PRAY WITH US: Dearest Jesus, what can it mean to me personally that You who are the Resurrection and the Life, died and were buried? Show me today the great mystery of your tomb. For myself and for all of us who face the human certainty of death, reveal to us today Your great Light shining in the darkness.
YOU ARE THERE: There is little time before sunset and the Sabbath of Passover begins. The body of Jesus is placed onto a woven wicker bier something like a stretcher. Lazarus and John along with an old shepherd and the man who was born blind, bear the corpse of Jesus to the newly-hewn tomb which was meant to be the final resting place of Joseph of Arimathaea.
Jesus’ mother leads the way, as is the tradition. Martha and Mary of Bethany, and a handful of others, follow along. You and I trail after at a distance.
Inside the tomb the body is washed and wrapped in a shroud. There is no time before Sabbath to embalm the corpse. The weeping of the women is not loud or dramatic. Today there is no keening. The grief of the few is, rather, a deep, silent mourning which grips the heart and makes them shake their heads over Him and groan, “I can’t believe it. It just can’t be!”
You look at me and say, “Why? Why?” We both cling to one another and begin to weep.
The Mother of Jesus stands in the doorway of the open tomb and raises her eyes toward us. She beckons to us, inviting us to come down among those few who truly loved her Son who did not run away.
We walk the narrow path which leads downward to His grave.
“Why Him?” you say again and again.
As His mother reaches out to enfold us in her arms and draw us in to the dark room with the others, I say, “Oh, dear Mary…I’m so sorry. Your Son! I am…so sorry…If we had all been braver…if we had not betrayed Him. I’m so sorry!”
We stand over Him. He is white as the winding sheet which binds Him. His eyes are closed. His bruised mouth seems almost to smile in the peace of death. But His peace after such horrible suffering is little comfort to us.
Someone says, “His grave is my grave. Bury me with Him. I have nothing left to hope for.”
Again you whisper, “Why? Why did Jesus die?”
Mary of Bethany hears your question. She links her arm in yours and gives your trembling hand a squeeze. “Jesus said to me when my brother was dead four days… ‘Only believe and you will see the Glory of God!’ We will understand. Jesus promised we would understand. Jesus never breaks a promise. Every word of Jesus is TRUTH.”
PRAY WITH US: Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, we pray today in the Name of Jesus, Your Son! When life becomes unfair and our way difficult, our hearts cry out to You as we walk to the end of the Via Dolorosa… “Leave me in this tomb of sorrow and loneliness! Roll the stone closed and leave me here. There is no way of escape!” Show us now what it means to us!
THE MYSTERY OF THE TOMB OF JESUS REVEALED!
We have come to the end of our pilgrimage. The Way of the Cross ends inside the tomb. But the meaning of it all for us personally will be revealed on Easter morning…
Romans chapter 6 is our cry of victory over death!
“How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus (Israel’s promised Messiah) were baptized (immersed in union with and totally identified) into HIS DEATH? We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ (Messiah) was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life!
“For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His! We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved by sin. FOR ONE WHO HAS DIED HAS BEEN SET FREE! Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him!
We know that Christ being raised from the dead WILL NEVER DIE again; death no longer has dominion over Him!
For the death He died, He died for our sin, once and for all, but the Life He lives, He lives to God!
So you must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus!”
A PERSONAL WORD FOR YOU: Dear friend, we have traveled together on this pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
I will now leave you alone inside His tomb to consider all you have seen and heard and experienced.
For this moment let the stone of Jesus’ tomb roll shut. Sit beside His body in the darkness. Wait for the moment of resurrection which you KNOW is coming! Know this: When the Good Shepherd died your old sinful nature also died. His grave is the grave of your past sin. Scripture teaches us plainly that you and I really were there. You and I are woven into the very fabric of that day…you were in His thoughts and in His heart.
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also LIVE with Him!” Romans 6:8
The empty tomb of the resurrected Messiah, Lord of Heaven and Earth, is no longer a grave, but a womb into which you must enter and leave your dead sins and receive resurrection power from and with your Shepherd, Jesus! You have received mercy and NEW life…YOU ARE FORGIVEN! Your past wrongs are forgiven and forgotten by God and you are NEW!
When He rose from death, it was His promise to you personally that all who call upon His Name will also rise to new and eternal life! It is through the death of Jesus and in the tomb of Jesus that we are made new, raised to life…born again….
PRAY WITH US: Heavenly Father, you loved me so much you sent your only Son to die in my place! Lord Jesus, Messiah and Savior…thank you for all You have done to pay the price for my sin. I enter Your tomb. I leave my old self there and I rise from death with YOU!
I listen and hear you call my name personally just as you did when Lazarus was dead, stinking and beyond hope of life…
“LAZARUS! COME OUT!”
Now I emerge from the darkness into YOUR light. I walk into the world with the certainty that I have received complete and total forgiveness.
Fill my heart with Your Holy Spirit and let me to listen for and hear Your voice! Teach me to walk every day in my world filled with Your forgiveness, mercy and love for others. Amen
YOUR WORLD IS CHANGED FOR JESUS! Amen.
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, from today as we say goodbye to a loved one, let us remember your journey on the Via Dolorosa.
