Are you glad Jesus died for you?
Are you gald that Jesus was arrested, humilated, beatened, scourged, forced to carry his final means of torture and death, stripped naked, nailed to the Cross, and hung up to die a slow, agonizing death before a crowd cheering for Him to die?
I know that sounds a bit morbid or something. I am not glad about the way He did die. It is still hard to read that part of the Gospels. It is still hard to watch in the movie Passion of Christ. I hope it will always be hard for me to take. I think it is meant to be that way to challenge our complacency. But I am glad He died for me, for you, for all of us.
There are a whole hosts of theological reasons why Jesus had to die. This post is not one more. It is about a gift. It is about a simple, one-to-one relationship with Jesus. He died for you, for me. It was a gift given out of love to build the bridge from humanity back toward God and heaven.
Do you accept this gift? Do you accept His gift guilt free?
Are you glad Jesus died for you?
A good friend of mine, and former student, gave me a book back mid-October called Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers. She said that it changed her outlook on life and deepened her relationship with God, and hoped that I would get something out of it too. I found it to be a strange little book. She warmed me that it was a bit different, but to give it a read any way. Near the end of the book in chapter 7, I ran smack into something that shocked me to the core.
One evening in a small prayer group, I began to laugh. I laughed for fifteen minutes, and while I was laughing I felt God speaking: “Are you glad that Jesus died for your sins?”
“Yes, Lord, I’m glad, I’m glad.”
“Does it make you feel happy to know that He has given you eternal life by His death for you?”
“Yes, Lord, it does!”
“Do you have to strain or try hard to really be filled with joy that He died for you?”
“No, Lord, I’m filled with joy.”
I knew that God wanted me to understand how easy it was to be glad that Christ died for me. I could clap my hands, laugh, and sing with thanksgiving for what He had done for me. Nothing in my life was more important; nothing could give me more joy.
I continued laughing, but everything inside me had become very silent. I felt as if God was about to teach me something I’d never known before.
God said: “It really makes you glad that they took My Son and drove nails into His hands. It really makes you glad, doesn’t it? It makes you glad that they took My Son and drove nails through His feet. It really makes you glad that they drove a spear through His side and the blood flowed down His body and dripped on the ground. It makes you happy and you laugh with great joy because they did this to My Son, doesn’t it?”
Everything became silent. I didn’t know how to answer.
“It makes you glad that all that was done to My Son, doesn’t it?”
Finally I had to say: “Yes, Lord, it does. I don’t understand it, Father, but I’m glad.”
For a moment I wondered if perhaps I had given the wrong answer. Perhaps I had misunderstood.
Then to my great relief I heard Him say: “Yes, my son, I want you to be glad! I want you to be glad!”
I laughed on, and the joy within me increased as I realized that God wanted me to be glad. …
My first reaction was wow! I don’t know about this. This is way out there—to rejoice in the death of someone? To be glad Jesus died? I just don’t know. It seems so morbid, so uncaring, so…
What it did was shine a bright spotlight on something that I had hid in a very dark corner of my heart—a deep sense of guilt that Jesus had to die for me. I knew the theology of it all. I knew in my head why He died. I just didn’t know it completely in my heart. I had accepted Jesus’ gift of love, but not completely, not totally.
I was holding back. I wanted to give everything to Jesus. But for some hidden, stubborn reason, I held onto my guilt.
Maybe deep down inside somewhere I did not think I was worthy of His love, His gift. Maybe deep down inside I thought my sins were too ugly for Him to see. Maybe I thought He would think less of me. Maybe love me less, or not even at all. I knew He knew that I had committed my sins, but somehow if I could just hide them. Forget about them. Sweep them under the rug in a forgotten, dark corner of my heart.
Maybe it was because my sins were mine. He is the source of all goodness in my life. The good choices I have made in my life have been due solely to His grace, whether I was aware of it or not at the time. His grace helped me do His good. The good is not mine, but His. That is okay with me. It is what I want to do most in my life, to do His will, but… (Why do we always want to add a “but” to our conversations with God?) My sins were not His choices. They were my choices. Bad choices be it, but mine. I owned my sins.
In my short three-year journey since my baptism, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that it is rarely ever an either-or situation. They are almost always and-both. Somewhere deep down inside, in a place that I did not want to face, I did not believe that I was lovable enough, not even for God who is Love. The flip side of this lost coin is that I did not believe that I could love others well enough, not like Him. And then there are the choices I have made. I could not face my poverty in that God provides everything. All is pure gift. But the bad choices I made were not His, they were mine. And even though my so-called treasure was utterly and totally worthless, it was mine. I was poor and didn’t even know it.
Luckily, or should I say by providence, I have been engaged in the St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises since the beginning of October. (They will end at the end of this month.) Or maybe it was because of the Spiritual Exercises that this light was shed on some of the dark places of my heart. Through much prayer and meditation, and a deep learning to trust in God by letting go of my false sense of control, especially when I did not understand what was happening, and allowing God to work under the surface of my heart, He has brought me to a wonderful place in my journey.
A big part of me was stuck on the Good Friday side the Cross while a part of me was on the Easter side. I wanted to be totally and completely on the Easter side, but did not know how to get there. The only way is through the Cross, through Christ. He is “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
The Cross is a threshold, a doorway that every Christian must pass. From a post I wrote last month called “He Died for Me”:
On one side of the threshold lies pain, sorrow, loss, guilt, and death. By letting go—surrendering—one steps into the threshold of transformation, through the Pashcal Mystery of the Cross, and emerges into happiness, joy, victory, freedom, and life.
Am I glad Jesus died for me? YES!!! Thank you Lord!
Are you glad Jesus died for you?