Have I been discounting Jesus’ pain?

1186px-Titian,_Christ_Carrying_the_Cross._Oil_on_canvas,_67_x_77_cm,_c._1565._Madrid,_Museo_Nacional_del_Prado

Rank the following in order of importance to your faith:

a.  The Life and Teachings of Jesus
b.  The crucifixion of Jesus
c.  The resurrection of Jesus

It’s amazing to me how varied people’s answers are, when I ask this.  What’s your order?

Mine is a, c, b.   Even though I know  resurrection is the gift at the heart of my relationship with God, I can’t help but think about how much Jesus has taught me to walk in the light.

I suppose I go back and forth between a and c.  But b, crucifixion, never makes it out of the 3 spot.

I was reading about crucifixion, about how extremely painful a form of execution it was.  How the nailing of the hands, which was not always done, would have added another layer of agony.  Add to that Jesus’ scourging, whipped until he was bloody, and there’s no discounting the suffering he encountered.  It was unspeakably bad.

And yet I do not give it the attention I give the other parts of the story. Have I been discounting Jesus’ pain?

I’ll admit, it occurs to me that there have been many others to die on a cross.  Many to be tortured, punished, put to death in cruel and unimaginable ways.  I’ve seen the pain of warfare and the harm of disasters.  I am aware that these human bodies are mortal, and fragile.  It’s all part of being human.

Jesus died among the worst ways possible.  But there were two thieves hanging there with him, enduring the same fate.  There have been saints who have been martyred in the same way as Jesus.

Crucifixion?  It’s a terrible way to go, but for me, it’s not the showstopper of Holy Week.

Until I think of this:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  —1 Peter 2:24

The physical pain of the cross would pale in comparison to the spiritual weight of the world.  He “bore our sins” in order to heal us, an unthinkable feat.  Without Jesus’ pain, the Easter story would be very different.  The entire Jesus story would be very different.  The pain of the crucifixion anchors Jesus as our champion, taking on all the sin the world can throw at him.

And still…I can’t stay there.  I can’t give the crucifixion the same due I give the resurrection, or Jesus’ ministry.  Here’s why:

Whereas there is a place for me in the crowds that followed the life and ministry of Jesus, and a place for me inside the wondrous empty tomb on that Easter morn, I find no place for me on the cross of the crucifixion. It’s too powerful, too dark, too dangerous.

I can look at the cross, and pray at the cross, and pick up my own cross, but I cannot climb up and embrace the burden of this kind of pain.  There is only one who ever could.

And so, this Holy Week, I invite you to spend some time with all 3 parts of Jesus’ story.   .  There’s a reason it is referred to as the Greatest Story Ever Told.  If some parts are more painful to watch than others, just do what I do:

Take a good long look,

 

But keep a safe distance.

 

In Christ,

Mitch

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Artist Rendering

Wednesday morning brought with it the moment that astronomers and geeks have been waiting for.  A first-ever look at a black hole.

You might have assumed we already had a picture of a black hole. Well, truthfully, we have TONS of pictures–they’re just best guesses of what some artist thinks a black hole might look like.

Every article I looked at this week had a different artist’s rendering.  Here’s what some of them looked like:

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commons.wikipedia.com

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universetoday.com

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zmescience.com

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businessinsider.com

Aren’t they beautiful?  Dramatic?  It’s the stuff of major Hollywood studios.

And then….the unveiling:

Slide 1 of 134: The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. Today, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers reveal that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. This breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

A glazed donut.

As exciting as it is to have a telescope that can capture this long-elusive image, the results, so far, are a little…fuzzy.  Not exactly the crisp, brilliant image the nightly news was hoping for.

If the results are less than fully defined, I’m okay with that.  The lack of detail makes it more believable, because life rarely coughs up a pristine image for us.  This donut gives me something to focus on, even if it still retains some of its mysteriousness.

It makes me wonder about Heaven.  Just like black holes, people have stared up at the black, starry sky, and wondered what it looked like.

Here are some of the artist renderings people have made of Heaven:

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arwinsworld@blogspot.com

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citybiblegroup.com

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restitutio.org

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epitmnein-epitomic@blogspot.com

Beautiful and majestic, for sure, but imagine the day that telescopes could fix their sights on Heaven.  What if it looked like this?

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry, I can’t supply a picture like that.  All we have are more of those artist renderings, which as we’ve seen, may fall a little short in the accuracy department. I don’t blame them for trying–in fact, I applaud the creative spirituality.

The truth is, it’s enough for me to simply know that something exists.  I don’t need fancy renditions to pique my interests.

I know Heaven exists because of what my soul tells me, like a deep fuzzy look out into the expanse of faith. Of course, we have no telescope to capture an image, however blurry, of the Magic Kingdom.  We don’t even know where Heaven is.  Is it a place out in space?  Or in another dimension? Who knows!

I’m not expecting a HD vision of paradise any time soon.  And that’s okay.  In place of a heavenly photo, may I offer a short word picture painted by Jesus?   Though the Bible seems deliberately fuzzy when it comes to detailed depictions of the World after this world, this passage has always given me a tantalizing glimpse of things to come.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

No floorplan, no HGTV description.  Just a barebones image of what’s to come.   Yes, it’s still a pretty vague metaphor, but it’s just blurry enough

for me to believe it.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

See the source image