YOU ARE THERE: It is late afternoon. The jeering crowds have gone home. The sport of execution is over. Those who remain are those who loved Jesus best. His mother, exhausted, looks up at the body of her son and remembers His life as it played out from the beginning.
There are others with her. Is that Lazarus, the man from Bethany who died, now strong and healthy? He seems unafraid of death as he ponders the lifeless form of the One who called him back to this world after four days in the tomb. The sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, are also there with him. The rich merchant, Joseph of Arimathaea, arrives with an official release so the body can be taken down. He presents this to the soldiers who read the document and stand back. Joseph summons strong young men to help with the gruesome task. There is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. Nicodemus. And there is one more you recognize: the man born blind who now can see because of the touch of Jesus. Poor fellow, his shoulders shake with sobs at the sights before him.
They set to work. Lazarus and his sisters from Bethany seem to be in charge. They are unafraid of death. They have a firm resolve. Lazarus climbs the ladder to pry loose the spikes. Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus while He lived, takes hold of His feet. The body of Jesus is gently lowered to the waiting arms of His mother.
His mother cradles her son and strokes his hair.
Though you and I stand back, we hear the man who was blind say to John, “Remember how Jesus told us the news of Lazarus’ death? ‘This…does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe…’”
John nods, remembering how Jesus called forth the dead man from his tomb.
The man born blind asks, “Even now, could Jesus not rise up and heal Himself? Could he who gave me sight and raised the dead not return?”
We ask ourselves how the Son of God can be glorified through this? What eternal lesson are we supposed to learn and believe through this terrible day?
Jesus is dead. His body is an empty shell, battered beyond human recognition. Dead is dead. There is no mistaking this gruesome end.
Mary and Martha embrace the mother of Jesus as she holds His broken body. “Dear lady, your son told me this when my brother was four days in the tomb; Jesus said to me as I grieved, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”
The Mother of the Lord nods her head. Yes, she does believe, but still her sorrow is beyond comprehension. Hers is the collective grief of every parent who ever buried a child.
The reality of death hits us hard. Empty. Hollow. Gone. Silent.
The Good Shepherd died fighting to save us.
The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…my sin…is indeed sacrificed.
So many things come to mind which we wish we had done or said; all too late now.
The man born blind says, “I remember what Jesus said outside your tomb, Lazarus, where you lay for four days! Jesus said to us all, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’”
Impossible. There seems to be no possibility for our grief to be replaced with glory.
The fact is, Jesus is dead. Is there a greater TRUTH we should see in this moment?
We look up and see the Romans are taking notes of who remains at the scene. Suddenly fearful that our names will be reported, we turn and hurry away.
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, every word You spoke, and every loving action, reminds us that no matter how terrible the circumstance, You ARE the resurrection and the life! You teach us that in all things…through every trial…You are the victor. When it seems there is no hope, You PROVE that no matter how grim the facts may be, You are TRUTH.
“I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die…Do YOU believe this?”
CHANGE YOUR PERSONAL WORLD FOR JESUS
“CHRIST HAS DIED FOR ME! CHRIST IS RISEN! CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN!”
Do you really believe this? Accept the Good News for yourself and you will be changed forever.
PRAY WITH US: Dear Jesus, we draw near to the end of our Jerusalem pilgrimage. We walk the road which 2,000 years of fellow pilgrims have walked and which all who come to Jerusalem seek. As we stop at each event along the Via Dolorosa and remember what You, our Savior, suffered for us, there is a heaviness in the realization of the personal burden our sin placed on You. In our hearts it suddenly makes us more cautious in our careless words. This memory is more than memory. It is a present reality.
Today if I curse another, the verbal abuse strikes your ears. And still you love me.
Today if I am dishonest in business or tell a lie or speak a word which is not truly spoken in LOVE, the weight of your cross grows unbearably heavy. And yet you forgive me.
Today if I am unloving, my indifference is the face that turns away as you pass by on the way to Calvary. And still You pray for me from the cross.
Today if I hold hatred, resentment and bitterness in my heart against my another, my hand holds the spike and my hammer blows pin you to the cross. And yet You say to Your Father, “Forgive them, Father! For they don’t know what they are doing!”
YOU ARE THERE: We all stand together now at the foot of THE cross. We see Jesus’ mother standing beside His friend John. We cannot hear the words of Jesus distinctly because we are still thinking only about ourselves. Our disappointments are first in our hearts, not the eternal sacrifice being played out before our eyes. A time is coming when we will remember and discuss all the lessons Jesus taught us as He uttered His last words on the cross. But not now. It is so dark. The sun has stopped shining as the Light of the World is extinguished. WE WANT TO SPEAK TO HIM…What will you say to the Good Shepherd as He dies for you? What are your last words to Jesus in this terrible moment? (Talk to Him now as you stand at the foot of the cross. He will hear YOU from the cross as he breathes His last.)
He raises His face and cries out in a loud voice which cracks open the earth and breaks our hearts.
“IT IS FINISHED!”
The Lord of all Life hangs dead from the tree. We gaze upon Jesus…our victim. No…worse than that…I find no comfort in the collective guilt of how ‘OUR’ sin killed him…I now must understand for the first time…Jesus is MY victim.
