Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Innocent

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for April 4, 2022. Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47)

By the time the centurion speaks these words, he has experienced the darkness. He has heard Jesus’ conversations with the criminals crucified with him. He listened as Jesus prayed for those who executed him. He witnessed the last breath of Jesus. He would have a lot to share that evening when his wife asked, “So how was your day?”

So who is innocent in our world? Newborn babies. Innocent victims who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. An innocent bystander who got caught in the line of fire. Someone with a solid alibi. That person about whom the jury decides, “We find the defendant not guilty.”

This Roman commander was the first of many to worship God in front of a cross. Crosses of every shape and size grab out attention as soon as we walk into a church. A 42 foot glass cross is in the front of my church sanctuary. I’ve seen some with a crucified Christ, some mysteriously suspended in air, and small crucifixes on a pole or a stand. The cross in the front of the church where I grew up was made up of hundreds of multicolored stones. (I spend many sermons trying them all.) A small crucifix hangs on the wall of our chapel.

No matter the shape or size of the cross before us in worship, you and I profess, “He was innocent.” He was the good teacher. He was the holy one of God. He fulfilled the law. He knew no sin. He was the perfect, unblemished lamb.

But he was pierced for my transgressions. He was crushed for my iniquities. God laid all of my guilt on him.

Without fail, every time I go to a funeral, someone gets up to tell those gathered how good the deceased was. He (or she) would do anything for anyone. He would give you the shirt off his back. The departed was good, kind, generous, faithful, unselfish, and giving. Makes me feel like a slug. I can’t imagine anyone saying any of those things about me.

And I hope you don’t. Instead, talk about the one on the cross. Talk about Jesus who was good, kind, merciful, faithful, unselfish, generous, holy and innocent.

All the praise is yours, Lord.

Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Carrying a cross

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 26, 2022. Photo by Geralt on pixabay.

As they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26)

It sounds like Simon had just gotten back to town when he’s forced to carry Jesus’ cross to the place of crucifixion. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he’s dragged into the passion of our Lord.

I wonder if Simon knew who Jesus was? Did he know what happened in the Jerusalem over the past few days? Would he be proud or ashamed to tell this story in the future? Did anyone know Simon and see him carrying Jesus’ cross? Did he have to explain what he was doing?

I wonder how much the cross weighed? Was it just the cross piece, kind of like carrying a four by four post. That’s got some weight to it. Or was it a whole cross, a couple of pieces of wood to drag the half mile to Golgotha? Was it new, unused wood? Or was it stained with the blood of those who had been crucified on it in the past? Were there already holes where the nails had been driven though hands and feet? I’v got so many questions.

On a few medical mission trips, members of our team got carried away when packing large suitcases filled with medication and hygiene items for the clinics. We often had to help each other drag multiple fifty pound duffles through airports, customs, and security checkpoints. Lifting that load into a car is one thing. Dragging it hundreds of yards is another!

When I read about Simon, I can help but think of Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Here he teaches that discipleship is not about what you’re going to get, but what you’re giving up. Ultimately, it means giving up your life to find it again in Christ. Treasure in heaven is hard to get hold of when your hands are full of the things of this life. Something has to give.

If Jesus came to visit, I’d pick him up at the airport. I would grab his suitcase from the baggage conveyor and pull it out to my car. If we went out to eat, I would pick up the tab.

Carrying his cross might not be so bad. When you think about it, Jesus carries my cross, with all my sin, guilt and shame. In exchange, I get to carry his, a source of grace and forgiveness. His cross is so much lighter!

Lord, I’m ready to let go and hold on. Amen.