We’re at the fourth Wednesday of lent. Two-and-a-half weeks out from Easter morning and the consumption cadbury cream eggs. I gaze a little wistfully at the free cookies in the bakery section as I fill my grocery basket with healthier options. I feel a twinge of self-pity as I hear friends discuss the special discount at the frozen yogurt shop. Fasting from my favorite food (i.e. all things dessert-like) isn’t easy, and I often find myself wishing Easter was here already.
I bet Jesus wished that too. I bet two-and-a-half weeks before the crucifixion found him desperate for Easter. I’m sure the anticipation was thick as the time of his brutal death loomed nearer. The days must have felt prolonged, hours lingering longer than ever before, minutes barely moving. I can only imagine the intensity of that wait that he must have felt. And I’m sure that kind of anticipation wasn’t the same feeling I have when I pass up cookies and ice cream.
The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was the Word made flesh. The Word of God in human form. He came from the Father, He was one with the Father, and he lived out the Word of the Father in the reality of our world. He directly represented the heart of God in all that He taught, and he fully lived out every word that He taught. He became our model and example to look towards as we also live out the Word of God. And, like the best of examples always are, He modeled everything for us to the extreme.
Long before anyone had guessed that Jesus would die He sat on a mountain and told his followers that they should not resist an evil person, but rather turn the other cheek – refraining from retaliation and accepting personal injury. He taught that their things – even the cloak off their back – should be willingly handed up, rather than hoarded and clung to. Go the extra mile, he said. Go above and beyond what is asked of you – even when the initial request is unjust and demanding. I tell you, the teacher gently spoke: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
They were nice words, an inspirational and spiritual set of instructions. But while His listeners sat oblivious on that mountain, their teacher was foreshadowing His own path – one that would lead to death. Because as He taught us to receive a slap in the face, He knew He would endure forty lashes with out a single attempt at escape. In telling His followers to give up their possessions and clothing, He saw the day that His clothes would be ripped off His back and mockingly gambled for as He hung naked on a cross. When he explained the principle of going the extra mile, He was prepared to model it by carrying his cross to the hill He would be killed on. And as absurd as praying for your persecutor and loving your enemy may have seemed to those listening, Jesus knew it was possible because He knew He would offer up a prayer for those who put Him to death.
All that Jesus asks of us is possible because He did it Himself. We are capable of living by the scripture of God because every word has already been lived out by the Word made flesh. He is our model, our example, and He has displayed every teaching to the extreme. Look to Him, then, when your days are full, your tasks many, and your strength waning. Look to Him when your responsibilities seem heavy and your burdens wearing. Look to Christ and how He lived as you attempt to live out His teachings in the dailiness ahead of you.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3
It put things in perspective a little, doesn’t it? And though my desire for sugar seems childish in light of the cross, considering Christ is not meant to make me feel like my sacrifices and hardships have shrunk. Rather, thinking of His endurance on the cross increases my strength and fortitude. I will not grow weary, I won’t lose heart. Christ has conquered all, and has thus given us all we need to follow in His example.