Have I been discounting Jesus’ pain?

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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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No Crying In Basketball.

Jesus wept.  —John 11:35

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So…you foul out with :36 left on the clock.  Down by 5.  You watch, helpless, as it all slips away. This is the hardest you’ve worked in your life, and it’s come down to this:  A loss.

It’s enough to make you want to cry.

And so you look around the arena for your mother.  She’s sitting over there with your family.  As your bottom lip begins to tremble, you run across the court, climbing up into the stands, and you throw your arms around your mom.

As an astonished venue looks on, you let loose with a gut wrenching sob.  WAHHHHHH!!!  All the mental and physical exhaustion you’re feeling, plus the deep disappointment at not making it to the championship comes gushing out of you in great big torrents for all to see and hear.

Oh wait.  Scratch that.  That’s not right. That’s not how we do things. It’s perfectly acceptable for 15,000 fans to scream themselves hoarse rooting for a game, but to have one player show a few tears can somehow seem uncouth.  Even embarrassing.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be that guy burying my face in a towel.  I don’t want my anguish broadcast on TBS and around the world.  To me, painful emotions are private, intimate things.  But why?

Many people (especially men) have been raised to view showing sad emotions as a sign of weakness and a cause for embarrassment.  If you’ve sneakily brushed away tears after a sappy commercial, you may know what I’m talking about.  And I can’t tell you the number of people I see at a funeral, doing all they can to clamp down on those pesky feelings.

I wonder.  What would it take for you or I to come out of hiding and let our tears be a public statement of grief?  It would have to be for a very good reason, even more significant than losing a basketball game.

Well…it is Holy Week.  Kind of the epicenter of anguish for the Christian year.  What if we allowed ourselves to truly experience the depths of Holy Thursday or Good Friday?  What if we opened ourselves up to the brokenness of the world and the suffering of our savior?  Could we let it move us to tears?

All of our personal turning away from God.  All the pain of betrayal and denial and crucifixion and death and darkness.  Talk about a loss! This is no game–it’s the light of Christ snuffed out.  If there’s ever been a week for crying in public, isn’t this it?

Yes!  So here’s what you do.  You push your cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store, sniffing and blubbering. Every time someone asks you if you are alright, you say, “No.  Not this week,” and then tell them why.

Okay.  I’m dubious if any of us are going make that much of a scene, but I challenge you to feel something. If we can have our emotions stirred up by a basketball game, surely we can travel these last days of Lent, giving our whole hearts to Jesus.  There’s still time to discern, to reflect, and yes, to weep.  But know this…

in terms of days before Easter…

we’re down to the Final Four.

Have a Holy Week,

Mitch

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