When I was a kid, if I did something wrong or broke a rule or said something out of spite and got in trouble for it, I wanted physical punishment. I wanted a spanking with that wooden Home Depot paint stirrer (there in case a necessary situation arose, so my parents would never cause pain with their own hands). I wanted the sting of what I had done wrong to smart and burn on my skin and remind me in the throbbing pain that I deserved that because of what I had done.
I never got that. There were times I would even cry and beg for it, but it never came.
I think about today-- Good Friday-- and I flash back to feeling like I did as a kid. I've done wrong, I've messed up, I've said harsh and ugly things out of spite and pain.
I come into the Good Friday story, and I see myself in the crowd.
I deserve that whip slashing through my skin. I deserve the mockery. I deserve the shame. I deserve the humiliation. I should be the one they're hurling insults at, heaven knows I've given them enough ammo to work with. Every thing they could say, even the very worst, would be true of me, I think. Liar, hypocrite, cheater, sinner.
I should be the one not only being beaten, but also blindfolded so the agony of not knowing what's coming or when could hurt me too. I deserve the sting of all I've done to smart on my skin.
But it's not me in the middle of the crowd. It's You, Jesus. You, perfect and spotless and blameless and holy, You are taking my place. You wouldn't let me get that pain and punishment I not only deserve, but earned and met all of the requirements for.
I know all that I've done. I know that sentence is mine and I'm guilty.
But the eyes aren't on me in this story. Nobody is pointing a finger in my direction, calling me out for the things I've done.
You, Jesus, have intervened. In the middle of this story, my mind wanders as if to a daydream.
You come to me, in the middle of all the chaos. You hold my face gently in your warm hands. You tell me in a voice just above a whisper, Your eyes on mine, that I'm beloved. I'm Yours. You tell me you've come here to protect me, to save me, You won't let me get hurt. You soothe my anxious soul with your sweet words of truth. Tears are in your eyes and mine as You start to unwrap all the burdens strapped to my back, weighing me down. You take them off carefully, one by one, freeing me. When they're all released, You cover me in a blanket that is soft and light and white. I've never felt more seen, more loved, more radiant...pure. I look to You, speechless at how You've just transformed me in that moment, and I'm shocked at what I see.
All the load You just took from my back is now on yours, and it's in the shape of a massive wooden cross. You're doubled over in pain at the weight of it all as You walk from me up to that hill. Blood drips from your back, beads of red on the ground, marking each step You take.
I can barely stand to see what happens next, as I watch You, in all your perfect glory, take my punishment. It's brutal, it's horrible, it's the worst torture I could ever imagine. I'm on my knees, begging and crying for it all to be on me instead-- I deserve it! I earned it!
But at the foot of the cross, You're red and I'm wrapped in white. I'm free of my burdens because You bore them.
In these hours, I mourn. Tears flow from me as I stare at the immensity of the exchange before me. I'm doubled over in incredulous wonder and unbelievable heartache. How can this be? Why was it not me? Why did He, holy and mighty and everything good, take that on for me?
It's Friday, but Sunday is coming.