“…who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame”
I think I got a very small, but unforgettable taste of what it must have been like for the Messiah to “empty himself” from our just completed mission trip to India. Here’s what I mean, in a few random impressions:
When you come to the place on your journey when “two roads diverge in a yellow wood,” which would you choose: the one that beckons you with lush wildflowers and rays of sunlight piercing a thick canopy of murmuring trees and babbling brooks, or the one laden with rotting garbage and hollow, imploring eyes and dirty hands reaching out to you in desperation?
Jesus came to that same fork in the road before time began, if you believe the story painted by the Scriptures. The path to the right looked very much the same as the one with which he was already familiar. That road promised the fragrance of roses and lilac, laughter and beauty, comfort and the open smiles and scent of freshly scrubbed, angelic babies.
From the road to the left he heard crying and cursing, punctuated by the laughter of those who were oblivious to, or prospered from their misery. Looking in that direction, he saw rape and violence, apathy and selfishness, idle people worshipping idol gods. He saw couples whose sweet romance had inexplicably become cold and calloused. He witnessed infidelity, disease ravaged bodies, and children being handed weapons and taught to extinguish every vestige of compassion. Everywhere, people were building walls to insulate themselves and what was theirs from the “aliens” who threatened their peace, when there was no peace. And in the middle of that wasteland, he saw a cross with his name crudely nailed at the top.
And Jesus, for the JOY that was set before him, took the left fork in the road.
India can be found just around the bend on that very same road. In the coming days, you’ll be hearing me suggest that you consider joining us on your own pilgrimage there. And there are very few reasons I can offer that suggestion other than the fact that I have complete confidence that Jesus would make that choice without a second’s hesitation.
Today, in Mumbai, the city is sweltering. Pimps are milling about in the red light district with their pockets filling with rupees as 100,000 women’s bodies and souls are being ravaged for the pleasure of men. Many of them have children who are stuffed under their sweat-soaked beds while they drift off to wherever they must go to escape the moment. And that moment will come again and again and again.
And yet, within that cesspool of brothels and slums are these incredible, well-mannered, spiritually sensitive children and young people we met through our partnering organization, Bombay Teen Challenge. They are the very kids who lay silent every night under their mother’s pounding beds. Some are the women themselves who took the door of grace that was offered to escape that life. Others are children who ran away from violent homes, only to end up anonymous waifs living on the city streets with needles in their arms…now redeemed because someone found them and offered them Someone instead of a Substance.
Here is a link to my journal if you have the time and, in some cases, the stomach to read it https://blogs.rollinghillscommunity.org/missions/category/india-2011/. I get it if you don’t want to look down that road. But I also know that some of you will follow Jesus down it even if you’re afraid He might ask you to do so.