Monday, March 31, 2014

Station 8 - Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26 NLT)
So Jesus the pain and agony was too much for you to take and still drag that cross. No one could blame you really. Loss of blood, the beatings, the ongoing agonizing pain combined to leave you too weak to go on. So the soldiers grab an innocent bystander, an African from modern-day Libya and make him do the dirty work. So I guess, in a sense, I ought to identify with Simon of Cyrene since in my following in your steps I too will be “crucified with Christ.” But it's different between us Lord. You invite me to carry my cross and follow you you don't force me. And then you give me the strength to do it.
For all this and more I thank you so much. So I pray once more "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.

Station 7 - Jesus take up His Cross

Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). (John 19:16b-17 NLT)
Now this long sad journey grows even harder as they lay that heavy cross on you and make you carry it. Some have said what they made you do was like Isaac in the older Testament carrying the wood for what was intended as his own funeral pyre. But as we shall soon see - it was too much for you to bear. Even so you took it. You began to carry it. Not just the weight of the cross itself but also the weight of the sins of the whole world - including mine. Please carry me and my sin. There truly is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. I love You because you first loved me. So I reiterate this timeless prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.

Station 6 - Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. (Mark 15:16-19 NLT)
I've always felt so terrible about the mental torture inflicted on you Jesus. How those cruel soldiers mocked your kingship, with a scalp-piercing crown of thorns and a robe thrown over blood-soaked back. Indignity upon indignity and you in your love allowed it to happen. Not because you could not have stopped it - but because you chose not to. "Amazing love - how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me" - And Can it Be. So Lord Jesus I remember your physical pain and your mental torture as the painful result of my selfish sinful ways. Every time I willfully transgressed your moral law it was as if I added one more lash. With my name on it. Forgive me Lord as I join this timeless prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.

Station 5 - Jesus Condemned by Pilate

Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. ...But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. (Luke 23:13-15, 23-24 NLT)
Pilate really blew it. He had a chance to do the right thing with you Jesus but he didn't. Pilate had a strong sense that you were innocent since he not only knew the law but his wife had told him about her dreadful dream. Still he caved. Pilate chose to placate the crowd who kept insisting on your guilt, rather than doing what he knew to be right. As we would say nowadays "Pilate had the gun." He was the only one with enough authority to sentence you to death, or to spare you, no matter how loudly the crowd yelled. Pilate alone made the decision to hand you over to be crucified. No wonder he is the only person other than God and your mother Mary mentioned by name in the Apostles Creed:"Suffered under Pontius Pilate..." So Lord help me to obey my own conscience and inner moral compass no matter what the voices around me a screaming. And when I don't - forgive me Lord. Forgive me. Once more I join in this prayer "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." Amen.

Station 4 - Peter Denies Jesus

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75 NLT)
Lord Jesus, your word tells us that you predicted Peter's denial: he would deny you three times over. But of course Peter was sure you had overestimated his disloyalty. Now we know that it was he who had overestimated his courage and allegiance. So it all happened just like you said it would. Peter was tested three times and Peter failed three times. And then that rooster crowed. Peter's bravado was dashed and shame and sorrow gripped his heart. Finally he saw the truth about himself. He was not as noble and strong has he had thought. He needed you more than he realized. Which of course is the truth about us - about me too. So Lord whenever I get a bit too full of myself - when I think of myself more highly than I ought to think - bring me back to reality. There is a lot of Peter in me. I'm overconfident in my own goodness and under-confident (if there is such a word) in yours. Help me to be faithful when tested and humble always. So I join to pray "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In Your strong Name I pray. Amen

Station 3 - Condemned by the Sanhedrin

STATION 3 - Jesus Condemned by Sanhedrin
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” (Matthew 26:62-66 NLT)
Jesus - why do the religious leaders hate you so much? What did you do to offend them so deeply? The high priest tears his garments,because he cannot believe that this man standing before him is God-in-the-flesh. You try to reveal yourself but your accusers simply cannot - will not see. Lord Jesus, grant me the vision to see you for who you really are, in all your glory. Whatever preconceptions or limitations I have placed on you I lay at your feet. I too am somewhat 'religious' and I am sometimes tempted to make loving you into a duty. Forgive me. Help me never to miss your glory. So we pray with those who have made the Stations across the centuries and around the world: "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In Your strong Name I pray. Amen

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Station Two - The Betrayal

Station Two - Betrayal

Jesus, we remember the moment. That heartbreaking moment of betrayal when as you and the sleepy disciples turned to leave the garden, one more arrived leading an angry crowd. Your friend Judas kissed you - not to greet you with love, but to betray you. And we, who are often so quick to greet you with kindly words of affection in our prayers and worship, see something of ourselves. Our lips have both blessed your name and betrayed your love. We say we love you and we do. But Jesus, please help us to love you with all of our hearts - all the time. Forgive us for the times we have pledged our love for you, but didn't live it. Set us - set me free to be wholly devoted to you, even when I not exactly sure what you are up to. I will trust and follow you anyway. By your grace I will. So we pray with those who have made the Stations across the centuries and around the world: "We adore you Lord Jesus and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world." In Your strong Name I pray. Amen.

