This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John 3:16a
The other day I saw a series of three pictures that at first glance appeared to be raw meat. I was taken back wondering why in the world someone was sending me pictures of raw meat. Then I got to the third picture and looked a bit closer. My stomach literally seized and my heart went to my throat. They were pictures of a representation of the Crucifixion. That bloody, odd looking mess was my Lord and Savior. Obviously it wasn't, just a man made up to look like Jesus but in that moment, I saw my Savior, my love, my dearest friend, not dressed in flowy robes, not walking with a smile, his hair blowing behind him. What I saw was a once lovely young man beaten literally beyond recognition. I clicked off that picture so fast. Then I thought about it.
I attend a liturgical church which means that every Sunday we receive communion, called the Lord's Supper in some churches. When we receive the pastor says, “The body of Christ, given for you.” In the church in which I grew up, they said, “Receive the body of Christ.” Those phrases went through my head as I thought of the images I had just seen. The bruised, battered, scarcely recognizable as human, body of Jesus Christ, given for me. For me, a ridiculously selfish sinner.
John 18:23 says, “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth why did you strike me?” Those words pierce my heart! This, to me, is not the voice of a king. This is the voice of the very human Jesus, sad and frightened. Yes, Jesus was fully God but he was also fully man and a very young man at that. Reading those words breaks my heart in the exact same way that looking at the pictures did.
Why were they hitting him? Why was he abused to within an inch of his life? Why was his body so bloodied that he didn't look human? We can blame the rulers of that time all day long. We can point fingers at Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, the High Priest and the screaming crowd but go back for a second to the words in the communion feast. “The body of Christ given for you.” (emphasis mine) For. You. You hit him. You scoff at him. You neglect him. You mock him. And by you, I mean we or more to the point, I. I do those things.
Those words and images break my heart but am I thinking of them when I'm getting impatient? Complaining? Feeling envious? Gossiping? They do not. They should. Those words and images should be front and center in my mind. “The body of Christ, given for you (me).” If they were, I'd be quicker to pray, quicker to praise and serve and thank him for his mercy.
Why were they striking him? Ignorance and fear. Why are we? Arrogance and pride, maybe. Whatever it is, I am thankful that his grace covers me as I pray to do better tomorrow.