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Following Jesus

Thoughts for the Season of Lent

March 8, 2019 by

As the season of Lent begins and we approach Easter, I turn to a book of Lenten devotions published by Plough two years ago, The Crucified Is My Love. It was written by Lutheran pastor Ernst von Holst in the late 1800s in the Baltic country of Latvia. He gave a copy to my great grandmother, and it has been cherished by my family for over a hundred years. I remember my grandmother reading from it when I was a teenager; I rediscovered it later when my husband, Jake, and I read it together.

This book is not a theological exposition; its beauty lies in its appeal to the heart. Von Holst urges his readers to let this Easter season strike their hearts, to look to Jesus and take in the pain he endured for our sakes:

We are often weighed down with our work, our cares, and suffering, but if we had to bear the full weight of our sin and guilt, we would sink under it into eternal night. The beam of the cross that the Lord carried to Golgotha on his torn and bleeding shoulders was heavy, but the invisible burden that rested on that cursed wood was heavier. It was not the sin of one man that was laid on the Lamb of God, but of all people – truly, the sin, guilt, and death penalty of the whole world. The season of Lent admonishes us to look well at this Lamb, and John exhorts us with his challenge, “Behold.”

Just as once the children of Israel in the wilderness, seeking help from the bites of fierce snakes, looked up to the bronze serpent, so we too would look to the Crucified One, who bore our burden and atoned for our guilt. We would look to him with ever fuller, ever deeper and more grateful faith. But for this, new and pure eyes are necessary. We must beg the Lord for these if we want to grasp our Redeemer’s suffering in the depths of our hearts.

With such eyes, my soul, contemplate your suffering Savior. See him in the garden of Gethsemane in the shadow of night, lying prostrate on his face, struggling with death and sweating drops of blood. See him in the judgment hall, bearing in silence the lashes of the cruel executioner, enduring spitting and a crown of thorns. Take your place below the cross at Golgotha and hear the seven last words of the dying man. Look at the bloody wounds on his head, his limbs quivering with pain, his eyes filled with tears.

Easter painting titled Cross in the Mountains (detail) by Caspar David Friedrich

Look still deeper: look into the heart of Jesus and see his obedience to his Father and his compassion for you. See his heart break and his head bowed in death. Look until your heart also breaks in pain and love, and your eyes overflow with tears of gratitude. All who look at him and bear him in their souls like this form together the great invisible church of God here on earth, which will be revealed on the day of glory. She will see this Lamb again as her glorified, eternal King. Then she will experience the prophecy of the New Covenant: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).

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About the author

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel, an author with a particular interest in Bruderhof history, writes a regular blog post featuring timely...

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