I must now ask myself, “How much more in my lifetime will I lay upon the shoulders of my Shepherd? How many more sins will I commit that He must carry?”
PRAY WITH US: Lord, when You cried out, “It is finished!” You meant that you had paid the terrible price for all my sin. The sacrifice was complete at that moment. By the power of You Holy Spirit, help my heart to truly repent and be converted. Help me to say NO! to temptation and unkindness and gossip and lies, “Get behind me, Satan! The Word of God proclaims that because Jesus died for me I am set free from the power of sin forever. Jesus said, ‘IT IS FINISHED!’ SIN IS FINISHED IN MY LIFE!”
Lord, cleanse me and fill me with Your renewing Holy Spirit. Let me be Your loving arms stretched out to everyone you bring into my life. Let my eyes become filled with the compassion which was in Your eyes. Let my lips speak encouragement and love and mercy to the weak and needy! Let my mouth declare the strength and truth of Your Gospel! Help me be strong and courageous to reject and condemn the hypocrisy and lies in myself which hurt others. Give me the wisdom and courage to DEFEND those like the unborn and elderly who are helpless. MAKE MY LIFE proclaim Your Truth through the way I live!
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, today we remember together how much you love us.
Every day from this moment, remind me that I was present in your perfect mind and loving heart as the spikes pierced your hands and feet. Remind me Lord when I sin that my sins are more hammer blows driving the nails deep into your palms and feet.
The whole world grows silent; waiting as you willingly offer your life in exchange for ours. You willingly lay down upon the crossbeams. You willingly stretch out your hands and feet. You do not flinch as the spike is positioned first on your feet and with three hard blows is driven through, pinning you to the wood.
JESUS! LET ME SEE THIS MOMENT!
YOU ARE THERE: Men who followed you groan to see it has really come to this. Women whose children you healed weep openly. We never believed this moment could happen. Where are the legions of angels? Why is heaven silent as the hammer clangs against the iron and your gentle hands are broken?
AS WE STAND BY The religious leaders nudge one another in satisfaction. Many say they do not need your righteousness to teach them anything…their self-righteousness will get them where they want to be. Who wants to follow anyone so weak that he would be executed?
Hanging on a cross is not cruel enough. Watching Jesus suffocate will not mollify the rage of self-righteousness against the only ONE who has ever truly lived a righteous life. Jesus, who has no sin, BECOMES my sin! Jesus, who has no hate, becomes the object of all hatred. Jesus, who lives love and healing, becomes my wounds!
We stand together and watch and listen to the hammer against the iron. “WHY HIM?” you ask.
I look at the Roman brute who raises the hammer and brings it down hard. I HATE the man who strikes the nail! I HATE him for doing this to Jesus!
And then I remember….
Spikes of our own hatred for others, and rage against the unfairness of life, pin our souls down like butterflies fastened to a child’s school display. We cannot move, we cannot fly, because our bitterness and anger pierces us through.
Look! Jesus stretched out willingly on the cross which He carried for you! The gentle love and mercy of Jesus plucked out the nails which hold you down. He stretched out His hands and said… “I’ll take her place. By my death here she is set free…let all their bitterness and anger be hammered into my flesh!”
How many times have we let our rage drive us to cruelty, never realizing that our cruelty toward others puts the hammer in our hand? How many times has our hatred or anger against another driven the spikes more deeply into the hands of our Savior?
My cruel acts? My cruel thoughts? My bitterness? My sin?
“By HIS wounds we are healed…”
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Jesus, we cannot free ourselves of our frustration, our anger, our doubts, our bitterness, our self-righteous lies…Our strength cannot change us…But we know You are able. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, pull out the spikes which pin our broken souls to the way of the world! Free us, Lord! Take our sin upon you as you stretch out your hands for us!
Oh Lord! I know now that when I do wrong to another…when I neglect to DO RIGHT to help another…then I have personally hit the spike in your hand and driven it deeper into You!
And yet You love me! You forgive me!
Lord, today, knowing that whatever I do to others is indeed done to You, I pray the prayer of Psalm 51! I ask you to “create in me a new heart, and renew a right spirit within me!”
Jesus, source of all life, hangs above us…broken by our sin…still forgiving. Glory to the God of heaven who is lifted up for Us.
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR JESUS:
1.Call your local Crisis/Compassion Pregnancy Center now and ask what you can do personally to help save the life of an unborn baby.
2. Pray for those who have wronged you. Ask the Lord to help you forgive others so that your life will no longer be pinned to earth by anger and resentment.
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Lord, today as we walk with you along The Way of the Cross, make our hearts tender to the meaning of everything you endured for us. Today of all days, Lord, I grieve for what my sin did to you. Today is the 10th day of bringing my heart before you and asking you to help me truly comprehend the power of your love for me. I thank you and praise you Lord Jesus, Messiah, Shepherd, Lamb of God! I lay my heart at your feet as I begin to grasp what it meant for you to set aside the glory of heaven and die for me.
YOU ARE THERE: We stand in stunned silence as we watch Jesus endure this final humiliation. Whipping isn’t enough. Spitting isn’t enough. Verbal abuse isn’t enough. Our rejection isn’t enough. Now as you stand beside the cross the executioners begin to strip away from Jesus the last shred of human dignity.
