When I was younger, I must admit that I found some depictions of the crucifixion to be what I would have then described as “over the top”. As some cultures are more apt to utilize more graphic renderings of Jesus on the cross, I guess my own culture had settled into a more sanitized version of the event. I think I found the more gruesome paintings or statuary to be something I was beyond. After all, I knew that Jesus death on the cross was probably a horrendous sight to behold, I just didn’t think I needed to be so explicitly reminded of it. I was capable of understanding without having to look at it straight on. Or was I? Might there be some other reason why I may have shied away from more regularly reflecting upon the hard truth of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?
As the media of the day has shown us, violence paints an ugly picture which too many people the world over must confront on a regular basis. But to know that I am the cause of that violence, now that is a picture almost too painful to see. And isn’t that what’s at the heart of my earlier reluctance to look upon the truth of Jesus suffering and death? It is my sins that put him there. It is my arrogance that wants to shield my eyes from the truth of what I have caused. More poignantly, his love for me is so great, that he is willing to endure those beatings, those thorns, that agony, all for me. It is even difficult to say these things speaking in the first person since we all know that it is our sins, and he endured the pain for all of us. But it does me well to say it was me. It is important to hear that he did it for me.
This Palm Sunday, while we read the passion and position ourselves for the awesome events of Holy Week, the Sunday celebration is just that. It is a remembrance of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem – to serve his disciples by washing their feet, to share with them his body and blood, to pray with them one last time in the garden, and then to willingly allow himself to be led away, unjustly accused, mocked, stripped, humiliated, scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying the cross to the hill where they finally nail him to it, and he faces death alone. He does all of this freely, and we call it the glory of the cross. We hail him as king, knowing what he is about to do. That is a picture worth looking at over and over again.
Jesus’ glory is our glory. Just as I don’t want to look at his cross, I too often don’t want to look at my own. I fail to fully appreciate the glory that is waiting in the daily hardships of my life, that if I knowingly and freely embrace them as he did, there too I can find glory. Glory is not in the suffering, rather, it is in the knowledge of what comes on the other side of it. It is a testament to the faith that we have in the Father’s love for us that he will call us from the tombs of our weaknesses, he will call us through our crosses into the light of his glory now and in the life to come.
So this week, this Holy Week, take a good hard look at the cross of Christ, and then don’t be afraid to look at your own. He did it to free us from the ultimate bondage to death, and shows us that there can be a glorious resurrection in store for us as well.
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