Good Friday: Sacred Chaos

16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 25but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,”and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.  John 19:16-42

It is finished.

They have crucified my King and he hangs lifeless on the cross and the darkness deepens around me.

Though I stand with his disciples, his mother, and other followers, I am alone, alone in my despair, alone in my grief, alone in my fear.

In this moment, they have won.

In this moment, they have stopped him and saved themselves from his convicting, piercing words.

In this moment, they have pierced his hands, his feet, his side.

In this moment, they have convicted him although there is no guilt, no sin in him.

The darkness settles thicker on my heart as the earth pours its darkness out upon the cross and the crowd and the world around us.

As Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anoint his body, wrap him in linens and lay him in the tomb, I am struck by the eerie similarity of this image to the night of his birth, when he was anointed with life through Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in the manger and my heart breaks a little more.

As the rain pours down and the crowd disperses each to his own home, I find my way back to the Garden of Gethsemane, the most sacred place I can think of going so that I can reflect on this journey with Jesus.

I sit in the spot where he prayed so often, pouring out his heart to his Father and feel connected to him once again. I fall to my knees and hold my heart out to Jesus, pouring out my gratitude, my adoration, my love. My limited, too-often-conditional, extremely fragile, all-too-human love. But it is all that I have, as fallible as it is.

And that’s when it happens, the uncontrollable, wracking sobs that shake all of me.

He is gone. It is finished. He will not walk these roads again, he will not teach in the synagog again, he will not break bread with his disciples again.

It’s Friday, and though Sunday is coming, in this moment in Jerusalem, that doesn’t mean the same as it does today.

In this moment there is only brokenness, darkness, deep, piercing sadness and loneliness. My body shakes violently as the sobs continue and I long with an aching in my heart for just one more moment with Jesus on this side of heaven. I yearn for one more moment in his presence so I can hear his voice and listen to his words, so I can see his smile and hear his laugh and watch his love.

His love.

That is why I sit here alone in the garden. Because of his love. His extravagant, sacrificial, unconditional, amazing, all-encompassing love.

And my heart seeks that love more than ever right now. But I realize that I don’t have to seek it because it is being poured out over me, it is being wrapped around me, it is being freely given and freely received.

My time in the garden is drawing to an end and my life of chaos and little girls and making meals stands on the threshold, waiting. But even so, I bring the garden, I bring this journey, I bring Jesus’ extravagant love with me into my daily living. I bring the sacred into my ordinary, the holy into my chaos.

That is what this Good Friday is about for me. It is about bringing Jesus into each moment, this Jesus with whom I have walked to Jerusalem, this Jesus that loves me with a love that I cannot begin to understand, explain or describe.

But it is mine and it has been freely given and freely received and I will celebrate it as I live out the moments, the story, of my day today.

Because it’s Friday, but Sunday is coming.

There Is No Darkness in His Light

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker}

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Glue

{Go} 

In my tiny one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Boston, I fall onto my bed, sobbing and feeling untethered to anything that can anchor me to my life. It is Good Friday. I have been to the Tenebrae Service {Good Friday service} at Park Street Church and although it has moved me to tears in other times, that is not what brings me to tears now.

I sit in my darkened bedroom, the glow from the city lights casting shadows on the brick wall across from where I lean against my pillows, and I wonder where God is in all of this. I wonder what Jesus thinks of me right now, in this very moment. And I cry harder.

sometimes it is the darkness that reveals the Light

sometimes it is the darkness that reveals the Light

In the living room, he sits, frustrated and not understanding what has caused me to come so unglued. What has caused me to push him away and to fall into wracking sobs that allow me no speech except for the unspoken, garbled prayers to Jesus, to my Savior.

Please, Jesus, please, come and comfort me. Forgive me. Please, oh please, let me know that you are here and that you still love me.

In the living room, he paces and sighs, not coming in to comfort me because I’ve asked him to go. To leave me be. To let me be alone. To be alone with Jesus, if he’ll have me.

And in these lonely moments, deep and dark, I seek the Savior and his grace. I seek the mercy and unconditional love of his forgiveness and grace that will take my broken heart, and my brokenness, and piece it back together. Recreate it. Not mend it. Not glue it back together like a favorite vase or a cherished memento. But mend it in the only way it can be mended – eternally changed and fully hope-filled.

