I've had this sign in my yard for about a month. I put it out on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday, in March). Truthfully, I'm surprised that the Home Owners Association hasn't asked me to take it down...they can be that way.
My neighbors have seen it in their comings and goings and I'm sure some think I'm some sort of "Jesus freak", but that's okay. One of my neighbors, the twelve year old variety, asked me point blank one day, "Ms. Bev, what are you thanking Jesus for?" Wow, talk about an open door invitation!
"Keep it conversational...don't preach," I heard that little voice in my head say. So I proceeded to give him the Good News of the Gospel in sixth grade vernacular. I could tell he was awe struck by the part about the cross.
"Did that really happen?" he inquired in disbelief. "Yep, that's how much he loves you, loves me," I said. He smiled and then he turned away and rode off on his bike to play with his friends. It hit home, for me, just how hard it is for children and adults, alike, to truly grasp the reality of the cross.
Author, Sarah Coleman, gives this meaning to the cross: "The cross is a great contradiction. Death and life, hate and love, violence and peace, accusations and forgiveness, sin and purity, brokenness and wholeness, all is lost yet everything is gained, destruction and restoration, defeat and victory. Once the cruelest form of execution, yet now it is the symbol of abundant life."
I agree that the cross is definitely a paradox. Ever since my days in Sunday School, I've thought it was a horrible way for Jesus to die. It wasn't, however, until my adult years that I made it personal.
The cross was a horrible way for Jesus to die....for me.
Christ died for sinners, of which I am one. Gone are the myths that I can enter the gates of heaven if I am just "good enough". Jesus didn't die on the cross because it was forced upon Him. It was a choice. A choice made in love. I knew deep down in my heart that Christ died because He couldn't bear to live without me. Who does that? Love does; that's Who.
But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)
In all other religions, people strive to reach deity. Christianity is the only faith in which God reaches down to us. There is no striving or earning needed. It is a gift of pure grace which we must then either choose to accept or deny. Jesus laid down the bridge to God when He laid down His life. Will we choose to accept it and walk across?
The cross is the ultimate act of humility. Jesus came to the conclusion to die for humanity as a human - not as God. He willed His flesh, mind, and emotions to die on that horrific cross. Terrified of what was to come, Jesus still brought Himself to say, "Not my will, but Yours be done." I am not threatened by death by torture, yet I am challenged to pray like Jesus, that God's will be done and not my own. It makes it personal. It makes me humble myself.
The cross is final.
I have gazed at the cross, yet still held onto past hurt, pain, and guilt. I have realized that this is pride speaking. What I am, in fact saying, is that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough. I still need to pay penance for my sins. I need to do something more. That is a lie from the enemy's lips to my ears.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.
When Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished," He meant it. The debt is paid. My debt is paid. Your debt is paid. It is up to us to look to the cross and receive our salvation.
God wrote us the most beautiful love letter...it's called Easter. In it He boldly states that He would rather die than to live without us. And so, in an act of radical love, He sends His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. God says, "Christ's death was the ultimate expression of my love for you..." (1 John 4:10) and "I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love..." (Romans 8:38-39) What love!!
Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that it is hard for me to fathom a love so great that it would choose torture on the cross in order to gain my love. Forgive me for gazing at the cross in an impersonal way. You did this for me and while I was still a sinner. I praise You that I don't have to clean up my act in order to come into Your holy presence. Jesus, You bridged the chasm between me and God when You took my sins upon You and laid down Your life on the cross. I am so very thankful that God sees me through Your blood. You are my Savior. Thank You for the gift of my salvation. It is, indeed, finished. The debt is paid. In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.
What about you? What does the cross mean to you personally? Is there still hurt, pain, guilt, or shame that you are holding onto? Will you bring it to the cross and lay it down this Easter? What will your response be to this humble act of great love for you?
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