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Daily Encouragement - March 30

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent." And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke 23:44-49

For the longest time, it struck me as the most mystifying of questions.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Though I’ve always loved the old spiritual of the same name, the question it asks troubled my mind for many years. Just yesterday morning, I heard the question asked again, in our Palm/Passion Sunday service at First UMC Wilson. And I’ll hear it asked one more time this Lent, at the Good Friday Tenebrae service. It’s a question worth hearing again and again, because it goes straight to the heart of personal faith. What does the death of Jesus mean for us? And why do we go on commemorating the grisly execution of our Lord every Holy Week like clockwork? Or, as a confirmand once said to me after a Good Friday service, “Why do we keep dragging ourselves through this? It’s been over and done for a while now. It all seems sort of gruesome and ghoulish to me.” God bless confirmands. They say what they think.

Truth be told, sometimes it’s hard for any of us to think about this darkest of days as being good, but that’s what Christians everywhere have called it for thousands of years...because it is the death of Christ that opens for us the way to life. On this Friday we call “good,” we thank our God for dying - for us. Almighty God died for us. It buckles the brain just to think of it...not to mention the question of whether we were there.

But really, how on earth could we have been there? The crucifixion of Jesus took place very nearly 2 thousand years ago. The simple and obvious answer is: No, we were not there when they crucified our Lord. We simply weren’t among the crowds gathered there, who - after seeing what took place - went home beating their breasts. We weren’t with all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, who stood at a distance “watching these things.” No; we are numbered among those who must believe without having seen, who “walk by faith, not by sight.”

But the simple and obvious answer is seldom the full and complete answer. Down through the centuries since the Cross of Christ, the deep and true answer has dawned on Christians from generation to generation, just as it finally dawned on me: Oh, yes, we were there when they crucified our Lord. Our sins were there, nailing him to that awful Tree, part and parcel of the burden our Savior bore to his death. Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! Oh, yes, we were there when they crucified our Lord. But what is infinitely more important is the greatest truth of the Cross: He was there for us.

Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh! Sometimes, it causes me to tremble,

tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

O merciful Father, in compassion for your sinful children you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world. Grant us grace to feel and to lament our share of the evil that made it necessary for him to suffer and to die for our salvation. Help us by self-denial, prayer, and meditation to prepare our hearts for deeper penitence and a better life. And give us a true longing to be free from sin, through the deliverance won by Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood

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