“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (ESV)
The cross is a Christian symbol that many of us enjoy wearing as accessories or use for décor in our homes, but during the period in history when Jesus lived, the cross represented a humiliating and shameful form of punishment. To be hung on a tree was the equivalent of being put under a curse. Our Lord was not murdered—He voluntarily gave His life for us. The disciples viewed the cross as defeat, but Jesus viewed the cross as victory! The cross represented shame and weakness to the disciples, but it represented glory and power to Jesus. Jesus viewed the cross as a divine assignment. What does the cross represent to you?
The only way we can correctly view the cross is when we see it from Jesus’ point of view. Prior to His arrest and death, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane and asked for the cup to be removed from Him? I believe Jesus couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from His Father, so He prayed for another plan. Can you relate to Jesus? Have you ever cried out and begged God to change your circumstances? Jesus was well aware of God’s ability to rescue Him. But that was not God’s plan. God wants our hearts, but because of sin, the only hope of a personal relationship with Him came at a price: the death of His Son. Jesus is the Lamb who took the sins of the world.
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t change the difficult circumstances of your life? Often the “why” echoes out of our darkest despair and leaves us feeling forsaken by God. Christ’s crucifixion is a reminder that pain is not about God forsaking us, but about God’s faithfulness to us. Pain may cause us to cry and ask God why, but I personally know God uses pain as an avenue to demonstrate His strength. God gives us His strength even when we are unable to see past the pain. We may never understand why things are the way they are. Asking God why He allows certain things to come into our life is not a sign of a lack of faith! Jesus had perfect faith, yet He asked why. But we must believe God is good more than we seek to understand why. And because He is good, He will not withhold what is best for us.
Have you ever considered what would have happened if Jesus had not submitted to the will of His Father in Gethsemane? What if Jesus had said, “This is harder than I imagined, and I can’t follow through with this plan?” What if Jesus had chosen not to suffer the pain of the cross? In other words, what if Jesus were like you and me? Pain has caused many of us to walk away from a loving God in search of a life without pain. Jesus was very clear when He taught His disciples that there will be suffering and pain in this world. We simply can’t live without experiencing suffering because this isn’t heaven.
The day Jesus was nailed to the cross appeared to be anything but good. But no one knew God’s plan. We didn’t realize Jesus’ death proceeded His resurrection. The cross is a reminder of how God uses all things—including pain—for our good and His glory. Jesus’ willingness to submit to God’s plan made a way for us to have a personal relationship with God. And it happened at the cross.
Read John 19-20 as if you have never heard this story.
Not only is the story of Christ's death and resurrection a reminder of God’s love, but it is also a reminder of God’s power—the power that raised His Son from the dead. This is same God we have the privilege to bow before and call Father. Had it not been for the cross, we wouldn’t have ever been able to enter into the presence of God. This truth alone should make us fall to our knees and worship Him.
Imagine Mary Magdalene crying at the tomb of Jesus, and even though He comes to her, she does not recognize Him. This reminds me of the many times my tears have blinded me to God’s presence in my own painful situations. Can you recall a time you were so heartbroken you felt God had abandoned you? As the days and years have passed and you look back on that time, can you now see Jesus was in the middle of your painful situation, but you just couldn’t see him through your tears? If not, are you willing to revisit that painful situation and ask God to show you how He never left you and how He was holding you together even though you weren’t aware of His presence?
Have you ever considered God was the one who led you to the other side of your most painful circumstances, even if He used a friend to minister to you? Since God promised to never to leave or forsake us, we must wipe the tears from our eyes and recognize that Jesus is with us each step of the way. Lean into Him!