It is Thursday. Today Jesus will begin his most difficult journey, so difficult that tonight he will sweat blood, and then tomorrow he will shed his blood, first on the scourging pillar, and then on the cross. During this portion of Lent, I am reminded of the passage in Hebrews that “sort of” encourages us, using Jesus’ passion as an example.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him. Hebrews 12:3-5
I have to remind myself that martyrdom and shedding our blood in the struggle against sin is not the same thing, though they might share some elements, if resisting temptation caused your martyrdom.
No, I can only approach Hebrews 12:4 metaphorically. There have been several occasions in my life where resisting sin was almost a bloodletting; the fight was so fierce within my soul. It had all the earmarks of a titanic struggle with all of creation poised for the outcome. That is not as wild as it might sound; since Hebrews also tells us that we have a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who observe what we are doing. I am not sure if they are privy to any of our internal debates, but I am sure that during that struggle the spiritual signposts around me were all blinking wildly.
I bring this up to show how unique these next 30 hours or so are for Jesus, how they separate him from everyone else before and after. In our struggle, we seek to avoid sin. In his struggle, he had to embrace it and defeat it. He, who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes. (2 Corinthian 5:21). Talk about the true philosopher’s stone, the true miracle of turning lead (sin) into gold (righteousness).
That is the path He is on. He will walk it straight and true, with only a slight pause in the garden. I will have something to say about that tomorrow, but for now let us place our feet where His feet have trod; let us follow in His footsteps. True, we cannot bear His burden, but we can feel some of the weight of it and more fully appreciate the remarkable thing that He did for us. He is the only person in all of creation who always has decent answer to the question, “What have you done for me lately?”
May God’s grace increase as your trials increase and may you be tempered by the process to become the seasoned steel he has called you be. For all of the difficulties, there will be, as there was for Mary, that joy in the morning. It was for that joy set before Him that He endured the coming trial. (Hebrews 12:2) So, during your trial, remember the coming joy.