Have You Been to the Cross

I saw a Twitter post from Christian author Andy Crouch the other day, “Honestly hadn’t planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.” I couldn’t help but chuckle, even if it hit on a point that is all too true. People often give things up during Lent to help them remember Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice for us. However, with Covid-19 and all the restrictions and cancelations we are living with, many of us have been so distracted by what we’ve had to give up, that we haven’t given as much thought to what Jesus sacrificed for us. Maybe more than ever, we need to hear the message of Good Friday and Easter; to remember God’s love for us and His power, even over the grave. It may sound strange, but my suggestion is this: Let’s all take a trip. No need to violate our current travel restrictions; it’s a trip we can take in our minds…and in our hearts.  

To help us do this, I want to share an experience I had almost 20 years ago when I spent a year living in Israel. It took place on a Sunday evening at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a massive complex of 5 ancient churches in Jerusalem that join together to stretch over the sites where the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus are believed to have happened. I had been to this church several times and it had always been crowded with people. On this particular Sunday evening, however, it was totally quiet and I found myself sitting down only 10 feet from where it is believed Jesus’ cross had been and reflecting on what had happened there so long ago.   This was where Jesus had been nailed to the cross. This was where he had been lifted up and struggled for every breath until he finally died. His blood had once dripped down on that very ground in front of me. I thought about what it must have been like to have been there, watching it all happen, and I found myself horrified as I considered the reality of how Jesus had suffered that day.  

But it wasn’t just the horror of Jesus’ death that struck me. I found myself overwhelmed with His love. As I reflected on His sacrifice, I realized again that Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross…but He did. He did it, because I needed Him to. He had done nothing wrong. I was the one who deserved to die, and yet, He had willingly offered Himself in my place so that I could be forgiven and live. William Barclay caught some of what went through my mind when he wrote, “if the Cross will not waken love and wonder in (people’s) hearts, nothing will.”

The past couple of weeks, I have been struck by the extreme measures our world is taking to minimize suffering and death — and how our Saviour chose the opposite path – willingly enduring the path of suffering and death for me.    

In these days before Good Friday and Easter, I encourage all of us to take that trip.  To visit the cross and ask God to help us understand what Jesus did for us on that first Good Friday. As we do so in the context of challenging days ahead, may God grant us eyes that see and hearts that understand how much He loves us. May we see what that love cost him and the gift we have received because of it. 

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