Summary: Jesus gave His life to save us. Now He offers us His attitude to transform us.
There once was a sculptor who was working hard with his hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little boy who was watching him saw nothing more than large and small pieces of stones falling away left and right.
He had no idea what was happening. But when the boy returned to the studio a few weeks later, he saw to his great surprise a large, powerful lion sitting in the place where the marble had stood.
With great excitement the boy ran to the Sculptor and said, “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?” (Henry Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, p.87)
God is doing something new. God is making something new of our lives. He’s working with who are, who He created us to be and who we are at this point in our lives, but He’s transforming us in to…people who are different, people who are free, people who are…like Him.
Like the sculptor in that short story by Henri Nouwen, God is at work in our lives creating something good, something that is outside the range of our expectations and imaginations, something that is wonderful.
There is a beautiful exchange going on. And you are part of it. And there is nothing more exciting to BE a part of than what God is doing.
This beautiful exchange happens in two ways. The second follows the first.
Part One of the Beautiful Exchange: His Life for Your Life
In a chapter of the book of John that has rewritten me and rewired me hundreds of times over the years, Jesus says something amazing. He invites us into his circle.
These are words spoken by Jesus in the Upper Room on the night of His passion, His suffering. It is the night of what we know now was the first Eucharist, the communion that Pastor Ronda will celebrate with us in a short while.
And in what can (only) be described as an invitation to this beautiful exchange, Jesus speaks. We need to read and hear these words accurately.
This is the voice of the Creator, the Maker of all things, who has come to this planet to win a people for Himself in order to bless the whole earth and all peoples. This is the voice of Jesus Who is both God-in-the-Flesh and completely and fully human. He says: John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
This is a lot of messages in itself, but for step one of the beautiful exchange I want to focus in on verse 13.
There is no greater love than to give one’s life for another, to offer up oneself and one’s earthly existence in order that another person may live.
Think about it. What would it take for you to give up your life so that the person sitting next to you would live? What would it take?
What would make you choose to not live so that another could live? We might imagine that we would give our life for someone we love in a pinch, jumping into the crosshairs of a dangerous situation and risking our own lives for the sake of another.
And in fact this happens sometimes. Not often, but it happens.
We have a strong survival instinct, for one thing. It’s opposite to that instinct to allow our lives to be threatened, to put ourselves in harm’s way.
But Jesus. Jesus, for the first critical step of this beautiful exchange, offered Himself. And not just in a dangerous moment. Not in a snap decision to jump into the line of fire to protect you from death.
But knowing…knowing from before time began actually, that He would die for you. Knowing as He, the Word made flesh, was conceived in the Virgin Mary.
Knowing once here on planet earth, born as a human child… and growing into a young man…knowing all along that He came to die, for you and for me. Knowing that His life’s purpose was to die in our place so that God’s purpose would be fulfilled.
Of course Jesus came to teach about the Kingdom of God. Of course Jesus came to show us how to live. But the big picture is that all of Jesus’ teaching pointed to the cross, pointed to His suffering.