(Photo by me, taken October 2016 off Hwy 276 near Waynesville, NC)
Matthew 16:21…From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Last Friday night I was hanging on our comfortable couch with my wife watching Chef Ramsey’s – MasterChef Junior. We both love Gordon Ramsey and the episode was entertaining as usual. The show came to a particular point when the child contestants were to be cooking the wedding reception dinner directly after the couple were married. It was to be a surprise to all the guests. “Where’s he going with this?” perhaps you’re asking. Well, I tell ya…The engaged couple arrived early to meet the young amateur chefs and were being interviewed. The soon-to-be bride was beautiful as one would expect, but she was also wearing a deep cleavage revealing dress. I’m snuggled up with my own beautiful bride on the couch having a very lovely evening, and suddenly this G rated show is exposing one of my weakest points – the temptation of the female flesh. It caught me off guard.
At first I didn’t say anything, but as the interview went on, the camera never stopped showing the angle of her cleavage. My eyes couldn’t stop coming back to it and looking. My wise Pastor, Ernie, once said in a sermon about men and such things (paraphrasing)- “The first time you notice is not your fault, but if you look a second time – that’s where sin begins.” I was on about my 5th or 6th look. I told my wife what was going on. She knows me well (and my weaknesses) and wasn’t shocked in the least. I’m an honest man. I’ll tell her. I’m telling you right now. Mortal Gary of the Flesh finds things like that very appealing. Thank you, God, for your Holy Spirit within me that now convicts and corrects my sin so that I may remain safely in your grace. I confess this to all.
Why did I tell that story and confession? This is Holy Week. As of this writing, we are 3 days away from observing Good Friday. Three days away from driving the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus on the Cross. We as Christians aren’t prone to readily accepting the reality of who put Christ up there…Us. We did. I did. We read the scripture and watch the movies, and we toss around blame to the Romans or the Jews, as they pass Christ back and forth like a hot potato. And in doing so, we fail miserably to understand exactly what happened in that moment – In order to fulfill his own law that his creation continuously falls short of keeping, God came to us in the flesh, became the perfect sacrificial lamb, and shed his blood on the cross for all of us. He took upon him our deserved punishment. Our rightful suffering. His shed blood enabled to provide the power of forgiveness and to wash clean the sins of mankind. SO THAT WE, WHOM HE LOVES SO DEAR, CAN LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD ETERNAL He did that for me. For you. All that believe and call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
Sin is sin according to scripture, and there are no various rankings. If you’re guilty of breaking one law, you’re guilty of breaking them all. Unless we are washed clean and perfectly blameless, we cannot ever be in the presence of our creator. The cross is how we shall one day be just that – with Him. So while, yes, in the big picture of my life this little story about the cleavage temptation getting to me is nowhere near the worst things I’ve done, it was still sin, and still must be put up on that horrifying scene at the cross. As if I walked up to him looking at the nail in his feet, and I nudged it just a little making it rattle against the broken bone and nerves, causing him yet another scream in agony.
I did that. You do that. Every time we sin. Do you understand? Do you get what the cross represents?
This is Holy Week. I urge you to attend all the services on Thursday, Friday and Sunday here in America and across the world. Read the accounts in the Gospels. Pray thanksgiving for his ultimate act of mercy on the Cross.
I confess my endless sin to you, my Lord, and there are no words that I could speak that would adequately equal the gratitude for what you have done for me. Even though it was I that put you on the cross to die so miserably. Use me to carry your cross forward so that others will know, too. We are saved by the Power of the Cross! Amen.