Thursday, April 2, 2009

Backwards promise

From March 6, 2006

James and John came to Him.  Rather audaciously. "We want you to do for us whateer we ask." Can you imagine the nerve?
"What do you want me to do?" Jesus asked, warily.
"Let us sit each on either side of you in glory. Right and left."
"You don't know what you're asking," He answered.  The cross was still before Him.  The pain of the world's sin still to be taken upon Him.  They only saw the glory, not the cost.

The punchline may be that we also don't know what we ask, most of the time.  We ask Him for so much without a notion of the price of it.  Make me an instrument, I pray.  But don't let me suffer for your sake, is the unspoken words behind them.  Allow me to do great and mighty things for you, but don't ask me to be faithful in the rooms of my own mind.  It's all backwards, I think.

Help me be faithful in little, to do whatever small thing You've given me, then multiply that, we should be saying.  No matter what the cost.  It's what Jesus told them.

"Don't worry," Jesus tells John and James. "You'll drink the cup I drink, be baptized with my baptism--that is, you'll suffer with me, for my Name.  But as for glory, that's up to the Father.  You serve here and now!" Wow, they asked for His word and He gave it.  Imagine the sting of such a backward promise to this arrogant young men, wanting fame and glory.  But...if I'm honest, I stand right beside them, wanting His reassurance that my life will count, that it will be noticed.  That there will be fame and honor and glory ahead. But He's busy promising something else.  Something backwards, in our heirarchy of ambition.  Not glory, but suffering is the highest calling.  Participating with Him, fellowship-ping with His sufferings, as Paul puts it. 

It's not about future glory, not about what He might do for us to honor us! It's about service, obedience, being a slave.  Wherever He puts us.  And give Him the honor, any which way He pulls us to serve. And if we're lucky, we might get to be baptized with His baptism--Suffering.

The honor, the glory ahead of us IS getting to drink His cup, even suffer with Him.  That is the greatest honor.  It was His highest moment, and might be ours as well.  Suffering as honor.  Glorified in suffering.  This is the backwards promise of the gospel.  Hard to imagine in the easy life most of us live. But, (for Christ--and for those who would be His) for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, and (only after that) is now seated at the Father's right hand. The cross comes before the crown, as CS Lewis put it.  And so for me: 

"I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, ataining to the resurrection from the dead."  Philippians 3:10-11

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