It's so easy to read over the familiar words and simply regurgitate the rather obvious conclusions. Yet I would never minimize what Jesus did, knowing that "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
I've prayed that the Lord would take me through these familiar passages and teach me anew, that by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit I would see clear lessons and not simply stop short with what I think I already know.
So I shouldn't be surprised when it happens. But often I am.
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” Luke 22:63-64The Holy Spirit reduces shocking cruelty to one simple sentence. This is physical and verbal abuse, the kind that should shock us any time. How easy it would be to read that account with my heart closed, immune to more thought. How challenging it is to think more deeply about an innocent man--let alone Jesus Himself--going through such torture.
Today the Lord brought to mind the thoughtless cruelty these Romans exhibited as they did their jobs. Whatever else they may or may not have been, in this case they hated routinely, hurt Him without compunction, and completely misjudged the One they were punishing.
Jesus knew, without a doubt, the men who were hitting Him. He knew every hair on their heads. Yet He did not return hate for hate. (Luke 6:27-28, Romans 12:17-19)
Again, it would be easy to dismiss His response as merely the fact that as God, knowing everything, He could comply. He knows what's coming. The outcome is not a mystery to Him.
But there has to be more to it. Jesus lived every heartbeat of His life as a means to model to me how to do it. So here's the perfect example of how to go through the hateful, thoughtless cruelty of others.
It certainly looks like Jesus is just taking it, as if He bore down, like a Marine would go through torture from an enemy. In the spare accounts we don't have any description of His thoughts or how He coped... Or do we?
In Gethsemane, a short time before this torture, He cried out in agony, asking His Father to take Him out of these circumstances. "...remove this cup from Me," He prayed, "yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
So often I pray that God will take me out of challenging situations, or alter the circumstances of my life. "Change this, please!" I beg. "Fix what's happening to me and my loved ones. Restore what's broken. Don't let me hurt so much, Lord!"
So often I don't pray, "Your will be done." I guess the reason is because I know it will hurt. That's a painful confession to make, but it's the truth.
I forget that Jesus modeled this acceptance of the Father's will in extreme circumstances, in order to show me that God's will results in good, just as what He went through resulted in my own salvation and future resurrection to unending life.
I have to count that as good--the best--despite the pain He was willing to go through, despite that horrible time of torturous, hateful cruelty, mocking words and physical pain. "Why does if have to hurt so much, Lord?" Because it will result in good, Child, He seems to reply to my heart.
So today I pray, "I offer You my body as a living sacrifice, Almighty and Infinite Lord, which is my reasonable act of worshipful service." (Romans 12:2) I choose not to return hate for hate, cruelty for cruelty, or misjudgment for misjudgment.
I can't do it by gritting my teeth and bearing the pain. That has never worked before and there's no reason to think it would work this time. In that is hopelessness and fruitless desperation. I'm not a Marine taking torture from my enemy. I'm a child of God Most High, going through a time of trial, in which I may choose to pray for those who hurt me when I'm spitefully treated, and love in the face of cruelly difficult circumstances.
I can only do that by recognizing that there's more than pain to be borne from these circumstances. There is ultimate good--the best--for others, contained in the simple recognition that "by His stripes we are healed."
My painful circumstances are not unique, but they are custom designed for me right now to help me learn to love more.
I cannot say it's easy, nor will I claim to have won this moment's peace merely through this one little bit in the book of Luke. It has been, and continues to be, a circuitous route in which I must take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), stay vigilant in prayer to perceive the fiery darts of the enemy as they fly toward my heart (Ephesians 6:16), and to walk circumspectly, examining the ground around me for the pitfalls and traps set for me (Ephesians 5:15.)
Yet for today I choose to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and others as myself (Luke 10:27.) I desire to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, that I might prove (make real, live out) the good and well-pleasing will of God today (Romans 12:2), by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:8.)
For by His stripes, His example of bearing such torture out of love, I am healed.