Approximately one month or so ago, I asked seven members to each choose a word (statement) of Jesus from the cross and write a response to it. This was a bit before the viral enemy hit hard and forced us to close the Church building and cancel all regularly scheduled services.
The seven were to present their responses in order on Good Friday. We would have sung verses of “The Old Rugged Cross” interspersed between the statements. What you are receiving now in writing – either by email or snail mail – are those responses. Since most people know the tune to “The Old Rugged Cross” we are including the words here so that you can hum or sing them as they are posted.
Interestingly, I asked each person to choose in order of preference the three words/statements they would prefer to respond to. We were surprised, even shocked, that each person ended up assigned their first choice.
– Interim Pastor David Mueller
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suff’ring and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.”
“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)
Written by Sandy Pierson
Think of Jesus as He so cruelly suffers on the cross, crying out not for himself, but for all who put Him on the cross. He willingly took the place of any sinner and prayed that they might be forgiven.
The people of that day couldn’t comprehend the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, as it is written in the Bible, today we understand this forgiveness is for everyone. His mercy is freely available.
Before suffering on the cross, Jesus instructs his followers to “bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28) which appears to be exactly what he was doing on the cross.
Dear Father God In heaven, Help us to use this ultimate example of forgiveness in our lives when we are falsely accused or abused. We rise up knowing you are the truth and the way showing us direction to lead a righteous life and work towards a perfect relationship with you. Amen
Personal side note: This exercise during Lent and this time of social distancing from all that we know (routines, social times with family and friends), has been a time of reflection on forgiveness in my life. Jesus in my life has helped me through all the mountains and valleys. I think we are all reflecting on the important things in life right now.
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Written by Kevin Carr
This is the second statement that is listed as one of Jesus’ last seven words. Jesus made this statement to one of the two criminals that were being crucified with Him.
While researching these words from Jesus, I found a lot of discussion on where the comma goes in the statement. Does it go before the word “today” or after the word “today?” Most current Bibles put it before.
There was no punctuation in Aramaic or old Hebrew language. Commas were added to the Bible in the 9th century. I believe this to be misplaced. The Bible tells us that Jesus died and was buried and did not rise until the third day (1 Corinthians 15:34). Also, Jesus tells Mary after He came out of the grave not to touch Him for He had not returned to the Father (John 20:17).
Regardless of where you put the comma, it does not change the inspiration the words convey. This statement is what I believe all Christians wish for — to be with God in Paradise. This is a Bible verse that gives us all HOPE.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals and interacted with both. The two criminals represent ways to respond to suffering. The first criminal joined the mockers from the ground and said, “if you are the Christ save yourself and us, too.” He was looking for Jesus to help him out of a bad situation, death on a cross. The second criminal rebuked the first saying, “Don’t you fear God?” He admitted his guilt, knew he needed forgiveness and wanted hope for life after death. He recognized that was what Jesus offered.
I believe that at times we all could respond like either criminal. Many times, I prayed for God to get me out of a bad situation caused by my actions. I was looking for instant relief from my troubles — what some would refer to as a foxhole prayer. It wasn’t until I came to believe in Jesus that I started to experience peace. When I admitted my sins, became repentant and asked God’s forgiveness, I started to feel His presence. Like the second criminal, when I surrendered to God and stopped trying to be my own god, I found comfort. With humility, admittance of my sins and a repentant heart, I ask God for his mercy.
Now there are still times I behave like either criminal. It takes a concentrated effort to be more like the second criminal. What the second criminal asked for was to be remembered in Jesus’ Kingdom. That is what Jesus promised him. That is when he received peace and comfort. This is the great promise of the Gospel, to be with Jesus forever.
“Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me;
for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above,
to bear it to dark Calvary.”
“Woman, here is your son…. Here is your mother.” (John 19:27)
Written by Cheryl Powell
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. (NKJV)
From one viewpoint, this passage shows the consistent subjugation of women in Biblical times, as here Jesus is asking one of his disciples (which one? — a question for another time) to accept Mary as his mother and take care of her. It also begs the question of where Jesus’s nominal father, Joseph, is at this critical time. Is he there? Will he also join the household of the disciple? What is his reaction to this usurpation of his authority as Mary’s husband? All excellent questions and all irrelevant to this interpretation.
I look at this passage from Mary’s viewpoint as a faithful woman of her time, and as the mother of a son. Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit while still unwed, during a time when pregnancy before marriage was treated with shunning at best and stoning at worst. And still, her response to Gabriel after being told her destiny was simply “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” A faithful woman, certain that God would not send her a burden too heavy to bear. I only wish I could be as trusting as she was throughout her life.
From the few accounts found, young Jesus was a good son to Mary, a son who was obedient (for the most part), thoughtful (when he remembered), and loving (if his friends weren’t looking). Little is said about Mary during his teaching time. There is no record in the Bible of Jesus telling Mary his eventual fate. We know he shared that picture with his closest disciples, and of course, Mary witnessed the Passion, helplessly standing by as her firstborn was tortured, nailed to a cross, and died.
