I grew up in a household of three girls, so there were many concerts, shows and plays in our childhood. Bon Jovi, Carly Simon, and any and every Disney soundtrack circa 1985-1995 were our jam. Next to preforming or choreographing the show itself, the next most coveted role was that of announcer.
The announcer got to hold the plastic microphone and scream in her loudest voice to our audience of riveted parents and/or stuffed animals, “And now ladies and gentlemen, proudly presenting…” Often the introductions would be more interesting and drawn out than the performances themselves.
With Good Friday drawing near and my heart stuck in a few passages in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, I cannot shake the image of Jesus proudly and painfully presenting us to the Father and the Father to us.
“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” Colossians 1:21-22
The Greek word for present, parahistemi, is literally translated “to present or display from close beside, to exhibit.” From close beside implies a nearness, a deep knowledge, an intimacy and trust between the presenter and the presented.
The image of Christ Himself standing as close as possible to me while proudly presenting me before His Holy Father as blameless, complete and whole is overwhelming. The image of Christ on the cross suffering in my stead in order to present me as such is even more overwhelming.
This is no cheap and easy presentation, no small homegrown performance in a living room before stuffed animals. This is the ultimate presentation before the only audience that really matters. And a hand scarred in my stead gently and proudly pushes me into the presence of a proud Father, urging me to be confident and expectant.
He proudly presents me before the Father because He was painfully presented before Pilate and all of Rome.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to explain the result of this ultimate presentation. When someone has gone to such great lengths to painfully and proudly present you before God, you cannot help but seek to present others.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power which mightily works within me.” Colossians.” 1:28-29
Paul uses the exact same verb here, only this time we are the presenter rather than the presented.
We who have been painfully and proudly presented by Jesus Himself now stand close beside others painfully and proudly seeking to present them as complete and whole in Christ.
If it was excruciating for Christ on that Friday we call good, we should not expect this labor to be a walk in the park. Paul uses strong visual language when he writes “For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power.” The word for labor literally means “to toil and work to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.” It is a 7 am-6pm construction in the burning sun kind of labor, not a sit-behind-a-desk kind of labor. It takes blood, sweat and tears, which should be our expectation as we follow one who literally sweat blood and wept in the garden on the evening before He bravely went to the Cross. The word Paul uses for strive is the Greek word from which we get the English word agonize, which says it all.
I can imagine that in those million moments of getting to present sibling after sibling to God, Jesus looked back on the cross with a satisfied smile, thinking, “It was well worth it. It was well worth it.”
I long to be more than just a presented one. I long to play a small role in presenting many more siblings to our Great Father. Thankfully, He gives us His operative power which works mightily within us to that end.
Oh, how I long to toil and strive and suffer in loving others well by pointing them to our Great Presenter.
Amen, Amen and Amen. Love you all and thank God for you.