More thoughts on the road to the Cross. The encounters Jesus had (actually during the crucifixion!) at Calvary were very brief and very powerful. The following is a quote from Fulton Sheen on the exchange between Jesus and the thief on the cross beside him.
"A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life; a man without possessions asked a poor man for a kingdom.…In the divine plan it was a thief who was the escort of the King of kings into paradise. If our Lord had come merely as a teacher, the thief would never have asked for forgiveness. But since the thief’s request touched the reason of his coming to earth, namely, to save souls, the thief heard the immediate answer. “I promise thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). It was the thief’s last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything, and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the cross, the thief owned and acknowledged him as Savior."
Take a moment to think about the day you were baptized as a follower of Jesus. Do you remember the words of commitment? Were you aware of their significance for your life's path? In this excerpt, William Willimon connects the baptism of Jesus to his road to the Cross.
"To be baptized “into Christ” and “in the name of Christ” means to be incorporated into the way of life which characterized his life, the life of the empty one, the servant, the humble one, the obedient one, obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:6–11). That day at the Jordan, knee deep in cold water, with old John drenching him, the Anointed One began his journey down the via crucis. His baptism intimated where he would finally end. His whole life was caught up in this single sign. Our baptism does the same."
As we look forward to worshiping together this Good Friday, here are some thoughts about the Cross from Philip Yancey. We will be celebrating the Lord's Table together as part of our service.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die."
In this season of the cross, here are some words of deep truth from Evelyn Underhill:
"To look at the Crucifix and then to look at our own hearts; to test by the cross the quality of our love – if we do that honestly and unflinchingly we don’t need any other self-examination. The lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery, the stripping, the nails – It is no use to talk in a large vague way about the love of God; here is its point of insertion in the world."
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Today we focus afresh on what it means to follow Christ in his steps to Calvary. The love and grace that are bound up in the Cross are the gifts of God meeting my greatest need. That love also then becomes my greatest pursuit.
Lord, lest I forget, lead me to Calvary.
Jesus turns death into resurrection. We take up our cross to find new life. Today I came across the following quote from Henri Nouwen that ties in nicely with what we've learned from James 1.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life." - Henri Nouwen
Pastor Ward Parkinson