Friday, April 6, 2012

Remembering the Cross ~ 5

Today is Good Friday. 

I've been trying to focus on the cross all week long, sometimes successfully.

Mostly, I find myself getting distracted.  This week has been a week of recognizing and acknowledging my own sin and my need Jesus' sacrifice.

Once upon a time, approximately 2,000 years ago, the majestic and glorious creator of the world sent his son to earth with a message of love and deliverance.  

Jesus left his home in heaven and took on the form of a man, an ordinary man.  He experienced the suffering of an ordinary man.  He experienced hunger, thirst, pain, and rejection.

Everywhere he went, he preached God's love.  He preached love for mankind.  He simplified God's commandments and instructed his followers to love God and love each other.

He modeled compassion for the weak, the broken, and the rejected members of society, lepers, Samaritans, tax collectors, Romans, and women.

He healed the sick.  He restored sight to eyes and strength to arms and legs.  He fed thousands.

He forgave sinners.  He ate with them and accepted them.

He brought light into the world, but humanity preferred darkness.  It does seem that we would rather stay in darkness, doing things our own way, treat people the way we want to treat them, than enter into light and love on God's terms.

And so, with the approval of the priests and the people, soldiers surrounded Jesus, the man who healed the sick, who showed compassion to the sinners, and who welcomed women and Samaritans and taxpayers, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

These soldiers took him and marched him to a courtyard where they stripped him naked, pressed a crown of thorns on his head, and threw a scarlet robe over his shoulders, as if he were a king.  

They ridiculed him, bowing down before him and mocking him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Others spat on him.  

After they tired of this game, they marched him to his execution.  He carried his own cross down the streets of Jerusalem and up a hill, Golgotha, the Hill of the Skull. 

Nails secured his wrists to the wooden beam of the cross.  The soldiers placed his legs so that his feet pointed downward with the soles pressed against a post.  They drove a long nail through the bones of his feet.  They lifted the cross high for all to see.  At the top of the cross, a sign:  Jesus:  King of the Jews.

From the third hour of the morning, Jesus hung there.  He gasped for breath, pushing himself up with his feet so he could breathe, but the nail in his feet caused so much pain that he dropped down.  Up and down.  The coarse wooden beam pressed into his back, the nails ripped through his skin, his shoulders dislocated. 

The priests and the people came to watch. 

“You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,” they called out, “Save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the son of God!”

The Pharisees mocked him, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself.  If you come down from the cross now, we’ll believe you!”

Jesus whispered, “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.”

At the ninth hour, while the sun was still shining, sudden darkness came over the land. The earth shook violently.

In pain, with blood dripping down his face, Jesus cried out, “My God!  My God! Why have you forsaken me?”  “It is finished,” he gasped and he breathed his last breath. 

When the centurion and the soldiers guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God.”

Jesus, the Son of God, who took away the sin of the world.
Jesus, the Son of God who still takes away the sin of the world.  
  • In dying, Jesus represents us.  We have a God who has experienced everything we experience, even death. 
  • In dying, Jesus takes the punishment for sin.  We receive forgiveness. 
  • In dying, Jesus reconciles us with God. His death leads us from all that entraps us and frees us from all that holds us captive.  His death leads to his resurrection. Together these events leads us into the very presence of God.  Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can have relationship with God and relationship with others
  • In dying, Jesus asks us again:  Who do you say that I am?
Our answer to this question forces us to make a choice.  
We can choose to receive this sacrifice and follow him, or we can choose to reject it.

This isn't a question we only answer once.
We must answer it everyday.
And our answer isn't expressed with words; we answer with our lives.  

Who is Jesus?  Are we willing to follow him no matter where he leads?

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