Have you ever wondered what part you would have played if you were among those present at the trial and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus? I recently asked myself that question and at first I wanted to flatter myself and thought I might be among the group that stood quietly by and in somber horror watched all that was taking place. Then I realized that is not true, that in all likelihood I would have been at the front of the shrieking crowd screaming for Pilate to release Barabbas instead. I am just not that good, and I am that evil that I would have been wanting Him dead.
How can I say such things? Because I am beginning to understand a bit about how deeply sinful I am at heart. Have you ever “had it in for someone?” Have you ever wanted just to see them get what you think is coming to them and furthermore, were you willing to help make it happen? I suspect that many of us can think back to our childhood days and recall such times. We were a part of those things because on the surface we thought we were right! We believed that the person who was at that point in time the object of our scorn had it coming. Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be able to heal the sick and raise the dead and he excoriated the religious leaders of the day. I know I would not have liked that one bit.
Jesus would not have approved of the life I lived. Because my heart is usually focused on me and what I want, believe, and desire I am by nature very selfish and self-serving. He would have seen through my outside facade of goodness into my inner being and had me dead to rights as a sinner; as someone who did not live her life for the glory of God but instead lived for self. I would not have liked that either.
God does not always do things my way. Things that I want are withheld from me, people I love deeply get hurt or sick and die. I have experiences that make me angry, have to deal with other people who are silly, mean, or hateful and I strike back at God for having made them that way. I often complain about the weather (too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry) and think in my own sanctimonious way that I would surely do a better job of running things than God does.
My will is very strong and I tend to voice my thoughts about things; injustices or things of that nature. Usually, my opinions are about how I in my infinite wisdom would never do things this way or that way but a better way. I am not afraid to tell you what I think even when to keep my mouth shut is the better course of action.
Now Jesus knew all these things (and more!) about me that day He died. It was my face he thought of in the garden before He was arrested, and it was my face He saw in the crowd screaming, “crucify Him!” As he was whipped and beaten and brutalized He thought of me… It would make sense to say that He thought of how He would get back at me, how He would bring vengeance upon me. I knew He was innocent of the charges but I didn’t really care. I didn’t care because Jesus didn’t fit my heart’s idea of God, and He asked things of me I really didn’t want to give.
So if He didn’t think of how to get even with me, then what did He think? He thought of how desperate I was to be released from the great many chains of sin that were wound around my soul. He thought of how hopeless I was and how I was unable to do anything to help myself to break free. He knew I was a dead woman! That no matter how hard I tried, and worked at it I was still falling far, far short of the mark and that there was not ever going to be enough good or energy within me to reach that standard.
As he hung on that cross a betrayed, beaten, bloody, crucified mess of humanity He thought of my sin and my horrible wicked heart. He thought of how much hatred and malice and anger and pride I had inside me. He thought of how impossible it was for me to ever, ever make it out of this world on my own. He thought of how much He loved me, and He thought of how much I needed Him.
I crucified Jesus. Me and my sin was all it took, never mind all the rest of you! He would have done it for me alone if that was necessary but it wasn’t because I think you were all there with me that day. He saw your faces and hearts too and He heard your whispers of dis stain and hatred. And yet He loved.
Jesus did not pour out His holy and righteous wrath on us for our sin, He poured out His love and lavished His grace upon us! Knowing exactly who and what we are on an individual basis He withheld nothing good from us, in spite of our sin…
Ahhh grace! How can we fully understand grace if we refuse to see how sinful we were? How can we understand our need for grace until we look at the cross? If the cross and all it’s horror was the only acceptable penalty for our sin…..then our sin- my sin- was exceedingly horrifically sinful. I firmly believe that if we are to have an accurate understanding of how abundant grace is then we must look at how sinful we were. It is easy for me for I was as Paul said a chief of sinners. I lived for the other guy, the evil one, and my allegiances were with the dark side for a part of my life.
I love God’s grace, and I cherish it for it is because I needed saving that God crucified Jesus.