Jesus decided to continue on his journey to the cross for us.
A moment of decision. As Jesus’ disciples argued about who was the greatest, would the Savior of the world reach his limit and say to these men, “You can’t get along with each other? You have no right to follow me”?
A moment of decision. As Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives and disciples fell asleep, would that be the last straw—“That’s it. I’m finished with you”?
A moment of decision. As Jesus was led through the compound of the high priest, he saw Peter, who had just denied him three times. Did Jesus shout, “You don’t want to know me? I don’t want to know you”?
A moment of decision. As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate asked whether Jesus was the king of the Jews. Was Jesus so sick of humanity that he would just stop sharing the truth, refusing to let anyone know whether he was King of kings and Lord of lords?
A moment of decision. As women wept for him while he walked to the cross, Jesus knew there was something bigger they should be weeping about. Would he despise them and ignore them instead of pointing them to the real reason they should be crying?
A moment of decision. As a criminal undeserving asked Jesus to remember him, did the God-man clench his teeth and hiss, “Who are you to ask God for anything?”
Moments of decision
On so many occasions the Lord of creation and Savior of humanity interacted with humans who did not comprehend the place of Jesus in the universe. They were not humble and selfless in his presence. They were not strong to watch and pray when the going got tough. They did not stand up for truth when risk was high. They did not recognize who was God and who had no right to question him. They did not always see the big picture, and they could be the furthest thing from deserving of love.
These are the moments we hear about as we participate in the observance of Lent. This is the drama of the passion readings. These are the last 24 hours of Jesus before his death. At each occasion, we note that Jesus made a decision to continue, to endure the suffering and crucifixion. He did it for those who showed so little understanding, such hatred and bitter opposition, and such human arrogance and disdain toward him and his mission.
In every moment when Jesus had a choice, . . . Jesus looked at people and loved.
This Passion History of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ takes us on a trip through the center point of human history. Maybe you have heard these readings for so many years that your mind begins to drift. To help you keep focus, your pastor may ask the congregation to participate in the readings responsively. Maybe you’ve watched videos or viewed pictures portraying the events described. In your worship, you might have heard different translations to encourage you to think carefully about the words and the events.
What can it take to help us appreciate the value of his willingness to continue to move toward the cross for such unworthy people?
Creativity and variety in presentation can be wonderful complements as powerful truth parades before our minds. But a difference of approach is not at the core of our focus on his passion. Something huge is at the heart of this matter, something that can drive you to treasure the Passion History with passion.
What is at the heart?
At so many moments Jesus was making a decision. He knew what lay ahead—the cross.
And we were not making it any easier for him than those we hear about in the readings. Humans don’t make it easy for God. Have you had a hard time getting along with fellow human beings? When you look at others, even members of your Christian family, have you noticed flaws and resented them? Have you seen other people with strengths and envied them?
Has there been a moment when you should have devoted yourself to prayer or watched with a friend in trouble but instead had something more important to do? Have you fallen asleep? Take a place with the disciples in Gethsemane.
Have you been with friends who suggest you do something wrong? Did you take the drink, break the law, or laugh at a joke because you were afraid to be different? Did you deny him like Peter?
Have you thought about God in your life but focused more on your needs and let that keep you from seeing Jesus paying for your sins and securing your future? Have you lost focus on the big picture, on eternal destinations, and on devilish threats to your soul and the souls of others?
To see myself as a thief on a cross next to Jesus, suffering what my deeds deserve, is to arrive at the right place and be in a moment where I want to know, “What decision will Jesus make about me?”
Jesus answered that at every occasion. He could have remained in heaven instead of coming here. He had the power to abandon all of humanity to their own fate. He did not. He did not abandon any of us either. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and be saved—you, me, and all humanity.
The Passion History is your story, and you will hear what God did. When sinners argued, Jesus rebuked directly but gently. When disciples slept, Jesus did not walk away. For a Peter who would deny, Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail. In the face of doubts, Jesus spoke truth. When focus was misguided, Jesus gave clear direction.
And then, when Jesus came face-to-face with an undeserving sinner like you and me, Jesus promised to remember him. In paradise.
Do you notice something? In every moment when Jesus had a choice, either to turn his back on people or to show them his gracious face, Jesus looked at people and loved.
That is the Passion History of our Lord: his commitment to love. To love you.
Author: Stephen Geiger
Volume 108, Number 3
Issue: March 2021