And that is when I see him. Not the man in the living room, but Jesus.

He comes into my small, messy bedroom in my small, messy apartment in my small, messy life. He sits down on the edge of my bed and there he looks upon me with the love of heaven. A love that is unknown on this side of eternity except in him.

The love I have sought in so many places, willing to pay so high a price for with this married man (one of many. oh, so many), Jesus offers me here and now, in this moment, in my wreck of a life that is filled with sobs and pain, for free.

For free.

Once {and} for All

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.  Matthew 27:27-44

The Gospel stories recounting the final hours of Jesus’ life are as familiar to me as the Gospel stories of his birth. I have read them, I have heard them, I have listened to sermons about them and even have watched them in the Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. But the thing about all of those experiences is that they are brief and therefore they do not require much of me. They do not tax my emotions or my heart more than I think I can bear.

Even as intense and visually visceral as The Passion of the Christ scenes were, even as much as they placed me into those moments with Jesus, I was still able to distance myself through the shared experience of a full theater and cathartic conversations after the film.

However, this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem removes those barriers. It is me and Jesus and I am immersed in the moments with him, not merely touched by them; I do not simply brush up against them, I experience them in all of their pain and horror and disgrace. Just as there is no escape for Jesus, because he willingly drinks this cup, I choose not to escape but to be a willing witness to these events so that I may be changed. Truly changed.

So, I crouch in the shadows with my fists clenched as tightly as my jaw and fight the urge to flee, to fight and to weep simultaneously. His flesh is bleeding and mutilated from the scourging, his face is grossly swollen from countless blows, and his pain is palpable even from this distance. But that is not the end of his suffering, of this bitter cup from which he so willingly drinks tonight.

Heaping more shame and humiliation upon his already hurting and vulnerable human heart, the soldiers call in the whole battalion, a number that likely equals almost 500 men, as they strip him of his clothes and his dignity and his deity. They mock him and spit on him and strike him. They twist a crown from thorns and press it onto his head, the nail-sized, razor-like thorns cutting into his tender flesh.

This man is not just an ordinary man. This man is not just another criminal. This is Jesus. This is God. He is the Savior who will sacrifice himself for each of these men as much as for the disciples he loves. But these men don’t know that. Maybe they never will. And none of that matters to Jesus, because his sacrifice is once for all.

drinking the bitter cup of crucifixion {Wood engraving Crucifixion of Jesus 1866 by Gustave Doré on Wikimedia Commons}

drinking the bitter cup of crucifixion
{Wood engraving Crucifixion of Jesus 1866 by Gustave Doré on Wikimedia Commons}

This is the what Jesus came to do, what he came to endure. He came to endure all of the anger, hatred and rejection from man and to bear all of the wrath of God. He came to be despised, he came to suffer and he came to be slain. The sacrificial lamb for the atonement of sin.

That is why, after they have beaten him, bloodied him, mocked him, humiliated him, and brought him as low as they can, when the guards offer him the wine mixed with gall, he tastes it and refuses it. He recognizes the narcotic mixture intended to dull the pain of the spikes that will be driven into his hands and into his feet.

He came to endure all of the pain, to bear the whole burden, to drink to the dregs this bitter cup of crucifixion.

And as he is raised up on the cross like the serpent on the pole, he faces the last and worst moment of his mission: the agonizing separation from the Father, his Father. Those elders, scribes and chief priests who have gathered at Golgatha continue to hurl insults at him. Random passersby deride him. Even the criminals who hang on either side of him mock and revile him. All to little consequence or effect at this point.

Because nothing will match the anguish he will experience when God the Father abandons him to death, forsaking his only Son for the sake of mankind. For the sake of me, and for the sake of you, and for the sake of those who came before us and those who will come after us. Once for all.

The shadow of the cross looms large before me as I huddle with Peter, James and John and others who have gathered here to watch and to weep and to wait. For the end is upon us but the minutes tick by slowly, each one bringing excruciation, fear, tears.

I lift my eyes to the cross and I cannot help but wonder, how is it, Jesus, that you would take my place?

How is it that you would die for me?

The Fault Line of Blame

1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”11Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
 12From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  John 19:1-16

For I find no guilt in him.

