What follows, each week leading up to Good Friday is a meditation on one of the seven final statements of our Lord.
Lent is commonly not observed by many Protestants, but it is often because the practice is misunderstood. Lent is an ancient practice of the church mentioned by St. Irenaeus, a second-century Christian, where fasting was regularly practiced in various ways leading up to Good Friday and Easter. He mentioned that this practice was being done before he was born, so that places Lent within a generation of the Apostles. Eventually the practiced solidified into 40 days of fasting, coinciding with 40 days of fasting the Jesus and Moses did. Lent typically involves a fast to draw the person closer to Christ in empathizing with his sacrifice and using the fast to intensify prayer. Christ himself expected his followers to fast, so all the elements of Lent, while Lent is not mentioned in the New Testament, is nevertheless biblical. As a general rule of thumb, any tradition that helps bring a person closer to Christ need not be viewed with suspicion.
Lent is designed to focus us on the cross. The event of the cross was the greatest event in human history. It shattered all notions of the universe, God, what it means to be human, right and wrong – everything. This is why we fast and meditate: in order to draw closer to just how profound and important the cross is.
The Scriptures record the disciples’ memoirs of the event and their reflections trying to understand its meaning. Some saw Jesus as paying a ransom to buy back humanity from the darkness that had enslaved it. Others saw Jesus as our substitution, our priestly sacrifice showing God’s peace to us, cleansing from sin. Some saw Jesus as providing a way to confront death and evil in resolute non-violent righteousness. Others saw his death as taking on our cursedness, removing the separation between God and people. Still, others saw the cross with the resurrection as a kind of military victory over death and darkness.
Whatever way we understand the cross – and there are several ways Christians have read its meaning – we come to the point of admitting something: the meaning of the Cross is beyond words. Its capturing power renders us speechless.
So, over the next few weeks of Lent, we are going to meditate on the cross using the words Christ spoke as he hung there. We are going to leave talk of atonement theories behind and talk about the atonement person: Jesus.
We will cling to the words Jesus used because we admit our words fail to capture the full meaning of the Cross. As we cling to his words, we enter his presence, his anguish, his love.
May these reflections bless you as draw close to Christ this lent season.