Friday, April 18, 2014

The Cross

As I traveled down the blue-sky highway to first grade this morning, something bright red glinted in the sunlight and snatched my attention.

Dangling from my rear view mirror is a small rosary, a crucifix surrounded by red beads, which serves as a constant reminder when I'm driving. I'll look at it and offer a quick prayer, or maybe a whole decade. I'll look at it and remember the prayers requested by the members of my youth group. I'll look at it and just chat with Jesus for a while. Today, however, it meant something different. Today it reminded me that the cross is not empty. The cross is never empty.

Easter is such a big part of Christianity, but Good Friday is equally important. Thus, I felt compelled to put finger to keyboard and share the words that are heavy on my heart. This weekend we will remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, all bright and glorious, to redeem our souls and breathe new life into the masses of the world. While that is the definition of awesome, we have to remember Jesus Christ the human being, too. To rise with him, we must die with him first.

For those who don't know, I am a proud Catholic. That doesn't really make my Christianity that different than others, but it means the season of Lent is high on my priority list. Upon first mention of Lent, most people think of giving up chocolate, or coffee, or French fries, or perhaps hitting up the Friday fish buffet. Lent has become synonymous with sacrifice, and while sacrifice is an important facet of the season, that's not {in my opinion} what it's all about. I see Lent as a time of self-reflection. Of looking in the mirror and seeing if I'm the kind of person for whom Jesus accepted his own death. He carried his cross, suffered beatings and whippings and utter ridicule just to save my life. Am I worthy?

The short answer is no, I am not. And every Lent I think about what I can do to get a little closer to where He wants me to be. We can never be perfect, and we will always need forgiveness, but we can strive to love others the way he loves us while we're still on this planet. That's why he took up his cross. That's why he took up yours.

This time of year I also remember that Jesus Christ was just like us at one time. He was made up of skin, flesh, bone, and blood. His heart beat the same as ours, and his brain worked the same way. He battled his own self-doubt and worry in the desert, and he questioned God's word in the garden. He was human. I find myself in the desert more often than I'd like, but the next step Jesus took is the one I struggle with the most. He completely surrendered to the Lord and allowed his will to be done. Before we can rise with him, we must die with him first.

Easter Sunday is a time to rejoice, but we cannot forget the days leading up it and what those days meant. Each of us were in the holes in his hands, the nails in his feet, and the blood on his face. Jesus' death was not pretty, but it was the most important thing anyone has ever done for us. When I walk into church, I look at Jesus' tired body on the cross, and I thank him for giving me a chance. Even though I don't always deserve it.

When Jesus carried his own cross, it was laden with the sins of the world. He gave us rest. He allowed us to place our burdens on his back along with the weight of the heavy wood. And, y'all, his arms are still stretched wide.

On the third day, the rock was rolled away, the tomb was bare, and the cross was simply wood and nails, but it's never really empty. It's filled with our sins and the sins of all who came before us and will come after. We know Jesus Christ will rise, and I am excited to celebrate that with my family on Sunday, but first things first. Today I shout my delight in the fact that God loved us so much that he gave his only begotten son. I will praise Jesus Christ that forgiveness is an option. I will be thankful for the fact that there is still room on the cross. He died so that we may live. Let us feel as he felt, hurt as he hurt, and love as he loved. In order to rise with him, all bright and glorious, our sins must die with him first.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed."

1 Peter 2:24

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Unknown said...

Beautifully written, Jessica! I too often find myself in the desert. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica. My name is Kim. I am a friend of Bridget's, the girl from Arkansas who found her wonderful Arkansas friend in Maine. Thank you for your words about Jesus and the Cross. We take so many things for granted in our blessed lives. It is by Grace we have these blessings and we should never forget the price that was paid. Beautiful words Jessica from the heart.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful, Jessica. Brought tears to my eyes to read this. Thank you for putting "finger to keyboard" because this was heartfelt and made a lasting impression on me. Thanks again. (p.s. This is Bridget's friend Annette, even though I posted as anonymous)

Unknown said...

Beautiful. It's hard sometimes to image that Jesus was a human walking on this same Earth that we occupy each day. Thank you for writing this.

Jessica Bauer said...

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and for your kind comments. This was absolutely one I needed to write, and I'm glad it ended up being something others needed to hear. I can't even begin to understand the love Jesus has for us, but I do know it is a LOT. We are blessed.