Have you taken time lately, stopping all activity to simply sit and remember the reality of all that Jesus went through for us?  To realize that He laid down His will, with all the desires of any normal young man–so that you and I could live life more abundantly. As Jesus struggled with temptations even as we struggle with temptations, He said to our heavenly Father, "never the less, not My will but only Your will be done." It was a hard choice. The stress was so enormous that His body began to perspire blood. Jesus suffered as a human, not as deity. His obedience wasn't just a symbolic act in yet another step in history. He was a very real man, with real emotions and real feelings.

Isaiah 52:14, 15 from the Modern Language translation prophesies that "as many at first were astonished at Him–his appearance was so disfigured beyond human semblance and His form beyond that of the sons of men–kings shall stand in silence before Him, having never been told what they now see and never understood what they now hear." And from the Living translation we read it like this, "Yet many shall be amazed when they see Him–yes, even far-off foreign nations and their kings; they shall stand dumbfounded, speechless in His presence. For they shall see and understand what they had not been told before. They shall see Him beaten and bloodied; so disfigured one would scarcely know it was a person standing there."

When is the last time that you stood amazed at His suffering and considered the price He paid to save us from having to pay the penalty for our own sins? "disfigured beyond human semblance" is hard to even imagine. The movies and church dramas don't even come close to the gruesomeness of His suffering.

Yet, it is not only the suffering of His flesh that captures my attention and takes my breath away, it is my awe of Jesus as foreseen by the prophet Isaiah as his words continue in chapter 53:2-9; "He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb before the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not His mouth…He was cut off out of the land of the living…He made His grave with the wicked; because He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth…".

Truly, I believe that our focus must be on all that this suffering accomplished. In other words, our focus must be on the empty tomb and the risen Lord rather than on the cross. But at times it is important to reflect back to the reality of our precious Jesus to fully appreciate all that happened to Him for our sake.

Jesus spent a lifetime developing faith and courage to follow through with the divine plan of God. For three years He tolerated the misbehavior of twelve adult men–some older than Himself–some richer and some more educated than He was. I'm certain there were power plays and control issues that He had to deal with.

Of the hundreds and thousands to whom He took time to minister over the course of His life, no one stood up for Him when He was falsely accused. Of the eleven disciples in the Garden, only Peter took action to physically defend Him. The others fled in fear of being arrested–and of course, later, Peter also turned coward and feared being associated with Him. Talk about rejection!

He was so misunderstood that even His own mother--who had the angelic visitation with inside information on His life's purpose--doubted Him and questioned His sanity. He was despised and rejected of men. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Not just during the false trial and subsequent punishment, but for several years He was persecuted with His very life being threatened and in constant danger.

I think we Christians tend to lump all His sufferings into the last few days of His life. But the Word shows that He lived a life of sorrows.

The reason why I feel that it is important to recall the sufferings of our Lord is for the purpose of expanding our gratitude for His sacrifices. He did it all out of love for you and for me. As painful as it is for me to subject myself to the realities of the sufferings of this magnificent man and close personal friend of mine, I don't turn away and hide from the truth. I need to be reminded of the depth of His love for me. "No greater love does a man have but to lay down His life for His friend." What Jesus did by taking rejection, pain, sorrow, shame, guilt, separation from God, beatings, piercing and ridicule, He did so that I would not have to face any of it. What a friend! What a Savior!

I never want to take the high price of what Jesus suffered for me for granted. I want to fully recognize it so that I may really appreciate it. It was a valuable gift that He gave to me. It was the greatest act of love that anyone has ever done for me. It was His taking my place, as a substitute for the sentence that all my selfish mistakes and poor choices deserved. And it was His making the way for me to live in harmony with my loving new Father.

So today I stand as Isaiah prophesied: in silence before Jesus; amazed, dumbfounded, and speechless in His presence. "No greater love" becomes more than nice words on the page of my Bible. When I fully realize that this very real man took my place, before I was ever born; That before I even knew Him, before I made the choice to receive Him as my Savior, before I ever uttered the words, "my Jesus I love You!" and yes, even before I ever did a single thing for the advancement of His kingdom, He gave His life for me. As if I was the only one in all the world, He had me on His mind, in a gaze of great love, as He said, "Carole, it is for your worth and your value that I gave over My will to the will of our God, to take the penalty for your sins, to serve the sentence that you deserved." Oh friends, get a picture of Jesus looking down at you, as He hung in excruciating pain in every area of His being, and He says to you, "You are the glory that is set before Me. It is for you that I have endured the shame and the pain, it is for you that I have endured the will of God…be glorified in and through My death and through My life eternally."

What a great time to participate in the Lord's communion. To eat His flesh and drink His blood, in remembrance and as a declaration before hell, earth, and heaven–that you are committed to participating in the fullness of this gift of abundant life, each and every day!

May you take these words to heart and meditate on them, searching the scriptures to judge the truths herein, allowing the Holy Spirit to work truth in you, to the renewing of your mind. Find rest for your soul. Have a light and easy week as you accomplish great things for His Kingdom!

In His Great Name and Wonderful Love,

Pastor Carole

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