This morning when I awakened, the thought was:
“Jesus didn’t say what I’d say if I were hanging on a cross.”
In particular, I realized that probably what I’d be saying over and over again, to those few friends and kinfolk clustered at the foot of my cross would be: “Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me. Don’t, please, don’t look. Don’t remember me this way.”
I wouldn’t want them — especially my mother — to see me naked and shamed and beaten and tortured and condemned.
But I’m not Jesus. As we traditionally order His seven short sayings from the cross, the third one is quite the opposite: “Woman, look at your Son.” And then to John: “Look after your mother.”
He was naked, to be sure, but though He carried all sin to the cross, none of it was His. There was nothing about being naked before all that was shaming to Him. He’d lived His whole life as transparently as humanly possible before everyone around Him.
He was beaten and tortured and condemned, but had done nothing to deserve it:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
~ Isaiah 53:5
In so few words, He revealed so much:
- Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). He was the sinless sacrifice for sin.
- Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). He was the embodiment of the righteous Judge.
- Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27). He wanted to be looked upon. He loved and cared for family and friends. His last thoughts were for others.
- My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). He fulfilled prophecy, and called His purpose to our attention by asking.
- I thirst (John 19:28). He was fully human. His pain and suffering and dehydration were all real.
- It is finished (John 19:30). He had accomplished His mission.
- Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46). His Spirit was His own to keep or surrender or take back or give away as He pleased.
I believe He wants us to look upon Him as He hangs on the cross. I don’t necessarily believe that is the only way He wants us to remember Him, whether or not we’re gathered at His table, but I do believe He does not want us to forget this pivotal moment in His life, our lives, and all of creation.
Look upon Him there, and see what sin does. Your sin. My sin. All sin.
Avert your eyes if you must, but look upon Him again. This time when you open them, see what else He meant for you to see:
This is what grace means.