Praying the Stations of the Cross, Part Five

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Seize the Day Before it’s Too Late! – 11th Station: Jesus is Crucified with Two Thieves and Offers them New Life

Praise the Lord:  I praise you Lord Jesus Christ.  By your cross you gave us your life and showed us how to live.

Read Scripture: Luke 23:33, 39-43)

Contemplate in Silence

Consider your Need for Christ:  Seize the day! We like to exclaim. We long to live with enthusiasm, but few of us know how to do it.  Crucified between two thieves Jesus showed us how.

Soldiers cheer as they charge forward with weapons raised and adrenaline surging to overcome their enemy.  Athletes rally as a team to win their game.  Achievers press on with optimism that they will reach their goal.  Friends lift a toast to let the good times roll.  A thief dying on a cross cries out to Jesus on the cross next to him.  Who actually seizes the day?  Only the thief.

Go to the cross and Jesus says to you and to anyone who calls out to him what he said to the thief on the cross, “It’s not too late for you.  Come with me into paradise.”  In other words, if we’ll die to life on my terms, making my dreams come true, and getting my life to turn out the way I want it to then we can begin to take hold of Christ and “the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19)

This life that Jesus offers is not just an insurance policy for going to heaven when you die—it’s getting heaven into you today and participating in the kingdom of heaven now and forever!  It’s not just loooong life—it’s real life, abundant living now that expands throughout eternity.  It’s not just the “right” life—it’s beautiful, wholesome, and fulfilled life, which is what it means to be holy.

Jesus is able to give this life to us at the cross because he is living it.  Look at how in the midst of his suffering he is gracious, not only with the thief who cries out to him, but also to the other thief who curses him.  On the cross Jesus has love for everyone, even his enemies, because being crucified wasn’t the only reality he was living in—at the same time he was also in the reality of the kingdom of heaven, looking to the Father above and the angels all around him.

By dying with Jesus we are “raised into the heavenly realms” with him and given “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3, 2:6).  All we need to do is to pray with the thief at the cross, “Remember me Jesus in your kingdom.”

Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you were nailed to the cross between two thieves, as if you were a criminal, but you were innocent and righteous, holy and whole, lovely and beautiful in every way.  I so admire the way that you show kindness to those who insult you and offer mercy to your enemies.  Your gracious way of responding to suffering attracts me and others to follow you as our Lord.

My Lord, like the thief on his cross next to you I am a sinner and I cry out to you from my heart: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  I want to seize the day with you, to step into your kingdom now, to join you in the life that is truly life.  Help me to believe that it’s not too late for me, my loved ones or other people I know.  It’s not too late for you to accomplish great things in and through our lives.  It’s not too late for us to rise with you above our circumstances and to live a grand adventure with you that will continue through eternity.

Reflect:  Are you afraid that in some way it might be too late for God’s purpose to be fulfilled for you or a loved one?  Have you given into discouragement or negativity?  What can you do to participate in God’s kingdom coming today?

Take up your Cross to Follow Jesus:  Turn away from negative thinking about your concerns for yourself or a loved one and instead look to Jesus on the cross and receive his invitation: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Abide in Prayer:  Pray that you (or a loved one) would participate in the life of Christ as you slowly repeat this breath prayer:  “Jesus…remember me in your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)

Make a Soul Friend at the Cross: 12th Station: Jesus Dies on the cross with his Mother and John Nearby

Praise the Lord: I praise you Lord Jesus Christ.  By your cross you gave us your life and showed us how to live.

Read Scripture:  John 14:16-17, 19:25-27, 30; Matthew 27:45, 46

Contemplate in Silence

Consider your Need for Christ:  There is no better place to make a soul friend then at the cross of Christ.  You can discover that with John and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As Jesus hung on the cross with arms outstretched his beloved disciple and mother stood by his side, along with three other women.  Darkness covered the land.  It seemed that God had abandoned Jesus and his followers.  Pharisees, soldiers, God-haters, demons, and Satan rejoiced over their apparent victory.  Friends of Jesus cried with despair.  This small group of disciples were the only people who remained faithful to Jesus when he was crucified.

