I hate to read bad news. No matter how far removed from me, it stings to hear that someone was hurt. I would rather glide through life glibly on clouds of innocence and comfort than hear about tragedy and horror. But I can’t.
I read about hate. I read about sin. Blame gets thrown. Mud gets slung. Mamas weep. Children cry. The world seems dark indeed. Every morning in the brief interlude between staggering to the Keruig and hearing the patter of little feet, I pick up my Bible. It’s usually only a few minutes, but it’s good. I don’t follow a fancy reading plan or a devotional. Maybe I’m too rebellious to follow someone else’s daily path through the Word of God. Maybe I’m just lazy. (There are a lot of great Bible study resources out there, I’m not knocking them, I just don’t tend to use them). I just pick up my Bible and read. I start at the beginning and plug on through. It takes 2-3 years at my rate to get from one end to the other. And then I start again. Sometimes I’ll follow a rabbit trail for a day or two into another passage that caught my attention, sometimes I wish I read through faster, but… life. Yes, Leviticus can be a bit tedious. Yes, the prophets can feel a bit gloomy. Yes, I’ve read it before and occasionally I glaze over on a familiar passage. But the unique thing about this Book is that it is alive. It’s the Word of God. God Himself holds it higher than His own name, which the Jews won’t even speak or write because it is so holy. It is heavy (not just because it’s a big book.) So even though I’ve read it nearly every day for over 20 years, I still learn new things about God.
But the part I really dislike reading every time is the crucifixion. Of course it’s all through the Book, referenced for thousands of years through the Old Testament, narrated in each of the four gospels, and becomes the mantra of the rest of Christian history to date. The actual events leading to Jesus’ killing are gruesome. The murder itself is long and horrific. I abhor the thought of anyone inflicting such pain on another human being, and my sense of justice revolts at the realization that they did this to an innocent Man. To One I love.
But it’s where I go when the world seems dark.
Back to the cross.
It is the place, the only place, where love wins against a world of hate.
Acacia thorns formed the crown Jesus wore
In one moment of time, the world literally shook as Jesus Himself wrenched the doors off of Hell and set the captives free. Every single person deserved to be there. Except Him.
But He went anyway.
And Jesus stood in the doorway between life and death, He stood there bloody and swollen, bruised, and humbled. He reached out to the slaves to sin in the darkness. He reached toward me, abandoned to hopelessness, lost in a world of hate. And Jesus offered a trade. “My life – for yours.” Most people rejected the red-streaked, mangled hand. But some accepted the offer. Some still do.
It wasn’t fair. Death is fair. Life is not. That’s grace.
Every time another person dies, Jesus goes back to that moment again. He pulls His crucifixion out of history and replays it before His Father. He says, “See what I did there?” And if that person who died had accepted the trade that Jesus offered, then God Himself looks at it and says, “Yes, the debt is paid. Death has no claim on him. Let him live. Forever.”
Jesus knew He was going to die. It’s why He came. Christmas wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t have Easter. BC and AD should have come together at the moment of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (But they didn’t ask me, so we’re 33 years off, give or take.) It is the culminating point around which time revolves. What you decide to do about it defines your whole existence.
He knew it was coming. A thousand days – a thousand years- before they killed Him, Jesus knew every detail of the agony to which He was headed. A thousand times He must have gone through it in His mind.
But the death Jesus died – it only happened once. Jesus died once. And He came back to life because death has no right to an innocent person. So He will never be dead again. He doesn’t have to bring it up again. It’s done.
But He replays it, again and again.
Paul’s prison cell in Philippi, Greece
Hate destroys. It devalues life. At best, we try to fix it by taking away the weapon. But they killed Jesus with a hammer and nails. They killed His disciples with rocks, with dull knives, and more hammers and nails. Death is caused by sin.
There is only one thing stronger than sin.
When I hear about death and pain and heartache, I want to point fingers. Mama bear wants to rear her head and demand justice. I want to hide my cubs from a world of hate and pain. But instead I try to do what Jesus does. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t shake His fist. He goes back to the cross. So I must too. Jesus pulls up the events of those horrible days that cost His own life, and plasters His gift of life across the face of all the filth and blood and terror that surrounds us, and reiterates it all again. “Love isn’t just puffy clouds and rainbows and comfort. It isn’t Christmas. Love is red-streaked agony. Love is messy, and hard, and undeserved. It isn’t weak. It doesn’t lack. It will not take. It gives.”
“See what I did there? I did it for you.”