The Tender Pioneer

Life — is what we make of it —
Death — we do not know —
Christ’s acquaintance with Him
Justify Him — though —

He — would trust no stranger —
Other — could betray —
Just His own endorsement —
That — sufficeth Me —

All the other Distance
He hath traversed first —
No New Mile remaineth —
Far as Paradise —

His sure foot preceding —
Tender Pioneer —
Base must be the Coward
Dare not venture — now —

-Emily Dickinson

On this Good Friday, I’ve been thinking about Christ’s humanity. That he was fully human. That somehow, God became a man that could bleed. A man that could die.

His full humanity is essential for our salvation. He had to live a perfect human life, so that he could atone for our sins as the true high priest for all humanity:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2: 14-18)

Jesus knows what we are going through. He knows the trials and temptations of the human experience. Once upon a time, he was a 27 year old man. He can relate to me, and he can relate to us all, no matter who we are or what we are going through.

Jesus knows what it is like to cry, sweat, bleed, hunger, thirst, feel sick and–yes–feel sexual attraction.

He knows what it’s like to fear death (Mark 14:32-27), feel anger (Matt 21:12), and be disappointed in or betrayed by someone you love (Mark 14:10-11).

He knows what it’s like to be mocked (Matt 27:41-43), and knows the pain of not being believed by even those nearest to him (John 1:11; 7:5). He knows how hard it is when it seems like your father has turned his back on you (Matt 27:46).

He knows how painful and difficult communication can be, and what it feels like to be deeply misunderstood. He knows what it’s like to just be worn out and weary (John 4:6).

Jesus knows what it feels like to be forgotten. He knows what it feels like to be lonely.

He knows what it is like to be hated, spit upon, condemned and executed. Even if he didn’t deserve any of it.

Christ–the perfect human–accomplished what Adam (and every other human) could not. He lived without sin. On the cross, he defeated sin, and conquered its consequence (death). Satan must have been pretty livid at that point. He probably expected that the cross–the horrible torture, the unwarranted pain and disgrace of the whole ugly affair–would have been too much for even Christ. Surely the wrath of God would be enough for Jesus to “curse God and die,” as Satan had previously hoped Job would do when unjust amounts of suffering were heaped on him. But that’s not what happened. Jesus had every right to curse God. He had done nothing wrong in his whole life, but was being nailed to a cross as a despised criminal. Why was God letting this monumental injustice–the biggest injustice ever–to happen? Jesus could easily have cursed God in rage.

But instead he said, rather deferentially, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus met death–the ultimate price of sin–willingly, even when he had every reason to not meet death at all. In so doing, he paid the price for humanity’s sin and killed off death as the ultimate enemy of man.

As followers of Christ, we should have confidence to go down that same human path (including death) without fear. Christ’s “sure foot” has preceeded us. The “Tender Pioneer” has trod all over this thing called human life, and came out victorious. Base we must be, indeed, to not courageously venture forth, accepting suffering and even death in light of Christ’s pioneering steps.

One response to “The Tender Pioneer

  1. She called him the “Largest Lover”
    willing to give his life for the beloved,
    a “docile Gentleman,”
    who came so far so cold a Day,
    the “Brave Beloved,”
    the giver of the “Gigantic Sum,”
    the “Compound Witness,”
    a compound because his life does two things:
    it testifies to God’s love, and
    it transforms death,
    the “man that knew the News,”
    “The Auctioneer of Parting.”
    She called him the “tender Carpenter,”
    whose trade and temperament compelled him
    to nail down the lid on death and human suffering.
    He woos us on God’s behalf in a “Vicarious Courtship,”
    and he is our “Tender Pioneer,”
    tender because he is anxious for our good,
    a pioneer because he went before us,
    sojourning, clearing the brush, bushwhacking the impediments of sin
    to prepare a path leading straight to the Father’s embrace.
    She called him the giver of the Gigantic Sum.
    I call him mine.

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