Public Worship: Jesus, the Christ
Thinking Carefully about Jesus
Focusing on the Savior
Hebrews 3:1 NLT
And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest.
Each year during Holy Week, worshipers try to walk with Christ through the terrible and terrific events at the end of His earthly life.
Before the Cross
- We shout “Hosanna!” and wave our palm branches as we proclaim Him our King.
- We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as if it were the Last Supper.
- We watch and pray with Jesus in Gethsemane’s garden.
- We stand aside as violent soldiers wrest Him from us, turning the peaceful garden night into a kiss-induced nightmare.
- We cannot turn away from the unspeakable spectacle of Roman politics, religious law, and relentless cruelty.
At the Cross
- We follow at a safe distance as the whip of man and the will of God propel Him step by step through Jerusalem’s winding, narrow streets toward the city gate that leads to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
- We hide among the crowd of people who are entertained by executions to watch the soldiers do their gruesome work with hammers and nails and beams of rough lumber.
- We are unable to breathe for the moments it takes to hoist the loaded cross into the air and then, with Jesus suspended between earth and heaven, we no longer wish to breathe.
- We hear His last words, projected through the pain of lungs and diaphragm He can no longer support with His powerful legs and we promise to remember those words forever.
- We see Him breathe His last and we are not at all surprised at the way creation reacts to such an injustice: storm and darkness and quaking. It is only right that a deaf and mute earth should cry out when the ears and voice of man, though made in the image and likeness of God, are engaged in cursing.
After the Cross
- We wonder at the stillness of His lifeless form slumping, suspended by nails, His precious blood draining to the dust to redeem those who were made from it and whose sins keep them there.
- We watch Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus take His body down and the women who cared for Him in life prepare Him in death for the tomb.
- We pace with the guards on their senseless duty guarding a dead man. But we do not flee with them in terror when the angel sends them scurrying away because we knew he was coming.
- We hear the groan and crash of the impossible stone as it rolls away from the mouth of the tomb unassisted by human hands or mechanical lever.
- We are blinded by the light of life pouring from inside the tomb where nothing but deflated grave clothes and a neatly folded head piece lie on the stone slab where Jesus once lay.
- We weep with the women when they return to do what they can for the One they loved and lost.
- We rejoice with them when Jesus speaks to them again, the wonderful music of His voice singing again in their hearts, the warm light of His eyes shining once again on their upturned faces.
We look around to see our brothers and sisters who have lived this week with us and we say,
“He is risen. He is risen indeed!” (ancient Christian greeting)
The Power of the Jesus Focus
When we focus on Jesus, we experience what theologians call anamnesis, the power of a past event brought into the present moment.
NT:364 anamnesis (an-am’-nay-sis); from NT:363; recollection: KJV – remembrance (again)
The word “memorial” misses the point of anamnesis. With a memorial, we visit a reminder of a past event. With anamnesis the past event visits us. This is the power of the Jesus-focus. He comes to us when we center our hearts and minds on Him. (James 4:8) We experience the events of His incredible life as current events.
This consciousness fills the music of worship especially the music of Christmas, Easter, and the Lord’s Table.
- O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
- Joy to the world the Lord IS come!
- I’ve just seen Jesus! I tell you He’s Alive (Daniels and Gaither)
- Draw me nearer, nearer, to thy precious bleeding side. (Crosby and Doane)
Even though these events happened twenty centuries ago, to the worshiper, they are present and powerful realities.
This worship-focus on Jesus is intended for more than just for the Lord’s Table, Christmas, and Easter. It is a privilege of those who walk with Jesus on the Path of Life. This is no mental trick or positive thinking illusion. The presence of Jesus with us as we walk together is more real than the “real” world around us.
- His presence is the atmosphere of heaven that our spirit must breathe or suffocate.
- His voice speaks more clearly than the wind in the trees along the path.
- His heartbeat provides the rhythm of our walk.
We peer through His eyes at the natural world through which we pass. We see the spiritual things that really matter:
- the laughing stream of the River of Life,
- the well-worn, well-lit Path of Life at our feet, and
- the mountain in the distance we are called to climb.
On this path of pain and glory, I want to think carefully about this Jesus.
Draw me nearer, nearer, O Lord!
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved