So we are in the middle of Lent – a time when many people choose a discipline which helps them ‘observe’ the season. For many streams of the church, Lent kicks off with an act of religious observation – receiving the ashes on your forehead.
But Lent is about more than outward observation; Lent is about inward transformation. As we walk with Jesus towards the cross we should expect to be transformed, to be changed.
The point of discipleship is not to know more about Jesus, as useful as that might be. The point of discipleship to become more like Jesus.
There are two simple words that move us from being observers at the cross to being transformed participants in the story.
Most people are observers, and maybe content to remain so. They look at the story of a good man condemned for no reason and cruelly executed. They appreciate that somehow it’s a story of self-sacrifice. They respect that it has inspired a faith founded on the principle of self-sacrifice but they remain cold to the notion that is really has any thing to do with them.
The two words that will move you from being such a person to being a Christ follower on a journey of inner transformation are : ‘For Me‘.
For me – Christ was betrayed. For me – Christ was flogged. For me – the thorns drew blood. For me – the nails were hammered in… one by one. For me – he hung and laboured for breath. For me – he was insulted.
If you don’t know why it was for you – hang around long enough at the foot of the cross and ask God to show you. Read one of the gospel stories and watch how Jesus steadfastly refused all short term agendas aimed at making him a local hero or political saviour. He had a much, much bigger agenda.
‘Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to our sin miserable life…If we get included in Christ’s sin conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection’ (Romans 5: 6-7)
So the door to this experience, this transformation is labelled ‘Repentance’ and the lintel is set very low, you cannot go through this door with your held high trumpeting your own merits. Only when we totally get that we are as much a ‘human mess up’ as the next person: unloving, self-protective, flawed, only able to love partially, do we realise that yes, we personally need forgiveness and transformation. And those are found when we take the cross personally – it was ‘for me’.