Resurrection Bodies

Luke 24:36-43 “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They have him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

Jesus’ disciples were startled and frightened. Certainty that Jesus had risen from the dead still had not sunk in, even though his living body was now standing in their presence.

Of course, there were reasons that Jesus’ presence did not have its immediate, intended effect. His entrance was more than unusual. We don’t hear, “All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door, and there was Jesus, waiting for someone to let him in.” Luke doesn’t write, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus came walking into the room” or “climbed in through an open window.”

No, all of a sudden, there was Jesus, standing in the middle of the group. His body simply materialized in the room, as though Scotty had just beamed him down from the Enterprise. I don’t have to tell you that’s not normal.

Add the fact that Jesus was supposed to be dead, in spite of the reports that these men had heard, and they can come up with just one conclusion: They aren’t dealing with a resurrection, but a haunting. They thought they were seeing a ghost. They were filled with fear and doubt, but I want you to know that today even their doubts contribute to our Easter certainty.

You see, these men were not gullible half-wits ready to believe any fantasy someone could dream up. They understood that dead is dead, and that any exception to that rule is a miracle of the highest order, at least this side of Judgment Day. They had seen Jesus raise three people from the dead, but after Jesus died, who was left to raise him? Certainly not one of them. Their doubts, their uncertainty, led to even greater proofs for you and me, and the Easter certainty of seeing Jesus’ living body.

The proofs Jesus offers that this was his living body are not hard to understand. “Look at my hands and feet.” See the scars from the nails of my crucifixion on my hands and my feet. Who else would fit this description today? “Touch me and see.” Your hands don’t pass through the image in front of your eyes. They meet resistance and are stopped by my real human flesh and my real human bones. This is not just smoke or vapor you are seeing. Still not convinced? Okay, “Do you have anything here to eat?” Watch it go into my mouth–munch, munch, munch, swallow. Okay, where did it go? The same place it goes when you have something to eat, Mr. I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Actually-Him. This is my body! I am alive! Stop doubting and believe!

So Jesus’ body gives us certainty to go with our joy. Jesus lives, not just as a fond memory, nor the wispy, bodiless remains of one more of death’s sad victims. He is the living, flesh and blood conqueror of sin and death. He is the Almighty Lord whose power and love continue to save and serve and guide and guard his people today.

That certainty and joy don’t stop at his body. They apply to our bodies as well. Paul writes the Philippians, “..the Lord Jesus Christ…by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Our bodies will live again like his, and what glorious bodies they will be! They will be real, living bodies with hearts that beat, eyes that see, finger tips that feel, ears that hear, tongues that taste, noses that smell, and all the wonderful senses we enjoy, but perfected and purified. They will be whole and healthy bodies free from pain or death, ageless and changeless. You can forget your glasses, your hair-coloring, your knee brace, your pill bottles, your diet restrictions, your hearing aids, and how to dial 911, because the resurrection will make that stuff obsolete. The new bodies Jesus will give to us contribute to our Easter joy.

Tried and True

Romans 1:1-4 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God– the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We are familiar with the many, many details of the good news about Jesus we find promised by the prophets in the Old Testament. The manner of his conception, the place of his birth, the threats to his early life, the place of his boyhood, the message of his ministry, the kinds of miracles he would perform, all the minute details of his trial, suffering and death– all of this was prophesied hundreds and even thousands of years before Jesus’ came.

Even his resurrection was promised by those prophets. Isaiah wrote, “…though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” People were looking forward to Jesus’ resurrection centuries before he lived or died.

But how do the prophets’ words contribute to making the message about Jesus “good news”? Why is this a notable feature of the gospel we hear and share? It inspires confidence in that message, doesn’t it? We live in a culture that glorifies the new and trendy as much or more than people in any other era. People are constantly running after new styles in clothing, furniture, food, or recreation. I’ll admit that I’m not sure whether the trendy clothes today are the ones that fit so tightly you can hardly breath or fit so loosely you have to hold on with both hands to keep them from falling off. But the trends constantly change, and we want to keep up.

At the same time, there are still areas in which we prefer tried and true to new and improved. If you are going to invest money for the future, there are fortunes to be made investing in some start-up technology company or cryptocurrency. There are also fortunes to be lost that way. If someone knocks on your door, are you more likely to open the door for the old friend you’ve known for years or the stranger you’ve never seen before?

