News and Tribune

March 28, 2013

MAY: A living sacrifice

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— We find ourselves in the midst of what the church calls “Holy Week,” a time set aside to remember and reflect on the suffering of Jesus. 

Symbols of that sacrifice abound: a cross raised to the heavens; nails and the scarred hands in which they found rest; a crown of thorns, a tomb sealed by a stone. Movies like “The Passion of the Christ” allow us to see in computer-generated, graphic detail the horrors of his sufferings. We cringe as we can almost feel his pain.

As a parent, on occasion I have suffered and sacrificed for my children. Many times the sufferings have been financial — a vacation given up, another used car instead of a new one, a savings account unable to grow. Sometimes it has been physical — asthma and allergies to cats, dogs and fingernail polish, nights without sleep waiting for dates to end or throw-ups to cease. And let’s not even discuss the mental, emotional and spiritual sacrifices that often come stapled to the label “parent.”

I am blessed to have children who understand the sacrifices I have made. On too many occasions to remember, before they would go to bed, they would parade into the family room and stand before me with important things on their minds.

“Oh great Father in the La-Z-Boy, we are so blessed that thou hath sacrificed for us. We do not deserve your grace and generosity. We stand in awe of your goodness.”

Not.

While it is nice to be appreciated, truth be told I would not want them to say things like that. The reason I have sacrificed for my children is because I love them. When I see them, my heart is flooded with happiness. I am proud of who they are and what they have become. I find joy in their lives, in being their father. I would sacrifice it all again and even more.

If I am created in the image of God, and if my good thoughts and deeds are just a sliver of the goodness that is God, then I may begin to understand the words of the Hebrew author — most likely the apostle Paul — in chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews. Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross. And I wonder if Jesus would prefer that I not dwell on the sacrifice, but instead remember his joy.

And the joy set before him was me.

When we begin to meditate about the events before Easter Sunday, it is easy to focus on the suffering of the Savior. It recognizes the tremendous suffering that Jesus endured so many years ago on one of mankind’s most cruel forms of punishment. It eases our guilt because we realize He did not deserve it, we did. And in some ways, we feel that if we acknowledge it to Him we have “done our duty.” 

It isn’t bad to remember the suffering of Christ, just don’t miss the real reason that we consider them. It isn’t to make Him feel better. It isn’t to make us feel less guilty. We consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. We think about His suffering so that we will persevere when we are trying to live like Him in a sinful world.

About 2,000 years ago, a handful of women got up at the crack of dawn to pay respects to a loved one who had died. They went to his tomb to lay spices around the body, to arrange flowers outside the grave. Eyes clouded with tears, they wanted to remember the good times shared, but instead were trapped in the emptiness — and loneliness — of the future. Death had once again stared man in the face and smugly winked at its victory.

Or had it? The women stand wide-eyed and fearful for the stone at the tomb is as missing as its guards. Grave clothes are folded. Spices are not needed. On a slab prepared for a dead body sits an angel with an “I told you so” smirk on his face and a “He is not here” on his lips.

This Easter, peek inside the tomb, but don’t pause. Stare briefly at the suffering, but quickly set it aside. Push away the image of the cross for there is no one on it. Fist-bump the angel because his words are true. Don’t look here for the living.

 

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.