Two years ago, around Easter, I posted a couple of excerpts from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, one by Tim Keller and one by James Montgomery Boice. If you’re looking for a collection of good Easter meditations, I recommend this little book. I may make a habit of posting at least one excerpt from it every Easter.
Chapter One is a meditation on the cross of Christ, adapted from a previous publication of Luther’s writing assembled by his biographer, Roland Bainton. The chapter opens with Hebrews 12:2-3. In that passage Jewish believers who were being persecuted for following Christ were exhorted to keep…
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Those Jewish Christians were suffering, but not nearly as profoundly as Jesus himself had. Martin Luther proceeded from there to contemplate the immense value of meditating on the suffering of Christ.
When tribulation and sickness assail you, think how slight these are compared to the thorns and the nails of Christ. If you are thwarted, remember how he was bound and dragged. If pride besets you, see how the Lord was mocked and with robbers despised. If unchastity incites your flesh, recall how his flesh was scourged, pierced, and smitten. If hate, envy, and vengeance tempt you, think how Christ for you and all his enemies interceded with tears, though he might rather have avenged himself. If you are afflicted and cannot have your way, take heart and say, “Why should I not suffer when my Lord sweat blood for very anguish?”
Astounding it is that the cross of Christ has so fallen into forgetfulness, for is it not forgetfulness of cross when no one wishes to suffer but rather to enjoy himself and evade the cross? You must personally experience suffering with Christ. He suffered for your sake, and should you not suffer for his sake, as well as for your own?
As I read that, I thought about how often I want to avoid suffering; about how easily, to my shame, I forget the suffering of Jesus. The very thought of it breaks my heart. Jesus’ own words ring fresh in my ears:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)