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Monday, March 21, 2016

In My Place

 It is the season of remembrance. The time when all Christians recall the miraculous triumph of the Lord Himself over sin forever. And yet, year to year, I find that this season holds a deeper meaning as the truth of these events in history become more important to me. And I care to a greater extent. I feel the story of Christ and his suffering in ways not experienced in times prior. And here, in 2016, I discover I am placing myself in the story a bit more. Through my imagination, as I read of the things leading up to my Savior's death on the cross, I can put myself in the moments ...

 I am one of the disciples - as the Lord leads us in the last supper, my mind is confused and bewildered by the things of which He speaks. I do not understand why one of our own would betray Him tonight. God forbid! We've all spent the last three years of our lives traveling with Jesus and beholding His many miracles. We've heard His teaching. We believe Him to be the Messiah. But why would the Messiah come to earth to die when we've all supposed Him to be the conquering King that would overthrow Rome?! With my head still spinning, I later follow the Master to Gethsemane. I am among those who cannot watch and pray with Him. I see His agony yet am puzzled. Why such anguish?! If anything, my flesh tells me I am tired and I fall asleep...abandoning my Lord in His greatest hour of need. Still later, as an angry mob comes and arrests my rabbi, Jesus, I am left in shock. Why would He have the story end this way?! Could I have done something to stop them from taking Him like that?! The thought nags me...why is He going so willingly, too?!
 I am one of the angry mob - now that I think about it, I am one of the ones more concerned for my own status and power than for the good of Christ Himself. I am more about advancing my own causes and keeping my place of influence that rescuing my own soul. And so I lead Him to be tried for crimes He did not commit. I accuse Him of things He did not do. And yet, in spite of me and my lies, He utters not a word.
 I am one of the crowd - shouting that the robber Barabas deserves a release more than the Son of God, I hear my mocking voice calling out among the scoffers. I should be ashamed but instead I feel as though God has let me down. Days earlier, I had joined the throngs in shouting, "Hosanna!" and thinking that the liberating King who would free us from the Romans had come. Now, He is destined for death and claims that His kingdom is not an earthly one. Feeling let down, I continue to shout the chant, "Crucify Him!" 
I follow the bleeding Christ as he makes his way to Calvary. With a crown of thorns piercing His brow, and the blood-stripes running red down his back, He stumbles under the weight of the cross. He is doomed to die. And my sins put Him there. But I do not accept that truth. As the Romans nail Him to the cross and raise Him high, I stare and wonder:
 The disciple in me feels mournful as my rabbi will no longer be around. I know it is humanly impossible for Him to rise from the dead, even though He said that was His end. I am sad. I feel lost. I am undone.  
 The angry mobster in me feels satisfied that this religious nutcase is finally out of my hair and I can go back to my life before He disturbed it. I can have the peace of mind I've been seeking...without Him. 
 The shouting crowd member in me now wonders if I was right to call for His death. As I hear Him speaking love to His enemies from the cross, I am confused. Perhaps this man was someone special and I missed the meaning of His life. Just maybe this man truly was the Son of God and I somehow put Him on that cross. 

...And so here I find myself. With the perspective of time, I can see that I have no right to judge those who put my Lord to death - because my sins did the same. It was my shame that held Him on the cross and that I would've been among those who called for His crucifixion had I been there. By I also see that His dying breath has brought me life. Life that I did not deserve. He willingly went to the cross to seal my pardon and give me hope. When He cried, "It is finished," my second chance at redemption was born. My first parents, Adam and Eve, doomed the entire human race - including myself - to destruction. But here, on the cross, Jesus reversed the story and made a way out. Over 2,000 years later, I plead with God to forgive me for putting Him into that misery. But I also thank Him for accepting the penalty that I so deserved and mercifully giving me life everlasting. 
This is the definition of true sacrifice: a sinless man, the Son of a holy God, willingly going to His death for the crimes of mankind in order to purchase their redemption. Truly, what wondrous love is this, O my soul!