Bon Jovi, in the 1980s, was classified as a rock and roll band, but in 2000 with the release of “It’s My Life” the band appealed to a younger audience and landed on the top 40 pop charts. The song became an anthem of sorts. Bon Jovi would later say of the lyrics, “I thought I was writing very self-indulgently about my own life and where I was in it. I didn’t realize that the phrase ‘It’s My Life’ would be taken as being about everyone.”
And who can argue with one of the greatest rock singers of all time? Who of us hasn’t felt this way:
“This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted
No silent prayer for the faith-departed
I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd
You’re gonna hear my voice
When I shout it out loud
It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive…
You better stand tall when they’re calling you out
Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down
It’s my life.”
Watch the news for 15 minutes today and the sentiment hasn’t changed. Don’t bend, don’t break, don’t back down because it’s my life and it’s my right to free speech, free assembly, free religion. It’s my right to bear arms. To protect life, liberty, property, and pursue my own happiness. To demand change. To be heard. You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud be it on the streets or on social media.
And yet, if I say I am a follower of the Beloved Jesus, is that how I am to live my life and regard my rights? This is the question I have felt God pressing me to contemplate this season of Lent.
The writer of Hebrews prompts us to “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners…” Or in the words of Paul, reflect on Him “who emptied Himself,” who gave up His rights and stripped Himself of His prerogatives to live His life in this loud world.
But to what end should I ponder on these things? The answer surprised me too. The author of Hebrews concludes that the pattern set by Jesus is worth a full measure of meditation “so that you (and me) will not grow weary and lose heart.” It is for our benefit and encouragement that we contemplate these things.
I have discovered these past weeks that there is indeed so much sweetness to be tasted here, and it is surely worth a lifetime of meditations. There is so much to consider! For this moment though, I’ve been drawn to seven particular rights mentioned in Revelation 5:12:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.”
Below is my small humble offering to the Beloved Jesus: a meditation on what rights He did and did not give up to offer us all the most precious right and the most precious life of all.
King Jehoshaphat said “O LORD… Power and might are in Your hand,
and no one can withstand You.”
And yet my Jesus opened His hand,
giving up whip and sword and weapon,
standing before those who could not withstand Him.
Physical violence done to Him,
not by Him.
His hand instead would heal.
Sentenced to death though He had done no violence,
no deceit in His mouth,
not an eye for an eye would He repay,
His response instead would be forgiveness.
Because although He was rich,
living in a high and holy place,
He did not esteem that as the prize.
Emptying Himself of His wealth,
He became not only a man,
but a poor and lowly man.
Not a man of flashy transportation
or splendid clothes.
Not a man of easy living,
or hands free from the callouses of carpentry.
Not claiming His right to the most luxurious home in Galilee,
but willingly having no place to lay His head.
All for what?
The prize He was after was not His riches, but ours:
the richness of our salvation.
Who can measure the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God?
Or understand His decisions and judgements?
Who can explain why God’s Son would hand over these rights?
Or reason why He’d give Himself over to human judgements?
To those He called snakes and vipers,
He would submit.
To the judgement of the pious Jews and unclean Gentiles,
He would abide.
To a Roman governor who could find no grounds for the death penalty,
but neither could he find courage to do the right thing,
Jesus would comply.
O, to let mankind’s wisdom decide if He lived or died,
is there really any wisdom in that?
Even when it is Himself that is tired and
weary on a storm-thrashed boat,
hungry on the road to Jerusalem,
thirsty on the cross,
tempted in the desert,
mocked in the prison yard,
troubled to the point of tears,
dead in a borrowed tomb.
To Him who gave up all heavenly strength,
help me to love with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength,
in all things,
and in every circumstance.
For there would be a trial.
How could there not?
In light of these charges —
gluttony and drunkenness,
blasphemy and sacrilege,
collusion with the prince of demons —
any accused person would want to defend their honor.
But our Jesus would not be the one
to call anyone into the courts of man
on account of stepping on His rights.
He did not need man’s testimony about man;
His Father’s testimony was sufficient.
Into His Father’s hands, He entrusted His honor,
thus freeing Himself to work only for the honor of the Father.
His will poured out,
the Father’s will poured in,
spilling over with worldly shame.
All without a single cry “This isn’t fair!”
Only that “This is forgiveness.”
Lord Jehovah is high above all nations,
His glory is above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
He lives in the heights above?
Who humbled Himself to look on
the things that are in heaven and in the earth?
Who is this Lord Jesus
who did not stop at humbling Himself to look upon,
but stooped from all His glory to walk among?
Emptying Himself of His glory—
the glory He had with Father God before the world began—
to carry on Himself our non-glorified acts.
In heaven, He had a robe of glory,
on earth, a robe of humiliation.
In heaven, a title,
the name that is above every name,
on earth, a title
the mocking “King of the Jews” above his head.
A crown of splendor above,
a crown of suffering below.
Once, lifted high above all the nations,
He was lifted just once by the nations,
lifted and hung
upon a cross.
But before the governor’s throne,
when presented with King Jesus,
the livid crowd proclaimed
“Crucify, crucify, crucify.”
At the name of Jesus,
every knee in Galilee should have bowed low,
every self humbled.
But at the name of Jesus,
every voice rose up,
every self’s will exalted.
For 33 years He stripped Himself of all rights to
To become what? A door mat?
No, to become a doorway.
To be labeled a hollowed pushover? Hardly.
He would push back sin and darkness from hallowed ground.
To gain what for Himself? The whole bloody world?
No, bloodied to gain your soul and mine.
God granted Jesus authority over all people that he might give…
Giving up did not empty Him but filled Him to
heal disease and sickness
lift from poverty
command the wind
restore dignity and community
speak truth to power
feed the hungry
pray for His enemies
bless the little children
extend an invitation to Paradise
defend the oppressed
forgive and pardon
save the sinful
find the lost
grant eternal life
redeem their brokenness
serve the sinners
forget and remember no more
protect the guilty from death
extend an invitation to Living Water
bless the poor
pray for His followers
refresh the thirsty
restore sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf
free the captives
command the waves
lift from death
heal limbs of the lame and crippled
And so, if I say I am a follower of the Beloved Jesus,
how am I to live?
What am I to give up and give to?
I hear Him saying “Yield these:”
Yield power over others,
strength to retaliate,
glory given by humanity,
honor this side of heaven,
wisdom of the culture, and
praise that is fickle.
“And radically, crazily, lavishly give these:”
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
For it is only when you freely give up the former,
that you are truly set free to give generously of the latter.
For God so loved the world
He gave up His rights
to give me the most precious, costly life of all.
In the name of my Precious Jesus,
amen and amen.