Then he said to them, my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death... Matthew 26:38
......"My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39
Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?" Matthew 26:67
They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:28-31
Have you ever wondered why there are stories of martyrs who have been put to death for their faith who endured their suffering with songs and praises---while Jesus went to His death crying out for the Father to stay with Him---feeling "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Are the martyrs stronger somehow than Christ? No. Christ suffered something worse than physical torture and death---as if that wasn't bad enough. Christ suffered the abandonment of the Father. One who had existed an eternity as the holy Trinity---the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit---in perfect communion with the Father, in perfect fellowship and submission to and with God and as God----went to His death alone, stripped not only of his clothes---but also of His perfect companionship with God. Because God can't bear sin---He wouldn't be God if He could. And Jesus took that sin upon Himself----brought God's judgment down upon Himself---in our place. His heart, as well as his body, was broken---so that ours could be mended. Our salvation is not free---there was a cost---it's just---we aren't the ones who had to pay it. On the day that God died for us----He turned the world on its ear. And sometimes I don't like to think about it---because the truth is---what God did for us---it demands a response---and it demands a change within ourselves....at our church they like to say: "Religion changes behaviors---the gospel changes desires." One cannot accept the truth of the crucifixion....of Jesus going to His death alone and in agony----all the while asking God to forgive the people who put him there (and that would be us as well as those were there on that day---our sin as much as theirs hung Jesus on that cross)----and not be changed.
Today I will take a moment and remember what God has done----I will look at the grudges that I carry around with me as if they are an integral part of my being---I will acknowledge that I cling to them as a way to remember who has wronged me---so that I can be sure to distance myself from them---so that I might protect myself again....and then I will think of Jesus on the cross---broken in every possible way........ a line from the "Hunger Games" come to mind here---where Katniss is processing the extravagance and abundance of the Capitol----while at the same time remembering the plight of starvation among the people in her district. She doesn't say anything---but it is written across her face. And Cinna says to her: "How despicable we must seem to you." And this is what I say to God when I look at my petty grudges---so carefully preserved and guarded close to my heart---as if they were precious......while He gave His Son---somehow gave Himself---over to death and the agony of separation----all to forgive and cleanse our sin. Why does He give everything to cleanse our sin away---and yet we are so staunchly engrossed in remembering it.....holding on to it.....never allowing its grip on us to loosen---both in our own sinful patterns we can't seem to break free of----and also in the sin of others---which we refuse to forget. In the light of what Christ has done......"how despicable" I truly am.
This reminds me again---I am human---Jesus is God. I cannot live the life Jesus lived. But because He lived---because He died----I can live a life in companionship with God. This life---and the time after this life----filled with the joy of walking with God---it costs me nothing. But do not mistake that to mean there was not a cost.....there was a tremendous cost---and Jesus stepped in my place and paid it for me. And He paid it for anyone reading this as well. This Easter season, it is not the time to embrace religion---laws and legalism---that will only change our behaviors. Let's embrace the gospel---the truth of how much Christ loved us and what He did for us to complete that love----and may that gospel change our hearts and our desires.