Faith

10 Life Lessons Learned from Jesus’ Final Days

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There is something about the coming of spring that pours sunshine straight into my soul. I believe it is that when I look out and see the budding trees and the vibrant buttercups blooming, I am reminded of how precious it is to be born again. What I don’t believe, however, is that it is a coincidence that God allows this reemergence of new life to occur in unison with our celebration of the life lessons learned from the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And so, when I reflect on the Easter story and the various traditions it brings about, I can’t help but think of the scripture found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven…He hath made everything beautiful in His time.” These verses from the Old Testament are often quoted as a reminder that everything happens for a reason and that there is joy to come. But what I find so captivating about them isn’t necessarily the surface-level reassurance they provide. Rather, it is the way their message is intertwined in the integral role Jesus played in the Plan of Salvation. More specifically, the wisdom He shared during His final days and the things that had to come to pass in order for Him to fulfill His earthly mission. For much like it takes the buttercups dying and blooming again each spring for us to appreciate their beauty, it took Jesus living and dying and rising again to make a way for us to enjoy eternal life with the Father.

What We Can Learn From Jesus' Wisdom

Each year as we celebrate Easter, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice and how He paid the ultimate price —how He carried the weight of our sin so we wouldn’t have to. And rightly so, we rejoice in the gladness that is Salvation. But what often gets lost in translation, and what I’d like to share with you today, are some of the invaluable lessons Jesus taught His people in those final days so that they might know how to conduct themselves in this life even after He had taken His seat at the right hand of God. Jesus’ wise counsel still applies today, and I believe living in its truths can only greaten the joy you and I experience this side of Heaven as we wait to join Him one day after while.

Life Lesson #1: With faith, nothing is impossible.

In Matthew 17:14-20, Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy after His disciples had tried and failed. When the disciples ask Him, “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?” Jesus replies, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

A bit later, in Matthew 21:19-21, Jesus curses a fig tree, causing it to wither instantly. Again, His disciples marvel at His power. And again, Jesus tells them, “If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

With God’s help, there is nothing we cannot do. But asking Him is not enough. We have to believe that He will make a way. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” I would argue that the other half of the journey is having faith that God can, and that He will, using us as vessels to work for His glory.

Life Lesson #2: We are to extend others the same patience and forgiveness God has extended us.

Starting in Matthew 18:21, we see Peter come to Jesus and ask Him, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Jesus answers, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.”

Isn’t that what God has done for us — used Jesus to pardon our sin and cancel our debt? Spoiler alert: the answer is yes! And all He asks in return is that we humble ourselves before Him, give Him our hearts, and extend the same compassion and forgiveness to our neighbors that He has extended to us.

Life Lesson #3: To lead is to serve.

Leadership is often likened with authority and being the best. But Jesus teaches us what leadership is truly about, which is being of service to others.

We see this exemplified when Jesus senses competition and disdain amongst His disciples. He calls them together and says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25).

Humility is hard to come by and even harder to practice. Putting away our pride and serving others to further God’s kingdom is no small task, but it is absolutely necessary. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Jesus was the epitome of a servant leader, but even His closest friends were not able to emulate His selflessness until they had let go of their own self-righteous beliefs. If we are to take up the cross and continue His teachings, we must also let go of our old ways and “become new.”

Life Lesson #4: Actions speak louder than words.

In Matthew 22:28-31, Jesus shares a parable of two sons who were both instructed by their father to go work in the vineyard. One son told the father he would not go, but then repented and went. The other son told the father that he would go, but then did not. It becomes obvious that despite the first son’s initial disobedience, he ends up being the only one of the two who carries out his father’s will.  Jesus uses this example to chastise the chief priests and the elders for their disbelief and lack of repentance when John came to them and showed them the way of righteousness. He says, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” This is because despite their status as outcasts in society, when God’s Will was presented to them, they repented and believed.

When it comes to Salvation and living for the Lord, it is not enough to simply talk the talk. Claiming obedience but failing to repent and do the work of the Father will have eternal consequence.  Instead, we must also walk the walk and do as we are instructed in Colossians 3:10.

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

Life Lesson #5: Do all things with great love.

In Matthew 22 and 23, we’re told of a time when the Pharisees gather together to tempt Jesus, wondering if they might get Him to stumble upon His words and discredit Himself as the prophet the multitude believed Him to be. One of them asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, to which Jesus replies, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here we see Jesus, again, making an example out of the scribes and Pharisees, much like He did in the preceding parable. He turns to his disciples and His multitude of followers and says, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:3-4).

