The Way of the Cross

As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all.” Blaise Pascal

One well know Easter song, “Jesus Lives” has as one of the stanzas the following:

Jesus lives, henceforth is death
Entrance-gate to life immortal
This shall calm our trembling breadth
When we pass its gloomy portals. Alleluia

There is a lot that can be said about the idiom: “The way of the cross” which is our meditation this morning (an idiom it is for sure because its meaning goes beyond the exact words and refers to a particular event). The way of the cross is many things. Of this many, one unmistakable one is the fact that it is the way of death.
It is about a Jesus who was crucified on the cross. When we talk about the way of the cross, we are firstly referring to that. Our Lord Himself said:
‘The kings of the gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. …’ Lk 22:24 “Not so with you! … whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mk 10:43-45.
That ransom was, we believe, paid at the cross. There Jesus did the dying. And we are to reap benefits. It is grace. And here is where we have to be careful: The streams of teachings, commonplace among us, say we can enjoy an endless flow of the consolations emanating from the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. And it is true. However, when we view it like that alone, we may be making a great mistake. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century martyr for this cause, said we do not understand the way of the cross fully if we stop there. Rather, we are preaching what he referred to as cheap grace. The most damning thing about such a version of grace is that God is called upon regularly to be “a present help in times of need” but, otherwise, Jesus is not Lord of our lives because there is no necessity to pay close attention to his commands!
One modern-day feature of such cheap grace is the kind of stuff that passes for prophesies in several places of worship. In conformity to “cheap grace” prophesies are a stream of consolations- Always telling ourselves nice things. Who does not want to hear that nice things will happen? Oh we all do. However, to any serious student of the scriptures, we must remember that the quality of prophesy is not if it is a nice statement. Since we are so used to prophesies as nice things, let me supply two counter examples where prophesies were NOT nice things. The first quality of prophesy is that it is a true statement of what will happen. Is it true? Paul the Apostle, talking to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus in Acts 20, said this,

“…compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task that Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace…”

He was going to a Jerusalem. He did not know what will happen there. The Holy Spirit told him that he will face imprisonment. He did NOT pray against it. He just went on because he was going to accomplish the purpose of God.
My second example is from the OT. In IKings 22:27, we have this remarkable passage: “ Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. …” The king was angry! Why was he so angry? Read around that passage you find the problem was simple: King was going to war, He called the prophet of God to tell him how it would go. The prophet OF GOD told him the battle will not end well. He got angry and uttered those words in annoyance!
Of course we can also find many examples where God comforted his people and promised them better days. “Say kind words to the heart of Jerusalem, crying out to her that her time of trouble is ended, that her punishment is complete” the prophet blared in Is 40:2! The fact that is incontrovertible is that it can go either way! That is a fact! If not, if we must only hear nice things, it is soothsaying NOT prophesy! The grace that is true grace, Dietrich calls costly grace. I never tire quoting this:
“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ
It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner.
And above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his son: and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life but delivered him up for us…”
He calls us to enjoy the consolations of the Gospel. Wait a minute. He first calls us to follow him. Those consolations are for those who are obedient to the call.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No there is a cross for everyone,
And there is a cross for me!

The way of the cross is about death. It is about resurrection. It is about a life that follows death. It is meant to be a consolation.

May your life and death supply
Grace to live and grace to die
Grace to reach our home on high
Hear us Holy Jesus!

Duty Never Ends

An Excerpt from the book
“Stronger than Prison Walls”
by Richard Wurmbrand
So I will tell you a story: A young king was quarrelsome and gave no peace to the wise old king of a neighbouring country. The old king entreated for friendly relations, but in vain.
The young king started a war. The old king, remembering how many foolish things he himself had done in his youth, and that there is an age from which we cannot expect wisdom, gave orders to his officers to capture his young enemy alive. So it was done. He was brought in chains before the victor. The old man pitied the youngster, but pretended to be very angry with him and sentenced him to death. The young king begged for his life.
So the old man told him: “I will give you a chance. Tomorrow you will be given a jug of water, full to the brim. You must carry it from one end of the main street of the city to the other, without spilling a drop. If you do not succeed, your life is lost.
“The next day the procession started – the prisoner with the jug of water; around him soldiers to guard him; behind him an executioner with his axe, a terrifying reminder that he would be beheaded on the spot if he failed. The old king had given orders that on one side of the street there should be a mob to boo the prisoner, on the other side a crowd to cheer him. The prisoner succeeded. He did not spill a drop.
The old king asked him: “When so many people were mocking you, did you answer them back?” The young man answered: “I had no time for that. I had to be careful about my jug.” “But did you thank the ones who cheered you?” “What business had I with them? Their acclamation could not help me. I was concerned with my jug of water. “The old king set him free with this advice: “You have been entrusted with a soul. You have to bring it back to the Lord whole and clean. That is the only thing that counts. If you do not succeed, you perish. Don’t seek the applause of men by cheap victories. Don’t worry if they mock you. Watch over your soul. “The tick-tock of the pendulum in the prison corridor makes me conscious that time passes here, as it passes for those “who are free. Soon I will have to give an account of every second of my life.
Today is my fortieth birthday. I have to account for 1,261,440,000 seconds. While I was making this calculation, other seconds have passed. I have a duty to fulfil every second. The fact that I am in solitary confinement does not release me from this duty.

The Old Leaven

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1Co 5:6-8

Thoughts for this morning

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” —E. G. White, Education, p. 57

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train. Reginald Heber

To Thee and to Thy Christ, O God,
We sing, we ever sing;
For He the lonely wine press trod,
Our cup of joy to bring.
His glorious arm the strife maintained,
He marched in might from far;
His robes were with the vintage stained,
Red with the wine of war. Anne Ross Cousin

When with blessings sated,
or by praise elated,
blessed Jesus, hear us!
Let thy cross be near us! L Tuttiet

Low in sad Gethsemane,
High on dreadful Calvary,
In the garden, on the cross,
Making good our utter loss;
Jesu, I believe in Thee,
Priest and Sacrifice for me. SJ Stone