Isn’t our eternal welfare and relationship with God something we want to keep in the “safe” area rather than the “trendy” one? Isn’t that one of the effects that the promises of the Old Testament prophets have upon the gospel about Jesus? The good news about Jesus had a long history behind it. Prophets had been talking about it for centuries. He’s like the old friend who shows up at the door and we already know him, so he can come in. He’s like a company with a proven track record that we can trust with our treasure. By speaking through his prophets, God has given us a gospel we can trust.

The Path of Life

Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

The path of life isn’t some road we travel by our own power to get to heaven, as though Jesus gave us a map with all the turns we must take, but then left us to make the journey alone. The path of life is his own saving work: his death for our sins and his resurrection to promise us life. He does not merely show us the way. He tells us that he is “the way, the truth and the life.” He is a miraculous path or way that takes us up in his own arms and transports us to our heavenly destination by his own power. This is why we are certain that God will bless us there.

There, just like Jesus, we find joy in God’s presence and eternal pleasures at his right hand. Does that description sound a little vague to you and me? If the psalmist seems short on the details, at least appreciate the blessedness he does make clear. Look at the quality of those blessings:  joy and pleasures in God’s presence, direct communion with God, our immediate experience of his love. These will be an experience that at one and the same time lifts our hearts and delights our senses.

Then take note of the quantity of those blessings. Here we sometimes find life tolerable. But wouldn’t you agree with me that joy tends to be in short supply, that pleasure is a rare diversion? David promises that we will be filled with joy and pleasures in God’s presence. These blessings aren’t just an occasional experience of heavenly existence. They are features of every part of it.

Finally, don’t miss the duration of what God has prepared. He promises these pleasures are eternal. Now there is always that bittersweet end to the times that we have enjoyed. We must leave the gathering of friends, or finish the game, or put down the book, or turn off the music. There the blessings God has prepared are so enduring that they will go on and on without end.

Peanuts cartoon character Linus dragged his blanket with him wherever he went. It made him feel safe and comfortable. A blanket, a flimsy piece of cloth, may seem like a silly thing to give someone peace. Yet God once wrapped the only true and lasting source of peace in flimsy pieces of cloth and placed him in a tomb. On Easter morning those pieces of cloth scattered around an empty tomb promise us safety, blessing, and peace. They tell us Jesus is alive again, waiting at God’s right hand to give us joy and pleasure that never end.

You Will Not Abandon Me, Either

Psalm 16:9-10 “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

Why could Jesus have such joy, even in the face of death? Why didn’t he worry about the fate of his flesh-and-blood body? It is because he knew his Father would not leave his body in the grave to rot. At least three times before his crucifixion he told his disciples that he would rise again on the third day. Even his enemies understood that he predicted a return to life for his dead body. That is why they had the tomb sealed and guarded it with soldiers.

Peter preached this to the crowds on Pentecost day: “David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:31-32).

This is the central message of Easter. This is what the holiday celebrates. Jesus’ immortality is not merely the immortality celebrities hope to achieve: to live on in people’s memories forever. There is a book entitled Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave. It includes the stories of men who have had some of the greatest impact upon our society, men like Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud. There is a sense in which they live on through their life-changing ideas. They “rule the world” through the influence they have had on the way that people think and act.

But that is not what we mean when we say that Jesus lives. Jesus truly rules the world, but he doesn’t rule it from the grave. He does more than change people’s lives. Jesus is alive. His real human body did not stay in the grave. His real human body is full of life once again, no less than yours or mine–in fact, infinitely more than yours or mine.

Because Jesus is alive, we are secure that God will raise us, too. We can make the words of the psalm our very own confession: “…you will not abandon me to the grave.” We have all been to enough funerals to know that this does not mean that Christians will never die. On those rare occasions when we make our way out to the cemetery, maybe it looks like a rather abandoned and forsaken place. Unless it’s Memorial Day weekend, cemeteries are often vacant of any living bodies, except for the occasional grounds-keepers or burial services. Row after row of silent stones mark the places where bodies seem to have been abandoned to the grave. Saints of the past have surrendered to the forces of decomposition and decay.

But Jesus promises, “Because I live, you also will live.” When God first made man, he created him from the dust of the ground. Even if our bodies have decayed to the point that they are nothing more than piles of dust, even if wild animals have consumed our bodies and dragged their parts in several directions, even if our ashes have been scattered to the winds or the seas, this presents no challenge to the one who made us and rose from death to life himself. In whatever form he finds them, “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, (he) will transform our lowly bodies, so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

Security Now

Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

What is it that makes you feel secure about your future? Is it your investment portfolio or your 401K plan? Maybe not after the high inflation and economic uncertainty this past year. Is it your healthy diet, your faithful exercise regimen? Perhaps we should remember people like Jim Fixx, author of The Book of Running, who died of a heart attack at the age of 45, or Olympic record holder Florence Griffith Joyner, who died of a seizure at the age of 38. Maybe exciting advances in medical science give you hope. But as soon as we find a way to control one disease, something new like COVID 19 comes along. It is difficult–no, it is impossible–to find that kind of settled security in this world we all long to have. And the Lord has good reason for making sure that it is so. C.S. Lewis remind us, “The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God….Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but he will not encourage us to mistake them for home” (The Problem of Pain, p. 115).

