Here we are. Deep in the trenches of another week. But, this is not any old week, is it? It’s Passion Week. The Most Holy Week. Palm Sunday, The Last Supper, Good Friday and every mundane and miraculous moment in between… all leading up to the most gloriously new beginning ever recorded, Easter Sunday.
The point in history that changed the trajectory of all our stories. Your story. My story.
His sinless obedience. His spotless existence. His scarred appearance. His saving grace.
His sealed promise providing our eternal place.
The same eternity that begins — even now — because, hearts set on eternity are meant to fill our time and space.
But, looking at this week in the life of Jesus, we also see a parallel to our own lives. We see moments thick with anticipation, adoration, acceptance, and applause from those who surround us. And, we see, how quickly it can all turn into blame, fear, rejection, hatred, cruelty, or even death. The good moments, we treasure and long for and try to create every day. The bad? Well, those we cover and run from and do everything in our power to erase. But, looking just beyond, when the week seems to have ended with an exclamation of death, we see new life again. Complete and total and glorious life.
See, the most basic truth of this entire week… that Jesus walked willingly into the punishment and death that we deserved, but then overcame that death by the power of The Holy Spirit… means that none of these moments, good or bad, have any final exclamation over us.
Are they part of us? Always. The why and end of us? Never.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Yes, the reality is… life is hard. Jesus’s suffered. We suffer. Whether we know Him or have never even heard His name, we all experience the suffering. And, we all want a way out of the suffering. We are all looking for peace. It’s why the crowds turned on Jesus in the span of only a few days. They desperately wanted out of their pain. They lived in bondage daily… literally to the Romans who enslaved them and figuratively to the human struggle we all experience. They had been waiting for the Promised Messiah. A King who’d finally come to set the captives free. A political figure, powerful enough to rescue them from their bondage.
But, what He offered was not at all what they had hoped for. Nor, did He come to the people in the way they had expected. His Kingdom was not of this world and what He promised made no sense to them.
Not even close.
His is an upside-down, servant Kingdom. One whose King will not be served, but will serve. Where the first will be the last. Where the simple will confound the wise. Where the least will be the greatest. Where the meek will inherit the earth.
And, where those who die will gain.
Just consider His own 33 years of life. He lived only to be completely poured out for the sake of others and with a sole purpose of bringing glory to His Father — never himself— gaining us in the process. And, what actually had to come before His very own resurrected life? That’s right, His death. His whole life was spent walking to that death in order for us to live a forever life in and through Him.
Upside down to be sure.
So, here’s the take away from all this… death actually leads to life. Yep. A seed must be buried and die before it can break open and burst new life from the ground.
And, Jesus’ death on that Cross led to a final verdict on death and an offer of resurrection life for us all. When we place our faith in Him, believing in His life, death, and resurrection in our place, then we also die with Him and begin a new life In Him.
But, I gotta know… is this how we are living?
Because for me, this week seems the perfect time to examine the story I’m telling through this one life I’m living.
Am I living like those who walked Jesus through this week all those years ago… someone who expects Him to fill my own dreams, desires, beliefs, and passions? Or, have I died to my old life and now live through The One who passionately pursued me, securing my forever eternity?
Am I dying to please a certain someone or am I dying to myself for the sake of someone else?
Am I dying for that object my eyes gaze into or am I dying to gaze deeper into The Object of my faith?
Am I dying to finally achieve what my heart desires or am I dying to know better The One Who can give me the desires of my heart?
Am I dying to fulfill the future plans I have made or am I dying to find the good already planned for my future?
Am I dying to weave together the life I long to live or am dying to live the life prepared just for me by The One Who knit me together in my mother’s womb?
Am I dying to hear this world say, “well done” or am I dying to hear The Creator of this world say, “well done, my good and faithful servant”?
Am I dying to finally find true love in my story or am I dying to live truly loved by the Author and Perfecter of my story, so that I may offer love freely and truly to others in my story?
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
Yep. I no longer live. I died with Christ the minute I confessed with my mouth Jesus is Lord and believed with my heart that God raised him from the dead. The life I now live is a new one, by faith, through The Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be reborn by the Spirit to enter the Kingdom of God. This means I have been birthed into a new, eternal life with Christ. It is no longer myself that lives, but Christ living His life in me.