With these words, Pilate manages to sum up the entire birth, life, ministry, impending death and eventual resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ whole reason for leaving his heavenly throne and descending to earth, for being born as a babe 33 years prior to this moment, was to be the unblemished lamb; the final sacrifice.

Even so, these final hours are difficult to witness.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is flogged.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is mocked.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is rejected.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is humiliated.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is given a crown of thorns.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is declared guilty.

Jesus is God, but he is also human. He is a man who in these moments feels the same emotions we experience in our lives. And having walked with him on the journey to Jerusalem, his passion and his purpose and his incredible sacrifice take on a deeper, heart-piercing perspective. The pain he endures and the heartbreak he experiences are beyond my comprehension.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but me? I am more than guilty on a regular basis throughout each day. Repeatedly I hang my head and acknowledge my words spoken in anger or my lack of gratitude or my selfishness or my litany of any number of shortfalls and seek his forgiveness. All of these shortfalls part of the very reason that I stand here in Jerusalem and watch as Jesus is flogged and crowned with thorns and mocked. I watch as he is stripped of his clothes as well as his dignity and is exposed in all of his humanness and vulnerability.

I long to look away, to hide my eyes so that I do not have to see my Savior treated this way, but I look on. Somehow, it seems the least I can offer him. To see him as he is and to know that what he endures, he endures for me, in my place.

I find it interesting that there are so many questions and articles that address who is to blame for Jesus’ death. Because there is a long line of those at fault and it starts with me. Because other than me and you and every person who was ever born or will be born, including Pilate, the Pharisees, Judas, the only One responsible for Jesus’ death was God. And Jesus. And the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. Before the world was created, before Adam and Eve, before the snake in the Garden of Eden, the plan was put in place that Jesus would die.

Golgotha  (image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)

Golgotha: the death of Jesus
(image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)

Because we would need him to.

And because God wanted to reconcile us to himself and repair the relationship that would cease in the garden.

And the only way to do that was through God himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man.

Did Pontius Pilate sentence Jesus to death? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Did the Pharisees and Sadducees and elders and scribes bear false witness and manufacture the circumstances of Jesus’ arrest? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Did Judas betray Jesus with a kiss in the very garden where he often met with Jesus and the disciples to pray and enjoy intimate fellowship? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Jesus knows me and yet he loves me anyway and he chose to die so that I might know him, too. The question of who in all of these circumstances and moments was responsible for the death of Jesus in whom Pilate found no guilt is but a formality. The more important fact is that Jesus died and he did so willingly, as part of God’s plan to rescue his people from darkness and from sin and from hopelessness.

But as I watch Jesus and as I listen to the voices of the angry crowd shouting for his death, I cannot help but count myself guilty. Maybe it’s because it hurts too much to watch my Savior endure so much suffering in my place. Because that’s what it comes down to.

It should have been me. It should have been you. It should have been the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the disciples, the Roman soldiers, the angry mob, Pilate. It should have been all of us but instead it was only Jesus.

Only Jesus could take on the Enemy and win.

Only Jesus could defeat death.

Only Jesus could pay so high a ransom.

Only Jesus could redeem us and reconcile us to God.

Only Jesus could love with such an amazing, unconditional, sacrificial love.

Only Jesus.

The Absolute Truth of Jesus

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.  John 18:19-40

What is it about Jesus? Have you ever wondered what it was about him that drew people to him and made his disciples drop what it was they were doing and follow him? No questions asked, people just up and followed this man, drew near to this man, trusted this man.

So, then what was it about Jesus that rattled the Pharisees and the scribes and the elders? Did they see in Jesus what the disciples saw in him? Or were they too blinded by their need for power and the comfort of the status quo? Whatever their blindness, they have finally claimed the victory they have so desperately sought and for which they have plotted so ruthlessly: Jesus is in custody and has been sent to Pilate.

Jesus’ demise is imminent.

And yet, Pilate is not so easily sold on the bill of goods he is given, that Jesus is doing evil. Even after questioning Jesus directly, he is not convinced that there is anything worthy of which to convict this man. Although Pilate does not seem to understand everything that Jesus tells him, he does seem to see something in Jesus. Perhaps he sees the same thing in Jesus that the disciples saw.

The one thing that is clear is that Pilate is drawn to Jesus’ reference to truth. To the Truth.

