Pause. Let your mind settle for a moment to get a sense of your heart before you read on. Ask yourself, “What occupies the focus of my mind and the concern of my heart right now…a problem, a pain, a loss, a grief, a sin?” Before reading on, name whatever that “thing” is.

I ask these questions because I was reminded this morning in my own contemplations of the cross how utterly consumed we are with the self-life—impacted and influenced by our problems, difficulties, failures, worries or strategies to fix our inner life. These things consume us daily because they are fundamentally about us. I raise my hand as I write these words and confess, “This is me!”

But today, this dark but Good Friday, crucifixion day, I paused to look beyond the contours of my own self-life to see a Man so unlike myself—so unlike the sinful impulse to place self and self-problems at the center. The final words of the Man on the cross display an altogether different kind of humanity. Instead of anger and vengeance we hear him say, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” His concern at that moment wasn’t for personal justice—as we often demand in the face of personal injury. He doesn’t stew on the lies or the slander with fuming anger. His heart spills out forgiveness. Too, in the face of our own pains and troubles, you and I often fail to see or hear the pains of others. But the Man on the cross did not. Bearing the emotional injuries of betrayal and abandonment; elevated to a position of social and public shame; feeling the conscious weight of real guilt (our guilt) along with the screaming nerves of skin and muscles, Jesus heard the prayer of a sinner—“remember me.” The fact that he heard such a plea astonishes me—especially in a world torn apart by love’s extinction. The fact that he responded, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” is itself a testament to the heart of the Man. Even as I think of Him now, my heart is humbled by his selfless love. My heart is also grateful and feels the rise of praise for the Man who would give himself up for a soul like mine--“love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul my life my all.” Such a contemplation of the Man on the cross draws me out of the self-life and toward the beauty of God himself. May God grant us a spirit of worshipful joy on this Good Friday as we reflect on the most amazing display of love ever witnessed.

(Originally published April 3, 2015)

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