–Winter of 2006
Between the Cradle and the Cross
Christmas gives the Church a special opportunity to gather around Bethlehem’s manger to glory in the incarnation of God’s own Son. In like fashion, Good Friday grips the Christian world with hallowed silence as it remembers Calvary’s cruel cross, while Easter leads us triumphantly by the empty tomb on resurrection morn. These holy days allow us to focus on specific aspects of our Lord’s redemptive work.
But the church has no special day to celebrate what happened in between those two great events. For in between lies the perfectly lived life of Jesus – a life that we are called to celebrate, follow after, and be conformed to. A life that is far too easily lost among the parables, the Sermon on the Mount, the miracles, and the great gospel narratives.
I hear some reader saying now, “You can celebrate an event but how do you celebrate a life? How can you take years of activity, pages of discourse and passages of truth and package it in a single moment of celebration or reflection?”
Actually Jesus did just that in the opening statements of His prayer in John 17. This part of His prayer is packed with the very essence of His life and work. Verses 4-8 encapsulates his earthly life in such a concise way that it allows one to get the big picture of what His life was about. Notice the three aspects of what Jesus says in these verses: “I have glorified thee (the heavenly Father) on the earth by fulfilling the work which thou gavest me to do,” “I have manifested Your name,” and “I have given them the words which you have given to Me and they have received them.” These statements embrace the ultimate purpose-driven life. A closer examination will be helpful.
“I have glorified You by fulfilling the work you gave me to do” – The only way to glorify God is to obey Him. Jesus lived His life in submissive, loving obedience to the Father’s will. He glorified the Father by obediently carrying out what He knew was the Father’s will for Him.
“I have manifested Your name” – The world needs to know who God is and how He works. Jesus lived His life in both word and deed to reveal to His disciples and the world the very character and nature of the Heavenly Father.
“I have given them the words which you have given me and they have received them.”-
God has a message for fallen man. That message must be passed on. Jesus successfully transmitted it to His disciples, and they in turn passed it on to the world.
The Master Teacher prayed these words in His disciples hearing for a reason. He wanted them to know what the essence of His life was all about—1. Fulfilling the Father’s will 2. Revealing the Father’s character 3.Sharing the Father’s message.
After leaving the Upper Room, each disciple, in his own way, wrapped his life around this same trilogy of purpose. The book of Acts shows them: “speaking with boldness His word,” “obeying God rather than man,” and “revealing the person and character of Jesus.” After Paul’s conversion we see the same pattern surfacing in his life. He tells King Agrippa that he was “not disobedient to the Heavenly Vision.” To the Philippians he said, “this one thing I do.” His epistles reveal the nature and character of God in Christ, but his life was so much an example of Christ that he could tell the Corinthians to, “imitate me.” In his final letter to Timothy, Paul tells his young successor that, “the things you have heard from me, commit to faithful men who will be able to tell others.”
You and I can only glory in the birth and death of our Lord, but we can certainly share in the life that was lived in between. It is a life worth celebrating and certainly one worth following.