Archive for March 21st, 2008
It is bound to happen. A tear trickles.
It’s a Wednesday. I’m teaching weekday religious education classes to third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. It is one of the two weeks of Easter lessons. We may have just read Bright Easter Morning, which depicts the events of Holy Week, Palm Sunday through Resurrection Morning, in beautifully done watercolors. We may have just finished watching The Story Behind the Cross, taken from the Visual Bible version of Matthew’s gospel. But inevitably, I’ll hear a sniffle or see a surprised hand reach up to brush a tear away.
These children are responding to Jesus’ suffering, to seeing even so little as an artist’s simple book illustration of a crown of thorns pressed down on His head. As they view the video, they flinch at Jesus’ beating and at the sight of Him being nailed to the cross. Some cover their eyes and peek out from between their fingers. Some verbally exclaim, “That’s not right!” (In every class, some will reference Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ—I cannot believe so many this young have seen it– and what they recall is Jesus being flogged and beaten. What we show in class is only a suggestion of Jesus’ suffering, in comparison. These are, after all, children. Some, by the way, are hearing this story for the first time.)
It’s not that some of them haven’t suffered; many have seen more in their tender years than one should see in a lifetime. It seems that in every school year, some child will tell me it was his cousin or his neighbor or his someone else that was the person whose murder I heard about on the morning news. Many of the children are pawns in adult relational dysfunctions and wranglings. The result is deep wounding that will leave deep scars…or raw wounds that will fester to infect with more wounding somewhere else. Some struggle to learn, since they don’t have anyone at home who understands that a child needs more than school. (In spite of life’s hard knocks, many are “tough cookies” with resilience you would not expect to find.)
But somehow, in spite of their own situations, they recognize that what was done to Jesus goes way beyond anything that’s ever happened to them. I think it may be, in part, because they recognize the fact that brings me, also, to tears:
He didn’t deserve it.
Let Isaiah speak. This is the emphasis that has come to my heart as my son and I have been memorizing chapter 53 during this Lenten season:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering… Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him; and by His wounds we are healed.
On this Friday that we call “Good” let us consider anew the suffering of One who didn’t deserve it but who went through it anyway. It was His holy, lovely life for our sinful, unworthy ones. Let our tears as we look on that suffering be paused by joy as the realization sinks in…
He did it for me.