Music is and always has been a very important aspect of my life. I began banging on the piano before I could hold myself up. We had family sing-a-longs around that piano throughout my childhood. I sang in choirs at church and school in junior high. I played several instruments in high school. To this day, my interest in music is intense and the spectrum of genres I listen to regularly would make your head spin. My Pandora playlist is most interesting. My love of music is another part of God’s image that He has created in me. He uses music a lot of times to communicate with me.
One such instance happened many years ago. I was up very late working on the computer and, as you would expect, listening to music. I was in a tough season at the time. A song from one of my favorite groups came on; Skin by Rascal Flatts. This is a ballad about a young woman who is diagnosed with cancer, yet who still dreams of dancing with her true love, even after her hair falls out from her treatments. As the song ends, it tells of her date arriving to pick her up for their prom. He has shaved his head in support of her. I listened to this song I had heard many times. My heart cried out from my own pain and loneliness – “I just want someone to love me enough that they would do something that extreme for me.” And then I heard that still, small voice that sometimes seems so loud – “Someone loves you even more than that. That boy gave up his hair – Jesus gave up His life.” At once I was humbled, and ashamed for my inappropriate self-pity. And oh-so-grateful for the reminder.
This is one of the most-quoted verses in the Bible. It is the basis of our hope. I think, though, that because it is so familiar to us, we have become desensitized to the impact it should have on us. I think that we forget to remember.
Some time after the humbling reminder with the Skin song, I was asked to give a pre-communion devotional at church. Luke 22:19-20 : And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. As I prepared for this event of remembrance, I recalled that night. It drove home to me the importance of ‘remembering’, being mindful of, what Christ has done for us – not only when we partake in communion, but every day. To forget is to lose hope, to lose our perspective, to give room for much negativity and focus on self: self-pity, depression, self-righteousness, self-reliance, etc. Notice all the ‘self’ in that list? Here’s the thing – as we study the details of the crucifixion and the events surrounding it, it is SO. MUCH. MORE. POWERFUL. I just want to point out a couple for now.
First, it is easy to assume, with the betrayal of Judas and the company of soldiers that came to arrest Jesus, that He was taken away against His will. That is absurd, if you think about it. Jesus is fully God and fully man. The fully God part of Him could not be taken anywhere against His will. Do you recall in Matthew 26 when Peter cuts off the soldier’s ear in an effort to protect his Lord? Jesus responds with this: Matthew 26:53-54 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Consider this as well – in John 18:4-6 this takes place: Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. There is so much power in the name of Jesus, the whole company of soldiers is literally blown back when He speaks it – “I AM”. There is no doubt that He chose to go to the cross for us. That brings up the next point.
As much as Jesus is fully God, He is also fully man. The Son of God was sent by God to be a sacrifice. The Son of Man had free will. He could have said ‘NO’. He could have changed His mind. If that is not true, He would not have fought in the battleground of His mind in Gethsemane as described in Matthew 26:36-45: Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 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.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.” When you read this passage with the notion that He could have said no instead of taking it for granted that He had no choice, it puts a whole new weight on it, yes? How humbling is that? How could we ‘not remember’?
Recently, on CBS This Morning, I heard an interview of Dilip Joseph, MD, an American doctor who was held hostage by the Taliban. He was eventually rescued by Seal Team Six. Tragically, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque lost his life in the rescue. Dr. Joseph lamented: “He died to save my life,” he said. “It is hard to live with the idea that somebody died for my sake. The best that you can do is to honor them through your life, and that’s exactly what I want to do.” Dr. Joseph has written a book about his experience (Kidnapped by the Taliban) and continues his work in missionary medicine in honor of Officer Checque – he is determined not to waste this life on earth that came at great cost. Should we also have that same attitude toward Jesus? He chose to give us a chance at life on earth and eternally with Him.