“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18
We are nearly there. If you gave up chocolate or some other ‘vice’ for Lent it’s only a couple of weeks to Easter Sunday and you can dive into the dairy milk. On the other hand, has your Lent brought you closer to God and drawn you into deeper relationship with Him? Were you able to draw into the rhythms of God’s grace in new and refreshing ways? Perhaps it’s too soon to know – it’s often only as we look back that we can see how God has shaped events and shaped us.
We have the advantage of looking back at the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection in a way that those watching them unfold before their eyes could not. I’m sure they must have been in shock and in utter disbelief that Jesus would allow Himself to be crucified.
As we look back at the events of the first Easter, we can see that it all hinged on one sentence; eight words that sealed Jesus’ fate and yet opened the door to heaven for anyone who believes. Eight words that spell foolishness to those who don’t believe but salvation for those who do. It all hinged on that moment in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed: ‘Yet not my will, but Yours be done’. Once He had prayed, the decision was made – He would endure whatever was about to befall Him to fulfil the Father’s will.
In our ‘me first’ culture, where ‘my truth’ trumps ‘the’ truth, the idea of surrendering your will entirely and completely to another is utter madness. Yet, that is the dangerous, courageous, ‘foolish’ prayer that Jesus prayed. That prayer meant that even though He knew He’d been betrayed He did not go into hiding or resist arrest. It meant even though He was sinless He did not protest His innocence against corrupt judges. It meant even though He could call on a legion of angels to save Him He endured the agony of the cross for the greater glory of God.
It is this dangerous, courageous prayer that is at the heart of the Christian faith and which we are called to pray each day, as we take up our cross and follow Him. His will not mine – day by day, decision by decision. It is the paradox of the Christian faith that in letting go of our will in surrender and obedience we find freedom. It is why the prayer for being transformed into the likeness of Christ is so challenging – it means ‘getting your knees grubby with Gethsemane dirt’, to borrow Michael Phillips’ phrase. It’s a dangerous prayer to pray. You may end up following a path you’d rather not walk, but the joyous, triumphant promise of Easter, is that it will always lead you to the victory of the resurrection.
Rachel Stacey, Minister of Wilton Baptist Church.
This reflection was inspired by the book, Make me like Jesus by Michael Phillips.