Sketch by Patrick Murphy
This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father (John 10:17-18)
Jesus foreshadows His death and resurrection in these verses. But what He says isn’t limited to those events; He also describes the way divine life functions. Each member of the God-head continually empties Himself (lays down His life) and is filled by Another (takes it up again). This flow of life was made flesh in the person of Christ who emptied Himself to death on the cross and was raised by the glory of the Father (Php. 2:5-11; Rom. 6:1-10). Besides this ultimate demonstration, Jesus functioned in this divine flow during His earthly life. His motivation before God was “Not my will but Yours, Father.” This shows a daily laying down of His life so that the Father might be His source.
Jesus said His Father’s command gave Him the right to lay down His life and to take it up again. The “command,” again, describes the ebb and flow of divine life from death to resurrection to death to resurrection. Since we are in Christ, we have also received this “command” from our Father.
Divine life commands that we lay down our lives and take them up again. Through this participation in divine life we know Christ more deeply. Camping on one aspect or the other results in a lop-sided experience of God; it also results in being out of sync with God when seasons change. This would be like wearing a winter coat all year, whether it’s 20 or 80 degrees outside; it would be like try to ice skate on a thawed lake.
To share a personal example: I worked as a nursing assistant (NAC) in nursing homes for about 11 years. Each day at a nursing home was an exercise in laying down my life. I believed God wanted me doing this work; I did my best to care for people with debilitating physical and mental conditions. Along with the rest of the staff, I bathed, dressed, toileted, and fed people. I cleaned up about every bodily substance there is. Once (and thank God only once) I spent an entire eight hour shift combing lice out of residents’ hair.
Not long after my first child was born, I got a part-time job to supplement my nursing home gig. A year and a half later, a full-time position opened that would pay more than both my jobs combined. I prayed about it.
As I prayed, I thought about the ways I was knowing Jesus in His death through the nursing home job. Would leaving mean trading the fellowship of Jesus’s sufferings for an easier road?
Fortunately, the Lord spoke in the midst of my carnal musings. I was to take the new job. Through further prayer I learned this was a manifestation of resurrection, a season of knowing Jesus in life. Paul didn’t only know how to go without in Christ; He knew how to have a lot. He could do *all things* through Christ, who strengthened him (Php. 4:12-13).
Knowing Jesus fully is a must. We need the Holy Spirit to show us what “season” of revelation we’re in so we don’t take the better seat that isn’t ours OR stay in the lower seat when Jesus says, “Friend, move up higher” (Luke 14:10-11). Keeping our Father’s “command” means embracing the full range of divine experience, flowing with the death and life of Jesus as each manifests in our bodies (2 Cor. 4:10-11).