Here is the 6th Lenten reading, centred around the Passion Cross, kindly passed to us by Rev. David Linde *
Today's Lenten cross is called the Passion Cross. Within its simple design its pointed ends stand out. They are reminders of the nails that pierced Jesus and, beyond that, reminders of his sufferings in general. The Passion Cross symbolizes the passion - the sufferings - of our Savior.
And suffer Jesus did. He suffered physically. Beating and whipping prior to crucifixion; spikes driven through hands and feet; exposure to the elements and to insects; slow, agonizing dehydration on the way to suffocation - Jesus' bodily suffering was horrific.
He also suffered emotionally. His closest companions abandoned him, even denied him. He was stretched out on the cross naked, exposed, vulnerable, victimized. His simple garments were gambled away. His enemies mocked him in his final hours.
But amidst Jesus' physical and emotional trauma, surely his greatest suffering was spiritual. Scripture says he was "made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). In a way we cannot fully understand, his relationship with God became one of unleashed wrath, an experiencing of nothing less than divine fury against sin. Not that he was a victim of an unjust Father, nor that he, the loving Son, was shielding us from the angry Father. Rather, in a unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in purpose, justice, wrath, and love, the Son willingly became the bearer of infinitely criminal human sin and its infinitely horrible divine punishment.
This willingness of Jesus to bear this suffering is one of the most amazing and wonderful aspects of the cross. His cross was a cross of passion, but a passion trustfully and actively embraced. Jesus predicted his sufferings before he journeyed to Jerusalem. When he entered the city in royal procession he knew he was riding to his death. When he ate the Last Supper with his disciples he said, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). When his disciples tried to resist the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the garden he said, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11). When he was put on "trial," he refused to defend himself. And when, at the crucifixion, he was mercifully offered the drink with a mind-numbing drug in it to dull his pain, he refused it. He embraced his passion to the fullest. He drank the cup of his sufferings to the very last drop.
Why? Why such a willing suffering of such great agony? Peter the Apostle wrote: "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus suffered for sins - to pay the penalty they call for. And he suffered to bring us to God - to restore us to that relationship for which we were made and for which our hearts ultimately long: a relationship of peace and community with our Maker who has become our Savior. This, in part, is why Scripture says that it was because of the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame (Heb. 12:2). He embraced his passion in anticipation of the joy he would have in the joy we would have in being restored to God.
Let us pray:
Jesus, our Lord, let us never forget or be indifferent to your passion. We give you humble thanks for enduring sufferings that we can hardly begin to imagine. Thank you for suffering fully, for suffering willingly, for suffering purposefully. Thank you for bringing us to God.