I came to the cross today. I had followed the path to the place they said Jesus was crucified. My walk was slow and difficult to bear. The baggage I carried on my back was too heavy and at times I stopped to rest but I could see it off in the distance, the cross. This was a journey I needed to take and my destination seemed far but I picked up the bags and continued on. There were those who said I shouldn’t go, that I was too weak. Others said I couldn’t go, I wouldn’t be welcomed. There were those who called me names, hurtful names that made me think they were right. Along that path those names played over and over in my mind. The feelings reached deep into my soul. Was I too broken? Was I not worthy? Would I not be welcomed? I almost turned around but something deep down inside of me kept telling me to go, so I traveled on.
The cross was getting closer and I could start to see the shadow of it. I felt the tears creep into the corners of my eyes and the weight and pain from the baggage was almost too much to endure. My legs felt as if they couldn’t take another step. My body was weary and blisters had formed on my feet. I felt the sweat drip down my back and my head hung low. This journey was so hard, was it worth all this pain just to see the cross? I took a few more steps and stopped, my back ached and my head hurt. I set my baggage down and fell to my knees. How far had I walked, how much farther did I need to go?
As I slowly lifted my head, there before me stood the cross. It was larger than what I had imagined. I reached out to touch it, the wood rough as I moved my hand over it. As I leaned into the cross I stood up, the cross bearing my weight. I took a few steps backwards and took in the full view. It was large and as I looked closer it looked as if someone had splattered red paint on it. But it wasn’t paint, it was where the blood of Jesus had dripped and fallen. It made me catch my breath. Around the base of the cross, sprinkled on the dirt was more blood. The pain of what Jesus had endured became apparent to me. I looked closer and I could see where the holes were made that had held the nails that pierced his skin. The sign above the cross read “This is Jesus, King of the Jews”.
I stood there in the shadow of the cross. My baggage lay at my feet, the baggage that I had carried with me on this journey to the cross. And then a voice from behind me said, “I’m glad you made it.” I turned and there was a man I didn’t recognize. He spoke again, “I’m glad you made it. I’ve been waiting for you.” I took a step towards him to get a better look. Did I know this man? Had I met him before? He looked vaguely familiar. Was he someone from my childhood? It seemed so long ago that I was a child, safe and secure in my parent’s home. He asked me if my journey had been difficult. I almost laughed out loud but stopped myself. I told him it had been the most difficult journey of my life and I didn’t even know exactly why I had come, but there was something that had pushed me and wouldn’t let me stop. He told me that there were others who had traveled this same path. Some had turned around because it had gotten to difficult but there were more like me who had continued on and had stood right where I was standing, at the foot of the cross. I asked him if they were happy they had made it and he told me that it had changed their lives.
As he spoke to me he began to look familiar. But where did I know him from? Those eyes, I was sure I had seen those eyes before. They felt as if they could see straight through me, not in a piercing way but in a caring way. They were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. I asked him if there was a place where I could stay, a place to get a drink of water, have a meal, rest my weary body. He pointed to the north and told me there was a small village just over the hill where I would find a place to rest. I thanked him and reached out to shake his hand.
As his hand came towards mine, something caught my eye. It was a mark on his palm. It almost looked like a hole but how could that be? As my hand slid into his, my fingers touched the mark. I raised my head and looked at the man. Suddenly I remembered where I had seen his face and those eyes. My parents had a picture that use to hang in their bedroom of Jesus standing before a door. My eyes filled with tears and my knees buckled underneath me as I fell at his feet, my head bowed.
I felt his hand touch my head and all at once the weariness, weight and pain that I had felt along the journey suddenly left. My body didn’t ache, my head didn’t hurt and I felt a feeling of love and acceptance that I hadn’t felt in years. He spoke to me in a voice that was soft and his words sunk deep into my soul.
He took his hand from my head and as I stood to look into those eyes once again, I saw that he had picked up my baggage. He told me that I wouldn’t need it anymore. He turned and began to walk down the path, carrying my bags, the weight pulling at his shoulders. I turned to look up at the cross, reaching out my hand to touch it, but when I looked back to see how far he had gone, he wasn’t there. The path was empty.
This journey that I had traveled had been long and difficult but as I stood in the shadow of the cross I knew that all that I had endured, the pain, the shame and the ridicule was no longer a part of who I was. Jesus had taken the bags that had weighed me down for so many years and as I stepped out of the shadow of the cross, I felt the light of the sun touch my face, and I knew that my life would never be the same.
When you come to the table, do you approach slowly, sitting down and savoring the aroma of the meal and the time spent with others? Or do you rush in, sit down and quickly eat the food while barely tasting it?
"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.”
Do you speak softly and listen intently? Or do you interrupt, not allowing others to finish their sentences?
And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
Do you share about your day, your experiences at school, work or home? Are joys celebrated and lessons learned?
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
Do you pass the food until everyone has been served and do you offer thanks to God for the blessings before you?
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Tonight we come to the table observing the Lord’s Last Supper. On this night Jesus would break bread and pass the cup and announce that one of those closest to him would betray him.
How do you come to the table tonight? Is your head bowed down? Are you filled with worry, regret and shame? Jesus said, “Take and eat; this is my body and drink from this cup; this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Tonight, come to the table. Sit with Jesus. Listen to his words. Savor his presence. Eat and drink from his cup. And give thanks to God.
“When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”