of a snake."
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. - Matthew 4:8-10
Christ knew that the way of the suffering servant would be the way by which He would set things right between a perfectly Holy God and sinful humanity. This would require patience, heartbreak and obedience unto death. Though Christ taught His disciples of the coming sacrifice predicting his death time and again (John 3:14-15), yet even those within his inner circle completely missed His intimations . . . .
They (James and John) replied “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Mark 10: 37-38, 42-45
When James and John asked to sit at Jesus' "right and left hand in glory" they were assuming some kind of military might or political honor and glory would soon accompany Jesus' earthly ministry. But Jesus made clear that "his moment of greatest glory" would be a radically counter-intuitive and painfully fatal act of self-submission with which they (along with the other disciples) would want no part.
Yesterday, I caught a picture of Maggie really listening to The Easter Story for the first time. She was heartbroken as she heard of the suffering that Jesus went through. To date, the focus of our teaching (through story and song!) is how much Jesus loves Maggie, but yesterday that "how much" was unpacked in a lot more detail.
She gasped hearing how he was whipped with The Cat o' Nine Tails, the crown of thorns, the mocking and The Crucifixion. With each new station she winced a bit more and seemed truly shocked that anyone would hurt the one who loves her so much. But then when finally she was told of Christ's first Easter, The Resurrection of the Son of God, the relief on her face revealed more than a glimmer of hope in her heart. She literally jumped up smiling and exclaiming, "He's alive!"
Jesus forsook "the charmed life" due him to embrace the pain and suffering we all deserved paying the debt that we could never pay. In so doing, He made a way for us to meet the harsh realities of life (pain, disappointment, failure) with the hope hidden within us of a future in which sin and suffering no longer holds sway over our hearts and minds. But (and this is the thrust of B3 Ministries message!) this hope has a mysterious power to change us now.
What you believe about your future changes you in the present.
- Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian, NY, NY
Jesus' love for us has led us into new life now - resurrection life now! No longer do we fear what once could crush us (1st John 4:18). No longer is there shame over our past transgressions (Rom. 8:1). No longer must we labor under crushing expectations coming from ourselves or others calling for our "best life now." For in Him, death has lost it's sting (1st Cor. 15:55), death is no longer victorious. In Him our life is now hidden - we have died to this life - our real life (read eternal life) is now hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).