The self-righteous clergy and religious leaders, clothed in all the outward trappings of their high offices, lean together and smile as the executioners strip off the humble clothing of Jesus.
“Now we’ve got him!” they say. “At last the people will know that we are the power around here! Who would claim Jesus as King, now that we have brought him to this?”
There was a time in Galilee when men and women fought through the adoring crowds just to touch the hem of Jesus’ garments so they might be healed. Where are those people now?
The garments lay blood-soaked in the dirt. Who wants to touch the cloak of Jesus now?
Women avert their eyes. Men shake their heads, wondering how this can happen to the one they believed would deliver all from oppression. We are all blind to the unimaginable holiness, dignity and glory Jesus set aside in heaven to come and live among us for a time.
You remind me, “It is written in the book of the Prophet Isaiah that Messiah’s name will be…“Immanuel: God With Us.”
I reply, “We must have been mistaken. This cannot be the One.”
We are unable to see the Lord’s deeper dignity…the dignity of bearing reproach and rejection without self-pity. The self-righteous who have hated Jesus so fiercely revel in the shame they pour out on Jesus.
“He says he is the Son of God! Right!”
“Let God rescue him now!”
“If he’s who he claims to be why doesn’t he save himself?”
We hear the mocking and our thoughts follow after the accusations.
“If Jesus really is…then…WHY???”
Naked before us all He is clothed in OUR shame.
What if all our secrets were uncovered? What if all the things we have hidden in our lives were suddenly brought out in the open?
Suddenly we look at one another and know that Jesus is the only one who has lived a completely sinless life! He is the only one among us all who has lived without pretense.
We are the phonies. We are the liars. We heap our shame upon Him…and here’s the miracle of all miracles…HE STANDS THERE AND TAKES WHAT WE DISH OUT AND HE STILL LOVES US!
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Lord Jesus, for every word I have spoken unkindly to another, forgive me. For every shameful lie I have spoken…for every false accusation…for every vengeful thought or action I have had against my brother or sister, YOU paid the price. When I humiliate another human being by thought, word, or deed, I am in truth laughing at Your nakedness and mocking YOU!
Oh Lord, by the Power of Your Holy Spirit, create in me a new heart. Give me a mouth which builds up others instead of discouraging them.
And Lord…here’s the hardest request of all…Help me forgive those who lie about me now. Help me forgive those who have unjustly come against me. Help me to pray for and love those who mock me and attempt to destroy me and discourage me. Let me have Your great heart for everyone who wrongs me.
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR JESUS: Many of you write and ask us what ministries we personally support. There are several.
Always your local church and the needs of those missionaries you know personally should be first on your list. We will also pass along the addresses a few trusted organizations which serve Christ in the darkest corners of our society.
Today we highlight PRISON FELLOWSHIP. Jesus said when you visit those in prison, you have visited HIM. Brock and I support the ministry of Prison Fellowship (Founded by Chuck Colson) with all our hearts. We may wish to support them with your personal tithe or order copies of WHY A MANGER? or WHY A CROWN? and have cases sent directly to the Fellowship for distribution to prisoners.
Here is the address if you feel led to donate to this incredible organization:
Attn: Phyllis Bliesner
44180 Riverside Parkway
Landsdowne, VA. 20176
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, our Savior; Messiah of Israel. Today as we journey once again to Jerusalem and participate in your final hours before your atoning death for us we bring you all our temptations and sins and ask you to carry our faults to the cross. Your precious blood is upon us, Lord, not as an accusation, but as a covering and atonement before the throne of our Father in Heaven. Open our eyes now, Lord, and let us see YOU!
YOU ARE THERE: We follow after Jesus now as He leads the way to the place where He, as the Good Shepherd, willingly lays down His life for His flock. Somewhere in the wind which blows through this narrow canyon of shabby houses and shops where we live, a dark whisper can be heard. It is the voice of the evil one who believes he has conquered the Lord!
You and I raise our faces as we hear the evil cackle of the enemy of our souls.
You ask me, “Do you hear that?”
I shudder and nod…Was there ever a more terrible voice than that we hear now?
Evil hisses…“Look at him. Trust him? How could you trust Jesus! The fool! The Failure! Three times I came him in the wilderness! I offered him all the world if only he would bow down and worship me! He did not bow down to me…he fought me with scripture…it is written, he said. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,’ he said. ‘Worship only the Lord your God,’ he said. But I have won a victory today! Though he will not bow to me, I have made him fall twice! And now…in revenge for the three times he rejected my offer…watch the fool! He will fall a third time and never rise again!”
At that moment Jesus stumbles and falls hard onto the pavement. We hear the crack of his head against the paving stone of the gutter. We groan for him and cling to one another, certain that this is the end! How can he rise again? How can he find the strength to get up and go on? There is no more strength!
He is still for a minute. The executioners look at one another, wondering if he is dead.
The unearthly cackle of dark victory echoes in the Via Dolorosa as the hill Golgotha looms within our view.
Has Satan won? Though Christ would not willingly bow to him, Satan has attacked the Messiah through us…through mankind…and now has caused the Lord of Life and Light to fall down on the stones of earth in agony!
“Where are the angels who will bear Jesus up?” we ask.
