“I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)
I credit the Army for saving my marriage. That may sound strange. Most military couples will tell you that deployments and long separations can be devastating to marriage. And I agree. If there’s one thing I hated about deployments, it was being separated from those I love and who make my life complete.
But I didn’t understand how much my wife and children meant to me until the Army pulled me away from them – for training, missions, and deployments. Only then did I realize how much I derive my joy, fulfillment, and identity from them.
You see, I was a late comer to the Army. I didn’t enlist until I was 29. By that time, I had finished four years of college and was attending graduate classes. And I had done all of this while married and working full time. During those school years, I envied my classmates who weren’t saddled with family responsibilities and could focus exclusively on their studies. And I became resentful toward my wife and children for “holding me back from my goals.” I even began to view them as a burden. “If I was only free,” I thought, “I’d have the money to finish graduate school and seminary – before I become too old.”
Then the Army came to the rescue. It offered the Montgomery GI Bill and Army College Fund. I took the bait and only intended to fulfill my four-year enlistment. The four years lengthened to 31, with loads of family separations. Education came at a price.
But it was all those forced separations that awakened me to the reality of how much I depended upon my family. This is why I credit the Army for saving my marriage. It shook all that resentment out of me and forced me to see the blessing I had in my family.
And during all those separations, I had little desire to enjoy myself. It was always “all business.” If I was on temporary duty (TDY) I ate as cheaply as possible. On one occasion I went TDY to Orlando, Florida. But without my family, I took no advantage of its many attractions. Was I wasting such opportunities? Maybe, so. But for me, it would have been a waste of money to do those things without sharing it with my family.
Maybe it was all a matter of “sensing loss” – i.e. grief – that inhibited any desire to have a good time without my family. Maybe it was like the shepherd with the lost sheep, the woman with the lost coin, and the father with the lost son in Luke 15. They couldn’t celebrate – or even rest – until they were reunited with what they valued most.
Look, then, at these words of Jesus. “I tell you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Jesus had told His disciples, “I have earnestly desired to share this Passover with you” (Luke 22:15). Jesus deeply enjoyed their companionship on earth. But He refuses to celebrate again until He’s finished His work of redemption in our lives. There’ll be no banquet in heaven until Jesus can share it with those He loves the most, those who have shared his trials and suffered injustices for His name’s sake (Revelation 19:6-8). Until He gathers them all home in His Father’s kingdom and their salvation is consummated, Jesus is all business. He’s busy interceding for the saints at the Father’s right hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2) and perfecting the good work He began in them (Philippians 1:6).
Think of it. Jesus loves us so much that He refuses to celebrate or even to enjoy the glories of Heaven until He can share it with us. Therefore, labor for Jesus more gladly. Suffer reproaches for His name’s sake. Stand with Jesus and be the object of this world’s hatred. It will only multiply the joy and glory you experience in Heaven.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, remind me that this life is not intended for our enjoyment, but for our preparation for eternity with You in Heaven. Help me, Lord Jesus, to keep seeking the things above and to invest this life’s fading resources into Your eternal kingdom. Amen.