Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross III and IV)

Station III: Jesus Falls For The First Time:

The third station memorializes the first fall for Jesus on His long, painful climb to Golgotha; this station is based upon tradition.  The Gospels recite many details concerning the arrest, trial, and death of Jesus, yet these sacred books do not contain an account of Jesus falling. I must contend though, there is no reason to argue that He did not. Jesus carried a heavy burden that day, a heavy cross. In Jesus’ grueling walk, He suffered not only the heavy burden of the old rugged cross etching its image into His shoulder and back; He endured mocking, beating, and whipping. Few could endure that torture without falling once or twice. It is probable that He fell several times; this may explain why the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Him; He most likely needed help to make it the rest of the way. 

Jesus suffered not only physical pain; He suffered emotional pain as well. He spent the night of His arrest agonizing in prayer—so much that the capillaries in His head imploded and oozed from His pores. He agonized knowing a friend would betrayed Him, and the pain and torture He would soon endure. 

Orazio Borgianni

As we reflect on this third station, we should remember the pain and suffering Jesus bore on our behalf and tolerated in obedience to the Father. Many times we suffer hurt and betrayal at the hands of those close to us, and the sting of that pain is paralyzing. Jesus remained obedient regardless of the betrayal and the torture He suffered. He pressed through to the place of the skull in spite of the pain.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a  high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore come and boldly enter the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need {Hebrews 4: 14-16}.

Pain and suffering were all too familiar to Jesus; He was tempted but without sin. Tempted to be bitter, tempted to let the anguish of the betrayal harden His heart and rob Him of His joy; tempted to be fed up with the beatings and the mocking and call down legions of angels to annihilate the people abusing Him. When we have been hurt, we feel tired and worn out from the circumstances and are tempted to give up. Jesus knew that feeling well; He was tempted yet without sin. He was exhausted from the burden of the cross. However, love empowered Him to provide salvation for mankind. He had to be the perfect sacrifice for sin; if He walks away from His purpose—He extinguishes ours. He knows what we are going through and what we are feeling. We may go boldly to God through Jesus Christ and obtain the strength we need to persevere despite the hurt, despite the pain.

The Bible accounts two specific occasions that Jesus sought the strengthening of the Father. The first was in the wilderness after the devil tempted Jesus; an angel ministered and strengthened Him. The second, was in the Garden of Gethsemane; He anguished in prayer to let the cup of crucifixion pass.

Have you had a garden experience? Have you anguished in prayer to God—scared and anxious? Jesus experienced it and we will drink of His cup. However, we can learn from Jesus and remain faithful through our trial. Allow the trials to cause you to seek strengthening from God; He is who Jesus sought, relied on, and trusted. He promises that through Jesus Christ we have access to the throne of grace to obtain all we need. Let us reflect on the faithfulness of Christ through this season and tap into the refreshing well of the Father.

Station IV: Jesus meets His Mother

I love Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Mary in The Passion of the Christ. He painted her as a mother beautifully. I love the relationship Gibson created between the two (more creative license I know!). Gibson demonstrated Jesus’ humanity and love for His mother, that I think we overlook when reading the Gospels. 

Mary was a woman and a mother; just like you and me. What torture she must have endured witnessing her son’s trail to the cross. I don’t know of any mother who can watch her child—no matter how young or old—be whipped, tortured, spit on, mocked and beaten without being heartbroken, and left without breath. I imagine pictures of Jesus as a boy flooding her mind as she watched him suffer:

At times it must have been hard for her to even watch Him as He suffered:
She struggled just like the rest of  us. 

In the Passion, several scenes show Jesus very weak, and then Mary would arrive on the scene, and He was strengthened to go on. I believe Jesus loved His mother.  I believe He respected her. I think when Jesus saw her he did draw strength from her, but only as His mother. She was one of the few friendly faces left in a million faces of a hateful, brutal, and mocking mob. He loved her enough to make sure she was taken care of before He left the earth; leaving her in the care of John the beloved disciple. In the Passion, when she mustered the strength to run to Him to comfort Him when He fell, His words reminded her of His mission—God ordained, from the foundation of the world:

When He returns, He will not be the same—He is not coming back as her son, but her Messiah-King.

Mary was a very godly woman and highly favored of God; the Scripture is clear on her character and virtue. But it is from God that Jesus drew His strength to see Calvary through.  Mary should be honored, but not worshiped. Our worship belongs to God the Father, Jesus Christ His only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit; the Godhead. The Bible does not deify Mary. Mary, as blessed as she is is not to be praised or worshiped. 

This season is a time to reflect on Jesus Christ and Him alone. It is a time to focus on the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us. It is a time to reflect on Christ and His redemptive love. God does not share His glory with anyone.

I Am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another {Isaiah 42: 8}.

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was {John 17: 5}.

When we give glory to Mary or any other saint, this is idol worship. It takes our eyes of Jesus and puts in another.  Make Jesus the center of your focus. No one else deserves your praise. The Bible says that Jesus is our mediator—the only mediator between us and the Father; the only acceptable sacrifice. He alone deserves our praise. Christ paid a costly price to bring you into fellowship with the Father—why would we want anyone else? Jesus is inviting us to fellowship with Him and to experience Him in all His fullness. Accept His invitation and experience His abundant life. He is your Redemption. He is your High Priest. His spilt blood cries out to God continually on your behalf (Heb.12:24). He is your Savior and King. His love for you cannot be measured. This is a liturgy worth practicing. 

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