First Lutheran Church
Peace Lutheran Church
While on vicarage, I was privileged to help with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, and in the course of imposing ashes on the foreheads of the young and the old, a little boy came forward and said ‘I want a big one!’. His mother promptly motioned for him to calm down, and he received a normal sized cross on the forehead, as did the rest of the congregation.
I think back to that moment every Ash Wednesday now. Why would he, or anyone, want a big cross imprinted upon their forehead? I suppose bragging rights over his older brother when they returned to the pew; or perhaps he wanted a big one to show how much he loved Jesus.
In some senses that is a very cute sentiment, and parents and pastors would ordinarily gush over a child wanting a big cross to show their love of Jesus; and yet, those crosses on the forehead do not come without some cost.
A big cross places a big mark on your back for when the devil comes prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. That big cross makes you a big target for ridicule, for temptation, for the fiery darts of the devil. How many days do you wish you had a much smaller cross; one not so noticeable to those around you? A pocket size cross that you could hide in your pocket, one that only you knew about and no one else.
Of course, in one sense or another, we all have big crosses that mark us. Those crosses upon the forehead, made from the black soot of ashes are meant to remind us of our sinful nature, and how we have gone against God in thought, word and deed from the moment we rise, until the moment we lay our heads down at night. You want a big cross? Don’t worry, you got a big cross; one big enough to bear all of your sins that you have committed from the time you were born, until the end of your earthly days.
I have a big cross that is covered with all of my sins, and so do you. It is a cross of death, a cross of pain and suffering, a cross that we cannot escape from. And instead of showing how much you love Jesus, that big cross is a symbol of how much you, a poor miserable sinner, hate the Lord and His Word.
Big crosses are never a good thing. They are reminders of the sinful world in which we live; a world in which we cannot save ourselves.
And so we cry out in our Lenten dirges, ‘I want a big Jesus!’
And there He is.
There He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling over the heavens, over the earth, and over the Church. There He is coming down to earth to take on our form as a mortal. There He is hanging on the cross that rightfully belongs to you and to me. There He is rising from the tomb. There He is ascending into heaven from whence He will judge the living and the dead. There He is, crushing Satan underfoot and proclaiming forgiveness to all those who suffer under the reign of Satan.
I want a big one. I want a big Jesus. I want a Savior who can redeem me a lost and condemned creature, so that I may be His own and live under His in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
You want it? You got it. There He is on the cross of Calvary. There He is at the right hand of the Father. There He is in the Word and in the water and in the bread and wine.
I want a big one! Me too. You too. And we got a big one. A big Jesus who saves us from all of our sins.