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Forsaken

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By Katherine Ashdown

The Cry of the Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Psalm 22:1 and Mark 15:34

 

One of the last things Jesus said as he hung upon the cross, were the same exact words found in the first verse of Psalm 22. Did Jesus quote this intentionally or was it just a coincidence? Was it a last attempt at teaching the slow-learning disciples why this was happening or was he trying to provide a theological framework that would tie both the old and the new together for future theological thought? Was He really wanting an answer to His question or was He simply delirious from the pain?

No one knows for absolute certain why He cried that out into the gathering darkness. I’ll attempt to provide some thoughts on it in the devotion to follow, however, for now let me share a frightening experience I had a few days ago.

I was on an early morning flight to Boston when suddenly the plane began to nose dive to the earth. I was sitting by a window and watched as we headed nearly straight down to the ground, and I knew that we only had seconds left. I reached for my phone to call my wife and tell her goodbye only to realize that it was in the overhead bin, and there was no time. I closed my eyes, I tensed for the crash and, realizing that I was about to die alone, I cried out in my despair the thing that was most in my heart.

Luke and John both capture in their gospels the prayer Jesus said for those who drove the nails in his hands and feet, the scripture that he quoted, the caring and provision that he made for his mother, the assurance that he gave the thief on the next cross and the incredible last words of Jesus as he surrendered his spirit. Beautiful, poignant, powerful.  

Mark, on the other hand, recounts for us the agony, suffering, and horror of His last moments of life and His cry into the darkness acknowledging that He had become the forsaken of God.  Terrible, devastating, heart breaking.

What can we say to such love, such valor. That He would face death alone, become our sin, and take onto Himself the judgement of his Father.  All that we might be free.

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Songwriters: Jeremy Riddle / Josh Farro / Phil Wickham

 

By Tom Sanco

Jesus Entrusts Mary and John to Each Other

12-Station
By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27

 

A tender moment from our Savior as He suffers on the cross.

Jesus had endured so much at this point in the story, and His suffering continued as He painfully hung by the nails in His hands and feet. At the foot of His cross were His mother, Mary, and beloved disciple, John, two of the leading people in His life. They hadn’t shied away from other messy and miraculous moments of His time on earth, and they weren’t going to do so now. They were there for Him in His greatest hour of need, offering whatever emotional support they could as He endured His fate.

As the first-born son, Jesus had a duty to ensure His mother was cared for after He was gone. This was the law and societal expectation, and Jesus gladly followed through. John 7:5 tells us that Jesus’ brothers, also born of Mary, did not believe He was the Messiah; so it is not surprising that He wanted Mary to live the rest of her days with believers who would support her livelihood and her duty to spread the Good News about her son and Savior.

Jesus not only gave John to Mary as a provider and protector, but also gave Mary to John. “Here is your mother,” He said. Treat her and respect her as the wise woman she is; learn from her and love her as if she were your own.

Walking side-by-side with Jesus in the intimate way that Mary and John did for so many years set them apart from most other people. And if nothing else, sharing the extraordinarily intense experience of witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion at the foot of the cross created a permanent bond between the two. Jesus knew that they would need each other in this next chapter of life after Him, both practically and emotionally.

First we belong to God, but then we belong to each other.

Community is so important in the Christian life. We need each other to celebrate with, to grieve with, to hold us accountable, to be an influence that molds us into a person living fully for God. God did not create us to walk through life alone.

And being in community also requires seeing beyond ourselves. Jesus’ entire life demonstrates this, and this moment in John:19 is yet another example; even as He hung on the cross, He was concerned with the well-being of His beloveds.

I recently listened to a sweet friend tell me about how she blessed a struggling coworker with coffee and words of encouragement, all while being 39 weeks pregnant and quite uncomfortable herself. But despite her own circumstances, she still saw and met the needs of those around her.

Jesus uses one of His final moments to remind us to take care of each other. How can you love someone well today?

 

By Katie White

 

Paradise

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By Rob Kelly

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed… they crucified him there, along with the criminals…  The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him… One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23: 32-43

 

Yesterday’s blog post concluded with the thought that we can rejoice in the truth that Jesus came to save the lost! With our goal as Christians to imitate Christ, our hearts should also be for the lost. Although we often complicate what it means to share the gospel, the criminal and Jesus both demonstrated clearly while on their crosses that there are three simple principles and no perfect formula or phrases to accept Christ as our Savior.

  1. Acknowledge that Christ is God.

Although at first he mocked Jesus, the second criminal later believed and declared that Jesus was innocent. We can also see that he believed that Jesus had the power to intercede for him, and asked that Jesus would remember him when He came into His kingdom.

