Sitting in My Place

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. - Matthew 5:1-2a NIV

When I took my first group of travelers to the Holy Land many years ago, I was part of a pilgrimage I will never forget. As we walk through the Sermon on the Mount this summer, I am drawn back to one particular event that took place during that journey.

On that day, we traveled to the site, where most historians agree that Jesus delivered this great message on life as a follower in the Kingdom of God. It was a beautiful sunlit morning as we arrived at the location of the Church of the Beatitudes at the top of the craggy hillside. No crops could grow there so it was left fallow all the way to the shores of Galilee. It was and is a natural amphitheater. In 1938, the monks of the Franciscan order rebuilt the church on the site because the church built in that same place in the fourth century was destroyed in the seventh century A.D.  I could almost see the searching crowd sitting and waiting for words from Jesus.

What made the morning even more eventful for me was the fact that our tour guide had asked me to stand on the wrap-around balcony of that eight-sided church, one side for each of the eight Beatitudes, and read Matthew 5:1-12. I stood in awe and read what Jesus sat and taught some 2000 years before. I stood in His place. My standing in His place was no comparison to His standing in my place.

Eventually, His teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount, led to His demise. He taught of a Kingdom not of this world. He taught of grace and forgiveness, of fulfillment and peace. His words were contrary to the religious elite and treasonous to the Romans. His words, though as historically influential as they have become, helped speed the end of his life.

When they hung him on the cross and mocked Him as the King of the Jews, they were mocking His teachings on the Kingdom of God. They were trying to stop religious rebellion against organized religion and a political juggernaut. What  was really happening? He was standing in my place and ushering in the fulfillment of His Kingdom. I could not adequately fill His space, but He completely filled mine. I could not stand on the Mount of Beatitudes and fully reflect His words, but He could fully stand on Mount Golgotha and absorb the punishment of my sin and make clear to me how much God loves me.

I invite you to reflect on the reality that Jesus stood in your place as well. He offers us a place in His Kingdom, a kingdom not of this world, but a kingdom that you are a part of the moment you surrender all your efforts to Him and make Him your King.

JOURNAL: As you reflect, share what Jesus’ sacrifice means to you.

PRAYER: Thank You, God, for sending Jesus to stand in my place. Thank You, for letting me stand in Your place and realize how unworthy but yet loved I am.
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