In baseball, there is a play called the “sacrifice.”
With a bunt or a ground ball or a high fly ball to the outfield, a batter gives himself up as an out to advance a baserunner or to score a man from third base. One player suffers a loss to advance the winning cause of the whole team. Just so, in life there are sacrifices, temporary losses that eventually secure a larger win.
The Sacrifices of Jesus
In the earthly ministry of Jesus, there were many, many victories. He began in His home region of Galilee teaching and working miracles and multitudes followed Him. Of course, there were local rejections:
- There was that awful day in Nazareth where the people in His own synagogue rioted and threatened to throw Him off a cliff, and there were
- those foolish town elders in Capernaum who sent Him away after He delivered the town demoniac, but who’s counting, right?
For the most part, like the 5000+ plus multitude who filled their bellies in the wilderness, people went away healed and happy. The victories outnumbered the sacrifices.
We should not forget the constant rejection of Jesus by the leaders of the people; it was nearly unanimous, with only the occasional priest or Pharisee or lawyer who expressed interest in the Good News of the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said, He had come to divide those who believed from those who refused to believe.
The Road to Jerusalem
In Dr. Luke’s narrative, Jesus turned away from the adoring crowds and turned toward the Cross. This was His sacrifice play, a personal loss of great and terrible cost for the good of all people who would believe in Him. He tried to prepare His men for the horrors ahead. It was not an easy thing to do. For one thing, the “Day of the Lord” has many seemingly contradictory aspects. In this place, Jesus refers to His return with the image of a flash of lightning that illumines the whole world from horizon to horizon. In other places, He depicts His return as a “Thief in the night.” (Luke 12:39-40) Our job is not to choose one or the other but to believe both.
A line had been crossed.
With this turn in the journey toward Jerusalem, Jesus crossed a line; things were going to be different from there on to the conclusion. Rejection would increase and acceptance would retreat. For a while, Jesus would remain with them every day, teaching, healing, touching, loving them at close range. A time was coming when His presence with them would be spiritual, not physical. There were so many details about the New Covenant in His blood but they would have to wait until the extreme rejection did its work. He tried to warn them:
“The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man,
and you will not see it.”
In those days, it would be crucial that Christ-followers know the facts and know them well. It will be a day revelation and deception: the Truth revealed by the Spirit and horrible lies broadcast by the mechanisms of hell. It will be up to us to fill our hearts and brains with the truth about Jesus and to walk in His enabling Spirit every day.
Those days are these days. We celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus in the light of His ultimate victory.
Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Lord Jesus, You are with me today! Not in the way that You were with the Twelve as You walked the dusty pathways of human existence, but in spiritual ways that are just as thrilling. You promised never to leave me or forsake me and it is so. Following You, I have a story to tell, Good News to share, and a healing touch to administer to the people in my path. Many will reject You and Your story but some will believe and come alongside me to share this journey to glory. I, too, will be a willing sacrifice to see the ultimate victory—the Thief in the Night and the heaven-to-earth stroke of lightning. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!
Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved