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."
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."
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
Today's Easter thoughts come from a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. He notes that what Easter teaches us is:
"that this earthly life is merely an embryonic prelude to a new awakening, that death is not a period which ends this great sentence of life but a comma that punctuates it to more loftier significance."
Easter weekend may be over for another year, but the events it celebrates have changed our lives forever. May you rejoice in the gift of new life today!
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, these thoughts from Johann Ernst von Holst give a wonderful perspective on the mission of Jesus:
"The Passover was a festival in memory of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, but at the same time it was a prophecy of the freeing of the whole of humankind from the heavy yoke of sin and condemnation through the atoning death of the perfect Paschal Lamb. Jesus longed to fulfill this 1500-year-old prophecy and at long last to redeem the lost world through his sacrificial death, to close in this way the old covenant and set up the new one. But he saw still further beyond this deed of redemption. He looked into that sunny distance beyond time where his whole work would be brought to perfection, where he would celebrate the meal of joy on the transfigured earth with a redeemed humankind and drink with them the new fruit of the vine."
Today's Lenten thoughts come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book "The Cost of Discipleship," talking about Jesus' call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him:
"It is laid upon every Christian. The first suffering of Christ we must experience is the call sundering (splitting apart) our ties to this world. This is the death of the old human being in the encounter with Jesus Christ."
Pastor Ward Parkinson