Let’s say you only had one week left to live. That’s it! Just one week. How would you live? How would you spend your time, and with whom? What might you do differently?
As I look at Jesus walking into the last week of his life on this earth as a human being, I am struck by his choices. The Bible says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come From God and was returning from God,” (John 13:3). In other words, he knew his time was up. That he was about to be betrayed by someone he had loved and nurtured for three years, and that he was about to suffer not just in physical ways that are unimaginable, but in a deeply spiritual way, meaning the sins of the world—past, present and future—were about to be laid on his shoulders.
How does Jesus respond? He shares a meal with his closest friends. At this meal he institutes communion so they would always make space to reflect on this new gift of spiritual intimacy with their Creator. After they eat, he takes the role of a servant and washes their feet. He lets them know what’s about to happen. Yet rather than seeking empathy for himself, his focus is on comforting them. He encourages them with the blessings that come from obedience, of remaining tied into their Creator. He tells them about a tremendous gift he plans to leave them--the Holy Spirit. It’s the gift of a spiritual Counselor, a guide, one who will “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said” (John 14:26).
Jesus's next step is to let them know that although they will experience deep pain from his death, something beautiful will come from it. Much like how a woman who goes through difficult and painful labor finally gets to hold the miracle of life in her hands. That beauty would come, despite the wrong choices most were about to make by denying him and scattering. Jesus is not alone; the Father is always with him. I love that! It’s like he knows they will look back with deep regret upon their choices. But when they do, he wants them to remember he was holding the Father’s hand the whole time. That entire statement was to set their hearts at ease after circumstances they still didn’t quite understand would occur, and they would look back with regret. Powerful!
Then Jesus prays. He prays for himself. He prays for God to be glorified through him. He prays for his disciples, for their protection, for their unity with the Lord, for their sanctification (which simply means to be purified, set free, no longer held captive by sin). He asks the Father that they may have, “the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13).
Jesus tops all of this off by praying for you. And me. For all those who choose to believe in him and his message. You may not have realized you made it into the Bible, but you did! Jesus prayed over you, saying, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). Let those words wash over your soul!
There are so many lessons to be learned from the choices Jesus made during his last week on Earth. Way too many to address here. But I encourage you this week to ponder. To think about what it would mean for you to serve others, to place them above yourself and take the role of a servant-leader at work, at home, while driving. Ponder on Jesus’ heart to forgive when those he most loved were most unworthy. To remember the blessings of obedience, and what that might mean for your life personally.
Ponder the tremendous gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in you as a believer, guiding and leading you. Are you making the space to listen? And ponder unity. What does it look like in your life to live in unity with other believers who may look, feel and act differently than you? Whose struggles are very different from your own? Who still need your loving kindness just as you need loving kindness.
Jesus has conferred on us a kingdom, one not of this world but the next. A kingdom, where through obedient belief, we are set free from looking back with regret and pain. One where all things are worked together for our good to the glory of the Father (Romans 8:26-29). Ponder the joy you have inherited, choosing to make it your focus, remembering that to Jesus, YOU are the joy that was set before him, allowing him to endure the cross (Hebrew 12:1-3). You are Jesus’ joy!! This week and always, embrace your identity in Christ.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT There is so much spiritual meat to these passages it can be easy to get overwhelmed. A great strategy is to pick 1-2 ideas that most jumped out at you (which aren’t necessarily the ones you think you should pick BTW!), and spend the next week meditating, praying and reading about just that. You can always go back and explore other concepts you would like to ponder and grow in. Yet starting with a manageable number will usually help you to internalize what the Holy Spirit is most interested in discussing with you right now.
Abba Father, when I look at the Cross and realize You literally gave up Your very best for me, I am blown away by the extravagance of Your love. Help me to know You more deeply, to remember that You call me to move toward You even as You reach toward me. Help me to lift my eyes off of my fears and my circumstances and instead to focus them squarely on You. Thank you that while many things seem impossible to me, nothing is impossible for You, and that even when I don’t understand the direction You are leading me in, You do. Let me grow in my faith so I can bubble over with a joyful hope that is contagious and winsome. Thank you in advance for the blessing. I love you, Lord. Amen.
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