Life After Death?!
Hi everyone. Today marks Good Friday (Eastern Orthodox folks, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks), and also the beginning of Passover. Over the past several weeks I have gotten to participate with my church in many Easter celebration preparations, and it’s been mixed in with managing the rest of life. In the midst of it, I’ve had my own reservations and questions that I haven’t had the words to.
SAME STORY, MORE MEANING…
This time of year has the same story, like Christmas, with new depths and meaning. Often with Easter, I hear of Jesus dying for our sins and a promise of life after death. As true as those are, for some reason it seemed like something is missing. A teacher has been helping me to see and journey with Jesus, talking more about Jesus teaching us to live in the eternal now, and not just waiting for eternity to begin when I die. As I struggled to put words to my thoughts, a story from the Gospel of Mark stood out to me today. It starts with two disciples asking for Jesus to grant them a wish…
From Mark 10:36-38 “What do you want me to do for you?” asked Jesus. “Grant us,” they said, “that when you’re there in all your glory, one of us will sit at your right, and the other at your left.” “You don’t know what you’re asking for!” Jesus replied. “Can you drink the cup I’m going to drink? Can you receive the baptism I’m going to receive?” (from the NT Wright translation, Kingdom New Testament)
It’s both popular and good to look to Jesus for help. Who better to ask than Jesus? This is just my discomfort, but sometimes I think Jesus is used a stepping stone for self-help seminars and books. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe Jesus opens us up to new life and new potentials. But often hearing about Jesus’s cup and baptism, I’m struck to pause on what those are. To drink His cup and be baptized in His baptism, He sets the example of laying down our life…completely. I’m not hear to rain on the parade of self-helpers or deny the value of self-help. But the question I have for myself is if I treat and expect Jesus to be a means to an end, and an end that has me where I dream to be.
Let me continue the story…
Mark 10:39-40 Yes,” they said, “we can.” “Well,” said Jesus, “you will drink the cup I drink; you will receive the baptism I receive. But sitting at my right hand or my left—that’s not up to me. It’s been assigned already.”
In following Jesus, or at least thinking about Him, what guarantee do we want? In the call to lay down my life, that doesn’t exactly sound fun, exciting, or immediately rewarding. He does promise many good things, and all of God’s promises come true in Jesus. Eternal life, complete love, restoration, purpose, renewal, resurrection, family, and so much more.
Early on in giving my life to Jesus, giving all meant giving up my sins, giving up some bad behaviors in exchange for good behaviors. Then I learned it’s also laying down some of my dreams and wishes. This may sound like a drag, but in the process of going in directions He’s given instead of mine, there’s been more life and joy (mingled with hardship) than I ever dreamt of.
LET DOWN BY JESUS…
17+ years into this journey with Jesus, the outcome has been far different than I expected. Jesus has constantly let me down in my expectations. I expected to become a miracle worker, not have hardship, and have an answer to all of the tough questions. I say He let me down because I saw Him as a means, but He’s often reminded me He is not just a means, but He’s also the journey, the reason, the goal…to be in the image of God, which love incarnate. That sounds lofty, but in every struggle, if I submit, the outcome is being love and having more love for others.
My heart has been broken several times in following Jesus. If I give Him space, He leads me to a seemingly foolish place to serve and bless those who destroy me. And in that, I’ve found myself standing next to Him. In the process, I’ve gotten to experience His love deeper for me, and through me to others. He suffered much and loves even greater.
Through His submission to His Father, He’s lead billions of people to His Father in reconciliation…to New life. He’s restored broken lives and families. When we lay down ourselves completely, Jesus leads us not to a place we expect.
Mark 10:41-45 When the other ten disciples heard, they were angry with James and John. Jesus called them to him. “You know how it is in the pagan nations,” he said. “Think how their so-called rulers act. They lord it over their subjects. The high and mighty ones boss the rest around. But that’s not how it’s going to be with you. Anyone who wants to be great among you must become your servant. Anyone who wants to be first must be everyone’s slave. Don’t you see? The son of man didn’t come to be waited on. He came to be the servant, to give his life ‘as a ransom for many.’ ”
A teacher of mine has been challenging me on the fact of Jesus becoming King on the cross. When I picture a king, I see a person bossing others around and having minions. Jesus being King, on the cross, my mental image is confused. No longer am I only wondering about how I may progress in my personal growth, but wondering about drinking more from Jesus’s cup. Can I drink more?