Coming to the Place of Rest

Click on the linked words in the article to read the sources that were utilized.

One morning recently, I heard a pastor on television make an interesting statement regarding two specific Bible verses. In deciding to pursue the matter further by personally investigating the verses’ words online, I watched as the information that I gained expanded my understanding by building upon the foundation that the pastor’s words had laid. Now, as I lay out in writing the realizations that materialized in my understanding by means of God working through the words that were given to me, my expected hope is that the building will increase all the more; for within the process itself dwells unlimited potential for manifested growth for all. Process is important.

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Luke 9:58
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Interestingly, I learned from the televised pastor that the words lay and bowed in these two verses are translations of the same Greek word. I then heard it said that, literally, the word encapsulates the concept of rest. In researching the word for myself, I was able to read the word’s meaning, as it is so defined by a number of well-respected sources.

One of the sources, Thayer’s lexicon, notes both verses’ use of the Greek verb as being transitive. 

A transitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like kickwantpaintwriteeatclean, etc. Second, it must have a direct object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb. (Grammar Bytes)

Luke 9:58 & John 19:30 contain both the same verb (lay, bow, rest) and the same direct object:  Jesus’ head.  Head in both verses is translated from a Greek word that is defined below by Strong’s Concordance.

(a) the head, (b) met: a corner stone, uniting two walls;
head, ruler, lord

Taken together, the definitions form quite a word image relating to Jesus. Picture this:

As Jesus rested/bowed His head upon the Cross, He—the Head (ruler, Lord) of the Body (the Church)—rested in the only place where the two sides (God & mankind) could meet (in Him, via the Cross), making Him the actual physical, as well as spiritual, cornerstone, holding together the two that, without Him, would remain disconnected.

First Peter 2:4 refers to Jesus as the “living Stone” —the One who was “rejected by men, but chosen by God.” As the metaphor then continues through verse eight, Psalm 118:22 is quoted to note that Jesus is indeed no less than the cornerstone.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,
(1 Peter 2:7b)

Cornerstone in this verse is a translation of two Greek words, sometimes translated as “the very corner [stone],” that more literally means “head of the corner.” The word head here is translated as such from the same Greek word that is also translated as head in Luke 9:58 and John 19:30.

The combined imagery of these words poses a thought:  Were Jesus’ words in Luke 9:58 (“…no place to lay his head”) possibly spoken by Jesus with an intended deeper meaning that alludes to His coming Cross (His finished work upon it)? The Cross of Jesus—the place that provides mankind with everlasting rest, was not yet a reality in this world at the time when the words were spoken by Jesus, despite the fact that it has always been eternally existent in His eternal life.

The Cross that awaited Jesus upon Calvary, outside of Jerusalem, was the one and only journey destination for Jesus on earth by which He had God-given means of offering the world the everlasting rest in Him that it so desperately needs. But for that potential rest to one day be realized in this world by anyone other than Jesus, Jesus Himself first had to abide (rest, trust) in His knowledge of the Truth of God, having full expectation that the rest in Him would later manifest in others through Him.

In John 19:30, the last recorded words that Jesus spoke from the Cross before He bowed/rested His head were “It is finished.” Though it was indeed finished, the manifested outcome of Jesus’ work is still yet unfolding today, as it will continue to do into an everlasting future, as God so designed from before the beginning of time for it to do.

Each and every transformative work that is accomplished in us through Christ Jesus is realized by us in this world only as a result of the process that Jesus walked out on earth for us all. Though the laying down of Jesus’ life for the well-being of the world has always been an eternal reality, it was only finally realized in the physical realm over the period of time that was specified by God for that purpose. Likewise, we have each been given the specific times of our lives in which we too have opportunity to choose to lay down our lives in a transformation process that continually better realigns our thoughts and actions to those of Jesus.

Consider that process in light of an interesting fact about the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies that is stated at the end of the following excerpt from Cocooning, an analogical piece previously posted on this website.

