The Lenten season has often been thought of as a journey by followers of Jesus, a journey from where we now are to where we are promised to become in Christ. We all know that we are not yet what we ought to be. However, by God's grace and through his power (made available through faith in Jesus and the subsequent gift of God's spirit), we are promised that someday we will be "complete in Christ" (Colossians 1:28), people conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
The Lenten journey begins with Ash Wednesday, a time in which Christians have taken to engage in the painful but necessary exercise of examining our lives. We look at those parts of our behavior and attitudes that we know do not honor Christ. We acknowledge that and confess that our sins are a part of what required the cross. But, Ash Wednesday is not hope-less. We also know that God's grace is greater than our sins; his forgiveness sufficient for the enormity of our sins. We receive the sign of the cross remembering first, that our sins demanded a cross if ever we were to be saved. But, second, we rejoice that the sinless Son of God died on the cross as our substitute. "By his wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:6)."
Throughout the Lenten Season, we remember the journey Jesus made to the cross on our behalf. We ask God to open our eyes to areas not yet surrendered to him that we might walk more closely to our Lord. In doing so, we cast our eyes on Jesus. We look at his life and at his words. Eventually, we remember his death... and then his resurrection. At the end of the journey, we long to have a deeper faith and a deeper gratitude that God's grace is greater than our sins.
This year at LAC, we will be joining with several other churches in Southern California (Bel Air Presbyterian, Faithful Central, Young Nak Celebration, Church on the Way, and First Presbyterian of Hollywood,) to look specifically at the stories Jesus told on his way to the cross. Each of these "parables" Jesus told takes on new meaning when we see it in the light of Jesus' own journey from his home area of Galilee to the cross. Remember that Jesus knew where he was going – to Jerusalem. He knew what awaited him there – death by crucifixion. Jesus knew that his Father had appointed him to this calling. And, he knew that the result of his painful death would be the opportunity for forgiveness and new life for all who placed faith in him. Even this excruciating death was to bring Jesus deep satisfaction. As the book of Hebrews put it, "Who for the joy before him endured the cross...'
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' own Lenten journey began in Luke 9:51; i.e., when Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. He was determined to complete this eternally appointed expedition toward death out of love for us! In the 2008 Lenten journey, we looked at Jesus' encounters with people on his way to the cross in a series we called Divine Appointments. This year, we will ask the Lord to teach us from the Stories on the Way to a Cross told by Jesus personally. Believe me: knowing that he had few months to live, Jesus did not waste his breath on trivial things. These stories, often called parables, address the central issues of our existence. Therefore, we will consider the most important aspects of life as Jesus teaches us who are his followers about matters of life and death on the way to his own death.
I pray that our lives will no longer be the same at the completion of this journey.
To his glory,
Dr. Greg Waybright