Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shelter as something to give up

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.

Oct. 17 – Shelter as something to give up

”No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily.“
John 10:18 (NLT)

Shelter is something people naturally seek. Even animals are smart enough to do that. But shelter is also something that under certain circumstances can and should be given up.

The Messiah did not end up on the cross because his shelter broke down and he became a helpless victim, overpowered by his enemies. He ended up there because at Gethsemane he voluntarily gave up his shelter. Staggering as it sounds, he went to the cross by choice, a willing sacrifice. No one “took his life,” and no one could have.

We see a similar thing in some careers today. If shelter did not take second place when duty called, firefighters would remain in their nice safe stations and just let the phone ring. We would have to start calling them “fire-avoiders” instead of “fire-fighters,” and their employment would be short-lived.

So it is with us as God’s “firefighters,” followers of the crucified Messiah. Shelter and comfort cannot be our dominant concerns. We have to be ready to abandon our natural desire for shelter, get moving, and take the necessary risks when our calls come in.

The leader of the early church, Peter, is the one who shows us how not to do this. On the Mount of Transfiguration he volunteered to throw together three “shelters” (like those that Jews build for the “Feast of Shelters”) so Jesus, Moses, and Elijah would get comfortable and stay a while. He made no such suggestion in Gethsemane. He did not understand Jesus’ agony, he could not stick with him for even an hour of prayer, and he certainly did not want to prolong this eerie situation. He wanted to get it over with.

Then when he least expected it, his call came. Judas arrived with the armed officials to take the Messiah into custody. Peter’s reactions were classic human reactions, and all too often our reactions when our calls come.
First, incredulity—“This can’t be happening. Where is God’s shelter for us?”
Second, confrontation—trying anything to stop what is happening (slashing at the head of the high priest’s servant, Jn. 18:10).
Third, self-protection—running away from Jesus into the night, seeking shelter somewhere else.

In Peter’s three denials of Jesus a few hours later, he was continuing to try to shelter himself by distancing himself from Jesus. In other words, he got it just exactly wrong. Our true shelter depends on how close we can get to Jesus and his mission, not how far we can distance ourselves from him. Self-protection is no protection at all. Self-denial is the ticket to the “shelter” we really need and want.

Self-denial is not a matter of self-flagellation or self-deprecation. Jesus did none of that in Gethsemane. Far from focusing on ourselves, true self-denial works by forgetting about ourselves, especially our natural desire for shelter. We can easily forget ourselves when we become preoccupied with something more important—what our Father wants us to do. (Mk. 14:36)

Peter indulged his natural desire for shelter. Jesus denied his. It was agonizing preparation but when the call came, Jesus was ready and Peter was not.

What an unbelievable comfort it must have been to Peter later when Jesus gave the Great Commission in a way that directly counteracted his mistake. “I am with you always.” (Mt. 28:20) Peter had not stuck with Jesus in his hour of need but Jesus would stick with Peter in all his hours of need, and with us in all of ours.

“I am with you always.” What other “shelter” do we need?

Welcome: Thank you, Jesus, that we will never have to face anything without you. We are so glad you are here.

Affirmation: My shelter is not my highest priority because my life is not my highest value.



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