Unable to transform itself, the caterpillar can only prepare to be changed by responding to a leading that was placed within it before it was ever born. So the caterpillar does what it is led to do: it sticks itself to the underneath side of a leaf or structure, where it feels secure. There it releases (sheds) its outer protective covering (its skin) to reveal a chrysalis (“cocoon”) that was already a part of it. This act of giving up its former life in order to be positioned to receive a new one is purposeful. Until the caterpillar does so, it cannot be transformed. Surprising in one way, but not in another, is the additional fact that this act only takes place with the caterpillar hanging upside down, making its head the last part of its body to be encased (given up for transformation).

The last part of a caterpillar’s body to be “given up” —surrendered to the death of its former way of living— is its head, the place where life or death decisions are made.

Now, with that fact in mind, return to John 19:30 to look again at the last two acts of Jesus on the Cross just prior to His death. Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit.Together these actions complete the total surrender of Jesus of His entire physical and spiritual Being in this world to the Father’s eternal good and perfect will. The totality of the surrender, though an ending in and of itself, is seen in the greater perspective as being the necessary step forward to the world’s new beginning. In the specific time that God had ordained for that purpose, Jesus continually promoted life by moving ahead into burial to give resurrection its due place in time.

Though I doubt that any caterpillar ever dies in its orginal untransformed state simply because it somehow receives an ability to deny its God-given instinct to cocoon, people do have a free will within their thinking that allows them to make such life and death decisions for themselves. The distinguishing factor between those people who choose to experience godly transformation and those who do not is this:  their personal acceptance or rejection of the Truth that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…(John 3:16).

Personal acceptance of the Truth makes every God-given possibility with God a potentially manifested reality in Christ Jesus. The more of our God-given lives that we willingly give back (bow, lay down) to Jesus right here and now, today, the greater becomes our present manifested reality of rest in Him. Bowing our heads along with their every thought to the Lordship of Christ Jesus is the only way to move ahead into never ending new beginnings, transformed to the fullest in the One who is God’s forever ordained Head of all.

Jesus is the one and only journey destination giving unqualified rest, for He alone among men has eternal, perfect peace to give.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.”
(Psalm 95:6-7)

Cocooning

 

Photo & poem by Ray Bedingfield. Canvas prints available from him as a free gift! Use form* below to contact him directly.

Enclosed within a cocoon, a caterpillar undergoes amazing transformation. Many of its body parts “melt down,” in effect, to become undifferentiated cells that bear no semblance to the original cells that they once were. As with human stem cells, these cells contain an adaptability to grow into specialized ones of various kinds that become the building blocks of new life. The moth or butterfly that emerges from the cocoon in rebirth is not a caterpillar that has been given wings, but a new creation that has the gift of flight. The old is gone; only the new exists

Such is a Christian’s life in the Hands of God. It, too, is new. In accepting the Truth of God in Christ Jesus, we who receive personal salvation in Him are reborn spiritually. We become new spiritual beings in Christ. The rebirth occurs when the unparalleled love of God for us that is revealed in Jesus’ Sacrifice upon the Cross wraps—cocoons—us in a previously unrealized acceptance that promises everlasting life with God. The intrinsic power of that perfect love is both the Initiator and the Sustainer of the life itself.  Emerging from within each person who gives his or her life to Christ, being made new in Him, is the fruit—the good results that are produced—by God’s powerful, life-giving grace that is at work within him or her. God then continues working out the transformation’s totality through the ongoing giving of additional knowledge of the Truth of God. Thereby, the transformation continues further clarifying our new and permanent identity in Christ to both us and others.

Created by God within each transformed individual is new life that is experienced here and now in this world, as well as in the next. It is a life that differs vastly from every other way of life that may have preceded it in any given individual. Accompanying the change is an amazing realization that emerges from the irrefutable evidence of the change itself to verify that the old has indeed gone and that the new is indeed in place. So drastic is the change that occurs over its given time that its accomplishment must eventually be rightly acknowledged as not having been possible by any means other than by that of God Himself.

