Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim release to the captives,
Recovering of sight to the blind,
To deliver those who are crushed,
And to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” - Luke 4:14-21(WEB)
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, who did not sin, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. -1 Peter 2:21-24 (WEB)
As I sat in the pew Sunday morning, reflecting on Christ’s death, I thought of Terry Rush’s statement that non-Christians and Christians who are not led by the Spirit can exhibit some of the fruit of the Spirit, but it is only Spirit-led Christians who can demonstrate that fruit when times get tough and the heat is turned up. Then, I thought about Jesus being God and having the option of not going to the Cross.
As God, he didn’t have to suffer pain, humiliation, or shame. As God, it all lasted but a fraction of a second, for he is not bound by time. If I think of it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad. But I can’t think of it that way, because Jesus was not just God. He was also fully human.
As Man, Jesus felt every glob of spit hurled at him, every thorn that pierced his brow, and every blow of the cat o’ nine tails as it ripped the flesh off his back. As Man, he felt the extreme humiliation of being not just publicly flogged, but of being hung naked on a cross for all to see. Imagine the laughter, scorn, and derision. As Man, Jesus felt the agony of his shoulders dislocating from their sockets as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments ripped; and the searing pain as the open flesh of his back rubbed on the rough wood of the cross.
Listen to his words from the cross. Did he curse and yell angrily? No. He said, “Father, forgive them.” I can see how he could do that as God. But, as Man, how could he go to the cross? How could he maintain his composure? How could he forgive? As God, he knew before he left the majesty of heaven what he would have to do. As Man, he couldn’t do it alone. It was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus to do his Father’s will. It was the Spirit who enabled Jesus to show love, compassion, and forgiveness despite the extreme torture he was experiencing. That same Spirit turned Peter from coward to Gospel preacher and martyr.
God gave us that same Spirit, the Spirit that resides in every Christian. The Spirit within us is the same Spirit that led Jesus and sustained him through those dark hours of torture, betrayal, and abandonment. Will we let the Spirit lead us? Will we surrender our will to God and let his Holy Spirit lead us as he led Jesus? O Lord, may it be so!