Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Necessity of Surrender

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished."  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.  Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.  The soldiers there came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.  But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  (John 19:28-33)

       Surrender is a powerful force, one that defies logic and imagination for it goes against the very grain of human nature.  Survival of the fittest seems to be the driving energy of humanity, providing the backdrop behind how we operate in this life.  We cling to and practice the seemingly timeless adages:  "master of our fate" and "captain of our own ship."  We insist on living our lives independently.  It's our way or no way.  The prophet Isaiah alludes to our sinful plight when He says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."  (Isaiah 53:6)  Sadly and tragically, many a time God, our Creator has no other choice but to let us sail our own ships hence determine our own destinies, saving that He take away our free will.  (Thankfully, our rebellion was cast upon the Savior!)

       Crucifixion was a brutish form of capital punishment employed by the Roman Empire, which was the supremacy in Israel when Jesus was on the earth.  This type of capital punishment was grueling and ruthless wherein the victim literally died of asphyxiation.  As gravity pulled the body downward, the chest cavity became smaller and smaller due to the arms being suspended by the nails.  The victim could temporarily stave off death by pushing upward with the legs that were also nailed.  We see in the above scriptures that when Jesus was crucified, a request promulgated by the Jewish religious leaders through Pontius Pilate asked that the bodies be timely removed from their crosses in order to not be displayed on a special Sabbath.  In turn, this required a hastening of death for the victims.  As a result, the roman soldiers broke the legs of the men who were crucified with Jesus.  Upon approaching the Lord however, they noted He was already dead so it wasn't necessary to break His legs.

       The Psalmist prophecied that the bones of the Messiah would in fact not be broken when He wrote, "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken."  (Psalm 34:20)  Indeed, Jesus had not struggled, but had met His fate with a determination that He would fulfill the will of His Heavenly Father.  "....for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:2)  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, God in flesh taught us how to die so ultimately we might truly live!

       Beloved saints of God, we struggle so hard in this life.  We strive and labor to meet the numerous demands that too often, we place on ourselves.  We walk around tired and weary, numb from being pulled in so many different directions.  In truth, it is costly to be the captain of our own ship.  And we must never ever deceive ourselves into foolishly believing that just because we are Christians that we are not guilty of running our own lives.  Truthfully, we spend an inordinate amount of time planning, reasoning and plotting our futures.

       It is the Father's will that we not just make it to heaven when we die, but that we succeed and do well in this life.  And so in His divine love and mercy, He frequently takes us to a spiritual Calvary and lovingly crucifies us in order to purge those things in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth.  (John 15:1-2)  Consequently, the cross becomes the portal to real, genuine life, the abundant life to which Jesus refers in John 10:10.  "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."  (John 12:24-25)

       There are no shortcuts, no circumventions to the process of dying to self that we might live to God through Christ.  If we are going to experience the kind of life for which we were created, we must die to the many aspirations and goals that too often become our agenda for existence.  We must forfeit even our most intimate dreams for a successful life, so the life of Christ can rise up in us.  Our will must cease to exist; it must become one with that of the Heavenly Father.

       Are you hanging upon the cross today?  Are you staring a shadow or figure of death in the face?  Is your financial empire crumbling around you?  Are all your hopes and dreams for a glamorous career dashed to pieces?  Do you find yourself in the midst of a long drawn-out job that's draining the very life from your soul?  Has the huge dream home that's taking every dime of your income become a prison of sorts?  Are you in a relationship that's leading down a path to death?  Worse yet, are you spending all your time and effort on making things happen in your life?  Are you trying to make your ministry succeed?  Are you attempting to seduce God into doing something for you, knowing all the while that that's not quite what He's got in mind for you?

       God, help us to surrender our very lives upon the cross on which You've placed us.  May we take one last breath and peacefully give up the ghost as Jesus did, so that we might truly live.  And Father, if need be, mercifully break our legs so that the imminent death may come quickly.  In Jesus' Name, amen.

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