From the editor: February 20, 2015
A Crucial Image
The March/April issue of Touchstone Magazine includes an article by Presbyterian Pastor Michael S. Luckey, "Thine the Deadly Pain," in which he describes his new-found contemplation of the Crucifixion through his discovery of older Protestant and Reformed resources for that pious meditation. He writes,
I encountered a particularly arresting excerpt from a sermon by William Perkins, a Calvinist:
If thou wouldest be revived to everlasting life thou must by faith as it were set thy selfe upon the crosse of Christ and applie thy hands to his hands, thy feete to his feete, and thy sinnefull heart to his bleeding heart, and content not thy selfe with Thomas to put thy finger into his side, but even dive and plunge thy selfe wholly both bodie and soule into the woundes and bloode of Christ.
As with some earlier Catholic resources he cites, and one later sermon by the Baptist Charles Spurgeon (The Wounds of Jesus), the reader is asked to imagine an encounter with the suffering Christ on the Cross. Spurgeon:
Look at his side, there is easy access to his heart. His side is open, and even your poor prayers may be thrust into that side, and they shall reach his heart, holy though it be. Only do thou look to his wounds, and thou shalt certainly find peace through the blood of Jesus
I obviously found this article worth publishing in a journal of mere Christianity, for the Cross should be a place where all Christians can stand and contemplate "Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2)
I must admit to being surprised by another invitation to picture myself at the Crucifixion—in the Orthodox matins service for this past Wednesday, in preparation for Orthodox Lent:
Picture to thyself that thou art standing beside the crucified Savior, or rather, that thou art thyself crucified with Him who was crucified for thee; and cry out to Him: Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.
The cry, "Remember me..." is the cry of the Good Thief who was crucified with Jesus. So, one way to interpret "crucified with Him" is to imagine ourselves in the place of the Good Thief. An Orthodox Hymn worshippers sing as they come forward each week to receive Holy Communion affirms, "...like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom."
Now when I read Paul in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ," I wonder, did he have in mind an image of himself at Golgotha crucified with Christ on the Cross, or "crucified with" Him as was the Good Thief? What did he mean by "crucified with"? Maybe all of the above.
Certainly, we are crucified with Christ in a spiritual sense. But the spiritual is more real than mere physicality. So a gateway to embracing a truly personal identification with "Jesus Christ and him crucified" can be the act of placing ourselves there—at the foot of the Cross, or with the Lord on the Cross, or crucified with Him like the Thief. All seem quite valid. These can be ways for the mind to grasp something more real than we dare imagine.
And on the other side of this comes the realization that "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) For Paul, surely, this was more than a mere idea that helped him in his ministry. He had died with Christ and to the world. It was True reality. A blessed Fact. New Life in Christ.
A Blessed Lent to you.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James