Christians say that "Jesus died for us." What does that mean?
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
told by Deborah
Jesus told his disciples, “Don’t go strutting around talking about how pious you are so others will be impressed; God hates that kind of sanctimonious crap.
“Don’t make a big fuss over your offerings; don’t give in order to gain admiration or respect. That isn’t faith, but a business transaction.
“Simply give — without expecting a reward, and without insisting on recognition. The One who matters will see it and rejoice.
“And when you pray, don’t be like those who carry on and make a lot of noise so that others will notice. That’s not prayer, it’s a performance — and having an audience is their only concern.
“Instead, when you pray, go off by yourself in a quiet place so you can have a private conversation with your Beloved, and your honesty will be rewarded.
“And when you fast, don’t mope around acting weak and worn out like those who want to be admired for their efforts. I’m telling you, they’ve got their payoff.
“Instead, when you fast, wash your face, comb your hair, and go through your day with a smile — so that your fasting will be a precious secret shared between you and God.
“Do not collect earthly treasures that rust and rot and break down and become obsolete — mere things that thieves will steal and moths devour; but build up a store of heavenly treasures, glorious and eternal.
“For what you treasure reveals who you are.”
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent: the six weeks that lead us to the foot of the cross, whose terrible presence casts a shadow across the spring landscape. It is a somber season; a season of awe, of hope in the face of fear, of faith and courage, and serious self-reflection.
It is a season in which we honor the Lord Christ’s steadfast commitment to God’s way, staying the course of love and not succumbing to the world’s fascination with violence and hate. We remember all that he taught us — and we recoil at the reality of his suffering and death.
“He died for our sake.” This statement is among the oldest Christian confessions of faith; most of us have repeated these words at one time or another. But what do they mean? Jesus’ death on the cross did not end death; it is still with us. Nor did his suffering eliminate the pain and suffering of humanity, we see its traces all around us, we know it well, ourselves.
Jesus’ crucifixion and death demonstrate the depth of divine com-passion. His life and death are proof that the Eternal understands what we feel — and experiences it alongside us; God truly shares our suffering. For those in pain this reality can give us strength, can steady our feet, can help us to seek the light, even in the darkest night.
And this truth should give us pause: it should stop us in our tracks whenever we find ourselves willing to do harm to another. If, as we proclaim, God-is-with-us; if the Divine Nature shares our suffering, feels our pain, and knows our hurting …. Who are we cursing when we condemn another person? Who are we shaming when we mock someone? Who are we harming when we cut down, hate, and vilify each other?
It isn’t only the centurions who pound nails into the body of the Lord.
That Jesus died on the cross, suffering as we suffer, dying as we die, reminds us of our personal responsibility to give life to the world. To destroy another, to despise and demean other human beings, to damage the earth… all these things do great harm to our own souls as well. To harm another is to do violence to God.
It’s just that serious. We absolutely and truly do make a difference in this world — and our choices can bring great good or terrible evils.
It is not an easy task, this business of being a Christian. To believe in the Lord Christ is far more than mere words, more than simply agreeing that his teachings are valid. To believe is to commit ourselves following His Way in all we say and do, in all we hope for and pray for. To believe in the Lord Christ is to live, every day, as if the Gospel Truth is true.
The coming forty days offer us an opportunity to take a deep and prayerful look at our lives, and the life of the One we say we follow. At the end of this Season we will come to the cross of Christ and, on that day, where will we be standing?
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Light of the World, enlighten me.
Give me eyes to see Your glory,
ears to hear Your words,
and a heart open to Your love;
give me the wisdom to know Your Way
and the strength and courage to follow it
this day and every day.