“Why doesn’t His Father help Him now?”
Jesus is still; unmoving. Is it finished then? Has Satan stopped Him before he can complete His task?
Then there is movement in His hands. Those gentle hands which touched the little girl in Capernaum and brought her back to life…those hands which healed lepers and blind men and opened the mouths of the dumb. He gathers strength to fight on. His legs stir. Because of His great love for us, in defiance of evil Jesus finds the strength to move again. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for His sheep…” Remembering that the battle for us is not yet complete, Jesus wills arms and legs and body to move…to crouch and rise slowly! He stands on His feet and looks at us. Wordlessly His eyes say, “Because I withstand the attacks of your enemy, you too will stand! Be strong! Go forward! Follow me. And never, never give in to evil! Do not surrender, even for a moment! You too will be shepherds for others. You too will do battle for my sheep!”
As He walks on, we hear a shriek from unseen darkness. Three times Jesus was tempted and rebuked Satan by the promises of scripture. Three times on His way to the cross Jesus was knocked to the ground…three times on the Way of the Cross He ROSE up and set His face to His goal of sacrifice for our sakes!
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Shepherd, you who faced our spiritual enemy on that day and fought him in defense of your sheep, help us understand that you fell to show us that we might rise with you from our heartache and press on! Jesus, who around us has fallen; shoved to the cold ground by life’s circumstances? Who nearby is facing heartache alone who might be blessed and walk again if only I offer my hand to help them stand again? Lord, show us today how we can help share your victory, love, and mercy with all the world!
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, we come to Jerusalem today and remember that when you looked into the faces in the mob you saw our faces among the spectators. Lord, we want to be more than spectators at Your sacrifice for us. You met ME on your way to the cross. You carried my burdens. You spoke to my heart personally on that day. Lord, my Savior, I want to be a participant in the NEW, ABUNDANT LIFE you promise all who call out to You. I want to share that hope with others.
YOU WERE THERE: We who are the women of Jerusalem cling to one another for support as Jesus struggles toward us. Some of us have personally experienced His mercy…a child healed of cancer…the healing of our own bodies and minds. Others of us intended to approach Him with a request to heal a child, or a husband, or to protect us from someone who by gossiping about us was plunging a knife of sorrow deep into our hearts.
But now it is too late! The One who we thought could fix everything and make our world perfect is being murdered before our eyes!
“Oh, Jesus! Jesus! Look what they’ve done! I had such hope that You would change my life!”
“What will I do now?”
“I’m so sorry for you! Oh, Jesus! I meant to carry my child to you later, but you were always too far away!”
“What will I do now?”
“Poor Jesus! Innocent! Why? Why? All the things I wanted to ask you to do for me…”
“What will I do now?”
“Too late! Poor Jesus! I am too late to speak to you! Too late to have you look into my eyes and tell me everything IS set right.”
“Look at him! Poor Jesus! Oh, we’re too late!”
“What will we do now?”
Clinging to one another in horror, we step out into the road. There are too many of us for the Roman executioners to easily push back. Sobbing, we stretch our hands out to the One in whom we had placed every expectation as we gossiped together by the well.
His forward progress halts as we block the Way to the Cross. Jesus pulls Himself up straight and puts out His hands to us…hands not yet pierced by the nails.
His ragged breath almost conceals His words as He touches your face among all the women in the group. He is looking into your eyes as he says, “Women of Jerusalem…Weep not for Me…but for your children…”
The whip sings, shattering your reply. “Yes! Yes! My child! You can’t help them now…They are out of your reach now! I see you, Lord, and I weep because you were the only hope I had for my children’s lives…”
So you let Him know you can’t trust Him any longer. He shakes His head in sorrow at your answer. His shoulders sag as the burden of your unbelief weighs Him down even further.
The soldiers compel Jesus to move past you. Your friends and sisters bury their faces against you in grief because Hope and Truth for the world is coming to an end!
You know, you are weeping because of self-pity. You weep for yourself and for children…What life might have been if only all the world had recognized Jesus as the Son of David and embraced Him instantly as King of Heaven and Earth?
Too late, you think. It’s all over, you think. Your problems are now out of reach of the only One who can make all things right. You have nothing left to hope for, you think, as Jesus moves beyond your sight.
You have misinterpreted what He said to you. “Weep not for me because I’ll rise again…bring your tears for others before the throne of God and ask anything in MY NAME…God the Father will hear and answer.”
Have you forgotten in this moment of terrible sorrow that on His Way to the Cross, Jesus carried every heartache for your sake and for the sake of your children?
You only see the problem…You cannot now comprehend that the solution to EVERY problem is Jesus AND the Cross He bears for your sake.
Open the eyes of your heart and see that your unbelief adds more weight to His sorrow.
PRAY WITH US: Lord who carried all my worries on your way to the cross, how many times have I thought about Your suffering and wanted to cry for You? How many times have I wanted to weep because of Your pain without ever understanding that my lack of trust in You is part of the heavy burden you carried on that terrible day?
I speak to You now and cry but I still do not fully trust Your promises that You HEAR my prayers and will help my children and those I love with all their problems!
I say I trust you, but I do not live the life of TRUST.
I believe the evil lie that I am too late…I believe the evil lie that my problems and heartache are beyond Your reach!
