What do think your initial reaction would be to your best friend in the world telling you that today might be your last day here?
You’d probably be incredulous to the notion, wouldn’t you? Do you think that you’d laugh? Would you dismiss his proclamation with the wave of a hand, as if you were shooing a fly? Chances are that you might even blow him off verbally, with a short, sweet, sarcasm-laced, “Yeah sure, whatever. Prove it.”
But what if your best friend was never one to kid around, and had never told you anything but the absolute truth? What if he made an oath on his life that he was telling you the truth, and you knew in your heart that he was?
So if you believed that today really might be your last day, would you do anything differently than you’ve done in all of the days leading up to this one? Would you try to make a difference in the world, not necessarily for yourself, but for your family and friends? Would you try to pack as much into today as you possibly could? Would you try to really make today count, because it’s your last shot? Would you savor every moment of your last day here? Would you try to love more, live more, laugh more, and experience more than you ever have because, well, just because? Well, would you?
The truth of the matter is that your friend would be exactly right! This could very well be your last day.
Consider the words of Paul to the Thessalonians:
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 1Thessalonians 5:1-2 NLT
Doubting the words of Paul? How about the words of Jesus?
"But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.” Matthew 24:36 NIV
At this moment you may be thinking, “That’s the end of times, when the people destined to be with God just disappear. It’s the Rapture. It won’t just be my last day, but of a lot of people.” You know what? You’d be absolutely correct.
So what’s the big deal?
It’s that today may very well be your last day here; just yours. You see, we’re never promised tomorrow. God doesn’t owe you another day here; not one. Everything that you have, even the air that you breathe, is by His grace. In fact, it may be His plan for you to be in heaven tomorrow. After all, who, other than God, knows?
So what do you do? Walk around with a sense of impending doom, saddened and burdened by the awareness that you might not be around? Tell everyone goodbye? Lock yourself up in a dark room?
NO, you don’t!
You offer each day to God. You try to make a difference in the world. You live every day to the fullest. You make today count, leaving nothing on the table. You love, and you laugh, and you live, and you experience all the life has to offer you today, both good and bad, with an “attitude of gratitude.” God gave you this day; not because He had to, but because He wanted to. This day, and every day, is a gift from Him, a manifestation of His love for you.
The day that the reality of “we’re never promised tomorrow” sunk into this thick skull of mine, my perception of each day, and my value of each day, changed dramatically. If you can wrap your mind around the notion that you may not have a tomorrow, the manner in which you live out this one, and all that follow, will change as well.
· When you were a child, did ever feel the sting of a belt on your legs or your rear end because you disobeyed your parents?
· Have you ever picked up a rose, only to find out the hard way that the thorns were still on its stem?
· Ever step on a small nail, or maybe a carpet tack?
· Do you look forward to shots or injections at the doctor’s office?
· If you’ve ever been laughed at or made fun of, do you remember the humiliation that accompanied it?
· What would your reaction be if you found out that you were going to die tomorrow?
· What if you’d known for quite a while that you were not only going to die, but also that it would be an excruciatingly painful death?
What if you knew that you were going to experience each the examples listed above, not throughout the course of several years, but all in one day? How would you feel? Mortified? Depressed? Prayerful?
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.” Matthew 20:17-19
What was Jesus’ “reward” for being the Son of God?
· His belt of punishment was a “flagellum,” a whip made of leather or rope with pieces of metal and bone in its thongs, which was designed to tear away the flesh of its victim.
· His rose thorn was a crown of thorns that was pushed down on his head with such force that it penetrated both skin and bone.
· His carpet tacks were nine inch nails that were driven through his hands and feet.
· His injection was a spear that was thrust into his side as hung from the cross.
· He was not only laughed at and spit on, but cursed, jeered at, and ridiculed, even as he drew his last breath.
Jesus knew that he was going to die. What’s more, he knew the details. He knew the pain and suffering that awaited him. He knew that he would be inhumanely tortured, abused, treated worse than an animal, and ultimately, murdered. He knew all of this, yet he followed the path that his Father had laid out for him.
I remember the first time that I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ a few years ago. Call me a baby if you’d like, but I recall my tear filled eyes peeking through my fingers of the hands that covered my face because I really didn’t want to see what I needed to see. As I did, I realized that for the first time in my life, I not only saw what Jesus went through, but actually felt it as well. I winced in pain and my heart broke with every lash of the whip, and with each swing of the hammer to drive in the nails. Dear God. Today, just as it was two years ago, I still cannot imagine the pain and suffering that Jesus went through for you and me.
I also remember feeling the sting of shame as I realized that while I offer my life to God every day and vow to take the path that He lays out for me, I honestly don’t believe that I could do what Jesus did. Not with his humility, not with his complete obedience, and certainly not for the sake of someone else. I just can’t imagine it…
Here’s the thing: When we seek the mind of Christ, to live through him and allow him to live through us, we learn that all we endure in the way of trials and tribulations, bumps and the bruises, and condemnation from others, all pale in comparison to what he endured for us.
Lord, may I see through Jesus’ eyes, hear through his ears, feel with his heart, and speak through his mouth. Grant me the mind of Your Son, and may I never take his sacrifice for granted.