Journey to the Cross

Readings for this week April 6 – 10
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Facing Towards Jerusalem

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 9:51

Jesus was nothing if not resolute. He knew what he was doing. He knew that his words and actions were likely to provoke a strong response from the Jewish priests and leaders, and that his time in the relative safety of the provinces was fast approaching its end. Jerusalem awaited. The central political and spiritual hub of Israel, Jerusalem – and whatever confrontation would unfold there – could not be avoided, especially by a prophet claiming to speak in God’s voice and to be the very embodiment of God’s love for his people. The road to Jerusalem was one that Jesus had to tread, whatever the dangers, whatever the uncertainty of his reception, however faithful or fickle his travelling companions. When his time came, he did not falter. He set his face to the road ahead and stepped resolutely towards his destination.

This was the first of many such steps resolved upon. The road to the cross was long (from one perspective just a few miles; from another, traversing the entire history of the universe) and encapsulated so many aspects of what it means to be human and what it means to be God. Triumphs, tragedies, giving and receiving, joy and pain, kenosis, theosis, divine providence and human extremity – the journey to the cross is one that we all take, in one way or another, in the ordinary moments of our lives. But it is also one that we are called to take as followers of Jesus, to travel it in all its mystery, its hardship, its joy and pain. With Christ as the centre of our lives, the journey to the cross is a crucial part of obedient discipleship, of faithful following, and of deepening love.

Questions to Consider
How are our lives a journey to the cross? Why is this important?

Prayer
Holy Lord, help me tread the path you have taken. May my feet follow in your footsteps on the road to a love greater than I can imagine. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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Day 2 – Travelling a Road Others Don’t Understand

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 16:21-28

The journey to the cross was not one that anyone else could see or contemplate or understand – not before the event at any rate. As determined and faithful as Jesus was in treading the path that led to that bare, bloodied hill outside Jerusalem, the reason for the journey was not one that the disciples could understand. Peter’s recent declaration of Jesus as the Messiah is here revealed for the superficially (mis)understood title that it was. Jesus was to make his way to the cross down a road that those closest to him – those travelling it with him – could not see the point of. Jerusalem was the destination on the map, but what would happen there was beyond their understanding. Even the (to us) blunt, unambiguous words of Jesus describing what would happen were ignored, or not comprehended.

There will be times when the road we travel – and our reasons for travelling it – is not one that those closest to us can understand the need for taking; times when we travel in a crowd but are truly on our own, hoping that realisation will one day dawn for our companions, but in the meantime continuing on with one lonely step in front of another. Hopefully at those times we can take comfort from God, the one who leads us on such roads and sustains us as we journey, never leaving us, always understanding more and seeing more than even we can see and understand. Walking along God’s path is not easy and sometimes all we have to cling to is the fact that it is God’s path – one he has brought us to and one he has travelled himself.

Questions to Consider
When have you experienced the loneliness of walking God’s path? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for not abandoning me and for always being beside me – and before me – on the road, even when others are not. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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Day 3 – Sorrow on the Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:41-44

“The man of sorrows.” This prefiguration of the Messiah from the book of Isaiah is prominent in the iconography of Christianity, usually reserved for depictions of the tortured and mocked Jesus, bleeding from his wounds, crowned with the crown of thorns, on his way to the crucifixion. But there were sorrows on the road to Calvary as well, moments – most famously in the garden of Gethsemane – when Jesus experienced the pain and anguish of a broken world containing broken relationships. He was not immune to the cares and worries that we experience. He experienced the grief of loss in the death of his friend Lazarus; he saw a world that often did not want to know him and had no interest in his message; he wept over Jerusalem; he dealt with disciples that seemed to take two steps back for every step of progress they made in their understanding of him and his message.

The man of sorrows carried those sorrows with him. The events that occurred at Calvary were sorrowful enough but there had been much anguish and pain on the way. His journey to the cross, like ours, was not an easy one. That is the nature of a life of sacrificial love lived for others: there will be sorrow on the way. We should not be surprised by this, but neither should we be discouraged. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who lived a fully human life just like us, who tasted fully human death just as we will, but who also experienced the fullness of God’s vindicating resurrection love, just as we hope to. The sorrow on the way is real, but not the final word.

Questions to Consider
How do you manage ‘sorrow on the way’? What purpose does it serve?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I have pain, I know sorrow, I am burdened. Be with me. Walk with me. Help me with my burden; give me strength. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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Day 4 – Moments of Joy

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 22:7-16

As we all know, one of the key events on the final night of Jesus’ life was the last supper, when he shared a meal with his disciples, took a couple of the elements of food that were a traditional part of this commemorative meal and invested them with new meaning. We remember the breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup and the words that Jesus spoke over them. We remember the betrayal of Judas as he leaves to facilitate the arrest of Jesus. And we remember the journey to the garden of Gethsemane and the failure of the disciples to stay awake and attend Jesus in his suffering. But I’d like to think that the evening also involved laughter, stories, reminiscences – the type of things we would expect friends who have spent so much time together to do.

The road to the cross was not all significant moments and gloomy tears. There would have been moments of light and laughter too, times when the people Jesus was teaching and talking to understood his message, when kingdom moments occurred and lives were changed, when children played and adults talked and shared and grew. The kingdom comes in many small and ordinary ways; the kingdom stays in moments of grace and growth that reveal to us the joy that flows from the heart of the Father. The road was long, the destination frightening, the future uncertain. But there were still glimpses of the coming kingdom to be experienced along the way.

Questions to Consider
What do you think these moments of joy meant to Jesus? What do similar moments mean to you?

Prayer
Almighty God, I praise you as the God of joy, of gladness, of celebration and of love. For those moments of joy on the road I thank you and praise you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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Day 5 – Alone on the Road

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 15:16-22

You are alone. You have been abandoned. The crowd yells and screams, the soldiers buffet and kick you to keep you moving but make no effort to help you when you slip on your own blood and crash to the ground, the heavy wooden cross-beam almost knocking you senseless as it lands across your shoulders. In fact at these moments their blows increase, adding to the torture that is every breath, every movement. You are a sliver of pain, an open wound splashed across the stones of Jerusalem. You are on your own. No other muscles to scream in pain as you move but your own. No other flesh to scrape its way along the road but your own. You are alone in your extremity. Somewhere in the crowd there may still be one person on your side but they are still powerless to aid you. Your mother may very well be out there in the press and the crush of the mob, but there is nothing she can do for you, and no doubt she is engulfed in her own debilitating shame and grief at what has been done to you, her precious child, dying by inches on a dusty sun-baked road.

Somewhere along the way unnoticed by you the weight of the wood has been removed from your shoulders. Someone else must be carrying it now. It makes no difference. Inch by inch your dying continues uninterrupted, with pain – such soul squeezing pain – your only companion. You wonder if it is possible to die from pain.

Another slip, another kick; the road goes on…

Question to Consider
How is the road to the cross a journey of loneliness and abandonment?

Prayer
Loving God, your sacrifice and the pain and agony you experienced in order to go through with it, are astounding. May I always be grateful, and may I always follow where you lead me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)