These first few exhilarating days of spring in Australia cheer my soul like nothing else. As the temperature climbs back up to the mid-twenties, I can almost hear the jangling of Christmas bells in the distance. Things seem pretty much perfect, even with the darkness lingering at the back of my mind—the deadlines, the anxiety, my sins and suffering, the knowledge that this warmth won’t last forever.
Jesus could have come to earth on a day like this. I look around and see endless comforts—shelter, safety, food, my loving family, a few too many books. Of course, Jesus experienced deep relationships and worldly joy too. But not quite like this. He came to the harsh Palestinian desert, where he had nowhere to lay his head. Even though Jesus never sinned, he still had to endure life in a broken world surrounded by sinful people.
Think of what Jesus left behind when he came to us. All the joys of heaven, in the presence of the Father, make even the best days on earth seem like a wasteland. He gave it up to spend thirty years experiencing all the agony of humanity. Jesus, for whom the entire creation was made, emptied himself to become our servant.
As I soaked up the sunshine today, thinking life was just about as good as it gets, my mind drifted to a day where everything was as bad it could get. Over two thousand years ago, Jesus lived his last hours in a mortal body.
I wonder what he thought as he looked around at his disciples at that final meal. I would surely have resented their lack of faith, the betrayal I knew was about to come. But not Jesus. He loved them to the end. He knelt down and washed their feet—those hands which ran with water and dirt would soon gush rivers of blood. He washed the filth from their feet, and then washed the sin from our hearts.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wrestled with what lay ahead of him. He knelt and prayed, fully aware of the agony he would face in just a few hours. In his anguish he sweated drops of blood. It wasn’t just about the piercing nails. It wasn’t that he would be betrayed by a friend who he had lived beside, taught, and loved. More than anything else, Jesus dreaded the great cost of taking our sins upon himself. He was going to bear the full weight of divine judgment—the burden that should have been ours.
Creation recoiled in horror as the Son of God was crucified. Darkness crept across the land, the sun blotted out. The earth quaked as Jesus breathed his last. These signs were so wondrous that a Roman soldier realised with horror that they had killed no ordinary man: “Truly this was the Son of God!”
I can only enjoy this day of sunshine because of his day of darkness.
Because of that worst day, my best days are still to come. I can enjoy God’s kindness to me now while I await the coming of the new heavens and earth. Even in my most comfortable moments, I am still in exile here. My true home awaits.
Someday I will walk beside the King who traded his life for mine. I will enjoy the spring that never ends. The beauty of this world is but a dim reflection of the glory of the new creation. And even then, that will not be my ultimate joy. As D.L. Moody said1, “The great attraction of heaven will not be its pearly gates, its golden streets, nor its choirs of angels, but it will be Christ.”