When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Lord, help me to remember that you are a God of triumph on Friday.
“Augustine started from God’s grace and got it right, Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong. Augustine passionately pursued God; Pelagius methodically worked to please God.” ~ Philip Yancey
My first thought was that I really wanted to know what it was like for Jesus to suffer and die. Upon further contemplation my desire was to be there with Him as was Mary Magdalene and the Christ lovers were. Just to be able to experience in the flesh the feelings and sounds of His passion would give me a far deeper understanding of Him. I just want to know His suffering. My first prayer is that God would grant me my desire.
— Julian of Norwich
We spend most of our lives trying to avoid suffering but Julian was godly young woman who prays for great suffering to come upon her. That is quite fascinating, and tells us a lot about her devotion to Jesus as Savior. We all want a Savior, a liberator, a rescuer, but very few want to experience the pain involved with being such a person. Julian was different, she sought it, she welcomed it, because she knew that it was the only way anyone sees God fully.
We all want to achieve great things, learn new skills but the commitment of time and effort and the sacrifice to do so turns us away. The boy who wants to play pro football doesn’t want the concussions and bad knees that plague players for the rest of their lives. In order to experience the fullness of God, we must travel down the road of suffering. Jesus said: “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” To know God fully we must somehow embody His passion. People go to extremes to know the passion of Christ, some are even nailed to a cross, because it is so important to feel as He felt. In doing so, we see our true worth in His eyes.
Julian gives us a model, a very hard-hitting model, from which to fashion ourselves. She invites this suffering, indeed prays for it, because it will bring her closer to God. I am not saying that we should intentionally hurt ourselves, but I am saying that we should find a way for our hurts to be part of our spiritual journey and not the events that drive us away from God. Our hurts should teach us that we are created in God’s image and are experiencing the very same things He experience on His earthly journey. Suffering, passion and pain are windows to God. We are allowed to see Him fully as we feel that sense of helplessness that comes with such experiences. Like Julian, I feel it is very important to know and feel His pain. The passion is the only way we can know Him fully.
Lord grant that as I suffer, and I will suffer from time to time, that I can use the suffering as a way of drawing closer to you. I pray that I can get a glimpse of what you endure don the cross and carry it with me every day. Help me to take seriously your command to take up my cross and follow you. Help me to find the cross and walk as you walked.
“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”
—-John of the Cross
The medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.
I am a nameless criminal. Greed controlled my life and evil claimed my soul. My crimes were eventually detected, and I was arrested by the Romans. My fate was sealed and my crucifixion date was set.
On that horrible day, just before Passover, three of us were taken to the place of crucifixion. As we hung suspended in torment on those crude Roman crosses, I became aware of the man next to me on the middle cross. While the life faded from our battered bodies, the third man cursed God and swore bitterly. But through my agony, I listened to the words of the man on that middle cross. He prayed as his mother and friends mourned for him. It occurred to me that my parents had long since cried their last tears of grief and shame for me. I was alone. But the man in the middle spoke words of comfort to his mother, words of forgiveness to his executioners, and words of oneness with God. And suddenly I knew. My childhood teachings became clear. This was the Messiah! This man was the Lamb of God!
I rebuked the third man to try and silence his foul mouth and tried to tell him who was dying between us. In tortuous pain, as my life drained from my body, I managed to turn my head toward the Messiah and ask Him to take me to heaven.
In that one miracle moment, I was changed from a man judged by man and condemned to die to a man judged by God Almighty and pardoned to eternal life. I was changed form a filthy, bloody, broken criminal to a clean, whole ransomed soul. I was changed from a man all alone with no one to hear my cry, to a man with the Savior as my advocate and friend. My heart of fear changed to a heart of peace. My guilt became innocence. One moment I was a prisoner, the next I was free. I was cursed, then I was blessed. My hopelessness was gone and was replaced by the hope of glory.
Much more than my body was crucified that day in Calvary. My sin was. I was crucified with Christ and received everlasting life. Your sin was crucified that day – the day Christ died. That day, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, he died for all of us. That day we were all forgiven.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives with me.” Galatians 2:20
- Passover and Good Friday (renewamerica.com)
- At Calvary ~ Golden Oldie Hymn (heavenlyraindrops.wordpress.com)