The Passion’s Focus

I am leaving this place behind.

That’s the thought that has been running through my mind lately.  Because my life has been in continual transition for the last several months, sometimes it really feels like constancy is hard to come by.  Right now, nothing in my life seems quite, well, normal.  Frankly, it’s been rough.  And decisions I’m faced with making—though positive in the long-term—will ensure that normalcy still remains evasive for a significant amount of time.

I find comfort in that thought, though.  I am leaving this place behind.  So many of the great epic stories that we love are rooted squarely in this idea—and so is the Christian faith.  Where I’m at right now is a temporary residence, a place of preparation, a place to fulfill purpose.

This idea seems key to Christ’s focus in His final hours.  Though far from easy, He understood His purpose from an eternal perspective.  He knew that His suffering—the pain of both His living and His dying here on earth—was only a temporary price for the eternal reward of our redemption.  It wasn’t just that “God so loved the world” from an enormity standpoint.  Certainly, God’s love is huge.  But “God so loved the world” also in a very focused way.  His love compelled Him to map out a plan for our redemption long before He even created us.  His love was focused on you long before you even existed, and His eye was fixed on seeing you become everything He created you to be even before you were born.  His love has been set on redeeming you from the very start, His grace was prepared for you in the beginning.  That, with full knowledge of every sin you would commit and every mistake you would make and every circumstance you would face.

Christ knew that His life here was temporary.  There was just one shot at it.  I often hear people talk about what it would be like if Jesus were to live out the Gospel in our time period or some other time period, but from a purely logistical standpoint, He came at the only time He could have come, in a way that would fulfill all prophecy and demonstrate the fullness of who He really is.  God designed it that way from the very beginning, so I don’t mean to paint it as chance or a long-shot.  It was a solid plan, but there was only one go at it, and God poured all the focus of His love on making it a reality for us.  That includes every detail of the Gospels and every detail of the Passion and every detail of Christ’s teaching.

But Christ’s physical residence on this planet for that period was only temporary.  He knew that there was a reason He was there for that period of time, and as we watch His life unfold in the Gospels we see how much He made of it.  Christ did more in three and a half years in ministry than anyone else could ever do in a million lifetimes.  It demonstrates the power of a life focused on its created purpose, doesn’t it?

But that’s not the direction I’m headed with this, even though that’s a great message for another time.  My point simply is this: Christ’s focus and strength for fulfilling His purpose came from somewhere else—somewhere in eternity.  This temporary place was not His home, His source, or His destination, even though He had a purpose to live out here.  In fact, the only way to fulfill that purpose was to look beyond the temporary into the eternal.  The Apostle Paul explained, “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  Jesus understood the power of this focus.  All His afflictions, troubles, and cares were bearable for Him in an eternal context.  There was nothing that could come His way and shake Him, because He saw beyond the natural state of things into the very essence of His eternal purpose and destiny.

Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus’ Passion in this way: “We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Where is Jesus’ focus?  As horrible as His crucifixion was, as necessary as His suffering was, as integral to our faith as His act of grace is, God’s focus isn’t on all the suffering and all the pain and all the difficulty Christ endured.  That’s important for us to recognize, no question.  But to Him, it was all about something else, about something eternal.  It was about something that, in His mind, was important enough to reduce His Passion to the single phrase “endured the Cross, scorning its shame” in comparison.

It was us.

Jesus put it this way: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Do you know what His treasure was?  It was seeing you and me in eternity with Him.  That was His “joy”, His satisfaction, His overriding purpose.  That was what He really wanted, more than anything else—more than temporary praise or credit or reward.  He kept none of it here on this planet, because He knew that He was leaving this place behind.  His treasure is in bringing us closer to Him, and as we look at His life and His Passion and His Resurrection, we find that that was His heart.  That’s what drove Him, motivated Him, focused Him—seeing us with Him in eternity.  He knew that that’s what truly lasted, what truly counted.

And thus, I’ve found myself compelled to consider His message to me in all of this.  Circumstances can seem overwhelming, decisions hard, life difficult, strength waning, heart heavy.  But He provided something for me that cannot be taken away.  I have one place of constancy, and that is a focus on what He did for me.  I could die tomorrow with satisfaction in that.  It’s the only place real peace in this world can come from—I find it in what He did for me at the Cross.  That’s where eternity lies; everything that I do focused in on Christ is of eternal value.  He poured everything He had into making eternity with Him possible for me.  For that reason, real peace only comes from that one constant: the act of grace Christ demonstrated to me, the gift of new life He gave me.  I have the assurance of eternity as well as the ability to focus on eternity for His sake.  Christ is that door into eternity—it begins and ends there.

No matter the circumstances of my life, my assurance of peace rests with Him, in maintaining an eternal perspective in all things in my life.  He is my source for seeing, knowing and understanding eternity in the midst of hardship and difficulty here.  Strength comes in the knowledge that eternity awaits me and all that I can bring into it: the relationship I have with God and the relationships I have with others for His sake.  Those are the only things of lasting value, and the only things that will matter when I leave this place behind.

—Mark Knoles

Maxim of the Moment

Love is made sweet by compliments; not commands.