riversmeeting

a church in carrick-on-shannon

A Young Man’s Destiny: The Cross

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This is not a fairy tale, but it is a very true and sometimes forgotten event that happened quite a while ago, as I unfold this story you will come to know whom I talking about, and why the story is as true and alive today as it was way back then, as I tell you some of the details you will know who I am talking about.  The story begins with a young teenage girl whose name was Mary, and as it was told, an Angel from heaven appeared to her and she was told that she has being chosen by God in heaven to bear His son and she was even given the Child’s name. Even though as a teenager I am sure she must have being quite frightened and scared about what had taken place, Mary accepted what the Angel had said to her. And thus the Holy Spirit came upon her, and she fell pregnant. In these days, that do not seem real at all – in fact you would say it’s off the wall. But the reality was very real, as events begin to unfold. There was even a husband picked out for her. Even that was a very strange thing to happen, and to accept those days, but it is very true: the husband name was Joseph. Can you imagine what this man was thinking and the role he had to play in this young girl’s life? What a situation “he found himself in” …but he was part of God’s plan. No question about that. The time came when this child had to be born, and when Mary was due to give birth; her labour pains were getting nearer and stronger.   Joseph had a terrible time trying to find a place for Mary to have her baby. No- one wanted to let them in or help out in their situation, maybe because Mary being so young, it really looked suspicious. And it was also very dangerous for them both; if they were found out that this young girl is about to give birth, the authorities would have killed her because of the law at that time.  Then one person half-heartedly gave them a stable where the livestock was kept, and there in the most humble of places (and not the cleanest of places, not by today’s standards) Mary give birth to a beautiful baby boy. Being of a poor background, Mary had nothing more than a strip of linen and she wrapped her little child in this piece of material and laid him gently in a bed of straw and watched him sleep.  This place was called
Bethlehem.
 

As this news got out about of what had taken in the stable in Bethlehem, people came from far and near to see this miracle child, after all they had gone through, just to find a safe place for Mary and her baby and the way Mary and Joseph were treated by people and their circumstances it was a nothing short of a miracle that things turned out the way they did and that everything that had happened to them.   Kings and wise men came to see this child and humble themselves before him and they brought gifts to him as if he was a King Himself “He was and He is.”   

The next part of this very true story is, that after a while after Mary was well rested and got her strength back, rumour got out of what had taken in Bethlehem about a King  has being born, the Powers-that-be were not pleased at all, and Mary and the  child were in danger and they would have being killed.  But Joseph -prompted by God- took Mary and her baby and fled to Egypt, and later
Nazareth, and there they settled as a family and began to live their lives normally, fitting well in the community: Mary Mother Joseph Father.
 