My lack of faith in Your promises; my worry; is just another lash of the executioner’s whip on your back.
You wince with pain when I doubt You love me and my children! The barbs of my fear and unbelief cut into your flesh.
It is written in Isaiah: “He bore our iniquities…BY His wounds we are healed…”
Lord! Forgive and Heal my unbelief! I want my heart to be converted…not just feel sorry you died on the cross. I know you love me too much to leave me wallowing in selfpity. Your Word declares that I am a VICTOR not a victim!
You say, “Whatever you ask in MY NAME will be done.”
By the power of your Holy Spirit, open my eyes so that I can see my personal suffering transformed into compassion for the suffering of people all around me. Help me be the loving arms of a mother embracing a motherless child! (Even if that “child” is ninety years old and sitting in a wheelchair!) Help my kindness to others in need be YOUR kindness. Let ME be an answer to someone’s prayer! No longer do I want to pity myself…I long to be compassionate to every child of the Living God. Fill me with the longing to be a blessing for others in YOUR name! Take away my worthless, HOPELESS pity…Your Compassion is a call to action! Lord! Give me a heart which will LIVE my faith in You in a way which gives Hope and Joy and Comfort to those in my path.
Woman, weeping in the distance, Jesus calls you out from the burden of your self-pity which weighed Him down on the cross. Lighten His load by showing mercy to others in Jesus’ name.
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR JESUS: These suggestions come from our beloved, faithful sister in Christ, Melissa Ortiz, Miss Wheelchair New York 2005….
1. One of the most meaningful things for a person with a disability is to have someone spend time with them and truly get to know them…include them in normal daily life.
2. For the caregiver or family of an elderly or disabled person, getting to take a break is an amazing gift. To know that the person you care for is being cared for so you can go get a manicure or go read a book uninterrupted is such a blessing.
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, dear Messiah, Promised One sent down from the throne room of Heaven to show us the great love and mercy of God the Father…show us today what it meant to us when you stumbled and fell a second time as you struggled on your way to the cross to die for us.
YOU WERE THERE: Will this agony never end? A trail of blood marks the path Jesus walks. His blood covers the feet and legs of his tormentors. Red footprints smear the stones of the street. Suddenly Jesus staggers and falls a second time at your feet. Now the Roman executioner’s lash upon his back splatters the blood of Jesus across the clothes and faces of those who watch. You are surprised as you feel something like drops of warm rain across your cheek and on your hands. You look at your hands in horror. Though Pilate washed his hands at the beginning of this journey, the blood of Jesus is on YOUR hands. You touch your face, knowing that you are now marked as a witness; a participant in this terrible event!
A nearby religious leader, insulted by the blood which has marked his elegant clothes and emblems of his righteousness, begins to shout angrily: “Get up, you! Jesus! Scum! Look at him! If you’re the Son of God why do you bleed? Get him out of here!”
Others, ordinary people, stained by guilt, join in a chant of renewed rage. “Look at this! His blood has stained my new cloak! Defiled! This will never come out!”
Around you all but a few seem desperate to find an outlet for their rage. You also feel revulsion at the blood on you and the sight of the torn creature lying in the filth of the great city.
“Messiah? Why doesn’t he get up?”
“How can the Son of God fall?”
“Why doesn’t he call down fire from heaven to save himself?”
“Where is God?”
“Why doesn’t his Father help him?”
“Oh, well. He trusted God to deliver him but heaven is silent. God never hears my prayers either.”
“There is no justice.”
“Pilate asked the right question: ‘What is TRUTH.’”
“Jesus says HE is the TRUTH. But this proves there is no Truth.”
Hope dies in your heart. Bitterness creeps in. Life isn’t the way we want it to be and someone has to pay. It serves Jesus right for hoping, doesn’t it? For deceiving others? What use is faith if it ends this way?
“GET UP, JESUS!” The taunt becomes a chant.
How many times have we added our voices to the mob’s one voice? How many times have we looked at the vulnerability of another and perceived vulnerability as weakness? How many times have we viewed weakness as an opportunity to attack and display our own strength and power over the life of another who is down? It isn’t that it’s merely easy to attack someone who is weaker; IT IS NECESSARY, so we can deny the love of Our Father in Heaven.
You FALL at our feet, Jesus. You fall so we can stand. And yet because you fall for our sakes, we say…”Who needs God? Why trust anyone with my problems?”
Jesus…Jesus…we need you to fall so we can have the excuse to see you as DISAPPOINTING…DIFFERENT…WORTHY TO BE REJECTED….WORTHY OF THE WORLD’S HATRED!
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Jesus, I know that Your precious blood is on my hands personally. Your blood covers my face, my clothes. My appearance and my pretence cry out that I am guilty of your death! You were sent to earth to lay down your life for me! You fell that I might rise! You endure our hatred and rejection so that we might escape living with hatred and bitterness and disappointment. By the power of the Holy Spirit, open the eyes of our hearts now…open my eyes so that I might see in myself the vile need to blame someone for my own failings! Open my heart to the fact that you alone bore all the hatred of the earth so that I might be set free to love and pray for my enemies! You were hated…you are still hated…for our sakes.
