FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: It hangs on the wall just to the right as you enter the room and just to the left as you leave. It’s very shiny and I suspect it is polished regularly. It has a white rope hanging from it and a plaque above it that reads:
Life is not measured by
the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that
take our breath away.
Smile – this is one of those moments!
The object of which I am speaking is a bell…a pretty good-sized bell…but not just any old bell. For this bell can be found in the waiting room of the Radiation Department at the Siteman Center in St. Louis. By the time you read this, it will be a room that my daughter Kim has visited 30 times in the 6 weeks she’s undergone radiation treatments for the brain cancer she was diagnosed with back on July 9. And why the bell? Well, bells typically serve the purpose of signaling something very important. For example, when I was in high school I was the official bell-ringer for our church on Sunday morning. I rang the bells to mark the beginning of Sunday School and the worship service. But I also rang them every Saturday evening at 6:00 as did other churches in town as a way of signaling to our community that the next day was Sunday, a day to gather with God’s people in God’s house to hear God’s Word.
So the ringing of the bell in that waiting room at the Siteman Center serves the purpose of announcing that something important has just happened. And what is that? Well, when a patient completes their regimen of radiation treatments, they get to ring the bell to signal to everyone in that room that they made it. They completed the required number of treatments. And having been through those treatments with my daughter, I can understand why they would want to celebrate. For Kim, her treatments required 30 trips to St. Louis which meant she had to line up drivers to take her each of those days. She couldn’t drive herself because after her treatments she was so tired and sometimes very nauseous that all she could do was sleep in the back seat of the car the whole way home. Add to that the daily traffic jams on the Poplar Street Bridge because of construction and the pounding headaches that came with the treatments, and it’s no wonder that she and anyone else who’s been through radiation treatments would want to ring that bell in celebration of their completion.
As I thought about all of this, I was reminded of Jesus and the day that we Christians call Good Friday. And I thought of some interesting similarities between what Kim has been through during her treatments and what Jesus went through during His Passion. For example, in the preceding paragraph I noted that it wasn’t easy for Kim to reach that point where she could finally ring the bell and complete her treatments. And the same held true for Jesus, only to a much greater extent.
He was flogged with a Roman whip to within an inch of His life. He was spit upon, cruelly mocked, brutally beaten, crowned with thorns, pierced with nails and spear. He was devastatingly lonely as His closest friends and even His own Father abandoned Him. He was painfully punished, not for anything He had done wrong, but for everything that you and I and everyone else would ever do wrong. Which takes us to a second similarity between Kim’s treatments and Jesus’ suffering and death. Though it was not easy for them, it was necessary.
The common protocol for treating the kind of cancer Kim was diagnosed with requires both chemotherapy and radiation. There were days when she wished she didn’t have to make that long trip over to St. Louis for a treatment that lasted right around 13 minutes the times I took her, only to have to turn around and make the long trip back home. But according to the doctors it was necessary.
Likewise, all that Jesus went through on that first Good Friday was necessary. It was necessary if we were ever to be rescued from the judgment of God that we deserve for our sins. It was necessary because the Bible makes it very clear to us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It tells us that all we like sheep have gone astray and that each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). It proclaims to us in Psalm 14:3 that “all have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And for those who would take issue with that previous statement and declare themselves to be good or at least better than most, Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
So if we were ever to enjoy sweet fellowship with our Creator again, as Adam and Eve once did, the problem of our sin needed to be addressed. It needed to be taken care of. For sin separates us from God.
Which takes us to one more similarity that came to my mind as I thought about what Kim has been through and what Jesus went through. Not only was it not easy for them, not only was it necessary, but it was also a major accomplishment. From Kim’s perspective, what looked like such a major mountain to climb when she first started her treatments was conquered. It was time to ring the bell to announce that accomplishment. It was time to celebrate.
And when it came to Jesus, He too had a mountain to climb, didn’t He? A literal mountain. And after hanging for 6 long agonizing hours on that cross-encrusted hill, suspended between heaven and earth, moments before He breathed His final breath, HE RANG THE BELL!! He lifted His eyes to the heavens and with the little strength He had left in His body, He announced, “It is finished! Mission accomplished! I’ve completed what needed to be done!” And though it would be a few days before any of His followers would understand the full import of what He meant by that statement, once they saw the empty tomb, the corpse-less grave clothes, and the angels bearing good tidings of great joy that Christ had risen from the dead, that began a celebration among them and all of God’s people that continues even to this day.
Before I wrap up this article, Marilyn and I along with Kim and her family just want to offer a HUGE THANK YOU to our church family for your generous love, support, prayers, meals, cards, and other ways in which you may have helped us out over the past few months. Once again you’ve shown up for us. You’ve been there for us. And you’ve helped to carry us through this tough and trying time. So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, you can be sure that you will be at the top of that for which we are most grateful, right alongside of Jesus, the One who rang the bell on Calvary’s hill and in the process won eternal health and healing for all who would place their faith and trust in Him.
Gratefully yours and forever His,