Gaze on the Cross

This week is what many people have throughout the years called “Holy Week.” It isn’t that the other weeks of the year for the child of God are not “holy,” it is an emphasis on the greatness of the perfect work of our Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
When many people think of Christ’ suffering, they usually are thinking of the physical suffering. Certainly the suffering of Christ physically was unlike anything we could ever imagine. Yet, I think there was another suffering that Christ took upon Himself that to me, was just as crushing. He was mocked, made fun of, and laughed at to the point that our Savior, our King was made a joke.
Our Lord had already endured unbelievable scourging. Following the scourging but before the crucifixion, the scene was one of public humility. Jesus was taken to the common hall, and the whole band of soldiers was gathered around Him. This “whole band” numbered to about 600 soldiers. These soldiers were not Jews, for Jews would not serve under Roman leadership, but were most likely Syrians. They were under the leadership of Pilate. The soldiers probably new really very little about Christ and He probably looked pathetic as His swollen body shivered in it’s nakedness. They knew He claimed to be a king, but they saw Him as a fake, and a fraud, and most likely thought that He was mentally deranged and deserved mocking. He was a clown to them, a buffoon, a complete idiot.
There was physical mocking – a crown of thorns they put upon His head. They spat upon Him and took the reed in His hand and hit him over the head in a nagging, irritating manner. It was a crown–a symbol of regal nobility was replaced with tortuous ignobility and pain. Unbearable by anyone’s standard.
There was mental mocking – They belittled Him. The mental anguish was real for our Lord for I believe He struggled with the reality that these men really did not know what they were doing. Yet, it was embarrassing to be there naked, receiving the mock symbols of a kingdom and under such public mocking.
There was spiritual mocking – He really was “king of the Jews!” Only, not as they thought. If it is true that He was in all points tempted as we are, then, there had to be a spiritual battle within that dealt with truth. It must have been a fierce battle, and yet, “He opened not His mouth.
I know that I am not brave enough to physically die the death of the cross–that is unimaginable. But as bad as that is, I am one who can’t handle mocking. It is deeply crushing and our Lord was deeply crushed and did not open His mouth. He took it all for me.
Amazing love! How can it be?

Sins and Weights

The writer of Hebrews gives us instruction in chapter twelve, verse one: “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely…”. I am in the middle of being reminded just exactly what he is talking about. I continue a life-long battle with my own physical weight. I don’t think I am alone in this battle but I pretty much have to fight this battle all alone–except for God’s divine enablement to make good healthy decisions about the kind of food and just how much is enough to eat. The obvious problem is I love to eat. I especially love to eat certain things–just about all of which do not help me in my battle. It’s weird, but I think you all know exactly what I mean. Yes, I am on a diet.

For several years I thought I just couldn’t get back down to where I needed to be and I used age as my excuse. I would continue to run and because I had an extra 10-15 pounds on me, my joints began to hurt; my blood pressure kept going up and I was constantly barely eking out three miles–then two and a half…and then I just stopped.

I have now lost 23 pounds and have one more to go. I went out last week to run 5K and honestly, I thought I was flying the entire way. It was the first time in a long time since I ran and the first time since I had lost most of the weight. This verse came flooding back to my thinking. This is exactly the way sin and “weights” are.
Weights in this context are not necessarily wicked, evil, and sinful things. When you continue reading the chapter there is much talk about the need to discipline our thinking–ultimately our thinking about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. When we consider Him we begin to shed those weights and sin and we are able to run with endurance. So much of the excess weights we carry around is due to our unbelief. Our unbelief simply plays out in our pride that life is ultimately about us–our happiness, our definitions of God, our likes or our dislikes.

The writer of Hebrews has just taken us through a whole list of people who simply trusted God (see chapter 11). Their stories are varied but had one thing in common. They believed God. These weren’t super-human people but trusting people who threw off doubts of the “Godness” of God and faced fallen humanity and the fallen world around them with faith–life transforming trust in God. Doubt and unbelief always come with baggage. If Christ isn’t enough, if Christ alone is insufficient, if Christ doesn’t satisfy then something else has to. So we begin to put on weight of self-righteous acts, seemingly innocuous manipulations of life, and empty self-satisfaction. Before long we are forced to wear some bulky fig leaves of covering so no one will suspect the little extra weight we are carrying. Spiritually, we are always weary, always a bit under the weather, and fatigued in the run. Our spiritual “joints” ache. We find ourselves not getting along with others; we make excuses; and we gorge ourselves in self-pity.

Trust God about your righteousness.  Christ’s one-time death, burial, and resurrection took care of everything. We get to live out His righteousness–so trust Him! (2 Cor 5:21)

Trust God for your joy.  Stop trying to manipulate life, people, work, feelings, emotions, spouse, friends, and church (even the Word) in hopes that you will find just the right combination that will bring you joy.  Joy is always a result of trust. (1 Pet 1:8)

Trust God for your satisfaction. Discontentment, ingratitude, frustrations, fears, are all fruits of dissatisfaction in Christ alone. That I-want-more-feeling-in-the-gut comes straight from the lie that God hasn’t given to us what we need. Trust God! (Rom 8:32)

Trust God for your completeness. Insecurities (and we all have them), anger, resentment, self-comparisons all come from the lie that God hasn’t done everything quite right and so we are not as we should be. Trust the Creator. (Col 2:6-10)

Don’t fear the mirror! See what you need to see and run to the ever flowing grace of God for transformation! Every day we are changed from glory to glory (2Cor 3:18)!