Joseph was a carpenter and their son Jesus became the son of a carpenter. There this child grew, in a family of love, learning his father’s trade. I am sure he was just like any other child, and got up to all sorts of mischief as any normal child would do just growing up.  This one was no different.  When he became about 12 years old he went missing on his mother and naturally Mary got very worried when Jesus did not turn up for his meals. After searching for some time, Mary found him in the temple talking with the priests, and this surely took Mary by surprise. When she scolded him as a mother would do and he answered her saying “Should I not be about my Father’s business?” Mary knew from that point knew that this was the start of God’s plan for her son. As time went by this young boy grew into a man. He began to teach, preach, and heal, to raise people from the dead. He lived rough, walked among thieves, lepers, faced demons from every walk of life, cured blindness, helped the lame to walk. He went into the desert and spent forty days and nights alone, confronted the devil who tried to tempt him in every way possible.  People when they learned about this man they began to follow him, and they listened to him and they were amazed at the things they heard and saw him working miracles. When the crowds become too big to be fed he fed them through the miracle of the loaves ands fishes… he turned water into wine at a wedding, freed people from their diseases and many more wonderful things.  Imagine this man picking twelve men to follow him and to bear witness to all the happenings. That was to be witness for what was to come next in this man’s life. Jesus chose these men from just ordinary backgrounds. There was nothing fancy about their lifestyles. They were just plain ordinary men: most of them were working fishermen. But there was a plan for these men: they were to become fishers of men and their lives would never be the same again, but only enriched by the next few years while they were with Jesus.  As time went by, the rumours were getting back the authorities in story after story, and by this time they felt that something had to be done about this man, so they sent out a bunch of soldiers to arrest Jesus. Jesus knew that this was going to happen, so as he was praying in a garden, he asked his friends to look out for him.  But they fell asleep and when the soldiers come to take Jesus, one of his own men pointed him out with a kiss. This was an awful act coming from one of his own, whom he hand-picked as one of his followers. Imagine how Jesus must have felt at that moment.  The soldiers, who came to take Jesus, bowed before him as if they knew that this person was very special. They acknowledged him even as they took him away. This I find amazing. They carried out their duty and took Jesus before the Roman authorities but could not find any fault with him. So they began to mock him, they spat on him, they humiliated him, then they crowned him with thorns hammered these thorns through his head. Can you imagine the pain of this action? Thorns piercing through his head and not a murmur from him. Then they tied him to a pillar and they whipped him with steal metal balls with little edges like blades that when they strike on the flesh, they would tear some of the flesh away from his body, they whipped him thirty times. His poor body was in a state with lumps of his flesh being just ripped off with this whip and no murmur from this lovely man.  His mother Mary was watching the way her beautiful son had been treated and it was not over. For Jesus and for his mother Mary, there was more to come. After they scourged him at the pillar, they threw a purple cloak on him (purple was a sign of royalty) and then gave him a sceptre and again mocked him as king of the Jews. Now look at the state of this young man’s body – a 33year old in the prime of his life- his body ripped and torn, his head hammered with thorns, blood running everywhere. His poor mother looking at her beautiful son being tortured, mocked, laughed at spat on, and she felt so helpless to do anything for him only to be there for him, but it did not stop there. They made a wooden cross and they made him carry it through the streets where holiday crowds had gathered and they watched him carry this cross. This cross was by no means light and the man who was carrying the cross was in no fit state to carry it the way his body had been tortured. He fell at least three times. No one even wanted to help him… they just watched him every step of the way until one man was forced out of the crowd to help him, and one woman wiped his face with a towel. 

Now for the final part of this man’s life, after he carried his cross to his final destination, they took what is left of his tortured body, stretched out one of his arms and nailed to the cross. Then they did the same to his other arm, and then took his feet, nailing both of his feet together to the cross.  The pain he suffered words -just fail me- and then they raised the cross and then the cross had to slip in a groove so that it would not fall over. His poor body hung on this cross forward which left the weight of his torso extended from the cross and his arms stretched to take the weight and after all of that, they stuck a spear in his side to see if he was dead.   Though all of this pain Jesus never moaned or complained he took everything that was given to him which ever way it came at him.  He only cried out once to His Father: “It is finished.”  What was going through his mother’s mind? How did her heart cope as she looked at the way her son ended up? The pain and the grief, the sorrow and the helplessness as she looked at her son dying on the cross.  The question I would ask myself is “Why did he do it?” The answer is very clear: he did for me and for you, and for all the people who are close to you for all the people of the world so that we can have a meaningful life, to have the freedom to choose, to have salvation. So many things happened at the cross and it was all for us for our good. The cross is where you will find your freedom. The power of the cross is so powerful. There is no doubt in the wide world that the cross is your strength and your salvation. There is no shame in kneeling before the cross in times of trials and troubles. It is there that we should find ourselves before our Saviour and ask his forgiveness for what we have done to Him.  Because we were there when he was mocked, -yes! – We were there when they crowned him with thorns, and –yes! –  We were there when they crucified him. As Christmas come around again think about the baby, the child, the boy, the man. The child brings good news; the Man gave us freedom.  The next time you look at the cross think about the 33 year man who gave his life willingly for you, look at the life of this man and the things he has done for us. Can you imagine in this day and age taking that kind of punishment and his being crucified for your sins?  Mary’s son did. His name is Jesus and he is the son of God. He is the “Alpha and Omega” the beginning and the end. This is not a fairy story but a true and live version that is as much alive today as it was 2000 years ago.   Elizabeth Mc Morrow 

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