Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - April 7, 2023

Hymn: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (LSB #450, v. 1 & 7)
 O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
Be Thou my consolation,
My shield, when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well.
             What do you want to think about in your last hours of life? Pondering the moment of our death is not something that we Christians do joyfully, but it is important to consider. Pastor Belt told me very early on in my ministry that it is a pastor’s job to prepare people to die well. That has stuck with me ever since. Our final hymn stanza shows us that a person dies well when their heart by faith enfolds Christ upon the cross and their eyes behold Him there. A person dies well who is reminded of Christ’s passion when their last hour draws nigh. A person dies well who finds their consolation and shield in this gory sight.

            The image of Christ on the cross is not a pretty picture. All you have to do is watch a few seconds of the movie The Passion of the Christ in order to get that idea blown to smithereens. Listen to how the hymn describes the scene. Christ’s sacred head is wounded by a crown of thorns pressing into His skull. Not only that, but the grief and shame is weighing down His holy head. He bears the humiliation of a public nakedness. He bears the shame of such an ignoble death. Above all, He bears the weight of all the world’s sins from all the world’s people in all of the world’s time. This weight bows His head low as He struggles to lift His eyes toward heaven in order to breathe.

            In this final hour of Christ’s life, what was He thinking about? Incredibly, Christ Jesus thought about you. He lifted up His heavy head and cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He pleaded for your forgiveness in that moment because it was your sin He carried. Your transgressions weighed down His sacred head, yet He did not accuse you or condemn. He prayed to the Father for your pardon. In His dying sorrow, Christ Jesus gave us pity without end. He looked upon us with His favor and granted to us His grace. He thought about you in this final hour, and therefore, your sins are forgiven.

            When our final hour draws nigh, I pray that we also think about Jesus. Unfortunately, many people at death’s door too often think about themselves. Have I done enough to get into heaven? Have I been a good enough person? When this happens, we are prone to despair because we have not been good enough. We have not done enough to cover over our own transgressions and sins. If we begin to reflect upon our lives gone by, we won’t find a lot of consolation there.

            Instead, Christ is our consolation and shield when we must die, which we all shall do, unless Christ returns to this earth first. His passion should be before our eyes, in our minds, and on our hearts when our last hour draws nigh. A heart which in faith clings to Jesus upon the cross is prepared for death’s door at any moment. Even though the sight is gory and unappealing, we call Jesus and His cross ours. That is my Savior up there on that tree. That is my Lord come down in order to save. That is my God who pardons all of my sins and transgressions. In the moment when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord points us to His Passion, even as we reflect on that Passion in worship today. This is not just some historical event of the past. We are preparing today to die well.

            Today was Christ’s last day alive and He spent it thinking about you. May God grant us His Holy Spirit so that when our last day alive comes, we would spend it thinking about Him. His cross comforts us in the face of death. His anguish and affliction is our shield. By the Spirit’s power, our hearts by faith hug the cross of Jesus Christ, because we find there our salvation and eternal hope. Whoever dieth thus…dies well.
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