By Cheryl Harrison
Are you overwhelmed? Has a whirlwind of distress swept into your life and left you dangling over a dark pit that resembles the wrong side of eternity? Have you experienced the unsteadiness of standing on the sidelines, helplessly watching, as your future seems to be going up in smoke? If these questions strike a familiar chord, please accept this incredible invitation to get away from it all.
I realize that unplanned trips can be harrowing, especially for those of us who lack spontaneity. However, if you are willing to lay your fear aside and join me on this unforgettable excursion, one thing is certain…your life will be never be the same. The itinerary for our journey is as follows:
Be prepared for huge crowds. Jerusalem will be overflowing with people as the celebration of Passover draws near. Religious holidays tend to create a flurry of activity within the City.
Considerable trouble brews after a Rabbi is seen chasing moneychangers and shoppers away from the Temple. Bystanders watch him angrily overturn tables and benches causing cattle, sheep and doves to scatter everywhere. The air thickens with hostility as several people voice discontent with his actions, but at the same time others nod in agreement.
Rumors spread that this man called Jesus can heal sick people. Foreigners passing through the city speak about a woman who was healed after touching the hem of his robe. Some people say he is John the Baptist back from the dead, but others believe Jesus is Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. (Matthew 16:14)
Many people exhibit a hunger to hear from God, yet they are deaf when he speaks. God’s plan for their future stands before them, but they cannot see him. Each person wrestles with the possibilities. Is Jesus a prophet? Is he the Messiah? Are the Pharisees wrong about him? Could something good actually come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46) His teaching challenges the mind. Hearts are stirred and people begin to listen. The religious leaders fret about the momentum being gained and decide to stop Jesus, no matter what the cost.
Second Stop--The Arrest
The inner courts of the temple conceal secret meetings of conspiracy. The teachers of the law chuckle with pride as they negotiate the price of betrayal—a little finesse and thirty pieces of silver—that’s all it takes to transform Judas into a traitor. Jesus has been arrested and most of his disciples have fled, with the exception of John, who remains as close as possible. Simon-Peter, on the other hand, refuses to admit association with the accused. As a devout follower and disciple, Peter declared an undying loyalty to the Lord, and boldly said he would die with him. But now he cowers in the darkness, speaking harshly to people around him. Three denials, the crow of a rooster and a forgiving glance from Jesus crush Peter’s heart. He weeps bitterly, mourning the loss of his plans and expectations.
Third Stop--The Way of Suffering
Mass hysteria shatters the air, as pushing and shoving become the order of the day. Cries of despair smothered by angry jeers and shouts create additional chaos in the streets. False accusations, indictments and plans to crucify the heretic have been achieved.
Curious onlookers watch the condemned man carry a heavy wooden cross through the city. Exhausted from brutal beatings and dehydration the prisoner’s legs give out, forcing the full weight of the cross upon his back and leaving splinters in already torn flesh.
The crowd pushes forward and a Roman soldier orders an innocent bystander to pick up the cross. The man tries to flee, but the soldier’s threat of death by sword causes him to reconsider. As the man kneels to take the cross he makes eye contact with Jesus. Silent communication passes between them and suddenly all the man’s fears fade away. Centurions force Jesus into a standing position and the chilling processional towards Golgotha continues.
Fourth Stop--The Cross
Jesus hangs on the cross for all to see, a crown of thorns forced upon his head. Blood flows into his eyes, mingling with tears of forgiveness. Secured by nails driven deep into his hands and feet, Jesus struggles for every breath.
In the midst of this horrific scene, insensitive people continue to mock him. Others walk off in disgust. His mother buries her face at the foot of the cross, desperately trying to understand why her son must die such a cruel death. She struggles with overwhelming grief, yet at the same time she senses peace beyond understanding.
Voices cry out from every direction. A man groans, "How could this be?" A woman wails, "I believed he was the Messiah. Why doesn’t he do something?" A teacher of the law hurls insults, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God" (Matthew 27:39-40)
Time passes quickly, the people hear Jesus cry out, "It is finished", and then he dies.
The confused throng breaks up as the sky begins to darken, and a brewing storm hastens the people’s return to the city. A solitary woman lingers near the cross, wondering if all hope died with Jesus. Multitudes of people begin the journey home—doubt clouding their minds each step of the way—disappointment hardens their hearts.
Meanwhile, a centurion and those with him who witnessed the way Jesus died, cried out, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54)
The ground shook. Raindrops, mixed with his blood, stain the ground beneath the cross, and life on earth changes forever.
Fifth Stop--Present Expectations
All of us have high expectations. We fill our agendas with plans for our future. Then, once in awhile, the unthinkable happens—when we least expect it, our agendas, plans and anticipations are capsized. The death of a loved one or a severed relationship breaks our heart. A wayward child or financial ruin sends us reeling. Tribulation has many names and faces that tend to shake us up. Our lives are never the same.
Jesus said we would face struggles, but he also promised to sustain us through them. Rejoice! God’s plan for our future is not derailed when disappointment comes our way. Remember, the same people who witnessed Jesus die on the cross also witnessed his resurrection. Perceived defeat faded away with the realization that God had a different agenda than theirs. The same truth applies today. God knows the plans he has for us. As it is written:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
"Lord, I pray the desires and expectations of our hearts will line up with yours. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus even when disappointment and struggles come our way. Help us to trust you with our future."
(All Scripture taken from the New International Version of the Bible)
As wife, mother, minister, counselor, writer, teacher and student, Cheryl Harrison wears many hats. She resides with her family in Seabrook, Texas, and has been on staff at FBC Seabrook as Youth Minister since August 2001. She is an active leader in Women’s Ministry and has organized and taught the "Completion in Christ" Women’s Conferences sponsored by her home church. Personal experiences drawn from childhood, marriage, parenting, teaching and ministry are the inspiration for her devotional writing. You can write to Cheryl through the Letters page of this magazine.