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Ash Wednesday
Luke 18:31-34

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ, “Don’t tell me, show me!”  Perhaps you’ve heard that said or even said those words.  “A picture is worth a thousand words” perhaps you’ve heard or said that one.  We like pictures.  They capture a moment in time, allow us to consider an event again and again as we look at a picture of it.  We have photo albums or perhaps now we have albums of pictures loaded on to facebook for all our friends and family to see and enjoy.  We like pictures.  Well, what picture of Jesus do you particularly treasure?  There’s all kinds of pictures of Jesus: there’s the one where He’s holding a sheep as the Good Shepherd, there’s the one of Jesus and the little children, there’s the one where Jesus is standing at the door, or Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper, or there’s the beautiful stained glass picture of Jesus on the back window.  What image of Jesus do you cherish?

The hymn writer who wrote “Jesus, I will Ponder Now” urges us to meditate on, contemplate, consider, yes, even cherish a certain image of Jesus.  And really this image is one that Jesus himself wanted his disciples to solemnly consider and ponder.  Our text is from Luke 18.  (read text)

Jesus was headed to Jerusalem.  He knew what lay ahead of him there.  He even directly told his disciples that everything the prophets had written about the Son of Man would be fulfilled.  What had the prophets wrote?  Psalm 22 tells us some of what the Messiah would endure: scorned, despised, mocking’s, insulting’s, bones out of joint, strength dried up, tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, people stare and gloat over me.  Isaiah 53 tells us even more: despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, stricken by God, smitten by him, afflicted, crushed, wounds, oppressed and afflicted, like a lamb led to the slaughter.  And Jesus even directly told him: “He will be handed over to the Gentiles.  They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him.”  The hymn writer wrote: May the image cherish of your suffering, pain and death, make me see your great distress, anguish and affliction, bonds, stripes, wretchedness, crucifixion, scourge, rod, spear, nails, thorns.  We are asked to cherish this image?   Really??

And the hymn writer wrote “Make me” see it.  Jesus, too, put the same image right in front of His disciples’ eyes.  They didn’t understand it.  We, too, struggle, is that really the image we want to picture of our Savior?  Blood, suffering, crucifixion?  Why do we need to see it?  “Its cause to me make known” “I and my sin wrought your deep affliction.”  Why do we need to see Jesus in agonizing suffering?  Because in that image we see the payment of our sins.

It was my failures, my sins, my shortcomings that drove those whips and nails into His body.  It was my guilt and shame that caused Him the torment of hell. We cringe, we don’t want to look, but look we must, we must see it.  Here dying on that cross is the price of sin and the depth of love.  We must look so that we never become casual about Christ or lukewarm about his love or ungrateful about his grace.  We look at the image of Christ suffering on the cross because that’s what we deserve, but that’s not what we get.  We look because that makes the gospel oh so sweet.  There on the cross is our forgiveness, there’s our eternal death sentence paid in full, there’s our free gift of eternal life!

Ponder the image, burn it into your heart and mind, without Jesus’ suffering and death, you and I would face eternity in hell.  So we ponder Jesus’ passion because His grace, His undying love, His sacrificial love, moves us to live in continual repentance of our sin.  Seeing our Savior moves us to say to him, “Let me not bring shame to you by unholy living.  How could I refuse to shun Ev’ry sinful pleasure since for me God’s only Son suffered without measure.”

And then, having gazed in our mind at our Savior’s suffering and agony for us and limitless love for us, our faith is renewed.  Since the greatest thing in life is taken care of, since we know Jesus has forgiven all our sins, since we know that because of Jesus’ suffering and death that we have a home in heaven, we can humbly bear our crosses here, have “peace mid pain and losses.” And look forward to that day when “I may in heav’n above sing your praise forever.”  And that picture is one we’ll cherish forever!  Amen.