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17)
See, I need you to know, I lived a really long time as a “Born again”, “Christ follower”, hearing these truths over and over, while saying (and honestly, believing) that I believed them. But, I didn’t. Not truly. Because, I did not believe it in my heart. Only in my head. Remember, we must believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. But, I simply didn’t understand there was a difference between saying I was born again and actually living out the reality of being “reborn”.
No, I just lived like I was still alive to my old self… my old habits, beliefs, and ways I’d lived life before Christ… out of my pride, covered up by fear and shame… I just called it by a new name… “A Forgiven Christian.” Yet, I was so far from free. And, I tried to dress it up in an acceptable version of my Sunday Best. But, no amount of Bible study or reading or memorizing or listening… no amount of praising or confessing or understanding doctrine could make the old me look the way I kept hearing and reading how the born again me should be.
Because, I was only living knowing in my head He died for me, but never lived knowing in my heart He was also raised to life for me.
And, this is the life lived from a tomb: Forgiven, yet still dressed in your old, dead life, void of any resurrection power.
So, this question finally makes it to my heart… If Jesus is no longer in that tomb, then why am I?? That rock in front of the grave site was rolled away by the Savior Himself, so why in the world would I want to live forgiven, yet still bound by those tomb clothes? Because, if the same divine power that raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in me and gives me everything I need for life and godliness… And if, In Him, I live and move and have my being… And, if it is for freedom that Christ set me free… And, if Jesus said himself that he came to give me life to the full, in abundance… then why would I not want everything His loving me unto death and back to life was meant to give me???
Why would any of us not want that life prepared for us by Him? That life that glorifies Him? That life that points to His? That life that is satisfied fully in Him? That life lived in the peace only He gives? That life that is spent in service to Him? That life that seeks more and more and still more of Him? Yes, even that life that still holds some suffering, but only the suffering that we get to share with Him??
See, the truth is, I was dying in the life I was living. It was just for all the wrong things. I wasn’t dying to take hold of the life Jesus died and rose to give me. I was dying because I was still living like it all depended completely on me. I was dying because I depended on my work and my behavior to change me, instead of depending on The One who had already finished it all and just wanted to change my heart.
Sure, I said I was saved by grace, not works, yet I still lived fully dependent on my own beliefs, abilities, strengths, knowledge, and habits. I professed to believe every truth proclaimed in God’s word, yet lived most days like the only wisdom that mattered was my own. I thought I possessed faith freely given me by the Holy Spirit, yet lived like the only real thing was what I could see.
Tomb living can do that.
Not believing with your heart that Christ is raised, is bound to give only half of the life Jesus lived to give. So, Lord, may we all strive for the whole of it!
Please hear my heart here… laying down our own lives daily is not a death to anything worth saving, but the start of the life we were meant to be living…
Yet, for the longest time, I did not lay down my own life simply because I didn’t trust The One who’d already laid His Own Life down for me.
And, maybe you, like me, also struggle to trust. Maybe you think you will lose something in the transaction? Maybe you wonder if by yielding yourself fully to Him, He will not come through or you will be left disappointed or spinning out of control? If you were to fall flat on your face in complete confession of all the ways you weren’t yielding yourself to the Risen Jesus and ask for forgiveness and the desire to live fully yielded, would you be afraid of the outcome?
If the answer is, ‘yes’, then I pray you would find the courage this week to trust Him anyway. Because, there has never been — nor, will there ever be — another Person more willing to love you from death to eternity.
And, may this Passion Week arouse in each of us a new passion to share in the death of Jesus, so that we may also fully share in His Resurrection Life, because it’s only in our dying that our lives raise up to meet His. Likewise, may we no longer live like Jesus only died for our sins and still resides in that tomb, because the best part of the story remains…
He. Is. Risen.
(Isaiah 40; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Luke 24; John 3, 10:10, 17; Romans 8:11, 10:9; 2 Corinthians 4,5; Galatians 5; Ephesians 2; Philippians 1:21; 2 Peter 1:3)