What is truth? This seems to be the point that resonates deepest with Pilate. Jesus tells him that he has come into the world to bear witness to the truth and those who are of the truth listen to his voice.

The Truth.

It’s pretty incredible to me, watching from the shadows, the levels of truth, the roots of relativism, that are so obvious here, in Jesus’ day. What the Pharisees claim as truth, the essence of Jesus as the Truth, the need of Pilate to know and to understand truth.

Jesus before Pilate {From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository}

Jesus before Pilate
{From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository}

What is truth?

Have you ever found yourself asking this question? It seems obvious to you when you are alone, when you are studying scripture and looking at how it applies to your life. Perhaps you have no misgivings about the idea of absolute truth when you are in the presence of Jesus. Like the disciples. Or like Pilate.

But then, when you are in the world, when you mix with friends or co-workers or even family, the question of truth, of what is truth, slowly creeps into your thoughts. People suggest, well, that is true for you or well, there really is no such thing as absolutes or absolute truth. But, isn’t there?

Isn’t that what Jesus was? The way and the truth and the life. Isn’t that what Jesus is? And isn’t that what Jesus tells Pilate in their brief exchange?

Those simple words seem to be enough to rattle Pilate. When he looks at Jesus, when he listens to Jesus, he does not see and he does not hear what the Pharisees do. He sees and hears what the disciples saw and heard – he sees and hears the Truth and he wants more of it. He wants to understand it. Perhaps he even wants to apply it in the very moment he shares with Jesus as Jesus stand before him, convicted by the Pharisees.

But truth seems to be a cunning concept, almost elusive at times, as we see with Pilate’s attempts to right what he sees as an obvious wrong.

I find no guilt in him.

But like the crowd of soldiers who arrested Jesus in the garden, Pilate is merely one of God’s means to God’s end. Pilate’s efforts, although admirable, would only be successful if God deemed it so.

I find no guilt in him, Pilate announces to the crowd, and so he offers willingly to release Jesus, this King of the Jews, to them. But they refuse his offer. They refuse Jesus. They refuse the Truth.

Instead of truth, they request a common criminal, a thief, a liar.

Have you ever refused the Truth in exchange for lies, or power, or personal gain, or instant gratification? Have you ever stood with the crowd, blended in with the crowd, and chosen the easier side instead of standing up, standing out, for the Truth?

I wish I could say that I have not. I wish I could tell you that whenever I am presented with a choice, I stand up for the Truth and refuse to muddle it with the gray of doubt, or fear, or weakness. But that isn’t true. Too often I waffle, especially on difficult issues that stir up strong emotions in so many. Rather than speak truth, rather than represent the Truth, I fade into the background and cry out for Barabbas. I cry out for the easier option.

Fortunately, the Truth wins in the end. Whether we choose it, whether we defend it, whether we stand up for it, the Truth wins. How freeing to know that Jesus isn’t depending on me for the victory. How freeing to know that Jesus, who was the way, the truth and the life, defeats all of their lies, all of their manipulation, all of their shame and sets me free in the process.

And, so, by his death, I am released from the crowd, no longer just an anonymous sinner who cries out for Barabbas, but one person, one child of the Father, who has been redeemed and who will heed Jesus’ invitation to follow him, to know him, to trust him. And this gives me the freedom and the boldness to shine a light for truth and for love in a world that too often fails to believe in either.

Because despite the ideals of relativism, absolutes exist: absolute truth and absolute love. And they both exist in this man standing before Pilate.

They both exist in this man, this Savior, this Rescuing Redeemer called Jesus.

Bearing the Burden of Love

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34And he said to them,“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48And Jesus said to them,“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50And they all left him and fled.
51And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.69And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.  Mark 14:32-72

Jesus betrayed into the hands of sinners. As I stand with James, John and Peter, I marvel at these words. At the irony they hold. That Jesus, who came to save sinners, to forgive them, to redeem them, to die for themis betrayed into their very hands.

They come in a crowd, armed with weapons. They come as if they will face an army instead of one man. They come as if under their own power. Except that they are but God’s means to God’s end. That scripture may be fulfilled. That mankind may be reconciled to God.

This crowd of soldiers leads him away. Another crowd, this one including the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, tells lies about him and bears false witness against him.

Even so, it takes Jesus to create the circumstances with which they will condemn him to death. It takes his admission of Truth to move their lies forward.

