“And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes I said to you in your blood ‘Live!’” Ezekiel 16:6
At my pondering this verse a few years ago, I had something of a vision. Whether it was a vision in the true sense of the word I do not know, but it was very real. Clearly I saw a long, dusty road that stretched out as far as I could see. All along the road there were bodies strewn. They looked barely alive and were half-formed, almost foetus-like. Each form was covered in blood and dirty with dust and grime. If any had clothes, they were torn rags. Along the road Jesus walked. He came and picked me up, for I found that I myself was one of those bloodied and misshapen forms. He took me to His Father’s house where it was light and colourful. There He washed me, dressed my wounds, gave me new clothes to wear and fed me milk. I grew and He held my hands as I learned to walk. Then when I was grown, when I was strong and able to stand, I saw Him standing at the open door of the Father’s house. He looked back at me and said “Come. It is time. Go back to the road. I will lead you there. There are many others who are abandoned and fatherless. They are bleeding and hurt and helpless. Bring them to my Father’s house. As I have loved you, so love them.”
And oh how He loves us. “This is how God demonstrates His love to us: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So much so that He left the presence of His Father to come to a world all dusty and darkened by sin. He laid down His own life to seek us out in our helplessness. He picked us up from the dusty road of life, up out of the harsh exposure to the elements and adopted us into the family of God. “To all who believed in his name He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) His nail-pierced hands gently ministered to our needs; they cleansed us from the dirt and dust which we had accumulated along the road; they poured oil and wine into the wounds which had been inflicted on us and they clothed us in new garments – a robe of righteousness in place of the filthy rags of our own. He nurtured and fed us with the pure milk of the Word to bring us to maturity.
With that vision God had put a call on my life and a fire in my heart. I saw that the story of the Good Samaritan is actually the story of Jesus. While others may pass us by in our need, He never will. While others may find stopping for us too difficult, too inconvenient or too much effort, He stops at nothing to save us, even to the shedding of His own blood. And I saw that He calls us to join Him in this mission. He calls us to do to others as we would have them do for us. The religious leaders who tentatively passed by the robbed and wounded man left on the road could easily be us. For once He has brought us back to the Fathers house, it’s possible to remain there cosy and comfortable forever. We could keep enjoying our salvation and feasting at the banqueting table, becoming fuller and fuller. But for what purpose? I saw that if I allowed myself to remain feasting and comfortable rather than following Him back to the road, eventually I would grow sluggish and fall asleep. I saw that Jesus’ purpose for cleansing me, healing me and clothing me was not merely for my own benefit, but so that ultimately I could join Him in His work.
I believe this is the same call He puts on all of His children’s lives and the same flame that He wants to ignite in all of us.
There is a season in our spiritual infancy when we are tenderly nurtured, fed and protected. Just as at Shabbat, when the father of the house pours wine into the chalice, our Father pours the life of the Son into us, the newly cleansed vessel. The more we allow this vessel to be emptied of the self-life, the more He is able to fill us with Himself. God’s desire is that we should not remain perpetual babes but, like any healthy infant, grow and mature over time. And so the Father, eternally giving, keeps pouring into us. The Shabbat chalice is a picture of what He would do for us if we would let Him. On Shabbat the father of the house does not stop when the chalice is full of wine, he deliberately keeps pouring until the cup overflows. The liquid flows out from the vessel, for in fact, it was never intended to be contained and kept by this vessel – it was always meant to flow out, like rivers of living water. God patiently ministers to us until the time we reach maturity, and then He calls us into His mission of mercy.
And so Jesus bids us “come”, to join Him in His relentless pursuit of the lost. But the Good Shepherd will never force us. He will never cross over into our freewill. He says “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24). He simply calls to us and waits for us to weigh up the cost.
Undoubtedly taking up our cross and following Jesus back to the road, is not the easy option. It means the denying of ourselves, the leaving behind of some comfort and convenience. It means going out into the elements again – being burned by harsh heat, soaked in heavy rains or battered in driving wind. It means being confronted with the reality of human existence – the hurt and pain, the blood and dirt. It means getting our hands dirty and our feet calloused. It may mean that we are abused and rejected or even that the chalice of our lives is poured out on that dusty road. There is a real cost and it is worth our prayerful consideration. Yet Jesus, knowing the individual cost to each of us, still beckons us to “Come.”
Anything that is precious is costly, though, and along with this high cost comes an abundant joy when we are one with Him in His work. When the life of the Holy Spirit can truly flow from the Head into the Body, united as they are in will and in purpose, then the result is the absolute reality of His abiding presence with us. Jesus said:
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
You may still be on the road, wounded and abandoned. If that is the case, you can rest assured that there is a Saviour who knows and who is seeking you. Even at this moment He is reaching out His hand to pick you up, if you will let Him.
You may yet be an infant in Christ, newly adopted into His family. If so, I encourage you to keep feeding on the pure milk of the Word and to be continuously filled with His life, through the Holy Spirit, until you reach the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Or you may be already in the Father’s “house”, having been picked up by those nail-pierced hands from the road. If you’ve found the comfort, love and security in becoming a child of God, will you now go on to share this love and comfort with others? Will you heed His call?
May God bless you mightily on this Resurrection Sunday.