Gratitude at Golgotha, Part II

Thanks to the “Washer Fluid Low” situation I keep ignoring, a few sundry splotches have accumulated on the windshield of our vehicle. Driving with these new additions to my field of vision has alerted me to the importance of looking through–not at–the windshield when one is driving. When I focus on the spots on the glass, everything else goes blurry. Other vehicles become amorphous blobs whose changing size alone indicates whether I am about to hit them, pass them, or continue following them. If all the drivers in our city concentrated on windshield spots rather than the road, the pileups would bring our personal transportation to a grinding halt.

Such is the destructive effect of small, short-sighted focus. Take for example our interpersonal communication, where snide comments, suspicious glances, and demeaning insinuations splat onto our windshields. When these become our point of fixation they turn us into petty people who lose sight of the road and crash into others. The severity of the collisions increase as the splotches on the glass get larger–long-held personal grievances, ethnic or class prejudice, or ambition for power–so that even our drive to help others can end up in the ditch. Flip through the accounts of Israel and Judah’s kings and behold the wreckage of leadership due to tragically small fixations.

As we ponder the final weeks in the life of Israel’s ultimate King and our Savior, Jesus, our awareness of destructive human pettiness should generate deep gratitude in our hearts for the way our Lord kept his eyes on the road. The turning point of his ministry where he began articulating his true purpose started with a simple question–“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”–that quickly turned personal–“But who do you say that I am?” The correct answer, revealed graciously to Peter, was “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13, 15-16).

Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, felt the weight of this identity as the Christ, Israel’s Messiah. He knew from the Hebrew Scriptures what had not been fully disclosed to his generation, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:46). Bearing judgment and death for the sins of God’s people was in the Messianic job description, so Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ carried with it the gravest implications for our Lord.

Not so with Peter. The boisterous fisherman gave his confession with the exuberance of a campaign manager reporting the latest polls. His eyes focused on wide margins, certain victory, and a top seat in the new administration. While these must have seemed grandiose to the disciple at the time, in fact they were mosquitoes on the windshield so threatening to the direction of Jesus’ mission that the Messiah rebuked him with the sharpest possible words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). In the wilderness temptation Satan had already made empty promises of a crown without a cross, and Jesus would hear no more of it.

Our gratitude for all Jesus accomplished for us at the cross begins with an appreciation for how he embraced the entirety of his Messianic identity. No human applause, position of power, or earthbound luxury dissuaded him from his course. Indeed, it was upon “seeing his disciples” that “he rebuked Peter” (Mark 8:33). Their deliverance out of Satan’s domain into God’s eternal kingdom was the road Jesus kept watching. We too are in that number, the lost ones that the Son of Man came to seek and save (Luke 19:10), and thus our hearts should overflow with thanksgiving. Indeed, as we meditate on these gospel truths in the weeks leading up to Holy Week, may our eyes look past the petty ambitions of this passing age and, with deep gratitude, anticipate our resurrection destiny on the road that lies before us.

Pastor Chris

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