In preparation for Lent I’ve been reading Scot McKnight’s book, “The Jesus Creed.” The author states two reasons why Jesus suffered and died on the cross: Christ’s suffering enabled him to fully identify with the human experience of pain and sorrow, and his death atoned for our sins so he could redeem us for his own.
“This grotesque suffering is God’s loving communication of sympathy in our physical suffering…. Jesus is with us—in our pain, in our suffering, in our ghoulish encounters with abuse, and in our injustices…he suffers with us.”
“Like the Passover lamb, Jesus claims that his death is vicarious as he represents us and substitutes for us. He experiences for us what we do not want but deserve (slavery and death), and provides for what we do want but don’t deserve (a life of freedom). By participating in his death, we are set free by his death.”
Twenty years ago, memories of some childhood abuse issues came back to haunt me. I counseled with my pastor who helped me face the pain of these suppressed memories. I also spent time by a lake reflecting, praying, and processing what I was learning. One day I prayed, “God, I feel like I’m drowning and going down for the third time. Please help!”
In my mind I heard Jesus say to me, “I know what you’re going through. I was rejected and abused by my own people too.” Those words assured me of his presence and gave me hope. I realized Jesus understood my pain.
In one of my counseling sessions a wave of shame passed through me; I felt dirty and disgusting. My pastor suggested I picture myself pulling off the mud that was caked on me and throwing it away. As I did that, I had another vision—that of Jesus on the cross, covered with the mud I’d just thrown off from me.
I was horrified, but he turned his head and looked at me with such compassion. Then I understood why he died. He took my sin and my shame (both my own and what others did to me) onto himself.
Although it was a painful time in my life, I learned to know and love Jesus in a deeper manner and to appreciate what he sacrificed for me so many years ago. McKnight’s words brought these memories of Jesus’ love and assurance back to me in a fresh way.