It was a Sunday morning this week, Palm Sunday. In another shy feeling moment, I said something that I meant to come across one way and I think it came across different. It was subtle enough that I didn’t feel it was important to correct, but more than that I wasn’t quite sure how I would correct it if I tried. I don’t even know now if I could even tell you what it was I said or was trying to say. I don’t even know if in the moment I could tell you how it came across wrong, and the person I was talking to probably didn’t even think anything of it. But in my mind that still struggles with this stuff, it bothered me because I felt misrepresented, or maybe misunderstood is the better word. Maybe I’m alone, but if I had to guess I’d say I wasn’t. Maybe these feelings sound familiar to someone.
For that moment, the truth was and is simply that God knew I would feel that way that morning, and He intended it for a specific purpose that within the next hour was becoming a little clear. Soon I was sitting in the church pew thinking more on that conversation than I might have otherwise because of the feelings that came with it. And thinking on the openness of the people I spoke with brought up all sorts of reminders of the bitter feelings I had chosen to listen to throughout my week.
Then within minutes, I was hearing the words of Mark 15 spoken from the pulpit. Jesus was hung on the cross between thieves.
“And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.” (Mark 15:29-32)
And I connected with this story in ways I had never before. Misunderstood. Bitter. Those were the words on my mind as I began to hear this story. Those would be the feelings in my head were I on that cross. I knew that before, yes, but the shy feelings of my morning pressed me deeper into that.
These were the words of the passerbys, the priests, the scribes, the thieves at his side. And in Sunday school we had talked of His friends. Were their thoughts very similar? These were the ones who ran when He was arrested, the ones who felt hopeless after His death and doubted that He could ever rise again. The ones who asked him upon His rising if he had not heard of the death of Jesus who was a prophet, (Luke 24) as if a prophet was all He turned out to be and as if the person of Jesus was no more. Did they not believe Him though He had told them He would rise? Though they loved Him, did they give up on who He said He was when they saw Him hanging there, looking helpless? Did they think He was powerless to step off that cross?
And if I were the one on the cross I think my heart would burn with anger and bitter hatred towards these people. These are the very people I’m doing this for, and they won’t believe in who I am. And Him, though He was still in flesh, “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Heb. 4:15) He still surrendered every temptation to savor a bitter thought… surrendered it to the very One who’s forsaking He felt the most in that moment. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) To that same God: “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34)
His words that surrendered his misunderstood moments to the Father, that focused on the Father instead of His image with people, this was His love in action. This was the love that kept Him on that cross.
And this same love is the love He gives to me with His rising. This is the love that rescues me from all my shy moments and sees the perfect love that Jesus won for me and you. This is the glory of holy week and this is the glory of Easter.
May we thank Him this holy week for the privilege to journey through our shy moments, our weaknesses, because they are beautiful gifts that He allows to press us deeper with each step into the gift of Easter.
“There was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice… And someone ran… saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!””
This was His Love poured out in death. And today that Love is alive inside of all who believe it.