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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 26- The Centurion Professes Faith in Jesus

Matthew 27:45-54

27 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" 28 which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 29 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "This one is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him." 30 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. 31 The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 32 The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"

At the moment Jesus died, there was an earthquake, the veil in the temple tore, rocks split in half, and tombs opened.  That must have been quite an awe-filled moment for any of the witnesses at Golgotha.  This moment was especially awesome to the Centurion who had kept watch over Jesus while he hung on the cross.  This gentile listened to the crowd mock and scorn Jesus while he died.  He heard them call Jesus a liar and a fraud.  And the Centurion didn't have any reason not to believe the crowd until Jesus died.  The events that immediately followed His death terrified the soldiers.  Those awesome events made these Gentile men who crucified Jesus believers that he was the Son of God.  In his commentary, Binz tells us that the Centurion represents the scores of Romans who eventually embrace Christianity.  He further explains that church tradition gives this particular Centurion a name- Saint Longinus.

It is interesting that in all the chaos after Jesus' death, the people who came to know him as the Son of God were not the priests and teachers who accused him of blasphemy.  But, it was the gentiles- people outside of "the chosen people."  The events that transpired after Jesus' death made His identity quite clear to the outsiders, but the insiders still had hearts of stone and were blinded by their own pride.  How often does this happen in our own lives?  How often do we find that we can't see the forest because of the trees?

I have to admit that sometimes, I need an earthquake.  There have been times when the Lord wants me to do something, but I can't or refuse to figure it out.  I don't see the path to take.  I refuse to acknowledge God's influence in the situation.  Our move from New Orleans to Dallas was one of those times.  I did not want to move.  We had just gotten settled.  I was just a year into my dream job.  We had just unpacked the last box in our new house.  I wasn't going anywhere.  Then, God had other plans.  And I went to Dallas kicking and screaming.  A year after we moved, our old house in New Orleans was hit by a tornado.  That is what it took to get me to quit pouting and recognize God's hand in my life.  Lets forget about the fact my husband landed the job of a lifetime, we were able to buy a nice house in Dallas way below market price and that we were able to stay with my in-laws while we were in limbo.  The move to Dallas couldn't have been any smoother.  But no, I needed a tornado.  That is what finally got my attention.

Every day, I ask God to be patient with me.  I like to say I dye my hair blonde for a reason.  Sometimes, I'm a little slow on the uptake.  But God is love and St. Paul tell us that love is patient.  There are some days when I put all my hope and trust in that one little fact.

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