Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - March 28, 2023

Hymn: “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” (LSB #440, v. 2)
Make me see Your great distress,
Anguish and affliction,
Bonds and stripes and wretchedness
And Your crucifixion;
Make me see how scourge and rod,
Spear and nails did wound You,
How for them You died, O God,
Who with thorns had crowned You.
               Our second verse moves us into the meditation on the cross of Jesus Christ. The first move in our meditation of the Passion of Jesus Christ is to see the brutality of it all, the horror that Jesus Christ faced. This can be hard to face if you are either squeamish or hardened.

               If you are squeamish, then you are prone to look away, to shut your eyes, and pretend nothing is happening. We often do that to the brutalities of the world. I have come to discover that people who assume the best of mankind are naïve precisely because they have shut out gore in their life. They are surprised when they see in the news stories that make your skin crawl. We must see this brutality of what happened to Jesus if it is to benefit us at all. To shun the cross will be to shun our redemption. So, we must brave it. We must look upon the twisted face of Christ, the blood poured out, the words of mock and jest jabbing Christ’s ears. We must see the ribs poking out from Christ’s side. We must see the bruises and swelling. We must overcome our squeamishness to gaze upon such brutality.

               We must take care also not to be hardened. We can get used to the images of gore and bloodshed, of violence and hate. We can become desensitized and shrug our shoulders as we see this every day. To be hardened as we gaze upon Christ is just as much of a problem as being squeamish. Not to be moved by such hatred and not to be shamed by the words we hear and the violence that is committed means that we are party to them and approve of them. If we want what Jesus has done to impact us, we must be deeply horrified by the Lord of all Creation who suffers this way. An innocent man is brutalized and left hanging to die.

               What both squeamish and hardened people need to do is what is on display, but also to see who is on display. “Make me see.” Our verse asks God to make us see this. To see that this is not just a random accident. This is not just any bit of evil. This is the full might of sin and evil at work against God. God’s Son is the One suffering this. This is your God who is hanging on a cross publicly naked and left at the mercy of His enemies. That should move us and horrify us and humble us.

               The last image that our verse makes us contemplate is that it is for them that Christ is dying. He does this out of love for them, us, the whole world. And then this is said, “Who with thorns has crowned You.”  This verse has been asking God to see the brutality of it all, but the last words make me realize that the cause of this beating and violence is me. With Jesus’s blood on my hands, I am the “Who.” I am the one in the midst of it all crowning Jesus with these thorns. It is my sin that Jesus is crowned with. I am suddenly aghast and horrified as I come to my senses that this is me doing this to Jesus. My sin on him was laid. Suddenly God makes me see. God answers the prayer of His Son that says, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.” And now I do know what I do.

               But the look of Jesus as I crown Him, is not one of sorrow, but one of submission and love. He wants me to crown Him with my sin, so that I may live. He wants His blood on my hands, face, and body, so that I may be clothed with Him. A look of horror becomes a look of my Savior who died for me and loves me.