Coming to the Place of Rest

Being televised one morning in 2016 was an internationally well known Christian pastor, whose ministry broadcasts his Scripture-based messages numerous times each day on a variety of Christian faith-based networks around the world. I really enjoy hearing this pastor’s messages because of the greater understanding of the Truth and a more accurate perspective of life that they offer me.

On this day, though, the pastor used a method of teaching to get the lesson across to his viewing audience that day that differed from his usual way of teaching.  As his program began that morning, he took a moment to explain the difference. He said that the information that he was about to present was going to be presented that morning in the same way that it had come to him at home when he too had first uncovered it.

The pastor used two New Testament Scripture verses that day to get the lesson started. He showed that though those two verses each included the use of the same Greek verb from the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, He then proceeded to show the audience that the word in English appeared to have come from two different words in the Greek, they actually were from the same word and, therefore,  had the same meaning.

As the pastor finished his lesson that morning, I decided to run my own investigation, which is what the pastor had said that he was hoping that we would then do. Doing so would, first of all, affirm the Truth in those two verses as the pastor had taught it. Not that he or his words were ever in doubt, but it is always preferable (best for all) to be able to verify what others have said about the Truth of God before we decide to either own it ourselves or share it with others. Secondly, the additional information that I gained from my own personal study expanded my understanding by building upon the foundation that the pastor had laid with his words to specifically give additional understanding to anyone who would be willing to hear his message. Realize that process is important to attaining that goal.

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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)

Both Luke 9:58 & John 19:30 contain 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 manifested 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 are the words “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 by God in us through Christ Jesus is a manifestation of the reality of Jesus having first walked out the process of sanctification for us. Jesus did so within parameters set by the period of time that He was given by God to dwell among us, as one of us, here on this earth. Though the finished work of the Cross that God accomplished in Jesus has always been eternal reality, the Cross that God accomplished on the Cross laying down by Jesus of  life for the well-being of the world has always been an eternal reality, it only realized in the physical realm over the period of time that was specified by God for that purpose. Likewise, we too have each been given a specific time period by God, in which we too have the opportunity while living in this world to choose to come to a place of rest in Jesus to lay down our lives at the foot of the Cross or not. In choosing to do so, we give our lives to Jesus, serving Him with gratitude 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 original 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 every thought they contain, submitting 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.

[Note:  For simplicity of discussion the word caterpillar refers to the larvae stage of both moths and butterflies, and the word butterfly is inclusive of moths.]

While enclosed within the relative safety of its cocoon, a caterpillar undergoes an amazing reconstruction process that transforms it in both its appearance and its nature. Crucial to the success of this process are specific cells in the caterpillar’s body that, in essence, “melt-down” to become undifferentiated cells that bear no semblance to the original cells that they once were. Then, like human stem cells, these cells are capable of differentiating once again during cell division to form specialized cells that become 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 an altogether new creation that has the gift of flight. The old is gone. Only new exists.

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The caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation truly is one of the amazing wonders of God’s good Creation. Imagine: Inside every caterpillar is God-imparted butterfly- potential that is waiting to be activated, set free and take flight. Phenomenal? Absolutely. But there is one caveat. A butterfly can only come to exist in this world if its caterpillar-counterpart has first lived and died.

Rather, when a caterpillar has lived out the days of its short, immature youth, it is instinctively led from within to enclose itself in a cocoon of its own making. In doing so, the caterpillar literallygives up its life, for once inside, the caterpillar has shut itself off from every leaf that was a source of sustenance that kept it going from day to day in this world.

To do that would enable the butterfly to live free of charge at the caterpillar’s expense. Taking the caterpillar’s life would force the caterpillar to pay with its death. Such an act would amount to no less than murder in any court of law; if it were being applied to people instead of caterpillars and butterflies. Also note thatIt would also only be accomplishable by a power that is as mighty as that of the Lord, our God. if God were so inclined to use His power. Be assured:  God does not condone murder, let alone commit it, even in insects. To erroneously believe that God would, with intentional forethought, do something as malicious as to take back any portion of life that He had previously given, causing death to occur instead of life, especially in terms of God doing so for Self-promoting reasons, dispenses wrongful fear of both God and death among. especially when consideration is given to God doing so for Self-promoting reasons. Although such wrong belief is completely lacking any Scriptural support whatsoever, .

For the moment, though, consider what it means to carry that wrong belief just one step further in this particular application.  then believe that creating new life would necessitate that God would o that He might then readily give that life a second time to a new creation  to another, amounts to beliefs so far removed in concept from the reality of God, in terms of both His Being and His nature, that it cannot be further expanded and still maintain a respectable degree of believability that. But Truth be known, 

Rather, when a caterpillar has lived out the days of its short, immature youth, it is instinctively led from within to enclose itself in a cocoon of its own making. In doing so, the caterpillar literally gives up its life, for once inside, the caterpillar has shut itself off from every leaf that was a source of sustenance that kept it going from day to day in this world.