Consider the life of a caterpillar. Until the caterpillar begins to cocoon, it simply lives to the best of its ability by the only way that a caterpillar knows how. It crawls along in its own strength, eating whatever edible provision it happens upon. For the caterpillar, life is a gamble. It is always eating its way forward, instinctively trying not to be devoured itself by any one of the world’s many other hungry critters. But then there comes a time when the minimal life of the caterpillar’s youth is behind it, and the caterpillar prepares to move on into a heretofore unknown maturity, one that requires the caterpillar to be recreated in order for its new life to be experienced,

Unable to transform itself, the caterpillar can only prepare to be changed by responding to a leading that was placed within it before it was ever born. So the caterpillar does what it is led to do: it sticks itself to the underneath side of a leaf or structure, where it feels secure. There it releases (sheds) its outer protective covering (its skin) to reveal a chrysalis (“cocoon”) that was already a part of it. This act of giving up its former life in order to be positioned to receive a new one is purposeful. Until the caterpillar does so, it cannot be transformed. Surprising in one way, but not in another, is the additional fact that this act only takes place with the caterpillar hanging upside down, making its head the last part of its body to be encased (given up for transformation).

Similarly, our lives can only fully mature, as God has designed them to do, if we choose to remove self-dependency’s limitations from our thinking in preparation for being positioned anew in Christ Jesus. Apart from Jesus, we each (generally speaking) often set out on a course through life that follows one of the world’s many offered directions in which we may go. We each proceed forward to the best of our ability, utilizing (feeding upon) worldly goods that we find to be available to us along the way. But we soon find out that no matter how far we manage to “get ahead” by our own strength in life, we can only go so far before our time and energy are depleted. We, like the caterpillar, must be willing to give up our old ways of living in order to make room for new God-given ones that enable us to move beyond natural limitations. 

When the caterpillar submits to its instinct to cocoon, it does so for its own good, creating a passage into a future far beyond its imaginings (if a caterpillar does indeed imagine). The cocoon sets the caterpillar apart from the world around it, insulating the caterpillar and necessitating that the caterpillar fasts. No longer eating as it once did, the caterpillar dies to its past life. Similarly, Christians (we who are set apart by God from the world at large in order to serve God His way) are insulated from the power and penalty of the world’s sin—the way of life in which we previously lived. We, too, fast, sometimes by choice from food, but more necessarily from the wrong thinking that is detrimental to all of life in keeping us separated in various ways from God and from one another.

The means that God provides to enable us to fast from our past is His enabling of us to feast in the present. The butterfly—the caterpillar reborn—no longer thinks of eating the limited diet of leaves that previously were its mainstay, for it is far too busy enjoying the sweet nectar of one fragrant flower after another by its new God-given ability to do so. The flowers and their nectar are not new. They were present in the caterpillar’s life, as well as in the butterfly’s. But what is new are the butterfly’s wings that empower it to feast at will upon the abundance of flowers that are now available to it.

Similarly, Christians, those living “in Christ,” also have access to a new and tastier diet in this world. It is one that has always been available to them, but was never quite within their own capability of attaining. That diet is composed of the Truth and grace of God that are contained in Jesus’ right thinking about God and mankind. Only in Christ Jesus, empowered with and by the Holy Spirit, does our understanding of God and ourselves increase to begin lifting our decision making to new levels that more closely align with the will of God. Thereby, both our lives and the lives of those whom we affect are changed for the better.

The more that we choose to feast upon the Truth of God’s abundant grace in Jesus, the less we continue to live restrained by our previous wrong thinking that confined us in the past. The more of Jesus—the Word of God—that we take in (digest and assimilate), the higher we are then able to soar in right possibility thinking by the transformation that God accomplishes within us. By means of God’s transformative work within us, we are given the privilege of experiencing with God ever increasing degrees of His higher ways of living.

We, who are living the Christian life, as we each have been designed by God since before our births to do, cannot and do not produce the changes that occur within us. Rather, in our awareness of our need for change, all that we can do is to rest in our Cocoon—Jesus, the One who encapsulates our lives in His—as the caterpillar similarly rests in his. Both the caterpillar and we must trust (one by instinct and the other by choice) that the work of transformation will be done for us. The more that we (Christians) purposefully remain conscious of Jesus’ Presence—His reality in our lives, the more that the Truth of God in Him produces greater changes within us by Holy Spirit revelation.

