“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV
Fifty years is a long time. Half a century. It’s also just a breath, feather-light and temporary.
My husband and I just attended our high school reunion. We made a two day trek across the states to join other grads of ’72 with gray hair, creased skin and experience under our belts. Our celebration was unique because a small Christian school in the wheat fields of Kansas nurtured us decades ago not only educationally but also with God’s Word.
Several of us dated and married high school sweethearts. Although we’ve not seen some since graduation, many walked with us throughout our ministry. Back when we were a young family with three little girls called to serve in Italy we benefited from their practical support and listening ears. Hearts passionate about missions followed us through another baby, health crises and reached across the waters with encouragement and prayer.
We hugged friends who remember names of our children. Generations piled up. Children and grandchildren are alumni of the same school.
We laughed at the complexities of aging, wept with the sorrows of each other and prayed together.
We mourned the hole left by the first one of us to see Jesus, yet rejoiced because we know beyond doubt she truly graduated before the rest of us older graduates. Her faith is sight while we still anticipate the best yet to come.
“We won’t have another reunion 50 years from now,” our forever class president remarked.
Today my husband and I hit the road to head back home. A lovely warm glow accompanies from seeing some of my friends again, although it is tinged with the realization there will not be another opportunity quite like the one we just enjoyed.
After Jesus died, rose and ascended, a small band of followers stood on the threshold of the rest of their lives like high school seniors ready to embark on life. They spread out, not knowing when or if they would see one another again. Fifty years later, some had given their lives for Jesus, Rome had decimated Jerusalem, the disciples had spread across the known world, and the baby church faced challenges from within and without. There were victories. There were sorrows. Births and burials. Laughter. Tears and joy. Excitement and deep disappointment.
Jesus’ disciples looked back with awe at the cross of Christ. They looked forward to seeing Him again. These realities tied them together when they were apart. It bound their hearts with one purpose. It returned them again and again to redemption paid in full. It promised that someday it would be worth it all, a true graduation reunion.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18 ESV
Easter season turns our eyes again to an empty cross so we do not “lose heart when our outer self wastes away.”
The result is always renewed gratefulness, inner vigor and unmitigated awe.
Jesus set for us the example. He looked far beyond the pain and shame He would endure. He set His eyes on the joy beyond.
“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV
I cannot read this without a humbling revelation. I am His joy. You are His joy. His death completed the way for our salvation. This purpose brought Him as a babe, accompanied his steps on our earth, nailed Him to a cross and resurrected Him.
We look back at the cross so we can set our eyes ahead and beyond.
It is a privilege to push back the wrinkles of time to see God’s hand in the life stories He has intricately woven. Threads of sorrow and suffering are always covered with His faithfulness. “…Preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”
Sins forgiven. Eternity secured. Relationship with God restored. Jesus looked beyond the pain to the joy. And we follow His example.
*feature photo from class of 1972 president, General Edward Flora
Please check out my recent article, A Cleaned Cup, at Refresh Bible Study Magazine.