In other words, Jesus is telling His people to do as the Pharisees say, but not as they do. As Christians, we find ourselves in many situations where we are prompted to put on a show, making promises we have no intention of keeping or portraying ourselves and our institutions to be more respectable than we really are. To live that way is detrimental both to our personal peace and to God’s Will. But if we put aside the influence of the world and allow the “greatest commandment” to guide our decisions, doing all things in love, we will never go wrong.

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Life Lesson #6: Live right, and be ready.

Martin Luther once said we should, “Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.” Jesus delivered a similar message to His disciples when they came to Him on the Mount of Olives and asked Him to reveal what would be the sign of His coming and the end of times.

In short, Jesus told them than no man will know the hour that He will return, and so they should always be prepared. He said, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:44-51).

Ask yourself today, how will you be living when Jesus comes to take you home?

Life Lesson #7: Investment equals goodness multiplied.

Earlier in our readings, we reflected on Jesus’ message that “faith as a grain of mustard seed” can move mountains. But later in the book of Matthew, Jesus challenges His disciples to take their faith a step further and to invest it so that it might be multiplied in abundance. He does this with the parable of the talents, where He tells of three servants who were given five talents, two talents, and one talent, respectively. The two servants with the most talents invest them and double their worth, while the servant with only one talent hides his away. When the servants return to their master, he praises the first two servants but takes the third servant’s single talent away, scolding him for not depositing it with the exchangers so that it would earn interest. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29).

I believe the message Jesus aimed to send the disciples here was that what you don’t use, you lose. Our faith and the Word of God are meant to be shared with others. And when it is shared genuinely and effectively, the goodness it brings is multiplied beyond our comprehension. Don’t squander your faith today, friend.

Life Lesson #8: Our love for others is a reflection of our love for God.

In His final message to the disciples before the Passover, Jesus references the day of judgement. He tells them that with the nations gathered before Him, He “shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). The sheep represent those who will inherit the kingdom, while the goats represent those who will inevitably perish in Hell.

To those whom He brings to Heaven, Jesus will say, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

He says the righteous will answer, saying, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The way we treat others is a reflection of our service and commitment to the Lord. When our time comes, we will all have to stand before Him, answering for our actions and revealing whether we have been good and faithful servants that have carried out His will. I encourage you to heed Jesus’ warning. Be a sheep.

Life Lesson #9: Not our will, but His will.

As we study the book of Matthew, focusing specifically on the words in red, are you not awestruck by Jesus’ selfless, unwavering submission to God’s will?

You see, even after Judas handed Jesus over to those who would ultimately deliver Him to His crucifixion, Jesus denied every opportunity to prove His identity and shift the fate of that sacred day. Specifically, in Matthew 26:53, we hear Jesus ask the one who tries to fight off His captors, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” He then goes on to say, “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” He knew that His suffering was required if you and I were to ever experience the joy of Salvation, and so instead of saving Himself, He prayed the humble prayer, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Unlike Jesus, we suffer more in imagination than in reality. Even as Christians, so many of us live in a perpetual state of worry and self-doubt, our minds crowded with countless renditions of the question, “What if?” and the idea that, “If I had only known _________, I would l have lived my life differently.” But, friend, I’m here to tell you that hindsight is 20/20 and foresight is nothing if not accompanied by faith.

We know that Jesus’ life was the ultimate example of trusting in God for deliverance from the struggles of this world, but what we forget is that He has already done the hardest work for us. All that’s left for us to do is believe.

Life Lesson #10: He is with us always.

Our problem with faith seems to be that it requires us to believe in what we cannot see; in the things that we do not know to be 100 percent true. At the beginning of this post, I referenced the verse Ecclesiastes 3:11. “He hath made everything beautiful in his time.” But there is a second part to that scripture that we don’t hear near as often. It says, “…also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

See, we’re not meant to understand, not fully anyways. God’s plan for our life is both too simple and too complex for our mortal minds to comprehend. But as we know, Jesus made a way. After He had risen, He returned to His people to offer one final piece of instruction. Matthew 28:18-20 tells us He “spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

What a relief it is to know that we can bear the cross without bearing its burdens. We have a friend who has offered to do that for us; we need only seek His wisdom, heed His warnings, and share His good news.

And so like the buttercups that bring us joy each spring, I encourage you to bloom where you are planted. Relish in your seasons of rest, but be eager to show up and serve when you are called. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). 

For after all, “He hath made everything beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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