Friday, 22 April 2011

The weight of the world

Good Friday. Wasn't such a good day for you, was it? I think the 'Good' bit is dependent on hindsight, because I can't imagine there were many people there who thought that what was going on was good.  There might have been some, perhaps, who thought they'd got rid of you, but when it came down to it even the soldiers who had wielded the hammer and nails looked and listened to you on the cross and concluded that you were something special.

What must you have gone through?  The agony of rejection, the agony of crucifixion, the agony of the moment that God the Father had to turn away from you. How is it possible that you went through with it at all?

Gasping for breath.  Pushing up on the nails in your feet to relieve the dislocating pressure on the shoulders and hands before sinking down again when your muscles betrayed you. Blinking blood and sweat out of your eyes, lifting your head a moment and feeling again the thorns pressing into your scalp. the torn and raw skin and muscles of your back against the splintered wood of the cross.  The exhaustion and loneliness. The humiliation of nakedness in front of your mother, your friends, your enemies. And then the dark, dark emotional anguish when your isolation became complete; the Father, with whom you had always been completely in tune, was nowhere to be found. 

You had the weight of the world on your shoulders at that moment and I cannot begin to imagine the desolation.

Everything that was bad, corrupt, evil or rotten was laid upon you when you became the perfect sacrifice; the sacrifice to end them all.  You did all that.  You hung there and asked forgiveness for those that did that to you.  You asked the Father to forgive us all because I did it to you too.  I smiled and praised you then betrayed you and denied you and crucified you and you allowed it all to happen so that I could be free. You were afraid; in Gethsemane you came before the Father and asked if there was another way - and yet you went through with the Plan because you knew that there could be no other way. 

What can I say?  There's nothing I can do that is enough to thank you, and you know that. You did it anyway. There's no way that I can repay you - and you know that. You died for me anyway. I am forever in your debt. 

Lord Jesus Christ, thankyou for that Good Friday. 

Every Easter I make a point of watching a version of the Easter Story on the television and there are quite a few interpretations. This year we have just finished watching 'Jesus of Nazareth', with Robert Powell playing you. Last year it was the Mel Gibson film 'The Passion of the Christ' and the year before was the BBC's 'The Passion'.  The films are very different. Different interpretations - the words from the Holy Bible have different emphases and the actors deliver them in their own way.  The one thing that they all have in common is that when I come to see the part where they crucify you I find it a terrible thing to watch. It's new every time. I see that the Lord of my heart was put to death for me, and my eyes fill with tears, because they are murdering someone that I love.

Even if I watch these films over and over, Lord Jesus - and I'm sure I will because there aren't that many of them - never let me get to the point where those scenes don't move me. I never want to feel that it is not the momentous thing that it is. I never want it to be too familiar, routine.  I want to hold this feeling of awe and wonder forever.  I want to remember the horror that I was responsible for what happened to you so that I can never forget the magnitude of the forgiveness that you have given me. If I no longer feel the awfulness then I can no longer feel the astonishment. If I don't perceive the depths of my need for forgiveness then I can't appreciate the vastness of your love. 

You died for me. You loved me so much that before I even turned to you and held your gaze, you thought me worthwhile enough to die for.

'Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget
I will not forget you.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands'.

(Isaiah 49:15-16)

My name is on the palms of your hands.

I give you my tears and my wonder and my awe and my love. My guilt I don't have to give you because you lifted it from me on the day that you died. It was heavy, I know, but you are strong. 

My God, you did that for me. 

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