It was always about this. From the very beginning, every moment, every journey, every sermon, every miracle was about this.
There's a verse I stumbled across the other day as I was reflecting on these squares on the calendar that we call "holy week," and what that really means. When I say stumbled, it's because I found something I wasn't looking for, and I've been sort of stuck there ever since.
The Message version of John 12:27-28 says:
"Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? 'Father, get me out of this'? No this is why I came in the first place. I'll say, 'Father put your glory on display.' " MSG
I'm stuck because I can't get past what it must have been like. Surely He knew. Surely He knew what was about to happen.
Of course He knew. He knew exactly what this week would bring. Of course He was aware that with every step He took, He was one step closer to the reason He came.
One step closer to the cross.
It's really interesting to watch closely to see what Jesus did during that week. To watch how He spent His time. To watch each step He took. The way He spent His time, the people He was with, the places He went.
He came to Jerusalem knowing that He was a marked man. He came to Jerusalem knowing that the religious leaders were plotting to put Him on the cross. He had dinner with His closest friends, knowing that one of them would not only abandon Him, but betray Him, and another would deny - in His darkest of moments - that he never even knew Him.
And yet He kept moving one step closer to the cross.
I honestly can't imagine how you take that step, knowing it would bring you closer to what can only be described as perhaps the most agonizing way to die.
Paul says in Philippians 2 that "he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"(v8) It wasn't just that He submitted himself to death, He submitted himself to the most humiliating, shameful, painful death imaginable.
A cross wasn't the easiest way to execute someone, and it wasn't the most efficient. It wasn't meant to kill - though it almost always did - it was meant to shame. It was meant to make an example.
That it certainly did. Though maybe not the one they thought it would.
See, Jesus knew that this was what it was all about. This was the purpose that His entire life had pointed towards. The cross was why He came, and now - only days away - He was intimately aware of what was about to happen. He knew because it was always about this.
I can't think of a greater example of the glory of God on display than when, "for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning it's shame." (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). You are that joy. You are the reason He endured.
And as I wrestled with it this week, something occurred to be. I used to think that He kept moving, taking step after step, despite the cross. As if, He knew what was coming, and kept moving forward even though it would lead to His death. But I don't think that's right. I think He took those steps BECAUSE of the cross. I think He moved closer to the cross BECAUSE of what it meant, not despite it.
You see, the cross wasn't a consequence of His mission. The cross WAS His mission.
Nothing about the cross caught Jesus off guard. Nothing about it was a surprise. Nothing about it was beyond His control. He knew.
And yet He kept moving one step closer to the cross. Who does that? Who but Jesus?
I think He moved closer to the cross because of you. And I think He moved closer to the cross because of the glory of God. By the way, it wasn't the cross that declared the glory of God. Don't get me wrong, the cross is important. In fact, our theology tells us it's probably the most important moment in the history of the world, but I don't think that the glory of God is fully realized in the cross.
It's in the empty tomb.
If it weren't for the empty tomb, the cross would simply be a tragedy. But because of that empty tomb, the cross is everything. He bore our shame on the cross, and defeated it with the empty tomb.
So, I think Jesus invites each of us to take one step closer to the cross - one step closer to Him. Because it's through the cross that we come to the empty tomb. It's through death on the cross that we experience the life that results from coming out of the tomb.
In every area of our lives, He invites us to take one more step closer to Himself, and one step further out of the tomb we've been trapped in by our shame and our sin and our brokenness.
It's starting to make more sense, how He could take each step closer to the cross. I still don't fully understand the magnitude of His willingness to endure, but I am beginning to understand His invitation this week. To take one step closer to the cross, with Jesus.