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What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 11

11. A Divine Exchange  

Foot Washing

He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him. (Isaiah 53:2b)

We see here the divine exchange. He Who angels and all manner of Heavenly Host fall on their faces before Him; He Who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, now has no stately form or majesty. Just looking at the Hebrew word for majesty, we catch a glimpse of what kind of majesty was given up. Some of the translations are: glory, honor, beauty, comeliness, excellency, and goodly, to name a few.

Consider Paul’s description of God and His dwelling: I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16)

Move from the unapproachable light of Christ’s deity, to the humanity of Christ: Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)

From immortality and unapproachable light; from glory, honor, beauty, comeliness, excellency, and goodly. These were the words that would describe His heavenly existence; but now as He walked the earth, apparently none of these characteristics were readily evident. Therefore there was no reason for us to look upon Him.

Why would He do this? Humility. Love. Two of the attributes of Christ that we see, if we choose to look. And two attributes of Christ which we can emulate, that others should see in us.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)

Are you willing to make His attitude your attitude?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 10

10. Root & Shoot  

Young sapling

Like a tender shoot and like a root out of parched ground. (Isaiah 53:2a)

From the first moments of Jesus’ incarnation, we see Him taking on attributes which were foreign to Him. For the first time in eternity (which is an interesting statement in itself), He, Who stretches from everlasting to everlasting, is new. Tender shoot means young plant or sapling. And indeed, that’s what He was at the incarnation—a new baby.

The word for root has meanings which I did not at first associate with it’s context here. There is within its definitions permanence, firmness, and being at the root, the bottom, the lowest stratum. And as one of the Three Persons of the Trinity, that’s Who He was. So in His divine and human natures, we see a tender shoot that is attached to an ageless root.

The symbolism here is much the way our God operates. There is so much He does which is unseen, and has been put into place for untold ages and is now being seen.

“I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead bronze, therefore I declared them to you long ago, before they took place I proclaimed them to you, so that you would not say, ‘My idol has done them, and my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’ You have heard; look at all this. and you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known. They are created now and not long ago; and before today you have not heard them, so that you will not say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’ You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; and you have been called a rebel from birth.” ( Isaiah 48:3-8)

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 6:25-27)

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-9)

That is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26-7)

So… now that God’s plan has been revealed to you, what are you going to do?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 9

9. Hands & Heart  

Woman whispering in man's ear

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

It is entirely possible these two questions are asking for two different answers. One speaks to God’s actions and attributes; the other speaks to our need. And depending on how you understand both questions will have eternal consequences.

The delivery of the message and the revelation is quite different. Regarding the first, message is more of an intimate presentation, and we find the word nursing, as in nursing an infant, as one of its translations. And what is our message? The message is Jesus, and this message is representative of God the Father’s heart.

The revelation—that which has been revealed—is done in the open: it’s meanings are uncover, discover, disclose, carried and captive. The arm of the Lord is representative of His hands, His works.

As believers, we must “get” both. We need to see His good works, and we need to know His heart. But for those who are not followers of Christ, the author of Hebrews speaks to this: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

So what is it that has been revealed? What is it they will get? We find the answer again in Hebrews, in the very first verse of the first chapter: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Scripture reveals God’s message and arm. Creation is another: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Pslam 19:1) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20) God’s arm has been revealed, and His message is clear.

Feed the Hungry

But the delivery of the message and the revelation is no longer exclusively God’s. For those of us who have gotten the message, it now becomes our ministry, our responsibility to share what we know; and thereby they (the unbelievers) will see our hearts, and our hands proclaiming His message, and His revelation.

They will see your good works: Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

And they see your testimony: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Indeed, not only should the unbeliever see our hearts and hands, they should see Jesus!

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 8

8. What He Gave  

hands wounded

I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord GOD helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.  (Isaiah 50:6-7)

He gave His back and cheeks. Another translation is delivered. That’s what we did to Him; we delivered Him to the cross. But before we delivered Him there, He gave Himself for us.

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. (John 10:14-18)

Giving His back and giving His cheeks was completely and utterly His choice. Jesus allowed Himself to be humiliated and beaten. And He made that choice for you. The cross was the culmination of all things to secure your salvation. It was the final act of sacrifice for you.

