Friday, April 02, 2010
At the Cross
My father is a violinist. He's many other things--an educator (principal at GBA in the 70s!), a theologian, a carpenter, a gardener, a philosopher--but at heart he's a musician, and a pretty good one at that. When he was in high school, he had hopes of being a concert violinist, or at the very least a professional orchestral player. But then he went to college and God called him to the ministry--both pastoral and teaching. Growing up, I heard him play many times--all kinds of classical music. But my favorite memories of him playing are of when he'd play for church, always just a simple hymn. He wanted to reach out to everyone with his music and hymns, for him, did that. Hymns like "Face to Face with Christ my Saviour" and "Into the Woods my Master Went" and "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" were among his favorites. Hearing them played under his skillful hands made them my favorites as well, especially after I looked the words up in the hymnal and realized the impact of what he was playing.
Every year at this time, I am drawn to the music of the time. The hymns my father put into my mental iTouch always start to play in my mind and take hold of my heart, especially Paul Gerhardt's setting of the ancient Latin hymn "Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded":
O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
which once was bright as morn!
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.
This week, as those words swirled through my head, the images they created jammed up my heart and made me grateful anew for what my Saviour actually did for me. They also brought to mind another, related hymn, "At the Cross":
Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!
So, what, then, does it mean to me that Jesus became a human being and lived as a man for 33 years and then died for me? A man that got hungry, tired, thirsty? A man who had intense feelings? A man who knew temptation? Does all of that really affect my life today? What difference does it make? Well, for me, Jesus’ life means four things:
1. He provides atonement. Since Adam and Eve chose sin, with its penalty of separation from God, only Jesus, according to the preconceived plan, could pay the penalty and thus change the consequences of that sin. The man Jesus provided atonement--at-one-ment—and restored harmony between man and God.
2. I better understand God. To face Satan’s accusations about God and His character, to bridge the distance resulting from sin, to heal misunderstandings likely in that relation-ship, God chose to give the watching world, and me, a living example of what He was really like. Jesus went beyond telling to show me what His Father was like. How could I love or serve some impersonal, cosmic force? But now, I see God Himself through the life and person of His Son.
3. He better understands me. Because I am convinced that He has felt my pain, I will more easily turn to Him for encouragement or forgiveness, confident that He will care, He will sympathize, He will understand.
4. He provides a pattern, a role model. As a person subject to pressure, bound by time, plagued at times by fatigue, I carefully watch Jesus’ life for His responses. And I see unqualified love (John 15:12), unhurried purpose (John 12:27), constant depen-dence (John 5:19), and responsive obedience (John 14:31). What a contrast to my self-centeredness, indepen-dence and defensive-ness!
The words and music of Easter encourage me to look at Christ’s life on earth which, in turn, shows me that what God expects of me is not impossible. Someone else has gone before me and shown me the way. Because of His life, I know how to live my life. Because of His struggles, I know how to get through my struggles. Because of His earthly death, I have the promise of eternal life. And so do you.