In the sports realm, many games are won or lost in the 4th quarter or even in those tense, breath-holding minutes before the buzzer sounds. My former pastor, Stu Weber, refers to the final season of this earthly life as our “4th quarter.” I like that. Isn’t the way we live out our last days especially crucial to our victory? In Philippians 3:14, the apostle Paul even sounds like a team captain. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. That is exactly what we see Jesus doing in the gospel accounts, pressing on . . . setting his face on Jerusalem. Since JESUS KNEW that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father, NIV John 13:1a, his life instructs us  how to live out our 4th quarters victoriously. Jesus taught us how to live and how to die.

What can we learn from Jesus responsiveness to the Father? Unlike his disciples, Jesus listened to and watched the Father. John 5:19 The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing. Because whatever the Father does the Son also does. Accordingly, Jesus set his face on Jerusalem even though he knew rejection, ridicule and much suffering awaited him.

Even beginning as late as the prayer in Gethsemane, we can observe that Jesus’ death was proceeded by repeated acts of OBEDIENCE.

  • Jesus yielded his will to that of the Father one more time in that Garden. Mark 14:36b Yet not what I will, but what you will.
  • He did not resist the arresting soldiers. Matthew 26:42 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
  • He did not object to the false accusations of the Jewish authorities.
  • Jesus had the power to obliterate those who beat and killed him, but he did not. Jesus stated this power with such authority to Pilate, however, Pilate became afraid. John 19:10-11a Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

Jesus was not a victim but our Savior, the sacrificial Lamb of God. He submitted to the will of the Father that we might be saved. How else can we explain Jesus’ obedient refusal to use the power at his disposal? Jesus himself called it LOVE in John 15:13. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

If at all possible, I avoid hurtful situations and the people who reject me, don’t you? It continually amazes me that JESUS KNEW how he would be treated, but he came to earth anyway (Philippians 2:5-9), and he then traveled to Jerusalem that last time. What amazing love! How could he do that? Hebrews 12:2 b-3 tells us that he looked quite far ahead. For the JOY that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  May we focus on the joy that awaits us in eternity and become willing servants of Jesus Christ. Amen.

What might we learn by anticipating the end of our fourth quarters? What if we, like JESUS, KNEW the number of our days? Would we value our own lives more or be more willing to lay them down for our friends? How might we treasure our people and prepare ourselves to meet our Savior face to face? One goal of Heritage of Hope is to plan and prepare for the impact of our death upon those we love. Another goal—equally important—is  to consider how we might alter our own lives considering the limited number of days God had appointed for us. Life is such a precious gift, but we tend to squander our days as if they were unlimited, don’t we? Do I have twenty years left on this earth, 20 months, 20 weeks, or perhaps, 20 days? So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

JESUS KNEW he was going to die in Jerusalem. Nothing that happened was a surprise to him, and none of his words were careless. What he chose to teach and model on his way to the cross is especially relevant to us mortals. Jesus taught the necessity of death both in parables, John 12:24-26, and clear statements—Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:26. He modeled humble, loving service daily and then again symbolically prior to the last supper by washing the dirty feet of his disciples.  I would sum it up this way . . . this entire earthly life is an exercise in dying. We must learn to listen to and obey God, to die to ourselves, and love others. To finish well is to live well, in the name of Jesus.

Call to pick up our cross: Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23, John 8:28

Philippians 2:5-9 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name.

NKJV John 12:24-25 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

MSG Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

NLT 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. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

Command to love one another:

John 13:14 If then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.