THE WAY OF THE CROSS
(Trussville, AL USA)
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25)
Wow, did I ever have a bad day! Anything that could have possibly gone wrong did. First, when I got up I burnt my breakfast toast right off the bat. Then, my day seemed to go from bad to worse. My vehicle failed to start, so I had to take a taxi to work. My workplace break room coffee pot was on the blink. Some unknown hungry soul lifted my PB&J sandwich from the break room fridge. My boss yelled at me, not once but all day long, for not getting his priority projects in on time, and on and on it went. (Philippians 4:6)
Thank goodness, the five o'clock whistle finally sounded and I am off to my own personal castle called home. Yes, I'm back home now safe and sound. So the best I can do is drink a cup of warm milk, eat a cookie or two, and go off to bed. I did, and that is when it all started happening. The most unusual dream of my life occurred.
You see, I was out walking down this rocky road when I approached a small hillside. A signpost located by the side of the road read 1/2 mile to Calvary. From a distance, I could see the outline of what appeared to be an old rugged cross, surrounded by many people of all ages. From my far-away viewpoint, I observed what seemed to be the shadowy outline of a man. As if by some divine force, my curiosity overtook my emotions, causing me to move forward up this small hillside. Off I went up this rugged climb.
As I was walking up this rough hillside, all of a sudden out of nowhere appeared a compelling character. He was clothed all in white, with his long, flowing white hair matching his clothing, as if he had revitalized from a bygone civilization. His speech was that of some sort of broken language. Looking rather anxious, he asked, "May I help you?"
"Yes, you may. What's happening here?" I ask.
"Come walk with me, let's get a little closer," he answered.
As we approached the scene, I observed a man hanging on this old unfinished cross. It was the most fear-provoking site I have ever seen. He was fixed on the cross only by a few old rusty nails piercing his hands and feet. He was clothed only in a loincloth wrapped around his body. And strangely enough, he was wearing this crude crown of thorns on his brow. Blood was gushing profusely from the wounds in his hands, feet, and the crown on his brow.
A band of helmeted soldiers seemed to be circling around this old rugged cross, standing guard. Gathered around these soldiers, though standing at a distance, was a small band of people of all ages, men and women.
Then suddenly as I was gazing upward towards the man, the strangest thing happened. I was totally caught off guard. For you see, by some marvellous maneuver this man on the cross hastily pointed towards Heaven with one hand, while he pointed down to me with the other. His eyes seemed to pierce my very soul, as he looked down at me.
I was completely overwhelmed. "What on earth is this all about?" I shouted out over the crowd to the stranger dressed all in white. He never even answered me. Nor did he look my way.
"Wait just a New York minute!" I yelled out in surprise. "This is no real life scene. Why it's that big painting of Jesus hanging in the vestibule of our church. And here I am standing right in the middle of it all. And wait just wait a cotton-picking minute, pictures don't come to life. People don't move around on a painted canvas. This man on the hill moved his hands and even pointed down to me. How come this is happening?"
"You are so right," the white-robed stranger replied with a big grin. We just took a little ride from back in time to the now. We are now in your little church and looking at that very revealing painting of the cross and its message.”
"How many times have you walked by this old painting, never giving its meaning a second thought? How many times has your church pastor preached on the message of the Cross? And how many times have you turned a blind ear to his preaching by not coming forward for prayer at the end of the service?"
"You see, my beloved, you have failed to understand the true meaning and purpose of the cross. Evil influences have taken over the good in your life and by human nature alone you cannot now do anything on your own to defend yourself, aside from accepting the true meaning of the cross. (Gal. 5:19-21) Yes, you have let yourself down, and anyone can conquer your feelings and not be reprimanded." (Romans 6:1-2)
"You have let the old sin nature take over your life. That's why you are experiencing such discomfort in life. And now, by way of provident insight, the true meaning of the cross is being shown to you."
"You see, God sent His only beloved Son to earth to die for the inherited sins of all mankind. (Romans 3:23) And in your dream, this Man Jesus was showing you the way to heaven, by pointing to the sky and down to you. (John 3:16) Did you happen to catch His last cry on that cross, when He cried out 'It is finished?'" he asked. "He finished the work He was sent here to do, to die for your sins," he concluded. (Gal. 6:14)
Well, I just couldn't answer this stranger's questions. For you see, my tears had drowned out my speech. And when I looked around through the stream of water flowing from my eyes, this character was nowhere to be seen. So I fell immediately fell to my knees right there in front of the big picture in repentance.
What a message I received that night; the message of the cross, the message of the full gospel. (I Cor. 15:1-4) And what a ride, first back in time to that old rugged cross, then forward to my church and having a chance of accepting God's mercy.
Yes, I did wake up from that dream of all dreams just in time to change my wandering lifestyle. Now every time I pass by this wonderful picture hanging in our little church, I stop and whisper a little prayer of thanks. I thank Him for dying in my stead. I thank Him for changing my life before it was too late. What about you, dearly beloved?
I understand that Christendom doesn't worship objects such as paintings. However, I do feel that God oftentimes does give us an object lesson on the full gospel. Simply having a picture of Jesus hanging in a church does not mean the church is practicing idolatry.
There is nothing in the New Testament teachings that forbid a picture of Jesus. Such a picture oftentimes may be a reminder to pray, to focus on the Lord or to follow in His footsteps.
But we should realize, however, that our Lord cannot be reduced to an image and prayer should not be offered to such image. We certainly don't need an image to display His all-powerful glory. We need only read Psalm Nineteen.
Such as in the object of this blog, our character was drawn to a reminder of our all-powerful, all-knowing Creator each time he would pass by this church painting. Being reminded to pray the prayers of the Bible helped his character to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. It helped him to open his heart to a deeper faith, renewed strength, fresh blessing, and God's power to do immeasurably more than all he asked or imagined.