Day 38 – Escape
“but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
The overall temptation in the wilderness is to escape, to run, to get out. It is a natural instinct, but as we have seen, God desires to be with us in the wilderness and He has His good purposes for how He shapes us in the desert. When frustrated, it is indeed tempting to say: I’m done. I’m out of here. At that point, we experience the temptation to manufacture a way of escape.
It is a grace when we begin to notice our impulse to escape. At that point, we have an opportunity to stop, slow down, and notice how God is at work and what He is doing. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we are encouraged that God provides an escape as well, but the escape is from the temptation to escape the situation, not the situation itself. This brings us back once again to a concept we explored earlier in this Lenten journey: it is not about getting out, but trusting God in the wilderness. In the mysterious depths of God’s love, giving us an escape hatch from the situation is much less loving than giving us an escape from the temptation to escape. The point of being rescued from the temptation is that we would be able to endure … remain … hold fast.
As we come to this final day before Jesus would be crucified, the temptation to escape was perhaps never more heightened. But rather than run, Jesus kept walking step by step, being led by the Father. How He interacts with those around Him speaks volumes about the nature of the “escape from temptation.”
The first words of the description of this final night are often skipped over but notice the profound nature of what is expressed: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) He loved them to the end! Consider that for a moment. Rather than being self-focused and self-protective, He loved. Don’t miss the reality that Jesus existed in human flesh and was facing a gruesome death … and He loved them to the end. For us, the reflex under stress is usually to retreat, regroup, and devise a strategy for survival. Jesus walked toward His death with love. We are invited to follow in those footsteps.
The “escape” that God provides is not a strategy built around survival but love. Rather than retreating inward, we are invited to move out … to move into love. Jesus was immersed in the love of the Father which then directed His “strategy” for moving through the most challenging day of His life. As we “die before we die,” we are freed to leave the details of our earthly existence to good purposes of the Father rather than pouring ourselves into survival strategies. As we consider the movement this week of “death to life,” we begin to see that survival mode is a kind of death and as we release it we are ushered into life … a life defined by and directed by the love of God.
Jesus clearly expressed this love in washing the feet of His disciples as they moved toward the Passover meal together. Imagine: on the most difficult night of His earthly existence, He stopped, stooped, and served. He entrusted all of Himself to God the Father and loved others to the very end.
Then, in the context of this meal – which He clearly connected to His impending sacrificial death – He shared that all of His disciples would fall away. How He handles this is another staggering expression of love. He isn’t angry but simply says, “Don’t worry; I’ll see you in Galilee.” (Matthew 26:30-32) He wanted to prepare them and let them know that He knew and would still be there for them. He displayed incredible grace and provision even as He shared with Peter that He knew Peter would deny Him. He was preparing them all and considered them before Himself. As we entrust ourselves to God, we are freed to love. And so, this is the “escape” from the temptation to escape.
Finally, the dinner itself is a testimony that the way of the cross is the way of love. Ann Voskamp makes the observation: “On the night Jesus was betrayed — He gave thanks.” She goes on to say: “On the night when the prodigal sliced open your heart, on the night when you lost your job, when your person slammed out the door, and the toilet stopped flushing, and the dog gagged and puked all over the back mat, on the night when it looked like the dawn would never come again — there is always a choice, and why not choose what Jesus did? Because when Jesus had to fight through dark, staring right into the most impossible situation of the Cross — what does He do? Out of a universe of supernatural options at the tip of His fingers — what does Jesus do? On the night when Jesus was betrayed — He gave thanks. If Jesus can give thanks in that — you can give thanks in everything.”
Sit with that for a few moments. How does “dying before you die” free you to love and give thanks? What is stirring in your heart and mind as you consider Jesus’ steps on this Thursday night before the crucifixion?
Episcopal brother James Koester summarizes the invitation: “The way we are invited to walk is not an easy one. It involves towel, basin, and water. It requires us to bend, to stoop, and to kneel. It involves cross and nails, thorns and spear. It requires us to die. It involves tomb, and grave clothes. It requires us to lay everything aside, even our own lives. But for those who follow, it is life, and peace, and joy.”
Question for reflection: how is God shaping you and speaking to your heart?
Prayer: Lord, here I am in the middle of the wilderness and I notice my instinct for survival and self-protection, and I also notice my desire to follow the way of Jesus. Strengthen me through the Holy Spirit to release self-preoccupation and receive the grace to walk in love, to give thanks, to serve others. Amen.