Like some giant game piece, the wheel stands waiting for me to give it a spin. When I do, the bright red arrow will go around and around and come to rest on only one of two choices: self or sacrifice.
That was my thought process as I laid in bed the other night trying to fall asleep. It wasn’t hard to figure out the message; the two words on the wheel said it all.
As I write this, we’re toward the end of holy week and Resurrection Sunday is just a few days away. Like other “holiday” weekends, the choice before me is obvious. I can make it just another weekend with an extra day for self– indulgence by taking advantage of special sales or finishing some special projects around the house. Or, I can turn my focus where it belongs, on the sacrifice this weekend beckons each of us to remember and the celebration that comes with Resurrection Sunday!
There’s an interesting point about this whole Easter weekend thing. Take pause and consider Jesus’ ministry began in the wilderness where the accuser was, in some respects, spinning the wheel and always making it land on “self”. Jesus could have certainly chosen that route. However, he chose sacrifice each time the accuser spun the wheel. When it came to actually fulfilling that sacrifice, he was still in a position of choice. In other words, the cross might not have ever happened. Jesus could very well have said to his father, “There’s no way I’m going through with this. The price is too high.” If you or I declare that wasn’t an option, then his sacrifice was compelled and not freely given. If there wasn’t choice, his prayer in the garden meant nothing. However, it is precisely because there was a choice that the sacrifice becomes just that, a sacrifice!
It’s true that Jesus knew the ultimate goal from the time his ministry began. He knew the objective, the very purpose for his being. There was little doubt in his mind when it came to understanding the father’s plan. When voicing that intent to his faithful, but often bewildered followers, they were all more than willing to walk that road with him. At least they said so. To a person they echoed Peter’s claim, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Of course we know how that worked out. When the time came, they couldn’t run fast enough.
That wasn’t the end of the story. Later, this sleepy little band of unlikely followers were there with Jesus in the garden and perhaps could hear the prayer to his father, “…If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.” Even that narcoleptic group could sense something different in the air. Something they had not felt before when walking the dusty roads following closely behind this one who always spoke with confidence and authority. This one who could heal the sick, raise the dead, and challenge the religious elite. But now, was it hesitation they heard in his voice or resignation? Was it a sigh of surrender; a self-giving sacrifice that would shatter the mind of everyone who witnessed his death?
Yes, it was.
The sacrificial lamb slaughtered in the Temple has zero awareness of its impending fate. The Lamb of God was all too aware of his. The cross was not a figment of his imagination. No doubt, he had seen it before on the side of the roads he frequented. But he never spoke of it. He saw the shame. He saw the humiliation. He could only imagine the agony that must accompany death on such a device. Regardless of what had been done, no human being deserved such punishment at the hand of another. No one!
Now the wheel has been spun again and this time it doesn’t point to self, it points at only one word—sacrifice.
I wasn’t there that night with Peter and the others. I wasn’t there the next day when the cross received its offering. I wasn’t there that resurrection morning when angels were more than happy to say, “He is not here, he is risen.” He is risen indeed! The sacrifice was made, the penalty was paid. However, I am here now. I can focus on what matters now—the celebration of Resurrection Sunday.
The wheel is ready to spin again. The accuser may pull his sleight of hand and try to stop the wheel with the arrow pointing to “self”. But like Jesus, I can say, “No thanks. I choose sacrifice. I choose to take up my cross and follow him.”
I know there will be times when I’m victorious and times when I feel defeated and yes, unworthy. Times when I want to run and times when I can’t seem to do anything but sleep. Nevertheless, I must choose and choose wisely.
Whatever sacrifice I make to follow Christ will never compare to the Messiah’s.
Nevertheless, it matters to God.