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Communion Meditations (2012)

Garden Prayer

Crucifixion as a method of killing someone is no longer in fashion. But the method is sufficiently simple that we can portray it in our minds. When we do, we see the suffering of Christ. Heretics in the early church sometimes argued that Christ could not suffer, because he is God. The church rightly recognized the truth: he must suffer, because he is also human. He is fully God, he is fully man – and he most certainly suffered on the cross.

If asked to describe it, most of us would use the word "pain". It cannot possibly be pleasant to have your hands and feet nailed to a cross. The entire process of crucifixion was designed to give the maximum of pain before death. But there are other forms of suffering, too.

·         A criminal on the cross got no sympathy from the crowd. Executions were highly public, and the humiliation given by the mocking crowd was considered part of the punishment.

·         Remember also that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. There were plenty of people around, but the righteous Savior was really alone. He was not one of many righteous man suffering that day; he was the only righteous man in sight.

We often remember Christ's suffering on the cross. But just before that event came another season of suffering for him: the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. This too added to his pain:

·         First, the three disciples he trusted most just couldn't seem to stay awake. In this most physical of ways, Christ was abandoned. He was alone.

·         The occasion was not one of sending a memo to God the Father. It was one of extreme sorrow. How could it not be, knowing what he was soon to face?

·         His prayer included the forlorn phrase, "if it be possible." He was asking for something he knew he wasn't going to get. It was a hard place to be.

When you ask why Christ did this, you usually get an answer which tells of his sacrifice for our sins. That tells us the intellectual reason. But all the reasoning in the world will not bring him to the cross without the two most important causes:

·         The Father's love for mankind. The best-known verse in the Bible starts with, "for God so loved the world…".

·         The Son’s obedience to the Father. Jesus said it: "not my will but your will be done."

Today, as you partake, discern the body and blood of Jesus the Christ. This meal was bought at the price of the death of the only perfectly righteous man ever to live. He did it for love; he did it from obedience. Remember, then, the sacrifice he has made as you partake.

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