Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thoughts on Jesus - Before Gethsemane

On the subject of Jesus, C.S. Lewis writes in Letters To Malcolm, "Can it be that the more perfect the creature is, the further this separation must at some point be pushed?"

The creature, Jesus. The separation, 33 years later in the garden of Gethsemane.

I thought of the reality of God coming down to live among us; what that entailed. The sacrifice of a perfect being, allowing Himself not only to become man to eventually die a brutal death, but just to come down here at all. He knew what He was getting Himself into. Why do it at all?

If it's true (and I believe it to be true), then we are forced to ask questions about this whole scene. God came to this earth to suffer, and to suffer dearly. Why would He do that? Most of us living in America don't have a clue as to what an impoverished life is; what it's like to live under the thumb of ruthless leaders and dictatorships. We don't know what it's like to have to watch what you say for fear of reprisal. We don't know what it's like to wonder if your children will have enough food to eat the next day. We don't know what it's like to have to live in the shadows, hiding from government controled military, and being coaxed to rebel against it by questionable rebel groups.

And even though we don't know what any of this is like, and live in a great country, we still acknowledge one of the great truths of existence; life can suck, and it can suck badly.

Before His death, Christ prayed in the garden. He prayed that God would "take this cup" from Him, because the thought of the pain and humiliation was becoming unbearable. The entire process from that point on to His last breath was made doubly painful because He could have stopped it all in an instant. But He didn't. He went through the lashings, the spitting, the mocking and the nails.

The most agonizing thing must have been the separation from His Father.

I watched Mad TV one night about a year ago. On that episode, they were making fun of Nascar fans. 2 girls were selling some trinkets to the spectators. I don't recall the whole skit, but one of the girls was selling Santa and Jesus Christmas decorations. One of the lines that was meant to draw a laugh came when she was showing the customer the difference between the 2. When she mentioned Santa, she refered to his red cheeks or something, with a smile on her face. When she mentioned Jesus, her face went long and she said in a very somber voice, "He died for you", and then went on flirting with the customer. I wasn't offended or anything. In fact it was pretty funny to me, because she wasn't making fun of Jesus as much as she was making fun of the shallow view we have of faith.

We see Christmas, Christianity, faith and God as instruments for our pleasure, consolation, expression of heritage, or experience of community. I wonder how God saw it when He came down to be with us? Was He doing it to make us feel better about life? Was He doing it to ease our pain, or maybe give us a reason to get together on Sundays? Was He doing it to so that we as Americans could make our churches grow and burst at the seams, and to give our charismatic mega-church pastors something cool to talk about?

I think He saw us, and it broke His heart to see our pain. I think it broke His heart to not have His children close to Him. He wanted to be with us so badly, He was willing to lay everything down for us. He was willing to be born and live among us and subsequently allow Himself to be murdered. He was willing to do this out of a desperate love for us.

Can you imagine what that love must look like? I don't think I can even begin to scratch the surface of it. That kind of love is not of this world.

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