by Cheryl Harrison
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Has worry or stress dumped you into a dark pit that resembles the wrong side of eternity? Do you feel as if you are standing on the sidelines of life, helplessly watching your future fall apart? If yes, then please accept this invitation. Lay aside your fears and join me on an unforgettable excursion into God's plan. I promise that your life will never be the same. Are you ready? Let's go!
First Stop -- Possibilities
A huge crowd gathers near the temple. The air thickens with hostility as a rabbi angrily overturns tables and benches. Doves fly the coop. Money-changers and livestock scatter down the steps. Several bystanders voice discontent with the rabbi’s actions, while others silently nod in agreement. Rumors spread quickly. This man, called Jesus, apparently heals the sick. Some people say he is John the Baptist, returned from the dead. Others believe he is Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets (Matthew 16:14).
Many onlookers exhibit a hunger to hear from God, yet they are deaf when he speaks. God's plan for their future stands right in front of them, but they fail to see him. Each person wrestles with possibilities. Is Jesus a prophet? Is he the Messiah? Are the Pharisees wrong about him? Could anything good come from Nazareth? (John 1:46).
His teaching challenges their minds. Hearts are stirred and people listen. Pharisees and teachers of the Law decide that Jesus must be stopped.
Second Stop -- The Arrest
The inner courts of the Temple conceal secret meetings of conspiracy. Religious leaders chuckle with pride over the negotiated price of betrayal. A little finesse and thirty pieces of silver are all it takes to convert Judas into a traitor. Jesus has been arrested. Most of his disciples flee in fear, but John, the beloved, remains as close to Jesus as possible. Before this, Simon Peter had declared an undying loyalty to Jesus, even saying that he would die with him. But now Peter cowers in the darkness, speaking harshly to the people around him. Three denials, the crow of a rooster, and a knowing 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. Pushing and shoving become the order of the day. Cries of despair, smothered by angry jeers, create chaos. False accusations fly. Plans to crucify the heretic spill into the streets.
Curious onlookers watch the condemned man carry a heavy wooden cross through the city. Sharp splinters dig into his already-torn flesh. Weakened by brutal beatings, Jesus collapses. The crowd pushes forward to see. A Roman soldier barks orders at a bystander, “You! Carry his cross.” The man tries to flee, but the soldier's threat of death-by-sword causes him to reconsider. As the man kneels down to take the cross, he makes eye contact with Jesus. Silent communication passes between them. All fear fades away. Centurions force Jesus into a standing position, and the chilling procession continues toward Golgotha.
Fourth Stop -- The Cross
Jesus hangs on the cross for all to see; a crown of thorns thrust upon his head. Searing pain grips his body. Nailed to the cross, Jesus labors for every breath. Deceived people continue to mock him. Others walk away in disgust. His eyes glisten with tears of forgiveness as he intercedes--“Father, please forgive them…” His mother buries her face at the foot of the cross, desperately trying to understand why her son must die such a cruel death. Her conflicted soul clashes with God’s plan; yet at the same time, she experiences 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. Suddenly, Jesus cries out, "It is finished," and then he dies. The sky darkens. A torrential storm brews, hastening the people’s return to the city. Confusion escalates with each step. Doubt clouds their minds; disappointment hardens their hearts.
A solitary woman lingers near the cross, wondering if all hope has died. In answer, a centurion proclaims the truth--"Surely this man was the son of God!" (Matthew 27:54) God’s stake has been driven into the ground. Raindrops, mingled with blood, stain His Son’s cross. The earth shakes. Redemption draws near. Life will never be the same.
Fifth Stop -- Present Expectations
All of us have high expectations for our future. Yet every once in a while--when we least expect it--our plans fall apart. Our hearts are broken by the death of a loved one or a severed relationship. A wayward child or financial ruin sends us reeling. Tribulation, by any name, profoundly shakes us up and changes our lives forever.
Jesus promised that we would struggle. He also promised to sustain us through our struggles. Thankfully, God's plan for our future is not derailed whenever disappointment occurs. Remember, the very same people who witnessed Jesus die on the cross also witnessed his resurrection. The same truth applies today. God is fully aware of the plans he has for us--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).
Prayer: Father, thank You for being with us in the midst of disappointment. Your love sustains us. Please help us to remember that you will never leave us alone. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Written By: Cheryl Harrison
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