In a similar manner as to how two objects cannot simultaneously occupy the same point in space, no two bodies can be simultaneously constructed of the same identical group of cellular material.

By the caterpillar’s actions, the cocoon becomes a tomb of sorts, forlets go of the life that it knew, and it dies, making the cocoon  and dies by an act of its own will.

As the caterpillar’s internal organs begin to decay

 

Then, from out of that death, life is brought forth in the form of a butterfly. Only in the caterpillar’s death do specific cells in the body of the caterpillar break down, rearrange and then build back up in new ways to form cells that are necessary to form a butterfly  but not in a caterpillar. The place where this exchange occurs with a fair degree of saety is the caterpillar’s cocoon.

For some time before a caterpillar is ledThe only pl to cocoon, it initially lives in this world to the best of its ability, the only way that it knows how to live:  by crawling along in the little strength it possesses, eating whatever edible provision it happens to stumble upon on the path that it’s walking. For the caterpillar, life is a gamble; it eats 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,

But

 

The instant that we confess our iniquity and personal sinfulness and, therefore, need for Jesus to Savior have been made, we become—are made by God—new spiritual beings in Christ. As Noah once entered into the Ark to be saved from the flood of God’s righteous judgment that covered the earth, so too do we similarly now enter into the Body of Christ to be saved from the final fiery judgment that, like the Flood, is otherwise inescapable by anyone. Only those who have taken a stand by faith in God’s Living Word (Jesus) and, henceforth, are positioned inChrist by God’s grace alone, receive the promise of hope that God has made available to all the world in His One and Only Begotten Son:  Jesus. 

 

 

 

 

Unable to transform itself, the caterpillar can only prepare to be changed by responding to a leading that was built into 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).

 

until the time comes for that to occur, one day for a caterpillar is pretty much like every other day that it has known. So slowly moving is a caterpillar, it never ends its life as a caterpillarfar from where it began. That limits both the variety and number of edible plants to which a caterpillar has access, As it munches its way from leaf to leaf, it is easy prey for any number of other hungry critters. For a caterpillar then, life in this world is pretty much one continuous gamble. with affirmative action

But then comes a time when those minimalistic days of a caterpillar’s youth are 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. So the caterpillar responds in the way that it is led to do. It sticks itself to the underneath side of a leaf that has a firm enough attachment to a branch to make the caterpillar feel secure. There it releases (sheds) its outer protective covering (skin) to reveal a chrysalis (“cocoon”) that was already a part of the caterpillar. 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 yet 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).

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In a way that is fairly similar to that of a caterpillar, every one of us who is now a Christian has, at some point in time, obediently followed the Holy Spirit’s leading by willingly turning from our own wrongful ways in life and submitting our lives to God’to going God’s way, ito live in agreementn made Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of our lives. The moment we confessed our need for Jesus to save us from our sin, we were forgiven by Godcleansed of all unrighteousness by the perfectly righteous blood of Jesus forgiven of all sin, andreceived salvation in His Name, God made us new spiritual beings in Christ Jesus by putting a new, right (righteous) spirit in us. Cleansed of all unrighteousness, As Noah once entered into the Ark to be saved from the flood of God’s righteous judgment that covered the earth, so too do we similarly now enter into the Body of Christ to be saved from the final fiery judgment that, like the Flood, is otherwise inescapable by anyone. Only those who have taken a stand by faith in God’s Living Word (Jesus) and, henceforth, are positioned in Christ by God’s grace alone, receive the promise of hope that God has made available to all the world in His One and Only Begotten Son:  Jesus. 

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The moment when we receive God’s forgiveness forever, we are reunited with God, the sinful being we once were no longer exists. We are dead to sin and made alive in Christ. We become—are made by God—new spiritual beings in Christ Jesus. Jesus’ unchanging righteousness—His eternal right standing with God—is counted by God as our righteousness for this reason: We have rightly chosen in obedience to God’s Living Word (Jesus) to believe—to have faith—in Jesus:  Who Jesus is, and what He has done. Jesus, who as the Son of God, is God, did as a Man, that which no other man could ever do. Jesus took all of the sin that was upon the world (our sin), from the world (from us) and carried them upon (not in) His own sinless Body, for Jesus had no sin of His own, into the death—the free will laying down of His life–that He accepted as right payment  enabling us to be with God forever, for the perfection of Jesuswhen we place our trust in Him:  Jesus—who Jesus is and the Truth of in our positioning in Jesus, as offered to us all by God. As Noah once entered into the Ark to be saved from the flood of God’s righteous judgment that covered the earth, so too do we now similarly enter into the Body of Christ to be saved from the final fiery judgment that, like the Flood, is otherwise inescapable by anyone. At that time, when Judgment Day is upon us, only those individuals who have made the decision stand by faith in God’s Living Word (Jesus) and have been positioned by God through their acceptance of good grace alone in Christ Jesus, receive the hope of eternal life promised of Jesus

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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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