I suppose all of us secretly dream of life as perpetual paradise. No worries or stress, zero responsibilities; just the chance to relax in never-ending sunshine on some beach where the turquoise ocean rolls lazily over white sand. I remember when I visited Honduras with a team to build a school and spent some days on Roatan, one of the Bay Islands. The beaches were the fantasies of postcards stretching for miles lined with coconut palms; long green fronds bending and spiked against a clear blue sky.
“Why are these beautiful beaches so empty?” I inquired.
“Well if you lie near the coconut trees you never know when a coconut may drop on your head, and the beach is full of sand fleas,” was the answer I was given.
It seems so typical of our lives on earth, where every Eden mirage has a hidden liability or hazard that’s invisible from a distance. May as well learn how to embrace our present and find peace and joy where we live right now – amidst falling coconuts and other bugs – because they’re everywhere.
That’s what inspires me about how Jesus lived on earth. His context was riddled with donkey loads of inconvenience, unfairness, exploitation, and uncertainty. Human life was cheap; often at the mercy of the Roman occupying army and the whims of those who ruled. Human rights was a joke, religion was peddled on every street corner, and newborn babies could be killed if the regional autocrat was paranoid about rumors of a newborn king. This was the guy who said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, what you will eat, drink, or wear.” “Peace I give to you, not as the world gives.”
Jesus didn’t merely give advice to others – he lived what he advocated; he walked the talk without a victim mentality or a grandiose sense of martyrdom. Nowhere is that more evident than in the events leading up to his crucifixion. It was the easiest outcome in the world for him to avoid by merely compromising, or offering the religious leaders some token of respectful subservience for public consumption.
I imagine if I was in Jesus’ situation I might hear God calling me to another land as a missionary. Perhaps I could delay what seemed unpalatably inevitable by advocating for the disciples requiring more time to be discipled or trained. They were so raw and always teetering on the edge of packing up and returning home. My rational mind could find more reasons than the tassels on my prayer shawl to avoid sipping the cup in Gethsemane, escaping the ripping lashings, and keeping my hands out of sight rather than nailed to a cross.
Unlike me and Peter, when the rooster crowed, Jesus never flinched, doubted, or turned away to run. Long before the pressure climaxed he’d settled the matter of who he trusted when darkness loomed and all strength drained in blood on the ground beneath his paralyzed feet. There was peace to be experienced amidst circumstances that sent every friend scurrying for cover. A more magnificent picture was being painted than anyone on earth could ever understand. God Almighty underscored the fact that he was on a mission of love and forgiveness that would shake the foundations of the world with the resurrection of his Son…”He’s not dead he’s roaring like a lion!”
I’m so proud of Jesus – grateful, and indebted. This Easter I stand humbly amazed. How about you?