In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.
Holy Week: The Grand Finale
Read John 19: 16-37
Jesus on the cross – the ultimate expression of his outstretched arms of love!
His arms could not have been stretched out any further than when they were extended for all humanity on the cross. Simply held back on the beam that far and for so long would have been enough to endure, but with the nails piercing his hands the suffering was all the more agonizing for Jesus. The crown of thorns on his head and the nails holding his feet in place added to his injurious position. This humiliation and suffering went far beyond the washing of the disciples’ feet in expressing the fullest extent of love.
Carrying his own cross, he walked with the soldiers out to The Place of the Skull, known as Golgotha. He was crucified with two others – one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate’s notice was fastened above his head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” The soldiers divided his clothes among them, one share for each of the four attending him. But his seamless undergarment they did not tear, and instead cast lots for it.
Near the cross stood his mother and the other women. Looking down Jesus saw his mother and the beloved disciple. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son” and from that time on this faithful disciple took her into his home and cared for her. Words came from his tired breathing, “Father forgive them” – “You will be with me in paradise” – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – “I am thirsty” – “It is finished” – “Into your hands I commit my spirit” and after a soaked sponge of wine vinegar was placed on his lips, he bowed his head and breathed his last, giving up his spirit into death.
Instead of breaking his legs to complete his demise, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. Not one of his bones was broken, as the prophet foretold, for those who search for the Living God “will look on the one they have pierced instead.” And that’s how it occurred. The death of Jesus was completed on the cross in the most wretched form possible.
It’s hard to fathom what it would have been like to witness such cruelty. In such a short time frame Jesus went from the highly acclaimed King to the lowly despised criminal. From “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. Even though Pilate sought to set Jesus free, the Jews kept shouting about his demise. In handing Jesus over to the will of the people, he washed his hands of his death. The drama this act sparked would be exactly as God intended…amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God would die for me? How many present could sing that hymn of praise? Would you?
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; believe the Gospel of grace poured out in the shed blood of Christ on the cross; belong to those who know Him as Savior, Lord and King; and become a fervent and faithful follower of Jesus the One who left heaven to come to earth to die so that you can have life eternal.
For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153:
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.