Here’s the thing about a willing sacrifice

I know we’re celebrating the Glory today, and I’m loving it, but I’m still pondering the Death. I can’t get over a holy God choosing Death for me, for me, for me.

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Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him. When he had washed their feet he said to them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” – John 13 (ESV, selections from verses 1-21)

Jesus had chosen to come and invest years in the lives of his disciples and in the life of Judas Iscariot, the man who essentially sold Jesus’ life to make some extra silver. Jesus had chosen this and he knew it was coming, but verse 21 says that because of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus was “troubled in his spirit.” I can picture Jesus saying that line from verse 21 -“one of you will betray me”- with the sigh of a disappointed teacher. Not the caricature of a disappointed teacher who communicates with a sigh and an eye-roll their exasperation caused by the continued shenanigans of a particular student.

No. Jesus waImages and is many things but He is no caricature. Jesus said these words, he called Judas out, but with a troubled spirit, with a broken heart, with hands wrinkled from water made dirty by twelve pairs of unclean feet.

Verse 2 says that Judas already knew what he was going to do, even before Jesus washed his feet. And Jesus knew, too! Jesus knew the very moment that the thought of betrayal (riding on Satan’s coattails) entered Judas’ head and heart. And even as Judas plotted and schemed, Jesus knelt before him, troubled spirit and all, to wash his feet.

Jesus had made up his mind to take the form of a servant in front of a man who had made up his mind to trade three years of friendship, mentorship, trust and support for a bag of silver. Jesus had decided to wash the dirty feet of Judas and in doing so send a message to the World.

Later in a garden, with drops of blood sweat on his face and prayers for me fresh on his lips, Jesus made up his mind once again.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Luke 22:42 (ESV)*

Not my will, but Yours.

In that same garden where Jesus prayed for you and me (John 17 is gorgeous, read it) and in that same garden where Jesus prayed, “I don’t want to, but for You I will,” and in that same garden where God answered His Beloved’s prayer with a, “No,” Jesus was sought out by the very men Judas had sold him out to.

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” – John 18:3-4

Jesus knew who those soldiers sought. And he knew what they were going to do to the man they sought once they got their hands on him. But knowing all of this, he came forward. Jesus made up his mind to step forward and with those steps, He sent a message to the World.

This is my choice. I’ve made up my mind. I have decided. I am willing.

  • To love until the end (John 13:1)
  • To serve everyone (John 13:15)
  • To wash the feet of a backstabber (John 13:5)
  • To focus on others even in the midst of suffering (John 17)
  • To be obedient (John 14:31)
  • To die for the brothers and the backstabbers and for all who might one day believe (John 18:4)

Jesus had two purposes for putting on skin and walking around actual living, breathing, messing-up people. The first was to die for us. To live real life and then to die a very real death. To live temptation and to live suffering and to live relationships and to live loss. (Hebrews 4:15) The second was to be an example. (John 13:15) What Would Jesus Do? What Did Jesus Do? How can I be a willing servant, lover, friend, prayer, sacrifice like Him?

The first step to being like Jesus is to decide that you’re going to do it. To make up your mind to be like Him. My 2014 theme song is I Have Decided to Follow Jesus and so far it’s been a fitting choice. We sang it together at our church’s first in-house baptism service a couple weeks ago and I sing it now.

I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.

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What have you made up your mind to do this month? This year? This day? What have you decided to do? What’s holding you back?

*Footnote: The tricky thing about Jesus’ stories from when He was living on earth is that they are told in four different books. Each of the books covers about the same amount of time, but some authors choose to focus on some events rather than others. By reading all of the gospel accounts of an event, we can really gain the clearest picture. 

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3 Replies to “Here’s the thing about a willing sacrifice”

  1. Very powerful post! I completely love Jesus in Gethsemane, because he seems so utterly HUMAN. He is alone; his friends fall asleep and desert him. He knows his own death is coming and HE’S SCARED. He doesn’t want it. I’m sure every cancer patient has been there. Gethsemane Jesus reminds me of me, and I think that’s why I love him so much.

    I’ve really struggled with Jesus’ death this year. I did one blog post that kind of referenced this questioning, but didn’t really say explicitly what I’m thinking. All the old Sunday School answers – “he died for our sins,” “he was the sacrifice,” “he paid our debt,” etc – they don’t add up. I know there are several atonement theories. But a friend of mine recently told me that the Jews weren’t looking for a Messiah to save them from their sins. They were looking for a Messiah to restore Israel and get rid of the enemies. All that sin stuff crept in from Greek culture and some of the gentile believers in NT times. I had never heard that before and probably need to do some more reading on it. I feel like because of the Fall, we have to have something to redeem us, but did Jesus really have to die to do it? (That said, honestly I’m not sure I believe in the Fall anymore anyway – but that’s another story.)

    I’m working through all this. What encourages me is that if God was going to become human, it was important for him to experience every aspect of humanity, including suffering and death. I think it is good for us to see Jesus suffer (even though it hurts so much!) because we know that we suffer, and that God has been there. God understands our pain. He put himself through it.

    1. Jesus in Gethsemane has meant a lot to me lately, too. A few months ago my cat died, which was a much bigger deal than maybe it would’ve been because I live in a foreign country with Americans coming and going and moving and leaving and roommates changing and my cat was my constant and my pal. Besides, I had prayed so, so hard, like probably harder than I had ever prayed for anything, for God to not let her die. I trusted that if He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He could surely heal my cat. But He didn’t. And for the first time in living memory, I was ticked at God.

      Then I heard a sermon about prayer and the preacher talked about unanswered prayer or prayer answered with a “No.” He talked about Jesus in Gethsemane and how Jesus asked, “Could this cup please be passed from me? Isn’t there another way?” And God said, “No.”

      Jesus – fully God, fully human.

      The Jews were totally looking for a warrior king to charge in and set up his kingdom here. And Jesus did, just not in the way they were expecting and He’s still working on setting up his kingdom. We think we know what we want, what we need, but we usually don’t.

      I don’t know if Jesus had to die, but I believe He did, and like you said, that means he suffered immensely, probably more than I will ever suffer and so I can get through this (whatever the “this” of the moment is).

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