There is a short phrase in 1 Corinthians 13 that may explain the how and why Christ was willing to submit to and endure such torture (both physical and emotional): Love… bears all things. The Greek describes this word in two ways: to bear up under, which speaks to Christ’s choice to bear your sins; and to cover, which speaks to His protection of you. He was willing to be struck, plucked, spat upon, and humiliated because love… bears all things.

The word strike can be significantly more violent in its usage: to kill, destroy and slaughter, are a few of the more “intense” translations. Perhaps strike was more injurious in earlier languages, but now it means little more than a slap in the face. We must never lose sight of the torture and brutality which Christ endured, and then finally died.

He did not hide His face from those who plucked His beard, who spat upon Him, and those who sought to disgrace, dishonor and cast reproach upon Him.

There’s sort of a divine stubbornness at work here. Because the LORD helped Him, Christ was able to push through the insults, the spitting, the plucking of His beard and the beatings.  Indeed, He even pushed through the grave, for death was unable to keep Him. Hallelujah! Thus He set His face like flint and was not ashamed. And because he was not ashamed to endure the cross, the sins of the world, and death, He was not ashamed to embrace you: For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” ( Hebrews 2:10-12)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 7

7. Just Spectators  

3D Spectators

And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69:20)

What did it do to the Son to have His Father turn away and hide His face, especially at His time of greatest need? It could be said He died alone. His Father had turned His back and could not look upon His Son. But, Christ did not die alone. He had all the sins of the world clinging to Him; or more appropriately, He was hanging on to those sins all the way to the grave. How great His love for us!

When in torment and suffering, you look for those who can bring comfort, and be sympathetic; but there was no one for Jesus.

The word for sympathy has more to do with our actions, rather than the actions of those around us. Sympathy means: to shake, wander, waver, move to and fro, and flutter. It’s translations are: mourn, shake, wander, waver, and to flee. It’s as if our actions are seeking to elicit a sympathetic response. How many would be sympathetic watching Jesus hang on the cross?

I am once again drawn back to the foot of the cross and examine those in the crowd. When I think of those who loved Jesus and beheld His suffering, two things come to mind:

Christ’s condition was so brutalized, His body so deformed, that it may well have been beyond the their ability to take it all in. What was done to Him, what He was going through, must have overwhelmed their senses.

Also, they were probably consumed by their own sorrow, or guilt, or powerlessness.

Either of these responses could have led to complete emotional shutdown or paralysis. And we would be the same. After all, what could we do? We couldn’t rescue Him or retrieve Him by force, for then there would be no sacrifice. Nor could we take His place, for there would be no perfect sacrifice. That’s why there were no responses. For those who did care, were immobilized, frozen. And those who didn’t care, they rejoiced in believing He got what He deserved—death.

So there you have it—we’re all left to be spectators. No one then and no one now could change the outcome. But remember these verses:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. ( Luke 9:22) Christ alone could pay the price, but what we can do is described in the following verses:

 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-27)

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:7-10)

But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14)

So… there’s the key. We are all spectators at the cross. We all need to see what Christ did for us, as He suffered and died. But then comes our part: take up your cross daily and follow Him; count all things as garbage when compared to Him; go through ordeals and tests, share in His sufferings, and do so with rejoicing. Our actions must constantly be aligned with and kept in the context of His suffering, death and resurrection. Then will our attitudes and actions be true to Him.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 6

6. Eaten Alive

down 2

Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. When I wept in my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. Those who sit in the gate talk about me, and I am the song of the drunkards. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. ( Psalm 69:7-12)

The Hebrew word for consumed is often translated as being eaten, or even devoured. Is your zeal for the Lord enough to make you feel like you are being eaten alive? Or you’re estranged from your family? Of course it may not be your zeal that’s eating you alive. You may be on the menu of those who are watching you, such as mockers, scoffers, God-haters, and “religious” types.

Doing Godly works is enough of a reason to receive reproach. King David’s fasting became a reproach; sackcloth made him a byword; and he was even a song for drunkards! In the Hebrew, David became a proverb, an illustration of what not to do.

