Friday evening around 5:00 I decided I really needed some tacky press on nails to complete my 80’s outfit for the adult prom I was going to Saturday night. So, I went to WalMart at the busiest possible time and stood in a long line with the incredibly slow cashiers who seemed to be focused on re-evaluating the decision-making paradigm which led them to this particular career venture rather than ringing up purchases. I stood in line re-evaluating my decision-making paradigm and how it led me to purchase neon press on nails…
The lady in front of me broke through my life evaluation. She looked at my nails and said, “That’s all you have? Get in front of me, I insist.” (On reflection, I think she may have recognized the mid-life crisis that was happening. Guys get sports cars, I get fake nails designed for 10-year-olds.)
I thanked her and said. “Not it’s fine. I don’t mind waiting” (which is a huge lie!) But she continued to insist and actually walked behind me. Then the woman in front of her did the same thing. She said, “we’re together, go ahead.”
It’s such a silly little incident, but I did not want them to let me go in front of them. They got to the line first. That’s how it works. If I had taken less time picking out my ridiculous nails, I’d have beaten them to the line.
Why is it so hard to accept acts of undeserved kindness?
I think in some twisted way, it’s a pride issue. I like going through life knowing how things work. I like believing deep down that I deserve all the good things in my life and all of the bad things are unfair. I like feeling in control and somehow a little act of undeserved kindness messes with my delicate balance of feeling like I’m super humble, awesome and deserving!
So…….imagine my conflict when I read about the crucifixion!
Why would the creator of the universe come to earth in human form and endure everyday life as a peasant? Why would he allow himself to be mocked? Why would he endure crucifixion?
I know the answer is because he loves us and wants a relationship with us, but I also know I don’t deserve it. It makes me uncomfortable. Every time I read the story of the resurrection, I want to cry. I don’t like people letting me have their spot in line. I certainly am not comfortable with God being beaten, ridiculed, and mocked for me.
It bothers me deeply and not all of my reasons are super-holy.
When you read the story in John 19, you see that the crowd of Jews gathered in Jerusalem declared that Jesus was not their king and they have no king but Caesar. The ironic or weird or crazy-sad part about this is that the Jews HATED Rome.
The Romans were the invaders. The Jews had been set apart by God to form a holy nation that would lead the world to know God. They certainly couldn’t do this if they blended into Roman society. Through centuries, the Jews maintained a separate culture and religion from every nation that had ever conquered them.
Back in the OT, God had originally been the King of the Jews. Until they were all like, “Uhmmm we are the only people doing this whole, ‘our God is our King thing’ and all the other cultures think we are weird. Can we be more like them?” And eventually God relented and told them they could have a king but it was not going to go well for them. And that led to all of the messy stories of the books of 1,2 Kings, 1,2 Chronicles!
Now here in John 19, they have seen all of Jesus’ miracles, witnessed his teachings, and they know about the prophecies he fulfilled. Just a few days earlier, they were welcoming him into the city shouting, “Hosanna! Lord save us!” Throwing their coats before him and waving palm branches. They were ready for him to lead them to overthrow Rome.
I can’t even imagine how shocking it would have been to worship Jesus with such high expectations and then a few days later see that he had been arrested and beaten.
Even though Jesus had been telling his disciples that he was going to die, and dozens of prophecies predicted it, no one recognized what was happening as part of God’s plan.
Consider the following scripture from Isaiah 53 (which was written centuries before Jesus’ birth):
But He has borne our griefs,
And He has carried our sorrows and pains;…
… He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
We have turned, each one, to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]
To fall on Him [instead of us].
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth [to complain or defend Himself];
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before her shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
After oppression and judgment He was taken away;…
…His grave was assigned with the wicked,
But He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Yet the Lord was willing
To crush Him, causing Him to suffer;
If He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin],
He shall see His [spiritual] offspring,
He shall prolong His days,
And the will of the Lord shall succeed and prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He shall see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge [of what He has accomplished] the Righteous One,
My Servant, shall justify the many [making them righteous—upright before God, in right standing with Him],
For He shall bear [the responsibility for] their sins.
…He [willingly] poured out His life to death,
And was counted among the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore and took away the sin of many,
And interceded [with the Father] for the transgressors.
I’ve mentioned this prophecy before. It’s quite specific. So much so that skeptics claim that Jesus and his followers all worked together to make events follow the prophecy.
Why is it so hard to accept? What is it in us that rejects this so strongly?
The Isaiah passage would have been super familiar to the Jews. Why did they not recognize that Jesus was fulfilling that prophecy? How can you possibly read that prophecy and think that the Messiah was going to set up an earthly kingdom and overthrow Rome?
Why were the Jews so ready to embrace their most hated enemy over Jesus?
It really does all come back to that feeling of internal justice and control I felt in Wal Mart with my midlife crisis nails. We have a sense of the way we think things should be and Jesus’ sacrifice throws all that out the window.
Sometimes, religious people like to pacify this uneasy feeling by calling ourselves “righteous” and we can point to our superior morals to back up this feeling. The problem is, if you really spend time with Jesus, praying reading and quieting yourself to listen, you realize that even though you get better…you are far from “righteous” but for some reason, God sees you as righteous.
And this undeserved kindness should make you more than a little uncomfortable. It should cause you to want to do everything in your power to want to live as close to the way God sees you as possible. AND because you realize how much you don’t deserve this kindness, you should do everything in your power to extend it to others.
So, my friends thank you for reading! I hope you followed my spaghetti trail of logic! And I hope you are super uncomfortable with the undeserved sacrifice Jesus made for you and it changes you!!!!
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!