(watch here: https://youtu.be/x1kVnfJdeuo)
12The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’
20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
27‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.’
A man named Thomas Carlyle once said, “a man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder-a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.” Each of us has a purpose in life whether we know it or not…whether we want to acknowledge it or not. And that purpose is unique to each one of us. None of us shares the same purpose in life. We are each created with unique gifts and talents as well as unique obstacles and hardships. None of us has the exactly identical life experience as someone else. We might share similar moments, similar understandings of those moments, but never identical. All of us are different, experiencing life in truly unique ways, so each of us has a truly unique purpose. And figuring out that purpose is hard. Because no one has the same purpose, no one can tell you your purpose. They can share their purpose but that’s not your purpose. No, you have to figure out your own purpose. No one can tell you what your purpose is.
As Carlyle pointed out, figuring out your purpose is important. Without a purpose, we’re just wandering through life, going wherever the wind would take us. We’re just drifting in the open sea without any direction or ability to get anywhere…a ship without a rudder. God doesn’t want us to wander or drift. God wants us to have a purpose. God gifts us with abilities to fulfill our purposes and presents obstacles along the way to help steer us towards fulfilling our purposes. Obstacles are nothing more than God nudging us back onto the path we need to follow. Obstacles help us fulfill our true purposes, not the purposes we mistakenly give ourselves. So we shouldn’t be disheartened by obstacles but instead we should simply reconsider our purpose. A true purpose uses both gifts and obstacles to come to fruition. God blesses us with purpose and gives us what we need in both gifts and obstacles to enable that purpose to be revealed.
Some say that a life’s purpose is only revealed at the end of life but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Just look at Jesus. He knew his purpose long before the end of his life. He knew there would come a time when that purpose would be revealed for the whole world to behold. Over and over again, he told his disciples and those closest to him including his mom, “my hour has no yet come for me to be glorified.” Jesus knew that once his glory was revealed, once his purpose was revealed, he would be transformed into the Christ we know today. His purpose was to go to that cross, to take our sins on his shoulders, to die on that cross and be raised from the dead three days later. His purpose was to endure the agony of his arrest and torture. His purpose was to suffer on our behalf. He knew his purpose long before it was revealed to the rest of the world. He knew it going into Jerusalem as everyone laid down palm branches, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Jesus knew his purpose was to suffer even as everyone was lauding him.
But was it only to suffer? Was his suffering without purpose? Of course not! Jesus suffered so that we might live! Jesus suffered so that our relationship with the Father might be restored. His suffering had a purpose! All suffering has a purpose; sometimes to humble us, sometimes to strengthen us, sometimes to grow us, sometimes to transform us. For Jesus, it was to transform him. Jesus rode into Jerusalem knowing full well it was a one-way transformational journey. But that was his purpose-to be transformed into the Christ we know and love of today. And knowing his purpose enabled him to endure the unspeakable pain and humiliation at the hands of Pilate and the Roman guards and the Jewish leaders. Knowing our own purposes can enable us to do equally great and mighty deeds.
So how do we figure out our own purposes? Only God can reveal them to us through regular prayer. All throughout his ministry Jesus found ways to step away from the demands of his ministry and enter into prayer with his Father. Not only did it strengthen him to meet the demands of his ministry but it reminded him why he was doing what he was doing. Remember, God doesn’t want us adrift on the open sea without a rudder. God wants us to have destinations to strive for, goals to be met, and guideposts along the way. God wants us to know why we are here and He is willing to share it with us through prayer. Why? Because it colors everything we do with delight and contentment.
As I was reflecting on purpose this week, I read about a cheerful old man who asked the same question of just about every new acquaintance he fell into conversation with: “What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?” He never asked conventional questions such as “What do you do for a living?” It was always, “What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?” It was an unsettling question for people who had built their self-esteem on their wealth or their family name or their job title. Not that the old man was a fierce interrogator. He was delighted by a woman who answered, “I’m doing a good job raising three children;” and by a cabinetmaker who said, “I believe in good workmanship and practice it;” and by a woman who said, “I started a bookstore and it’s the best bookstore for miles around.” “I don’t really care how they answer,” said the old man. “I just want to put the thought into their minds. They should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for me, but for themselves. That’s what’s important.”
Jesus knows what he believes in—us, saving us. Jesus is proud of us and loves us, so much so that he is willing to go into Jerusalem for us. As we head into Holy Week, let rejoice in his purpose and work to better understand our own purposes. Let us not wait until the end of our lives for our purposes to be revealed. We can know them now through prayer. God will reveal them to us. Let us heed Carlyle’s wisdom: “Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.