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It has been one month since Lent began. Lent is such a special time - a time to really place our focus as Christians on the cross, on God and what Christ did for us. It's not a time to just give something up for the sake of it, but to fast so that we may be more prayerful and set our hearts on the amazing love God showed us by sending his son to die.
It is my worry that since we are 2000 years removed from Jesus' life and death we view it in more of a nice story without any real emotional connection to it at all. We believed he suffered died and was buried, but I know I have trouble grasping that Jesus understands what I go through because though the cross has been used to remind us of what he did for us - we have a tendency to forget because crucifixions don't happen now. We don't have any type of physical memory that we can tie it to other than what is told to us about Jesus really suffering for us - which at least in my case growing up was glorified, polished into this nonviolent story.
"Next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the Garden. The next time you think that no one understands or cares, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark and pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees."
-Max Lucado, On Calvary's Hill
Despite our forgetfulness this is more than a story. Jesus' dying for us was brutal, horrifying, bloody, mortifying, embarrassing, and painful beyond our wildest comprehension.
And it really did happen.
I think we did a disservice when crosses and crucifixes of a cleanly dying Jesus started to be manufactured. Overtime the image of a clean Jesus beautifully hung on the cross, or no Jesus at all just the cross, is what people started to think about when taught of the crucifixion with no real understanding of the real details of how a crucifixion was the most gruesome, humiliating, painful and inhumane ways to die of all time.
We will never be able to fully grasp what Jesus suffered, but we should do our best to know exactly what was done to him so we are truly grateful for the GIFT that is God's love for us. And to know the punishment we were saved from.
On Calvary's Hill by Max Lucado is a great start to opening our eyes to the events and details of the last days of Jesus. It is a 40 Day/Chapter Devotional book focused on what truly happened to set our minds on the true gift from God.
On Calvary's Hill goes step by step through what happened in short 2-3 page chapters. It starts with a verse that relates to a small part of Jesus' journey, it expands on it leading us into how we can relate what Jesus went through to our own lives, then finally ending with a prayer.
This is a devotional you can do once a day for the 40 day Lent period and all it takes is 5 minutes of your time per day. This book is another great one from Max Lucado which I personally saw as a great jumping off point into the last days Jesus lived on earth. I yearned for more in depth details, so after a chapter I would open my Bible and spend some quality time with my Savior who suffered worse that I will ever know.
I wish though that this book had some guide to more in-depth reading on each part of the story, maybe listing all of the places in the gospel where I could find the specific scriptures related to it. However, I can see how open this book is to leading to your own personal study of the road to Calvary.
I don't believe this book would have had as much affect on me if I had not already read in detail the physical/medical and horrifying description of Jesus' crucifixion in Lee Strobel's book, A Case for Christ. However, it most certainly is the beginning of an in depth look at that time.
As Christians, we cannot continue walking around unaware of the true nature of Jesus' crucifixion because it wasn't supposed to be Christ up there on that cross, it was supposed to be you and me.
Without the physical and mental image of Good Friday it is easy to forget that Jesus knows our suffering better than all of us. And the moment that we fully understand what was done and how much we are loved is the moment we can stop worrying about this world and start giving ourselves fully to God and Jesus Christ.
When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" which is translated, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?"
Mark 15: 33-34
One of his disciples betrayed him for money, one denied knowing Jesus 3 times, and the others fled scared. I promise you that we all cannot ever say that Jesus didn't know the pain we suffer. He suffered through it all for our sake. Even on the cross God, our powerful and faithful God, turned his back on him. God is ever faithful to us sinners, but he forsakes his own blameless son? Why? In order to save us from that punishment our sins rightfully deserve.
-Max Lucado, On Calvary's Hill
We finally know the cost of our souls - it's more than just a symbol, more than just a story, more than just a cross. It really was done, for you and for me because Jesus, our perfect savior, loves you and me more than saving himself from that cross.
Go grab Max Lucado's book On Calvary's Hill and truly meditate on the amazing, unbelievable gift that God and Jesus gave us. I promise you, your heart will be changed come Easter.
"Not that he refused to defend himself when blamed for every sin of every slut and sailor since Adam. Or that he stood silent as a million guilty verdicts echoed in the tribunal of heaven and the giver of light was left in the chill of sinner's night.
Not even that after three days in a dark hole he stepped into Easter sunrise with a smile and a swagger and a question for lowly lucifer - "Is that your best punch?"
That was cool, incredibly cool. But the coolest thing about the One who gave up the crown of heaven for a crown of thorns: He did it for you. Just for you."
-Max Lucado, On Calvary's Hil