Station Two - Judas Betrays Jesus

Judas Betrays Jesus
And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:43-46 NLT) While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (Luke 22:47-48 NIV)
Devotional: In the ancient Middle East a man kissed his close friends as a sign of love and loyalty. Followers also kissed their master as a sign of respect. But still - wasn't this an especially mean-spirited act of betrayal? Judas - one of the Twelve who has just shared the Last Supper with Jesus - decides to use a kiss to signal the soldiers as to which one they should arrest. Much speculation has occurred across the centuries about the motivations behind this puzzling act. Was Judas really signaling to Jesus that despite his treachery he still really loved him? Or was his motive darker? Of course from where we sit it is very easy to condemn Judas completely. This action alone explains why Judas remains one of the most despised men in human history. But if we fixate solely on Judas' wrongdoing we'll miss what his actions might say about us. Have we ever betrayed Jesus, not in the obvious and literal way of Judas, but in our hearts and by our actions? Have we ever confessed Jesus as Lord, only to let someone or something else take his rightful place on the throne of our hearts? I hesitate to even mention the fact that sometimes I have worshiped Jesus with my own lips with words, songs, and prayers, only to reject him with my actions. Sadly there has been more than a little Judas in me. And for that I need forgiveness and grace. Don't you?

Station One - Praying in Gethsemane

Jesus, we watch as you pray in the garden in darkness. We listen in wonder as you agonize over what is about to happen. You pray with sweat like blood drops while your closest friends sleep. So Lord, as we begin this journey with you help us to follow closely. Awaken us from our sleepy ways. Strengthen us in our own hour of trouble. With those who have observed this pathway for centuries we pray: We adore you, Lord Jesus, and we bless you, for by your very cross you have redeemed the world. We believe this, Lord. Amen.

Station One - Jesus in Gethsemane

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Luke 22:39-46
Devotional: Jesus agonized in prayer in the garden that evening. He did not quickly embrace the cross though he did eventually. Most of my Sunday School notions of Jesus were very different than this. I always put the emphasis on the God-part of Jesus. I wasn't comfortable with the Man-part. After all wouldn't that fact that Jesus was God sort of cancel out and override the fact that he was human? Apparently not. Three of the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all emphasize how much Jesus agonized in the Garden. The one physician among them, Luke, even tells us that Jesus prayed so intensely that his sweat became like drops of blood. So no matter how you look at it - the fact was that Jesus struggled in the Garden. I'm not sure how you feel about that. For me - it broadens and deepens my understanding of the verse in Hebrews that tells us that Jesus “in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So we have a Savior who really understands us when we are tested and feel weak and afraid. It may be hard to get our heads around it - but the truth is that Jesus understand my struggles because he had at least one of his own.

Stations of the Cross - Intro

Stations of the Cross Introduction
Visit almost any Catholic church and you will find them somewhere. Typically around the perimeter of the main sanctuary. Fourteen plaques, small statues or paintings depicting the final hours of the life of Christ, known as “The Stations of the Cross.” To the uninitiated they just seem like random religious decorations, however to those who have experienced the power of walking through them in order (often called “making the Stations”) they can be a dynamic spiritual tool to deepen our appreciation of the sufferings of Christ. As a Protestant novice my first encounter with the Stations left me somewhat conflicted. I sensed the impact of walking systematically through the events of the final hours of Christ’s life on earth. But I was put off by the fact that several of the Stations were focused on non-biblical aspects of the story. I had never heard of Veronica (Station 6) and the legend of her wiping the face of Jesus. Nor did I ever read in the Bible that Jesus fell three times under the weight of the cross. I felt that something more true to scripture would have served me much better. So I was delighted to learn that someone else wanted to create Stations that were more Biblically based on the events of the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth. Back in 1991 Pope John Paul II instituted a new series of fourteen Stations of Cross, each of which was based on Scripture alone. This is the pattern I enjoy following most often.
Since few churches use the New Stations I have begun making the Stations by reading about the significant moments of Christ’s last few days and then praying about them. I can do this anywhere. So for the next two weeks or so I am going to post my way through the New Stations of the Cross. You are welcome to join me on this walk toward Calvary.