  1. Confess one’s sin and repent.

In Luke 23:41, the second criminal acknowledges that he has sinned, saying, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.” He is not only aware that he has sinned, but he also knows that his sentence is a just consequence for his crimes. Although this passage is extremely brief and does not specifically state that the criminal repented of his sins, we can observe that his heart posture has changed by the few words he does speak.

  1.  Pray that Jesus would intercede for us in heaven.

In Luke 23:42, the second criminal appeals, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Hebrews 7:25 states this truth of Jesus,  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” The second criminal had faith in Jesus Christ’s power and will to intercede for him. In response to his faith, Jesus declares in verse 43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Greek word used here for paradise is defined as the “Garden of Eden,” “Heaven,” or “The Presence of God.” Even in this hopeless situation, Jesus interceded on behalf of the penitent thief for a place in Heaven. After a life of sin and a sentence of suffering and death – where there could be no hope – Jesus offers the penitent thief a new future home. And this new home will be one that is beautiful, filled with growth, and filled with God’s presence.

Consider a situation of yourself or others with little hope. How can you be a witness to the love and power of Jesus?

Remember that  it doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming to accept Christ’s salvation and willingness to intercede for us.

 

By Mical Coon

 

Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Repentant Thief

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By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed…they crucified him there, along with the criminals…The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him… One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23: 32-43

 

In this Earthly world, everything has a cost. Food, shelter, safety…and to obtain these things, we must provide service that earns value or worth. This makes currency a vital part of our existence and therefore something to hold onto tightly. Because of this reality, it can be difficult to read passages like this one and believe that they are true; to believe that the nature of our God is one that gives the gift of His Kingdom with open hands – and even to those who were sinners.

Matthew 9:11-13 reveals God’s nature to us, and how it is so different from anything we experience on Earth. In this passage, Jesus is dining with tax collectors, who were considered some of the most offensive sinners of Jesus’ time. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ decision to associate Himself with these people, he replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

We are unable to earn our place in heaven. No amount of money can be paid for our place there. No matter how many good deeds we commit, it still will not ensure our place in heaven. But the nature of God is not small enough that it can be comprehended by our limited Earthly understanding and cultural rules. Not only has God invited all, He has paid the cost for us.

What good news this is for us! God has not come to rescue those who are the perfect example of righteousness. Instead, He has come for those of us who are lost, who have sinned, and who have nothing to offer for our place in heaven.  Colossians 2:14 states that “Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”

There were two criminals that were crucified at the cross; one at Christ’s left and one at His right. The first criminal chose only to mock Jesus. He did not have faith that Jesus could save him. He did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Although at first he mocked Jesus, the second criminal had a change in heart. At the end, he did believe that Jesus was able to bring him into the Kingdom with Him. May we all be like the criminal who had understanding and faith enough to declare that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus has grace enough to give the gift of Salvation with open hands.

 

By Mical Coon

Father, Forgive Them (Part 2)

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By Rob Kelly

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34

 

In yesterday’s post we explored how to forgive others as freely and compassionately as Christ did from the cross. But then I realized there’s an even deeper lesson embedded in His simple prayer…

While yes, Christ showed us what it looks like to forgive even in the midst of being hurt by others, I also think His declaration says something about the way He forgives us. I think He spoke this pleading prayer not just over those crucifying Him, but over all of humanity: “Forgive all of them Father, for they don’t know the harm they are causing…”

And this is a bit more uncomfortable for me because it’s easier to recall all the ways I have been sinned against or the grudges I’ve held onto, rather than the times I’ve been the hurtful one. We shrink back in embarrassment when the spotlight swings back to us, but the truth is, the people crucifying Christ weren’t the only ones needing to be forgiven by God.

And this is where Christ’s words beg a deeper question of me: did we really not know what we were doing when we made the sinful choices we’ve made? Or did we know and just not care? Can we truly say with certainty that sometimes we didn’t know the pain we’d cause when we did it?

From what I’ve witnessed in my years in humanitarian work, I can say this: humans truly don’t realize how our choices can play out in such destructive ways. Plenty of people honestly didn’t know how their lies would ruin lives, how their addictions would destroy families, how making devastating choices in the face of desperation would cause consequences that could never be taken back. Looking back, they wish they had known…but at the time, they simply didn’t.

So yeah, I think it’s fair to say that sometimes we really don’t know the damage or the pain we are causing. We, as humans, “know not what we do,” or what we are doing to others. But as we beat ourselves up and wrestle with deep shame and disgust, I think God looks at us with compassion and wishes He could gently tilt our face up to meet His and say “Child, I forgive you because you didn’t truly know what you were doing”—the damage, the ripple effect, the consequences that would span years of our lives when we were making unwise, ignorant, selfish choices.

And if Christ, in all of His wisdom and compassion and insight and mercy can say “Hey, it’s alright—although you’ve hurt me deeply, I forgive you because I know you didn’t understand the deep pain you’d cause,” then maybe with that phrase He also gave us permission to forgive ourselves. Not permission to be flippant or dismissive of the hurt we cause, but permission to be forgiven for it.