David wrote the words of Psalm 16, but the Apostle Peter revealed in his Pentecost Day sermon that he was really speaking for and about Jesus when he said, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” The truth that God is always with us, that he is present in every place at all times, is familiar to us all. Even a large number of non-Christians believe that God, whoever he is, is present all the time.

Unfortunately, we let that truth devolve into a religious theory. We say we agree with it, but in practice we tend to forget it. This is why we fall apart, we quiver like Jell-O, when life doesn’t go our way. This is why pandemics, runaway inflation, and an increasing number of crimes fill us with fear.

It’s not as though God has abandoned us. Our worry and anxiety are self-inflicted wounds. In our weak faith we act as though we didn’t even have a God, much less one who is with us at all times. The fault is all our own.

For Jesus, this truth was never merely a theory. It was what enabled him to go ahead with the sacrifice for our salvation in spite of all he suffered, in spite of all the opportunities he would have had to avoid it. Jesus set the Lord always before him. He was always, always conscious of the fact that his heavenly Father was at his right hand. Remember how the author of Hebrews describes it? “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). No one had to tell Jesus to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane when the dread of the sufferings ahead of him weighed on his heart. He always set the Lord before him. He was assured that the Father was at his right hand, and that he would return to the right hand of his Father. He was not shaken from his mission to sacrifice himself for our sins.

That Jesus not only died, but also rose three days later, only increases our security that God is with us. Paul tells us that Jesus was raised to life for our justification. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a sprawling banner shouting that we are no longer guilty of our sins. His payment on the cross was acceptable and successful.

Do you know what that means for us? It means that when we set the Lord before our eyes, we aren’t looking at an angry and offended giant getting ready to squish me. The God who is with us is the One who so loves us that he gave everything to save us from our sins, and he isn’t going to let our present troubles separate us from him.

Jesus’ resurrection means that when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we aren’t just bringing up memories of another dead hero from the past. He is the living Savior. He is genuinely present with supernatural, divine power. He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age. That is reason to feel genuine security right now.

Children of God

1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”

Now we are the children of God. Jesus’ death and resurrection promise even better things to come. But just this, “children of God,” is not so bad when you consider what we were. You know Paul’s words from Romans 5: “When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…” Really? Enemies? That seems a bit strong. Enemies? Yes! There is no other way to describe people who have taken their own Maker’s instructions, thrown them aside, and like a defiantly told him, “It’s my life. I’m going to do what I want. I don’t care what you say about sharing. I don’t care what you say about how I use my body. I don’t care if you don’t like my potty-mouth.” Active little rebels–we were God’s enemies!

Another of Paul’s picture from Ephesians isn’t any better: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” Dead! A spiritual corpse! From God’s point of view, in our sin, without real love for anyone but ourselves, we were lifeless, hopeless, useless–done!

And that is what we were. It is hard to say which is worse, enemies or corpses, but we don’t have to make a choice. The Bible calls us both.

Jesus’ resurrection marks the change of all of that. On Good Friday Jesus gave up his life to remove our guilt and forgive all our sins. Look at the end of the quote from Romans 5, “When we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” We are reconciled, not enemies.

By his resurrection from the dead Jesus conquered our death. As much as that means new life for our bodies, it also brings new life to our souls. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ,” Paul wrote the Colossians. Now we have faith, we have hope, we have life.

It’s harder to say which is better, Good Friday or Easter, but Jesus gives us both. His salvation doesn’t leave us hard choices. It gives it all together as one beautiful gift.

That is why John can say, “Dear friends, now we are the children of God.” Now we are children! Do you know what that means? Children are not the same thing as employees–cheap labor for God because they are “part of the family.” His main interest is not what we can do for him.

Nor are children the adult sons and daughters who stand independently and alongside God as his equals. We are in no position to advise our Lord about how he runs the universe. One Christian writer compares our relationship with him to the relationship between a parent with an IQ like Einstein, and a little child who is only two. To make a relationship possible, the father will accommodate himself to the toddler he loves. The child will know her daddy, but she won’t completely comprehend him. What the father reveals to the daughter will be true, so far as it goes. But there will always be more.

