Once again the fierce dispute,
Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.
So John Keats writes on sitting down to read Shakespeare’s unbearably painful “King Lear” once again.
I feel like that when it comes to the Passion narratives. I have always found them unbearably painful. I have never been able to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” Just seeing clips in church undoes me.
Jesus is so amazing, so sublime. He has such dignity, and poise even amid the incredible injustice and humiliation of his brutalizing.
It’s all so terribly unfair. I can hardly bear to think of it. I feel like saying, “Oh no, Jesus, don’t do it for me.”
But then, but then….
Would I be willing to be scourged and flayed; to have thorns thrust into my scalp; to be struck and spat on; to carry my cross while dizzy with blood loss; to have nails struck through my hands and feet; to hang asphyxiated on the cross, supported by nails driven through my hands and feet?
When I think that Jesus died to save me from Hell, it’s abstract. I can’t visualize Hell very convincingly, though God knows, Jesus described it vividly.
But when I think that Jesus stepped in to save me from agony from late evening on Thursday till 3 o’clock on Friday, well, then, I feel full of gratitude and love.
Sometimes, we are emotionally struck by what Jesus did for us when we put in in the first person. John Wesley, after his heart was “strangely warmed,” realized that “Jesus Christ died for John Wesley.”
Similarly, Jesus Christ volunteered to bear the punishment Anita Mathias deserved for a lifetime of transgressions, so Anita Mathias could now live in the love and grace of God, enjoying the presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Jesus!