Beyond Me

Thoughts on Life and Faith

Archive for the tag “John”

The Manger and The Cross

Christmas time is most people’s favorite time of year. I feel like we all miss the point and too much emphasis is given. And not just because of the material nature of Christmas. While it’s true we have an unhealthy focus in this country on the gift giving side of Christmas, I think the major emphasis on the holiday itself is as big a deal. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important and great. The hope Christ, as represents, the new beginning, God entering this world to begin his final act of salvation…these are great. But it needs to be understood in its proper place.  The truth is, without the cross, the manger would mean nothing.

The cross is the work of Jesus that gives Christmas significance. Otherwise it was just another miraculous birth. Unique in that a baby was born to a virgin, but there are plenty of miracle births in Scripture. Yes it is the cross that brings us Christmas and not the other way around. We must realize this. And it would do us we’ll to correct our understanding. We spend basically two months now (and move the date up every year) celebrating this event, yet barely spend a weekend remembering the single most important event history has ever known.

I just finished reading John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion and it’s powerful. Jesus followed through with God’s will to the letter and redeemed this world. I’ve never read the crucifixion story at Christmas, but it’s powerful and brings new perspective to the season. This Christmas I want to celebrate Jesus’ coming in light of his death. I want to be focused on the reason that coming was important. I want to realize the reason God had to intervene in this world was because I was too sinful and He couldn’t just stand for that. I don’t want to celebrate Christmas (which was a pagan holiday to begin with anyway) but celebrate a Savior who died for me. I want to remember that Jesus was laid in a manger, but by the end of his life that manger was broken down and turned into cross. For that I am humbled, broken, and eternally grateful.

Obedience

I was reading in the book of John last week Jesus’ prayer in the Garden.  I’ve read this prayer countless times.  I have always enjoyed it and feel it really gives us a peek into the heart and mind of Christ.  This time, something jumped out at me that never had before.  In John 17:6, Jesus, when praying for his disciples, says they obeyed God’s word.  Then, down in verse 8, says they knew Jesus came from God.  I can’t help but think back through the Gospel’s and think about this ragtag group of disciples and say to myself, “Really?”  They obeyed?  They believed?  These guys who, at multiple points, had no clue what Jesus meant when he spoke.  The same disciples who still expected Jesus, at some point, to lead a revolution against the Romans.  Peter, who just hours before this prayer tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then just hours after this would deny Jesus.  Peter, whom we often think of as aloof obeyed and believed?  Doubting Thomas?  James and John who were concerned about who would sit at Jesus right and left were obedient and believed?  These same disciples who couldn’t perform healings at times or cast out demons because of their lack of faith were obedient and believed?  This seems a strange thing for Jesus to say, considering the multiple recorded accounts of the disciples’ failings.

I believe this is something that can speak incredible grace into our lives today.  With all of those failings, Jesus still said they obeyed and believed.  Even with all of these moments where they clearly did not obey and did not believe, Jesus still said they were obedient and believers.  Moments of unbelief do not separate us from Christ.  Moments of disobedience do not disqualify us from the Kingdom.  They are just that, moments.  They are fleeting.  They pass.  We move on from them.  Clearly the disciples did, because we sit here today as believers.  Clearly we can as well.

I can be hard on myself and allow my moments of disbelief and disobedience separate me from Christ.  It is never Christ who does this, only me and my own guilt.  Christ still sees me as an obedient believer, even in those moments. Jesus still believes in me, still loves, and is still going to use me.  Jesus still believes in you, still loves, and is still going to use you.  Look no further than this moment of prayer, when despite the clear shortcomings of these first disciples, Jesus still had faith and love for them.  Obedience and belief are a journey.  They can’t be figured out in one moment, and neither can they be undone in one moment.  This is what Jesus believed about the first disciples, and what he believes about us today.

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