You see, we are the children of God, and that means that we are dear, we are loved. God treasures us as his own.

As God’s children, we are cared for. “As a Father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13). Do you have pictures of this kind of thing from your own childhood? I picture my wife keeping vigil at the side of one son when he was hospitalized with RSV as a 6 month old, or at another son’s side when he had cancer. Our heavenly Father keeps his vigil over us, always ready to take care of our every need.

We are protected. Have you ever watched protective parents at a child’s soccer game? If another player is too pushy with their budding star, or the referee isn’t making good calls, woe to the person who dares to threaten their little athlete. The mama bear or papa bear inside comes out. You don’t want to be on the other end of that fight.

If something threatens the souls of our heavenly Father’s children, woe to the demon or tempter who dares to do so. Be assured that he will protect them. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of that fight!

As God’s children, we are simply enjoyed by him. He is pleased to laugh and play with his little ones. A beautiful picture in the last chapter of Isaiah depicts God enjoying his children like a parent bouncing a child on his knees. I can’t help but think of the Christian character in the movie “Chariots of Fire,” Scottish runner Eric Liddell. He tells his sister that when he runs he “feels God’s pleasure.” God’s children are people in whom he takes delight.

“Now we are the children of God.” Our world has many problems. Our lives have many crosses. But “children of God” isn’t a bad position to be in. Jesus’ death and resurrection make it so.

A Different Way to Look at a Cross

Luke 23:39-43 “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But his man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

When Jesus was crucified, there weren’t different ways of looking at a crucifixion. It was only an ugly, brutal, cruel method of executing a criminal. There was no positive spin, no alternative view to offer. Jesus has changed that. His words to the criminal crucified next to him make it a source of promise. Jesus promises something we wouldn’t expect to find there: heavenly comfort.

Already this thief on the cross was with Jesus, hanging just a few feet away. Already he was learning to seek Jesus’ help while bearing his cross, or perhaps we should say, while his cross was bearing him. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” is a statement of faith. It says, “I know who you are. I know where you are going. I trust you to help me.” Maybe he doesn’t make our pain go away immediately. He does not remove all the crosses from our lives now. But he is still with us to hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and stand alongside us as we trust in him for our help.

And Jesus rewards that faith with the promise, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Our comfort is that Jesus’ presence with us does not end in death. Death is more like the beginning, the beginning of a visible, tangible experience of Jesus’ presence. Death is the beginning of our life in Paradise, the heavenly garden of God.

So many people I have known want to escape the man-made jungles of concrete and steel, the man-made worlds where people are stacked on top of each other and there is hardly room to breathe. We call them cities. Weary citizens want to retire and escape to the country, the forests, the mountains, the lakes, the green and unspoiled goodness of God’s creation.

But sin will follow us wherever we go. So will its effects. No part of this world is unspoiled. No part of ourselves is unspoiled. From the cross, of all places, Jesus can promise us real escape with him in Paradise.

 Are there different ways to look at a cross? Some still remember that it was an instrument of execution. Some wear it or display it as little more than a piece of decoration. Jesus uses it as a picture of lives that will suffer for him in this world. And from a cross, because of his cross, Jesus promises us sins forgiven and the comfort of a Paradise with him that never ends.

Know Yourself. Know Him.

Mark 14:27-31 “‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you.’ Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.”

The ancient Greeks had a saying, “Know yourself.” It was carved on the entryway to the temple at Delphi. It was a theme the philosopher Socrates picked up from time to time. Before you can dig too deeply into other subjects, you need to understand yourself. And if you are really going to understand yourself, you need to be honest about the good… and the bad. And that’s where “know yourself” becomes really hard.

When they heard Jesus’ announcement, it was good that Peter and the rest didn’t just shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh well. If we fall away, we fall away.” Jesus should mean too much to us to be content with our sin.

But where does Peter put his confidence? What is the point of comparing himself to all the others? On whom is he depending to stay faithful? “I…I…I…” Peter’s confidence is all in himself. What makes it worse, he is contradicting his Savior. As he had done other time’s in Jesus’ ministry, he is trying to correct his Lord. That never turns out well.

It is never our job to be Jesus’ teachers. No matter how much we learn, no matter how “spiritual” we might think we have become, we are always, only, Jesus’ students. He has much to say that contradicts conventional wisdom. He has much to say that contradicts popular opinion. He has much to say that contradicts the best and most respected minds of our time. Yet, we are only his students. Our only job is to learn from him.