Now obviously, Christ is the quintessential example of suffering for good. His entire life and ministry was doing good, to the glory of God the Father. Yet what did He receive? Scorn. Reproach. Persecution. Death. And there were only a few who understood this: One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” ( Luke 23:39-43)

At the end of the Psalm, we see this treatment exacted its price: Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. Christ took this personally. That is the cost of love; the ones we love and are willing to die for are at times the very same people who have scorned us, and broken our hearts. Are you willing to follow in Christ’s  steps and show His love?

Jesus Feet

Note what happens to you if you’re doing what Jesus did:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:9)

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (Matthew 15:18-19)

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (1 Timothy 3:12)

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:20)

If your current behavior does not stir up any of the above listed New Testament consequences, or if it doesn’t seem as if you’re being eaten alive, consider your actions. They may be wrong or insufficient. Are you willing to follow in His steps and show His love, regardless of the consequences?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 5

5. Can You Look?

Cross and Crowd

For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me. (Psalm 22:16-17)

For dogs have surrounded me. The meanings behind the word dog are quite potent. Besides the actual animal, it can refer to base and contemptuous men, pagan sacrifices, and male prostitutes. Here it has to do with base and contemptuous men. Paul associates other types of men with dogs: Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision. (Phil 3:2) Who are those of the false circumcision? That would be the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were so wrapped up in their ritual and their status, they not only missed Messiah, but they put Him to death. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36) Now, when you think of the crowd that surrounded the cross of our Savior, and many of them were from the religious community, let us be mindful that it is not a difficult thing to be so distracted with rules, or with minutiae, or with self and our own righteousness, we can lose sight of the Savior, and our lives and expectations become base and contemptuous.

They pierced my hands and my feet. Whereas this was a prayer and song of David, and many of these circumstances took place within his own life, there is no doubt that he is looking through the lens of divine revelation when he speaks of his hands and feet being pierced. For indeed, he speaks not of himself, but of the suffering Christ.

They look, they stare at me. We return to the crowd that surrounded our Lord. Can you identify with any of them?

Are you like Mary whose eyes were filled with tears, whose body was wracked with sorrow, making it nearly impossible to see her Son clearly?

Are you like the disciples who could not look up, because they were overwhelmed by their shame?

Do you turn away in abhorrence and disgust, unable to look upon One so tortured, so maimed, so disfigured, that you are physically and emotionally ill?

Maybe you’re a crowd watcher. You’re consumed by the surrounding drama and distracted from what is really going on. Did you miss the point?

Or are you like the religious folk, observers who watched from a distance, who stared, who gazed, who nodded in approval, and looked to one another; who inspect and gave close attention to each “deserved” laceration and wound, the flow of blood, the thorns and the nails that pierced Him?

Are you willing to look upon the sorrow, the pain, the suffering and anguish of the Savior? Can you look past the brokenness and wounds, torture and ruin, and gaze a little deeper to see the disfigurement and deformity caused by the sins laid upon Him? Your sins and the sins of the world?

Finally, what can you do to get those around you, to look at the Savior? That they may see their guilt and sin He took upon Himself so they might be saved? And then to look a bit further and see the love that held Him there, the love that would not let Him stay in the grave, and the love which purchased your forgiveness and salvation. Will you look? Do you understand? Will you help others see?

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What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 4

4. What It Cost God

Burning Garbage2

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15)

This last phrase is not simply laying someone down in the dust; it literally has to do being laid in a fire. The word dust can mean ashes, powder, debris and rubbish. But this is a death that is fiery and debasing, perhaps like being laid out in a burning garbage dump.

There’s a place just south of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom, where Old Testament Israel sacrificed their children in fires to Molech and Baal. It eventually became a collection place for all the city’s refuse, and its fires were always kept burning. This became the New Testament picture for hell.

Note Who it was that has placed Christ in this situation: The LORD Himself—You lay me in the dust of death. How great the Father’s sorrow must have been to place the sins of the world upon His Son, then put Him to death, so that He would be the sacrifice offered for those same sins. Yet as great as the Father’s sorrow, how much greater is His love for us. And it was this same love that Christ Himself exhibited as He willingly went to the cross.