Falling, Jesus, in your weakness, on the Way to the Cross, so that we may rise above all doubts and STAND for eternity! You are silent as your blood splashes us, and every drop sings a hymn of praise to your Love for us!
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR JESUS:
1. Print out these devotions and read them to someone who cannot read.
2. Reports are flowing in from those of you who have downloaded the audio of WHY A CROWN? and played it in rest homes and hospital rooms.
3.Reports are pouring in from you that the message of salvation in the book WHY A CROWN? is changing lives in dark and lonely places.
All praise and glory and honor to the Lord Most High! May He use us all together to share His love.
PRAY WITH US - Lord Jesus, for past two thousand years the sheep of your pasture have recognized Your voice…the voice of our Good Shepherd…when you call to our hearts. But sometimes, dear Shepherd, you call out to us when it’s night. Your features seem to be hidden behind all my suffering and the deep suffering of others. I may hear your voice even through the shouting mob, but the darkness of my worry and fears, both real and imagined, shrouds your gentle face from my view! You call my name and cry, “Where are you? I am here to find you, heal you, keep you safe! I am here to fight this battle for you!” Today let me see Your face…let me recognize with the eyes of my heart that YOU are looking for ME!
YOU WERE THERE –
The journey of the criminal Jesus gets harder. Blood streaming from his brow blinds His eyes as he staggers forward. He has been beaten so severely He is “marred beyond human recognition,” just as the prophet Isaiah predicted He would be. The woman next to you sobs as He passes. We who are spectators in the crowd now grow silent as we see Him approach and hear His labored breath.
“It it really him?” a child asks her father. “Is that the one who healed me? Is he the man I sang for when he gave me my voice? I can’t see his face, Papa.”
The father shakes his head. “It can’t be him. I don’t recognize him. Who can tell? But it can’t be him. They wouldn’t do this to him. ”
The father stands silently with his child as a religious leader who has been waiting for the procession shouts curses in the name of God against this pitiful inhuman creature…
“Blasphemer! Liar! Fake! Well, you got what you deserve!”
It is easy to hate Jesus now…his broken humanity and marred appearance separates him from us. We cannot see his face beneath the blood.
Jesus, can you see us through your suffering?
Suddenly a merchant woman you know as Veronica breaks through the line of religious judges into the street. We are startled as she runs forward to help Jesus. With a white linen cloth she reaches up to wipe away the blood from His eyes and clean the gore from His face. Because of her courage and compassion we now see Jesus clearly! She is weeping as she washes His face. “Oh, Lord! After all you’ve done for us! For me! Oh! How can it be? They don’t know who you are!”
He seems unable to speak, but thanks her with His eyes. He seems to say, “Yes, it’s really me. I am here, still, the true Shepherd. I AM laying down my life in this terrible battle to keep safe my beloved flock.”
The little girl who could not speak before Jesus healed her now cries out in anguish! “Oh, Papa! I see him! JESUS! JESUS! It is HIM! It is the man who healed me! It is the man who taught me to sing! Why are they doing this to him, papa? Why?”
At the sound of his name, Jesus looks up at the child who bursts into tears and reaches for her savior….
Now the Roman executioners, sensing some in the crowd might try to save their prisoner, shout obscenities at Veronica and shove her back into the wall of disapproving religious leaders. They do not want us to see Jesus! They do not want us to know this is the same man who touched and healed so many!
“Hide him! Cover him! Conceal his true identity!”
But it’s too late…a moan rises up within you. You have seen yourself reflected in the eyes of Jesus. You have seen His love for you, personally, among the thousands. It IS the man who healed the lepers and gave sight to the blind and opened the ears of the deaf! YES! He is the one who taught the lame to dance and gave a voice to this little girl so she could sing like an angel! YES! Behind the masks of centuries; the masks religion place on Jesus…HE IS STILL YOUR SHEPHERD!
Veronica, moved with compassion too great to ignore, washes the face of the One who washes away our sins by His blood. When she is pushed away, she carries the picture of Jesus with her to show all the world!
PRAY WITH US: Dearest Jesus, your suffering is the suffering of a truly HUMAN being. Your suffering is something we turn from and easily forget. Suffering of others is something we want to avoid seeing. We don’t want to connect your suffering with our need for a savior. Lord! By the power of the Holy Spirit, help us to see what the courage of Veronica reveals…she showed your face to everyone in the crowd. Help us to carry your image within us! Help us to show the world your true identity! You teach me, Lord, that whenever I show kindness to someone in need I have done it for You! You teach me, Lord, that most of those around me cannot recognize you and your great love for us.
Help me show you to my world!
CHANGE THE WORLD FOR JESUS:
Can it be that you cannot now think of one person in need of your love or prayers? Can it be that you cannot find the courage to bear the face of Jesus for others to see?
Can it be that you can look at the revealed face of the One who died for you and forget Him? Why not not ask your Savior, “What can I do for someone today, Lord, which will be counted as a kindness to you? Who needs to see your face and know you walked the way of the Cross for each one of us personally?”
Share Christ with someone today.
~Bodie and Brock Thoene
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, you have told us that if we want to follow You we must first deny ourselves; deny our own self-will; and then take up our own cross and follow in your footsteps. Lord, I am afraid sometimes to walk The Way of the Cross! Give me courage now, Lord, to understand what it means to take up my cross and follow you.
