Our mailbox experiences a flood every May. Graduation announcements arrive from students celebrating the completion of their coursework. Each scholar anticipates a transition into a fresh stage of life’s journey.
We give thanks for three graduates: our daughter Sophie, and her fiancé, Peter, from San Diego Christian College in Santee, California; and Emily, Sammy’s fiancé from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. We love how family and friends come together to celebrate the diligent accomplishments of the next generation.
Graduation marks both completion and inauguration. After fulfilling requirements, new seasons begin. Commencement recognizes students for their academic efforts and then launches them into the future with inspiring messages. While these ceremonies vary in length and style; most include music, prayer, a commendation of the graduates, tears of joy and exhaustion, and expressions of hope for the future. Graduates embark into a new phase of life filled with both uncertainties and possibilities; a season characterized with growth.
I find myself considering commencement scenes in the Bible. In other words, moments in Scripture when sojourners pass into new or unknown territory?
Perhaps the most provocative commencement scene occurred between Jesus and Peter in John 21, when three times Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” After that, Jesus charged Peter with a new mission in life and spurred him toward faithfulness and obedience: “You must follow me” (see John 21:22).
The woman, who poured out perfume to anoint Jesus, experienced a commencement as well. Jesus gave an eye-opening message to Simon, the Pharisee, and his guests, followed by a three-point declaration to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven,” “Your faith has saved you,” and “go in peace” (see Luke 7:48, 50).
What commencement events come to your mind as you search the Scriptures?
- The woman caught in adultery received a grace-filled charge to enter into a forgiven future (see John 8:9-11).
- Saul entered into a new season after encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ananias inspired him with a new assignment: “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength” (see Acts 9:17-18).
- David shifted from shepherd to king with the commissioning by Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 16.
- Jacob encountered God, as noted in Genesis 32; thus, receiving a different name and fresh beginning.
- Ruth embarked on an unfamiliar journey after a season of sorrow, followed by a great blessing from God (see Ruth 1).
Think about your own situation for a moment. How is God inviting you into a new journey? Have you received a charge or inspiring message to begin something original? Are you stepping out or holding back? Perhaps you are entering into a time of newness right now with a job, neighborhood, home, church, ministry, relationship, pregnancy, etc.
God creates new life within us the moment we commit to following Him. So, maybe the most profound commencement ceremony any of us experience is the day we place our trust in Jesus and choose to make the life He gives us about Him. A new journey commences when we walk across the proverbial stage of life and receive a new identity in Christ.
Jesus completed His work on earth, and He fulfilled all the requirements for the world. A new season commences for those who follow Him and walk in His ways. Are you mindful of Jesus’ commencement address?
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (see Matthew 28:18-20).
Has your commencement in Christ become mundane or forgotten? In what ways does Jesus’ message challenge and inspire you afresh today?
Just like family and friends support and encourage a graduate’s journey, the Holy Spirit journeys with us as our faithful companion, spurring us onward in the path of life.
What requirements are you called to complete? How can you be available to what God has in store? Pay attention to the new things to which God is calling you—they are opportunities for the future, the commencements in your life.
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Matt Roberts and Rob Cowles with Dean Merrill. The God of New Beginnings: How the Power of Relationship Brings Hope and Redeems Lives.Nashville, TN. 2018.
Jay Payleitner. If God Gave Your Graduation Speech: Unforgettable Words of Widsom from the One Who Knows Everything About You. Nashville, IN. 2013.