“Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and examining of conscience…a time to reflect on God's love and mercy and a time to allow God to help us grow in our relationship with him,” wrote Sharon Espeseth. Read her blog here.
Our bloggers this month reflect on Lent, and the death and resurrection of Christ.
Jesus’ Passion Revealed
Each Lent I read the Gospels and reflect on Jesus’ life and death. This year I wrote several mini-meditations on Jesus’ sacrifice, based on my visit to Israel five years ago.
The Last Supper
“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26
My visit to the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples was the most profound experience of my trip to Israel. As our tour group sang, “Amazing Grace,” I visualized Jesus walking into Jerusalem, passing the Temple that was now quiet from the afternoon sacrifice of Passover lambs. Only He knew that within twenty-four hours He would be The Passover Lamb, sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.
Let us enter into the mystery of His New Covenant. “I’m eager to eat this dinner with you,” He told His disciples.
Jesus knew His hour had come. After He dismissed Judas to betray Him, He and the eleven disciples drank from the cup to commemorate how God delivered His people from Egypt.
Now Jesus added the symbols of a New Covenant—His body broken and His blood poured out for them. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He said.
Let us confess and turn to Jesus as we participate in Holy Communion. Let us be faithful to our calling as believers.
Garden of Gethsemane
“Father…take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
As our tour group walked through Gethsemane, a garden filled with olive trees, I couldn’t help but catch the symbolism of the place. For “Gethsemane” means “olive press”, and here olives underwent great pressure to squeeze out the precious oil.
Come into the Garden. Enter into Jesus’ suffering. “No, Father! Not that!” Jesus cried out, as He faced the sheer terror of the next hours. “Is there another way out? Another way You can accomplish salvation for Your people?”
His body and spirit felt great pressure like that of an olive press, a weight so heavy that He came near death. Finally Jesus surrendered and said, “Not My will, but Yours.”
But the disciples slept, totally oblivious to Jesus’ cries, totally oblivious to the angel who strengthened Him, totally oblivious to what Jesus was going through.
Let us confess our spirit of sleeping when we don’t grasp the price Jesus paid to take our sin and the sins of our loved ones.
Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu
“This very night, before the rooster crows, you will diswn me three times.” Matthew 26:34
|"I know Him not!"|
At Gallicantu, which in Latin means “The rooster crows”, Peter denied knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. And then, as the rooster crowed, Peter caught sight of Jesus, gazing deeply into his eyes.
Come, follow Peter. Tears rolled down Peter’s cheeks. He loved Jesus. Oh, how he loved Him! But now—what had he done? Wave after wave of his failure rushed over him. Earlier tonight he had boasted he would never desert Jesus.
What did his blustering mean now? He stumbled toward a hidden corner of the courtyard. Deep sobs wrenched his body.
Peter didn’t know it at the time, but his bitter tears were his first redemptive steps back to Jesus.
Let us confess: When Jesus looks deep into our hearts, we realize how we have denied Him. But Jesus’ love brings us back to repentance and a right relationship with Him.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull.” John 19:17
We walked the Via Dolorosa, the street which Jesus took on His route to the cross. For us, the atmosphere was festive with shoppers and tourists. Aromas wafted from the food stalls. Middle Eastern music floated through the air. But Jesus’ walk was not festive. He had been condemned in a mock trial, flogged, and sentenced to die by crucifixion.
Come. Walk with Jesus. Shoppers joined the jeering crowds as a criminal stumbled past, carrying his cross. He looked a caricature of a king in His blood- stained robe. A group of women—and the disciple John—followed, all weeping. The criminal stumbled, then fell. The Roman soldiers grabbed a strong African and ordered him to carry the man’s cross.
Consider how Jesus carried our cross for us. Let us thank Him and ask Him to help us understand deeply how He suffered as He took punishment for our sins.
“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” Hebrews 13:25
We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and climbed the steep stairs to the Rock of Calvary which commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion.
A year later I attended the Passion Play in the Badlands of Alberta, a more natural setting of the crosses. There, I meditated on Calvary and Jesus’ anguish and victory on the cross.
At three o’clock, He cried out, “Father, forgive them…” And then, gathering His last strength, He cried out, “It! Is! Finished!”
It was a victory cry.
He died at the exact hour of the afternoon sacrifice. An earthquake shook the land. In the Temple, a great ripping noise changed everything. The curtain was torn from top to bottom, exposing the Most Holy Place.
Let us confess Christ’s finished work of salvation. Let us thank Him that we can now approach our Holy God without a High Priest sacrificing for us. Let us thank Christ that He has become our Great High Priest.
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6
Our last visit to remember Jesus was to The Garden Tomb, near an old limestone quarry that has a rock formation that looks like a skull.
As our tour group entered the Garden, I felt deeply its calmness and serenity. After our communion service, I walked into the tomb and thought of that first resurrection morning when the angel told the women, “He is not here, but He is risen.”
|The Garden Tomb|
Folding the napkin was very symbolic for Jews. When the dinner host got up from the table to attend to a task, he neatly folded the napkin to show the servants that he would be back.
Let us celebrate the Risen Christ. Let us thank God for His triumph in raising Christ from the dead. Let us claim His resurrection power for our daily living. And let us thank Jesus that one day He will come back for us.