I was about a year out of college and had made my home in a new city and a new church as a young single person. It was May, the week after Mother’s Day. Now Mother’s Day was a big deal at this church—mothers honored, a sermon about motherhood. Corsages abounded. And I was dumbfounded. How is it that a few weeks before, Palm Sunday had come and gone with no mention at all? Of course Easter Sunday was a bright and shiny celebration, yet there had been no congregational contemplation of the cross in the days in between.
We simply can’t appreciate the light unless we’ve allowed ourselves to sit a bit in the darkness. I remember boldly making an appointment to talk to the pastor about it. He was very kind, though not particularly responsive to my questions and concern.
Now, over twenty years later, while I am grateful that my church leads me in going to the cross before celebrating the empty tomb, I realize that it isn’t so much about what my church does on Sundays or on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday that makes the most difference in my heart. I must choose to contemplate the cross. I must make room in my schedule and in my heart and my mind to enter into the darkness of garden, the cruelty of the courtroom, the agony of Golgotha. And not in a vague or sentimental way, but in a scripture-saturated way that causes my heart to be broken over my sin and reminds me of the too-good-to-be-true truth of the gospel—that Jesus took my sinful record of wrong upon himself on the cross, and has given to me his own perfect record of righteousness.
Having just received my author copies of Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, an anthology of short meditations of the cross and resurrection by great theologians and Bible teachers of the past and present, I sat down last week and read through the selections I put together so many months ago. I was moved to tears and wonder and worship. I’m hoping that will be the case for many who pick up this book in a desire to prepare their hearts for the joy of Easter, that it will be an even more significant celebration after spending some time in the dark shadow of the cross.
Learn more about Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.