MAKING THE PASSION PERSONAL
A Journey with Jesus to the Cross and Beyond
Devotional by David Betz
The Beginning of the End
He who knows not the Christ of Calvary knows not God, and He who does not thus know, knows not anything that is worth knowing.
R. E. March
Quiet your heart before God. Seek to release the worries, cares, distractions, and decisions of your day into the Holy Spirit’s hands.
Read the following verses out loud as a prayer and invitation to the Lord.
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Invite Jesus to open your spiritual eyes in a new way. Welcome Him as your companion and guide on this spiritual journey.
Think about the cross for a few minutes. What images come to your mind? Does the thought of the cross touch you deeply, or has familiarity with it produced complacency?
What would you like God to do within you through this journey? Write this out as a prayer. (Your experience and grasp of Christ’s suffering will be much more meaningful if you take the time to write prayers, responses, meditations or simple truths you glean along the way. Any kind of writing journal, a spiral notebook, or notepad on the computer can be used to chart the special moments as you make the Passion personal).
And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.
As was His custom . . . These are telling words about where Jesus will spend his final hours of freedom. The Mount of Olives is a familiar place. He has been here often; only a week ago descending from it on a donkey, the crowds crying hosannas, laying palm branches at his feet.
On the nights following the triumphal entry, while his followers found rest in homes preparing for Passover, Jesus most likely slept here. He didn’t have to travel far, just a few hundred feet up a stone path off the Jericho road.
What consumed his thoughts in those lonely hours? Was he exhausted from long days of teaching and healing in the temple below? Did he struggle to summon enough energy to walk down each morning, knowing the demands for his touch would be endless and overwhelming? Tonight on this mountain great anguish awaits the Messiah, but has he agonized over the coming crucifixion here before?
The full moon illuminates the way, regal cypress trees swaying in the breeze against the sable sky. Surely a quiet gloom accompanies them; Jesus talking, the
men trying to keep pace, not wanting to miss a word. Once in a while he stops and faces them, expressing wistful thoughts and distant dreams.
He speaks of love, his love for the Father, his love for them, and their love for each other. Perhaps the intimacy is unsettling. It takes time to comprehend such words. But time is running out. They move on, following their beloved Rabbi.
Stopping near a gate, Jesus gazes at the starry host above. Then, lifting his hands to his Father, he prays a long, poignant prayer for these faithful few. When he is done, he searches their faces for a sign of comprehension. Seeing only questions he cannot answer in their eyes, the Son of God turns toward the entrance to the garden of Gethsemane.
It is a beautiful place, the night air in the foothills warm, the breeze from the brook Kidron blowing gently. The Garden’s huge twisted trunk olive trees are laden with fruit. At harvest, the olives will be pressed until precious oil fills the vats. This “place of crushing” is a fitting finale for the One whose life breath will soon be pressed from him.
As was his custom . . . The Mount is fraught with familiarity, even to Judas, the missing disciple, who within a few hours will confidently lead the army of betrayers to the Savior’s side.
Jesus surveys the city for which he has known such deep compassion one last time. What does He see? Families relaxing, stomachs full and hearts warmed by Passover celebrations? Children being tucked in and candles snuffed out? Is the air peppered with the rumble of conversation or outbursts of innocent laughter among friends?
Amidst all this, does Jesus behold a lost and dying world, ignorant of their own need, unaware of the price he will soon pay to find a place in their hearts? As he gazes into the darkness below, what grips his soul?
It is the beginning of the end. As night takes hold, the blackest days of Christ’s short stint with humanity close in. Within hours, all of history will be catapulted toward that event for which there is no turning back. The beginning of the end.
The journey to the cross is one of introspection. It is a time for mourning over the sins we have committed, which nailed Jesus there. In Scripture, ashes were often a sign of repentance. Many people begin their journey to the Cross on Ash Wednesday (first day of the Lenten season) by having a cross of ashes put on their foreheads to symbolize their repentance of sin and need for a Savior.
Today, reflect on your own need. Consider your personal sin and disobedience. Be prepared to embrace a sense of mourning before God as you begin this journey. Yet even as you may grieve, receive afresh the love of Christ who died for you.
When God has spoken or moved you in some way, write a prayer of response. This might include words of praise, confession, petition, worship, or even questions you have — just be authentic as you open your heart.
Lord, let me walk with you through these final moments. Let me hold your hurt, live in your loneliness, and experience what it cost you. For somehow, in embracing your pain, I may comprehend your love. Perhaps by grappling with your grief, I can conceive of your commitment to me. And in dying your despicable death, I might gain my own soul. I do not ask this lightly. I know I cannot come to the Cross without being changed. Let me walk with you, Jesus — make me ready for the journey.