So much to say; so little time. And dangerous. Imagine. When my essay is done, God will know for sure, should I get it wrong. What are the chances my essay will get it exactly right? Not good.

Jesus, before he died, said he had much more to share, but the ancient people he messaged couldn’t handle it. We know it’s true. Two thousand years ago people were more ignorant and intolerant than even today. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would lead modern people into all truth, but it would be done gently, gracefully, and in God’s good time. 

Jesus said that he came to save the world, not judge it; the last thing he said before crucifixion took him was this: It is accomplished. 

Greek: τετέλεσται (te-TEL-es-ta)
Hebrew: זה נעשה (ze NA-a-sa)

What was accomplished?

I’m not a theologian; I’m a pontificator. It means I have no credentials. Readers will not find a single group of humans anywhere on earth who will vouch for me.

I know this: people are scared to die. Most feel like Otis Redding, who released his version of the soul classic A Change is Gonna Come during Christmas season 1964:

It’s been too hard living, oh my
And I’m afraid to die.
I don’t know what’s up there
Beyond the clouds.

Jesus sweat blood; he begged God to find another way. It wasn’t to be.

My dear wife, a geriatric nurse, gave care to hundreds of people who died as she comforted them. I’ve watched three people die—my mom and dad and my wife’s dad. Beverly Mae will disagree, but the word that describes death for me is horror.

Death has a finality to it that seems to rob life of all meaning. My dad was a heroic figure. His life as a Navy pilot was an adventure. People loved him. In death, it counted for nothing. Death robbed his life of context. That’s how I experienced it. Total loss. No redeeming virtues; no comfort.

My mother’s death was worse. Her mouth dropped open. When I leaned over to kiss her goodbye, I smelled death. It ruined memory. For a few moments I hated God.

Beverly Mae’s dad collapsed in his downstairs bathroom. We slept upstairs during a visit. He fell on the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck. It pierced his chest; he bled out before we reached him. My poor wife spent hours cleaning up her father’s blood. Some of it seeped into the floor boards beyond her reach.

When I looked into the faces of the dead, one thing was sure. People, once they’re gone, don’t come back. Death is final.

Jesus died in a storm during an earthquake. The violence and damage done terrified people. 

One of the military commanders insisted that Jesus must be the “Son of God”, because the geologic violence that occurred during the execution proved it. To tamp down hysteria, Pontius Pilate, the governor, blocked access to the grave with a huge rock—which he ordered sealed—and he posted a guard to protect against gawkers and grave robbers. During an inspection a few days later, the tomb was found empty. Linen burial-strips lay in a pile.

Jesus eluded capture but was able to speak to hundreds of people, including members of his family. His brother, James, wrote a short, adulatory book about him, which was included in the canon of the New Testament many years later. In it he cautioned people to not doubt—something he did during his brother’s life. Until the resurrection, he didn’t know what to think about his famous sibling.

Pastors sometimes say that people who don’t believe in the resurrection are not really Christians. The Bible says that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved, so what difference does it make? Jesus said it is accomplished before his resurrection took place—days before. It seems to be impossible for a modern person to believe that a dead person can be brought back to life by any process anyone can imagine.

What amazes me is that folks don’t believe the simple things Jesus said, which are counter-intuitive, perhaps, but easily confirmed by anyone who chooses to live life outside their comfort zone.  Rich people don’t go to heaven, for example, unless God arranges a miraculous intervention. One might think Christians would be shedding their money like dead skin. Yet some pastors preach that prosperity and wealth are an indicator of God’s favor for anyone who makes a confession of faith.  

A pastor’s wife once told me she had never visited anyone in prison. Jesus advised people to visit not only prisoners, but the sick and the shunned, the poor and disabled—even the lowest rung of people in society—to show God’s love by sharing their lives; by being with those who are beat down by times of trouble. Who does this?

I’ve met Christians who home-school their kids and live in gated, sometimes all-white neighborhoods where they wall themselves off like nuns in a convent; they do mission trips, yes—highly organized and scheduled; usually once each year for a week to ten days. It doesn’t seem to be either right or enough, at least to me.

Christ said that men who look on women with lust are adulterers; the punishment for some forms of adultery during Old Testament times was death. It’s not unusual to hear Christian men complain that they are trapped in a web of pornography, which some feel helpless to resist. How can anyone obey Jesus and honor his suffering, they reason, while they themselves spend hours each day committing adultery on-line, or however they manage it?

I can go on. The list is endless. Christians want to be good, but they can’t. No one avoids guilt; no one sidesteps shame. People seem to contort their minds to think pretty much whatever they want. The easy stuff they ignore, when it’s inconvenient. The difficult stuff—like grounding their faith in the resurrection of Christ Jesus—they take on easily, because it doesn’t involve suffering to tell other “believers” that they believe it too. Suffering is what everyone is trying to avoid.

Jesus bled-out on a cross; I won’t have to, they imagine. But Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us. What did he mean by it?

The Bible says most of his followers deserted him after he said it. But Mathew—maybe the most prominent disciple; the New Testament begins with his book—quoted Jesus to say that followers would find in Him rest for their souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light, Jesus said.  

Folks whose heads are above water—who once suffocated in the quicksand of sin and were rescued—know exactly what Jesus meant. To live, they sometimes find themselves suffering to do what’s right. It’s inconvenient, but it leads to a better way of being. Poverty, not wealth, is a sign of the cross. It is a seal that binds us to Christ and his destiny.

Suffering along side of Christ, even in the midst of our own self-inflicted carnage, is a path that can lead to resurrection; to a life that lasts; to a life that has meaning. Suffering to help set the world right—to set ourselves right—can be a reminder of God’s promise to rescue us; to place us into a life that will last; into a place Jesus called Paradise

Folks who hold fast to the cross of Jesus; who drink His blood; who share His agony are never alone. Jesus said he came to save his own from the ruin that comes from dying evil. It’s a promise He doesn’t break. All other paths lead not only to suffering, but separation from God.

Loving people; aligning our aspirations with Christ’s destiny—which is to love others; to stand ready to die to ourselves, should it ever become necessary—are among the things Jesus might have meant when he said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God except through me.

Billy Lee

There’s a time I would go to my brother, oh my.
I asked my brother, “Will you help me please?”, oh my oh my.
He turned me down and then I ask my dear mother, oh.
I said “Mother!”
I said “Mother! I’m down on my knees.”
So tired, so tired of standing by myself
And standing up alone.
A change has gotta come.
(excerpts by Otis Redding)