This love should stop us in our tracks. Just because The LORD is the Sovereign Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of All, we must never think that His love for us cost Him nothing. It’s not like the federal government, where you simply print more to pay your debts. Our salvation cost God dearly, personally and intimately.

One more thought. The depravity of man can reach such depths. Consider what God said to Jeremiah, concerning this Valley of Hinnom: “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (Jeremiah 7:32)

Although there are some things that do not come into the mind (or heart) of God, embrace the wonder knowing you were on His heart and mind even before He created the foundations of the world.

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What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 3

3. In Whose Image

Bull

Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion. (Psalm 22:12-13)

The bulls represent those who have power and wealth that have surrounded Christ. They come before Him in their robes and fineries, with their rings, bracelets, and crowns, wagging and pointing, while the King of Glory is nailed to the cross stripped bare. Is it any wonder how easily wealth blinds us to the truth.

Why were bulls now become a ravening and roaring lion? Ravening means to tear to pieces. This shows the hatred and animosity the enemies of Christ have toward Him, seeking to devour Him so there would be no trace. Although their tactics have changed, this is still the goal of the enemies of Christ two millennia later.  False religions, cults, liberal and tolerant theologies seek to confiscate from history and memory the authentic and Biblical Christ. They seek to cast off the authority and sovereignty that only the King of kings and Lord of lords can wield, and none can take it from Him. So now, today, they have an easier target, they attack the Church; seeking to discredit us; render us irrelevant and impotent. And unfortunately, they have often been successful at this.

There’s irony within this imagery. Bulls, start out as calves; and this was the image the sons of Israel conjured up in the wilderness when they needed an image to worship ( Ex 32). Before Moses could deliver the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, man was trying to define God. For how many days and nights had they seen the power, guidance and care of God manifest as a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day? But it’s tough to create and worship such a manifestation. Yet even with their limited exposure to Him, they felt there was not enough of a deterrent to not create their image of The Most High; and soon all sorts of false theology followed.

Even now, in the 21st century, we still try to make God in our own image (or some other sort of image—pick one). And as such he, she, or it, is easily put aside, and only brought out and dusted off when needed. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. ( Rom 1:20-23)

Somewhere, somehow we need to remind humanity of what they already know: His [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature; and in such a way that is not so easily set aside. But how do we do that?

Christ is known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah: I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” ( Rev 5:1-5).

We see from the above narrative, that in all of creation, there is none who is worthy to open the seals other than Christ. But man in his arrogance and pride, sees himself as one with power and authority. And even though he may convince himself and others of such a claim for a season, there is only One who is worthy and has such authority. Will you accept your true place before God now, humbly accept Him as Lord? Otherwise you will be constrained to do so later, at the judgment.

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What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 2

2. Forsaken

Alone3

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. (Psalm 22:1)

This Psalm begins with perhaps the most famous words Christ uttered from the cross: About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46) Don’t think for a moment that Christ did not know that He would be forsaken. This is a potent word. Other translations are: abandon, fail, leave alone, leave behind, and deserted. Christ was willing to be abandoned for you, to be left behind for you; to be deserted for you.

But actually, this question really is rhetorical. Christ knew why there was no answer, why He had been forsaken. He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus the Son] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (1 Cor 5:21) This was not to be a time where the Son was to be delivered. Rather, it was a time where He was cursed, and suffered and died…forsaken—for your deliverance (cf. Deut 21:22)

As Christ cried out, how it must have broken the Father’s heart to not answer, to not even hear. What did it do to the Son’s heart?

Far from my deliverance. Isolated and removed, and indeed, unknown. Christ never needed deliverance before; and yet, when He needed it most, it was not for Him to have.

Are the words of my groaning. The Hebrew word for groaning is more often translated as roaring. Whereas we would think that groaning is a more muted and personal expression, it is actually loud, and should cause a reaction in anyone who would hear it. But God the Father did not listen. And the people at the foot of the cross? They mocked and ridiculed Him for it.

We know that Christ endured all this because of the joy that was before Him (Heb 12:2), but being in the midst of all this was overwhelming. Take a few minutes to read more of Psalm 22, especially verses 1-21, and experience what God gave up for Lent, and what Christ went through for you.

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