When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. (Isaac Watts)
As we enter Holy Week I feel compelled to join into the passion of Christ. I want to walk alongside of Him. I want to accompany Him along His journey, the one He was born to make. John 13:3 states this: “...fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God…”
Jesus, God made man, knew His purpose. His purpose to show us how to live and, even better, how to die, because it is only through dying that we can truly, freely live. Jesus’ life was not taken from Him. He very willingly laid it down for me and for you. He was not a “victim” as we might think of a helpless victim, but He was a willing participant-- a willing “victim” in order for the plan of our rescue to be accomplished. Jesus voluntarily exchanged places with us--we who were locked into the prison of self and sin, ready for eternal execution. He took our place.
2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” That is the ultimate “prisoner exchange.” He takes on our sin in order that we might be made free and one with the Father again. And not only that, but He wanted to show us how to never be a “helpless victim” ourselves but a victor with Him as we unite in all ways with Him.
And so, how do we live a good Holy week? A good holy life? We walk with Jesus along His path, we meditate on what He felt, what He did, what He saw, what He experienced. Through this...if we are willing and by HIs grace... we are transformed into being much more like Him. At the encouragement of friends I share this:
Lessons I have learned from meditating and walking alongside Jesus to the cross:
1. When we take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, it only leads to one place. I, for some reason, always thought I was helping Jesus carry HIS cross, not my own. If I take up MY cross and follow HIM, the end of the road is Calvary where “I” will be crucified. This is seen when I embrace whatever unexpected things come my way: loss of any kind, financial hardship, wayward children, disappointing news. If I embrace these things as the Father’s will and die to my OWN plans, my OWN longings, my OWN desires, I am like Jesus in the garden when He says,”Not MY WILL but thine own.”Lesson learned: Our crosses are truly a means to our sanctification. If we will learn to die to self through them, we will be raised again to new life with Him.
2. Crucifixion is the cruelest and most horrific death one can die. The pain of being nailed to a cross is unlike anything imaginable. The first limb nailed is just the beginning. Sadly, there are two more nails to go. The anticipation of the next one is beyond all telling. It's dread like waiting for the doctor to share a scary diagnosis, or wondering if the miscarriage is going to happen, or watching an elderly parent suffer the pangs of aging. Lesson learned: Immediate and continual surrender and abandonment to Jesus is the only way to endure suffering. And suffering can be a long process. If we join our suffering to His, offering all that we go through, great or small, from beginning to end, He redeems it all, past, present and future, for a good purpose. Why let our suffering be senseless and wasted?
3. What seems very obvious, but I had not realized before, is that once you are nailed to a cross, you can’t get down. There is no going back. You are on it until death. Lesson learned: When we are about to see God-- on the threshold of meeting our maker-- we will want to be free from anything that tethers us to the earth. The sooner we release all anger, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness and the like, the sooner we will be prepared for union with God. When we do this we are most united with Christ in this sentiment: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” Be free.
4. If you are suffering with Christ, hanging next to Him, the great comfort is that He knows what you are going through. We never suffer alone. Never. He is always there with us, and if we unite our suffering to His, we are the ”joy that was set before Him...” (Hebrews 12:2) Lesson learned: When I keep my eyes trained on Christ and unite my sufferings with Christ’s, He comfort’s me, and unbelievably, I comfort Him too, as we are united in our suffering, and therefore we “suffer well” together.
I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. Galatians 2:19-20
I want to give You great comfort on Your journey to the cross. I want all that I do and suffer on this earth to be united to You and Your suffering, not only so that I am made One with you in faith and that You live in and through me, but also for the salvation of the whole world, and so that neither of us ever suffers alone. I want to console Your sacred and beautiful heart and be the joy that was set before You as You endured all for me. I realize that if I had been the only person on this earth, You would have died for me. That means I would have needed to nail You to the cross. Thank You for love so amazing, so divine. I give you my soul, my life, my all. Please give me the grace to always live and suffer well... with You.
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.