Jesus was about to give up his spirit into the Father’s hands.  No longer would he be physically present for John and Mary.  He didn’t want them to be lonely so he needed to teach them to rely on his spiritual presence with them always.  Soon he would rise from the dead and give them Holy Spirit to help them, but first he gives them one another to be soul friends.

Probably sometimes you feel lonely—especially if you’re a cross-carrying Christ-follower who seeks the deeper life. Not many people like to befriend someone carrying a cross!  Not many people sacrifice the opportunities of the material world to live for the kingdom of God.  Not many people understand those who have an insatiable longing for more of God.  Not many people persevere in dark times with only the light of Christ within to guide them.

There are a few beloved disciples like John and Mary—they find each other at the cross of Christ.

Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, I love the way you put John and Mary together in such a  special way. You were concerned, not so much for the awful pain you were in, but for the pain in their hearts and their need for spiritual friendship. You wanted them to learn to rely on your Spirit with them even when it was dark and you weren’t physically with them.  Thank you Lord that you provide soul friends for all your people to help them grow in your grace.

My dear Jesus, I want to hold you in my heart and rely on your words and Spirit always.  To do this I need soul friends who bring me back to your cross to see that your arms are open to me, welcoming me into God’s presence.  Help me to develop deep-spirited friendships centered in you.  Help me to be a soul friend that draws people closer to you, your cross, and the life you give.

Reflect: Do you have a soul friend who helps you connect deeply with Christ and his cross?  Who can you be a soul friend to?  What can you do to bless this fiend in the coming days?

Take up your Cross to Follow Jesus:  Open up some time in your schedule to show concern for your friends and their relationship with Christ.  By offering yourself as a soul friend to another you will both draw closer to Jesus Christ as your eternal Soul Friend.

Abide in Prayer:  Try breathing in and out this prayer for yourself and someone the Lord puts on your heart:  “Spirit of Jesus, we behold you…always” (John 14:16-17)

Be the Disciple Jesus Loves!  13th Station:  John Sees Jesus’ Dead Body Taken Down from the Cross

Praise the Lord:  I praise you Lord Jesus Christ.  By your cross you gave us your life and showed us how to live.

Read Scripture:  Luke 23:45-46, John 19:34, 35

Contemplate in Silence

Consider your Need for Christ:  Let the realization of your opportunity of a lifetime dawn on you till it fills your mind and heart as it did for the Apostle John (John 13;23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) You and the people around you will never be the same!

This is more than an affirmation of blessing.  It’s a way of life that begins with a death—Christ’s death and your death with him—such that you no longer take charge in your life or try to make things happen for yourself.

A practical, biblical word for this death is submission.  Jesus shows us how to do it: though he was God in human flesh, he submitted himself to the Father’s will in all things.  He said, “whatever the Father does the Son does also…I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me…Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.. (I am sacrificing life because) the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (John 5:19; 6:38; 12:50, Mark 14:49)

The Apostle John was Jesus’ best friend in life and in death.  His eyewitness testimony was that Jesus carried out a life of perfect submission to God all the way to the end.  With his last breath on the cross he offered the prayer that defined his life, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

When we follow Jesus’ example of submission to God in all things as John did then we too will be defined by and overflowing with God’s love.

Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, as you hung on the cross out of love for all people you were abandoned by the very people you fed, healed, forgave, and taught—even all twelve of your disciples left your side except for John.  He saw you spill your blood and give up your spirit into your Father’s hands to be embraced in his love forever.

O Jesus, as you were embraced by Abba so you open your arms and your heart to embrace me in Abba’s love.  And yet time and again I am unfaithful to you.  Lord forgive me!  Like John, I want to join you in submitting all that I am and all that concerns me into the Father’s hands until all that’s left for me is to live by his words, “I am the disciple Jesus loves!”

Reflect:  What situation or person in your life are you trying to control?  How about letting go and submitting this into the Father’s hands?  How might this help you be faithful to Jesus and base your identity on being the disciple he loves?

Take up your Cross to Follow Jesus:  Give up trying to control things—submit your concerns into the Father’s hands by abandoning all outcomes to him and you’ll discover that being the disciple Jesus loves is enough for you to be happy no matter what happens.

Abide in Christ:  Consider a situation that you’re worried about and gently repeat the breath prayer: “Father…into your hands I commit __________________” (Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46)

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