Editor’s note: Today’s devotional thoughts are slightly adapted from the sermon series that accompanies CTA’s new theme for Easter preparation, Journey to the Cross. The series includes six sermons and six sets of corresponding discussion questions. You can download these FREE sermon outlines, along with several other free resources, in our Resource and Idea Center.
Stepping out of the metro train and onto the platform in Washington, D.C., a young man walked toward the wall and positioned himself beside a trash basket. By all outward appearances, he was just an ordinary guy . . . until he removed a violin from a small case. He tinkered with it for a moment and then, placing the open case at his feet and throwing in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, he began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m., the middle of rush hour, one Friday in January 2012. During the next 43 minutes, the violinist performed six different, exquisite classical pieces. As he played, 1,097 individuals passed by. None of those passersby noticed it or guessed it, but the fiddler standing against that bare wall was one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He was playing some of the most beautiful music ever written. And he was playing this music on one of the most valuable violins ever made.
That violin was worth 3.5 million dollars. The violinist was Joshua Bell, and three days earlier he had played to a sold-out house in Boston’s stately Symphony Hall. So, what do you think happened as Mr. Bell played on the subway platform? As you might guess, many people simply walked by without acknowledging the performance. Seven people stopped to listen, and of these, only one recognized Bell.
All but one commuter failed to notice the amazing free gift, the performance going on right in front of them.
Now, imagine you had been that one person. What would you have done?
- Perhaps you would have shouted for joy, telling everyone around, “Stop what you are doing! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
- Perhaps you would have pulled out your cell phone and started the video record feature to capture the moment to share with others.
- Perhaps you would have run up the stairs and into the streets to tell everyone what was happening and invite them to join you on the subway platform.
Jesus’ journey to the cross proceeded just as inconspicuously as Joshua Bell’s subway concert. Our Lord did not step from heaven into a lavish palace here on earth. Rather, as God had planned from the very beginning, Jesus’ journey to the cross took him first to a lowly manger in Bethlehem.
Creation’s king was born into the most unlikely set of circumstances: born to a virgin named Mary, greeted by a symphony of bleating sheep and the braying of donkeys, crowned only with the stray pieces of straw that happened to festoon his head. Like a world-renowned musician playing to nobody in a subway, Jesus began his earthly journey to the cross in a manger in Bethlehem with almost nobody noticing. Almost nobody.
As you know, a few people did recognize Jesus. Shepherds took notice of what was happening in Bethlehem’s most important manger. The shepherds noticed, because angels came from heaven to tell them what had taken place. The shepherds went—probably running—to see the Christ Child. Luke, in fact, tells us that the shepherds rushed to the stable: They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:16 ESV).
From there, the shepherds went back to their sheep. They returned with joy in their hearts and good news on their lips. Luke tells us, When they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child (Luke 2:17 ESV). Anyone awake at that hour heard those shepherds proclaiming the good news: The Savior’s journey had begun!
The good news did not stop there. It continued on its way throughout the region and beyond. Luke tells us, All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them (Luke 2:18 ESV). Those people, no doubt, told others. And on it went.
Thirty years later, Jesus went about the countryside teaching and healing. The good news of God’s promised salvation spread still farther. Everywhere Jesus went, the good news went with him. Whenever the disciples invited others to hear, to repent, and to believe, the good news spread. After the Savior died and rose again, the good news of forgiveness in the cross of Christ spread still farther. And it spread. And it spread.
It has gone on spreading in all the centuries since, until you and I today are hearing the good news of Jesus’ journey to the cross. What began with some shepherds in a stable halfway around the world has come to us! And from us, the good news of Jesus will continue to spread. That Gospel message of forgiveness and peace keeps on touching deeper and deeper places in our lives and hearts. The Gospel of Jesus Christ spreads to cover and cleanse all our sins. His mercy pours into our brokenness and makes us new, whole again! God’s grace floods the valleys of our sadness. His peace flows like a river into every nook and cranny of our being, bringing new life.
As you leave this place, you are like that one person who recognized a world-class musician playing away in a subway station. You will leave this place with joy in your hearts and good news on your lips. You can leave today, knowing that God’s mercy and peace, forgiveness and grace have come to you. Jesus’ journey to the cross has made that possible for you—for you personally! Like the shepherds, you can share that good news! Let your Savior’s journey to the cross continue to transform your heart, your life, your family, and your community.
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