THE WAY TO CALVARY
THE WAY OF THE CROSS
PICTURE our Lord on the way to Jerusalem. It is His last journey thither. He is a little in advance of the Apostles. He went before them on the way, and as they followed, they were afraid. There was something in His determined attitude which appalled them. Why does He quicken His steps? Why so in earnest? It was because it was His last journey to Jerusalem. It was because He was drawing nigh to the great act, the consummation of His Life. It was in vision vividly before Him. Does He shrink from it? No, He rather hastens to it. All the great desire of His Life is summed up in it. "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
With like eagerness, zeal, and fortitude, let us take up our Cross, and let us follow in His footsteps. As our lives are consecrated to Him, let us rejoice that we may lay them down for His sake. Not the sharp deaths of the martyrs are ours, but the long and living death of a life wholly consecrated to His Service. Some of us are drawing near to our end. Let us gird our loins and press forward. Let us forget the things that are behind, and press toward the mark of our calling. Let Jesus be our watchword, Jesus our strength and pattern.
THE WAY TO CALVARY
Christ had offered Himself voluntarily in the Upper Chamber. He then went forth. He enters into the Garden. In the Garden the first man had sinned; there, for man, He would make an act of penitence. Every action of His is now full of meaning. In the arrangement of the two groups, we see symbolized the Jewish and the Christian characters. He bids them watch and pray. They are to be united with Himself in His great penitential act.
What is to be especially noted is His great calmness and control. He enters into His Passion by an act of His own will, and He terminates it when it is finished. This wonderful deliberation and control show He was not overcome by any fear, but it was something undergone by His own will. As the Representative Penitent of Mankind, He brings before us a vision of the sins of the whole world. He wraps them about Himself like a dress taken from some loathsome leper. He realizes, as no one else can, their iniquity, vileness, and the injury offered the Father's Glory, the insult done to His Divine Love. It is an awful and ghastly sight. But He takes them upon Himself, as if all these sins were His own. Representing humanity, He is the sinner. He for Mankind is the Penitent. The struggle is seen in His prayers. But He submits to the Divine Will, and then rises in conformity with it. "Not my will, but Thine, be done." We see in this tremendous supernatural action the terrible nature of sin.
And if we would learn what true repentance is, we must kneel beside Him Whose tears were tears of Blood.
O Blessed Lord, Who as our Representative didst take upon Thee our sins, gather our imperfect sorrow into union with Thy Penitence that we, being brokenhearted, and submitting ourselves to the discipline of Thy Will, may find acceptance through Thy Merits and in Thy Love.
The band sent forth by the High Priest, and led by Judas, approaches. Judas comes to betray His Master. Christ makes His last effort to save His Apostle. He has sought to do it all through His Ministry. He gave Judas a warning Himself when he did not receive His teaching of the Real Presence. He warned Him again at the Last Supper. He speaks to Him now in words of Love, "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" The words reveal to Judas that Christ knew of His promised plan of betrayal. "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" Calling him by his own name it revealed to Judas the love that would even then forgive him, if he would but ask for it. Then our Lord, having revealed His awful power by the word, "I am He," which overcame the soldiers, voluntarily surrenders Himself, saying, "This is your hour and the hour of darkness." So He is brought before the High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas. They are the representatives of the corrupt Church. They were like the fallen Angels and representatives of Satan.
Spiritual sins, more deadly than sensual ones, have caused their blindness. They are Satan's instruments. They meet our Lord with Satan's favourite weapons of lying and unbelief. In answer to their demand, our Lord makes the solemn claim that He is the Son of Man, as Daniel prophesied. He declares He will come again with power. So, alas, the same has happened in the Church! And so the worldly-minded Church has persecuted and condemned the truth.
O Lord, Who hast revealed the sins of those in high places in thy Church, Who through the subtlety of Satan have betrayed the purity of the Gospel truth by subtraction or addition thereto, grant us grace to keep the Faith once delivered pure and undented.