And, oh, the incredible irony shakes me to my core. Especially as they humiliate him, as they shame him, as the mock him. Nausea fills my insides as pain fills my heart and tears fill my eyes. Is this really the Jesus I have been following? Is this really the Jesus of miracles, the Jesus of hope, the Jesus of amazing love?

Of course it is. But to see such anger, such cruelty, such hatred hurled at him physically hurts me. With each blow, with each ugly action, my muscles tense, my jaw clenches, my hands curl into tightened fists.

That such a moment of deep and utter hopelessness will be the birth of hope amazes me.

the steps that led from the garden to the courtyard {photo courtesy of Diana's Jerusalem Journey}

the steps that led from the garden to the courtyard
{photo courtesy of Diana’s Jerusalem Journey}

And I cannot help but wonder about these men. These men who tonight, in these moments, give into their basest natures and accost this man, Jesus, in their custody. This man they have seen perform miracles. This man they have heard teach with incredible wisdom. This man they have perhaps even followed at a comfortable distance. Perhaps drawn to him in a way similar to the disciples. Perhaps realizing that there is something about this man that is more than they can understand.

And yet, tonight they gather around this man, Jesus and strike him. Mocking him. Celebrating their own power.

But what about a few nights from tonight? What then will they feel? What then will they experience? What then will they encounter in their hearts and their souls?

Will they believe the news that this man, Jesus is not in the grave where he was lain?

Will they believe that he was innocent though he hung upon the cross?

Will they believe that he was the fulfillment of the scriptures? That he was the Messiah?

And what if they do?

What if they come to believe his claims about himself and the testimony of his disciples?

What burden will they bear?

Will it be more difficult for them to come before him then, for them to gather around him? Will it be more difficult for them to come before the throne of God? Will it be more difficult for them than it will be for me? Or for Peter? Or for any of the disciples who abandoned him?

We each bear a burden of shame, of guilt, of hurt, don’t we? For angry words we speak to someone we love. For lying to someone who trusts us. For hurting someone who cannot defend himself. We each bear a burden of sin.

And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

That’s why Jesus went so willingly to the cross as God and as man. Even though the human part of him begged the Father for some other way, Jesus went willingly. Even when the high priests and scribes and elders and pharisees couldn’t trap him, catch him, frame him, he willingly gave them what they needed.

Jesus went willingly.

And he invited us to follow him and to meet him there, at the foot of the cross. He invited us.

He still invites us. To lay down the burdens we bear. To take on his grace.

Jesus invites us to come to him even after all that he endured.

He invites us to come to him no matter what. He does not hold our weakness, our striking blows, our ugly, angry actions that we hurl at him and others against us.

That is difficult for my human mind to believe. That is difficult for my human heart to comprehend. That is difficult for my human nature that clings to the smallest wrongs of others against me to fathom.

And yet, I do believe.

I don’t comprehend and I cannot fathom, but I do believe.

Because I have walked with this man Jesus and I believe he is who he says he is. I believe him. I believe in him. I trust him.

I love him.

And I can love him only because he first loved me.

And that is what I am watching as I stand in the shadows of this courtyard, a witness to the end of Jesus’ ministry. The end of his life.

I am watching love. Absolute, unconditional, amazing love.

And my heart tells me that though it feels like the end, it is but the beginning.

And I cling to that. I cling to Jesus. Even now as he is mocked and beaten, I cling to him.

Because he is Jesus.

Because he is I Am.

Because he is love.

The Artist’s Invitation

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker}

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Paint

{Go} 

God’s creation.

It is so incredibly perfect.

It is so perfectly laid out.

That God set the sun in the sky.

That he created vibrant colors around the sunrise.

an invitation for the coming day

the Artist’s invitation for the coming day

That he paints every morning a greeting to behold.

That he invites us to look up and there find such beauty.

That he invites us each day to look to him.

To find him in the quiet moments that accompany the rising sun.

An invitation.

To witness breath-taking beauty if we choose to pause.

If we choose to look up.

If we choose to look to him.

If we choose to look to the Artist who paints beauty in every heartbeat. In every breath. In every sunrise.

Even the ones hidden behind the clouds.

The beauty is there.

He is there.

He is always there.

I needed the sunrise this morning to remember this. Maybe you do, too.