Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross V and VI)

Station # 5: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
It has been a long journey, a tiresome, dusty excursion to bring a sacrifice for the Passover. As they travel, he teaches his children about the importance of the sacrifice for Passover. He is not aware the event that awaits him in Jerusalem. of the event that awaits him in Jerusalem. As Simon and his family enter the city, the noise and commotion of a criminal about to be crucified commands everyone’s attention. The criminal—Jesus has fallen; struggling beneath the cross. Before Simon realizes what is happening, a Roman soldier commands him to help a criminal carry the heavy burden that has sapped all his strength; his body has given into exhaustion. Simon did not want to carry the cross of a condemned man, a criminal; He who hangs on a tree is cursed. 

His corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance {Deut. 21:23 }.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” {Gal. 3:13}.

Simon’s pilgrimage is interrupted. He came to worship God and bring a sacrifice to atone for his sin, but that is the old way of worship according to the Law. God stops Simon in the midst of his “worship” to show him a new and better way. Jesus is now the Passover Lamb, slain before the foundation of world; the only sacrifice needed for sin.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it {Matthew 16: 24 NASB}.

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death {Philippians 3:10 NASB}.

Jesus and Simon bonded and grew close during that grueling journey to Golgotha.  Simon had but a taste of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings {Hebrews 2: 10 NASB}.

Jesus had to suffer for our salvation and He was obedient even to death; the King of Glory by whom and for whom all things were made, suffered for us. Simon’s experience illustrates for the believer what it means to partake of Christ’s suffering.

But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you {1 Peter 4: 13-14 NASB}.

Scripture admonishes believers to rejoice in suffering.  The very thing Simon thought was going to be a reproach on his life, carrying the cross of a criminal, became the very glory of God on his life; Simon knew this by the end of his journey with the Lord. 

This scene also illustrates for believers a picture of ministering to the Lord. We are to take up our cross every day and follow Christ; setting aside our own desires to fulfill the Lord’s will. As we submit ourselves to His dreams, His dreams become our dreams; it is a joy not a burden.

Have you picked up your cross today? Have you totally surrendered to His Lordship?  He wants us to be in relationship with Him. That is why He died, to reconcile us to God so that we can walk with Him and know Him deeper. In the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the priest had to wash in the brazen laver before he could minister to God. The basin was polished brass, a mirror like surface, so the priests were able to see their reflection. 

Lent serves as a time for us to look in the brass mirror, wash in the water of the Word, and set aside anything that would keep us from carrying our cross and walking ahead into the Holy Place to commune with Him.

Just as Simon carried the Cross, pick up your cross and follow Him. 

Station # 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
(Adapted from A Life That Sings: Finding Your Song In The Midst Of Brokenness)

Veronica has intrigued me for some time. Movies and pictures have depicted her; history and tradition have attempted to shape who she was, to no avail. Veronica of course is widely celebrated in the Catholic Church. Catholic traditions vary according to different countries, but most facts concerning her are similar. I love the story of Veronica and what she represents.

Tradition tells us that she wiped the face of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa; in fact, she is the sixth station in the Stations of the Cross.  Veronica offered Jesus a cloth to wipe His face. Tradition holds that when He did, the image of His face miraculously became impressed upon it. History has named the veil, the Sudarium (Latin for sweat-cloth), often called simply "The Veronica" and known in Italian as the Volto Santo or Holy Face. A Biblical account of Veronica does not exist, however, historically she is widely accepted.

Many scholars, some protestant, suggest that she may have been the woman with the issue of blood, whom Jesus healed.  Over many years, many alleged likenesses of our Lord have been presented, but because the one on the cloth was widely received as authentic, it was given the name vera icon, or the true image. This eventually evolved into Veronica and that is how she received her name. Veronica was not her real name, it is more accurately the name of the cloth. She could have been anyone, so it’s not reasonable to discount the story—historically. The story of Veronica claims that she (the woman) took the cloth to Tiberius and he was healed. We do have a biblical example of cloths carrying healing:

“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out” {Acts 19: 10-12 NASB}.

 If cloths that touched Paul could heal the sick, how much more would a cloth that touched Christ. However, it is important to note, if such a cloth exists, there is no power in that cloth, the power came from Jesus Christ, just as in the account with Paul, it was the power of Christ working through points of contact of the faith of the people.  

Who Veronica was we might not know for sure; what she did is of far greater worth.

I can see a picture in my mind of that day; Jesus has been beaten and spit on. He is dripping blood from the wounds of the crown of thorns mercilessly embedded into His brow. The cross He is carrying is heavy and He is tired and weary. He is beaten so horrifically, He is unrecognizable. Though Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, was hailed as too graphic, it did not do justice to how Jesus appeared after the torture He suffered:

Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops; They have laid siege against us; With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek {Micah 5:1 NASB}.

I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting {Isaiah 50:6 NASB}.

Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men {Isaiah 52:14}.

Jesus was beaten so badly that He could not even be recognized as a man. Can you imagine the grotesque figure that walked the streets of Jerusalem that day? This woman knows Him and feels helpless to fight against the injustice served on this Holy Man. He is hurting and tired, and as the Stations of the Cross tradition explains, He falls down, one of many times.

Frantically thoughts start swimming through her mind as to what to do for Him. If this woman was the woman healed from the issue of blood, can you imagine what she is suffering at this moment? Just a short time ago, their roles are switched; she had fallen on the ground, grasping for the hem of His garment. Now He is grasping for His cross so that He would conquer death. She doesn’t have a revelation of this yet, but her heart is broken for Him. As she gazes on His bruised and bleeding face, she removes her veil, walks slowly toward Him—her love for Him drowns out the shouting and the hate, and she offers Him a cloth to wipe the sweat, blood, and the spit of scorn from off His face.

I try to imagine what Jesus must have been going through at this moment. Many of the faces Jesus sees, He looked upon with compassion and love, offering healing and grace, they have now turned against Him, screaming and hurling vileness and hate at Him. Then one woman, longing to give what little she had, back to Him in worship, because of what He delivered her from, came with an offering. One act of kindness in the midst of the chaos, and few friendly faces in sight, the disciples had abandoned Him, and with the exception of a few weeping women, He was alone. If she was not the woman healed from the issue of blood, her one act of kindness toward Jesus is no less powerful.

What does Veronica, a historical figure, represent for us? How does her life sing, when she possibly may not have existed? I believe this story is so beautiful, and her life should be a song for us, and an example of how we can minister to the Lord.

This woman was moved by compassion for Jesus in His suffering. She held no power to stop the events of that day. She did not know it was the will of God, she moved in faith in what she knew. She had to do something—anything to help Jesus. The small act of removing her veil, and wiping the face of Jesus, is a perfect picture, a beautiful example of how we can minister to others in the Lord’s name.

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’ {Matthew 25:35-40 NASB}.

The smallest acts of kindness do not go unnoticed by the Lord. Maybe you feel as though you have nothing to offer anyone, but the smallest act performed in the name of Jesus, ministers to Jesus. We minister to Jesus when we give of ourselves to others. Veronica is a wonderful example of a servant.

I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor. It was an order. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. Mother Teresa

What has Jesus called you to do? Whatever is your hand—give; if it seems too small, it is big to Jesus if it ministers to one of His.

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