Crash in the heart of God?

As they entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the disciples basked in Hosannas. Finally, the kingdom they anticipated was unfolding—and they were in the right place!

But when Jesus passed the bread and wine—his body and blood? — confusion must have swirled in their eyes. Betrayal? Secret doubts struggled within. Where would they lead?

In the garden, the long week took its toll. They slept. Even after Jesus chided them, they couldn’t get beyond exhaustion. Jesus shared his ministry with them for three years. Now, he was on his own.

I think his struggle in Gethsemane was with more than physical pain. At the start, Satan had tempted Jesus with shortcuts to the vision. Now, Satan returned to say it wouldn’t matter. Even if Jesus went through with all this needless suffering, the world wouldn’t care—wouldn’t accept his gift of life.

Then Jesus was arrested, thanks to that no-good-Judas (relief— it isn’t me!). Jesus let them take him away. What was going on? Couldn’t the power that just raised Lazarus from the dead protect Jesus from scruffy temple guards? What about our kingdom?

There was no understanding it. No entering into it.

There still isn’t.

We can’t go where only the Lamb of God can walk. Only the one who was GOD and man could carry our sin—everything wrong we would ever think, or say, or do.

Like the disciples, we look for the kingdom where it fits our idea of power or success. You can explore your spirituality, and even be a god. Or stay in church, follow rules, but miss the kingdom, thinking WE carry the cross—that we can do enough, or be enough, to merit the presence of God.

For years, I tried hard to do it right, to carry my own cross. When I stumbled and fell, floundering, I found myself at the foot of The Cross. I looked up at Jesus, hanging there in my place. Blood dripped from his hands and feet where spikes tore his flesh.

And he smiled.

My sin nailed him there, yet he looked down at me, through his pain, and smiled.

For months, every time I prayed, my only answer was Jesus on the cross, me kneeling at his feet, and Jesus smiling.

Finally on Good Friday, the day many Christians recall the crucifixion, I once again knelt at the cross. This time, Jesus smiled and said, “Janie, I love you.”

Weeks after that, every time I prayed, seeking answers and direction, the response was simply Jesus on the cross, smiling and whispering, “Janie, I love you.”

I was a very long time in believing it.

Why is it so hard for us to accept a gift that another paid so heavily for?

Accepting the gift of life has been my journey.

As Jesus cried over Jerusalem, he cried in the garden for all of us who would needlessly stumble on in darkness, unaware of the relief, redemption and salvation he offers.

Because of what Jesus conquered in the garden and on the cross, every one of us can have our lives changed. From the weight of our past, mistakes we made and those made against us, or from fear of our future, the center of our lives can become real and whole.

“The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

 

I miss the manger

The neighborhood is so dark in January. When I walk my dog at night, I miss the sparkle of Christmas lights on houses. I miss the bright warmth of Christmas trees shining through windows.

Christmas lights
Christmas lights
Most of all, I miss the soft glow of the manger scene, the gleam on the faces of the shepherds and wise men. But is it more than light in a dark room that I miss? Could it be the innocence and purity of that scene?
 © Jack H Thompson
Manger light © Jack H Thompson

After all, when the wise men left, Joseph was warned in a dream to take the child to Egypt. As they slipped away in the night, Herod sent his soldiers to kill all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two.

The dark world, full of pain and hurt, seemed to quickly absorb the light.

As I face the hurt or pain in my life, and in those I love, I could easily slip under the weight of darkness.

My child and grandchildren are going through a painful experience. My mother sinks further every day into her own dark world of dementia, yet still painfully aware of what she is losing. My sister has suffered months with undiagnosed misery. My brother went for what we’d hoped was an easily treatable cancer, only to find it much more daunting, and he faces many weeks of radiation and chemo.

I am certain you have your own list, pockets of pain or hopelessness. Prayers too long uttered. Joy so slow in coming.

Wailing seal © Jack H Thompson
Wailing seal © Jack H Thompson

Oh yes, the darkness is very present. Always threatening to overcome the light.

But we can’t stay at the manger. That was just the beginning. It was only a glimpse of the light.

In the strangest twist, it took the greatest darkness of all, that manger-child growing into a man and allowing himself to be nailed to a wooden crossbar and hoisted up, for the cruelest death the Romans could produce, all the fury of hell thrown at one body. The blackness of death. And three days. Three long days and nights of darkness. Loss. Hopelessness.

Then morning came — the day we’ll celebrate months from now, with odd objects like bunnies and colored chicks and baskets of candy – and with the Dawn of Morning Light came the light that overcame the darkness.

Morning light in Galapagos
Morning light © Jack H Thompson

What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out. John 1:4-5 The Message

We won’t find what we need longing for a warmer, more secure time. Nor in turning away, ignoring the pain, or anesthetizing the pain with food or busyness — whatever the drug of choice. Not waiting for a better future, the someday when everything will be right.

The light we long for is either present, here, now, or it isn’t powerful enough for all that we face.

In another strange twist, we don’t run after the light. The light finds us. We look around, and see.

leaving darkness © Jack H Thompson
leaving darkness © Jack H Thompson

God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace. Luke 1: 78-79

Each time His light flashes into our lives, illuminating the way like a crack of lightning, our certainty grows. Over the years, every experience builds our story, within His story.

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. II Corinthians 3: 16-18

So if the darkness is pressing in, if your road is through the gloom, even through the valley of the shadow of death, don’t lose heart.

I’ve heard his voice. I’ve seen the light enough times to know it is there, even when I can’t see it.

At times, we have to sit in the shadows, wait for the story to play out. But in the fullness of time, he will appear. Watch for the light.

We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard—God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. II Peter 1:19 The Message

What kind of darkness has pursued you?
How have you been surprised by the light?