On account of this, the Jews demanded, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do these things?”
Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”
“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?”
But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)
Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately: How do we keep going in tough or totally discouraging circumstances? Today’s red letter statement gives us insight into an answer.
In the statement, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection. What impresses me is that Jesus said this at the beginning of his ministry. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus doesn’t start talking about his impending death until Luke 9. But in the Gospel of John, he speaks about it early on, just after he calls his disciples and performs his first miracle.
It shows us that this was always so much in the forefront of Jesus’s mind. That’s mind blowing to me. It’s so different than the way I think. I love to be productive. If I were Jesus, I would be working towards creating tangible results. I would want to see the evidence that I’m impacting people and creating a movement for God.
But Jesus served ceaselessly with the knowledge that his efforts would seem to fail. All of his followers would leave him. His movement would be virtually extinguished. He would be condemned to death by those he sought to help.
Can we serve God like Jesus, knowing that we may not see the fruits of our labor?
We can, if we have the mindset that Jesus had. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” I think he answered the Jews with these words, not just because he wanted them to remember later and have faith, but because the words were the very basis of his faith.
Jesus was fueled by his belief that he would be resurrected. He knew that his life on earth would feel ineffective at times. It was his life after death that would change the world.
There are two lessons we can get from looking at the perspective of Jesus.
First, let our goal be “death,” not accomplishment.
Jesus said later in his life, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)
Jesus knew that, just as the “death” of a seed results in the growth of a plant, his death would result in the growth of the church. And then, as a plant continues to regenerate, so would the church.
Today, we die to self and sin, knowing that this results in growth and regeneration.
- We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.. . . Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. . . So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. (II Cor 4:10, 12)
- If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. (Luke 9:24)
- For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. (Rom 8:13)
As it was for Jesus, the basis of our faith is the resurrection. We believe that our labors bear fruit as God works through our death.
Second, look less for gratification on earth, and more for gratification in heaven. Hebrews says about Jesus, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Heb. 12:2) The real joy, for Jesus, didn’t come until after his death. That’s not to say that he didn’t have joy on earth. He most certainly did. But the true gratification came later.
And the sure belief of this coming happiness gave Jesus the strength he needed to hold up through the daily rigors of his ministry. It gave him the fortitude to submit himself to a humiliating and tortuous death.
Can I find the same kind of strength? Because I’m realizing that I need to ask myself, “What if I knew that all this work I’m putting into serving God would fall flat? What if I knew that the result of my labor would be my death ? Would I still go out every day and deny self and give?”
As I said before, I’m so results oriented. But I need to look further than gratification on earth. The gratification I’ll have in heaven needs to become my biggest motivator. I confess, that when I was younger in my faith, it was so hard for heaven to be a motivator. As I get older, I’m finally seeing this better.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matt 6:19-20
Jesus lived by those words.
How do we keep going in discouraging circumstances, when everything seems to be going wrong?
We look at how Jesus kept going.
We picture the surpassing bliss we will feel when we’re safe in the arms of our loving Father in heaven.
We believe in the power of surrender, of repentance, of prayer, of nothingness before God.
We say, “The only hope I have today is in death. I have no answer to Satan, except that I die and put myself and my work in God’s hands.”
And then we let our faith swell until it’s bigger than every failure, saying, “And I believe that God will work the power of life on whatever I put to death in him.”
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)
I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (I Cor 3:6)