YOU WERE THERE: Today we stand in the packed space of the Via Dolorosa among the mob. Someone embraces the Mother of Jesus and pulls her back into the oblivion of the crowd. But Jesus, drained of human strength cannot lift the cross. The Roman executioners shout and kick him. In the narrow way, the cheers resound on the stone buildings as the lash comes down upon Him. I am suddenly afraid for myself…did this Man from Nazareth not proclaim that anyone who follows after Him must also carry his own cross?
The Romans scan the crowd for anyone who might have the strength to carry the heavy beams to the hill of execution known as Golgotha…the skull. They point their whips at a broad shouldered man with ebony skin. “YOU! What is your name?”
“Simon of Cyrene.” The dark eyes flash with resentment at the brutality he is witnessing. Simon seem to comprehend the agony of unjust suffering. Has he, who was perhaps once a slave, felt the lash tear his own flesh? Does he also understand from personal experience, unjust persecution?
Someone in the crowd curses the black man. “That’s it! Make him carry it! Get on with it!”
Simon does not need to be compelled by the Roman brutes or the racist mob. He steps forward, positioning his own body for a moment between that of Jesus and the unfurled Roman whip. He towers over all. His chin is high, his shoulders squared. He is strong enough to carry the load. He turns and you see some wordless blessing pass from Jesus to the big man. The eyes of the Lord thank him for stepping in and picking up where Jesus’ strength left off.
The crack of the whip sounds a warning to the man from Cyrene. He is unafraid. You admire his courage; his compassion. Your heart suddenly begins to soften. Inwardly you cheer that someone…a black man from a distant land…steps forward to DO SOMETHING! Your heart inwardly cries out encouragement to him, “COURAGE! HAZAK! BE STRONG, SIMON!”
And yet still, you remain on the sidelines! You admit to yourself you would not be so brave as to step into something so horrific and show compassion. You would not have the strength to carry such a burden. It’s not that you don’t wish you could do something to help…but who are you? What can you do?
The name of Simon of Cyrene is eternally inscribed in Heaven. Simon who dared to be the first to carry the cross of our Savior through a hail of spit and taunts and human excrement hurled onto him…He will forever be honored and rewarded. Those who jeered at Jesus’ great love have passed into the oblivion of time.
Is it not the same for each of us? Who in our time will step into the Via Dolorosa and take up the Cross of Christ? Who has the courage to openly carry the Cross and its message of God’s love and mercy into our world? Listen! Those who mock the Lord today point at you in the crowd and ask, “Are you strong enough to carry this? What is your name? Do you understand suffering enough that you gladly take up the burden of one who is in need? Has your suffering given you compassion or has it only made you bitter? Are you a victim or a VICTOR?”
PRAY WITH US: Lord Jesus, Simon stood in for us all when you couldn’t go forward alone. He helped ME carry forward your execution in ignorance. By sharing in your suffering, witnessing your courage and love and unfailing mercy, he became your friend and now, he is our brother. By the power of the Holy Spirit, help us see our reluctance to bring your compassion to those who suffer as a sign that we have not taken up our cross to follow after You as You commanded. We like our soft lives and easy way. We turn aside when you place the lives of suffering-others in front of us. Forgive us, Lord, for our indifference! Give us courage to say to the lonely widow in the nursing home, “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!” Give us strength to turn off our televisions and teach school kids in a Bible Study or Sunday School. Lord, give us the courage to know that whoever you put in our path today is sent from you along the Way of Life’s Sorrows so that we may tell them, teach them…SHOW THEM…Your love. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us bear someone’s cross when they cannot go further. Amen
Simon, stranger, foreigner, knowing nothing of what is happening, you step into the Way of the Cross. Forced to carry the burden for Jesus, you bear it with compassion and courage. You carry the cross on which Jesus will die for us all…
CHANGE YOUR WORLD FOR CHRIST -
1.Now, today, your close personal world is a mission field. Your beauty salon and barber shop. Your doctor’s office. The person at the checkout in the grocery store…PRAY FOR ALL YOU MEET, though you may not know them, God will hear your prayers!
2. Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree Ministries reach deep into America’s prisons and give comfort to the children who suffer because of the mistakes of their fathers. Soft cover Christian books can only be carried into the prisons by a chaplain. Check at your church and see who is a prison chaplain to your county jails or prisons. If you have soft cover Christian books, donate them to the chaplain to carry into these dark corners of our world.
3. Close up…So many near by you have burdens and just need a truly trustworthy friend. There is no one near you now who does not have some need for which you can pray. But if you pray you must also take the burdens of others shared in confidence only to the throne of Jesus. Do not share with others what is given to you in confidence.
4. WHY A CROWN? is a little book which shares the truth of the Gospel, but we want to say clearly that there are MANY wonderful books which share Salvation in different ways. We have priced the WHY books so you can give them away, but Outreach.com and Parable.com also have wonderful tracts and books by other spirit-filled authors as well. If you have a favorite little book or audio which has touched your heart…get more and give them away!
FINALLY: send us ideas of ways we can change our world for Christ. We will pass your ideas on to all our beloved Christian and Jewish family.