I, like many people, have been reflecting on the Crucifixion accounts this week. There’s something profound that happens, even though it’s simply placing a familiar story in a chronological time where we are focused particularly on its consequences,  when I read the story of Jesus & the events that led to his movement from Hosanna to “Crucify him.”

Today I was struck with a new reflection on this age-old story.

Reading Eugene Peterson’s assessment of the book of Mark and Christ “playing in history” I found my way to Mark 14-15 and was astonished by one particular fact.

Jesus, even after His prayer to His father to take the cup and then the willful giving of His will to His Father, had several chances to take an exit from the path of the cross.

Bad witnesses? You have no case, Sanhedrin. Court is adjourned.

Are you the Messiah? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. I’m not the Messiah people have been looking for – let’s leave it at that your Highness. I'm no threat to real social order & religious activity.

Pilate – are you the King of the Jews? Whatever you say, bub.

Jesus has the opportunity throughout the account to turn and run, to walk away, to do something different. And yet He chooses the one path toward suffering.

“Yes I’m the Messiah. And I’ll come with the Father on clouds, with power.”

Silence in front of Pilate.

Leaving witnesses unchecked and stories loose and contradictory.

What is so powerful about this is that I find myself walking away from situations where I have a legitimate call to suffer, to follow Jesus and come to a new life in the midst of it.

Skipping out on fasting because I need to have all my physical energy for _______________.

Skipping out on serving others because I have curriculum to write, etc.

Skipping out on forgiveness because…well, do you need a reason really?

Skipping out on the conversation with the person who tests my patience because, well, what if I say something out of frustration that I shouldn't?

Skipping telling the full truth because it might hinder my career aspirations or hinder my perception-management plans? (Think about it - Jesus embraced fully and completely things that made Him look like a criminal!)

Skipping sexual gratification and embracing so that we can wait until we're joined in the life-altering intimacy that comes from our spouse or simply being celibate out of reverence for Jesus' and the purpose of sex in the first place.

Jesus’ strongest testimony of His own purpose is his willingness to embrace suffering for the purpose of bringing life.

But then comes Peter’s denial, like a dark black stain on a pristine wedding gown. He moves away from Jesus out of fear of suffering, and it becomes a moment of bitterness.

I’m trying to get my head around this – it’s the avoidance of suffering that brings bitterness, but the embracing of suffering as a follower of Jesus that brings new life.

I know this because I'm Peter in this story more often than I'm Jesus. And strangely enough, I'm surprised that running from suffering and sacrifice makes me feel more pain than the actual suffering was capable of producing. Not only that, but it's the kind of bitter feeling that lingers and bores into the soul and gives us a chance to doubt God's gracious love for us.

It makes us spiritual curmudgeons, praying God's kids would just get off our lawn. Elder brothers, in the prodigal story.

So hard, but good and beautiful and I’m trying to put this on my heart this Resurrection season.

 

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