Why wouldn’t we receive the gift He’s offering with the words “Father, forgive them….” that He spoke on our behalf? If Christ begged for us to be forgiven, who are we to reject one of His last gifts while in human form? After all, He spent some of his final breaths asking God to forgive us, so that must have meant something pretty significant. This Easter season, some of us need to accept the truth that Christ pleaded for our forgiveness before we even existed and before our sins had been committed, and His selfless gift of forgiveness is ours for the taking.

For anyone who struggles to let go of the hurt you’ve caused or the lingering shame over choices you wish you could erase, maybe we can echo Christ’s words with a meaningful, pleading prayer of our own: “Forgive me Father, for those times when I didn’t know what I was doing. Help me to forgive myself for the harm I’ve caused, and to walk in the truth of that forgiveness.”  

 

By Kara Brown

Father, Forgive Them

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By Brody Bond

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34

 

We’re toward the end of Christ’s journey to the cross, and I think this phrase hits me hardest of all. This is the line that lands like a sucker punch, and the fact that Christ spoke these words is pretty hard to fathom. I cannot — utterly cannot — imagine being nailed to a cross, half naked and beaten, humiliated and mocked, struggling to breathe, and mustering up the energy to utter these words…as I hang there dying. I simply don’t get it.

When I read or hear these words, I think to myself, “Why would Jesus intervene on their behalf, pleading of their ignorance and innocence in the midst of His crucifixion? Didn’t He have slightly bigger things on His mind in that moment?!”   

What did Jesus even mean when He requested they be forgiven because they know not what they do? The NIV translation actually says “… for they do not know what they are doing.” They didn’t know they were crucifying Him, killing Him, and ultimately betraying Him? That doesn’t seem possible when they knew who He was—they had witnessed the miracles, heard the teachings, knew of the prophecies, and some had been faithful followers… How could they not know what they were doing?

And then a haunting reality sinks in, that despite Christ’s pain and humiliation and betrayal, up until the last seconds of His life He never stopped being a teacher. In this moment, with this simple phrase, He is teaching us important things about how and why we are called to forgive others: wholly, sincerely, compassionately, and with the benefit of the doubt. I know this is hard to do when we look at those who sin against us and wrestle with the injustice and the hurt inflicted and think, “clearly they know what they have done?!” But regardless of whether those who sin against us were innocent or intentional, regardless of whether the wounds were minor or lethal…if Christ can forgive them from the cross, can’t we do it in our own walk?

If we’re honest, how often do our first words ask God to forgive others, rather than to inflict justice or punishment or to intervene on our behalf? For me, it’s not very often. But when we take on Christ’s approach to forgiveness, it’s easier to offer the benefit of the doubt and trust that others truly didn’t know the extent or depth of the suffering they’ve caused. And it has only been when I adopted this heart posture and let God soften my heart, that I could sincerely say “Forgive them, Father…and then help me do the same.”

Who do you need to forgive today? What can you learn from Christ’s plea from the cross about how to do that with compassion and mercy?

 

By Kara Brown

Jesus is Crucified

10-Station
By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

And they crucified him.

Mark 15:24

 

Overwhelmed with sorrow in Gethsemane, arrested like a common criminal, accused falsely in court, denied by His best friends, chosen for death by a crowd of His own people, sentenced by an immoral pagan, mocked and spit on by Roman soldiers, crowned with thorns, beaten brutally, depleted by the laborious and staggering walk to Golgotha, Jesus finally laid down on his soon-to-be bier—two splintered beams of roughly hewn wood. Those tasked with His death offered Him a homeopathic narcotic, but He refused.

And they crucified him.

Four words in English, three in the original Greek. Such punctuated words for such a monumental event — the kind of event that needs to be slowed down in order to be seen.

Right arm stretched out and tied down. Left arm stretched out and tied down.
The sharp feeling of a spike pressed against the right palm. Hammer raised.

Hit.

       Hit.

              Hit.

Through the flesh. Between the bones. Excruciating pain. Dripping blood.
The sharp feeling of a spike pressed against the left palm. Hammer raised.

Hit.

       Hit.

              Hit.

Through the flesh. Between the bones. More excruciating pain. Spraying blood.
Feet folded and tied against the beam. Metatarsal bones aligned. The sharp feeling of a spike pressed against the top of the foot. Hammer raised.

Hit.

       Hit.

              Hit.

Through the flesh. Between the bones. Searing pain all the way up the legs. Gushing blood.

