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The Radiant Preciousness of Jesus Series

During this Lenten season, I intend to focus these meditations on the radiant preciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ and his love-driven willingness to endure cruel suffering and death in order to bring us new life.

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Each week I shall use one of human senses—sight, sound, touch, taste and smell—as an angle from which to view him. Together we shall consider our eyes to behold our Lord; our ears to hear his call; our hands to touch and embrace him, and our feet to follow him; our tongues to taste his goodness, and our lips to declare his praise.

My aim in writing these meditations is primarily personal: I need a way to gaze more intently and deliberately upon the One who, to borrow Paul’s words, “loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Galatians 2.20) I send these written reflections out with prayer-shaped longing that they may prompt others, too, to behold our bleeding and dying Savior, and in response to “love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.”

Preparing for Lent

In itself the season of Lent has no special sanctity to it. The 40 days of Lent are simply a period of time which Christians for centuries have set aside  to make their way, step-by-step, toward meeting their Savior at his Cross and Resurrection—to prepare their minds and hearts to live into the central events of his suffering, dying, and rising again. During Lent they strive to remember carefully their own brokenness and sin, and thus their desperate need for a Savior. On Ash Wednesday, they begin the sober journey by having  ashes  imposed upon them in the shape of a cross, a reminder that we human beings are dust, that our time on earth is limited, and that to build our lives anew God had to begin with nothingness—with the dirt and dust of our messy, sin-destroyed lives. 

But Lent is a time not only to focus upon the fleeting impermanence and abject perversity of one’s life. More important—by far—Christians take time to meditate, too, upon their Savior. They dwell upon their Lord’s act of grand love in offering himself for them.  

Lent, thus, is a time for repentance, prayer, and meditation—for drawing near to the Triune God who was willing to give not less than everything for his children. It’s a time for them to bring God their heart’s devotion and worship.  

The Center of Christian Faith

For on one point all Christians agree: The Cross of Jesus Christ stands at the very center of Christian faith. It is the supreme declaration of the love of God, an expression of his throbbing desire to bring his wandering and lost children safely home again. At the cross God in Christ deliberately took on the full force of the evil one, and in head-on collision triumphed over him.

Commenting on the vital significance of Jesus’ death, the Samuel Zwemer, 19th-20th century missionary to Muslims in the Middle East, declared:

“The missionary among Moslims….is driven daily to deeper meditation on this mystery of redemption, and to a stronger conviction that here is the very heart of our message and mission….If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything—the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery.  One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centers here.  The Cross is the pivot as well as the center of New Testament thought.  It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith….The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering.   We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel….[and learn  again that] its magnetic power is irresistible.” 

Echoing Zwemer, the late John Stott, Anglican pastor and theologian, declared: “[Jesus Christ’s Cross] takes us to the very heart of the Christian gospel.”

Golgotha, Gethsemane, and the Garden

But who is capable of understanding the full depth of what happened at Gethsemane and Golgotha?  “Who can set forth the riches of His death, and the unfathomable abyss of His sufferings?” (Howel Harris). And who can grasp the full immensity of what happened three days later in Joseph’s garden when our Savior rose in triumph? What mind can know, what intellect can capture, the full reality and meaning of all that happened?  

So yes, study and explore these life-defining events we Christians must. No question about it: Careful thinking about our Savior’s death and resurrection is important. By itself, however, it is very  insufficient. For Golgotha, Gethsemane, and the Garden are not so much the objects of our thinking as the arena of our faith. Pity the one who merely thinks about and studies them—who comes near to these holy events, and then departs with dry eyes.  

Far better—and more fitting— to be overwhelmed with wonder at the magnitude of our Lord’s suffering and death for us, and to come with hearts set on worshiping him, on offering him our heartfelt thanks and full-throated praise.

Glory, glory, everlasting,
Be to Him who bore the cross;
Who redeemed our souls by tasting
Death , the death deserved by us.
Spread his glory,
Who redeemed his people  thus.

His is love, ‘tis love unbounded,
Without measure, without end;
Human thought is here confounded—
‘tis too vast to comprehend;
Praise the Savior!
Magnify the sinners’ friend.

While we tell the wondrous story
Of the Savior’s cross and shame,
Sing we, ‘Everlasting glory
Be to God and to the Lamb.’
Saints and angels!
Give ye glory to his name.

                              (Thomas Kelly, 1769-1855)

Theological Reflection

“Let no man despair of God’s mercy to forgive him unless he believe  that his sins are greater than Christ’s mercy.” (Jeremy Taylor,1613-1667)

“Oh, the love of Jesus!  We cannot understand it fully now, but what a beautiful study for eternity!”
(Adoniram Judson, 1788-1850)