The nails of the cross make me weep.
I’m a wimp. A wuss. More tender-hearted than the law allows. More sensitive than what’s good for me.
Try as I might to hide my overflowing cup of compassion and my leaky tear ducts, my emotional sensitivities erupt the most at movie theaters. It started when I was twenty-two A scene in the movie, Gandhi, of British soldiers gunning down women and children in an enclosed courtyard sent me into hysterical sobs. My two friends who had gone to the movie with me sat in stunned silence.
“Wow,” commented one friend afterwards. “I’m sorry we exposed you to that. I guess we’ve seen so many more movies than you, we’ve become numb to scenes of brutality.”
Thirty years have not desensitized me. Determined to get historical backdrop for a novel I was writing, I gritted my teeth through Saving Private Ryan. I offended my teenage daughter by refusing to watch the first movie of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy because the dark horseman filled me with terror. I walked out of The Son of God during the crucifixion scene, missing the wonderful retelling of Jesus’ resurrection.
Don’t even talk to me about The Passion of the Christ.
I ducked out of rooms whenever talk turned to gathering a group to go see the movie, The Passion of the Christ. My luck ran out when someone – I think it was my pastor-husband – suggested we show it at the church.
“Since you don’t see well, you can just sit in the back,” he told me. “Or sit in the next room with the snacks.”
It didn’t help. It was the sounds as much as the sights. Especially one sound. The sound of a hammer pressing nails into flesh.
“Stop!” I wanted to scream. “You’re hurting my Lord.”
Horrible things happen to people on this earth all the time. People drown in rivers. Tornadoes rip children from mothers’ arms. Fire destroys historic landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral. Human beings suffer injury and illness.
Yet there’s something especially horrific about one human being doing harm to another. How could anyone take that nail, place it against the flesh of another person, and drive it in to attach flesh to wood, knowing it will bring slow agonizing death? What kind of hatred or hardened ambivalence as in the case of Roman soldiers doing their job, would lead someone to do such gory work?
“Stop, just stop.”
Others who can make it through that moment of the Crucifixion tell me their emotions go to a farther place. Christ allowed the soldiers to hurt Him. He didn’t resist. He knew that acquiescing to their evil would bring about a greater good that they could not begin to fathom. His suffering and his death held a purpose that transcended all pain and suffering.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
One woman I knew chose to watch The Passion in the privacy of her living room. I always viewed her as a tough-as-nails kind of gal, the kind that won’t ever let you see her cry, one I wondered if she would ever relinquish her soul to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Passion brought her to Jesus. It was the crucifixion scene that bent her knee and brought on the tears.
She told me later, “All I could do was weep and say over and over, ‘He did it for me. He did it for me.’”
I can’t imagine anyone intentionally suffering pain and death for my sake.
I think of how often I feel so smug and self-satisfied with my magnanimous sacrifices of time and energy for the good of others. Compared to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, my paltry attempts of service are a spit in the wind.
Jesus did it for me. He did it because He loves me. He was willing to suffer the full brunt of pain, anguish, and God’s wrath so I and the rest of the world didn’t have to spend an eternity of agony and separation from God. Why?
The eternal benefit was worth the temporary pain.
The next time I hear a reenactment of those ringing blows, I need to hear my Lord’s soft singing voice, “For you, my love, for you.” Each lowering of the hammer is not a strike of torture, but a ring of victory. Each blow is one more toll toward the cross, one more step toward freedom for whosoever will.
The cross, the symbol of death, has become our life.
What does the cross mean to you?