So much violence… so much hatred… too much. Seems like the world is falling apart. Lots of people, like me, are trying to help by recommending we all look to God and Jesus for comfort and answers, and peace. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So with regard to what all compassionate folk are recommending, enough writing. I’m just gonna go do it. “Dear Jesus, I’m hurting and I need your help…”
The pain is constant. Searing. It feels like I’m on an ocean, and the waves of pain are crashing over me. When I lift up on my legs to breathe, the waves crash into my feet, up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back, and my dislocated shoulders, and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood of the cross. There is no escape.
Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing my soul. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But its intensity is being overpowered by the agony of this aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me. Oh, my humanness is shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.
“Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Yet I know why. It’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me.
The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.
There, opening up before me, is a dark, lightless pit. Empty. Alone. This devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. Over there, toward the city gate, I see people and earth and sky. I see God’s creation. But this pit before me – there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!
The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone.
“It is finished.”
(An excerpt from a book I’m writing. Copyright 2015, CJ Penn)
Do you want to be an imitator of God? “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Do you want to be a WWJD Christian, every moment doing what Jesus would do? You can’t… on your own.
The only way you can is to let Jesus live within you, doing what He would do through you. You can be a WWJD Christian if you let Him. But it’s not “What Would Jesus Do,” as if you are trying to imitate Him. It’s “What Will Jesus Do,” as He lives and acts and speaks from within you – His Holy Spirit sharing your body, mind, and soul. We can be more than imitators of God. And I’m so grateful.
[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]
The night before Jesus was nailed to the cross, as he prepared himself for death, He looked to His disciples and… “He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Matthew 26:38)
While praying for strength, just moments before His arrest, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) There is a medical condition called Hematidrosis, where blood vessels can pop due to extreme stress, and the blood will mix with sweat. Jesus was in such stress.
Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. It’s important for us to know that what Jesus did for us was not easy. Yet Jesus was overwhelmed by more than the anticipation of torturous pain and death. What was crushing Jesus was the promise of what waited on the other side of death.
Shortly before His death, while praying to His Father, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) Even as He prayed these words, Father and Son both knew that very soon, they would not be together. They would not be one.
The death penalty for sins includes separation from God – this is the definition of hell. For the first time in eternity, Father and Son would not be spiritually together. Following His mortal death, Jesus descended into hell.
The sins of humanity kidnapped the Son from His adoring Father. Picture a weeping mother handing over her baby to kidnappers. God and His Son endured this heart-wrenching pain voluntarily. The Father shared the sacrifice of the Son. There is no greater pain for a parent than to loose their child to death.
There is no greater love in all of history than the mutual love God and Jesus showed for us. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added) God held out His Son, and sin ripped Jesus from His Fathers arms, and killed Him.
Once, when I was helping with our church youth group, one of the kids shared a saying he had heard: “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross – love did.” We see the truth of the cross in the mutual love of God and Jesus, for us. That’s what kept Jesus on the cross.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)
I just got back from the grocery store. Got my leg ‘o lamb for our Easter dinner. And, check out this picture of the magazine rack in the check-out line…
At first I didn’t know what to think about it. Jesus, next to a wine tasting mag, and right across the little isle was another magazine rack, next to the candy and gum, filled with glamour model’s cleavage and movie stars cellulite. At first, it all seemed odd to me… a bit edgy.
But what would Jesus think about hanging out with wine lovers, glamour models and movie stars? I think He’d consider that tame, especially compared with some of the crowd He used to hang out with. While He walked the roads of Israel, Jesus seemed to spend more time with lowlife’s, prostitutes, hated tax collectors and other sinners. Jesus lived on the edge of “acceptable” society. So I think Jesus would be okay with the placement of His manmade image on a magazine in the grocery check-out isle.
I hope you all have a great Easter. CJ
Today, Good Friday, we recognize the sacrifice Jesus took upon Himself for all of us. He gave His life for us. Because I’m so grateful, I’d like to give Jesus something in return. As He did for me, I’d like to do for Him – I’d like to give Jesus my life.
To surrender my life to Jesus – how can I do that today? What does this look like? How about this: I’ll give Jesus my thoughts today, as often as I am able.
Are you grateful for what Jesus did for you? Give Him your thoughts today. Focus your mind on Jesus as often as you are able.
One of my favorite times of the day is early morning, when it’s still dark outside, with my cold hands warming around a hot cup of coffee. My mind starts out wandering, never stopping long in one spot. My thoughts are looking for Jesus, within me, yet my spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD), keeps scattering my thoughts, hindering my efforts to find Jesus.
But soon the coffee gives my wandering mind the strength to wrest control of my thoughts and focus on my search for Jesus. And He’s always there waiting for me, in the midst of my thoughts.
We sit there together, while I sip my coffee. Closing my eyes to block out the distractions of the world, I look inside, to Jesus. And we just hang out together. Sometimes I talk. Often I try to just quiet my mind and listen. This quiet time with Jesus is my favorite time of the day. And I’m so grateful.