Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When They are Really Us

Sunday evening we're watching, (for the first time), The Bible series on the History channel because everyone keeps mentioning it: the ninja angels, that heavy cloaked satan looking just a little familiar, and I am intrigued by it finally. 

Daughter and husband are watching it, even sons wander in and out, taking homework breaks from chemistry, biology and geometry.  It's a fast forward to Jerusalem by way of Jesus' 40 days in the desert while tempted by satan, his baptism by cousin John, his miraculous healings, Matthew walking away from tax collecting to join him, Simon Peter {almost} walking on water, his tears over Lazarus, his feeding 5,000 followers on a hillside, Nicodemus questioning a nighttime trial. It depicts Palm Sunday where cheers follow Jesus into Jerusalem on the donkey, knowing that hateful jeers are just days away.  A nighttime upper room where Jesus institutes communion on Maundy Thursday where  Judas hurries away, desperately hopeful that turning him over to religious authorities might finally propel Jesus to start the revolution Judas believes he has come for.

And that moment when the guard's ear is slashed off in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus heals it, that moment is when daughter feels queasy and says, "I can't watch what's coming.  It will give me nightmares.  What they do to him is scary."  Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, what "they" do to him is scary, will give her nightmares.  But it's not "they."  It's collective us.  We were right there.  We spat on him, we whipped him, we crushed a crown of thorns deeply into his precious head, we jeered hateful  ugly words at him, we laughed at and mocked him, we lustily shouted, "Crucify Him!"  We {{are}} "they," that angry mob, hungry to see him get what we thought he deserved nailed on that cross on Golgotha.  The series ended promising his cruxifiction and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Daughter brushed teeth, removed contact lenses and climbed into bed, ready for a tuck-in and bedtime prayer.  And I was still pondering her words carefully.

I sat in the dark on her bed after she chose to recite the Lord's Prayer over "People Prayers." (Where she blesses and prays for people in her life by name.)  And I quietly explained to her that although it's hard to watch, (and oh boy... is it ever), it's visceral, it's vitriolic, but it's vital and if it doesn't cause tears to flow freely, I'm not sure what will.  That cruxifiction is something we Christians desperately need to be reminded of.  Otherwise, how do we experience true joy on Easter morning?  True joy is not a chocolate bunny delivered in decorative plastic grass in a woven basket by a furry bunny.  True joy isn't jelly beans well hidden in a plastic egg in a backyard blooming shrub by droopy daffodils.  True joy isn't in the delicious first bite of honeyed ham and great-Grandma Douglas' recipe for potato salad and great-Grandma Thaxton's decadent cinnamon pecan rolls.  If any of that were true joy, we'd all be lost the minute after it all ended.  Thankfully all of the above is purely simple everyday joy.

But true joy?  True joy is found in the release of comprehending that what he went through is done.  It is finished.  Once for all, forever.  And I explain the concept of "we" being "they" to her.  She is shocked.  She protests that she would never have done that to him, she would never have said those things to him if she had lived back then, had a chance to walk and talk with him.  But Simon Peter did and he was a true friend, a true follower.  He did not once, but three times.  And if he did, then I surely would, we surely would have despite our best intentions.  And there it is right there! I did.  We did.  That was us right there, requesting Barabbas' release instead of an innocent Jesus.  And how great was Jesus' love for us, even knowing he could come down from that cross, but choosing NOT to?  Choosing to remain there and finish it for us.  That gift he gave us cannot ever be scary or cause us nightmares.  That gift has to remain a vivid picture on Good Friday so that true joy can be ours on Easter Sunday.  I remind her that her GOD is strong enough to take all that on: all of our hate, all of our sins, all of that pain we inflicted mightily on him, all of that humiliation we slapped on him, tried to crush and kill him with.

And yet, he continued to love us.  Not to merely like us luke-warmly, but love us deeply like a tender shepherd takes care of each and every one of the sheep in his flock.  That is the God I want on my side.  That is the God I want to protect me.  That is the God worth waiting on -- for answers, for blessings, for healing, for comfort, for strength, for everything I daily need, in his time.  If he is for us, who or what can frighten us or give us nightmares?  Definitely not satan.  He can try, but he cannot succeed.  If Jesus is for us, we can be assured of true joy.  Not just today. But tomorrow and yesterday too.  Not just when we remember to ask, but always. 

She and I had tears at that point on her bed in the dark.  His pain is painfully poignant, and if doesn't cause tears of undeserved peace, comfort and joy, we need to watch his cruxifiction again this Easter week.  To be reminded of his boundless love on Good Friday and every day.  So we can experience the neverending true joy he extends to us on Easter Sunday and every day.

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