I thumbed open my Bible to the New Testament passage ascribed to July 20th. Reading the Bible in a year has many challenges and obstacles.
For me, this one is the hardest.
The pages opened up nicely. Zondervan publishers did an excellent job in their wide margin note taking Bible. It stays open perfectly.
But I did not want to read.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… maybe they would be easier to read.
No… that would be giving in to a distraction.
… Is my coffee cold? I should re-fill it.
Oh wait, my cat is really soft. There is nothing wrong with giving a little attention to my pet. She always enjoys a nice little rub on the back of the head.
Anything to keep from reading those pages…
Now, I do not usually have a hard time reading my Bible every day. This is not an issue of being disciplined. I’ve been reading my Bible daily for over half of my life.
The issue is these specific pages.
I don’t know about you, but there is one story in our Sacred text that is incredibly difficult for me to read. It is not the genealogies of Genesis, Numbers, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Matthew, or Luke. It is not the dividing and allotting of the land found in Joshua 12-21. Neither is it the vast amount of dietary, sacrificial, and civil laws set forth in Exodus, Number, or Deuteronomy.
And in case you were wondering why I left out Leviticus in that list, it is because I love Leviticus. God is so holy. So amazing. So …
My Bible was opened up to one of the most well known stories of the entire 66 books. Multiple movies have depicted it. It is told during the one service that you are guaranteed to get your crotchety neighbor, your unchurched father, or your crazy cousins to come to..
My Bible was opened up to Matthew 27. Wednesday was Matthew 26:30-75, yesterday was 27:1-26. Today (Friday, July 21, 2017), I finished Matthew 27.
See, I almost hate reading the Passion Narrative. It always takes me an intense focus to read those words and not to grow distracted, or skim through it.
But I absolutely must read it.
The Easter story is called the Passion of the Christ because we keep old Latin and Greek words around.
If you were to ask anyone what “Passion” meant, they would confusingly answer something like “intense emotion” or “deep desire.” If you were to ask someone what “Christ” means, they would say “Jesus” or “Messiah.” Well, none of those explanations fully hit the mark.
“Passion” comes from the old Latin word for “suffering” or “pain.” During the Passion Week we read of Jesus going through the excruciating emotional pain of abandonment by his disciples, betrayal to the high priest, and being mocked by those He came to save. He also went through the pain of being flogged, struck by soldiers while he was mocked, having a crown of thorns beat down upon his head, having a robe ripped off of his scabbing wounds, carrying a heavy wooden beam upon raw wounds, and having his limbs nailed to a cross.
And the ultimate two pains of having to die the death of a crucifixion (choking to death on your own blood), and having his Father forsake Him.
Matthew 27 records his flogging, the mocking, and his death.
See, even though I know the glory, the beauty, the mystery, the awe, the HOPE of chapter 28, I can barely bring myself to reading 26:31-27:66.
Why? Well, here are a few reasons.
- It doesn’t seem real. Why! Why! Why! would Judas betray Jesus? Judas walked with Him for 3! years!
- These were people that saw the miracles! I hate the backstabbing!
- Familiarity with the story breeds laziness. I know how it will ultimately end, so I want to skip the betrayal and the pain.
But, if I am honest, those reasons are only a house of cards. I have read many stories in the Bible a dozen times or more. Betrayal, pain, backstabbing- they happen everywhere in our sacred Scriptures. There is one reason that truly causes me to avoid reading the Passion narrative.
It goes back to the other word that people have a hard time defining.
See, “Christ” is just the Greek way of saying “Messiah.” Jesus’s last name was not “Christ.” Christ is a title. A title meaning “Anointed One.” If you go back through the four Gospels, you will see that it was not the general public that called Jesus “the Christ.” It was Peter, John the Baptist, Jesus himself, and the narrator who use it. Now, the high priest and Pilate use this term in the Passion narrative, but they use it accusingly and mockingly. That brings me back to why I can barely read the Passion narrative.
To be anointed means to be set aside by God. It means to be chosen specifically for a task and a purpose. It means to be blessed by God with power and ability to live up to the responsibility of a great and important task.
What was the task which Jesus was the Anointed One to accomplish?
But I will suggest that you look at my other blogs on redemption and salvation to get a bigger picture of redemption. For now, I will tell you why the mission which Jesus was anointed for causes me to avert my eyes when I come to Matthew 26:31-27:66, or Mark 14:32-15:47, or Luke 22:24-23:56, or John 18:1-19:42.
The issue is me.
The issue is my sin.
The issue that keeps me from reading these texts is knowing that my sin caused him this pain. My sin caused his suffering. My sin caused the Almighty and Loving Heavenly Father who had existed from eternity past in a perfect harmonious triune union of love with the Son to be broken.
My sin caused the Heavenly Father to abandon the Son.
My sin caused Jesus to cry out:
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me!?”
ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι
אלי אלי למה סבחתני
My sin caused the pain, suffering, and death of the only Perfect Lamb. My sin- my selfishness, greed, pride, lust, laziness, anger, bitterness, gossip, and slander brought the One who is Lord of the Universe to cry out in deep emotional agony. My brokenness was the cause of that broken body which was laid in the tomb.
My sin killed God.
If not for the resurrection, these passages- this reality of my hand in theocide (God killing) would and should be enough to shatter every inch of me.
But thank God for the resurrection.
The resurrection is the only thing that gets me through reading what I had to read the past three days in Matthew.
Thank You Jesus for the empty grave!
That empty grave tells me that the death of Jesus was sufficient payment for my sins. His willing, voluntary, and loving self-sacrifice paid my eternal debt owed to the Heavenly Father.
That empty grave says I have been set free from those sins that put Him there.
That empty grave says I am forgiven.
I am redeemed.
Do you believe?