Thursday, 13 March 2014

Seeing and not seeing

I was reading about the trial of Jesus; the crowd are growing louder and louder calling for Jesus' execution, but nobody knows what to do with Him.

Jesus appears before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, and before Herod, and then is passed back to Pilate. An innocent man, He stands before the authorities bruised and bloody. He has been beaten, mocked, spat at and insulted, and yet Pilate knows that He has done nothing wrong.

Both Pilate and Herod don't want to make a decision. In all four gospels we read that they don't see a basis for a charge, and yet the mob are baying for blood and they are afraid. What are they to do? To begin with, they are uneasy, and want to see this 'King' for themselves, to find out if He was looking to depose them.  Then at the last they see the defeated, pathetic man dragged in front of them and decide that He is no threat after all.

None at all. He wasn't a pretender to the throne. He was weak and pathetic. Finished. Just another deluded Jewish unfortunate who the mob had turned against.

I picture Jesus in the fine robe in which Herod had Him dressed, blood and dirt caked on His face and body. Bruised, eyes swollen shut, nose broken and bleeding, handfuls of His beard torn out. Head bowed, exhausted, limping. Silent.

No wonder Pilate and Herod thought that there was nothing special about Him after all. He worked no miracles while they watched, He didn't argue with them, accuse them, defend himself. He appeared every inch the broken man.

The loyal disciples were nowhere to be seen, either. They were at a distance, in hiding, fearing for their own lives. What must they have been thinking? Surely they were convinced that it had all gone terribly wrong - where was their leader now? Surely this was not what Jesus had in mind when He talked of a new Kingdom, of justice and restoration and hope?

And yet, it hadn't gone wrong after all. Impossible as it is to get my head round, it was going exactly to plan.

At the time that it seemed completely out of hand, it was all under control.
'He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.'

Isaiah 53:7
Jesus knew exactly what was happening and at any moment He could have called a halt to it. An army of angels would have descended and instantly struck dead everyone who had injured, mocked or spat at him if He had only summoned them.
'Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?' 
Matthew 26:53-54
He had the power of Heaven at his fingertips and yet he was silent. He knew that it had to be like this. He was far from powerless, but he appeared totally broken.

It made me wonder how often I look at a situation, anxious and despairing, and ask, 'Where are you, God? Why aren't you doing anything?' 

When I'm in the middle of my struggles, the big and serious ones, or the daily trivia that gets me down, I sometimes feel defeated. I've been asking and asking, and yet God isn't helping me. Nothing is changing. I've been praying for this for years and He is silent.

The doctor says the very thing I've been dreading, even though I've implored God over and over not to let it happen. The situation that is out of my control seems to get worse instead of better. The people that I repeatedly pray for stay ill; the people that I long to introduce to Jesus stubbornly remain uninterested.

There's no point. It's all gone wrong.

Or so it seems.

Jesus looked a broken man. Not the Messiah at all, not the King of anything or anywhere. He went through all this horror and then on to an agonising and humiliating death without a fight and the soldiers stood at the foot of the cross and stole His clothes.

He looked like nothing, and yet He was everything. We know that he was indeed the King; the King of Kings. He might not have looked like the Son of God, but he was. He may have died the agonising death of a criminal, but he was alive again on the third day, and he will be back in triumph and majesty and glory and not a soul on the earth will be in any doubt about it.

When he stood before Pilate, Jesus was not what they thought. They didn't see the truth of the situation; how could they?  They saw what anyone would see, but they were wrong.

When my life seems to be falling apart around me, every door seems closed, there's no hope - it's all gone wrong - that's when I need to stop wrestling and striving and trust Him. Trust the One who put up with the cruelty and the injustice and the pain because there was a bigger plan. Trust the One who has the Plan right here and now, just as He did then.
'Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.'
Psalm 30:5b
The night lasted three days, and joy did indeed come in the morning. At first light, the women went to the tomb and found it open, and empty.

So when I think that it's all gone wrong, nothing can be right again; I can think of Pilate, looking at the beautiful, all-powerful Son of the living God, and shaking his head and seeing a pathetic man, beaten, defeated, deserted and left to his fate.
'Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.'
Isaiah 53:3b
It's not what we think. Just as God had not abandoned Jesus, we are not abandoned. Now, as then, when all seems lost, we can trust that the One who holds the universe in His hands has a plan that we cannot see from our limited vantage point, just as Pilate could not see from his.

Glory stood in front of him, but he saw only weakness.

We think we know, but we don't. All the time I make the same mistake as Pilate; I think that what I see is all there is to see.

We are called upon to stop staring at the problem and trust.
'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.'
Proverbs 3:5
My word for this year is 'Trust' and in so many ways already I realise that God has taken me at my word. There are things that I can't do, can't sort out, can't change, and He's asking me to stop trying to work it out, but to trust Him. It might look like a mess to me, but I don't see things the way He sees them. Every day it's a battle, because I seem to gather up the anxieties over and over again and hug them to me, but I'm trying to breathe out, slowly.

I trust you, Lord.

Like Pilate, I think I see, but I don't.  But you do, you see everything. You are my heavenly Daddy, my Abba, my friend and my God; you love me and you have promised that you will never leave me, that you will bring good out of even the most devastating circumstances. So, when I look around and I see all the things that I struggle with and so want to be different and I question whether you care about me at all...

I trust you, Lord.

Image: thorns_purple.jpg by lb63664 
Used with permission


  1. I, too, have often felt alone and defeated. As recently as this week. Your post is timely and well written and spoke to my heart. Thank you.

    1. I'm so glad, Danielle. Thank you so much for reading and leaving such an encouraging comment.

  2. Helen, this is so special. This post is a beautiful definition of what faith really is. What you are doing is what trust really is. I can give you no greater compliment or approbation. Wonderful. xxxx

    1. Thanks, Keren. It's a struggle, and some days I do better than others. Thanks so much.

  3. Perfect timing Helen! Struggling with trust as I read this..Thank you for reminding of all that Christ endured for us and that it's not all hopeless when my plan isn't followed.

    1. It's hard work and it doesn't come naturally to me. I'm a bit of a control freak, I like plans and I don't like surprises or when familiar things change, and I'm not that adaptable... it's a day by day, hour by hour thing. Saying a prayer for you my friend.


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