And as He was dying, the final act of this best of Sons for his mother ensured she would not want for any necessity, for a woman without men at that time faced a harsh, hand-to-mouth existence.
So when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son!” I think of my son — my firstborn and only child — and our relationship. How we were very close when he was young. How we grew apart a little when I was away at school. How he turns to me still, in times of trouble and joy. How he would help me, if I were to become destitute. How I would feel to see him subjected to such treatment, and be as powerless to stop it, or to save him.
And I weep.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
Written by Sue Saltar
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I have given this a lot of thought. Of course, there is the obvious. Christ was brutalized, humiliated and alone. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He even asked to have the upcoming events removed from Him. He knew. He was human. It must have felt so very frightening but still He allowed it all come to pass. He knew what He had to do.
I did a lot of thinking and praying during this Lenten season. Was there a time in my life when I felt alone? I cannot compare myself to what Christ went through but I can relate to feeling so very alone at one time. There was a time when I wondered where God was. My faith was tested and I struggled. It took a real desire to find my way back and I found a spiritual advisor who helped me find my way. The journey was not an easy one and very painful.
I think about how Christ could continue on with the direction this last day took. His love for me and for his Father allowed him to move ahead with humility and a certain peace. Yet on the cross he questioned — OR DID HE? Maybe He was showing me how we can feel lost and yet get to the other side. Maybe He was showing me how to do it. I could feel lost and hurting and not give up. Christ died on that cross and the world changed. His example of love grew and grew.
With this example of love, I was able to walk out of my pain and move closer to my God day by day.
I am not saying that things went easy for me. I had to bury a grandson at 21 of a genetic disorder. I watched him begin to die at age 3. It was so painful to watch my daughter watch her son die. I had to bury a granddaughter at 27 of a drug overdose. Again, I had to watch a daughter bury her daughter. But at no time did I feel abandoned now.
My faith was my strength. Christ taught me through his suffering how I could be afraid and yet not feel alone.
The lessons Christ taught while on that cross. The lessons of love and obedience. His kindness for the thief hanging next to him. The gift of making his mother our mother, while hurting. I am so grateful for the example of this loving Christ. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Maybe not. In His last discourse to His disciples, He tells them His father was there right in Him. He was not alone. His lesson to me, even at the end, is to know that I am not alone and I can count on my God. I am not always sure what OK is, but I know I will be OK, no matter what. I am not alone.
“In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
a wondrous beauty I see;
for ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
to pardon and sanctify me.”
“I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Written by Wayne Smiley
John 19:28: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.”
I asked for this verse because I feel that in this simple passage Jesus shows us exactly who he is. Jesus shows us just how focused he was on the word of God. Jesus knew why the Father had sent him and he showed his desire in fulfilling his Father’s will.
Jesus knew the writings of the Old Testament. He knew the prophecies. In Psalm 69:21 it is written, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” There was no compassion shown to Jesus as he hung on the cross. When Jesus said, “I thirst”, they filled a sponge with vinegar and raised it to his lips.
Some scholars argue that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy in this act while others argue that Jesus knew that even as his life neared its end there might be something important to say and his mouth was simply dry.
Crucifixion is the most horrible death one can imagine. Prior to being hung on the cross Jesus was severely beaten. The skin was ripped from his body. Jesus, fully God and fully man, submitted himself to the will of his Father and allowed himself to be executed in such a horrible manner. He endured the pain of beating and being nailed to the cross.
This was only the beginning of his torment. As he hung there, Jesus’ joints were pulled apart from the weight pulling against them. Every time he took a breath, he would have to pull himself up so that he could inhale. It was arid in the desert and indeed our Lord’s mouth did get dry. Therefore, “I thirst.”
I think of Jesus coming and walking among us as a man. He understood the tolls which we face and the temptations we experience every day. Jesus, as a man, turned to God in prayer to refill his cup and ask for God’s will to be done in his life.
Jesus poured himself out for mankind. He gave of himself through his teaching, his compassion, and in the end through his death. I think as Jesus neared the end of his life, he thirsted but not just in a physical sense. I think Jesus’ spiritual cup was ready to be filled. It was the only thing that would truly quench his thirst.
Jesus being fully God had been in the Father’s presence. He had experienced the love of his Father and thirsted to be in that place again. Jesus gave his all. He is the only one truly deserving to be in his Father’s kingdom, but through Grace we, too, have been given an opportunity to experience the Father’s love.
“It is finished!” (John 19:30)
Written by Beth Miller
Pause with me a moment. Breathe in. Breathe out. Do it again. Breathe in. Breathe out.
That we can still do that — well, I think it’s a sign that we still have something to do. A role to play. The chances are pretty good that many of our roles have changed a lot in the past month.
Think about it. A month ago today — March 10 — most of us were still in our offices. Kids were still in school. Stores were open, restaurants were taking reservations. Life was chugging along as it did so long ago.
There were some troubling clouds, to be sure. We saw what was starting to happen. We knew things were bad overseas and those of us who have done any travel anywhere beyond these shores could match faces with some of the places so grievously afflicted.
But life here hadn’t changed too much.
