24 Hours Can Be an Eternity. OURS! – One Stood Facing

All week, ‘seems like shutdown’s been all we’ve heard about. You don’t want to talk about that in church, do ya’?! But, wouldn’t you know it, we gotta! O, not the one buzzed on Capital Hill. The one witnessed on Calvary’s Hill. You know, the one with the crosses up there looming. The one Jesus approaches, even as we speak. Here’s the thing. While Jesus is up there dyin’, some are just denyin’. Some scoff. Others mock, or turn away defeated. Then there are those who just roll the dice. (OK, they drew lots, but most of us understand dice better.) These souls are more interested in their own vices and designs. Scriptures say, “They crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.” But let it be noted. One of the soldiers stood facing Jesus, really facing him. Maybe he’s the only one. This much is certain. While everybody else on that hillside with Jesus shuts down, only one stands facing Jesus. He can see, will see, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Friends, what will you stand for; what will you need to face, ‘til you too can say the same?!

Let’s go back to Jesus’ last 24 hours. He’s heard the disciples squabble at his own table over who’s best. They nap as Christ is about to be nabbed. There’s still a cruel kiss on Jesus’ cheek, planted by Judas, who betrayed him. He’s been tried by the priests, denied by Peter, paraded before Pilate, and lashed to the whipping post. He is not a mere victim of this cruelty. He seems determined to receive it, endure it, defeat it. That will not be easy. Two lectors (as these soldiers were called) use their flagrum (whip), knotted with fish hooks, bits of glass, metal or bone fragments to exact terrible pain, literally tearing the flesh from their prisoner.  Dear Jesus! Looking on, at least a compliment of 300 soldiers, some mocking, taunting, spitting on him. Like young Isaac in the OT, asked to carry the very wood on which his Father Abraham will nearly sacrifice him, Jesus, carries his own 100 lb. cross(beam) the 1/3 mile uphill to Calvary. So weak is he now, Simon will be pressed to complete the journey. (The moment so shatters, yet reconstructs Simon, he’ll become a believer, and both his sons. Simon will become Christ’s 1st missionary to N. Africa!) The guards will affix Jesus to the cross, nails through the wrists to the bar, nails through the sides of the ankle, upright of the cross between the knees. (This is new arch’l/info.) The scantest of seats will afford but a moment’s relief. It stretches the torso, suffocating the sufferer, who must then push up off those spiked ankles to breathe. It would go on like this hour after hour. (Six for Jesus, for most many more.) All this while naked, taunted by his adversaries, and literally barely above eye level of his own mother and dearest friend. (They could have touched his tormented cheek!) At his feet, his captors gamble for his meager cloak. But one, one “soldier of the cross”… STOOD… facing Jesus! That’s who I want to look at with you now. That soul, and the souls who rolled the dice (cast lots) and can’t or don’t cast their lot with Jesus!

Here is Jesus suffering on this cross. And his executioners, those responsible for his suffering, are paying no attention! Imagine. Dying on the cross, Jesus lifts up just 1 commandment. The 5th. He honors his mother. “Mother, behold your son, “he says of John. So doing, he sees to her care, and cares for her breaking heart. Those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, you and I? Literally, ‘at our own parents (no matter our age), in our choices, behaviors, in how we care for them, whether in memory or in daily life? “Father, forgive them,” he says, “They don’t know what they’re doing!” The mockers don’t hear because they disbelieve. His friends don’t hear ‘because they’re too pained and would prefer revenge to reconciliation. (That’s still the way. Try to invite an eastern presence into a 9/11 celebration. Or ask the dems. or repubs. in congress just now.) But maybe worse, those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, you and I? “Today, you’re with me… in Paradise,” he says to the thief. You see, the thief is looking intently at Jesus. And he says to that other robber, “Now that I see who this Jesus really is, I want to follow, even if it’s the last thing I ever do!” You know what? That’s the starting point for all of us! SO IF YOU HAVE EVER FELT THIS, OR FEEL IT NOW AND HAVE NEVER SAID THIS… TODAY’S YOUR DAY. THIS IS YOUR HOUR! BUT, those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, you and I? “My God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus cries, quoting Ps. 22. As for me, I’m so glad Jesus says this from the cross. I’ve set with some of you (and many more) in some seemingly God-forsaken moments. ‘Had some all my own. And I am glad that Jesus knows. ‘Knows the pain and sorrow. And says it out loud. So we can fess up too. You see, it gets us ready for the very last thing Jesus ever says on that cross. Those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, you and I? “I’m thirsty,” he says. And only one soul on that hill responds, and at that, with vinegar! This word really crushes me sometimes. You see, I also remember how he says, “In as much as you have not done for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have not done for me.” What better season than this to ask …CHURCH, FRIENDS, whom have we left thirsting, for a simple sip, or a sterner faith? But, those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, you and I? “Father, into your hands, my Spirit,” Jesus says. …After all this, for Jesus, God really is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. For Jesus, it is because GOD lives, he can face tomorrow, even in a tomb, in the dark, apparently alone; because God lives, all fear is gone. Because Christ knows God holds the future… yours and mine that Jesus is determined to save… the cross is worth the dying, just so we may all live!” Those not looking never (dice rolling in can) hear. Are we looking, friends? Finally, Jesus declares, “It is finished. I’m done. ‘Done living and done dying, ‘done what I was born to do, and rising for those I’m dying to save. Those not looking never hear. (Empty dice from can). Now, I want to be done with these (dice). I don’t wanna be among those who neither see nor hear.

It is written that on a far-away hill on that fateful, far-away day, a number were present. But at least among those too willing to sacrifice Jesus and too consumed by themselves to pay attention, real, hear-changing attention, there was ONE who stood facing saying, “THIS IS the Son of God.” I want to be THAT One this Day. And I want you to want be One too. O, there will be others to honor. Start with those who gave you your start. You’ll have forgiving to do. But then, you yourself have been forgiven. Brace yourself. Somebody’s gonna get Paradise you wouldn’t give the time of day. Deal with it! (Even if they are a dem., or a repub.) Admit it, to God, should you have a God-forsaken situation on your hands. God will still take it, and take you, in his hands. Quench the thirsty, body and soul. Let go. Let God this week. You were born for that! And whenever you waiver, or want to, just STAND UP AND FACE THE CROSS. YOU SEE, Jesus is there… for you… and me.

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