Coop's Column - So Marred, So Beautiful

Their suffering Savior’s immense love for them, far beyond their mind’s feeble ability to grasp or comprehend, now prompts Christians to worship him

About Jesus Christ, whose bleeding wounds and torturous dying has saved them from sin’s despair and eternal doom, Christians join mouths and hearts to confess:

He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

A sixteenth-century Reformed Christian statement of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, expands upon this early Christian confession:

During his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.
This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,
He might set us free, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,
and gain for us
God’s grace,
righteousness,
and eternal life.

(Heidelberg Catechism #37)

Christians know and affirm, beyond the shadow of doubt or the slightest trace of maybe, that, in St.Paul’s words, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Their suffering Savior’s immense love for them, far beyond their mind’s feeble ability to grasp or comprehend, now prompts Christians to worship him. A stronger verb is more apt: It impels them toward worship—“squeezes” them, as Paul puts it literally in 2 Corinthians 5:14. In view of his supreme and costly gift to them, how could they not bend their knees and bow their heads, and offer him their entire lives in willing service?

So, whatever other laudable reasons Christians may give for why they congregate on Sunday morning to worship, this reason surely ranks very high among them: Jesus willingly endured deep anguish for them and gave his life’s full measure to save them. Now they, in turn, must—simply must!—swell the thronging multitude of those who gather to sing him their thanks. Now they must rouse one another to exclaim in rapturous wonder, awe and delight:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died he for me, for me who caused his bitter death.
Amazing love, how can it be, that you my Lord should die for me?

No matter how beleaguering the challenges which life may have hurled at them during the preceding week; no matter how much its circumstances may have wet-blanketed their joy, drained their hope, and dulled their vision and courage—when Christians enter the sanctuary and hear again of their Savior’s suffering love for them, then their hearts become alive again. Then their spirits take on fresh glow and energy. Then they know—for sure—why they’re alive and where they’re going in life.

Then they realize, too, that one too few times in life—always one too few, by their grateful measure—have they exclaimed in gratitude to their Savior:

Amazing love! How can it be
that you, my Lord, should die for me?

Worshipful intimacy with Jesus marks the life of every faithful Christian disciple. Nor ought this intimacy ever to become routine or dull, lockstep or flat. How can it, if one keeps meditating carefully and well what the Savior so willingly endured for her or him? And where better to cultivate such intimacy and to nurture it toward fuller maturity than by congregating with others to worship the One who suffered and died for them?

Dr Earl Stanley Jones (1884-1973), acclaimed Methodist theologian and missionary to India, told of seeing, for the first time, the famous sculpture of Jesus Christ by Bertil Thorwaldsen in Copenhagen Cathedral. Jones stood at some distance from the sculpture, taking in that full figure of Christ who towered above him in stateliness, dignity, and regality.

But what happened next transformed everything for Jones. A young Dane came up to him and whispered in his ear: “Sir, you will not be able to see the Savior’s eyes until you come near and kneel at his feet.” Jones stepped closer to sculpture, got on his knees directly in front of it, and then looked up into the Savior’s face. Jones’ words: “When I knelt at his feet, I discovered my Lord’s eyes looking directly at mine. They spoke to me.”

If Jesus’ eyes could speak, they would declare, compassionately and urgently: “Fix your own eyes upon ours. Look deeply and directly into us. See in us what your Savior has endured for you. Behold his affection for you, and his willingness to endure anguish and death for you. Come closer to us. For by his loving, longing gaze, the Suffering Savior is now beckoning you home.”

The look in Jesus’ eyes carries his message of suffering for us, and of his mercy toward us. It is a look both so marred and so beautiful.

Prayer

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine, For thee, all the follies of sin I resign My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou, If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. I love thee because thou hast first loved me, And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow, If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
(William Featherstone)

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