As we rest in the finished work of the Cross, seeing more fully the Truth of God that is further revealed to us in Christ, we willingly begin ro shed more of the remnants of our former lives that may still be clinging to us. Piece by piece, they fall away, each in its own time, as our thinking (belief concerning God) undergoes continual renewal. By us both desiring and allowing God to bring our thoughts into greater alignment with His, our hearts are also then transformed to be made more like His Heart. As a result, we develop greater compassion, giving greater mercy and grace that more accurately reflect the goodness of God that is in Christ Jesus for the betterment of every individual in the world as a whole.

But the caterpillar-turned-butterfly has yet more to continue teaching us about our life in Christ. In addition to enabling the butterfly to enjoy greater feasting opportunity, its colorful wings also serve to enable greater reproduction. They do so by both attracting other butterflies and allowing each butterfly to cover more ground than does any caterpillar.

In a similar way, each transformed Christian life leads to the further multiplication of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Propelled forward by the power of God to share the more abundant life that they are now living, Christians spread the Good News of Jesus wherever they go. They tell all the world about the goodness of God that is available to everyone in Christ Jesus. As a result, the world is undergoing continual transformation, one life at a time. As God’s Kingdom advances, ever greater awareness and acceptance of the Truth is provided to more individuals, giving each in turn the opportunity to experience new life in Jesus firsthand.

In continuing the comparison to caterpillars then, we can also rightly say that all people (every one of us) begin life in this world as “caterpillars.” But the phenomenal Truth of God is that not a one of us need remain that way. At any time and place of our choosing, at our readiness to do so, we can each willingly give our old life to Jesus, making room for a new one in Him. Anyone who wants to live a more full life in Christ’s abundance can, no matter what his or her current status is in this world or with God. By trusting in the secure connection to God that Jesus makes possible for us all, we can leave behind the limitations of our earthly lives to enter into a realm of everlasting feasting on the goodness of God that exists in Christ Jesus alone. 

Though living “In Christ” sounds confining to many people who do not know Jesus and are living minimal lives apart from Him, it is anything but that. Jesus’ “world” is bigger and brighter than anything that people whose vision is blocked by inaccurate belief can fathom. Think of it this way:  Who would ever have thought and believed, without having been given personal knowledge that it is so, that a caterpillar’s willingness to be confined within a small cocoon would lead to its reemergence into a new life of greater freedom?

If our view (whether we are Christian or not) of any part of life is limited to that of ground level perspective (meaning that we are cautiously looking around while inching our way forward through life), then we need to be lifted higher in Christ to see what He sees: the abundance of His good life that is missing in ours. From His perspective, life has no limits. Every one of us can and should be a “caterpillar-turned-butterfly” in Jesus, flying high with Him in every area of life, daring to go with Him into otherwise unimaginable possibilities.

Trusting Jesus to supply us with not only a “better” life, but ever more of His full one, leads to us being given new insights from God that enable us to then be raised up even higher in Christ. By simply continuing to drink (take) Jesus in all the more, feasting on His sweet life in ever greater quantity, the expectancy that He develops within us that He will yet take us to new unknown heights with Him continues coming to pass.

The reality of life in Christ so far surpasses the world’s wildest imaginings about what is possible in this life and what is not that many simply find the Truth to be mockingly ludicrous instead of rightly intriguing. Their dilemma is comparable to that of a caterpillar that wrongly believes (if such a thing were possible) that it is no different than an earthworm that is destined to live out its short life in the dust from which it came and then return to it in a finality that, in the end, leads to no where. Such a caterpillar, lacking fulll knowledge about its makeup, would never know a life of flight because it would never choose to enter into a cocoon that it doesn’t even believe that it has been given.

The picture that God has drawn for us to see in a butterfly’s life is enlightening when we allow Jesus to show it to us. And that should make the choice that has been placed before us all even more clearly intriguing to us all. Living as a “caterpillar,” the best that any of us can hope for in the end is that we will have at least successfully fulfilled our minimal definition of a “good life” and achieved personal “happiness” before going to the grave. But as a “butterfly,” free to fly, tasting a sweet life unknown to “caterpillars” and displaying the beauty of God’s goodness to a world that Jesus opens up before us, we have the honor of carrying unending joy, wherever we go, even beyond the grave. 

Why then, in that light, would anyone not choose to fly high in Jesus?

I really and truly do not know… After all, it sure beats crawling, doesn’t it?

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