“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble…” thus the Old Plantation hymn declares in answer to the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Pondering the crucifixion of Jesus can have that effect. It stands written, “The wages of sin is death.” Here, we see this is true.
There was something dreadful about the execution of Jesus apart from the horror of a body hanging from nails driven into the wood. The Romans had carried out many such executions, but none quite like this.
Darkness over the land for three hours in midday? An earthquake splitting rocks when the prisoner died? Tombs breaking open and bodies of the dead coming to life? No wonder the centurion on guard duty cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Surely he was…
It was enough to cause hardened soldiers to tremble.
The hymnist wrote, “You who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great—here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”
We have looked in at the events of Good Friday. We watch them again throughout the season of Lent. We cannot forget the images of pain, and blood, and death.
But that’s not the whole picture. We have reason to tremble before the cross, not in fear, but amazement. We are prompted to sing, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”
We wonder at the Father’s love for us, willing to make such a sacrifice. We stand in awe at the Son’s love for us, willing to be sacrificed. We marvel at the love the Holy Spirit shows as he gently leads us to stand in spirit before the cross and hear the words to the condemned criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43).
He tells us one day Jesus speak those words to us, too.
There are those who call the Christmas story a myth and the crucifixion only a legend. We know better. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of Spirit and life” (John 6:63). We believe him.
After all, he is God. We know that. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We know that. He died so that we might live with him in glory. That we know, too. We admit that we tend to question him when his plans contradict ours. It’s true that sometimes we strike off on our own path rather than following in his footsteps.
But in kindness, he draws us back to his Word where he shows us once again the anguish of evil and the wonder of his love. Far be it from us to think we know better than God! Foolish it would be to believe that the path we might choose is better than the one he leads us on.
Humble? We must declare about him, “How Great Thou art!”
Contrite? “Father, I have sinned.”
Blessed? “These are the ones I look on with favor…”
In Lent, in life, we are honored to be among those who tremble at his Word.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military