But when Jesus says things that point out our sin, when his word confronts our pride and exposes our weakness, then we want to rationalize what we do. We want to deny our weakness and sin. We don’t want to know ourselves. Then we put our own souls in danger. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

The strength to maintain our faith doesn’t grow from guilt. It grows from Jesus’ promises. Did you hear his promise hidden in his warning? “‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you.’”

The shepherd in this quote from the prophet Zechariah is Jesus himself. Who is the “I”? Not the prophet. God the Father is the one who strikes the shepherd. Everything the disciples would see over the next 24 hours–his mistreatment, whipping, crucifixion, death, and burial–was under God’s own control. God used the anger of Jesus’ enemies to work something good. This was the sacrifice of the Messiah prophesied since the Garden of Eden.

You hear the promise, don’t you? The death of God’s Son isn’t meant to shake our faith. It’s the supreme gift of love that inspires our faith. What looks like the worst thing that could ever happen, the death of God on a cross, turns out to give us the best thing we could ever have: rescue from our sin and life that never ends. It is every reason to own Jesus in trust and love no matter what challenges may come along.

The other promise was clear and undisguised. “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Jesus wasn’t going to stay dead. Death was not his end. Listen all the way to the end of what he is saying, and he is predicting not his defeat, but his victory.

We 21st Century disciples don’t honor and remember a dead hero. We serve and follow a living Lord. No matter how dark things look, no matter how much danger we see, no matter who opposes us, the one who rose from death is on our side. He transforms our failures and crosses into blessings. There is never anything to be gained by disowning or denying him.

It’s helpful to know yourself, but that’s hard work. It is even more important to know Jesus and all he has done to save us. More important still, he knows each of us, and claims us as his very own.

Watch and Pray

Matthew 26:40-41 “Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

Was it so much to ask, to sacrifice just a little sleep for the love of the Savior who was about to suffer what no other person has ever suffered, who was about to bring all history to its climax and save a fallen world? Jesus had been teaching them for three years. He had spoken to them for several hours this very night about the things that were about to happen.

Did they still have no sense of the importance of this night or of the sacrifice it would require of him? Did they have no sense of their friend and Master’s burden? Keep watch for Jesus? They needed to watch and pray for themselves and their own weakness. Their loveless neglect only made Jesus’ heavy load heavier, his sorrow deeper, his prayer more difficult.

What is our great sin against Jesus, his suffering, and his sacrifice? Is it not our own failure to appreciate the magnitude of what he did, our own neglect of the centerpiece of his saving love? We don’t fall asleep, at least not usually. It’s worse. Jesus’ suffering and death bores us. We get all excited about a bunch of grown men chasing a ball around a field or across a court. Our heart rate soars, we scream, we cheer. We will watch for hours and hours. Our attention is riveted to the news when people are senselessly or tragically killed in the latest crime, war, or natural catastrophe. The news anchors can give the same five-minutes worth of details hour after hour, and yet it’s hard to pull away from the TV. Perversions of God’s good gifts of sex and beauty are like magnets that would pull our eyes right out of their sockets if they weren’t attached.

But when the eternal God makes himself a mortal man, and he stands in our place, and he lets himself be abused by the very people he came to save, and he submits himself to outrageous indignity and injustice, and for me he lets himself be nailed to a cross, and for me the blood pours from his body, and for me he endures wages of my sin, and for me he breathes his last, we yawn. It’s an old story. It’s a familiar story. “Tell me something new, something upbeat with a little more action.” No, watch and pray. Don’t let the temptation to find this all common and ordinary lead us to miss the greatest gift and deepest love we have ever been given.

The urgency and obedience of Jesus’ own prayer stands in stark contrast. “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’” “May your will be done.” That makes Jesus’ prayer a true prayer, prayed in faith–not an attempt to push God off his throne, not an attempt to change the changeless God, not an attempt to dictate terms to the Almighty, but a prayer. True prayer trusts God’s will, and accepts that God’s will is better than my own even though it may mean pain, discomfort, disappointment and apparent defeat.

There are worse things than suffering. God often does his best work through suffering, maybe even usually does his best work through suffering. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Paul wrote the Romans. Jesus’ suffering was the salvation of the world. “May your will be done.”

Jesus was a man of prayer. He prayed to be spared the agony of the cross, but mostly he prayed his Father’s will. And so he came to the cross. Three of his seven statements from that cross were prayers. And now he lives to pray for us, prayers that are heard, because he carried and buried our sin’s heavy load.