I started off my day with a donut and real, caffeinated coffee. (the story behind that is that my severely caffeine-dependent family has been accidentally and unknowingly drinking decaf for the past week. When we realized, we were all like, “THAT’S why I’ve been so messed up!” Moral of the story: check the label before you brew.) Then I prayed for freedom, because it’s Freedom Friday – a blog post all in its own, for a later Freedom Friday. And because it’s GOOD Friday, I read John’s account of the events leading up to the crucifixion.
Something struck me while I was thinking about the horrible pain Jesus went through. I can’t remember the exact thoughts that were running through my head, but it was something along the lines of the incalculably intense pain that Jesus was under. Intentionally. On Purpose. He did it because it had to be done.
I was just thinking about how little I love people. Not that I don’t love people as well as I can, but by comparison, I have no love. I would not endure whipping well. Particularly the barbaric kind of the time of the Romans. I wouldn’t be able to think about why I was doing it, why it was important. My pain would occupy my thoughts. My blood would distract me from any thoughts of a greater purpose that I had. Any good intentions of remaining composed or not yelling at my whippers would be out the window. The jeers of the crowd would make me weep and forget that I love them. or maybe I’d just lose the love altogether. I would not be stoic as they shoved a crown of massive thorns deep into my skull. I wouldn’t be thinking about anyone but myself.
I would not endure the shame of bearing my own method of execution unsuccessfully up a hill. I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to remember that this was necessary so that the people I love could have a restored relationship with me. The nails would hurt, to say it delicately. I think pain and self-pity would blind me to anything else going on around me.
But not Jesus. Not my Jesus. You can say that He didn’t have a choice as Judas betrayed him into the hands of the Jewish officials who would condemn him. You can say that he had to go along with the questioning, the whipping, the torturous walk to Calvary, the excruciating death on the cross. You can say that. And you would be wrong. I firmly believe that the God of the universe in human form, Jesus, had every power to stop the people who were torturing him. I think he could have even just transported himself right back up to Heaven if he’d wanted to. He could have ignored John and Mary, his mother at the foot of the cross instead of telling John it was now his responsibility to take care of her. He could have scorned the two thieves on his right and left – they were actually guilty of the crimes they were being executed for, after all. He could have cursed the people who crucified him instead of saying, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
All for love. For love of a sinful people who can’t/don’t/won’t serve him, yesterday and today.
There aren’t words for that kind of the love and the gratitude that springs from it.
I spent the latter part of the morning reading about Chinese syncretic religions – not doing any faith-hunting, it’s for a class – and comparing it to this Jesus. Comparing it to the One who knew – and said – that humanity was sinful and lost. And he knew we could do squat about it. So He took care of it.
Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Surely, this was the son of God.