The soldiers lift the cross little by little — jerking, heaving, pushing, each new angle increasing the weight borne by the nails. Bones separate, flesh begins to tear. As the cross is set in place, the full weight of His body bears down on the nails…the full weight of sin bears down on His soul.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25)

Six hours. He would bear that weight for six hours. It was the sixth day when God created humanity, the crown of His creation. It was the sixth hour when God’s extravagant love, crowned with thorns, made a way for our re-creation.

He bore the weight so we wouldn’t have to. He bore a heavy yoke to make ours light. Those nails weren’t holding Him to that cross; His love was. The nails served a different purpose. They were writing our names into His hands.

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)

Those nails were carving out our healing and our freedom.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

(Isaiah 53:5)

 

By Mark Stephenson

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

9-Station
By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
    and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Luke 23:27-31

 

When I read this section of the crucifixion story, it strikes me as odd. I imagine Jesus, agonizingly making his way to the cross, pausing to deliver a kind of riddle to the daughters of Jerusalem as they shed tears for His suffering in the midst of a crowd screaming for His blood. Why would Jesus have chosen this moment to prophesy to the daughters of Jerusalem? And why make His last recorded words before he was nailed to the cross a prophecy of destruction?

There are several takes on this topic but the one that makes the most sense to me is that Jesus was prophesying about the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Within a generation of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jerusalem was captured, the temple was burned, and the city was sacked. It was a time of death and chaos. Josephus, a first century historian, writes of the siege: “Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom…This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.” Josephus reports that over a million men, women, and children lost their lives.

It’s stunning to think that in a moment of intense physical and emotional suffering, Jesus had the presence of mind and the concern necessary to address a group of women. It’s as though He was saying, “You see my pain and physical destruction, but the true destruction isn’t mine- it’s Jerusalem’s. My body is the green wood not fit for the fire of judgement, but Jerusalem is the dry wood that is fit for the fire, and times are coming that will make you wish your children had never been born.”

Jesus’s act of redemption on the cross is such an extravagant act of loving self-sacrifice that it’s easy to gloss over the fact that Jesus redeemed us from something- judgement. Jesus taught, did miracles, was killed, and rose to life again in a city that ultimately rejected Him, and what awaited them was judgement and death. Jesus’ sacrifice was free to all but not received by all. To those who remained as dry wood, what was in store for them was the fire. Today we can be grateful that because we have received the Son, we can see life. God’s wrath does not remain on us (John 3:36).

 

By Kira Casey

Jesus is Helped by Simon of Cyrene to Carry His Cross

8-Station
By Lynne Kiefer Kobylecky, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, in Africa – Simon was his name – and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.

Matthew 27:32

Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country just then, was forced into service to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).

Mark 15: 21 – 22

As the soldiers led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26

 

The above passages are all we know for certain about Simon of Cyrene. He was from Northern Africa, lived in a Greek city that had a large Jewish community. His ancestry, therefore, could have followed several courses. His lineage is something we’ll never know.

Why he was chosen to help Jesus carry his cross is also unknown. Today, some believe he showed sympathy for Jesus and therefore was forced to play a role in this penultimate indignity. Others believe that Simon just happened to be passing by at the very moment it became clear someone else would have to support the burden of the Lord. Why the Roman soldiers chose Simon to be the one to carry the cross, we’ll never know.

Isn’t that a crazy idea, though? That a mere human could actually carry the burden of God as he was leaving this earth? There are stories of others showing kindness to Jesus — feeding him, housing him. However, I can’t find a story at any other point in the Gospels of someone bearing the Savior’s hardship on His behalf. How is it that perhaps the only person in the Gospels to shoulder a heavy load for Jesus remains a mystery? Did God perhaps simply forget to provide a designated companion for Jesus on the day His covenant with the human race would begin its metamorphosis?

When I think of the same Creator who orchestrated the death and resurrection of Christ also came up with the solar system, marine ecosystems and the systems supporting the human body, I think God is pretty good with managing both “big picture” and detail work. If the story of Simon of Cyrene remains a mystery, it must be for a purpose.

Is Simon an “everyman,” a figure that allows the reader to imagine themselves in the same situation? Someone who is a protagonist without being the “hero?”

I prefer to think Simon was forced into carrying Jesus’ cross. Being the only person in all of history to shoulder a heavy burden for the Lord, he must have struggled mightily that day. I prefer that version, because what I identify with is that in my own life, transformative moments seem to be preceded by a significant burden being thrust upon me by external forces. I can only imagine what Simon must have thought when Jesus let out his final cry, gave up His spirit, when the skies went dark and the temple veil was ripped apart.

What kind of man was he when he returned to His city? What was the story He shared?  For, in the story of Simon of Cyrene, the one thing I do know is that I want to be that “everyman” – the person who has encountered the Divine and been transformed. I want to be worthy of the sacrifice; I want to be worthy of the love found in Jesus’ words.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matt 11: 28-30

 

By Rhonda Sanco

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