In my previous note, I wondered out loud regarding the possibility of bliss without pain; of eternal joy without the cross. And, right now, you maybe wondering where I am at the moment regarding that question. Just hang on; you’ll know before the end of this post.
Proceed quietly with me to the Garden of Gethsemane where, as I’m presently inclined to see it, Jesus sought for a path to glory that would bypass the cross; that’s what it looks like to me at this moment. Please note my emphasis:
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
~ Luke 22:41 – 44.
So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
~ Matthew 26:44
He persistently sought for a path to His joy that would bypass the cross; but it was a dead end; there was no other way but through that cross. Now, pay careful attention to this very significant piece of His plea at Gethsemane as captured in Matthew’s account:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
~ Matthew 26:39.
So it wasn’t really an issue of right and wrong, as much as it was a matter of possibility. Jesus wanted to know if the possibility was there. Remember, He had spoken earlier to His disciples and the multitudes that ‘all things were possible’. So here, He was exploring the possibility of bypassing that old rugged cross.
And, honestly, try as hard as I can, I can’t help but wonder at the source of that thought. Could it be that it came from the devil’s insinuations at His temptation? Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
~ Matthew 4:8-10
Satan offered Jesus the possibility of bypassing the cross. He made it so easy for Jesus: “Just bend a little bit and I’ll yield all without a fight.” Talk about bliss without pain!
Of course, Jesus would have none of it then, and actually kicked the devil out. But could it be that the voice of that old serpent sneaked back into the thoughts of Jesus as the horrors of the cross approached? And even more significantly, does this imply that the possibility of glory without cross is satanic; a satanic option? And if so, should I then reject this possibility as a matter of principle whenever it is offered?
What do you think?
One thing is clear: In spite of His humanly understandable efforts to avoid the horrors of His cross, Jesus Christ embraced His cross from day one. His public utterances testify to that; as well as His choice of Judas—He knew from the beginning that Judas, a close and trusted friend, would betray Him to death with a kiss; the most torturous and agonizing stab in the back anyone could ever experience. Yet He drew him into His inner circle. Yes, He clearly embraced His cross from day one.
And, considering His model, and particularly in the light of the fact that He couldn’t see any other way out from the Father, shouldn’t I then from the onset determine what my cross is, and not resist it?
Now, look at Moses. As I reflected on what was said regarding him in the following scripture, I could see that Moses rejected immediate bliss, and embraced pain; completely by choice.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
~ Hebrews 11:24-26
He refused; he chose; he regarded—in other words, it was all by choice. He preferred the immortality of being Israel’s founder and History’s greatest Law Giver, to being a ‘mere’ Pharaoh. And so he voluntarily yielded to pain; just like Jesus.
Could it then be that the path to my personal and ultimate bliss demands that I recognize my cross, and voluntarily embrace the pain? And what if this pain involves disappointments, denials, delays, betrayals, rejection, hurts, and their likes? Could it also be possible that the more I try to resist the pain the worse it gets? Goodness! Just the thought of it makes me cringe.
Actually, I learnt from one of the pastors in my team—who is also a medical doctor—that patients are actually advised not to stiffen their butts while being given an injection; it worsens the pain and could lead to more devastating consequences.
In other words, don’t resist the needle; don’t resist the pain; instead, yield to it. So then, like Jesus and Moses, am I supposed to yield my butt to the needle, and embrace the pain as a path to better health; to higher bliss?
In fact, during a discussion, this same doctor pointed out something else to us from the following verse:
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no-one else can share its joy.
~ Proverbs 14:10
She observed a link between ‘it’s own bitterness’, and ‘it’s joy’. Then she noted that it is possible that bitterness and joy are two sides of the same coin; that my joy is on the other side of my bitterness; that my bliss is on the other side of my pain; that my glory is on the other side of my cross; that my good is on the other side of my evil. And instantly, I had one of those ‘aha!’ moments as I remembered the following words of Jesus Christ:
“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
~ Matthew 5:39
I had never seen it that way before; and it immediately started to make sense to me: if I must enter into my ultimate bliss, I must discern my personal cross, and pick it up; knowing fully well that beyond it’s agonizing wounds and death lie my personal paradise.
Yes, my bitterness and pain are inextricably linked. It has always been so, right from the beginning; right from God. I see it now. Pain started from the very beginning of time. As soon as God decided to manifest Himself and build a family, sin was found in Lucifer; and God (including the rest of His creation) became engulfed in pain. Even Satan is not spared the pain and agony as he pursues his own nefarious and sadistic bliss. So, if I choose to become more, to build a more blissful life, to express my creativity and genius, I must simultaneously yield to the pain in which bliss and success, from the infinite past, have always been hidden.
Let me now proceed to determine what constitutes my own present personal cross. Please, come with me…