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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Matthew 20:17-19
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified."

Carry the weight of these verbs for a moment: you will be betrayed, condemned and turned over to the enemy. Then you will be mocked and flogged. Finally, you will die, suffocating while you hang for hours with everyone watching.

In some awful scenario of the future I suppose a judge could speak like that to me. But Jesus talked of himself, with certainty and assurance, to the men he loved the most.

I imagine saying to my family, "We're leaving for our vacation in Aruba. But on the highway we'll be stopped by terrorists. I'll be taken away from you, and they will tear out my hair, break my teeth, dismember and kill me. Then they'll bring me back and dump my body in front of the car for you to bury. So ... let's go!"

For three years Jesus has walked through murderous crowds or avoided them altogether. Now he is heading straight in. As John Wimber says, "The way in is the way on." And God's promise to walk with him "through the valley of the shadow of death" is Jesus' most valuable possession.

All the songs Christians sing about the blood of Jesus and the victory of the cross are just as much about our own. God's presence overtakes us in the disasters, in the moments of brutal cruelty and broken dreams, and finally death. Death might be the result of sin, but resurrection is the result of grace.

Speaking to the disciples, Jesus continues, "On the third day he will be raised to life!" He "did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." This is the path to glory and eternal joy, for Jesus and for all of us.

Lord, we follow you up the path to Golgotha, weeping and bereft. One day we join you. How is it that only then our joy is made complete? What a surprise, discovering life in the midst of death. Thank you, Jesus.

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