Some things are good for our souls, and as a pastor, part of my calling is to care for the souls of people in our church. I imagine most people don’t spend much time thinking about how to nurture their souls, how to sweep out the bad influences and make room for more of God’s goodness and love. So, let me give us a spir-itual prescription, sort of a course of treatment for weary and worn hearts: spend some time with Jesus on the way to the cross.
In our church’s tradition, we don’t put much emphasis on the liturgical calendar, other than recognizing Advent leading up to Christmas and Easter Sunday. I may occasionally reference Pentecost or All Saint’s Day, and we pass out palm branches on Palm Sunday. But otherwise, we don’t follow the traditional church calendar in obvious ways. Which means, we aren’t going to have special Lenten services this month, but I would encourage you to mark this season in your own devotional life by reading the Gospels and giving special attention to the final days of Jesus before He went to the cross.
To help us along, I am preaching from Mark’s account of Jesus’ final week. Typically, I don’t preach on these passages because we jump right from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and then move to other parts of scripture, skipping quickly over the Upper Room, Gethsemane, and the betrayal and humiliations Jesus suffered. This year, we will disrupt the timeline a bit and read passages about Jesus’ final days over the course of several weeks.
I want to do this because it will be good for our souls. I know it will help mine, and I trust the Spirit will use God’s word to refresh and encourage your heart as well. Reading and thinking about Jesus’ death is good for us in the same way celebrating Communion is. It draws us into His story, even allowing us, in a spiritual sense, to participate in Jesus’ suffering.
We live in a world cracked and soiled by sin. We see the effects of evil around us, sometimes even right up close in our own homes and families. Our hearts grow heavy and grieved by the darkness of our world and the foolishness of sinful people. We also struggle under the burden of our own brokenness.
That’s why we need the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s God ultimate and perfect answer to sin and evil. It is God’s way of telling us it’s going to be alright in the end. God sees the darkness of our world, and He has already sent forth the glorious light of His grace.
I hope as you read again about the passion of our Lord that you will come to understand more deeply why Jesus died, not just how. He went to the cross out of love for you, me and everyone who has ever lived. God loves the people He created, loves us so much that He willingly sent His own Son to die on our behalf.
Jesus could have hidden when the soldiers came for Him. He could have fought back when they arrest-ed Him. He could have argued with the charges brought against Him. He could have called angels to rescue Him from the Roman soldiers. He could have simply never come into our dangerous, evil world.
Jesus chose to die for us, because there was no other way to save us from our sinful self-destruction. As you read the story again, let your soul feed on the extraordinary nature of God’s amazing love and rejoice in the assurance that your sins have been washed away.