Then came March 11. The World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. Full stop. It’s as red a flag as you can get.
On that same day, those who saw this as someone else’s problem might have heard that Delaware had confirmed its first case. And soon offices and schools were closing. Store shelves were vacuumed clear. Confusing messages were sent, contradictory information, false hopes.
And so much was left undone. Incomplete. Unfinished. Loose ends everywhere.
And that’s sort of how life always is, isn’t it? You can work 12 hours a day on something, but you’ll lie down at night with unfinished business awaiting you tomorrow. You can change diapers eight times a day, feed your family over and over, do the laundry, clean the house, fix the truck, pay the bills, help someone out — and it will all need doing again, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe for the foreseeable future.
Life often seems like a continuum of unfinished business, a never-ending “to-do” list.
In the midst of all of this demand, uncertainty, effort, distraction and the unending “where-is-this-all-going-anyway” kind of questions, it is a fine thing to accomplish something and be able to say, “It is finished.”
You might want a parade when that happens, a bonus check, a “humble-brag” Facebook post that proclaims you a winner or even just a smile from somebody.
But no rainbow spread across the sky when Jesus said “It is finished.” The herald angels who harked at his birth were silent as far as we know. There was blood on the ground, anguish in the air and no one offering their constant expert commentary.
Who on earth knew what he meant? How can the Son of God be finished? Why did no one gallop in to save him? What was anyone supposed to do now? Are we all finished, too?
None of us has witnessed such an event, but Christians are in a love relationship with the One who lived it. We have his words, his counsel, his promises. We have his presence as “Immanuel” — which means “God with us.”
We will never be in a situation truly alone, forsaken, with no one to turn to. God is with us — everywhere, always, forever.
And this is the way Jesus spent his last, torturous day:
- He forgave his crucifiers.
- He promised a future in paradise.
- He showed us where to direct our desperate questions.
- He tended to family and loved ones.
- He expressed his need.
And now he was finished. That searing debt — the debt owed by every hater, abuser, cheater and liar, every murderer and thief and oppressor, every one among us, in other words — could now be accounted for. This is the extravagant price of real justice. This is the source of mercy. This is the wellspring of real, living love.
Every damaged human being, every sinful soul, every hopeless, helpless, horrid, evil-infested heart is covered in this exchange — by grace, in full, in advance of the final reckoning day. If we embrace that gift and live every moment as an expression of gratitude for it, our lives can point others to the same Good News, that Jesus the Crucified finished this debt for them, too.
Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, put it this way in a sermon delivered in 1861:
“Come with me, poor soul, and you and I will stand together this morning, while the tempest gathers, for we are not afraid. How sharp that lightning flash! But yet we tremble not. How terrible that peal of thunder! And yet we are not alarmed — and why? Is there anything in us why we should escape? No, but we are standing beneath the cross—that precious cross, which like some noble lightning-conductor in the storm, takes to itself all the death from the lightning and all the fury from the tempest. We are safe. Loud may you roar, O thundering law, and terribly may you flash, O avenging justice! We can look up with calm delight to all the tumult of the elements, for we are safe beneath the cross.”
Safe beneath the cross, where Jesus the Christ said “It is finished.”
Much remains undone in our lives and in our world. But the most important mission is accomplished. God has made a way for us.
Let us give thanks, embrace the gift and spread that Good News. It is finished and we are safe with him.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Written by David McClure
Luke 23:46: And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
I have come here from the wreckage of a marriage and a life to find a sanctuary. For some reason, I feel that I am supposed to be here at this place and time. I don’t understand why that is so, but it is. I’ve never been one with clever words or glib phrases. I was a sailor and remain one in my heart.
I can’t write poetry, but I know when it speaks to my heart and soul. I’d like to share this as what I feel from this passage. It may be found in several versions and attributed to different people on the net, but this is the version that has helped me through some very dark days.
“My life is but a weaving, between my God and me.
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes He weaves in sorrow, and I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I, the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why
the dark threads are as needful, in the Master Weavers’ hands
as are the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.”
JESUS KNEW HIS FATE. From the time of starting His ministry, He knew what awaited Him. He pleaded (more than once) to be released from it, but it was ALWAYS accompanied by “If it be Your will” when He spoke.
He knew His thread in the pattern. We are not that fortunate, if that is the phrase. We wonder, wander and stray from the path, but can always come back to the Presence and the Love that is the Divine.
I am thankful for that mercy and know that on an appointed day, I will stand before the Judgment Seat. I hope that it will be with humility and acceptance of whatever is determined to be my fate.
Closing commentary from Pastor Mueller:
I once was speaking with a young colleague, who carried a certain suspicion as to whether or not lay people could be trusted to do ministry without the help of clergy. I responded simply by saying: “Trust God’s people!” This is what I have done here. I did not edit any of these. I responded to questions if asked. These offerings are genuinely from the hearts and minds of your fellow Christians here at St. Mark’s. I realize that this was not generally an easy task, but they all have done marvelously. I thank them all!
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you, lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Christ will call me some day to my home far away,
where his glory forever I’ll share.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.