Pilate is the representative of the World, Herod that of the Flesh. Herod was superstitious and cruel, for cruelty is an outcome of sensuality. He was the murderer of John the Baptist. His carnal heart desired to see miracles wrought by Jesus. He is baffled and chagrined by our Lord's silence --
Christ will not even speak to him. As the priests resorted to Satan's weapon of lies, so the Flesh resorts to its weapon of ridicule. Herod and his men of war set Christ at nought. They array Him in the garb of a pretender. They call Him a fool. It is the same weapon with which the carnal mind assaults Christianity to-day.
Christ is brought before Pilate. The charges that are made against Him are that He perverts the nation. He is undermining loyalty to Caesar by giving Himself the title of King. Awed by Christ's silence, Pilate seeks a private interview. Is this mysterious Person really a King? In response to a judicial inquiry, Christ replies, "Thou sayest that I am, a King." Pilate, conscious of Christ's innocence, endeavours again and again to free Him. Overborne by the fierce cries and threats, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend," Pilate, fearing for his place, cowardly submits. He condemns Christ against his own conscience.
O Lord, deliver us from the temptation of sensuality and fear of the world's judgments. May we, living in the world, be not of it, and not have its mark on our foreheads, to think as it thinks, nor on our hands, to obey its behests.
Consider next the
ECCE HOMO OR, THE GREAT REJECTION
Pilate had delivered Jesus. As the High Priest took refuge in lies and Herod in ridicule, the World's Representative resorts to force. The soldiers were determined that He should cry out for mercy to them. We have before referred to the dreadful flagellation. After it, they had put upon Him a royal-robe, a reed hi His hand for a sceptre, and pressed a crown of thorns upon His Sacred Head. They knelt before Him jeering in mockery. They strike His Holy Head with the reed. They spit in His Face. But all their vileness and vengeance and coarseness do not move Him. But now behold Him brought forth before the people. It is a dreadful spectacle; bloody and vilified He is presented by Pilate. But who is it stands beside Him? It is Barabbas the murderer. It is a great parable, Which will you choose? The cry goes up, "Not this man, but Barabbas." It is the choice the world is ever making. Barabbas is a leader of the people. He stands in their judgment for liberty and emancipation. He stands for progress and promised plenty. It is a progress based on organization of power. It is a progress made for man's material benefit. It is this kind of progress that intoxicates the world, and the world is ever shouting out, "Not this man, but Barabbas." But Jesus Christ is true progress. He is progress itself, for in and through Hun we are led into the Golden City and Eternal Life.
O Lord, Who hast given us the power of choice, may we not choose any side because it is popular nor follow any earthly leader, nor call any man Master on earth. May we not by neglect or indifference or misbelief take part against Thee. May we trust Thy way as the true way to help humanity and the only one which will bring a blessing on mankind.
In contrast with the great Rejection consider
THE GREAT ACCEPTANCE
Christ is condemned to death. The Cross is brought forth. At the sight of it, the Heart of Jesus rejoices. It is the instrument of man's redemption. It is laid upon His shoulders. It is large and heavy. Love takes it up, obedience bears it as His own. But bodily weakened and exhausted, at last He staggers and falls. His enemies, fearing He may die before the Crucifixion, compel one to assist. Simon of Cyrene has come to worship at Jerusalem. His humble faith meets with an unlooked-for reward. He is made to be a companion of Jesus. He bears the Cross after Him willingly.
A great company of people, and women who bewailed and lamented Him, had followed the Lord. Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." It was Christ's Passion Sermon. He prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem. Speaking for all time, He declares there is a coming Judgment which awaits a guilty world. The tears of His followers were those of compassion. But there was a deeper reason, for their own sins had caused this tragedy. Nor is it by a few tears shed in compassion or through emotion that you will wash away your guilt. Repent, take up thy Cross that thy following may be a real union with Myself. Behold Simon, and be like him, a true follower of Jesus Christ. Take up thy Cross daily and follow Me.
O Lord, Who hadst compassion on the women who lamented Thee, warning them of their coming doom, give us the spirit of holy fear of Thy righteous judgments. May we shed tears, not only of compassion for Thy sufferings, but tears of penitence. Let our union with Thee be not a mere emotional feeling, but of active service. May we, like Simon, willingly share in bearing the Cross. May our conversion be deep, real, and true. May it become a joy, dear Jesus, to serve Thee, and make any sacrifices for Thy Sake.