Have you ever taken the time to make a short list of the things Jesus gave up for you? Not the things Jesus did for you, or the things He suffered for you. I think the church does a pretty good job of talking about those things. We remember the miracles, we remember our own day of deliverance, His beatings, His bleedings, His degradation, and false accusations. That’s very good to recall.
But, what about the things or life circumstances that Jesus gave up for our benefit?
I remember few conversations about Jesus’ singleness, accept to deny it – to infer that Jesus took a wife, or at least a mistress, because people just can’t accept that Jesus would go without that kind of companionship or the sexual pleasure that went along with it. No one says anything like “Jesus made a choice to stay single. He couldn’t spare His mother the pain of watching Him die that horrible death, but He could spare a wife and children, so He did. He embraced loneliness rather than having someone else embrace loneliness without Him as He began His ministry – let alone the judgement that would have come on a family after His death.”
Another conversation you don’t hear is about sin itself. Jesus didn’t choose His personal preferences at the cost of another. He never took the last apple fritter, to eat, or to hide for later. He didn’t gossip about the guy at work who couldn’t keep up to make Himself look better. He didn’t blame a sibling. He never ate a few grapes out of a bag at the grocery store without paying, even if He “shopped there regularly”. He never moved a boundary line, or refused to pay taxes owed. Jesus never hid or otherwise avoided being called out for an action or ideology. He did not disrespect his parents.
When we think about that, we usually just acknowledge that Jesus broke no commandment, without really thinking about the self-centeredness we display often in myriad and petty ways. Jesus renounced pettiness, and chose to sacrifice in countless small things we’d embrace in a heartbeat and even defend.
But, even bigger than all of that – Jesus didn’t take the short cut. The BIG short cut that could have saved Him from hunger, from injury, and from death – that would have given Him charge of the world as well – “us” on a silver platter. All without saving any of us. Without being blamed for stuff He didn’t do. No betrayal from friends, no watching His mom watch Him die. No dying without being surrounded by the men who had surrounded Him at the dinners He provided. He could take a wife, and have the respect of the Sanhedrin instead of their scheming.
Before satan tempted Him, Jesus had already received affirmation from God in front of everyone that day. He was on a roll. Yes, He had just been obedient to be baptized even though He hadn’t sinned, but we might just forget that and only think about the accolade instead.
What else did Jesus give up for us? A new position – a HUGE job opportunity. Let’s look at the temptation and see how Jesus could have left us high and dry, and still come out with power, and wealth beyond measure.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. NKJV
If he had taken satan’s offer, as we had in the garden long ago, we would have lost out, but Jesus would have been adopted by satan, and given all the possessions and power that were rightly his to offer Jesus. He would not have to suffer betrayal and rejection – He could give those up instead of giving up all the other things that made it possible for us to leave the world and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead, He would have set up a kingdom of earth – of self-centeredness where He could bask in controlling us, instead of redeeming us.
Then, people could complain about having no choice, instead of complaining about the consequences of free will.
Harsh. But possible. It would not have been offered if it could not have been given. It was up to Jesus – He could take a short cut and please Himself, or go the distance and redeem us from our own choices before God.
We know that Jesus took the road of suffering, giving up the Great Short Cut – first, I think, to honor His relationship with God, which He treasured. Second, to give up His own life for ours, then show us the way of the resurrection.
When we say our prayers, which we freely choose to do, let’s give God an extra bit of thanks, and remember Jesus when we see the need to take the road less traveled; the road that’s harder to navigate. We have a great example to follow.
October 19, 2021