Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Liturgy: Experience Christ ( Stations of the Cross I and II)

Lent is a season to reflect on Jesus and to remember His trail to the cross. I feel like I have neglected this season; my inbox is filled with articles and posts about Lent and Easter, but I feel indifferent this year. I feel like something is missing.

I grew up in a tradition that celebrated the liturgy of the church; it’s a part of my spiritual DNA. The church that I attend now does not follow the ecclesiastical liturgy of my past. Of course we celebrate Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter. I love my church, but I long for liturgy, not as a religious ritual, but as a nudging to worship. I don’t want to view the life of Jesus as a monument of the past, but rather as a worshipful invitation to experience His fullness in my life now. I desire to see the richness of Christ in the mundane of my life and in the miraculous.

Now as we enter Holy Week, I am more purposeful to focus on Him and to deepen my fellowship with Him. If it were not for the grace of God, I don’t believe I would be inhaling or exhaling in this life; I am not sure I would be alive. But for His grace.

Because I feel a little distracted this week, a little indifferent, I searched for something to inspire me to really focus my attention on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners in need of a Savior and it is good for us to reflect on what Jesus suffered in order to free us from the bondage of sin. I wrote this little devotional about ten years ago; I have revised it a few times, but it has sat idle for many years. I decided to dust it off this week and to share it with you, and hope it moves your heart to a place of worship. It is a journey through A Protestant’s View of the Stations of the Cross © 2006.  Though I am not Catholic, I believe they are a beautiful and thought provoking way of worshipping Jesus, and a way to remember what He suffered on our behalf.

In order to get through them all this Holy Week, I will include two-three stations in one post, and one on Easter Sunday; I pray you enjoy them.

Christ Jesus was the perfect sin offering

Christ is beautifully prophesied in the Old Testament; the Old Testament describes the story that Jesus completes in the New Testament.  We would not have the New Testament without the Old.

“This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before the Lord. It is most holy” {Leviticus 6:25 NASB}.

Leviticus chapter four, details the requirements for the sin offering, it is a holy offering.

Station # 1: Christ condemned to death.

Christ condemned to die is the first station. It is important for us to see why Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.

The sacrifice for the sin offering offered at the Tabernacle had to be a male, firstborn, without spot or blemish. The sacrifice was required to be inspected by the priests to assure the sacrifice satisfied God’s requirements. In the New Testament, Jesus fulfilled this requirement; He was inspected seven times and found to be without fault.

1. Pilate; John 19:4; Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him” {NASB}.

2. Herod: Luke 23: 14-15; and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him {NASB}.

3. The High Priest; John 18 says after Annas sent Jesus to Caiphas; he could find no fault with Jesus.

4. Caiphas: Could not get the witnesses to agree on any wrong doing by Jesus.

5. Judas: Matt 27:4; I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood.

6. The Centurion: Matt 27: 54; Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” {NASB}.

7. The thief on the cross; Luke 23:40-41; But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” {NASB}.

Seven times Jesus was examined, judged, and found to be without sin. God is a detail-oriented God. Everything in the law in Israel was observed, in Christ, they are fulfilled, in the church (believers) they are applied. Christ fulfilled every Old Testament Scripture concerning Him.

I want to make note that I believe the first station should have been the Garden of Gethsemane. This is where Jesus had a spiritual battle with the devil, and through His struggle remained obedient to God, and submitted Himself to the will of the Father. He agonized as He pondered what was to come and prayed for the cup to pass. Through His love for us, He remained obedient; He saw beyond the cross to those that He loved and desired to redeem. He chose to obey the will of the Father and to endure His impending suffering. Once Jesus chose the way of obedience, the Lord sent an angel to minister to Him.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Jesus received His strength from the Lord. When the Lord sent the angel unto Him, the Father strengthened Him and enabled Him to remain obedient until death {Luke 22: 41-43 NASB}.

In station one, there is a beautiful prayer to Jesus our Redeemer, other prayers are there as well, however, Jesus is our only mediator and the only one in which we need to pray. Mary was a blessed woman who deserves to be highly honored. The Lord saw something spectacular in her to allow her the honor of giving birth to Jesus. However, she was a sinner in need of a Savior, just as we are. The only way to the Father is to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for our sin; to attempt any other passageway is to negate the cross. In the Tabernacle there was only one door; 

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me {John 14:6 NASB}.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth {John 1: 1-5, 14 NASB}.

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement  {1 John 5:5-8 NASB}.

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament. They which are called might receive the promises of eternal inheritance {Hebrews 9: 15 NASB}.

The book of Hebrews is a wondrous book for studying the work and person of Jesus Christ. Throughout this poetic book, is instruction concerning Jesus. He is better than Moses, Aaron, the Tabernacle, and is forever ordained after the order of Melchizedec (King James Spelling). Jesus is above Moses and Aaron therefore He is above everyone.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being the perfect sacrifice for sin. Thank you for loving the world so much that you died to redeem it. Father I thank you for the many that you used to bring forth the birth of your Son. I honor them today for obedience to you. I acknowledge Jesus Christ as my only mediator and propitiation for my sin and I give you all the glory, honor and praise. Amen!

Station # 2: Jesus carries His Cross:

In the Movie The Passion, Jesus takes a fall carrying the heavy burden of the cross; He is able, through the pain of the soldier’s beatings, and the mocking of the crowd to struggle to his feet. Jesus does something remarkable. The cross which He knows will be so painful, He will hang on for the sins of those mocking and beating him. He takes that cross in His hands, and draws it to His face, and places on it the very thing that betrayed our precious Lord; a kiss.

Though Mel Gibson may have indulged in creative license here, I believe it illustrates beautifully Christ’s heart and attitude as He took upon Him all of our sin. I believe Jesus was full with love for people, and though it was a painful journey, He was driven by the will of God and His love for humanity. Many times, we as mere earthen vessels, base our attitudes of servanthood on whether we feel good or whether people are treating us well. But here is Jesus, embracing His cross in the face of hatred, ridicule, and mockery. I know that as sinful creatures we would not be able to stand up under this torment. God’s grace would have to intervene.

This is a beautiful picture; one that should encourage each of us to reflect on the events of that first Good Friday. It is important for us to remember that as He was carrying His cross, Jesus endured a brutal, torturous beating; He was not recognizable.

Though Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, was hailed as too graphic and violent, it didn’t portray the depth of His torture:

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 NASB}.

Jesus is beaten so badly that He cannot be recognized as a man. Can you imagine the grotesque figure that walked the streets of Jerusalem that day? 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}.

Jesus’ scourging was a pivotal part of the work of the cross. We read in Isaiah:

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed {Isaiah 53: 3-5 NASB}.

The scourging Christ endured prior to the crucifixion, provided our healing and deliverance. The whipping post must not be forgotten; it is vital to our redemption. Though this was the form of punishment for many criminals, He suffered a beating far more brutal than any criminal before or after Him. Why? Why did he suffer more than any other? Why was He marred to the point He could not be recognized? Sin is ugly. He took on Himself the physical manifestation of sin; it is cancer to the soul of man. Before we were saved, sin controlled us. His scourging paints a sobering picture of the effects sin has on the inside of man before Christ died. He bore that suffering as a part of the cross. But our sin was crucified with Him and buried forever! Amen! Let us not forget what He endured on our behalf.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come {1 Corinthians 11:26 NASB}.

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