Time marches on for all of us. You’ve heard the old saying: “The only sure things in life are death and taxes”.
We could count it as a gift from God that we don’t know the exact day and hour of our inevitable demise, otherwise we’d probably worry incessantly about each passing day and miss out on the simple pleasures of life in the meantime.
A different perspective might be that to know the number of days we have left would motivate us to not waste our precious time and to make the most of every remaining opportunity. That certainly seems to be the sentiment behind Moses’ words in Psalm 90:
“For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psa. 90:9-12)
Jesus also had a deep appreciation for the value of time. The last 40 days that He spent on earth between His resurrection and His ascension were characterised by a holy blend of urgency, wisdom and grace. He didn’t waste a single minute.
Let’s look at some of what Jesus accomplished during His ‘farewell tour’ on earth.
Jesus Proved His Deity
Jesus’ main mission during His final days was to prove that He did indeed resurrect from the dead, therefore validating every claim He ever made about His deity, His messiahship and His Kingdom plan. The entire Christian message hinges on the historical fact of the resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, absent the resurrection of Jesus, we who identify as Christians are to be pitied:
"And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. ... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. ... If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:14-15,17,19)
Jesus appeared to over 500 eye witnesses to prove that He did indeed come back to life, just as He had prophesied (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:31), proving beyond doubt that He is the Saviour of the world (cf. John 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:13-15).
Jesus Demonstrated Love and Compassion
Jesus also used His final days to extend great compassion to His followers:
“Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"-and that He had said these things to her.” (John 20:16-18)
Jesus spent valuable time encouraging His disciples. It was no accident that Jesus started with Mary Magdalene, an outcast of society (cf. Luke 8:1-2). This was of course typical of His entire ministry. He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10; cf. Mark 2:13-17). Jesus made it a priority to spend time and energy with the down-and-out folks, the needy people that most of us find uncomfortable to be around. He channeled His compassion to the humble, broken and rejected people. Even while He hung on that Roman cross in excruciating pain gasping for breath, Jesus used what little energy He had left to show compassion to the criminal hanging next to Him, who moments earlier was cursing and mocking Him (cf. Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39-43).
When was the last time we went out of our way for someone we found to be disagreeable, unpleasant or even offensive?
Jesus Taught the Word
During His final days, Jesus continued to teach scripture:
“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. ... And He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. .... They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,” “Then (Jesus) said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:13-15,25-27,32-33,44-47)
Making disciples was another priority for Jesus, and it must be for us too. It’s not an optional extra!
While a genuine profession of faith in the saving grace of Christ is all that is needed for eternal life (cf. John 6:40,47; Rom. 10:9-13), spiritual growth and maturity is accomplished by placing ourselves fully under the lordship of Jesus in every part of our lives with the goal of becoming more like Him. That is what it means to be a disciple. Simply believing the facts of the Gospel, no matter how sincerely, does not make disciples of Jesus.
Sad to say that most Christians are not genuine disciples, according to the New Testament’s definition (cf. Rom. 8:29; 12:1-2; Eph. 4:22-24; Phil. 4:8-9; Col. 1:28; 3:1-10; Heb. 5:14; 2 Peter 1:3-11). We settle for an insipid lukewarm faith, comfortable in our compartmentalised approach to Christianity. We fit God in around all our other priorities. God calls this idolatry, not discipleship. True discipleship requires a full commitment, undivided loyalty and faithful obedience to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20)
We are all living on ‘borrowed time’ in one way or another. Each breath we draw is a gift from the Sustainer of all life (cf. Col. 1:15-17). We mustn’t take even one moment for granted. Being a disciple of Jesus brings responsibility, accountability and the potential for great reward, as we can see in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (cf. Luke 19:11-27). Our loving Saviour gives us the freedom to choose how we’ll use this amazing gift of life.
In the event that we may think it’s too late for us to start living out Jesus’ great commission, remember that Moses was 80 when God called him into action. While Jesus’ farewell tour lasted 40 days, Moses’ lasted 40 years. In Psalm 90 he went on to write:
“Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psa. 90:13-17)
Let’s draw our inspiration not from worldly role models, but from our Lord and Saviour. Let’s examine more closely how He chose to live His life and ensure our ‘farewell tour’ has an impact of eternal value.