During Holy Week – as we have to be separated from one another and kept from gathering in the sanctuary – we will be keeping vigil with one another as we pray with the stained-glass windows from our sanctuary at First UMC in Warner Robins. Each day we’ll have a theme, meditation, personal prayer focus, and closing prayer. Spend some time in meditation with the image and then commit to a time of personal prayer centered on the daily prayer focus.
Theme: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Look at the image above. Today is Good Friday, a day that we can look back at now and celebrate, even though at the time it seemed to be the very opposite of good. The greatest act of loving kindness that was ever done on behalf of humanity took place on this day. The crucifixion of Jesus can be difficult to think about, for it was a brutal way to die. And yet, the result of this act of selfless sacrifice released us from our personal debt to sin and death – a way that had been brutally destructive for us. We had sold ourselves willingly to sin and death, choosing evil for ourselves. We could not release ourselves from our bondage, so Jesus offered himself in exchange for our freedom. Take a few moments and reflect on the image of Jesus hanging on the cross. What does the cross mean to you? At any moment Jesus could have delivered himself from the cross and left us to the consequences of our own sin. However, his love for you held him there. You were worth it all to Jesus. Notice how, even in his pain, Jesus’s eyes are focused downward upon the women gathered at the cross. His concern is for us – always for us. Allow Jesus to look lovingly at you in this quiet moment and gaze back at him in love.
The women are the ones who have faithfully followed Jesus all the way to the cross. We read in Scripture that John is the only one of the Twelve who went to the cross. After spending three years in intense discipleship to Jesus, all the Apostles scattered and abandoned him. But the women – those who were looked down upon by society and overlooked by the powerful – they are the truly devoted ones. Whom do we overlook in our society? How does Jesus look upon them? How might we see them in the way Jesus sees them? How might we be as faithful and devoted to Jesus as the women who followed him?
Notice that the sign at the top of the cross reads “INRI” – these are the initials for the Latin phrase that means “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Those who placed this sign above Jesus did so to mock him. Still, the truth is the truth and what they meant as a mockery, God designed as a testimony to sacrificial love and the true nature of power and authority. Jesus does not rule over us in the way our human rulers do. Jesus is generous and just. In what ways have you experienced the generosity and the justice – the good reign of Jesus over all creation? How are you being called to be an honorable subject of the kingdom of God?
Finally, notice the drop of blood that flows down to us from the feet of Jesus. He has three nails driven into his hands and feet and a crown of thorns upon his forehead. Though we do not see them in this picture, Jesus also had the marks of a severe beating and lashing upon his body. His blood was poured out as a covering for our sin, much like the blood of a sacrificial lamb – the blood that was sprinkled on the assembly of the faithful and spread upon the doorposts in ancient Israel. The blood of Jesus washes us clean from the stains of sin. Because of the marks upon Jesus, sin no longer marks you. You are marked by love and grace. Take a moment to confess your sin before God. Know that through the blood of Jesus, you are forgiven and made whole. Jesus died so that you might have life.
Personal Prayer Focus: Pray for those who do not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Ask God to reveal Godself to them this Holy Week. Pray for the courage and humility to share Jesus with others, being honest about how he has delivered you from sin and made you whole.
LORD God, out of your great love, you sent Jesus to the world so that we might be forgiven of our sin and delivered from our isolation from you. You desire that all persons come to know the power of the cross, so that none might be lost. May we live lives worthy of the cross and relate to others in compassion and mercy. Amen.