Call to Worship
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. [HEBREWS 1:1-4]
Eternal God, whose covenant with us is never broken: We confess that we have failed to fulfill your will for us. We betray our neighbors, desert our friends, and run in fear when we should be loyal. Though you have bound yourself to us, we have not bound ourselves to you. God, have mercy on us weak and willful people. Lead us once again to your table, and unite us to Christ, who is the bread of life and the vine from which we grow in grace. To Christ be praise forever. Amen. [WSB]
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. [MARK 15:16-20]
Meditating on death, at its very core, is morbid and depressing. We mourn, weep, and lament death, sure—but what is the point of taking a week (at some level six weeks) to meditate and reflect deeply on it? Is that necessary or helpful? Wouldn’t it be better to keep things positive?
For the Christian, death is not exclusively negative or bad news because we have a much bigger view of the grand story. Death isn’t the end; it is a subplot that gives way to glory of resurrection. Death is no longer a bitter pill to swallow; it has been swallowed up in the victory, it has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). Death is the harbinger of good news for the person who is shaped by God’s story. Meditating on death should always be a means toward understanding the grander story of the gospel.
Amid this grander story, the reality of death confronts and challenges us—it reminds us that life is frail and fleeting, and it beckons us to examine our daily life.
To be a Christian means to have located your identity, your worth, your value in Jesus— he has become your treasure. A life well lived is one that treasures Christ above all (Philippians 3:7-8). Death, therefore, must serve as a constant reminder of where to place our treasure:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
A life well lived is one that keeps the impending nature and finality of death in view because death causes us to examine what we are treasuring. Meditating on death should always be a means toward gaining an eternal perspective that results in treasuring Christ more deeply.
Above all, though, meditating on death should always be a means toward understanding and receiving the grace of God through Christ. Death is a direct result of the fall, as sin entered into our reality. Our world – and our own lives – are filled with death and decay because of the power and presence of sin.
We are nearing the end of this Lenten journey. And for this journey to become truly real to you, you must come face to face with the depth of sin that is present in your heart and life. You have to see yourself for who you really are: a sinner fully deserving of God’s just and holy wrath (Romans 3). We have to see ourselves how God sees us because it is only as we believe what God says about us that we will be able to believe what God has done for us. God has given you his only begotten Son, our true Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given you his best to redeem you. That is what God has done for us!
God does not ignore our sin, he atones for it. He does not look past who we are, he redeems us. And it is his great love for us that empowers our redemption: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). Because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we are accepted by God, we are saints in the kingdom of God.
It is only as we believe in the depth of our sin that we can truly understand and believe in the overwhelming grace, mercy, and love of God. And this is the gospel: God’s grace and mercy through the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is so much deeper and greater than what we see in our own hearts. Praise Jesus!
- Think back on the past seven days and spend some time confessing your specific sin before God.
- Now reflect on the truth that Jesus went to the cross and died for those very sins. Receive God’s forgiveness in Christ, worshiping him for his grace and mercy.
Lead us, O God, in the way of Christ. Give us courage to take up our cross and, in full reliance upon your grace, to follow him. Help us to love you above all else and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, demonstrating that love in deed and word by the power of your Spirit. Give us strength to serve you faithfully until the promised day of resurrection, when, with the redeemed of all the ages, we will feast with you at your table in glory. Through Christ, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, now and forever. Amen. [WSB]
All biblical quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent © 2013 by Providence Church. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from Providence Church.
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Cover design by Andrew Shepherd. Book design by Kendal Haug.
Special thanks to Melanie Hebert, Todd Stewman, and Laura Szymanski for their invaluable contributions in editing and writing.