If you look at the commonly portrayed pictures of Christ in picture books for children, you see a Jesus who looks strong, confident and loving. These are certainly aspects of Jesus that are appropriate for kids and are true about our Lord. This weekend, though, I have been mindful of some of the graphic images of Jesus on the Cross painted by artists hundreds of years ago. On a high school trip to Washington D.C., I remember walking though the National Gallery of Art and being somewhat “shocked” by the realism of the paintings and the agony that He must have suffered.
At our local church, we occasionally use the common cup method (sometimes called intinction) for serving communion. One elder will serve the bread and the other will hold a cup of wine and juice for the person taking communion to dip their bread in. This weekend was my first time to serve communion using this method as an elder and it was a powerful experience. I was the one serving the bread and we are encouraged to use the person’s first name and say the words, “His body broken for you” as each person comes forward. We were serving communion this Friday at our Tenebrae service (where the lights go down slowly as scriptures are being read and songs are being sung) and were able to pray with small groups of people after we had served them the communion elements. This simple act of serving others and saying those words made the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so much more vivid to me than in years past.
The reality for me, though, is that I am often forgetful of what God has done on my behalf and how much He had to sacrifice. More importantly, I sometimes need reminders of why He did this in the first place. This past week, I had a meeting near Center City Philadelphia and chose to Mapquest my directions and head on my way with a colleague. About halfway there, we realized that the directions were taking us through one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city and that it actually might not have been the quickest way after all. Block after block of blighted buildings interspersed with trash strewn lots where buildings once stood were all we could see. At one point we passed through an area where all the signs were in Spanish and we were reminded of the large immigrant and Hispanic population in the city. As we were driving, the thought crossed my mind of how hopeless it must be to live in a place like that what a wonderful hope our Savior came to provide.
It was easy to come home from that trip safe and secure and think about the savior that “those people” needed. The broken places in our city are the obvious places that need restoration and yet how easy it is to forget that these same broken places exist in the hearts of sinners everywhere. As an elder, I am now getting a bigger picture of the depravity and sin that exists in all our safe suburban homes. In reality, that sin and brokenness is everywhere – even in my own home. Jesus came for the prostitute and the Pharisee. He spent time with the rich and the poor. He knew that his body would be broken for us all regardless of the extent of our sin. He loved unconditionally.
As I am prone to forget all that has been done on my behalf, may I be reminded once again that Jesus’ body was crushed for my iniquities, not just for the poor sinners in a rough part of my city. My sin was being atoned for just like it was for the criminals on the crosses that hung on either side of Him. May my worship and service be driven by a heart of gratitude for what He paid so dearly for on my behalf. Next time I drive by a broken down building, may I be reminded of the broken down lives that He came to save and that my life without Christ is as ugly as a trash strewn lot. What a savior – what a sacrifice.