Wow. Where did winter break go? About half-way through the month-long break with which we college students are gifted I was thinking, “maybe this break is a little too long,” but now that there’s only two days left until I head back to school, to New York City, I’m beginning to wonder where it all went.
This morning my devotions were hard…they were really, really, insanely difficult to comprehend without getting ridiculously emotional, which I did anyway. Matthew chapter 27 is when Jesus is betrayed, when He’s bruised and beaten and killed, though He’s innocent. You know what’s terrible? I thought reading this section, for me, could be read without feeling, but rather understanding the process of crucifixion and Jewish matters of state, only because I know this part of history so well. But I don’t; my knowledge of this occurrence is much more limited than I thought, and there’s no way for me not to feel, not to cry over this chapter, over this sacrifice. I wasn’t even emotional because I felt like I HAD to be emotional…sometimes, when amazing things happen, we feel obligated to produce a certain appropriate response…here it just happened, because I finally scraped deep enough into the surface that I understood to some microscopic degree what God did for me then, does for me every day.
When Jesus is delivered over to Pilate, after Peter has denied Him three times (twice because of a servant girl, who probably wasn’t more than eleven to maybe fifteen years old), Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, realizes what a terrible thing he’s done. He goes to the chief priests and the elders to confess his sins, but since they’re too busy with readying for Jesus’ death they dismiss him, and he in turn hangs himself. This is where the climatic character of this event began to really impact me. This is it. This is the climax of this terrifyingly beautiful love letter, and it’s almost too much to swallow, especially when I realized what part I played in it.
Jesus is brought before Pilate, but as He is questioned, He chooses to give no answer. Why? He could’ve saved Himself right there! Why didn’t He just command all of His angels to come and destroy the chief priests and elders? Wasn’t He powerful enough? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The interrogation ends and the people yell, “Crucify Him,” when not six chapters earlier they were laying palm branches beneath His feet as He rode in on a donkey, a triumphal entry. What happened? The Pharisees and Sadducees had been hesitant to try and arrest Him in the first place because they were afraid of the people, which meant the people cared about and looked up to Jesus enough that they would rise up against the religious leaders to protect Him. But now it’s the opposite. They yell, “Let him be crucified.” And when Pilate washes his hands of Jesus’ innocent blood, the people respond with “His blood be on us and on our children!” (v. 25)
…oh my gosh. My heart cracked a little as I read this, trying to figure out just what Jesus must’ve been feeling at this moment..but I couldn’t imagine it…mostly because, had I been living back then, I would’ve certainly been Peter, or someone in the crowd, or a Pharisee, or anyone of the many bodies that rose up against Him, unaware of the power they were challenging.
Jesus, after being released to be crucified, was scourged, which is a Roman judicial punishment, characterized by severely beating the guilty with a multi-lashed whip accessorized with imbedded pieces of bone and metal. Can you imagine being beaten with a whip? I can’t. Can you imagine the pain of metal and bone ripping up your back? I can’t. Can you imagine being beaten for being innocent?
The crack in my heart grows.
After being mocked, spat on, and humiliated, Jesus is dragged to Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull. He’s too weak and beaten and sore to be able to carry His own cross. When He’s offered wine, to dull the pain, He refuses it. Then, when His wrists and ankles are nailed to a cross, He’s mocked further by those being crucified with Him. Can you imagine nails going through your wrists? Through your ankles? And then hanging by those nails? I can’t.
Finally, when He is ready, Jesus yields up His spirit. And then it all makes sense. He YIELDED up His spirit, in other words, it couldn’t be taken from Him….it couldn’t be taken from Him….
He didn’t save Himself from Pilate and the priests and elders, not because He lacked the power, but because He was so powerful. He endured with power, He was meek beyond all human definition of the word. He took it.
When His spirit was gone from His body, and everything was finished, the curtain of the temple was torn, from top to bottom, like a piece of paper in the hands of God. The curtain was woven of 72 twisted plaits. A plait is an extremely thick braid of 24 threads, and the curtain was made up of 72 of them. It was 60 feet high and 30 feet wide. The curtain existed to separate humanity (other than the priests) from God, for the presence of God was on the inside of the curtain. If anyone other than divinely called priests entered inside that curtain, they would die from the presence of God, not because God killed them, but because His presence was that strong and that incomprehensible. With the curtain torn, humanity was no longer separated from God…they were reunited.
This was hard to read…I’ve never read this passage like this before…guys, THE CURTAIN WAS TORN!! 😀 We were finally given a second chance to be with God! To walk with Him like Adam and Eve did so many years ago…oh my goodness…we were fought for, taken back, reconciled.
The earth shook; the rocks were split. “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep (died) were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (v. 52, 53). This event was so monumental, so absolutely and unbelievably cosmic that the dead were brought back to life. When He comes back, when Jesus comes back, which He does (Jesus comes back), they go out and talk to people, they come back as He comes back, because He’s that powerful.
My heart was broken, and is still broken, to pieces after reading this, after being reminded of, of everything. He chose to do this for me, while I was one of the crowd, yelling “Crucify him!” He looked directly at me in the crowd, thinking that He was dying for me, despite my hostility. Why? How? How could He love me that much? How is that even possible? It’s just…I have no words. I am a writer and I have no words.
I want to talk about what other amazing things happened today, like $10,000 beanie babies, Kaitlyn Jackson being on American Idol, and my hair disaster, but once I read that chapter it was all over…nothing else could compare. I just…I don’t understand why He sought me out. I’m just so…flawed. Humanity is just so lost…but He seems to have faith in us anyway, despite the fact that He knows our nature, our past, our present, our future, our hearts, our innate evil. It’s like He’s the beauty and we’re the beast. He’s the only thing that really good in the world, the thing from which all good things come from, like family, marriage, love, beauty, chocolate, bacon, sunrises and sunsets, and peace…quiet peace…like the sounds of the forest after a rainfall…like the chirping of birds on a summer morning…like blooming peach trees.
It’s amazing how many beautiful things can be made from so many terrible things. This thing that happened…Jesus’ crucifixion, His torture, His sacrifice, was terrible, but from it came something infinitely beautiful….
something beautiful 🙂
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:20, ESV